Sexuality isn’t talked about a whole lot in the church (although we are making progress), but I want to change that. The topic of love and sexuality has been on my mind a lot lately, and I’ve been sharing some thoughts on it here. It is scary to open up—honestly I’m a bit terrified to share this post because of its subject matter, and because I open up and get personal in it. But it is in our weakness, our vulnerability, that we can grow and help others. Because of this, I want to hear your story! Comment, reach out on social networks, or email me (email@example.com) –I’d love to talk.
Last post, we looked at how an understanding of true love and what that looks like should shape our view of sex, using the distinction between making love (sex done with the desire to serve/satisfy the other person) and screwing someone (sex done solely with the desire to satisfy your own needs). This distinction also sheds some light on a somewhat touchy subject: Masturbation.
Oops, I said “masturbation”—I forgot that we aren’t supposed to talk about that. Growing up, I was well informed on puberty, sex, relationships, lust, etc., as my family, my church, and my leaders made an effort to teach us about these things and potential struggles that my peers and I might face. From the time I was born until now, I do not recall ever having a pre-emptive talk about masturbation. It makes us uncomfortable. I heard talks about why porn was bad, and why lusting was bad, why sex was “worth the wait”—the whole nine yards—and it is important to talk about this stuff. The church has come a long ways–sex is starting to become less of a taboo topic, and pornography gets talked about from the pulpit sometimes, but there is still a long ways to go. I didn’t have guidance on the topic of masturbation, unless it was from peers talking about how it felt good. We don’t like to talk about it, but we must.
Studies have shown that kids are exposed to pornography at a young age—some statistics claim 11 years old is the average age1, others say it is 142. My first exposure to true pornography came when I was 13, although I had been curious for a while. As I watched porn, I was introduced to this concept of stimulating myself to simulate sex, and I started to try it. Eventually, I discovered that the vast majority of my friends (all in sixth or seventh grade) had some experience with this stuff too, and many were actively seeking it out, as I was. Oh, and these weren’t the “worldly” kids—all of us went to church and most of us were “good kids”. While I learned of masturbation through porn, many learned about it through their friends talking about it.
Fast-forward to modern times; I know lusting and pornography were wrong and why, but until recently I wouldn’t have been able to answer you if I had been asked why the act of masturbation was wrong, even though I had been told it was (and believed it to be wrong myself). I could explain why the lust was wrong, because it is clearly laid out in scripture that lust is equivalent to rape—sexually using another person without their consent—and a subversion of love. But what makes the physical act of stimulating yourself sexually wrong, especially if it is done without lusting?
Just as sex done solely to fulfill your own needs or desires is wrong, masturbation is wrong is because it is a completely narcissistic sexual act. In fact, in this regards, masturbation is “worse” than self-focused sex: sexual desire was not designed to be fulfilled by yourself ; sex is designed for the two different but equal parts to come together to make a more perfect whole, while fulfilling each other’s desires and needs and pleasuring the other. The whole time, this is motivated by a desire to serve the other and to please them. Masturbation fulfills our physical desire for gratification without the other piece to the puzzle.
Ultimately, it’s deadening. There is some pleasure, but it starts to turn into a habit, a way to relieve stress or boredom. It doesn’t satisfy–it can’t satisfy. Sex is meant to be so much more than one person in a room–it meant to be two people joining together in every way: body, soul, and mind. Two people committed to each other, with mutual love and affection, serving the other. I think part of us knows this, even when we are in the midst of pleasuring ourselves, and as time goes on, the hollowness of it all starts to eat you away like a cancer.
I started this post off talking about how masturbation is a taboo subject in most churches and families—what makes this even more dangerous is the fact that masturbation is very openly talked about now days. Just as porn viewing is becoming normalized (Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new movie appears to be built around the concept of viewing porn being completely acceptable and normal behavior while in a committed relationship, based on the ad), masturbation is viewed by my generation as something that everybody does, and it is talked and joked about as such. When presented with something that is portrayed as standard behavior, if there is no conversation that talks about why that behavior is wrong, it will be accepted as it is presented.
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