Pure Intimacy: God's Design for Sex


When is masturbation in a marriage OK?

from a question to the Focus on the Family Marriage Forum

by Joann Condie, LPC, NCC, RN, MS

Question: Is it OK for a husband and wife to masturbate together?  Is it OK for the husband/wife to masturbate while fantasizing about the other spouse?  An example of this could be if you're separated for some period of time and could only 'get intimate' through the phone.

Answer: You will see I have a long answer to your short questions, but I hope this will give a broader vision and understanding than a mere “Yes,” or “No” could supply.  

 

Many committed Christians have searched the Bible looking for God’s direct answer to questions about masturbation. The only biblical reference is to a man named Onan in Genesis 38:8-9. (Curiously, the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines masturbation as “Onanism,” or self abuse.) So, the Bible does not explicitly spell out an answer and therefore, we need to defer to the theologians. You can, however, consider biblical principles as you weigh these personal decisions.

 

Bear in mind, as you meditate on God’s principles: equally committed Christians will often disagree on this sensitive topic. The tension of differing opinions is not new in the Church and we can learn to respect one another’s convictions. That tension, however, needs to be resolved between a husband and wife as they pray together and seek the Holy Spirit’s counsel on “grey issues.” I cannot tell you what should or should not be done between you and your wife, but I am willing to offer what I have learned in my many years of working with people struggling with sexual issues.

 

It is wise to trace back to the Creator and seek to understand His original design and intent for human sexuality.  When Jesus was confronted with difficult questions, He often preceded His answer with, “In the beginning…” So consider asking your Heavenly Father, “What did You make sex for in the beginning, and am I making good application as the Holy Spirit leads me?” In other words, (1) does this activity line up with God’s good purposes and design or (2) does this activity skew or pervert it?

 

To the best of my understanding, sex is meant to be a full reflection of God’s love.  Ephesians 5 clearly equates marriage to the relationship Christ has with His Church body. Paul admits, “This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church.”

 

Ask yourselves, if your sexual interaction portrays God-like qualities and love. For instance:

  • God’s love is given freely without being earned, and is fully complete (nothing is withheld).
  • God’s love is faithful for He does not fail or abandon us in any manner.
  • God’s love is fruitful, which produces joy and life.
  • God’s love is sacrificial and always benefits the other; yet results in mutual reward  (Christ bought us with the price of His sacrificed life, and we gain life with Him.)

Ask yourselves if your spousal interaction introduces outside impurities into your relationship. Hebrews 13:4 tells us to keep the marriage bed pure. This does not mean “Victorian,” it just means “pure” and true to God’s untainted intent. We see in the Song of Solomon that great passion and eroticism is godly! 

 

Ask yourselves if the activities in question are mimicking previous immoral experiences (premarital sex, pornography, sexual chat rooms or strip clubs). Sinful baggage is often brought into a marriage, even when our denial says otherwise. Have you asked forgiveness from God and your spouse? Do those past experiences still tempt you, or are you attempting to justify and legitimize those images by projecting them onto your spouse? This is an important conversation between you and God. Some people may honestly say they are not introducing impurity, others may realize they are taking their cues from what is ungodly.

 

Ask yourselves if your sexual activity mirrors the idea that our bodies are not our own, but belong to our spouse. (1 Cor 7:4) The Message continues, “Marriage is not a place to ‘stand up for your rights.’  Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out.” Husbands and wives can no longer claim their sexuality as merely their own to do with as they please. It’s totally a shared experience that unites us together in mind, spirit and body. We need an attitude that honors our partner and respects their personal tastes, preferences or past sexual wounds. So, is your wife as eager as you to engage in phone sex and masturbation, or are you pressuring her to comply? Will masturbation make you or your spouse more vulnerable to temptation while you are separated?

 

You are asking great questions that could best be answered in a long thesis, but I defer to what God is speaking into the heart of you and your wife. Are either of your spirits checked by the Holy Spirit?  Paul says, “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.” (1 Cor 6:12 MSG) Since God knows your thoughts and your actions, is their any shame or embarrassment with God who dwells in your body. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (Read 1 Cor 6:18-20)

 

Marital sex is where spouses revel in their oneness in the most exhilarating and poignant way.  But it takes self-less love, personal transparency, time and investment. Keep communicating, celebrating, and praying together. I don’t want you to miss any part of God’s glorious plan for your marital union.

Copyright 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

About the author

Joann Condie is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor and Registered Nurse who counsels individuals, couples, and families on a number of issues, including sexual addiction and sexual dysfunction. In addition to training professional counselors, physicians, and church leaders, Joann works at Focus on the Family and maintains a private practice in Colorado Springs, CO. www.renewingintimacy.com