This post originally appeared in Bedlam Magazine.
Warning: The following article discusses certain themes that can be triggering for some readers. Please continue at your own discretion.
It recently came to my attention that masturbation is a taboo topic in Christianity. I feel dirty just writing this. But I guess that’s my job as a writer: bring the darkness to the light.
You may begin reading this thinking I’m going to tell you why masturbation is bad and should be avoided. That’s not my goal. The topic is, believe it or not, contested among some Church leaders, so I don’t really feel like I have the authority to discuss it in that sense. What I do feel confident about, however, is saying I do think it should be avoided and that masturbation can lead to your own destruction.
It can make you stop depending on others for pleasure. It can make you stop depending on Jesus for pleasure. If you’re a girl, it can make you feel less feminine because girls are taught to believe it is only a guy’s issue. It can make you feel dirty. It can make you harbor a great amount of guilt and shame in your heart. It can make you feel unworthy of being loved.
I am here to tell you that you are not alone.
I am here to speak out against that shame.
I am here to use the word masturbation until you feel just a little less dirty, so that I may tell you that you are cleansed.
I am here to tell you that you are forgiven and always, always loved.
Growing up in the Church, I’ve heard a lot of advice on avoiding sex before marriage and loving God before anything else. I’ve heard scare tactics and legitimate arguments. I’ve heard a lot about suppressing your desires, no matter how natural they may be. And, really, I’ve agreed with most things. I’ve written about waiting for sex until marriage because God’s design is simply better. Suppressing sexual pleasures is not meant for harm; it’s meant to protect. You’ve probably seen enough articles about sex and Christianity. Me too.
What I haven’t seen is an article about masturbation and Christianity. I was talking to a friend recently and we both expressed our frustration that this topic (and really any sexual topic in general) is mostly discussed in the Christian world regarding boys and men. I’m sure it’s a struggle. I’ve read enough articles to know men think about sex 27.3 million times a day. I know that 103% of men watch porn and a lot of them struggle with masturbation. But what about me?
I was reading Amy Poehler’s book and she openly talked about it, so I wondered, “Why does the Church keep quiet about this subject? Why am I left bound by guilt and shame while others walk free? Why are girls left to deal with this alone?” Truthfully, way more girls and women struggle with masturbation than we like to think. I’m ready to talk about it, and I’m ready to battle the shame it brings with it.
Are we just going to keep pretending Christian girls don’t have a sex drive and don’t struggle to hold themselves back? I’d rather not. So, ladies, I’m here for you. I’m here to shout it from the rooftops: I’m a lady and I think about sex and pleasure. Probably as much as men do.
I’m not trying to insult the Church. Honestly, they probably keep quiet about uncomfortable things for the same reasons I do …and it’s because these things make people uncomfortable. Funny how that works.
The first time I felt shame in a sexual way, I turned to Google and found a total of one article directed at women. I felt so alone, like no one could relate or help me. I was afraid the Church would judge me and stop loving me fully.
What happens when I try so hard to be good that I just can’t measure up? What happens when I cross so many of the boundaries I set? What happens when I get so frustrated by my natural desires, that curiosity leads me to explore them for myself and by myself? What happens when I, the ever-so fallible human, inevitably fail?
Well, there’s a simple answer: The ever-so infallible God of the universe picks us up, washes us in forgiveness and grace, and says, “Go and sin no more.”
To be a child of God means we have been chosen by Him. He loves us. He knows us.
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:1-12 (NIV)
Oh how sweet it is to be known by a beautiful Savior. And how even sweeter it is to be cleansed in a holy light, and rescued out of the dark. There is no need for shame because the light has already won; the darkness of sin, shame, guilt, and loneliness has been eternally defeated.
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22 (NIV)
If we know God, we cannot stay in the dark. He calls to us to come out into the light and confess our sins to Him… and to others.
He has given us a community of other believers that accept and love us unconditionally. He has given us the opportunity to carry each other’s burdens! That is why I write this. It is time we open up to one another and feel comfort in sharing our struggles. It is time we openly talk about our struggles with sex, porn, masturbation, or whatever it may be. It is time we, the Church, acknowledge female sexuality and the shame that can come with it.
And it’s also time we bring it to God. The beautiful thing about God is that He knows our darkness already and He still wants us. He still wants to rescue us. He wants to take our shame away and lead us into the light.