5 Mandates for Marital Masturbation

couple holding hands

While the Bible doesn’t seem to address the topic of masturbation clearly, the very nature of masturbation makes it dangerous territory for a married Christian.

Masturbation can be a slippery slope for married Christians.

I believe there’s a five-point self-inspection that will identify the sin potential in most cases of masturbation in marriage. Combine these five Mandates for Marital Masturbation with a key follow-up question, and you’ve got a good answer to the question: is it sinful for me to masturbate?

Keep in mind, as always, that this is written about the context of marriage. However, the principles still apply outside of marriage. If you’re not married yet, then you don’t have a spouse. So keep that in mind while you’re reading these.

The Five Mandates

If you can pass all five of these tests with intellectual and spiritual honesty, and you both can enjoy the act, you may find introducing this activity can further your intimacy with your spouse. But stay true to yourself and your spouse as you consider these mandates.

You must not masturbate…

  1. While drawing sexual gratification from the image (visual or mental) of someone other than your spouse;
  2. If it impairs intimacy with your spouse in any way;
  3. Without the awareness of your spouse;
  4. Without the approval of your spouse; and
  5. If you are addicted or cannot stop for one month straight.

Let’s look at these in greater detail.

Mandate #1 – Imagery

In Matthew 5:28, Jesus tells us that imagery with lust included is adultery. Masturbation’s greatest danger is undisciplined fantasy and the draw of pornography. Self-pleasure is arguably inherently selfish, but it’s not sinful for that.

However, the tendency to draw gratification from imagery is generally guaranteed to be part of the act. If the imagery is not of your spouse (to be clear, your current spouse), then you’ve delved into clearly-defined sin.

Mandate #2 – Impediment

You’re not supposed to withhold yourself from your spouse unless you’ve both agreed to do so for a season to allow you to focus on God in prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Being too spent to engage in intimacy with your spouse because you just focused on yourself is hardly focusing on God.

Mandate #3 – Awareness

You’re to give yourself completely to your spouse. That’s what this marriage thing is all about. 1 Corinthians 7:4 reminds us that our spouses have equal ownership of our bodies. A practice like this should never be hidden from your spouse, under any circumstances.

That doesn’t mean that you always do it within sight of your spouse. Instead, it means that you never seek to hide the fact that it’s being done. It’s probably even a good idea to periodically let them know how often it’s being done, so you’ve got someone else keeping you in check.

Hiding masturbation from your spouse resists the marital accord and is therefore sinful.

Mandate #4 – Approval

Some of you read #3 and say, “Oh, I’m good. She knows I do it.” Well, that’s not enough. Your spouse must approve of the activity. Even if you’re okay with it, your spouse might not be.

Now, this could be a great opportunity to have a healthy discussion about motivations and desires, but if your spouse does not approve at the end of your discussion, out of love and respect you should honor their choice. Keep the discussion open, but don’t badger your spouse; that’s dishonor.

Now, if you feel entitled to masturbate or you resent your spouse for disapproving, that may be a sign that #5 is a problem for you.

Mandate #5 – Addiction

Addiction of any sort is sin because we’re promoting something other than God to a position where it exerts control over us. Masturbation is no different.

When it comes to masturbation, a periodic month off gives you a chance to prove to yourself that you haven’t elevated self-pleasure to an unhealthy level in your life. And you could find that month off reveals that you might have been breaking Mandate #2 without realizing it when your sex life with your spouse ticks up a notch.

The Follow-Up Question

So, if you can masturbate consistently with all these Mandates in place, you just have to ask yourself one question:

If you feel the Holy Spirit checking your heart when you examine your motivations, listen carefully and err on the side of caution.

Why are you masturbating?

If it’s to maintain sexual intimacy with your spouse during times of separation due to military deployment, work, or other circumstances, that’s a fair reason. Shared fantasies, phone sex, and the like can be healthy.

If it’s to introduce variety into your sex life through shared experiences like mutual masturbation, great. If you can both get off watching each other get off, have at it.

If it’s to meet your own biological or sexual needs because your spouse is unable to engage in sexual activity, tread carefully. Dig deeply and make sure you’re checking the spirit of the five Mandates above. For example, if your spouse gives permission out of their own guilt or self-loathing, the spirit of #4 is likely broken, though they did technically approve.

Don’t get caught up in legalistic letter-of-the-law interpretation. A healthy marriage comes from adherence to spiritual submission, not semantics and permission.

If you feel the Holy Spirit checking your heart when you examine your motivations, listen carefully and err on the side of caution. I’m not going to suggest you’ll go blind, but James 4:17 reveals that we’re accountable for more than just the letter of the law. If you feel you know better, pray about it, seek God, and make sure your resistance to the Holy Spirit’s nudge isn’t just because you’ve got an addiction.

A Slippery Slope

Basically, masturbation is a slippery slope. When utilized in a loving and transparent manner, it can — in my opinion — be healthy and fun. Walking in on my wife doing it, talking to her on the phone while she’s doing it, waking up to the sound of a hum next to me, or even just knowing it’s going on at all is _so _hot to me. She turns me on by turning herself on.

But at the same time, it can easily become a distraction and an impediment to your spiritual walk. Check yourself and your spouse with genuine transparency and respect, pray about it, and decide together.

And remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:23: “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”

Decide for yourselves if this thing edifies your marriage or not.

Originally posted 2015-04-13 08:00:40.

Photo credit: J. McPherskesen / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
About Phil (251 Articles)
Philip Osgood is a Christian husband, father, and writer who considers himself a passable video game player, fiction reader, camping and hiking enthusiast, welder, computer guy, and fitness aficionado, though real experts in each field might just die of laughter to hear him claim it. He has been called snarky, cynical, intelligent, eccentric, creative, logical, and Steve for some reason. Phil and his beautiful wife Clara live in Texas with their children in a house with a dog but no white picket fence. He does own a titanium spork from ThinkGeek, though, so he must be alright.