Wifey Wednesday: What is Appropriate Sexual Release?

Christian Marriage AdviceIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Okay, ladies. Today I’m going to get embarrassing. This post may be a little more graphic than some of my other Wifey Wednesday ones, but I think it’s important to talk about.

What Is Appropriate in the Bedroom?Last week in the comments one reader asked this question:

My husband’s job requires him to be away from home for extended periods of time (as in one to four weeks). During this time he obviously still has needs and I know he often ‘takes things into his own hands’ (pardon the pun). He is open about this and I don’t feel this is a problem as I would rather him relieve the tension than put himself into greater temptation because of strong tensions that have not be relieved. Could this be a dangerous thing for our relationship? He is pretty open about this to me and I don’t feel that there is an addiction since I feel that our sex life is pretty normal in terms of frequency (although I know ‘normal’ is different for different couples). Just wondering your opinion in this area.

That’s important to discuss, so if it embarrasses people, well, if we can’t talk about it here, where can we talk about it?

Let’s get real for a moment. There are going to be times when making love for a significant period isn’t possible. Maybe he’s away on a business trip(or you’re away). Maybe you’re in your latter stages of pregnancy and it’s too difficult. Maybe one of you is suffering from an illness for a time. So is it okay to “take matters into your own hands”, so to speak? And this isn’t only a male problem. I have known women who felt the same thing.

So where to start? I believe that sexual release is something which is really supposed to be saved for your spouse. When you start obtaining that release away from your spouse, that can lead to a lot of problems, including the fact that sometimes people start to prefer masturbation to pursuing relationship. Let’s face it: most of us could pleasure ourselves a lot more quickly than our spouse could, and if sex involves having to communicate first, and be nice first, it can be a big hassle, especially if you’re stressed or already distant. So I really don’t think it’s good to get into masturbation, even as release when you’re away from your spouse. It can lead to greater separation.

That being said, the main harm from it comes from the fact that it is in secret and divorced from relationship. If it can be incorporated into relationship, I really have a hard time saying it’s wrong. So I guess what I’d suggest is “joining him” on the phone, so to speak. I’ll let your imagination do the work. But if you can insert yourself into it, if he’s gone for a few weeks and it’s just really difficult for him, then that can bring another level of intimacy. But I don’t think sex is ever supposed to be something that is a secret between spouses. Remove the secrecy and insert relationship, and I think you can still have some fun. But again, this isn’t optimal, and it’s only a stopgap measure if you’re just away from each other too long.

In this case, it sounds like he’s open with his wife, and it isn’t affecting their sex life when they’re home, so perhaps there’s no real harm. But I just have a hard time saying that it’s a good idea to pursue release completely separate from each other. Once you’re married, your sexuality really belongs to your spouse, and vice versa. They should be a part of the whole thing. That’s what having a “pure marriage bed” really is–the marriage bed is just for the husband and wife together.

The other worry that I have is that masturbation can become a tool to help with the fact that you may have differences in libido. If you want to make love once a week, and he wants to make love once a day, I don’t think it’s appropriate for him to masturbate the other six, even if he’s doing it out of supposedly selfless reasons (“if I’m not frustrated, I won’t be grumpy towards her, and we can get along better.”) I think this is an area where God just wants you both to grow. You need to adjust to him, and learn to make love more than once a week, and he needs to learn maturity and how to handle his sexual frustration by pursuing friendship and more intimacy with both you and God.

Again, I don’t think there’s any sin, once you’re married, in the actual act of masturbation. The marriage bed is pure, after all. The problem and danger comes from the secrecy of it, and the selfish nature of it. If it can be incorporated into your sex life at times, I do think it’s okay (though not optimal). But please be careful of too much reliance on it, because it can grow.

And remember: there’s nothing wrong with fasting from sex for a time! It can be a tool God uses to bring us closer to Him.

Now, these are my opinions; I don’t want to claim to speak for God. In my book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I talk openly about a lot of issues like this, and I’ve wrestled with them and tried to come up with answers that I think reflect the whole of what Scripture says about the body and sex. But I’m not God. This is just the best I could do. So if you feel differently, or have a different slant on it, let me know in the comments!

UPDATE: Please read the comments! They’re good, and I’ve elaborated more on my position on this!

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Comments

  1. Thanks, Sheila. This is something that I needed to read. It’s an issue that has popped up from time to time in my 11 year marriage. I am not sure that there is a “perfect” solution, though. Your insight is helpful. Thank you.

    Lynn

    • Lynn, no, there certainly isn’t a perfect solution! Probably if the couple openly talks about it, and discusses the principles of sex (it should be mutual; it should be about intimacy as well as fun), you can pray about it and come to your own conclusion. Again, I’m not trying to tell people what they absolutely must do. But this is the reasoning I’ve come to, and I hope it’s helpful! Thanks for your comment. It is a hard one to figure out, isn’t it?

  2. Thank you for being brave enough to write on this topic. It is one that many marriages go through. Its funny because just last night I decided that I was no longer going to hold my husband off and make him wait until I was ready.

    I decided to enjoy a night of passion with him and it was the best night we have had in a very very long time. Its amazing how when we as women let our guards down and just enjoy ourselves with our spouses, how freeing that is!

    Plus,, I don’t want to give my husband reasons to think he has to take matters into his own hands.

    Thanks again Sheila! I always love reading your stuff. YOU are a wonderful inspiration!

    • Way to go! I think the big mistake many women make is thinking they need to be “in the mood” before having sex. As you found out, if you jump in with both feet, it can be awfully fun, because the mood will come if your head is in the game. Have fun!

  3. I do love your boldness to tackle any topic, Sheila. This is a tough topic! The only problem I have with masturbation is the thought life during it. I can’t imagine that it can be real pleasing to the Lord. I know godly men do feel a lot of guilt from it. It is a tough subject…

    • I know, Lori. That’s why I think it needs to be done not in secret, with the wife “involved”, if that doesn’t sound too weird…

  4. Please note that this written quite calmly – just wanted to give the heads up as it might come across differently – I just really want to get across how I feel about it.

    This was very interesting to read, though I can’t say that I agree with it. While some people may think it’s okay, I simply HATE the thought of my husband masturbating. He has struggled with porn for over half his life and is only just coming out the other side of it, and doing really well; I’m so proud. When he masturbates I feel like I’ve been cheated on. I know that some couples will vary, and some will think it’s okay (particularly if done along the lines of what you wrote), but for us, it’s something that’s not acceptable, and this includes mutual masturbation and phone sex.

    I know this is not an objective point of view, as there has been a lot of hurt and difficulty in our marriage because of this type of thing. I just can’t imagine masturbation ever bringing a real feeling of intimacy, but I realise this is hugely connected to what I’ve been through in the last six years, and my feelings of betrayal and hurt, as well as my husbands feelings of shame, guilt and his feeling of being trapped in a destructive behaviour.

    I am wondering (in the nicest way possible) if you could you perhaps share with me what has caused you to believe this is okay in terms of a biblical point of view (not because I wish to prove you wrong, but because I want to understand)? Email me, perhaps? I would like to talk with you more.

    Kathy

    • Kathy, I will email you separately, but let me be a little more specific about what I think is okay (and I avoided being too specific because I didn’t want to get too graphic on the blog :) ).

      I don’t think it’s okay to masturbate on your own without your spouse knowing. I really don’t. But let’s say a guy is in the armed services and he’s away for a year at a time. I have difficulty saying he absolutely can’t, especially if he’s thinking about his wife at the time. But I’m still uncomfortable with it.

      On the other hand, if a guy is away a lot (or you are away a lot), and one night you’re just really excited, and you get on the phone and start talking to each other while you’re touching yourself, I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong. You aren’t going outside the marriage for sexual fulfillment. You aren’t even really turning to yourself for fulfillment, because your spouse is in on it (and perhaps participating, too). Sorry if that’s really graphic, but I just want to make clear what I’m talking about.

      I don’t believe the Bible speaks directly about masturbation; it does speak about fantasy. Fantasy about someone other than your spouse is always wrong. And I believe that masturbation in secret is also dangerous, because, as I said in the post, you can start to prefer that or rely on that rather than your spouse. Sexual tension or sexual longing can cause you to yearn to be closer to your spouse. If you take away that longing, then you take away one of the drives towards intimacy.

      So I am not “pro-masturbation” by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just saying that many couples find themselves in rather frustrating situations these days, and I think having an outlet where you both know about it and participate isn’t wrong. It’s not that you “should” do it; it’s just not wrong. I think there’s grace for stuff like that. But anything in secret likely is wrong.

      And if there’s a history of an addiction to porn or masturbation, then it falls into a totally different camp, and one needs to proceed much more carefully. Does that make sense?

      • That does make sense, and like you, I’m think that when it’s a long time away, it’s unrealistic. I know that my situation is quite different to the situation of couples where one of the other is away for a time, and if that ever happened with us, I’m not sure how we would handle it.

        I should clarify that I am not saying that it’s totally bad and completely and always unacceptable, but at the moment, given what I’ve been through over the last few years, it’s not something I’m willing to include as part of our love life. I also know that it’s something my husband wants to get completely rid of too, because of all the baggage it brings with it.

        And to all those who are struggling with this issue, please do not take my comments as condemnation. Instead, try to take it as a point of view of someone who has a husband who has struggled immensely in this area.

        I look forward to your email, Sheila =)

        • And just to reiterate, in case there are people reading this blog whose husbands have been addicted to porn–YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO WHAT YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH! If your husband wants to do this, but you don’t, don’t do it. And if he’s been struggling in this area, stay far away so that he doesn’t fall again. Absolutely. Just wanted to make that clear!

          • What about wet dreams? May that not be God’s release for men instead of masturbating? Just wondering…

          • Good question. Let me ask my husband and get back to you! Again, I really think there’s nothing wrong with “sexually fasting” for a time. It’s biblical, after all. But the Bible also says not to fast for too long lest you be tempted, so I don’t think that wet dreams are supposed to be enough to keep one entirely from temptation when one is married. But I still think the ideal would be for some kind of sexual fasting. I’m just also saying that I don’t think masturbation, if done with the spouse’s knowledge (and/or participation) is wrong. But let me ask my husband!

    • Kathy,
      Your story resonates with me as my husband as well has battled an addiction to porn most of his life and has to recently reached the other side of all of this. I’d love to talk to you more as well. I’m not sure if your husband is familiar with the ministry Setting Captives Free, but my husband found this ministry really helpful. It has played a huge part in helping him be free in this area of sin in his life. Their website can be found here: http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com/.
      I’ve struggled deeply with my husband’s porn addiction. The hurt and lack of trust runs deep. I think I know where you’ve been and would love to help you in any way I can through a mentoring relationship. I think we could draw great support from each other. Maybe our husbands could even talk at some point?

    • Kathy,

      It’s nice to see women out there that are struggling with their husbands sin, in a way it gives me comfort that I am not alone. On the other side of that, I don’t wish what I feel on any other woman so I am saddened with what you have been through. My husband too has struggled with this for most his life and unknown to me, he brought it into our marriage. All of what you feel, your concerns, etc. I’ve been there and still feel that.

      Fortunately, thanks to some awesome books and help I believe my husband is coming out of the worst of it as well. I see a real desire to change especially recently. Does that mean he’s clean? Sadly, no – he still slips up but he tells me now instead of hiding it and he actively seeks out help and accountability from the men at church. He has come a long way over 4 years.

      We have started reading these blogs together in the evenings and we discuss our points of view on things. It really has been great in growing our marriage and re-establishing a relationship – not necessarily trust – but a relationship non the less. I’m sure you understand what I mean when I say that. We started talking about this topic recently because I am pregnant and have been experiencing a lot of pelvic pain. I talked to him about maybe allowing him masturbate when I physically can’t enjoy sex. We’ve been talking about it more and more and he told me about what he read in Every Man’s Battle – a must read for any man struggling with porn! and I would recommend it to any woman caught in that crossfire of her husbands sin. It was really eye opening to me although it was a really hard read. It made me sick and mad at the male population more than once. In the book Fred Stoeger talks about how – even though the Bible specifically doesn’t say masturbation is wrong – he gives some very strong arguments as to why men (especially ones struggling or have struggled with a porn addiction) should refrain from it. I don’t have time to go into the specifics but I would encourage you and your husband to pick up a copy if you don’t already and read it straight though (another book I’d recommend for you is the book by Fred’s wife Brenda Stoeger Every Heart Restored – for women who want to heal from this and save their marriages). My husbands response to this – and maybe when he has a moment he’ll reply – would be that he has chosen to try and refrain from masturbation because one, it opens doors to be tempted by pornography again. pornography and masturbation just go together. Just like an alcoholic can’t ever have a drink again, a porn/sex addict, shouldn’t masturbate or look for sexual satisfaction from anyone but his wife. Secondly he would say that biologically God created an outlet for men (its covered in the book) that built up semen is released through urine or wet dreams – so that is not is not an excuse for masturbating. Thirdly, and this is one we came up with together when we pulled together our list of what was going to be allowed in our sexual relationship based off the purpose of sex as God created it, was that it takes away the purpose of unity and one flesh. now I know some will have their own views of what that means but for us we don’t think sex should occur unless it is meant to bring us together and be pleasurable for both of us. When he masturbates (whether he is thinking of me or not) that doesn’t make me feel too good. I feel cheated and I feel like the sexual act is selfish – he is taking care of his own sexuality and ignoring mine. Lastly God’s word tells us not to deprive each other except for when we separated (by mutual agreement) and even only then through PRAYER. Why would we need prayer to be separated from our spouse if we have an outlet for sexual release? Wouldn’t it be much better to spend the time that you have to be apart, focusing on your relationships with God, relying on his strengths rather than giving into your physical weaknesses? now to release a bit of tmi – this week has been an excellent example. I’m currently pregnant and about a week ago, after a great night of love making, I had some vaginal irritation. Any sort of touch down there is painful so husband and I decided that until it was gone and I felt comfortable again, that we would abstain from sex. previously in an instance like this I’d say, go ahead and take care of yourself but after our talk this past week we’ve decided not too. Instead, we started actively praying together and talking through things. Our relationship has grown so much this week, both with God and with each other, than it has in the entire 4 years we’ve been married!

      I also have to say that this week of growing emotionally and spiritually together has made me ever more anxious for this pain to go away – absence surely does make the heart grow fonder! Fortunately I see my dr. tomorrow so we shouldn’t have to be separated for too much longer!

      I will be praying for you and your husband!

      • JW,
        I agree with every word you’ve said. My husband has never had a problem with porn, even as a teenager. But he has a big problem with masturbation – he feels that masturbation is such a juvenile from of self-sex. God intended us to grow in a relationship, not to keep to ourselves. Masturbation is self sex and against God’s design. Even for single people. That’s why self control is SO important. We are not control ourselves because we are suppose to give ourselves to others.

  5. I agree with Lori. A man’s or a woman’s body gives a natural release, usually during sleep.

    • I think that is interesting, and yet what do you make of 1 Corinthians 7:5: “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” I think it implies that we can be tempted if we go too long without sex, and that “wet dreams” can’t really compensate for that. I’m not saying that the Bible says that one MUST relieve the tension some other way; I’m just saying that if one chooses to, and it’s not in secret, it’s not wrong. But again, I’ll see what my husband says!

      • I wonder what those do who are unmarried? Is it ok for single people? My husband does not approve of it because from what he has heard people say about it, it becomes addicting and hard to stop. He was given tracts by his aunt as a young person that said it was “abusing yourself,” and he has always felt that that is what it is. I can’t say, though, that the Bible comes out and says it is a sin. The Bible doesn’t seem to say anything about it that I can think of. Maybe somebody else knows if it does. And no, the natural release would not compensate for actually coming together; it would compensate for masturbation, imo.

        • I wonder about the unmarried, too, although from what my husband says, it’s harder to go without sex when you’re married and you’re used to making love regularly then before he was married. But I think that’s a question we’ll have to ask the guys! I think the problem with single people is the fantasy aspect; it’s just wrong to fantasize. When you’re married, it’s not wrong to fantasize about your spouse.

          • I am actually going to be speaking to a group of single college women on this issue this semester. I think for unmarried men or women it is dangerous & wrong b/c it teaches them to rely on themselves for sexual release, and can ultimately make marital satisfaction more difficult b/c, if you know what you are doing and can feel your body respond, it is just easier to do that in many ways than to be patient for your spouse to learn what works for you. And ultimately it is a selfish act. I wish that I had never dealt with this issue, and I have heard Christians speak both for and against it–however, I feel that it is not glorifying to God and that is the key right? Also–especially for women–some kind of stimulation usually needs to be there in order to get to a point where it is even possible to release, so looking at the source is important–if you aren’t married, what is the source of the sexual thoughts or images? I don’t think that any source other than our spouse is right. And more & more young women are dealing with this. I work in college ministry, and pornography is a stumbling block for so many of the girls I deal with, in ways that I don’t think previous generations understand. I would say at least 1 out of every 3 girls I have dealt with struggles with masturbation or pornography.

          • Completely agree–what I’m talking about is between spouses. When one is single, fantasy is wrong. If it is to be used, it has to be in the context of a married relationship, where both spouses are aware and it’s on the up and up.

          • Actually, the Bible does have an answer for this…1 Corinthians 6:18-20 speaks of our bodies belonging to the Holy Spirit; they are not our own, they are His, and we must honor God with our bodies. It’s only when we are married that we become one flesh with our spouse–his body is mine, and my body is his (Ephesians 5). Therefore, it seems to me, that using our bodies for sexual pleasure OUTSIDE of marriage is what is wrong and dishonoring to the Lord, and our possible future spouse, too.

            So if you are NOT married, then you ARE supposed to suppress sexual urges because you are not qualified to experience them (ie, married). Instead, you are to be concerned about the Lord’s affairs (1 Corinthians 7:32). Put sexual thoughts out of your mind and fill it instead with the thoughts the Lord will give you (whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable, etc–Philippians 4:8). And if you ask Him to fill your mind with those things, and seek out such thoughts, you WILL find them.

            In my opinion, if a spouse is away on business (or maybe the wife is on bed-rest during pregnancy, etc), and it is mutually agreed upon (AND if there is no danger of leading one or the other down the road of addiction), then masturbation/phone sex, etc with each other can still be honoring to each other and the Lord, because it is within the confines of the marriage.

            But if the couple is taking a sexual fast in order to commit themselves to prayer, then they need to commit themselves to prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5) and become one with the Holy Spirit again, as they did before marriage.

            I hope all of that made sense!

          • It does make sense, but I think the key is that it must be mutually agreed upon. However, I’m still a little bit uncomfortable with this, because some wives could easily say: “sure, go ahead and do it yourself, because it gives me a break”, and use it as an excuse to avoid sexual intimacy. It should only be a stopgap measure, and never an escape from the real thing, because I do believe that it was designed for two people. That’s not to say it can’t be a fun and healthy part of the marriage; but if it is done in isolation consistently, even IF it is mutually agreed upon, I still have reservations. So much depends upon the nature of the couple’s sex life, and the honesty and openness involved!

          • Well, I was mainly addressing the “unmarried” questions. But yes, I agree that it is not to be used in place of sexual intimacy, but rather only to bridge a gap, either because physical contact is not possible or the couple needs a place to start. But masturbation, by definition, is for self-fulfillment and is only going to ultimately satisfy one person, which is NOT what God intends for marriage to be at all. And actually, I don’t see how it can be fun if your spouse can’t get in on the action, so it would seem that the level of satisfaction would be meager at best…only a temporary fix; much like a snack will tide you over until mealtime, but won’t last all night.

            And remember, people can have sex with their spouse while still avoiding sexual intimacy. It takes much more than sexual intercourse to achieve true sexual intimacy and satisfaction with your spouse.

          • So true! I think that’s why it’s hard to make black and white rules–so much depends on where your heart and head are.

          • I hope what I said made sense! And thanks for your comment; it’s good to see you here, Jennifer!

          • Yes, it did! thanks!

          • My personal opinion is that masturbation is a scruple, or matter of conscience, in a similar sense that some issues in the Bible are literally considered “conscience-dependent”—i.e. to some believers extremely offensive, and yet to others perfectly acceptable (Romans 14:5-8).

            What is clear is that it should never include lust as stated in Matthew 5:28. Is it possible that lust or fantasy about a particular person are the impetus for it? Yes it is, and that is clearly sin. But it is also possible to masturbate without lust when the focus is genuinely on the sensations and for the purpose of release rather than fantasizing about a particular person. Providing that lust isn’t part of it (and that requires each person to be 100% honest with themselves and God), masturbation provides a means of relief and release from the sexual tension that is otherwise a very real challenge and frustration for the single person. For some people (and I suspect this is a greater challenge for women) fantasy is much harder to wrest from masturbation, and so it becomes a sinful temptation.

            I agree with Harry in the comments further down in regards to wet dreams for men–they do not serve as a “natural” release for sexual tension, because for many men, they are very rare.

            I’m still a virgin, and have no idea what it’s like to make love with a spouse, but it’s clear to me that, on its own merit, masturbation cannot begin to be a threat to sexual intimacy–it drastically pales in comparison to all that sexual and emotional intimacy entail and provide. If masturbation is impeding intimacy in marriage, it is because there are deeper relational issues between husband and wife that need to be addressed.

            Ultimately, God is looking at the heart of the person as to how and why it is used, and each of us are accountable to Him for our thoughts and actions.

  6. I agree with you, Sheila. In fact, I’ll be clarifying some of my own thoughts regarding this topic in a future post. For now, I’ll say that masturbation should be not separated from the involvement of one’s spouse. Any self-stimulation needs to pass the test of increasing intimacy in the marriage.

  7. I think that the biggest issue is not self-pleasuring verses mutual pleasuring, but whether there is openness or secrecy about it.
    We have masturbation in our marriage. We don’t specifically say “hey honey, I’m gonna go… right now” but we do have each other’s knowledge and permission.
    Masturbation has helped him when we are apart for a long time, or when I was unable to be with him (such as after my first son was born and I had a lot of pain resulting from physical damage from the birthing). Sometimes he has masturbated with me there with him–for example both in the shower together. I may help him, or he may do it on his own. When we’re apart, sometimes he has done it while we are on the phone together. I’ve heard of couples who do it together via skype, although we have not done that. We have very different libidos, and periodic masturbation is something that has helped us deal with that. Like I said, we have full disclosure, and we’re both genuinely comfortable with it. I certainly see there being problems with using porn or something, but if a man on a business trip pulls out a picture of his wife, or calls her on the phone, and then gets a release, I don’t see that as a problem

    I also wanted to add that masturbation has been really healthy for our marriage when I learned to do it. I was a virgin bride, and very nervous about sex in general. I was self-conscious about exploring myself or discovering my own responses with the ‘audience’ of my husband, but after about 5 years of marriage my husband finally convinced me to try doing it on my own, while in the shower for example. So I began to do it sometimes. It has been helpful in two ways. First, I have learned what works for me, so now I can bring that to our marriage bed and our love life has really blossomed. Second, increased frequency of arousal/climax tends to lead to increased libido, so my ‘going solo’ sometimes helped me want to ‘get together’ more often, which alleviated another big tension we’d had (and helped him ‘go solo’ less in fact…)

    • There certainly is a benefit, once you’re married, of figuring out how your body works and what feels good. And most men need to be taught what feels good to their wives, so if you can show them, that can definitely help. But many women are shy about this, and so again, it’s not something that anyone “must” do. Every couple needs to work it out for themselves, and keep the lines of communication open, so there is no secrecy, and you’re working towards a relationship where both of you are fulfilled! Thanks for your comment!

    • Thanks for the article. Thought-provoking.

      For many, many years I believed masturbation was wrong, every time. Only in the past couple of years have I learned that there is no biblical prohibition against masturbation. I am a student of the Word and have searched diligently on this subject.

      Now, I know that the thought life is a big part of masturbation, but if a man (or woman, for that matter) thinks only of his/her spouse while self-pleasuring, that takes care of that. And that is what I do. My wife is the most important person on earth to me, and I love her, I love her body, and I crave repeated oneness (“one flesh”) with her. When that can’t be arranged for some reason, the desire doesn’t just go away. I can hold off for a period of time if I know that our coming together is in the near future (the next day or two), but waiting an indeterminate amount of time for sexual release is neither biblical nor wise, considering that sexual temptations abound in the world outside the Christian marriage bed. 1 Corinthians 7 makes it clear that frequent sex, with interest by both spouses, is a command, not just an option, as it keeps us pure for Christ and for one another.

      My wife and I have differently functioning libidos. I could easily make love four or so times a week, whereas my wife is satisfied with once a week. Holding off that long for me has me climbing the walls. It’s a medical fact that semen buildup for men reaches critical mass after 48-72 hours. That’s just the physical aspects of withholding sexual release. There are emotional aspects that come into play here as well.

      My wife knows I masturbate, and I have no problem with her doing the same when we are apart, which occasionally happens. I have read of other men actually being refused sex by their wives, and also forbidden by their wives to use masturbation for release. To me, that response on the part of the refusing spouse is both ungodly and even cruel. That is sometimes the reason the husband does not tell his wife he masturbates. He knows it will cause a big fight and for him it is a no-win situation.

      For me, the bottom line is that in no way would I be willing to exchange an intimate sexual relationship with my wife for self-pleasuring. Masturbation is a hollow trade-off, when compared to real-life sex. But I do it when it’s needed, either because of my wife’s and my work schedule conflicts or other reasons that forestall actual lovemaking.

      It’s interesting that many of the comments that caution about masturbation center on the possibility of a man’s becoming porn-centered, but that’s not what I’ve learned from many godly men who masturbate because they are refused by their wives, or because sex is metered out in very small doses. They need that release. I know that porn is a real problem in some marriages, but again, I know lots of godly, Christian men who love their wives, who masturbate only because they are refused in the marriage bed. To me, they have two choices–either seek that release through masturbation, or abstain altogether and become a “married celibate”. Cruel choice.

      Again, thanks for the site and the article. God bless!

  8. “If you want to make love once a week, and he wants to make love once a day, I don’t think it’s appropriate for him to masturbate the other six, even if he’s doing it out of supposedly selfless reasons (“if I’m not frustrated, I won’t be grumpy towards her, and we can get along better.”) I think this is an area where God just wants you both to grow. You need to adjust to him, and learn to make love more than once a week, and he needs to learn maturity and how to handle his sexual frustration by pursuing friendship and more intimacy with both you and God.”

    I noticed that you referred to the woman’s change as “adusting” and the man’s change as “maturing”. That strikes me as a subtle bias against men or mild shaming language as bloggers like Dalrock would put it. In a situation like you described, a 50% compromise by both spouses would be four times a week. How often do you or other women actually believe in meeting their husbands halfway?

    • Perhaps you’re right, but I didn’t really intend it that way. And if you read my other posts, there are plenty of times when I tell women they have to step up to the plate and make love more often! That’s a theme of this blog.

      But I do think for men, it is an issue of learning maturity to rely on God, whereas for women it’s not really maturity they’re learning but generosity. I don’t think one is shaming. I think they both need to learn to grow, but in different ways. Men need to learn to think outside of their sexual needs, while women need to learn to think about giving to someone else. They’re both important lessons; one is not worse than the other. But I definitely do think that a wife who withholds sex from her husband is doing something pretty terrible (as I have said countless times before). And no, I don’t think once a week is okay, if the guy wants once a day. Again, these are themes that I’ve touched on many times before, so regular readers definitely know where I stand!

    • Let me also say that in the context of what I was writing, I do think masturbating for six days out of seven because you aren’t getting sex everyday is immature. I also think not making love when you’re husband wants to is selfish. But there is an element of immaturity going on there, and I do believe that God made the sexes have different drives so that we would have to learn to adjust to one another. If a guy is taking matters “into his own hands”, so to speak, that drive isn’t going to be there for him, and his sex life will actually likely be worse. Now if he tries to be intimate with his wife, and she totally rebuffs him, that’s a problem that she is having, not him. And, as I said, I’ve written many times recently about how women need to step up to the plate.

      But isn’t the definition of immaturity being selfish and thinking short-term, instead of long-term? By that definition, this would fit. I also do think that women are not stepping up to the plate enough (a point I’ve also made on Dalrock’s blog), and which I’ve written about a lot. But I think guys also need to learn to adjust to their wives’ libidos, even if it is lower than they would have liked.

      • “And no, I don’t think once a week is okay, if the guy wants once a day.”
        “But isn’t the definition of immaturity being selfish and thinking short-term, instead of long-term? By that definition, this would fit. I also do think that women are not stepping up to the plate enough (a point I’ve also made on Dalrock’s blog), and which I’ve written about a lot. But I think guys also need to learn to adjust to their wives’ libidos, even if it is lower than they would have liked.”

        I didn’t read anything about meeting a husband halfway, 50%. What is stepping up to the plate enough? If halfway is 4x/week but a wife is only willing to go to 2 or 3 times per week, is she really following 1 Corinthians 7:5: “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent …”? After all, most husbands are not voluntarily consenting to 2x when they desire their wives almost daily. Marriage is compared to Christ and the Church. But Jesus said to take up our cross DAILY and follow Him. Is it more selfish to want a spouse to just meet you halfway when you are “hungry” or to not be willing to meet your spouse halfway? I will agree that husbands can focus too much on the sensual/carnal side of sex, but is a man’s higher sex drive designed by God? Is it healthy to keep your husband hungry? When someone is always hungry for food to eat, they often have trouble thinking about other important things and can appear to be obsessed with eating. But really, they just need some nourishment.

        The sense I am getting is that a wife meeting her husband halfway is an unreasonable expectation. A husband needs to bend more to his wife than the wife to her husband. Increasing sexual frequency is a good first step, but not being willing to meet your husband halfway indicates a selfish and rebellious spirit, not a submissive one. A husband willing to back down to 50% and focus more on emotional and spiritual intimacy indicates more of a loving spirit than wives adding an extra episode of sex per week and thinking they just became a shining example of giving.

        • So true, J.

        • J, I think the problem is the definition of “halfway”. I don’t really like that way of looking at it (and I wish I hadn’t used that word now!). I think we should be talking more about compromise and adjusting, and how to love each other. Just meeting each other halfway isn’t enough. I also don’t think, though, that if the guy wants sex everyday that this is necessarily reasonable, because just as the wife’s body belongs to the husband, so the husband’s body belongs to the wife. And if she is feeling ill, or extremely tired, or just very stressed, then I think he needs to adjust to her, too. I don’t like putting absolute numbers on it (you must make love x times a week!), because I do think that varies for each couple’s situation. But I think that the main thing, as you said, is that we both learn how to love and adjust to each other and to be selfless towards each other.

          • Anonymous says:

            The thing I don’t like about this argument (50%) is that it’s a rule. It seems like claiming rights instead of putting the other’s needs first. Compromise is good, but I don’t think marriage ought to have this mindset. For me it ought to be “what’s the most I can do for my husband because I want to make him happy?” Not “I have to have sex with him 3 1/2 times a week because that’s exactly 50% of what he would like.”

  9. So is it wrong when your husband refuses to have sex with you? For years? Even when he’s been shown by his parents, by his pastor, by myself that its wrong for him to withhold affection and sex? Even when he knows that his refusal leaves me very very very tempted to go find someone else? What’s a woman to do in that situation? Do I have a problem viewing porn? No, it has no appeal for me. Do I struggle with feeling that masturbation is wrong? Yes! Really, more than anything, I want my husband. Even thought he’s been verbally and emotionally abusive for years if not for our entire marriage, all it would take is for him to acknowledge that he’s wrong, ask for forgiveness and make that change in his life and I’d be so happy to say “Yes, I forgive you.” and go on with life with HIM. Right now though, he’s very close to becoming one of those men whose wives just walk out and never look back.

    • Wow, Angie, is that ever awful. You know, in your situation I really wouldn’t want to pronounce anything wrong or right, because you’re walking through something you shouldn’t have to walk through. I don’t think that other people would have the right to tell you that something is absolutely wrong at all. I think you need to take this to God and ask Him to help you get through this however you can. Have you read the book Love Must Be Tough? That’s a really good one when you’re in a marriage and you want to save it and the other person doesn’t. You’ve demonstrated that you love him; you’ve demonstrated that you’re committed to him, but he hasn’t demonstrated the same to you, and that needs to change. Keeping doing what you’re doing obviously isn’t working, so I’d really take a look at that book. And I’d also question whether your husband is involved in porn or something else, because that is definitely, definitely a HUGE red flag for me. I’m really sorry you’re going through this, and I’d just reiterate what I said in this post: how to keep your self-respect.

    • “So is it wrong when your husband refuses to have sex with you? For years?”
      Yes, he is sinning by intentionally violating 1 Cor 7:5. Some pastors/theologians argue that intentionally witholding sex in a marriage is a divorceable breaking of the marriage covenant, specifically Ray Sutton in Second Chance (can find free pdf on internet). I am not willing to go that far, but a man witholding sex usually indicates something worse under the surface.

      Unless a man has some kind of psychological or physical problem, his sex drive is almost always going to be higher than the woman’s. The odds are he is masturbating to fantasies of other women/men from porn or his mind (both sexual sins) or there is a past/current affair. I would strongly argue that persistent/unrepentant sinful masturbation as a substitute for sex with one’s spouse is a breaking of the marriage covenant, just like a sexual affair. I am so sorry you have to deal with this. I got just a small taste of something similar in my marriage and was devastated. My heart goes out to you. But you should ask him some direct questions to avoid any potential mistaken assumptions.

  10. Thank you Sheila for tackling the topic I brought up! I have long wondered what others in Christian circles thought of this topic and obviously I am not the only one. My husband’s background is really liberal and mine is a lot more conservative so I have never talked to anyone about this but rather tried to find my own way. Your view makes a lot of sense to me and I am glad to see that me and my husband have already addressed the biggest issue of secrecy (as knowledge and permission). My husband is always more eager to include me in the event, but it has taken me more time to try new things (probably from the conservative past/self conciousness) I have found that the more I accommodate him in ‘escapades’ across the distance, the closer we have become and are that much more excited to be with each other again. It is definately not ideal(his being away from home a lot is not ideal either, it is just part of our life at this point), but I love knowing that he is fantasizing about me while he is away!

  11. I think it is important for wives to remember that if husbands are masturbating, chances are high that they are doing it to porn, not to fantasies about their wives. Porn’s involvement changes the issue drastically.

    • Absolutely! That’s why I really think that if this is going to be a part of marriage, you both need to be involved–in any way you can. I’ll leave that to your imagination because I don’t want to get too graphic! Great warning.

    • Great post Sheila! It’s a tough one for sure and it sounds to me that it is one that varies a lot for different couples. I agree that masterbation with porn is in a totally different camp (and respect that couples that have dealt with that will naturally have different reaction, same as a recovering alcoholic should not have one social drink). In my experience (and not just my marriage but hearing from other couples as well) masterbation does not have to equal porn or porn addiction. Sometimes I think that women need to loosen up a bit, having fun in the bedroom, experiementing a little, being willing to try something new that we may not be comfortable with at first, being the woman that our husband’s WANT to fantasize about. Not that I think we need to go to extremes or do things that we feel are morally wrong – but a little confidence, creativity and assetiveness can go a long way! Again, I acknowledge that every situation and our histories, as different as every person, may determine different viewpoints, but Sheila you did a great job of putting some guidelines into words! *and great dialogue!

      • Thanks, Ellen! I think more women do need to learn just how to let go and have fun, absolutely! It’s always a tough balance when you’re writing about these things, but I still think that as much as we can keep any sexual activity in marriage focused on the couple, and not the self (even if the “acts” seem to be focused on the self), then we open the marriage up to a lot more fun!

  12. Sheila, thanks for the thoughts. You said you’d solicit a man’s view, may I step into the breech?

    First up, to deal with the notion that wet dreams would be God’s release for men instead of masturbating. If so, it’s not very consistent because some men never or rarely have wet dreams. And I suspect for most men, it’s way less than they would naturally want sexual outlet, and would provide little practical relief from temptation. Some women perhaps are not aware of the incessant nature of the temptation. So, nice thought but nonsense.

    Second, I fear that many women have this notion that masturbation is somehow an alternative or “solution” when there’s not enough sex in the marriage. I had this very suggestion from my wife in the bad-old-days when she was touting the toxic feminist line that you could only have sex when both wanted it (as in sexually desired it), and that if I didn’t like it, the solution for me was to masturbate. Tough, I suit myself attitude (and thank you for speaking out plainly against that inhumane ideology).

    Now this suggestion – for whatever motive – illustrates a complete misunderstanding of what I want from sexual congress with my loving wife. There is not a separation of the physical and the emotional for me, and masturbation has very little to do with what I want from that connection. It is not a solution in any sense.

    I’d agree with the suggestion that it not be secret, and that sometimes it’s a mutual thing. Yet I’d also not get too hung up on it, provided as you say, it’s not impacting the loving relationship they have.

  13. Annonymous says:

    I have been married for 4 years…this topic recent just came up. FOr the last 4 years I had no idea this was an issue. My husband and I were both virgins when we got married. Before we got married he struggled with masturbation, kinda seemed like all virgin guys did. I thought when we got married it wouldnt be an issue because we would be having sex. And I didn’t think it was an issue for 3 1/2 years. We have always had sex anywhere from 1-3 times a week, accept when I am pregnant and it is far least frequent. I think he got into the habit of masturbating while I was pregnant ( I did not know this at the time). Now my son is 9 months old and it is a problem. I realized we were not having sex very often at all, and it wasn’t because of me. It just seemed like he wasn’t interested. I wrote it off to stress and exhausion which I am feeling as well. Then I just had a feeling…so I asked him a few months if he has been masturbating. He said yes. I was really hurt. Because I felt like he was a man of very strong character and surely he would tell me if he slipped up in this way. He sort of made me feel like it was my fault because I wasn’t “initiating” enough. The biggest problem I feel with this is that they dont have to seek relationship, its lazy and quick and selfish fix. But I have never turned down an offer for sex. I told him I was hurt and that I wanted it to stop and I would really try to hold up my end of things to help him. Then about 2 weeks ago I realized our sex life had sort of dried up again (maybe once a week or less) and my husband was growing distant again. SO I asked him point bank again and he admitted it, but was much more honest this time. He told me he stuggles with lust (not porn) and he masturbates then feels guilty having sex with me so he wont have sex with me. He said he feels so consumed with shame that he just couldnt tell me again, and fail me again, etc. He said it is all related to his relationship with God, when he is distant all areas fall apart: anger, lust, etc. He said he needed a male accountability partner, so he asked a friend from college. When he finally took responibily for his sin instead of blaming it on me, I feel like I can approach it with a lot more compassion. I look at it more as a battle for my husbands heart, and Satan is trying to destroy him with lust, guilt, and shame. I will not have it, there will be victory!

    • Anonymous, that’s so great that your husband is taking the initiative to get an accountability partner! And it is a battle for his heart, and he recognizes it as such! So I’d say you’re on a very good road. When people, in the midst of their shame and sin, turn to God instead of wallowing in shame, that’s a big spiritual breakthrough! Sure, there may still be slip ups in the future, but it sounds like you’ve turned a corner.

    • Wow this is so true for me. I grew lazy and distant. Masturbation was quick and easy. Taking the time to please my wife well took time. She felt un attractive because I did not want sex with her. It was negative on top of negative. To top it all off after I masturbated I just felt like a looser. Again I had done this just for my self pleasure. Just as she felt unattractive because I did not want sex with her because I was releasing the pressure through masturbation, I would feel weak. Like a looser.

      We went to marriage counselling. This actually did not help in a direct way. the councillor was uncomfortable and took a each to their own approach. What the counselling did teach us was to talk. To communicate.

      The upshot was that I needed to get the focus off the selfish acts. So now every time I masturbate I confess it to her. That is a powerful incentive to not masturbate. We are also being more together. Doing more hugging kissing touching. She is very keen to see how serious I am about giving up and beating the pressure so we are trying for extended periods of abstinence but maintaining lots of other physical activity while we are doing this.

  14. First of all, I’d just like to say that it is hugely noticeable that the general tone of the comments has changed after your blog post a while back, Sheila. Well done on dealing with that issue successfully.
    Secondly, I’ll echo what others have said in thanking you for tackling such a “taboo” issue!! It’s awesome to bring some of these topics into light. There is much I could say from my own experiences on the subject, but I think i would really just be repeating what others have said. However, there’s one aspect that has not yet been ‘touched’ (haha) on, and it’s a bit of a blush-inducing one (although what isn’t, on your blog?!). What are your views on ‘toys’ of a sexual nature? I do apologise if this is something you have already written about.

  15. This example may be odd but I think it could illustrate why masturbating at any stage in life is wrong whether you are married or single. When I was a young adult unmarried I had a few occasions where I did masturbate. The Lord convicted me that it was a sin against Him and my future spouse and I quit. I don’t think I even fantasized about any person. It was just that I had a desire for sex and the pleasure that came with it. Fast forward 30 years later…I am a married woman of 25 plus years and we are having sexual difficulties. I want sex and my husband has no interest. One problem… at night, multiple times I have woken up to him masturbating, not big time, just playing and hear him breathing heavy from the pleasure. I finally have told him that I heard him masturbating and he denies it. Says it is not happening. When I asked him why he was not interested in sex, he says it is because I am overweight. Unfortunately, he is so blunt he called me “very obese”. That really hurt, because I think of someone who is very obese as like one of the largest people you ever run into and it really hurt. It made me feel so rejected that he saw me that way. On the height and weight charts I fall in the category of overweight, by the way, not…. very obese. I also found that he had been looking online at some “girly” pictures…not completely naked, but huge breasts with cleavage, bare butts with g-string, etc. When I confronted him about that he said he looked at some pictures of actresses in scimpy clothing but didn’t consider it porn. I told him when I turned on Kaspersky to block porn and errotic pictures it blocked this sight. He had nothing more to say on the subject. He has also been very emotionally distant prior to this and though he is usually a physically affectionate type, hugging me at night, coming up in the day time and giving me hugs…that is now missing in our relationship. He has also been irritable and nasty to me in the past several months. Am I wrong to think that he is using my weight problem to cover up his wrong behavior of light porn and masturbating. Is there a reason that a man would be masturbating supposedly in his sleep if he wasn’t doing that in his awake hours. I really don’t think there would be. So do I have a problem with people masturbating? Absolutely! It is not being “one” with your wife/husband, which is what God designed sex to be. And yes I even have a problem with it if both parties know about it. The reason is …it breaks down your trust is because there is no other person keeping you accountable for what is going on in your mind. The reason the marriage bed is undefiled is that there are two people there, both physically and emotionally. Well I guess I have shared my experience. Anyone have any ideas of what I should do? I am seriously ready to sleep in a different bed both because of the masturbating and the sexual frustration on my part. He is trying to go ahead and have sex with me more, but it just feels like he is doing it out of duty to the marriage instead out of love for me. And now that he has called me “very obese” I don’t even want to have sex with him. I feel so discouraged.

  16. In my situation, hubby and I have near daily relations, but he works away for sometimes 4 weeks at a time. (Length is undetermined.) He knows I masturbate with pure mind and heart to help keep up my desire for him. He though has been recovering the past 18 mo from a lifetime of pornography exposure. God has really changed his mind and heart. He really struggles when he is away because of the physical urges. I feel like it’s okay to allow him to help himself out as long as he can do it with a pre mind and be honest with me about it. My heart breaks for him because I know it’s really hard being apart! The Internet connection is not strong enough to chat and the phone is public and connection is also weak. We only get to talk a few minutes a day. How can I help him overcome temptations? He doesn’t struggle at all when he is home.

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  1. [...] 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 [...]

  2. [...] you’re having your period). The reason I hesitate to mention this is that, on the whole, I am very wary of most sex toys, and I am ESPECIALLY wary of shopping at the stores, even online, because I think it can lead to [...]

  3. [...] have been reading this blog for a long time already know my positions on things like sex toys or self-gratification or stretching the boundaries, but it’s still hard to write, because the Bible isn’t [...]

  4. [...] masturbation always wrong? Not necessarily, as I’ve written about before. If both know what each other is doing, if you do it together, if secrecy isn’t part of it, [...]

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