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Yes, I’m going to go there.
I'm going to talk about masturbation.
Not because I'm in a bit of a drought when it comes to hate mail, but because it is a valid issue worth discussing with regard to sexual intimacy in marriage.
I know this topic is steeped in much theological debate and scripture interpretation. I also know that in the vast majority of situations, masturbation is sabotaging intimacy in marriage – not enriching it.
But is masturbation in marriage always wrong?
My fellow blogger and friend, Mrs. Hot Holy Humorous, and I were talking about this. We blog about sex, so uhhh… no surprise that many of our conversations revolve around sex.
We aren’t the only bloggers digging into this topic.
I particularly want to give a shout out to Brad and Kate Aldrich of One Flesh Marriage. You can reach their recent posts on masturbation at this link. Other bloggers have addressed it as well, including (but not limited to) Sheila Gregoire and Paul Byerly. (All worth the read, by the way).
As controversial as masturbation is, Mrs. Hot Holy Humorous and I believe it is worth discussing.
We each answered the same 9 questions – and are sharing our answers with all of you.
So tag along with us on this one… and chime in with your own comments as well. That's all we're doing… generating some dialogue on something that needs to be discussed.
Believe it or not, some married people do masturbate.
That being the case, it's worth peeling back the layers on these questions:
Is it wrong for a married person to masturbate?
Me: It depends. I’m not just riding the fence on this issue. I truly do believe it depends. There are circumstances where it would definitely be wrong for a married person to masturbate.
In particular, it would be wrong if they are doing it to withhold sexually from their spouse, if it has become an idol on their heart or it has become addictive, if they are doing it while visualizing someone other their spouse, if they are doing it while viewing pornographic or explicit material, and/or if they are doing it secretly – meaning they are purposely hiding the activity from their spouse.
Additionally, if one spouse has specifically asked the other spouse to not masturbate, then it would be dishonorable, hurtful and disrespectful to ignore this request, in my opinion. (I should point out, though, if the spouse who is saying it is wrong to masturbate is simultaneously not sexually available to their spouse, then the more painful transgression is being committed by the sexually unavailable spouse, not the one who wants to masturbate).
Obviously there are reasons – many reasons – when it would be wrong for a married person to masturbate. But all circumstances don't match up to those reasons.
Hot, Holy, Humorous: First off, I'm going to not allow my love for Cyndi Lauper and the dance-inducing rhythm of "She Bop" to sway my answers (she was good in concert!). That said, I don't believe that is always wrong to masturbate.
The purpose of sexuality in marriage is reproduction, intimacy, and pleasure.
While masturbation does nothing for reproduction, it can be incorporated by a couple for intimacy and pleasure. Unfortunately, most masturbation by married persons is not lending itself to those goals but rather hindering or replacing healthy sexuality.
What if my spouse cannot adequately bring me to orgasm during lovemaking? Does masturbation have a place during sexual intimacy?
Me: We might just be talking semantics here, but when one spouse stimulates himself or herself during sexual intercourse, I’m not sure if that really is masturbation – at least not as we usually think of masturbation.
As I have often said, the clitoris is usually not quite as predictable as the penis. So, let's say a wife stimulates her clitoris with her fingertips as she and her husband are making love – the goal here isn't to hinder their intimacy; the goal is to enhance it.
Her orgasm is important to both of them.
If her stimulating her clitoris while her husband thrusts within her would be defined as masturbation, then so be it.
Whatever you want to call it, in circumstances like this, I think it would be very much acceptable.
Hot, Holy, Humorous: Masturbation is a problem when it replaces intimacy between a husband and wife, and this approach has the potential for that. Masturbation could help facilitate orgasm; however, if your spouse cannot adequately get you there, you shouldn't fall back on self-stimulation rather than figuring out how to make it happen.
It's easy to get impatient or shy about what you like. Make orgasm a priority, experiment with what feels good or doesn't, guide your spouse to help you, and be patient.
For some, orgasm is a destination one mile down a highway lane, and others may take a country drive down meandering back roads, but I think everyone can get there eventually.
In the meantime, can I imagine an instance where you've been trying for an orgasm longer than a Hollywood marriage and your spouse asks you to please take care of it while he/she watches? Yes, and I don't think that's all bad.
Is it okay for someone to masturbate while their spouse watches, if this is acceptable to both of them and is a turn-on?
Me: The key portion of this point is "acceptable to both of them." I believe there are two non-negotiable guidelines that are necessary for God-honoring sexual intimacy.
First, a married couple must maintain the exclusivity of their sexual intimacy. No involvement of any third parties (real, imagined or portrayed).
Second, no one is getting hurt (physically, emotionally, spiritually). The foundation of marriage is love, so it is obviously not loving for one spouse to force another spouse to do something that is painful, makes them uncomfortable or compromises their values.
If the exclusivity and no-pain guidelines are met, I think a married couple has tremendous freedom in their sexual pleasure.
Intercourse whereby the penis is in the vagina is obviously part of God’s plan for intimacy – and I would never tell a married couple that this shouldn’t be a regular experience in their sexual intimacy.
But to say they can’t explore other forms of sexual play and pleasure as well? That would be crazy.
If it is enjoyable for one spouse to watch the other spouse masturbate, there is room for this within a repertoire of sexual experiences in the marriage bed.
Hot, Holy, Humorous: Sure. But once again, this shouldn't become a pattern or a replacement for interacting with one another. Your bedroom shouldn't feel like a sex chat room or a porn film audition. Sexuality is about committed relationship.
Want to see what else we talked about?
Click over to the site of Hot, Holy & Humorous. The same first question appears on her post, but keep scrolling. We go on to answer these questions:
Are visualization and fantasy always part of masturbation?
Are there circumstances in which masturbation would be beneficial to a marriage?
Also stay tuned for Part 2 coming up on Thursday. (We had a few more questions we wanted to explore).
I’m genuinely thrilled that Mrs. Hot Holy Humorous and I have offered up our perspectives on this topic of masturbation. (Yes. I know. She is way funnier than me. I am envious of her quick wit, but I digress).
I’m sure I don't have to point this out, but she and I care deeply about marriages. And we are very comfortable with the reality that many Christians may disagree with our take on masturbation.
Just remember – we are simply generating dialogue as an effort to get married couples talking about their sexual intimacy.
Shedding light people. That's what we're about.
Copyright 2011, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.