By: Shane James O’Neill
4 min. read
Is masturbating wrong?
If the answer is yes, then why is it wrong? The ultimate answer to that questions is it’s wrong because our Rabbi and King has said as much: “whoever looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” But what is Jesus warning us of? What is evil about lust?
Here are two images to help us see what we’re doing when we’re masturbating (even when we’re masturbating without pornography!).
Voyeurism (spoken like it’s spelled) is a person who gains pleasure by watching other people have sexual intercourse.
In other words, anyone who watches porn practicing voyeurism — since the viewer is not in a sex act but is stimulated by watching other people in a sex act.
Voyeurism is a common explanation for erectile dysfunction (ED) — a sexual dysfunction involving men who have issues keeping erected during sex.
Stats tell us that one in three men have erectile dysfunction. Ironically, most men don’t even know they have this issue, since they’re able to perform while watching porn. But, as we will see, performing while watching sex is different than performing while having sex.
Now, this is where voyeurism plays its part. When we’re used to being a viewer of sex and not a participant of sex then our physical responses shift. In short, sex with another person requires something, but porn doesn’t.
Hence, the most common form of erectile dysfunction being referred to as, porn induced erectile dysfunction.
One of the fundamental issues with masturbation is that our only role in the sex act is that of porn director.
Masturbation as Directing Porn
During masturbation we are not being intimate with anyone. We’re taking someone — either from porn, from our past, or someone we saw earlier that day — and we’re using them to pleasure ourselves.
Like a porn director, we create scenes, clothing, positions, how the other person is reacting, and even the moment of climax. In short, we are the directors of our own pornographic fantasy.
C. S. Lewis makes this point by arguing that masturbation takes something designed to be inherently selfless — sex is pleasure you give to another, and pleasure you receive from another — and redesigns it as selfish — by giving pleasure to yourself without another person.
The second image is that of imaginary rape. And yes, as someone who knows a thing or two about childhood sexual abuse, I hate that language as much as the next person. Yet, let’s be honest together for a moment.
During masturbation we’re taking people who haven’t given themselves to us and we’re compelling them to pleasure us according to our demands. If this happened outside of our minds it would be called rape.
Of course, this is only happening in our minds. But why should that rinse off the filth from the action?
When we pray, we are looking at people via our minds, when we remember sacred, joyous, or sad moments we are looking at people through our minds. Just because it is taking place in our minds doesn’t mean we aren’t staining the image of another person. God forbid that we one day perform the things we’ve done in our minds for years.
I get that many of those reading this may react to it for a number or reasons. I get that. Rape is a word with a big trigger. Honestly, I find myself reacting to it myself, even as I write it. The value, however, in saying these things is that we mustn’t lie to ourselves about what we are doing in our dark, isolated moments.
Saint Paul speaks directly into these moments:
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
Predators and Priests
To be a priest is to accurately represent people to God, and God to people — even in our minds as we pray. If we’re abusing and abasing people, then our ability to prayerfully present people before God is severely compromised.
Harems vs Hope
Lewis brings together the image of porn director and imaginary rape when he says of masturbation that it “sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides… For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival.
Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover: no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself…. And it is not only the faculty of love which is thus sterilized, forced back on itself, but also the faculty of imagination.”
We cannot direct porn videos for our own private casting.
We cannot imprison the people around us and use them as we please.
This is getting to the heart of Jesus’ connection with adultery and lust. Consequently, the gospel gives us a choice of being porn directors and abusers, or of being “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Let’s put away our harem and put on hope. Let’s cease to be predator’s so that we can become priests.
Sign up to continue receiving our weekly-blog series!
Shane James O’Neill is the Editorial Director for Proven Men Ministries. He is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity. Shane is a missionary kid who was born in the Philippines. He is about to get married and he lives in Lynchburg Va.