Defeat Lust & Pornography
Defeat Lust & Pornography 3 minute read

It’s All About Me: The Problem with Masturbation – Book Review

Last Updated: October 12, 2015

The Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation has a series of “minibooks” (usually no more than 30 pages) dedicated to specific counseling related topics. This week we are reviewing “It’s All About Me: The Problem of Masturbation.”

. . . .

Winston Smith has been counseling for more than 15 years and is the author of a variety of CCEF resources related to marriage and sexuality. His minibook “It’s All About Me” attempts to tackle the questions “What’s the harm of masturbation?” and “What can I do to stop?”

Smith’s goal is to help the chronic masturbator examine his or her internal world – the world of imagination. This, Smith says, is where the problem and solution starts.

Old Arguments Against Masturbation

Some of the church’s arguments against the practice of masturbation focused on the physical act itself. This line of argument stretches Scripture to the breaking point.

About 250 years ago, masturbation was known as the sin of “onanism,” stemming from the story in Genesis 38. When Onan’s brother died he was culturally obligated to have sex his sister-in-law so she would not die a childless widow and leave his brother with no heir. During their intercourse he chose to pull out of her and spill his semen on the ground instead. The story says nothing about the solo act of masturbation but about the Onan’s stubborn disregard for his brother’s family.

There are no cases of solo masturbation mentioned in the Bible. The only place where a form of masturbation is mentioned is in the love poem, the Song of Solomon, where the two lovers poetically describe acts of mutual masturbation during love-making (2:3,6; 4:12). So as far as the Bible is concerned, there is silence on whether the physical act of masturbation is sinful.

Why the Fantasies Behind Masturbation are Wrong

In “It’s All About Me,” Winston Smith addresses the subject of masturbation from a different angle: from the perspective of fantasy.

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 as much as they are about the person who is fantasizing. In your sexual fantasies, you take center stage. The plot and characters revolve around you. It is the world where all the characters are you-centered and play to your desires for pleasure, power, or control.

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.”

In the typical biblical counseling fashion, Smith’s goal is to help readers to understand 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 gods.

Like it or not, our fantasies 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). This, Smith says, is the real harm masturbation fantasies cause: 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.

Creating New Habits of Love

Smith talks about how we can build a new internal world based not on selfishness but love. He talks about the necessary steps of confession to God, repentance, and accountability to others. But for Smith, repentance from masturbation is not merely about turning from a mere physical habit as much as it is about building new habits of love.

Repenting of lustful fantasies means we turn from our internal worlds of selfishness and turn towards Jesus who can teach us to love as He loves. Smith writes:

The Bible says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:10–12). God has shown us perfect love in Christ, so we learn how to love from him. If you want to learn how to love, then become a lifelong student of Jesus.

This isn’t just about kicking a bad habit. God promises that, as you live a life of love by trusting in Christ, God’s love will become visible through you. What could be more meaningful than making God’s love visible to others? This same passage helps us to see how special that love is: 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.

I highly recommend this quick and cheap resource for your church. It is an ideal discussion-starter for youth groups or men’s groups who are dealing with this subject and don’t want a massive book to read.

  1. Steve

    Dear Luke Gilkerson, thank you for this post, its an eye opener – and I particularly find the comments from people and your apt answers expository. God bless you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related in Defeat Lust & Pornography

Editor's Picks

A teenage girl alone at night on her phone.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

I Clicked on a Link

Living with integrity in this world is quite difficult because our culture…

3 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A solitary man on a scenic hike.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

My Journey and Liberation from Pornography

Many men and women struggle nowadays with addiction to pornography. Almost all…

3 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A young man with his friends.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Transparency: Tough But Always Worth It

Whether I care to admit it or not, porn is a big…

4 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

Young man wearing a hoodie praying.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

From Hopeless Addict to Follower of Christ

The journey I have embarked on to quit porn has been long…

2 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A young man looking into the distance.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

All You Need for Quitting Porn (And for Everything Else)

What do you need to quit porn? 2 Peter 1:3 says “[God’s]…

6 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

Silhouette of a young engaged couple.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

How I Found Freedom From the Binge and Purge Cycle of Porn

Since the age of 11 years old, I have struggled with pornography…

4 minute read

Read Post

Related in Defeat Lust & Pornography

A teenage girl alone at night on her phone.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

I Clicked on a Link

Living with integrity in this world is quite difficult because our culture…

Living with integrity in this world is quite difficult because our culture is so against it, but as a Christian God has called me to be different, and striving for integrity plays a key role…

3 minute read

0 comments

A solitary man on a scenic hike.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

My Journey and Liberation from Pornography

Many men and women struggle nowadays with addiction to pornography. Almost all…

Many men and women struggle nowadays with addiction to pornography. Almost all were exposed at a young age through no fault of their own and now seek liberation from pornography addiction. I was one of…

3 minute read

0 comments

A young man with his friends.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Transparency: Tough But Always Worth It

Whether I care to admit it or not, porn is a big…

Whether I care to admit it or not, porn is a big part of my life. It seems shameful, but that’s the reality I live in, for better or worse. I have learned many lessons…

4 minute read

0 comments

Young man wearing a hoodie praying.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

From Hopeless Addict to Follower of Christ

The journey I have embarked on to quit porn has been long…

The journey I have embarked on to quit porn has been long and arduous. In fact, I don’t think it’s over. Covenant Eyes has been a significant part in helping me overcome my addictions and…

2 minute read

0 comments

A young man looking into the distance.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

All You Need for Quitting Porn (And for Everything Else)

What do you need to quit porn? 2 Peter 1:3 says “[God’s]…

What do you need to quit porn? 2 Peter 1:3 says “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” That’s a verse that makes me pause for a minute, especially…

6 minute read

0 comments

Silhouette of a young engaged couple.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

How I Found Freedom From the Binge and Purge Cycle of Porn

Since the age of 11 years old, I have struggled with pornography…

Since the age of 11 years old, I have struggled with pornography and purity. I Was Trapped in a “Binge and Purge” Cycle I can still vividly remember the day that my innocence was stripped…

4 minute read

0 comments