Feb 25, 2016 by Will Maule

Christian Masturbation: Sinful Pleasure?

In many ways, the issue of masturbation has flown under the radar within the Christian world. It has no harsh consequences, and is not regarded as a mortal sin or moral failing in the same way adultery, or pornography addiction might  be. Perhaps it is time to shed light on this issue, and to attempt to figure out whether this is a healthy habit. We must seek to assess the root of the need to masturbate through prayer, community and discernment. "No Christian is left alone with her reason and experience; she is also given the church, which nurtures us with Communion and teaches us to follow Jesus," writes Eve Tushnet in Christianity Today.

"Christianity is an erotic religion, in that it compels our longing for and contact with the Other. Our bodies are gifts given to us by God, and we give them to him and to others. We are not meant to keep them for ourselves. The sexual union of lovers shows an image and prophecy of our union with God. Sex is to prayer as masturbation is to comforting self-justifications."

Tushnet highlights how masturbation can become selfish. "Masturbation is the use of sexual urges, and sexual ecstasy, for the self alone. (I'm here talking only about masturbation by yourself, not touching yourself as part of sex with your spouse.) Instead of our urge driving us to pour ourselves out for others—and to accept all the hard, weird, disappointing realities of sex and marriage—we seek to satisfy our urge on our own terms. Ecstasy becomes something we achieve by and for ourselves."

Tushnet also points out that sexuality is a God-given gift, and that we should be willing to sacrifice our  urges before God. "Either way, our sexuality is a gift we give to God and to those he places in our lives, both neighbor and stranger. It is not for ourselves," she writes.

"On an artistic level, sex serves as an image of encounter and reconciliation with the Other. Masturbation, by contrast, reflects our self-ownership at best, narcissism at worst."  She also addresses the sensitive issue of past and the related role of masturbation. "I have read one portrayal of masturbation as a way of reclaiming one's body after sexual abuse, and I think that will ring true for some. Yet even in such circumstances, we reclaim our bodies in order to give them to God and others."

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