New Evidence That Masturbation Really Does Make You Blind [VIDEO]

 

One Bowl of Corn Flakes on a White Background“Masturbating will make you go blind.” So goes the old myth. (Many myths prevail surrounding masturbation. The most interesting may have been perpetuated by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg who thought that a proper diet would alleviate a man’s desire to masturbate, and so he fed men under his care in a mental institution a special cereal he created. Kellogg didn’t curb masturbation, but did become a cereal giant and many of us still eat Corn Flakes today with no impact on our sexual desires.)

Recently, my husband and I were having dinner with a couple we greatly respect. The man is a well-studied theologian and beloved pastor. During a conversation about the overall crisis of purity in the Church at large, he referenced a Bible verse that made me wonder: “Is the notion that masturbation causes blindness really a myth after all?” I’d like to share that verse with you today, but first let’s take a look at masturbation and ask the question: Is it a sin?

In Lauren Winner’s fantastic expose on sexuality in Real Sex, she reminds us that pop culture attempts to make sex fairly meaningless. She points to an episode of the hit sitcom Friends, in which Monica (portrayed by Courtney Cox) asks her new paramour, “So, we can still be friends, and have sex?” “Sure,” he replies, “it’ll just be something we do together, like racquetball.” Winner responds to this commentary with this: “It could be a tagline for our age: Sex: It’s just like racquetball. It’s no big deal. It’s just a game.”[i]

But casual sex between two people is so yesterday. Courtney Cox went on to star as editor Lucy Spiller in Dirt, the series about a smut magazine and the world of the paparazzi. In that series Cox kept a vibrator by her bed and nonchalantly uses it one night. It seemed it was just part of her bedtime routine. Shower. Put on your satin pjs. Brush your teeth. Read. Masturbate. Apparently, today sex is sometimes a solo sport. Just like Solitaire.

Is that OK?

You want to know.

A lot of you.

Probably because a lot of you are struggling.

65% of 18-25 year old females admit to masturbating while looking at porn online.[ii]

Is masturbation sin?

Well, the bad news is that the Bible offers no direct teaching on masturbation[iii]. Does that mean you don’t have any information in Scripture to direct your behavior when you feel the urge? Not at all. We have to look at other principles to answer the question.

Masturbation is a sin if it involves pornography or lust.

Christ blows the ill-fitting door off of any inkling of defense that the internal sexual thoughts we have for a man who is not our husband is OK. In Matthew 5:27, he says: “you have heard that it is said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Obviously, if it is sinful for a man to lust after a woman, it is also sinful for us to lust after a guy.  If your eyes and mind are engaged in pornography or visual sexual fantasy involving a guy when you are masturbating, you are sinning. That is to say, you are missing the mark of God’s design for sex.

Masturbation is a sin if it has become an addictive pattern in your life.

If you are controlled by or enslaved to masturbation, it is a sin. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (I Corinthians 6:12). The church of Corinth had been misinterpreting a teaching about “everything being permissible.” They had excused certain sins by saying that Christ had taken away all sin, and so they had freedom to live as they pleased. That’s not entirely true. Paul said that though some actions are not specifically sinful in themselves, they are not appropriate because they can lead us away from God and his appropriate intentions for our sexuality. If you cannot fall asleep at night without the ritual of masturbating or if you find yourself planning your life so you can be alone to masturbate, it has become addictive. It is mastering you. A Christian is not to be mastered by anything.

But that leaves us the gray area that many scholarly Christian psychologists and theologians have debated for years. What if you occasionally masturbate in a quick moment—and I do mean moment—with no thought of lust and without any harm to your body? Is that OK?

Let me first say that I don’t think you should beat yourself up over it more than you would another moral behavior, or consider it a “sick, vile, filthy and disgusting” secret. (Those words in quotes are the very words a young reader sent to me recently as she described her struggle with masturbation.) The great depth of shame concerning masturbation amazes me. When a girl comes to me for counseling concerning masturbation, she is often not capable of uttering the words. The response isn’t rational. Masturbation is a nearly universal act for guys, and a common one for girls. There is no need to bury yourself under a heap of shame as if it is the worst thing in the world. (Does it separate you from God more than gossip? More than overeating? More than telling little white lies? More than an obsession with having a guy?) You will survive this and so will your relationship with God.

But, the very fact that so many people feel so bad about it merits a closer look at the impact of masturbation. I think discomfort with it is a logical check and balance to protect the purpose of the marriage bed. What is that purpose? To bring us into intimate communion. The authors of the aptly named Authentic Human Sexuality describe sexual desire in the context of a drive to community.

“Deeply embedded within each one of us is a divine longing for wholeness that sends us reaching beyond ourselves to God and others. Sexual desire helps us recognize our incompleteness as human beings and causes us to seek the other to find a fuller meaning in life….Authentic sexuality urges us toward a rich sharing of our lives.” [iv]

Lauren Winner answers the “sex is a game” mentality with the same theology when she says, “a robust yet judicious understanding of the communal nature of sexual behavior requires that Christians enact both a thicker understanding of sex and a thicker understanding of community. To return sex to its proper place within creation, to revivify a gracious and salutary sexual existence, we need to root out modern and hyperindividualistic notions about sex, and come to understand the place of sex in the Christian—and human—community.”

It is this deep pronouncement of community, and the sacred—perhaps sacramental approach to sexuality, that calls me to label masturbation a missing of the mark of God’s purpose for sexual desire.

Consider that habitual masturbation could train your body to be hyper responsive to self, and make it difficult to be responsive to your husband’s stimulation if you are now married or one day will be. Self-pleasure—while it cannot be viewed as the end of the world, resulting in a complete spiritual melt-down to ground zero—must be viewed as a hyperindividualistic response to a desire created to point you to marital communion.

In full disclosure, some Christian leaders have a different opinion than myself, but most seem to suggest that when masturbation involves fantasy or porn and when it becomes compulsive it is a problem.[v] One thing we agree on: it can become addictive. An addict is one who has lost connection to his or her “Higher Power”—I believe that Higher Power is Jesus— and has instead found the power they are lacking in an addiction, a power that is available to them at all times.

This is where the idea of masturbation and blindness moves from myth to possibility. You see, I think that compulsive masturbation—and any other sexual sin that masters a person’s life—blinds us from the need for and access to our Higher Power, Christ.

The verse my friend shared with me that got me thinking about this blog is found is Matthew 5:8. It reads,

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

It can be reasoned, then, that the impure in heart will have a blurred vision of God. And that, if given to enough impurity, shall not see God. They will be spiritually blind.

I find this to be true when I counsel women struggling with compulsive masturbation or any other sexual sin that has begun to consume their lives. One young women described the reason she wanted to stop masturbating because she felt like it “drives a wedge between God” and me. Many of the girls I counsel communicate something similar. What they are experiencing is spiritual blindness. As we walk more deeply in sexual impurity, we lose our spiritual vision.

How do you get it back? Tell someone. Ask someone whose vision is clear to give you eyes to see the path again. It’s there. He loves you. He’s waiting for you.

Another common thing women I counsel tell me is this: the best thing they ever did was to tell someone. It erased the loneliness that increased their need for masturbation and helped them to stop. Ephesians 5:13 reads, “Everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes light.”

If you’re struggling with compulsive masturbation, your vision of God is at risk. As is your understanding of authentic sexuality. You have a decision to make. Will you continue to masturbate or will you seek to see the Master?

Some of the content in this blog is from my book titled What Are You Waiting For: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex. In the book, I trace the Hebrew language of sexuality to answer difficult questions such as “Is masturbation sin?” “What’s wrong with homosexuality?” “How far is too far?”

[i] Lauren Winner, Real Sex, page 78.

[ii] Valeria Frankel, “Self-pleasuring While Looking At Online Porn: Who’s Doing It?” SELF, November 2009, page 131.

[iii] Some erroneously refer to the story of Onan, the son of Judah, who was having sex with his dead brother’s wife. (Yeah, kinda gross.) He let his semen fall on the ground and this displeased God. It displeased God because it was selfish and against he command for Onan to create offspring for his brother as an act of kindness to provide for the widowed woman. But there is no direct teaching concerning masturbation.

[iv] Judith and Jack Balswick, Authentic Human Sexuality (IVP Academic, July 10, 2008), page 41

[v] Some Christian counselors, sex therapists, and psychologists prescribe masturbation to women who are having difficulty achieving orgasm with their husbands. The theory is that a woman who understands her body and is comfortable with it will be able to communicate with her husband about how to move them towards the communal act of climax together. I have no problem with this type of assignment as the purpose is to bring the husband and wife together.

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12 Comments

  • I really have a problem looking at sex as sacremental and holy. It is not, it a a biological and emotional experience, that has in it the power to bond 2 people together i agree about that. Unfortunately even if one waits until marriage, it appears that divorce is rampant with the church, which is very sad, so waiting does not guarantee your marriage will last for a lifetime.

    I have become i guess somewhat pragmatic and cynical as i have gotten older. I agree sex is best in the context of marriage, i just don’t think God necessarily sees it as being holy and sacremental, i think we have given (the church) it that status.

    If it was why did God not condemn king David and Solomon for having wives and concubines. It is obvious that David and Solomon had sex with them and i’am sure it was not holy and sacremental, just my 2 cents

    • Gladys, there is a lot of divorce in the church. There is also a lot of sin. Sad, isn’t it? I think King David and Solomon are good examples of men who were very sinful and let that be fully exposed in their sex lives. Why didn’t God condemn them for it? Well, we do have record that King David was very disciplined for having uncommitted sex with Bathsheba. That doesn’t mean it is the only time God took him to task for his sexual exploits. Just because we don’t protect the sacredness of sex as humans, doesn’t mean it is not sacred. As you say, it has the power to bond people. This is something that’s spoken of in the Bible and can be proven by medical science/study of the brain chemicals related to sex. I think it’s far more than just a biological and emotional experience.

      • Not only does it have the power to bond people, it has the power to initiate a whole new life!
        That is super powerful and something not to be taken lightly at all!

  • Hello, Dannah,
    I just read your blog and…you have no idea how your words have soothed a pain inside of me that I’ve been bearing for so long! I, too, struggle with this sin and oh the thoughts that roll through my mind when I do! I spoke with my beloved pastor about it around the end of June and by God’s grace I haven’t given into it all of July. But there was a time in my life when I looked at masturbation as a vile, disgusting, shameful secret. I felt that I’d given my virginity away by doing it, even though I’ve never touched a guy sexually before in my life. (I’m a teenager.) I couldn’t tell anyone about my secret, it shamed me and blackmailed me into silence. And there are no books out there that really talk about it. They conveniently avoid that subject I noticed. But then I stumbled across your blog here tonight and it answered so many questions that I’d had about it. Thank you, thank you for writing that! You really helped me tonight. God bless you! I hope to read your book “What Are You Waiting For” next on my reading list. Thank you so much, again, for writing this.

  • I’ve read ‘What are You Waiting For?’ and many other books about God’s design for sex and about grace and all. I’ve grown up in church and committed my life to God at age 11. I read my Bible every day. I have access to all these answers and I have figured out a lot of what causes my sexual sin. But I still sin. I watch porn and masturbate. I have since I was 13 years old. As soon as I developed enough as a woman, my sexual desires were out of control and the way I learned to deal with it was through the release of masturbation. I know it’s a sin, and I know all my triggers, I know what precautions to take and what stumbling blocks to put in place for myself, but if the desire comes upon me I know the only way to get rid of it (temporarily, but better than nothing) is to sin again. So I make the choice over and over again, when I know the consequences, the way it pulls me away from God, the shame that takes hold of me, all of it. I’ve gone through weeks of sickeningly intense built-up sexual tension. I have prayed and prayed over those times, and clung to God to help me, but the tension gets worse and worse, never better. I have no illusions of being called to singleness for the rest of my life. I’m still very young, and almost certain I will get married in the future, but what do I do until then? I don’t want to go into marriage with a habit of porn and masturbation. I wouldn’t let myself do that to my husband, it could wreck a marriage before it had hardly begun. But I cannot get rid of it. It always comes down to being my only option. How can God help me with this? God can’t fulfill my sexual desires, and apparently I’m a sexual being and just stuck with them. How do I get rid of this habit and stay sane?

    • Your number one hope is to talk to someone live and in the flesh. Tell someone. James 5:16 says “Confess your sins one to another and then you will be healed.” Porn is becoming more and more pervasive. Common. Every man’s and many women’s concern. But most people don’t overcome it by hiding and fighting it alone. They need someone to walk with them. Get into a group or accountability relationship. There is hope in community!

    • Stop condemning yourself for what is natural, and focus on saving yourself for your lucky future husband. You are a healthy, sexual being, and that is something to celebrate, not revile. Masturbation is perfectly normal, andI believe it is only sinful when it involves pornography, or fantasizing about a particular individual who is not your spouse.

      Viewing pornography may be sinful, but your sex drive, as well as how you deal with it, are not at all shocking to God, who created you with it. Moreover, it should never be a source of shame. Let it rather be a source of secret delight, veiled in modesty until your husband comes along picks all your locks- or you hand him the keys- whichever comes first. 😉

      Your high sex drive is a source of power, pleasure and strength that will be a blessing to your future husband. Cease the self-destructive cycle of self-blaming and shaming, which will only be fueled by “accountability groups” and the counsel of well-meaning but theologically vacuous “sexperts”, which view masturbation as a sin, as opposed to a biological function as normal as peeing, eating, or drinking.

      • Dear Armchair Theologian. I don’t know who you are, how well-studied you are, or how old you are but I can’t agree with your comment here. (Though I’m posting it, because it’s the falacious thought of many.)

        Here’s where I agree: masturbation is rather normal. Almost everyone experiences it. It’s not the end of the world.

        But God created sex to be a mutual sharing of two bodies. If you have solo sex, you’re not acting according to his design. I write about this in detail in What Are You Waiting For.

  • “The great depth of shame concerning masturbation amazes me. When a girl comes to me for counseling concerning masturbation, she is often not capable of uttering the words. The response isn’t rational. Masturbation is a nearly universal act for guys, and a common one for girls. There is no need to bury yourself under a heap of shame as if it is the worst thing in the world.”

    I say this in love, but you are truly amazed?? I’m not at all. I was ashamed because when I was growing up masturbation was viewed and preached as ‘impure’, just as any other sexual act outside of marriage is seen as impure to conservative Christian church culture. I was incredibly ashamed for just wanting to explore my body as a maturing woman. Saying the word, thinking about anything sexually was shame-inducing. This shame is not a form of “check and balance to protect the purpose of the marriage bed”. It is not a conviction. It is the harmful effects of indoctrination that instill fear, confusion and shame regarding human sexuality. For me, and many other friends who were brought up in the evangelical Christian church, this mentality led to self-destructive behaviors and A LOT of shame. I know you will not agree with me on that, but I am just voicing my experience and perspective.

    When I got married and realized I could not orgasm through regular sexual intercourse, this made me question everything. There are MILLIONS of women just like me (actually it is quite normal, but I was never told that), and they should not feel ashamed. Exploring our bodies and pleasing them is nothing to be ashamed of, as teenagers or grown women. When you say that you think masturbation is normal but also say that having ‘solo sex’ (which is the same thing) is not acting according to God’s design, well, that is quite confusing. My body did not turn out in the way it was “designed” to, according to the conservative Christian mindset. So what about that? How utterly confusing that was for me! It leads to some very deep questions that never get answered among the Christian community. So much shame for no reason. Today I am free of that shame because I let it go when I realized it never should’ve been there in the first place. I wish I would’ve done that years and years ago. It would’ve saved me a lot of heartache and confusion.

    • I think what’s amazing is the contrast between the shame a girl who is masturbation compulsively feels COMPARED with the shame a girl who is having sex or using porn or hooking up with multiple guys feel. It’s not logical how much MORE shame there is with this act of self-gratification compared to the other things.

      The Bible uses the word “shameless oneness” to describe the act of sex. There is NO shame in exploring our bodies TOGETHER with a husband.

      I do agree that the conservative Christian world doesn’t provide enough information for newlyweds. I love a ministry called AUTHENTIC INTIMACY by JULI SLATTERY. She is very candid and helps us make sense of things!

  • Hello, Dannah.
    I read this article and I have to say, it was a breath of fresh air to me. You said not to look at it as a vile, dirty, disgusting sin that drives a wedge between me and God. I have struggled with this sin for a long time. Since I was just entering into teenagerhood. At first it didn’t make sense to me. I thought “What in the world am I doing and why do I feel so bad?”
    Now I know what it is, but I can’t seem to beat it. I’ve tried quoting Scripture in time of temptation. Praying when I’m not in temptation. I even went to someone with my struggles. But I still can’t seem to beat it. I thought that I had it beat, but it came back to bite me again here recently. I’m writing this to you in shame and sorrow. I want to over come it, I want to have the “Yada” relationship with my future husband someday, like you talked about in “What Are You Waiting For?” But I really don’t know how to fight this sin in my life. I could use some prayer, some advice if you have any, if you have a moment to type a few things out. I’m so sorry, I know that you are so busy with your ministry locally and everything. All in all, thank you for answering this question, and all the un-named questions in my head. You did it like none other could do.

    • So happy to help. I encourage you to talk to someone. This isn’t an uncommon struggle. You’re not alone. Being in a safe relationship will help.

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