7 minute read

Is It Wrong to Masturbate to Fantasies of My Wife?

Last Updated: April 6, 2023

Luke Gilkerson
Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Your Brain on Porn and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

Is masturbating to your wife a sin? What if you masturbate to thoughts of your fiancé or girlfriend? We received this question from someone in our community:

“I have asked several pastors/mentors/friends about masturbation and whether it is sinful or not. I do not watch pornography, however, sometimes when I wake up and have an erection I will begin thinking about my fiancé sexually and masturbate. These fantasies are not ‘out of the ordinary’ in the sense that it is not like the pornography I was formally addicted to. For example, I often just imagine us cuddling and making out and then move on to intimate touching and then penetration. I don’t mean to be crude or anything…I’m just not sure if this is sinful and if it is harming me.

“The responses I get seem to be in both extremes. One guy says to pray and stop because it’s lust, which means sin. The other will say it is a natural reaction to sexual attraction, plus she is going to be your wife. Can anyone offer a biblical response to this that will not just brush it aside like something simple? ‘Just stopping’ hasn’t worked. I can’t make myself not get an erection, so I’m not sure what to do.” – Emanuel

To answer Emanuel, I first want to congratulate him for overcoming his porn addiction. That is no small thing, and it indicates his desire to honor God and his future wife. What I’m about to offer is merely my own opinion, but I hope it serves as a help.

Covenant Eyes exists to help people overcome porn. However, the battle against porn doesn’t start on your computer or smartphone. It begins in the desires of our hearts and the thoughts of our minds. If you struggle with thinking about porn, check out Why You Can’t Stop Thinking About Porn.

Nowhere in the Bible is the physical act of masturbation labeled a sin. It is my opinion, therefore, that the physical act itself should not be the focus of our attention when it comes to asking about what God thinks.

That said, here are some critical questions I would ask you regarding your personal habit, whether you are thinking about a random stranger, a girlfriend, fiancé, or wife when you masturbate. At the end, I’ll include some advice too.

1. Are you lusting when you masturbate to your wife?

The Bible clearly teaches that lustful masturbation is sinful (Matthew 5:28). Galatians 5 connects the idea of lust to covetousness—an inordinate desire for something that doesn’t belong to you. You shouldn’t masturbate to thoughts of someone you’re just dating, even if you do intend to marry them later. In your case, you say that it involves fantasies of the person you are planning to marry, but haven’t married yet. Since she doesn’t yet belong to you sexually, that certainly qualifies as lust.

Sex addiction therapist Dr. Doug Weiss offers some considerations, even if you’re already married and thinking about your wife when you masturbate. First, the Bible teaches that when you marry, your sexuality belongs to your spouse (1 Corinthians 7:4). Therefore, you shouldn’t masturbate unless your husband or wife knows what you’re doing and says it’s OK.

For more on this, see Can You Masturbate Without Lusting? This leads to Dr. Weiss’s second consideration.

2. Is your desire to masturbate to thoughts of your wife motivated by fantasy?

Even if your spouse knows and approves, Dr. Weiss warns about masturbating to fantasies of your husband or wife. These can easily become fantasies of an idealized version of your spouse, not the person they actually are. If this is you, then it is wise to avoid masturbation. Your desire for intimacy is meant to propel you toward a loving marital relationship, not a fantasy world where your own pleasure is the focus.

Winston Smith does an excellent job in his little book about masturbation, It’s All About Me. He has readers examine their own sexual fantasies and ask, “How do the people populating my fantasies relate to me? What are their attitudes in my fantasies? How do they behave towards me in my fantasy world?” Much of the time, the fantasies are less about those people and more about the person who is fantasizing. In your sexual fantasies, you tend to take center stage. The plot and characters revolve around you—even if it’s your significant other. It is a world where all the characters are you-centered and play to your desires.

Masturbation Fantasies Are “Playing God”

Smith calls this habit of fantasy “playing god.” “No matter how widely your fantasies may vary,” Smith writes, “in every instance, you play god with people. You reduce those made in the image of the true God to mindless robots who serve your whims.”

Idols are not merely made of wood and stone. The Bible speaks of the “idols of the heart” (Ezekiel 14:1-8). In this case, masturbation becomes the way we eroticize self-idolatry: We are turned on by a fantasy world where we are the center.

3. Does masturbation to your wife condition you to be selfish?

If yes, then it is wise to avoid masturbating because your sexuality was meant to bring you close to another person in love, not close to yourself.

Like it or not, our desires and the activities of our heart reflect the truth about who we really are. “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19). The real harm masturbation fantasies cause is this: They train the mind to be self-focused, pleasure-seeking, and escapist. This runs contrary to the attitudes of love and service that are modeled for us in the life of Christ (Philippians 2:6-8).

In other words, what makes the fantasies behind masturbation wrong is that they are attitudes that run in the opposite direction of Christlike love—a love that was willing to lose its life for others.

Winston Smith’s comment about this is fitting:

“This isn’t just about kicking a bad habit….God’s love is sacrificial. He puts our needs first even though it costs him a high price. Your basic compass heading for love is to do what is best for others even if it costs you. Your initial sacrifice will be your own comfort and lusts. When you are tempted to escape, look around and notice what others need in that moment and serve them.”

4. Is masturbation to your wife a sin?

If you feel like masturbation is mastering you, then it is wise to avoid masturbation so your freedom does not become slavery (1 Corinthians 6:12). When our desires overcome us, we become slaves to sin (Galatians 5:1).

If, after reading this, you believe masturbation is sinful for you, then please remember that the answer isn’t “pray it away.” Your physical urges are, in a sense, completely natural, but what you do with those urges is another thing altogether. Merely calling sexual arousal “natural” is not a license to lust. That’s like saying our natural drive for self-preservation gives us the license to be greedy, or our natural drive for food gives us the license to be gluttonous. No. Your natural desire for love, intimacy, and sex is built into you by God, but the Maker never designed us to be slaves of our passions, but to be masters of them.

5. What should you do about the desire for masturbation?

If you get an erection (which is as normal as the day is long) then this is not your body’s signal telling you to masturbate. This is your body’s reminder that you are a sexual being, but your appetite for sex needs to be weighed in the balance of God’s design for sex.

This is difficult because you’ve built up a habit that when you become aroused, your brain immediately begins sending signals that it’s time for masturbation. The solution is to replace this habit in an act of surrender to God. Tell yourself and God, “I thank you that you have made me a sexual being, capable of experiencing and giving sexual pleasure. I surrender this desire to you now knowing my sex drive is meant for oneness with another person, not merely self-pleasure and self-centeredness. Instead, I choose not to retreat into the world of fantasy but put my energy to good use.”

If you’re single and struggling with masturbation, see For Singles: How to Handle Strong Sex Drive in a God-Honoring Way.

With each moment of arousal, take it as a new cue to do something productive—pray for someone, call someone, write someone an encouraging e-mail, engage in a project that blesses someone, or get some physical exercise.

Don’t wait to figure out what those things could be until the moment of temptation, but plan your “escape route” beforehand. Know that each time you choose not to masturbate but instead do something loving and good, you are training a new habit.

What do you think? How would you respond to Emanuel’s question?

  • Comments on: Is It Wrong to Masturbate to Fantasies of My Wife?
    1. I have been working with sexual addicts for over 14 years and this is a big questions for many. 1- you are objectifing you finace using her for self pleasure, which is wrong because she is to be your wife not a sex object. 2- contnued masturbation desenseitizes you to the feel of your spouse and will affect you when you have sex with you wife. 3- You can not be intimate with her the way God intended. 4- when you wake up with an errection get up and go to the bathroom and pee , a lot of times that will cause an erection. If they are eroctic what I tell my men to do is pray at night before you go to bed and ask God to protect your dreams and invite the Holy Spirit to come into your dreams and speak to you. you will suprised at the results.

      • Thanks for the comment, Gene. Good thoughts here.

      • Tim

        Interesting posts and thank you for the insight. However, I was searching for a specific situation involving the fiancée and did not find it. So let me throw a livelier twist into the masterbation delimma. The focus here is more about individual self-driven fantasy masturbation. I am 53 and divorced, and my fiancée is 49 and divorced for the same reason, our spouses were unfaithful. We have been together for 8 months and we abstain from sex, but we do have a burning passion for one another. As Paul preached in 1 Cor about divorce, if you cannot control yourself, then it is better to marry than burn with passion. So that’s our plan. We are deeply committed, very much in love, and devoted to be one body, one flesh for life. But due to our geographic distance and family lives, it will be a couple of years before we marry. So my question is, would it be wrong for my fiancée to masturbate together? I mean, if we are together, the fantasy is not in our heads, but real, and sitting right in front of us.

      • I would say yes, it would be sinful. When we read 1 Corinthians 7, it seems clear there are only two godly options: self-control or marital sexual expression.

        That said, what’s preventing you from getting married? I know you mentioned geographical distance, but there’s nothing wrong with getting married while you intend to resolve the distance in the future.

      • Abdul deris

        Ok that’s completely understandable but what if your sexual drive makes you look at women in a sexual way and you don’t want that , I mean I’m single and sometimes I think about a fictional person in the future as being my wife and I masturbate to that fantasy to curb my sexual drive ,after I masturbate I no longer have that desire anymore ,what should I do

      • steven Matthews

        Okay I have a little problem if I am for her sexual pleasure let’s say then am I not her means for sexual fulfillment then am I in a small and confined only to our sexual matters and perhaps my person body soul and spirit her sex object and her mine though not to be objectified; should I rather say that we are each others means to sexual fulfillment ? Although I agree I would not want to be treated only as such a (Sex object) or something that is without feelings, not having a mind and needs of it’s own. the culmination in sexual matters is a matter of agreement of give and receive. Can my fantasies then be both complementary to her and myself if I am thinking in my fantasies of what it will take to meet her sexual needs and how I will discover those needs. Also in my fantasies can I learn good ways to communicate make request in our sexual relationship or ask her her needs? This also compliments other areas as I believe that daily life enters the bed room and the bed room enters daily life. I must also at the time understand that they are only fantasies that are a desire to be looked into and discovered. It has been said earlier that sexual desire is as natural as eating, drinking etc. Therefore do I starve myself and thus die or do I eat or drink. I can drink a glass of water with out breaking a moral spiritual commandment. I agree that sexual appetite needs to be controlled like anything else. Yet what is the boundary lines? Let’s also look at masturbation as possibly only as an exercise or a release so that I then am managing my sexual desire through a release. When I eat I am satisfied and can move on to other things. When I feed my sexual desire with out going outside of biblical premises then Have I not done my body and others around me the working of love? Much of the time I find that my sexuality can be a complication to communication if my focus is distracted again and again by it. For me to thwart this through fulfillment/release brings them back under submission they do not distract and are more easily managed after a release. I find though that I am not fully fulfilled and that my only means to that is through my marrying my fiance.

        Now as with my relationship with my fiance at that stage. My greater concerns should be with getting to know her and to work on how we will live our lives together. What are our expectations, my and her preferences in what ever the topic may be. What do we agree on in our beliefs what do we not agree can we manage our disagreements?

      • Ricci

        What if I’m a woman? I recently read that redheads were more sexual and I happen to be a redhead. I was also married to a man for 45 years who didn’t like sex and so we rarely had any intimacy. I had my first climax at the age of 68. Not with my husband but another man after dementia took my husband. That man is not in the picture any longer and hasn’t been for 7 years but I still hope and pray for God to send a man in my life who wants to marry me and have sex. Seems like a fantasy at this age because apparently most older men are not capable. Is masturbation still a form of self idolatry?

      • Kay Bruner

        Hi Ricci,

        Wow, I’m so glad that you were able to have a satisfying sexual experience after such a long and difficult marriage. Even if they aren’t capable of sustaining an erection, older men should be capable of many other sex acts that are enjoyable to both parties.

        As far as masturbation goes, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it at all. Masturbation is normal! It feels good, and it’s a part of your whole self, which includes your sexuality. It’s private, but it’s not shameful. It shouldn’t take over your life, but it’s fine as a part of your healthy physical self.

        Problems arise with masturbation, as with many other good things, when we use it as an unhealthy coping mechanism when we are overly stressed, upset, etc. We can all be vulnerable to using good things–food, wine, exercise, Netflix–to cope in unhealthy ways. Instead of feeling our feelings and processing through them, we substitute a behavior that feels good in the moment but didn’t actually solve the problem and may in fact produce more problems.

        Unfortunately, there is huge shame around sexuality in Christian circles. Often, shame itself becomes the problem, as you feel distressed over shame from masturbation, you then masturbate to feel better in the moment.

        You might like this short animation I made recently, Interruping Shame Cycles.

        I hope you find someone to share your life with again, especially someone who enjoys sex and prioritizes your pleasure as well as his own. Until then, enjoy your sexuality like any other healthy appetite.

        Peace to you,

    2. Jon Blanford

      Love the question and the depth of insight in the answer! Go deep! Wrestle with the intentions of your/my heart! Peel the onion, so to speak.

      • Right, Jon. That’s the intention here. We have to get to the heart of why we do what we do.

    3. Thomas Weyandt

      Masturbation frequency is about 95% for men and well over 60% for women. It easy to say don’t masturbate but it is not easy to break from the practice. I have encountered the sin viewpoint and the it’s okay viewpoint. For me, it’s okay if the fantasy is a made up person and the content is not something bad in itself. I knew a pastor who couldn’t quit and a man in school who did, by divine aid. It is easy for Christians to over spiritualize sexuality and it’s expression. We cannot even agree if the Song of Songs is celebrating marriage and marital sex, a view that offends some who go on to say it is about Christ and the Church. Personally, I had a quiet, hell as it began when I was 13 and I used any magazine or Dad’s porn he left lying around. I am able to use the computer most of the time without even thinking of visiting a porn site but every one or two weeks it happen that I am tempted and give in. Used to buy porn every week when I was in school and often afterwards. Do the people who write about masturbation ever have to struggle with it? For myself, I am a 59 year old single who never married or had sex as I tend to isolate myself. It may be that someday marriage may find me or I may go to my grave without that life experience. It hurts to see everyone around me married or formerly married. So when it comes to masturbation, I would use or try to use a totally imaginary person..not an image of someone I had seen or knew or seen in pictures. Please remember that men and perhaps women as well do have erotic dreams that we have no control over the content. Decades of controversy have not settled this issue.

      • So, in terms of the points I addressed above in the article, (1) how would you personally respond to each of them and (2) do you think these points are morally relevant?

      • steven Matthews

        Hello dear brother, I too have struggled with the use of porn. I realized at one point that that was my substitute for intimacy. A very ill advised and also sinful way to relate with women. The bible speaks of besetting sins and I can report that I have had times of more then 6 months of abstaining. I believe that your celibacy should be something rather celebrated if it was by resistance to give in to sinful pleasure. I was 27 before my first time and I gave into temptation believe me you are better off. The pain of that experience is steal very real to me from time to time. I know that I am forgiven yet the fault of what I done is tremendous, I find myself asking why didn’t I walk away kind of questions. I agree with your path to use images and be open about the women you desire to have. I experienced this as well, but I believe you need to formulate a plan if marriage is your desire. Otherwise you remain only in a fantasy which can be detrimental. I am telling this from real life experience and my own personal prayer life. Now I say this as best as I can rejoice in your singleness as it is an opportunity to grow and fall in love with someone that will love you. You even at your age have a chance at romantic love. Celebrating your singleness does not mean you do not have a since of missing something. In your singleness you can then decide what you are looking for in that significant other. That way when you meet you will know she is the one for you. Also you can say to yourself what should a good righteous women find in a man and rise to that kind of character through Christ. Another thing is this women is a daughter of the King be the son of the King that the King would be proud to give you the hand of His daughter to and your hand to His daughter. God bless…

    4. Rhett A Brown

      Excellent article and one which I wish I had read when I was much younger. Now I need to pray and ask God if I should share this on Facebook. Seems like I should. Just tend to be afraid of what people will think. Might be time to get over that.

      • I know what you mean, Rhett. Topics like this are share-worthy, but I often am resistant for the same reasons.

    5. Hi Luke and thankyou Emanuel for sharing, I after masturbating from the age of 14 about every two days (fantasizing of anything I could think of) until my wedding day (age 25) when I thought I would not need to anymore. Then urge started to return about 5 years into my marriage. My wife a born again Christian was not aware of my background of masturbation and especially into our marriage. By 15 years into our marriage and 3 children later I was looking at porn on the web. By 2013 our marriage came to an end, over an agonizing 6 months I slowly expelled my horror story to my wife, I was lost in lust, porn and sleeping with prostitutes. Now at age 50 I can speak from experience that since I accepted Christ as my Savior in Feb 2013 and abstained from masturbation and sex until October 2013 when my beautiful wife and I went away for a week-end together it was the beginning of something I dont have enough time to explain on this post! So my advice is, since stopping masturbating I have felt free from the vice it had over me and intimacy with my wife has become deep and God honoring. Win the Race, Amen.

      • Thanks for sharing, Brett. It is so important to realize how sin begets more sin when left untended.

    6. Thomas Weyandt

      I believe that masturbation serves a purpose. You have single people, some, like myself, have been single for decades.
      I would have liked to have had a wife and children, but treatment for a mental illness gave me few opppurtunities to meet anyone. Masturbation is not mentioned in the Bible. However, lust is, and anyone real other than your spouse as a fantasy and any fantasy perverted by lustful thoughts or violent thoughts is sin also . I was able to control my fantasy content for a time. I made up images of imaginary women and did not use porn or a real person I had seen. Now, however, every time I masturbate, it is to Internet porn. For several days at a time, I never think of porn while on the computer. Then temptations come and while I win some, I eventually lose, having lasted twelve days most recently. I do not chat online or have online relationships. Porn does teach you to use women and even promotes violence in sexuality. No arguement there. That is sin. But what do we tell our sons and daughters (girls also fantasize and masturbate and have erotic dreams like the boys) about masturbation? What do we tell them to do with our sexual feelings? I don’t know. My own experience was deaf silence and so I learned about sex from school and porn. I’ve rejected porn as something I want in life. I want it out! I do agree with turning over erotic dream content to God. You have a good idea there.

      • Hi Thomas,

        You are correct that masturbation isn’t mentioned in the Bible (which is what I state in the article), so the focus of our attention should not be the physical act but the motives and situations that produce it—we must see it as fruit from a bad tree.

        You have asked a great question here, one I continue to ask myself. Here’s my two cents:

        1. Distinguish between normal sexual angst and angst produced by overexposure to our erotic culture. Often people feel as if their sex drives are out of control, and for all intents and purposes, it is. We need to realize when all the images we allow ourselves to take in are building up a rampant fantasy life. We need to cut these sources out of our lives—even the things we justify as harmless amusements.

        2. When you are at your best, plan for your worst. We have to get really honest with ourselves and realize that with the easy accessibility of porn, given time and opportunity, we can easily give into temptation. That’s what sinners do. I need to admit this to myself and put blockades in place when I’m on my best behavior because I know a day will come when I am at my worst. I need to plan escape routes when I’m on top of my game.

        3. Believe sex is a desire, not a need. We have to reject the lie that sex is a need. Yes, sex is a “need” in a sociological sense (we need to procreate so we don’t die out), but sex is not a “need” in an individual sense. I need water, air, and food. I don’t need sex, but our culture tells us we do. It tells us we don’t just need sex; it tells us we need the best sex. It tells us that sex is what makes life worth living. We need to reject this and believe that sex is a desire—a good, God-given desire—but like all desires should be put in its proper place. This is something I’ve written about in another article:

        I was single at the time and had also bought into the lie that marriage and sexual intimacy were somehow basic rights that had been denied me. I believed sex was not only a desperate biological need, I believed sexual pleasure was, in a way, the goal of life: a promised land I had yet to enter. Porn was my way of cheating the universe that had denied me; it was my tantrum at God.

        Had my mind not been so clouded at the time, I would have been forced to admit marriage was no more a “right” than anything else in life: it is only by God’s undeserved mercy and patience that I have any blessings in my life at all. Had I been thinking straight I would have understood that sex was not a “need” at all (at least, not in the proper sense). It was I, not God, who had turned a normal sex drive into something “desperate.” It was I, not God, who had elevated sexual pleasure to a place it was never meant to occupy.

        I say all of this not to be “down” on our God-given sex drive, but to put it in its proper place: for only when it is in its proper place that I can enjoy it without it enslaving me. Sex is good (very good, actually). Sexual pleasure is good. Marriage is good. It is even good to desire them. But when I believe I “need” them, then God becomes a capricious Creator bent on placing people into impossible situations, demanding chastity but pushing us beyond the breaking point.

        Knowing these simple truths—that sexual pleasure is a desire, not a need—then I am free to place it alongside other good desires and alongside God’s commands and see it for what it is. I am free to repent of my warped and selfish version of sexual pleasure without fearing that I am denying or rejecting some essential part of me. And I am free to pray to God without anger in my heart for “making me this way.”

        4. Pray and fast. We will never practice self-control in area of sexual temptation if we are always living for the next rush of excitement, the next thrill, the next big buzz. We have to practice the spiritual disciplines that have sustained God’s people for centuries. We need to get into the habit of getting alone with God and letting our hearts be happy in him. We need to practice the discipline of fasting to teach our minds and bodies how to hunger for Him.

        Hope these tips help!

    7. Thomas Weyandt

      You have an interesting reply to my posts.
      I consider masturbation to have a place in one’s life but it doesn’t work for me due to the intrusion of free internet porn in my life. Sometimes I think I have a love/hate relationship with that garbage. I want it out of my life and I’m not interested in violent or perverse masturbation fantasies or fantasies about real women. I make up women in order to avoid lusting after a real person.
      A word about girl watching, the Bible doesn’t say don’t look, but do not lust as that would be adultery if married people are involved or fornication if unmarried people are involved.
      Sometimes Christians seem to be ashamed that they have such a thing as sexual desire and your post makes sexual desire as of little importance. You are probably a happily married man and resolved your issues with old time religion’s views of sexuality many years if not decades ago.
      I’m a single man who has not been in a dating relationship for decades and I don’t have the advantage of a long married life. Paul comments that everyone should have a spouse though the reason he cites is not for the joy of marital relationships, but only to prevent immoralaty. The rest of Bible is mostly pro marriage with Paul celebrating singles and making it sound as if one should marry only if that, in his view, option is something for one who doesn’t have the gift of singleness
      My perception is of someone who is not married and wishes he was. As someone who is about to hit 60, I would like to spend my remaining years with someone rather than alone. So I see things differently.
      However, as I am not free of porn and as masturbation for me only occurs in the presence of porn, masturbation does not work for me.
      I would say that the post author should regard masturbating to fantasies of his fiancee as sin since they are not married. After he marries, he might fantasize about his wife, but wife only, and no perverse fantasies.

      • I understand the love/hate relationship dynamic very well. I used to live in that for years. My personal addiction to porn was devastating.

        I hear the loneliness in your comment. It is sad when someone spends so many years (decades) with an unfulfilled desire. It can make the heart sick.

        I agree that many in the church can get lust and sexual desire confused, feeling unnecessary shame for the desires that God gave to them. If I gave you the impression that sexual desire is not important, I apologize. The goal of mastering one’s selfish passions while single (aside from honoring God) is to have the best, self-giving sex in marriage. When I say sex is not a need but a desire, I mean that it is a good, God-given desire. If you want some great information about the goodness and pleasure of sex, I recommend reading our article, “4 Ways Porn Kills Great Sex in Marriage.”

        I am happily married (7 years this week), but I’m pretty sure I haven’t embraced “old time religion’s views of sexuality,” unless I’m just completely misunderstanding what you mean.

        As for Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7 he mentions the importance of marriage for curbing the desire for sexual sin, yes. He didn’t mention “the joy of marital relationships” because he was responding to a specific question the Corinthians had about marriage and sex from a letter they sent to him, not give a treatise on marriage broadly.

    8. Andrew

      While masturbation isn’t specifically mentioned in scripture, I’m not convinced that it isn’t referred to. In 1 Cor 7 it talks about singleness and marriage. To summarize, Paul is saying that it is better to be single than married. Not to get into all those debates regarding this passage, I just want to highlight one verse. 1 Cor 7:9 says that if you can’t control yourself, then you should marry.

      I think this may be the answer. It would seem that if masturbation was an acceptable practice, that he would say, “If you can’t control yourself, masturbate”. After all, that is what I’m hearing from Christian men that give reasons for masturbation. This verse says what we are to do if we can’t control ourselves. After all, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Imagine yourself at the Holy of Holies, that precious place that God occupied in the Old Testament. Any high pries that had sin would fall dead in its presence if not cleansed beforehand. Would you enter that curtain and stand over it and masturbate? Pretty much all Christian men would say “no”. Pretty much all Christian men have. And so have I. And so I have needed to repent.

      You can gloss over this verse and act as though this is just one persons interpretation. I challenge you to meditate on this verse and see if you don’t come to the same conclusion.

      May God be glorified in all we do.

      • I don’t necessarily disagree that this is a plausible interpretation.

        Another very likely interpretation is that Paul is speaking out against sex outside of marriage. Several verses down from the one you quoted, Paul writes, “If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin” (v.36). It seems at least one of Paul’s concerns here is that men are avoiding marriage who have strong passions and are fooling around.

        My point is that since the Bible isn’t explicit about it, it isn’t wise for us to be explicit either, but this shouldn’t matter much anyway because it just drives us to the heart of why so many masturbate to begin with (lust, a lack of self-control, etc.). When we focus on the things the Bible places the focus on we can more quickly get to the heart of the behavior.

    9. Linda B.

      Hello Luke,
      I can pretty much identify with Thomas in certain ways. I have always been single. Introvert in school due to verbal abuse there, especially once I hit jr high and worse in high school from both peers and a few teachers. I was overweight and ugly. Still am. Although not as overweight as I am ugly. Just stating truth. Dropped out at 15 and worked instead. Could never really reach out and talk to guys unless they talked to me first which was seldom and usually only the marrieds. I was molested by my siblings (my older sister and brother) from an early age through 11 years. I have masturbated for as long as I can remember. I remember an incident in Kindergarten and so I know it had to be before then when I was sexually aroused by someone. Don’t know who. Dad was a molester and rapist of his children (my other 3 siblings-I don’t remember him ever touching me but I remember being repulsed when mom made me give him a kiss goodnight when i was about 7) and wife abuser. Continuing at the age of 12, when we moved onto 5 acres, Dad would stand at our (my younger sister and my) bedroom door, watching us and (what I thought was) scratching himself before he moved off to my older sisters bedroom where he would molest and would eventually rape her. He locked us out of the house one day and she was screaming. I looked in her window and he was raping her. I and my brother, knocked on the windows and doors to try to get him to stop. Another day he kept her home from school and I knew what that meant and I was scared for her. When we got home from school we didn’t know where she was. I saw ruts in the yard, I was scared. I knew something had happened. My brother and I looked all over the 5 acres for her body. I thought he had killed her. He was violent especially when drunk. My sister had called the police when he took mom to work, and he was arrested. The ruts in the yard were from the police cars hiding behind the house. He spent 3 days in jail. Mom and dad divorced. This was in 1974. I digress. All this to say I have always masturbated ( I will call it “m”). When I was younger much of the time it had turned into a comforting thing to do before going to sleep. I gave my heart to the Lord in 1991 and tried to stop. I have always wanted to marry and have children. I fell in love with my best friend. Unfortunately he was gay and in relationship. We were all friends and they always had me over at their house. They moved and God came into my life. I would go see them and Randy and I would go out on dates or I’d meet him at his parents and spend a few days with him there during harvesting. God eventually spoke to my heart and I knew I had to give him up as I was willing to compromise. That was about 17 years ago. I continued to masturbate (I will call it “m”). I became angry at God. I really believed Randy should have been my husband and blamed God. Blamed God for not being married, for not giving birth to my own child. I adopted and raised my sisters 3, but continued to be lonely and still desired to have my own child. Just before turning 50 I made a vow to God to take things into my own hand if he didn’t bring me someone. I was on-line taking to guys on different dating sites. I met a guy the 1st of Feb. 2 weeks before my birthday. We had a lot in common. So many things clicked in our lives. I thought it was a sign that he would be “the one”. We met the weekend after my 50th birthday. He lived in another state. We met halfway. We hit it off, he stirred feeling that I had never before experienced. We came close that weekend. We met again a few times throughout that summer. We talked about future, he knew my view was marriage. I gave myself to him. He was my first. First kiss, first everything. We were broke up that October. He said it wasn’t in him. That he didn’t know if he could ever love someone. That I was getting “too attached”. My heart broke. He had stirred up so many feelings in me and sexual desires. :M” increased. I got back on line. I found several new sites. These sites led to talking to men and watching them m as they were talking to me. This released something else in me and the fantasies and “m” increased even more. I began looking at porn. ( I had looked at porn a few times in younger years first introduced to it by my sister at 17. She made me look at her playgirl). I always seemed to be overpowered by her ever since I was very little. ) Anyway, last year I began attending Living Waters. I have stopped the porn: in part thanks goes to the Covenant Eyes articles. But the “m” continues. I know I have a long way to go in my relationship with God as well as releasing the past. I know I’m still angry at him for not being married, for not giving birth to my own child, both are such a ache in my soul. In your article above you stated that you “had also bought into the lie that marriage and sexual intimacy were somehow basic rights that had been denied me” I guess that has always been my thoughts. You have given me much to think about in your articles. And, it seems according to God’s Word that continuing in “m” will result in separation from God, permanently eventually. I don’t want that, but I continue to feel powerless to overcome.
      I welcome your comments. Thank you for sharing.
      Blessings and shalom, Linda

      • Hi Linda,

        Thank you for sharing your story. It is heartbreaking in many ways. Much has happened in your life, and I can’t pretend to identify with half of it.

        I do know the pain of loneliness, the anger at God for not giving me what I think I need, the pain of lost love—but for you this has gone on for decades. I am so sorry to hear all of this.

        First, it is important to recognize that you are facing a lot of sexual trauma. Often, the human mind reacts to sexual trauma in one of two ways: becoming hypersexual or asexual. Given what you’ve told me, it sounds like you’ve not slipped into either extreme, which is good. That said, if you haven’t really dealt with this pain from your past, it would be good to do this. I’m not usually one to tell people to run to psychotherapists or specialists for every ache and ailment in their lives, but there are times when trauma runs so deep it is wise to look into those options. This may be one of them.

        You really put your finger on the trigger of things when you spoke about anger at God. In a lot of ways, this can really be a driving force behind some of these issues. I know it was for me. And for you to be able to voice this shows you are pretty self-aware—not many people can even admit that to themselves. I talk some about that in this article, but if you really want a great book to read that talks about this, read Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. The whole book is good, but in particular chapters 4 and 8 would be great reads.

    10. pianoman

      I have been single for many, many years due to being sexually abused by babysitter and men, helping to send me into homosexual lust for most of my life. I am a Christian and many times am able to masturbate with no fantasies, just enjoying the experience and have come to think it is maybe ok with God if there is no lust involved. What’s the difference of watching a football game and being totally immersed in the game, a selfish act and even masturbating while watching the game. The 2 activities seem the same to me if there’s no lust in my mind of any person. What do you think about this?

      • Mark

        I have asked this question so many times I’m getting a headache. But I’m going to ask it again, because it’s a question that needs an answer, and an answer that won’t be from some generic or denominational teaching.

        When it comes to people, like myself, who have struggled with pornography addiction in the past, and masturbation, or anybody for that matter, whether they have an addiction or not, but have a high sex drive, like me, you can’t pray it away. You can pray all day long for yourself and for other people until you are so exhausted you don’t have any voice left to pray. You can read the Bible until you are so exhausted your eyes fall out. And you can stay busy until you don’t have any daylight left, and you’re still going to have these sexual urges. You’re still going to be fighting this. So, in the name of all that is decent and holy, will somebody please give me a freaking answer that makes sense about how to deal with this. You can’t pray or read the Bible or keep busy enough, where you’re not going to still struggle. And these Sunday school Answers by people who just want to pass it off aren’t helping people. The church has crippled people by not taking the question seriously, or the subject of sex seriously. They don’t want to talk about it because to them, sex is dirty. It’s voodoo. And to bring it up is something that gets a person judged, manipulated, and cast aside as like they’re nothing. So please, save the Sunday school answers, and give me something with meat to it that’s going to make sense. Forgive me for sounding a little miffed off, but I am. Because I’m tired of being pushed a side, because nobody’s answering it. And you certainly can’t go to your pastor, because he won’t answer it. All you get is he’s excuses like, we just don’t talk about it here. And you can’t go to your parents, because they don’t want to talk about it. So they send you to your pastor, who just brushed it aside. So does anybody have an answer that makes sense? Because I am so frustrated I want to ram my head into a freaking wall and knocked myself out cold so I don’t have to think about it.

      • Kay Bruner

        Hey Mark,

        I’ll take a stab at this one. I don’t think there is anything wrong with your sex drive. It’s like trying to pray away your thirst or hunger: impossible and unhealthy.

        I also don’t think that there is anything wrong with masturbation. Our taboos on that are simply repressive sexual tradition, nothing biblical.

        The shame that we are taught around sexuality, imo, creates 90% of the problems we’re all struggling through, and it’s purity culture that’s at fault. Pure by Linda Kay Klein is an interesting read.

        I think there are a number of problems with porn: much of it is violent towards women, it’s objectifying of women, it leads to unhealthy expectations about real sex; it’s an easy out for emotional problems, because rather than facing pain, stress, anger, etc., it’s easier to do porn; it takes time and attention away in relationships. The Gottman Institute has a good article on this that you might appreaciate.

        So I am personally no fan of porn, but I am also no fan of purity culture and the shame that’s been created around your perfectly normal and healthy sex drive. Like any other physical drive, we just have to learn to be healthy with it. And you’re right, the church has not taught any of us how to do that. Your frustrations are appropriate.


    11. Wow Really?

      Just stop it!!! Stop stretching bible verses to suit your needs. Matthew 5:28 does not take about masturbation at all. Sex is also a need. I hate to tell you. Are you really so foolish to think biologically you are set up for sex and hormones course through you for no reason at all? If sex was just for “procreation”, a woman would have one egg and a male would only mate once. The most foolish thing bible thumpers do is deny that people like sex and need it to be happy. Christians tend to think all you should do is work and pray. It is crazy. I swear I sometimes believe they are brainwashed. They live in some fantasy dream world. This I think is why people are going away from the churches in mass in America.

      • Does Matthew 5:28 talk about masturbation? No. Nor did I say it talked about masturbation. It talks about lust. That’s what the heading right above this citation says: “Is the act of masturbation tied to sexual lust?” In fact, I prefaced the entire article with this statement: “Nowhere in the Bible is physical act of masturbation (that is, the solo kind) labeled a sin.” I think you’re reading everything here incorrectly.

        Sex is not a need—at least not in the same sense that other needs are needs. Yes, of course it is a need socially: we die out as a species if we don’t do it. It is not a need in the sense you are talking about. I have hormones in my body that make me want to sleep. If I don’t sleep, I can do serious damage to my brain and body. I also have hormones in my body that make me want to have sex, but I will not hurt myself if I don’t have sex.

        That said, of course sex isn’t just for procreation, and the Bible is replete with this: marriage is good, sex is good, sex is pleasurable, and people are right and good to want to have it.

        I don’t know any Christians personally who think all you should do is work and pray. I’m sorry you’ve met such strange people.

    12. Thomas Weyandt

      My life has been screwed up by chronic mental illness caused by brain disorders. If sex is hard for Christians to deal with then mental illness is unmentionable. I crashed in 1973 and continue to have a limited life from it. I have finally been able to live on my own. I live in a one room apartment on the top floor of a public housing project. I lived for 42 years at home, sixteen years in assisted living and finally am on my own at age 59 and have been disabled from mental illness since 1975 with my income coming from SSI and food stamps. But I have my own place and my own life. One of the problems with an illness that affects your viewpoint is that I became obsessed with sin, repentance, extreme view of submission to God that wrecked my life. I am in secular counseling, counseling from local pastors, psych meds, and support people and programs. One told me that in her recent training that stigma against mental illness was still very much alive and well in the Church When first treated, my pastor did not want to visit me in the hospital until forced to do so by my mother. Circumstances forced my mother out of my life from my infancy. Coal mines had closed and mother and later, my uncle had to move away to find work. I was raised by my grandparents. I grew up having to take sides in their daily arguments. Dad hurled invective at Mom and she fought back, something properly submissive Christian women are not supposed to do. Dad knew that if he crossed the line and tried physical abuse like he practiced on his son (story goes than Mom clobbered him one time when he was beating up my uncle with a metal garbage can that knocked some sense into him) he would find himself in a jail cell. Mom’s enormous mental strength let her carry out her promise to outlive him and get his pension,SS and Black Lung checks. She outlived that monster 19 years and was done in by a local government agency that sold her property and stuck her in a home where she died at age 98. When Dad died, I saw that bills were paid and checkbook balanced but I got caught in credit cards that she co signed and when I went bankrupt, she went with me. Had to get a protection order from my abusive younger brother. Aging agency stepped in, threw me out of the house, I landed in assisted living as I was unable to fend for myself. This little apartment has been a long time coming but it has come. Three years after losing my home, Mom died as Aging admitted that it would have been better for her it I had stayed home because of our strong bond and took care of her while they, (Aging) just managed the money. It took years to realize the depths of my selfishness in the matter and repent and obtain forgiveness from God. I have Schizoaffective disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder and depersonalization all of which have affected my reason at various times. The Church was rarely there to help. After all, as one pastor stated, there are no mentally ill, just sinners reaping the rewards of their sin. I have had a colossal rage against the Church. A couple years ago, the secular county MH/MR program reached out to area pastors. For a change, they were willing to listen and learn. It is shameful that the pastors didn’t reach out to MH/MR first. Secular people were there but damn few Christians. If Mom, who had to leave school at age 12 could figure out that the brain could be sick(most mental illnesses are brain disorders, PTSD and multiple personality disorders being exceptions) why couldn’t seminary trained ministers fail to figure that out too? I serve on county MH/MR Advisory Board and the local drop in center boards. Our drop in center was founded as a non profit over twenty years ago by a man who was both mentally retarded and mentally ill as a place for social rehab of the mentally ill. We have a place to go to instead of isolating at home looking at four walls, the TV and the computer. That whole experience of my life has been 59 years of Pain. I don’t believe the televangelists but I have finally found a local church where the two women pastors are willing to listen, learn as they give me spiritual counsel. And that is good. God has been kind to me, a person who used to raise his fist at heaven and declare that He would never get me in bondage again. I don’t know how to treat that kind of anger and mistrust that I have against God. As for support groups and ministries, I live in a small rural town in a large rural area and have no way of getting to cities like Altoona or State College (home of Penn State U and the football team that was coached for 60 years by the late Joe Paterno). I do have some friends but am isolating and have to change that. Someday, there will be no more war, cruelty, sickness or fear. Someday.

    13. Thomas Weyandt

      I apologize for getting off topic in my preceding post but the hurt just flooded out of me. If anyone would like a read further on mental illness, including a case where MH messed up, as it did me, a person’s spiritual life, I would recommend Tormenting Thoughts and Secret Rituals by Dr. Ian Osborn, a former MH sufferer himself. His book also references historical Christian thought on mental illness.

      • Hi Thomas,

        Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are correct that the church, broadly speaking, has handled mental illnesses poorly, and the confusion around it has only increased since the turn of the 20th century.

        I feel, sometimes, the church has a very poor understanding of the human person. We treat everything from the neck down as a physical issue (something a doctor can help with), but everything from the neck up as a spiritual issue (you just need to repent more, renew your mind more, pray more, have more faith, etc.). We don’t tend to see brain problems as medical, and this has harmed our ability to be both compassionate and helpful.

        I am so sorry the church has been unhelpful to you.

        I am also sorry to hear about the sad circumstances of your upbringing. I hope your current counseling and support communities are helping you with that.

        You said, “Someday, there will be no more war, cruelty, sickness or fear.” I long for this hope as well. Until that time, my hope for you (and for everyone who has been burned by the church) will become agents of change within the church. I also pray you can get to the bottom of your anger and mistrust of God and find the path to peace.

    14. Linda B.

      Thank you Luke for your reply. I have been seriously considering counseling again. I went for a short time a couple years ago after having to quit teaching ( teaching was my life – really my special needs kids were) and was diagnosed with Major Depressive disorder and PTSD. I could no longer afford insurance and meds and went into a deep depression. The Lord has been working in me and I am about ready to try again. Not having insurance is a problem though. When you go to a free clinic you don’t get a choice of who they chose to counsel you. I want a Christian counselor. But I know God can put in place the best person available. It’s hard for me to actually get out to go apply. I have the intention but I’ve become such a recluse.
      Thank you for your book suggestion. I will see if I can get it through the library or through the pastor in the living waters program.
      Many blessings and shalom, Linda

      • I wish you all the best, Linda.

    15. Thomas Weyandt

      It is regretable that while the Church concerned itself with other matters, the secular professionals stepped in and took up the slack in the mental illness sector. Stigma is the big problem and goes with lack of knowledge. For decades, I looked to see if the Church said anything or published anything on mental illness.
      I found one or two books, everything else I’ve seen doesn’t mention the subject. In the 1800s, it was a Christian PA woman who set out to reform the treatment of the mentally ill. Since that person freed sufferers from being chained, not much has happened on the Church front. Some years ago an article was published in the papers about the graveyards around state mental hospitals. These graves had no name, only a number as the families of these deceased patients were ashamed of them and so the families were spared embarrasement by having a number rather than a name on these gravestones. Where in the hell was the Church? A counseling manual for Christian counselors had nothing on the subject. More silence. Meanwhile the Church is shamed by the dedicated unsaved people doing it’s job for it so the Church doesn’t have to bother with us. Someday, that will change. Perhaps if we get a nationwide revival that has been hoped for and prayed for so many years. America had two Great Awakenings, maybe God will give us a third.
      I have been debating signing up for your service but I have no one who can act as an accountability partner.
      I live by myself and have lost a close friend who decided that they didn’t have time to spend on me. So, I am a great isolation and loneliness. I have my television, Internet, on demand movies/tv programs, books, comics and my thoughts as my companions. I did leave out one though. That is God who is still watching over me and seeing that I get treatment and now at long last, Christian counseling. It’s just the many hours I spend alone and empty inside that get to me. Losing that friend was like driving a bulldozer through my heart but I have learned something from it. Don’t put all your emotional eggs into one basket. As to Linda, try for counseling and I hope it works for you. I still believe God has some plan for me to accomplish something for good. Maybe my job is to be a gadfly and praying that the monolithic Church would concentrate less on obtaining wealth as a salvation benefit and remember that the poor will always be with us. And it is the government that has welfare, SSI, Medicaid and Food Stamp programs. They have many problems but they do provide a safety net for people who have lost work or cannot work. Joni and Friends is a good program that addresses the physically disabled. What we need is a Christian ministry for the mentally disabled. Until then, we have the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill or NAMI, which was founded by two mothers who were dissatisfied with the lack of services for their children. Again, secular people take the lead. Someday, God will come and fix the mess Earth is in. War, violence, evil and sin will end. Until then, it’s our job as Christians to be light and salt on this world.

      • Not surprisingly, this is one of the greatest needs for people who want to use our service. Often people tell us they simply don’t know who to choose to be an accountability partner, and as you know, without solid accountability, a service like ours has no value. Normally I would tell people to get involved in a good church, make good friends, and experience the richness of what Christian fellowship can offer, but I know a lot of people have never gotten involved in a church where they experience that.

    16. Drew

      A word from experience on fantasy and masturbation. I’ve been married for 8 years and am totally in love with my wife, and highly attracted to her. Of course, sex with my wife is preferable because it’s wholly satisfying! BUT, when the occasion calls and I do feel compelled to masturbate, I try to stick to this – instead of fantasizing about other women from the internet or whom I’ve met or wherever, I let myself REMEMBER all the things I’ve done with my wife. I get specific, and detailed, trying to recall every bit of the actual moment. While this is nowhere in the realm of true sex with my wife, I’m morally a little more comfortable with MEMORIES of her rather than imaginations involving other women, virtual or otherwise.

      So…Is this “lust”? I’m not looking to just get by on a technicality (as in “well it doesn’t count if you’re married”), i mean really, would God disapprove of this way i treat my wife? After all, I feel strong sexual feelings and have had problems with porn since I was a kid. (Thankful to God’s grace for every day of purity, all I’ll say for now!) My wife and I believe that God brought us together and blessed our marriage. As the object of my affection, I want her to be the only participant/recipient of my sexuality. Rather than deny myself of fantasy altogether, I include her. Memories are vivid, and afterword I feel closer to her than I would’ve if it were someone else in my thoughts, there’s no element of that “cheating” feeling. I hope that doesn’t sound sick, and again I need to say that this in no way replaces actual sex or relationships!

      I’m just saying if I gotta do it, memories of my wife is the something that doesn’t make me feel any shame. Interested to hear your thoughts!

    17. Thomas Weyandt

      This is probably my last post on this topic. Yesterday, after 28 (?) days of no internet porn, I was tempted, gave in and masturbated to porn videos. As I have become used to porn over the years, I have had to use increasingly graphic porn to be able to sustain sexual arousal and masturbate successfully to orgasm. I got there after a couple hours but the moment the orgasm fades I come to terms with what I have done and seek God and ask His forgiveness and then back on the wagon and see how long I will last until the next time.
      Meanwhile, the friendship I thought was repaired has had the bottom ripped out of it. That person told me to never call her again and I have stayed away. This was a friendship that apparently, ended, do to actions of mine. They were not sexual as we did not have a sexual relationship. Just very, very, good friends. This time around God has spared me the pain of the last time. I will wait and see what He intends as I try not to put all my emotional eggs in one basket again. Thanks to all for listening and may God bless your ministry in this area. I should point out that I am Protestant and not Catholic but I don’t see that difference as being important. We all all supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ, after all.

      • God bless, Thomas. It is great to hear you had 28 days porn-free. Remember, you aren’t at square 1 again. God did a work in your life those 27 days and He still is doing that work.

    18. Jeremiah

      This article is great. It puts into words and validates my concerns that I was sinning by masturbation, even though I was doing so by fantasizing to my wife and while looking at pictures of my wife (from whom I am separated because of my addictions of 20+ years of marriage). This is going to be monumentally difficult, because I feel like a crack addict in withdrawal when I don’t masturbate, and from experience it takes a good month before I can go without being preoccupied with masturbation, but I am going to have to find a way. I’m going to start researching articles on this site.

    19. Me

      I know Paul says it’s better to take a wife than to burn with lust. But what if no woman wants to marry you? Most these guys saying it’s wrong to masturbate have mates. But I’ve been alone for decades. That’s decades with a capital D! When Jesus spoke and said “if you so much as lust for a woman you have committed adultery” he was talking about just that, adultery. In it’s context he was referring to lusting after married woman. I know that when it comes to sexual acts the bible is clear on homosexuality, incest, adultery, but not when it comes to this gray area. I have asked the holy spirit for clarification in this matter and an out or solution. Now, I know, one has to be careful doing this as the answer is also not clear sometimes. But I sensed if you think about someone as your wife in fantasy, then I think God would allow for it as he does divorce in specific cases.

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