The ‘M’ Word.

On Sunday after one of my classes, a student came up to me with a question.  She had been told by a Christian counselor that masturbation was not a sin. She’d heard teaching on sex within the Church, but she’d never heard anyone address that specific issue.  She just wanted to know if her counselor was right.

That makes my heart feel tense. I made her a commitment right then and there that I would write a blog post on the topic this week.  (A commitment I’m regretting right now, because I’m already embarrassed that I wrote the word ‘masturbation.’)

Seriously though, why is it that basically every girl I talk to has struggled with the ‘m’ word but no one will say it?  Why is it that 1/3 of all the folks who visit sexually explicit sites are women, but all of our illustrations are still about men?  Why is it that almost 40% of the women who read Christianity Today struggle with porn, but I still have to title this blog the ‘m’ word because I feel so freaking weird typing the word ‘masturbation’?

Satan wants to keep us isolated and uncomfortable speaking clearly and openly about our struggles.  He wants to convince women who struggle with lust that they are freaks.

Here’s the thought that made my heart tense up while my student was talking: what if women all across the world are engaging in sinful behavior because no one is willing to clarify that ‘sexual sin’ includes masturbation?  What if there are women who are ignorantly selling themselves into slavery to sin right now because I’m too concerned with my reputation to type the word ‘masturbation’.  Ick.

So, for those who want to know what the Bible says about the ‘M’ word.  Here’s the answer: it’s sin.  There are a million reasons why I say so that so emphatically; here are two:

1. Everything that is not from faith is sin. Paul makes it clear in Romans that every single detail of every single day that we don’t spend worshiping God is sin.  We have to stop asking: is God against this, and start asking: is this the best way I can think of to honor God.

The Bible says that any thought, feeling or emotion that doesn’t flow out of a heart that is trusting in God and seeking to honor Him is sin.

If you want to know if the ‘m’ word falls in that category, just ask yourself this: is it an act of worship, flowing out of a mind fixed on eternity?  Is it the best way you can think of to demonstrate that you trust and believe in God’s promises?

Does masturbation testify true things about God?

2. If we’re testifying lies about Christ, we are in sin.  If we believe that marriage is designed to reflect the Covenant between Christ and the church, what are we displaying about that Covenant when we yield to the ‘m’ word?  We’re the ‘church’ in this play.  Do you we want to testify that the church doesn’t need Christ to be satisfied? That the church will take care of its own needs?

For 400 years the people of God lived in a period of waiting and longing.  They wanted the Messiah.  They wanted to see Him and be satisfied.  They had a need that is far more essential than an orgasm, and they had no way to meet it.  In singleness we get the opportunity to reflect that stage of life in the Church.  Will we use this opportunity to testify true things about Christ and His bride?

He is worth the wait.  He is worth the hunger.

14 thoughts on “The ‘M’ Word.

  1. Fabs, I’ve been reading your blog since this fall, and your post about what comes after sexual sin was part of what gave me the strength to speak a group of high school girls a few weeks ago about masturbation.

    And you are right, it is an unreasonably difficult word to write, let alone say! It’s true that keeping this sin in the dark only feeds its power, while bringing it into the light exposes it for what it is: something that, whatever relief it may promise, certainly doesn’t bring freedom, or joy, or glory to God. Thanks for your willingness to address it here, and for your reminder that singleness allows us to enact the church’s longing for Christ.

  2. THANK YOU for speaking up on this topic. I began exploring this issue for myself a few years back asking the Lord “is masturbation a sin?”. (wow, you’re right, why is that word hard to say?) The answer for me in my life was YES it is, but like most things dealing with sin, truth gets scewed easily and it’s hard to monitor when it doesn’t say it black and white in the word “you must not masturbate”.

    Thank you for the post because it has given more confirmation, backing up what the Lord spoke to me years ago and the courage to keep pressing forward in sexual purity.

  3. “What if there are women who are ignorantly selling themselves into slavery to sin right now because I’m too concerned with my reputation to type the word ‘masturbation’.  Ick.”

    Reason #413 why I love you.

    I am SO grateful that I know someone who would rather type the word “masturbation” than wake up tomorrow knowing she passed on an opportunity to tell women the truth!

    He is so worth it.

    Thank you!!!

  4. The two ways in which you explained why masturbation is a sin are both excellent. I’m sorry there’s so much supposed confusion about whether this is wrong in God’s sight, but you shine a clear light on the issue. Thank you. Keep speaking up for truth.

  5. I saw the below quote on twitter. I have to say that I thank you for spurring revelation, freedom, and bravery with this post. The below tweet proves your point.

    @UberFacts: The word “masturbation” comes from the Latin word meaning “to pollute oneself.”

  6. HELL TO THE YEAH!!!!! Finally SOMEONE spoke up…I’ve been saying this for years and I hope and pray more women would be able to say “the ‘m’ word” ….if a word carries so much power over people, just imagine how much control the act has.


  7. While I appreciate that you addressed a particularly difficult subject in the church, and shed light on women’s struggle with porn, I feel your arguments against masturbation display a very limited view of God, faith, and sexuality. If you think of worship in a conventional sense, aka. sunday mornings, prayer, bible studies, service work, etc… then yes, masturbation certainly does not look like worship. However, if you expand the notion of worship to include everything we do with our bodies then the notion becomes more complicated. I’m not sure you can make a black and white case that masturbation is an unhealthy expression of sexuality — biologically or emotionally. And if it isn’t a gross manipulation of a healthy sexuality, or one of many natural expression of sexuality, then can you rightfully call it sin?

    Which brings me to your second point: masturbation is a substitution for a fruitful relationship with Christ. This straw man argument is both disingenuous to the gospel, and a shallow view of what it means to embrace singleness . What you do in the bedroom is not the end all be all of what it means to be married to Christ. I know plenty of committed married people who do not know the first thing about what it means to be committed to the purposes of Christ in the world, while I also know a lot of people who are more liberal in their views of sexuality yet are engaged with the world in beautiful and redemptive ways. If Jesus is more interested in my sex life than my treatment of the poor, if what it means to lack satisfaction in Christ is limited to masturbation, then God help the church, because that would mean it has profoundly misunderstood its mission in the world.

    Finally, the insinuation that singleness represents a “phase” in the churches history is why singles do not feel at home in the church. Did Paul feel as if singleness was an unfulfilled transitional phase of life? Or did he recommend singleness as holy calling? Being single does mean being unsatisfied — despite what 20 year old Christian newlyweds may say. Sex within marriage can be just as selfish as sex outside of marriage. We are created to be fulfilled in God, single or married. Some people are single for a short period of adult life, others for decades, and others for entire lifetimes. To deny them an outlet for any sexual expression without first looking at the complexity of natural desires that play into a committed life of singleness, denies the reality of the human experience and the sexual integrity of single people in the church.

    Is porn sinful? Absolutely. Does sexual sin matter? Ofcourse. Should the church be where we talk about these issues? It should. I do not deny the need to debate these topics, but I feel this post grossly limits the conversation.

    1. Bravo LFin! I struggle so hard with masturbation. I believe in Christ and the church and what I was taught. Sexual sin is something to be avoided at all costs! But as a woman of science as well as faith, it is sometimes very hard to see masturbation as nothing more than a matter of biomechanics. Can not this physiological response to stimulation be used to avoid committing much larger, more clearly defined sexual sins? I struggle with this because this argument also feels like I am just reaching for a way to justify my sin.

      1. Allie!

        GREAT question. I kind of want to write a WHOLE blog post to dig into those thoughts. Give me a little time!

      2. Allie I’m very sure masturbation is wrong. we have sexual desires yes nd yet Paul remained unmarried all his life he talked about putting his body under. having an outlet to let off the hold of sexual desire Is same as you having it with a guy because you achieve the same result which is satisfaction after. before we start looking at things logically let’s think of the bible that is our standard. Jesus was on earth as a man, tempted and having the longings we all feel yet imagine if he excused himself from his disciples to masturbate. our bodies have desires but we must remain the boss of it. if thou looks at a man lustfully thou has committed fornication in your heart. what kind of thoughts go through your mind to get the release after masturbation? pure thoughts? I doubt

  8. Hi Fabienne,

    I just wanted to say how beautiful and touching your article on ‘Fasting from Intimacy’ was. I’m a practising Muslim and so much of what you said resounds with my own faith/thoughts/feelings. It was especially poignant because one of the ways that Muslims are advised to help them stay chaste before marriage is to physically fast from food.
    Also, in Islam, masturbation is allowed if the person fears that they will be driven to commit fornication-so I guess that’s a different perspective.
    I think it’s wonderful you’re actually talking about this stuff…it’s so much easier to deal with things when we acknowledge they are real problems!


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