Is Masturbation a Sin In the Bible?
Masturbation, the taboo M-word, has become a topic of debate amongst Christians and in Christian households and communities, in politics, within various cultures, and amongst the general population. But although it is now being discussed, it is still a very “forbidden” topic in most parts of the world and among most people.
Ironically, while there is conflict throughout the world, between races, cultures, sexuality, and culture, the one thing that many people agree on, especially religious ones, is the place of masturbation in society. Both religious and non-religious people tend to view masturbation as “evil,” “immoral,” “dangerous,” and “sinful.”
It is a topic not broached or cautiously broached in many if not most, cultures and religions. However, it is impossible to have a healthy concept of sexuality if certain aspects of it (i.e., masturbation) remain “hidden.” Critics of masturbation cite biblical references about “self-pleasuring” that imply that it is “lustful” and sinful and thus, should be avoided at all costs.
God would not approve, after all…according to these individuals. This narrative or belief system gets passed down from generation to generation due to this biblical belief that engaging in solo sexual acts is somehow abhorrent according to God. But is masturbation actually mentioned, and if so is it really considered a “sin?”
A strong belief system that views masturbation as “dirty,” “sinful,” “immoral,” and “evil,” especially when it is linked to religious or biblical beliefs or principles can trigger a host of mental and physical health problems like porn addiction, performance anxiety, anorgasmia (in women), porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), premature ejaculation (PE), shame and guilt, etc.
Still, the idea of masturbation being “bad” tends to stem from a biblical belief and religious teachings, but did this concept really come from the Bible, and if so, is it an accurate representation of the form of “self-pleasure?” Is masturbation a sin in the Bible? That is the question we aim to answer in this article. This article will discuss the implications of masturbation, examine what the Bible says about masturbation, and determine if it really is a “sin.”
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What is Masturbation?
According to a 2022 study, 95% of males and 89% of females have at some point in their lives masturbated. Masturbation is often associated with “just male activity,” researchers have found that both genders (from school-age children to older adults) engage in this form of “sexual pleasuring.”
Masturbation is a common form of “self-stimulation” or “self-pleasure” designed to boost libido (sex drive), trigger sexual arousal, and aid in sexual release. Masturbation typically leads to a sexual climax (orgasm), although it does not have to. It usually involves stroking, massaging, rubbing, and touching sensitive genital regions (clitoris or penis) to elicit an orgasm and experience sexual satisfaction.
“Sex toys,” like vibrators, are also used to engage in masturbation. Masturbation is often a safe alternative for sexual intercourse because there is no “intermingling” between people. Pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also unlikely with masturbation which is appealing to those looking to be sexually satisfied without the possible risks or complications.
While abstinence (refraining from sex) can achieve the “safe sex” concept, it is highly unlikely to occur (for the masses) simply because people, by nature, are social and sexual people. Masturbation offers an alternative that is private, safe, effective, and sexually fulfilling.
Thus, masturbating, in general, can be interpreted as a form of “self-love.” However, while it is healthy and quite normal to masturbate occasionally, excessively masturbating, especially to porn, can present serious and unpleasant repercussions like porn addiction. Some people who excessively masturbate to porn do so because of the instant or quick results – sexual satisfaction.
In other words, these individuals do not have to wait for a partner or the “right time,” they can receive sexual pleasure and satisfaction in a variety of locations at any time without another person. Keep in mind, however, that some couples engage in masturbation together (alone but in the presence of each other). It’s that “instant relief” (gratification) that is appealing to these individuals. It is also this “instant relief” (gratification) that eventually develops into porn addiction.
Because masturbation is a form of “self-gratification,” it is contradictory to the biblical principle of “self-control.” In the Bible, obedience to God and the Holy Spirit stems from a demonstration of “self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). It is a deliberate act that involves self-restraint, faith, a sober mind, a commitment to doing the “right” and “true” things, and a steadfast devotion to God and everything He represents.
When Do Most People Start Masturbating?
As mentioned above both females (89%) and males (95%) masturbate or have masturbated in the past. For most of these individuals, their first sexual encounter involved masturbation. Even young children have been known to touch, rub, stimulate, and tug on their genitalia as a form of a non-sexual exploration of their bodies. It is common to continue masturbating well into adulthood and even into late adulthood.
How is Porn Addiction Linked to Masturbation?
Excessive and chronic masturbation can lead to a full-blown porn addiction. Researchers have found that 2 in 4 women masturbate to porn and 3 in 4 men masturbate to porn. Although, masturbation is a good, safe, and healthy alternative for sex for those who are unable to have sex with another person for some reason, and those who want “instant sexual gratification,” when performed chronically or in excess, can put you at risk for porn addiction.
Some people, males and females, who engage in masturbation prefer to watch porn (porn-induced masturbation) while they do so. These individuals are at risk for addiction, sexual dysfunction (i.e., ED, PE, etc.), low self-esteem and self-confidence, feelings of shame and guilt, relationship issues, etc. It can also put their jobs in jeopardy, especially if this behavior is performed at work. When a person is unable to become sexually aroused and/or orgasm (release sexual tension) during sexual activities without viewing porn, that is a problem that needs to be addressed.
What does that mean? It means that your brain has linked sexual satisfaction with masturbating to porn. This can cause a host of problems, ranging from your partner feeling betrayed, you losing interest in them due to your “fixation” on porn, and your need to engage in the compulsion of masturbating, etc. Understand, that excessive or chronic masturbation (with or without porn) is oftentimes defined by the individual or couple. What may be excessive or chronic for one person or couple may not be excessive or chronic for another. The key determinant is how it affects your life – i.e., relationship(s), self-esteem, ability to complete tasks, etc.
Porn is an “indulgence.” Because it is considered an “indulgence” and “instant self-gratification,” it would not be favored in the Bible. Excessive masturbation and porn addiction are not mentioned by name in the Bible, although these acts of “indulgence” and “instant self-gratification” are implied in several sections of it. Remember, one of the principles repeatedly emphasized in the Bible are “self-control,” “devotion,” “faith,” and “steadfastness,” masturbation and porn go against these principles. So, if masturbation had been mentioned in the Bible, it would have been considered a “sin.”
What is Considered a Sin in the Bible?
According to the dictionary, a “sin” is anything that goes against the religious or moral law or the rule, will, and law of God. People who “sin” “miss the mark” in that they do not do what they are supposed to do – what they know they are supposed to do. Understand, however, that to “commit a sin,” like engaging in masturbation, we must know that it is wrong to do so.
More specifically, we must know and believe that it goes against what God would want us to do. It is choosing our worldly desires over the desires of God. That is what constitutes a “sin.” So, even though masturbation is not included in the Bible (written religious law), it is an implied moral code that lies within someone’s heart and soul – it is the part of you and me that houses our morals or our beliefs on what is “good” and what is “evil.”
So, instead of doing what God would want us to do, “sinners” do the opposite, thereby “missing the mark.” Anytime we “miss the mark,” we have “sinned.” Examples of “sins” that go against God’s rule, will, and law include lying, being jealous of someone else, committing adultery, fornicating (having sex outside of marriage), murdering someone, being unkind to others (i.e., your neighbor), having sex with animals, having idols, etc.
An example of a “sin” would be Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden after being told not to eat from that specific tree. Adam and Eve committed a “cardinal sin” and were punished for it. (Genesis 2:4-3:24) Although they did not know what would happen if they ate from this tree, they still did it even though they knew it went against God’s rule, will, and law.
Another example would be Cain and Abel. Cain and Able were brothers, however, Cain killed Abel out of jealousy. (Genesis 4) Jealousy is wrong, and therefore, a “sin.” So, Cain committed a cardinal sin when he killed his brother. One of the Ten Commandments (a written set of ethics, morals, and values created by God) in the Bible is “Thou Shall Not Kill.” (Exodus 20:12-14)
Is Masturbation a Sin in the Bible?
Although the Bible does not directly mention, forbid, warn against, or denounce masturbation, it does condemn all variations of “sexual impurities” and “sexual fantasies,” especially those that involve emotional or physical forms of adultery. Masturbation is not only habit-forming and addictive but also dangerous for people who need to view porn and fantasize about being with other people while in a relationship to become sexually aroused and orgasm.
So, while masturbation is not mentioned in the Bible, it does warn against engaging in all forms of “self-gratification,” “lust,” “emotional adultery,” “self-indulgence,” and “fornication,” which are deemed “sins.” The Bible teaches us that God created sex to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage (between a husband and wife) for the goal of strengthening the commitment between the two people and for procreation purposes.
The goal of marital sex, according to biblical teachings, is to express emotional love, along with sexual love, commitment, devotion, and unity. Masturbation, on the other hand, is considered an act of receiving “instant self-gratification” instead of expressing love, commitment, devotion, and unity, which means that it would have been considered a “sin” if it had been included in the Bible. Even by today’s standards, masturbation, if it was included in the Bible today, would be considered a “sin,” especially if linked to porn use.
What Bible Verses Imply That Masturbation is a Sin?
Although masturbation is not directly mentioned in the Bible, it would have been interpreted as a “sin” if it had been written during modern times.
Listed below are biblical verses that imply that masturbation (and porn use) would have been deemed “sins” if it had been included in the Bible:
- “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
- “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)
- “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14)
- “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
- “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)
- “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)
- “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)
- “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body goes into hell.” (Matthew 5:30)
- “When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing. “If any man among you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp.” (Deuteronomy 23:9-11)
- “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)
- “To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)
- “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
- “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
- “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions.
For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:24-32)
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
How is Excessive Masturbation Treated?
If your religious beliefs condemn masturbation (with or without porn use), there are ways you can curb your addiction and develop a healthy romantic, emotional, and sexual relationship with your spouse.
Researchers have found that people who have strong religious beliefs about sexuality, sex, masturbation, and/or porn are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, shame and guilt, confusion, mood swing, OCD, and/or other mental health conditions. This stems from opposing viewpoints. A person with these beliefs has likely been taught throughout their lives that “sex” and “self-gratification” are wrong and should thereby be avoided.
Yet, now that same person is masturbating excessively to porn. It’s confusing and upsetting to them because that is not what they were taught. They have been taught that God would be against sexual depravities, like masturbating or masturbating to porn, due to what is implied in the Bible and what is taught in church and in their homes and religious communities.
An addiction to masturbation (with or without porn) can be effectively treated with psychotherapy (i.e., cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure-response and prevention (ERP) therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), Christian counseling, faith-based addiction therapy, sexual compulsion therapy, and/or other therapies like trauma therapy or group therapy, antidepressants (if anxiety or depression is involved), mood stabilizers (regulate your mood), anti-androgens (support healthy sex hormones), naltrexone (blocks parts of your brain that form habits or addictions), and porn blockers (anti-porn software).
Moreover, developing a strong support system, going to Christian masturbation and/or porn addiction support groups, asking your partner for support, participating in Bible study, practicing mindfulness, attending Christian porn addiction recovery retreats, avoiding your masturbation and porn triggers, quitting porn, finding healthier and more productive things to do with your time (and hands), and locking up your electronics or moving them to a central location in your home can ease your mind, help you kick your bad habits, and help you feel good about your relationship with God.
Staying away from drugs and alcohol, following your treatment plan, engaging in semen retention and the NoFap Challenge (if your addiction is causing sexual dysfunction), praying, asking God for forgiveness, forgiving yourself, fellowshipping with other people in your religious community, signing up for hypnosis, and/or investing in an online porn addiction recovery program, like Stop Together, are also effective ways to treat a dependency on porn and masturbation. There are ways you can stop masturbating – you just have to take that first step of getting help.
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- Herbenick, D., Fu, Tc., Wasata, R. et al. (2023). Masturbation prevalence, frequency, reasons, and associations with partnered sex in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic: Findings from a U.S. nationally representative survey. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 52, 1317–1331. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-022-02505-2
- Ajlouni, H. K., Daoud, A. S., Ajlouni, S. F., & Ajlouni, K. M. (2010). Infantile and early childhood masturbation: Sex hormones and clinical profile. Ann Saudi Medicine, 30(6), 471-4. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2994165/
- Zimmer, F., & Imhoff, R. (2019). Abstinence from masturbation and hypersexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(4), 1333-1343. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01623-8