A Bay Area writer and blogger for Christianity Today wrote an anti-masturbation article just a few days after Masturbation Month ended, making a contemplated argument against self-pleasure and the use of vibrators.
Citing examples from the Bible, the writer argues that providing self-love is the ultimate sin, as supposedly made clear by Jesus in Matthew 5 in which he equates lust of the heart with adultery.
"Since masturbation without fantasy is rare if not impossible, the reasoning goes, it will always involve something clearly condemned by Jesus. Ergo, masturbation is a sin," she writes.
She seems to quarrel with the idea, however, understanding that the Bible does not outright state "Masturbation = Evil," and it's merely the reader's interpretation (as is with many of the Bible's messages). But rather than take the book's "silence" on the subject as permission to diddle, she reminds us that at the end of the day, masturbation is simply self-indulgence.
If self-giving love is the best way we could relate to others generally, can this be any less true in a sexual relationship? Since I am presently unmarried, I can only speculate about how this plays out between a husband and wife. But to my mind, the biblical ideal of self-giving love leaves no room for masturbation or other means of sexual self-fulfillment for the unmarried. How can such a practice possibly form me into an increasingly more sacrificial person?
But not only is masturbation inherently focused on the needs of the self, it also involves trying to provide for those needs by oneself, instead of trusting God to know best whether the sexual intimacies of marriage are truly needed or best at the present stage.
We asked fellow AfterDarkLA columnist, and masturbation expert (she wrote "Getting Off: A Woman's Guide to Masturbation") Jamye Waxman what she'd tell this writer to balance some of her thoughts against self-love:
While I have respect for her decision, I do believe that what she is missing out on is not only about sex - but about healing. When we learn about our own bodies and how to touch them (not just the genitals even) we are more connected with ourselves so we can be more connected to our partners. Or at least, more connected to our partners, god willing.
And because vibrators are made to be male replacements, even shaped to resemble them, the Christianity Today writer states, these tools are the quintessential condemnation tool.
(Though if she'd check out some of the hot new toys buzzing around the adult market these days, she'd find few of them resemble a man's member. It's not about that. But we digress.)
Waxman reminds us that masturbation is never labeled a sin in the Bible, and only received the connotation along with the mental disease associated with it in the 18th century when masturbation was medicalized.
Though many argue that masturbation is quite clearly considered such in Genesis 38, when Onan refused to procreate with his brother's widow and instead chose to "spill his seed." But even the writer agrees that self-pleasure isn't the core moral issue in this story, but rather his rejection of Jewish law and tradition.
"Onan's 'sin' wasn't masturbation; it was refusing to have the children of his dead brother's wife," Waxman said. "Onanism is spilling seed. The 1700s is when the all hell broke loose."
So what's a girl to do when her singledom continues year after year and her desire to act on her sexual urges becomes difficult to ignore? The writer argues that masturbation will simply bring emptiness, loneliness and self-absorption and certainly won't help us prepare for marriage and sex. So in the meantime, doing more to love others - things not associated with being in a committed relationship - is the best way to set us straight.
And she's right. Many of us move through our day barely looking past our blinders, but our fingers and toy chests aren't to blame. Volunteering, becoming active in social groups, or simply holding the door for people at the bank is enough to broaden your focus - and chances are once you get to that place you'll be more likely to find a partner in crime who does the same.
But in the meantime, despite what Christianity Today argues, please masturbate. It's the only way to learn how your body works and what you do - and really don't - like in bed.
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Because in the end, if you can't communicate with your new altruistic life partner sexually the same way you can socially, you've got bigger problems.
And once again, Waxman concurs:
I don't know anyone who's been to hell and back for masturbating, but I do know relationships that seem to go that route. I believe you have to respect your own values and boundaries, but touching oneself for pleasure and knowledge is a lovely route to female empowerment.
Want more tips? Check out Waxman's top 5 masturbation tools!