The following is an excerpt from my book the “Psychology of Porn”
It’s a common question I get asked and a continuous debate within Christian circles: What about masturbation? Is it okay to masturbate, or not? If only it were that simple. The typical dialogue within the church of “yes or no” or “good vs. bad” lacks the maturity and nuance needed to discuss and understand this topic. Good Christian men and women are confused and wanting to please God. What if pleasuring ourselves could actually bring pleasure to God? Is that even possible? There is much to unlearn and relearn on how to masturbate well. You may have grown up with an understanding of masturbation as the “forbidden fruit”, or a sin just as reviled as murder. You may have heard myths of going blind or growing hair on your palms. Most likely you heard nothing at all. Silence. And the silence was enough for you to to learn to say nothing, but feel everything. This is the origin of searing shame. The shame becomes unbearable for those of us who want to please God, yet can’t resist bringing ourselves pleasure. Instead of being shamed for wanting pleasure and enjoying pleasuring ourselves, we need to learn to masturbate in a healthy way.
Unlinking Porn & Masturbation
Many folks misuse masturbation. Some use it compulsively as form of escape, for others it is a way to dissociate from their present struggles and/or overwhelming joys. We must begin to unlink porn and masturbation in order to reclaim a better relationship with our sexuality; this can take time. Patterns of masturbation have been linked to objectification and fantasy which can be difficult to break. If you have engaged in the same rituals for the last two decades, it’s probably safe to say you wouldn’t be able to make these changes overnight. Masturbating differently will take significant work and effort on your part.
While it can be simple to stop looking at erotic images on the internet, the hardest healing work is beginning to engage your fantasy structures and thought life. Christian folks call it “taking every thought captive”, the world of psychology calls it “thought stopping”. The sin is not in the act of masturbation but in the fantasy. Our thoughts can be perverse and laced with objectification, and this is the darkness that we must flee, not the act of masturbation itself. Can you masturbate without debasing fantasy? If not, then don’t do it; you’re not ready yet to reintroduce healthy masturbation into your life. There has to be a significant and consistent break from your use of porn and a rewiring of your brain and fantasy life. After time has passed, and you have worked hard to allow your brain time to heal, reworked your fantasy structures and how you honor women in your thought life, I believe you can reintroduce healthy masturbation within proper boundaries. If you are single, you will have to be aware of the difference between healthy masturbation vs. the patterns of how you have engaged in the past.If you begin to pleasure yourself and find your brain drifting into fantasy, stop. If you find yourself using masturbation to run from emotion, stop. Masturbation must be used to enhance reality not escape from it. Within these guidelines, it will not be compulsive and will be less frequent because of the boundaries of health you have put in place.
One reason masturbation can be such a tricky part of the healing process is that is so isolating. This aspect itself can be triggering. Part of breaking the cycle for folks who are married is beginning to be honest with your partner about your relationship to masturbation. Your sexuality is no longer solely your own; it is now shared. If you have gotten to the point of being able to masturbate well without fantasy and escape, you can incorporate it into your sexuality with your partner.