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shel-yudah

Some of my thoughts on Masturbation

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A recent thread about clothing and modesty has me think about sex-related issues In my time on this forum I have participated in a few debates about lust and masturbation. I personally believe that its possible to masturbate without lusting. I think lust has been misunderstood to a certain degree. It is harmful to characterize all sexual desire as lust, because it attaches shame to our sexuality. The can, and does, have a negative consequence on guys self esteem.

Think about greed. Greed is obviously a sinful behavior, mentioned several times throughout the bible. But we wouldn't say the high school kid who gets a summer job to earn some cash is absolutely being greedy. I think its the same thing with lust. Not all sexual feelings are sinful, it's only when they become obsessive that it is a problem. Let's move on:

One thing that's a little wierd about the guy's forum is the emphasis that is put on quitting masturbation. It's something I noticed right away when I first started reading this board. In the eyes of many evangelicals, lust and masturbation are inextricably linked, so you must quit masturbating in order to walk with God. People use militaristic language, describing it as the "fight against lust" or the "battle for purity". Unfortunately, at many youth groups in various churches I been to and several boards of which I am a member, quitting masturbation seems to be the main focus of any male bible study or small group. Other issues are sometimes brought up but lust and masturbation are always center stage. It seems in some young men's bible studies and youth groups, the entire Christian faith has been reduced to an "anti-masturbation" club.

There are several issues I have with this.

1. Since so much focus is put on masturbation, we end up missing other things that are hugely important to following Jesus.

2. It's bad for guys self esteem. Being a teenager guy is tough. Your body is changing, your becoming a sexual being. You have several major choices to make during these years: college, getting a job, building healthy relationships with family and friends, etc. I've never felt like more of a failure than when I had to admit in front of the guy's small group that I hadn't been "pure" over the last week (meaning I had sexual fantasies and masturbated). No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't quench the sexual feelings I had. I was 16. It took me years before I could cast off this sense of shame and failure and realize that God created me to want sex. And that he has boundaries for sex, but the feelings and desires are normal, maybe even a good thing.

3. By emphasizing quitting masturbation, we do little to actually confront the sin of lust. I have heard people say, "the problem isn't masturbation, the problem is lust". I agree. Some people may disagree with the notion that you masturbate without lust, but I'm sure everyone would agree that you can lust without masturbating.

For the sake of debating this, I'm going to play Devil's Advocate and assume sexual desire and fantasy=lust. Herein lies the problem: You could go months, even years, without masturbating and still be lusting on a daily basis. Far too often, guys gauge their success on how many days, weeks, months, etc they've gone without masturbating. But in the end, this is rather meaningless, because they could easily be continuing to lust during this time. They are just not masturbating.

Concluding:

Is it really possible to totally avoid all sexual desire and fantasy? I would tend to think it's not. No matter how modestly the girls dress, how much you " bounce" your eyes, no matter how many times you change the channel when a lingerie commerical comes on, you are still going to have sexual thoughts and desires. It is part of life. It's part of the way God created man.

I'll be interested to see what kind of response I get for this.

God Bless,

Shel-Yudah

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I've been one of the major posters in this forum and I, too, have participated in multiple debates on this topic. I believe you are even directly quoting my signature when you mentioned "battle for purity," one that I made a while back and I've realized a couple others have picked up on. I'm unsure if you are posing a "you can masturbate without lust" argument or more of a "lust is not a sin," argument so I figure I will take some time to approach both of these ideas the best I can. I've never been the best at expressing my opinions in text, but I do hope they come out right. I'll be quoting specific parts throughout this post, hopefully making it as easy as possible to follow along.

It seems in some young men's bible studies and youth groups, the entire Christian faith has been reduced to an "anti-masturbation" club.

Your third paragraph puts an emphasis on churches and guys' small groups having their focus on quitting masturbation. I believe the part I have quoted above rings true in many situations. I agree that this can be a sticky subject and I also agree that we shouldn't put our faith in this shoe-sized box. I watched a youtube video (

) after seeing a link to it on a thread for someone trying to free (yes, free) himself from masturbation. Perhaps you watched it or perhaps you figured you didn't need to because you were too good for it, but I'll explain because I think the man in the video put it really well. James explains his situation that he was in and his fight to free himself from it. At some point towards the middle he explains that our God should not be 'Freedom,' and how this misconception can guide many men astray on their walk. I think what he was saying goes along with what you're trying to get at. I see the danger in reducing the Christian faith to an anti-masturbation club, but I don't think that undermines the seriousness in any way. And as for the number of topics on the subject in contrast to those not, I have to ask you: what else would belong in the men's 16+ forum area? The support I've seen here at CTF and the quality of the suggestions people have made for others in this situation is astounding. I don't think anyone would purposefully reduce the Christian faith to an anti-masturbation club and I don't think the members here have either. Take a look around, see what you find.
1. Since so much focus is put on masturbation, we end up missing other things that are hugely important to following Jesus.

I've touched base a little on this above, but I will try to dive a little deeper. I agree that lust and masturbation are not the only struggles we have as Christians, and I think it can put some blinders on when it comes to other stuff we need to focus on. In the very same video I have used above, James explains that after he felt free, he began to realize other things God has placed on his heart to work on. Things he hadn't spent much time on before since he was so focused on quitting masturbating and freeing his mind.

2. It's bad for guys self esteem.

I think this can be true for many of us but only because our sense of self esteem is coming from the wrong place. Where does your self esteem come from?

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't quench the sexual feelings I had.

Doesn't this scare you, at all? I mean, if a power is so strong that you can't quit... is this not a force to be reckoned with? Refer to when you said, and I quote, "it's only when they become obsessive that it is a problem." At what point does it become obsessive? I'd say at the point when you can't control your mind or capture the ideas before you fixate on them.

Far too often, guys gauge their success on how many days, weeks, months, etc they've gone without masturbating. But in the end, this is rather meaningless, because they could easily be continuing to lust during this time. They are just not masturbating.

This is very true. I could also hire prostitutes nightly and I technically wouldn't be masturbating. What is your point? While using masturbation as an indication is not always 100% accurate, I think it's important to distinguish the difference between an idea, and fixating and following through on that idea. I could technically watch porn for 6 hours and not masturbate. I don't think anyone here would say that makes it alright. I always make it a point to explain to people here that it isn't about the length you are pure, but rather to take it one day at a time.

you are still going to have sexual thoughts and desires. It is part of life. It's part of the way God created man.

After spending months masturbation-free, you begin to want, and feel urges, less often. For me, this is proof that it is possible to free yourself. Sure, you will be tempted. But you have to rely on Him to not fall in. God created man to sexually desire women. God did not create man to pleasure himself to porn of an underpaid woman somewhere around the country or something of the like. That isn't an argument anyone could support.

Whenever I come about a thread like this one, I can't help but remember an old friend of mine. He struggled with 'stuff' with his girlfriend and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't get his grip and stop. Eventually, he convinced himself that there was nothing wrong with what he was doing. People all over treat many things like this - from lust all the way to cannibalism. People lie to themselves and convince themselves that it isn't a problem, and there is nothing wrong with it. I think there is more that I could have said and possibly didn't spend enough time on, but I'll wait and see what your ideas are on this so far. I read a passage from the bible that would work really well to further explain my ideology but I'll save the bible beating for later.

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I believe you are even directly quoting my signature when you mentioned "battle for purity," one that I made a while back and I've realized a couple others have picked up on.

I wasn't trying to single you out with the "battle" thing. It's a phrase I have seen in multiple places.

I'm unsure if you are posing a "you can masturbate without lust" argument or more of a "lust is not a sin," argument so I figure I will take some time to approach both of these ideas the best I can.

My argument is twofold.

1. Not all sexual desire constitutes lust. I referred earlier to the sin of greed. I tend to view lust in a similar way. Doing work to get money is not necessarily greed, but when the desire for money becomes obsessive, then becomes sinful. It's a continuum, where exactly wanting money becomes greed; it’s hard to say for sure. It's one of those "I know it when I see it" things. But surely we cannot condemn the kid cutting lawns for cash as being guilty of greed. I believe lust is the same way. I think it is possible to have sin-free sexual fantasies, also understanding that at the extreme it is sinful.

2. Since not all sexual desire constitutes lust, then not all masturbation is sinful. Lust is still sin, but masturbating and lust are not inextricably linked.

I watched a youtube video ([/color]
) after seeing a link to it on a thread for someone trying to free (yes, free) himself from masturbation. Perhaps you watched it or perhaps you figured you didn't need to because you were too good for it, but I'll explain because I think the man in the video put it really well. James explains his situation that he was in and his fight to free himself from it. At some point towards the middle he explains that our God should not be 'Freedom,' and how this misconception can guide many men astray on their walk. I think what he was saying goes along with what you're trying to get at. I see the danger in reducing the Christian faith to an anti-masturbation club, but I don't think that undermines the seriousness in any way.

I watched the video. I agree with most of what he says. I hope you didn't get the idea from my post that I was arguing that pornography is not sinful. I do believe it to be sin, for a variety of reasons. Pornography takes sex out of its proper context and turns it into something obscene, perverse and abusive. I think it's important to draw a distinction between this and a sexual fantasy that is not obscene, not perverse, and not abusive. There is a way to express sexual desire in a way that is not sinful. As such, I don't think it is wise to lump the two together, and characterize it as the same.

When James talked about making freedom for sexual sin an idol, this is what I was referring to in my concerns about turn Christianity into a "no-masturbation" club. I wasn't necessarily talking about CTF, but rather evangelical culture in general. I've found the "anti-M" club mentality at several churches and Christian youth organizations and I do think it’s getting to the point where it is a problem.

Perhaps you watched it or perhaps you figured you didn't need to because you were too good for it

Is the ad hominem really necessary? Let’s debate this issue, not attack each other personally.

In the very same video I have used above, James explains that after he felt free, he began to realize other things God has placed on his heart to work on. Things he hadn't spent much time on before since he was so focused on quitting masturbating and freeing his mind.

Going off what I said above, I think the freeing experience that James had was because he got rid of destructive force of porn in his life. Porn will screw you up, and he was able to get out of it. I think masturbation and sexual desire is a little different, because it doesn't have to be destructive. Guys who quit masturbating may feel the same, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is sin. I spoke before about the shame that is bestowed upon sexual desire and masturbation in evangelical circles. Well, if you've been told something is bad over and over again, when you stop doing it obviously you are going to feel "less bad". Just because something makes you feel guilty does not mean it is sin.

I think this can be true for many of us but only because our sense of self esteem is coming from the wrong place. Where does your self esteem come from?

My sense of self-esteem comes from various places: A good supportive family, knowing I am created in God's image, having success in school and work, etc. I think these are all good things.

Doesn't this scare you, at all? I mean, if a power is so strong that you can't quit... is this not a force to be reckoned with? Refer to when you said, and I quote, it's only when they become obsessive that it is a problem. At what point does it become obsessive? I'd say at the point when you can't control your mind or capture the ideas before you fixate on them.

No, it doesn't. Besides, I don't think your sex drive is something you can "quit". And I don't think it is an obsession. It doesn't have a negative impact on my life. It doesn't compel me to make bad decisions or do things I otherwise wouldn't do. And it doesn't consume my time. It's that same issue of healthy desire and wants compared with unhealthy desires and wants when I talked about greed earlier.

This is very true. I could also hire prostitutes nightly and I technically wouldn't be masturbating. What is your point?

My point is that we shouldn't put the focus on masturbating. And that when we address sex, the focus should be on eliminating unhealthy behaviors like porn, premarital sex, lust. Putting the focus on masturbating has negative consequences, and the sinfulness of masturbating has no basis is scripture.

Eventually, he convinced himself that there was nothing wrong with what he was doing. People all over treat many things like this - from lust all the way to cannibalism. People lie to themselves and convince themselves that it isn't a problem, and there is nothing wrong with it

I understand the problem of relativism and the case of your friend. But it works both ways. Some people convince themselves that everything in the sex department is okay. Others do the exact opposite and convince themselves that everything sexual must be evil and sinful. This is just as big of a problem. It's important not to throw everything into the same category, lumping porn, masturbation, sex, and fantasy all together as one. Because they are different.

God created man to sexually desire women. God did not create man to pleasure himself to porn of an underpaid woman somewhere around the country or something of the like.

I agree 100%. We can’t equate sexual desire for women-something that is good and intended by God- with porn, something that is completely evil and deprave.

God Bless,

Shel-Yudah

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I think it's important to draw a distinction between this and a sexual fantasy that is not obscene, not perverse, and not abusive.

There were many things I could comment on in this post but they all tie in to one central theme. What is your definition of obscene, or perverse? Sure, a fantasy may not be abusive, but it surely lives within you and is pulling the images from somewhere - images that are both obscene and perverse. That girl in your fantasy is someone, and I don't think they would appreciate this fantasy world. Surely this can't be pleasing to a spouse or girlfriend (unless perhaps of her) much less God. The bible speaks of relations with a wife very differently than that of any other woman - so my argument is strictly non-spouse figures. The other is an entirely different topic that I don't have an opinion on, as I am single.

It doesn't have a negative impact on my life. It doesn't compel me to make bad decisions or do things I otherwise wouldn't do.

Does it not shape the way you view people? You imagine that pretty girl at work fulfilling your fantasy (whatever that might be). I'd stretch to say that fantasy can't be making her out to be a woman of God. Is she stripping down for you? Pleasuring you? Come on, don't live your life trying to convince yourself that this is what God wants us to do. Objectify women to please ourselves? You can say that woman is just someone you made up, but I don't believe that. We all imagine and pull images from stuff we know. And even if that were the case, we're still objectifying the female body. Will my spouse, later down the road, live up to that expectation I have created from my fantasy? Sex is supposed to be sacred, not some figment of our imagination to stimulate our senses.

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What is your definition of obscene, or perverse?

Obscene:

-Something that is universally disgusting. I’m not sure how detailed I should get on a Christian forum, but I would say it is something that is considered by the masses to be repulsive.

Perverse-It could have many meanings, but in a sexual context:

-Something that goes beyond the normal bounds of heterosexual, consensual relations, something that uses sex as a medium for “shock value”. Rather than using sex as an expression of love and passion, the pervert uses it to inflict harm on others, to take advantage of others, or to be indecent for indecency’s sake.

Sure, a fantasy may not be abusive, but it surely lives within you and is pulling the images from somewhere - images that are both obscene and perverse *.

Why would these images be obscene and perverse? Perhaps I should ask you to define what obscene and perverse are. While you at it, I’m also curious to hear how you would define lust.

One thing about pornography that I neglected to mention earlier is that it is voyeuristic in nature. The viewer is sitting at his computer watching other people have sex. God intended sex to be a private and intimate act of love, not a public spectacle for the entertainment of others. The voyeurism of porn is very much like the Roman group orgies that the Apostle Paul condemned. Simply speaking, it’s a sin to watch other people have sex.

Surely this can't be pleasing to a spouse or girlfriend (unless perhaps of her) much less God.

How does having sexual fantasies displease God? Ever stumble upon the Song of Solomon? The whole book is one big sexual fantasy and love story.

Does it not shape the way you view people? You imagine that pretty girl at work fulfilling your fantasy (whatever that might be). I'd stretch to say that fantasy can't be making her out to be a woman of God.

The larger issue here is that you cannot take the sexuality out of humanity and just cast it aside. God created mankind with an internal desire for sex. It’s on the inside. If a girl has sexual fantasies, is she not a woman of God? Surely, she still is. Likewise, if I have sexual feelings towards a woman, how does that dishonor her? (or me for that matter).I don’t understand how me being attracted to her somehow dishonors her, or her being attracted to guys somehow makes her less of a godly woman. This is that same problem I was talking about earlier when I mentioned the reverse of the relativism problem: Characterizing anything of sexual as sinful.

Objectify women to please ourselves? You can say that woman is just someone you made up, but I don't believe that. We all imagine and pull images from stuff we know. And even if that were the case, we're still objectifying the female body. Will my spouse, later down the road, live up to that expectation I have created from my fantasy? Sex is supposed to be sacred, not some figment of our imagination to stimulate our senses

Finding someone sexually appealing does not equal objectification. A fantasy does not have to dehumanize the woman. Also, to live Godly lives we don’t have to desexualize humanity. One of the reasons God created sex and beauty in the world is for our pleasure. A girl can be godly and sexy at the same time. The two are not antithetical.

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[/b]]

Perverse-It could have many meanings' date=' but in a sexual context:

-Something that goes beyond the normal bounds of heterosexual, consensual relations, something that uses sex as a medium for “[i']shock value[/i]”. Rather than using sex as an expression of love and passion, the pervert uses it to inflict harm on others, to take advantage of others, or to be indecent for indecency’s sake.

A better definition would read: Something that goes beyond the bounds on consenting adults in a private setting in a committed relationship.

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Why would these images be obscene and perverse? Perhaps I should ask you to define what obscene and perverse are. While you at it, I’m also curious to hear how you would define lust.

Why would these images be obscene and perverse? Print out the images in your head and what do you have? Wow, probably looks a lot like pornography. Would you hang these images on your fridge? Would you be proud of your fantasy? I'd hope not. I did a quick Google search and this is the definition I get for lust "Very strong sexual desire." Hmm, that fantasy of yours probably has a very strong sexual desire. Thanks Google, you've done me well yet again. Now for my definitions: obscene- offensive, not for minors. indecent; perverse (in a sexual context)- indecent, of a perverted nature, unacceptable sexual thoughts.

I think the fantasy God wants for us is far more than just sexual. I can fantasize about the 'perfect one' and draw up a pretty girl with a commitment for God. She loves her family and wants to be a part of her childrens' lives. She loves me and the simple things in life. Is that the kind of fantasy we're masturbating to? No. Face it, dude... There is nothing wrong with a fantasy, but lets leave a little room for Jesus, as some of my old chaperones might say. Sure, there may be a sexual hint, but not purely sexual - not a longing just for her body (objectification). There is a difference.

A better definition would read: Something that goes beyond the bounds on consenting adults in a private setting in a committed relationship.

This.

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Print out the images in your head and what do you have? Wow, probably looks a lot like pornography. Would you hang these images on your fridge?

Hang it on my fridge? Yeah, probably not. But I don't think a normal married couple would either. Like I said before, sex is something designed to be private. Just because it’s private doesn't mean it’s shameful. If the fantasy/desire looks like pornography, then yes-that is a problem. But porn is more than just sex on tape. It's about control and subjugation. It's about power. It's voyeuristic, being produced for the consumption of others.

If you think that what you see in pornography= normal sex, then you are horribly mistaken. A sexual fantasy doesn't have to be "porn in your head" Sex as is exists in most normal relationships, is not porn without a camera. This is the problem with pornography, that it distorts the true essence and purpose of sexual intercourse and turns it into something that IS obscene and perverse. It takes sex, which is supposed to be intimate, and turns it into a public spectacle. There's a wide array of essays on pornography by feminist theorists that I read for a class at school. One of the things they talked about was that hardcore pornography isn't just about sex. In fact, sex is only the medium to express the actual message. That message is: degradation of women (the derogatory name calling/and obscene dialogue, men spitting on women), asserting male power through violence (slapping, placing hands around neck in choking position, men pushing and bossing women around, grabbing them by the hair) and ultimately reducing the female body to what is essentially a receptacle for the male organ and nothing else. Gloria Steinem once said:

Consider also our spirits that break a little each time we see ourselves in chains or full labial display for the conquering male viewer, bruised or on our knees, screaming in real or pretended pain to delight the sadist, pretending to enjoy what we don't enjoy, to be blind to the images of our sisters that really haunt us - humiliated often enough ourselves by the truly obscene idea that sex and the domination of women must be combined
What she is describing here: THIS is what obscenity is. THIS is what perversion is. Not just sexual fantasy. Pornography is not mere sexual fantasy. It is the embodiment of abuse of power.
I think the fantasy God wants for us is far more than just sexual

Yes, but sex IS a part of it.

I can fantasize about the 'perfect one' and draw up a pretty girl with a commitment for God. She loves her family and wants to be a part of her childrens' lives. She loves me and the simple things in life. Is that the kind of fantasy we're masturbating to? No.

This is all well and good, but if you are in a marriage that is devoid of sexual longing and desire, I think you are setting yourself up for problems. Sure, you can really like her cute handwriting or the way she makes blueberry pancakes, but at the end of the day in order to have true romantic love, you have to want her in your bed. And I don’t mean want in a passive “whatever-maybe” sorta way. I mean really want it. An intense, deep desire for the both of you to “become one flesh” as it says in Genesis 2:24.

God intended sex to be intimate and passionate. It is the act of two becoming one flesh and is the ultimate expression of romantic love. What is wrong with desiring this? What is wrong with fantasizing about this? From what I can tell from scripture, nothing.

Song of Solomon 7:1-3. How beautiful are your feet in sandals,

O prince’s daughter! The curves of your hips are like jewels,

The work of the hands of an artist.

Your navel is like a round goblet

Which never lacks mixed wine;

Your belly is like a heap of wheat

Fenced about with lilies.

Your two breasts are like two fawns,

Twins of a gazelle.

Song of Solomon 7:7-8. Your stature is like a palm tree,

And your breasts are like its clusters.

“I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree,

I will take hold of its fruit stalks.’

Is this obscene or perverse? I would think not! It’s beautiful, it’s sexy, and it’s in the Bible. God-Breathed. Is the writer engaging in lust? I don’t think so, even though what he is expressing is clearly a very strong sexual desire. While the Bible-ish slang makes it seem a little antiquated, I do think this is the type of fantasy one could masturbate with. Just look at verse 8. He’s talking about putting his hands on her boobs.

What I worry about is that if we continue to paint sexuality with such a broad brush, it will have negative consequences later when guys get married. Think about it. You spend 10-15 years of teen/young adulthood hearing people tell you to avoid and fight sexual desire at all costs. Then one day, someone puts a ring on your finger and that sense of shame and repression of all sexual thoughts is to vanish immediately. It just seems unreasonable, and more importantly, unhealthy. Unfortunately, evangelicals are still heavily influenced by the old Puritan “sex through a hole in the sheet” mentality.

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Well, it has been all well and fun just watching this conversation, but I must interject. First, sexual desire and sexual fantasy are not even equal things. No one says there is anything wrong with seeing a woman and happening to find her sexually attractive. If anything, there's something biologically wrong if you don't. Nonetheless, having a sexual fantasy about that women in any way instantly degrades her. This is where the difference between God-given sexual desire and lust arises: fleeting sexual desire isn't in harmful or sinful, as it doesn't even involve the will at all. However, when you stop and dwell on that desire, and you entertain the thoughts in your head, that's when it becomes sinful lust. It's like the difference between the passing thought, "I wish I had that guy's laptop," and wishfully fantasizing about robbing him for it. One is fine; the other is messed up. The same goes for sexual thoughts. All sexual fantasizing involves such lust. You said that the problem with porn is that it "ultimately reduc[es] the female body to what is essentially a receptacle for the male organ and nothing else." That's exactly what fantasizing over just any attractive woman is. Unless you're imagining having a full and happy life of love and commitment with her (and even if you are, you're a creeper and have multiple problems), you're using her mentally as "essentially a receptacle for the male organ and nothing else." If it is a woman you know, but aren't in a relationship with, you're doing the same thing, basically saying to yourself, "I don't care for her the way someone in a sexual relationship with her should, but I would love to make some purple with that body." (In case you are unfamiliar with funny ways of saying things, blue = boy, pink = girl, blue + pink = purple).

This is all well and good, but if you are in a marriage that is devoid of sexual longing and desire, I think you are setting yourself up for problems. Sure, you can really like her cute handwriting or the way she makes blueberry pancakes, but at the end of the day in order to have true romantic love, you have to want her in your bed. And I don’t mean want in a passive “whatever-maybe” sorta way. I mean really want it. An intense, deep desire for the both of you to “become one flesh” as it says in Genesis 2:24.

God intended sex to be intimate and passionate. It is the act of two becoming one flesh and is the ultimate expression of romantic love. What is wrong with desiring this? What is wrong with fantasizing about this? From what I can tell from scripture, nothing.

No one is arguing for marriage without sexual desire. That's silly. Everyone I know, from the most prudish conservative to the most licentious liberal, agrees that sexual desire, serious and intense sexual desire, ought to be a part of marriage. And there is nothing wrong with wanting this. There is nothing wrong with sometimes thinking of how great it will be. But there is something wrong with fantasizing about a bunch of girls who, right now, you are not married to, just because you find them sexually attractive. That is objectifying them, and that is degrading them.

Unfortunately, evangelicals are still heavily influenced by the old Puritan “sex through a hole in the sheet” mentality.
I don't know anyone who thinks anything like that, and the Puritan's certainly didn't. They loved sex. According to Leland Ryken, "When a New England wife complained, first to her pastor, and then to the whole congregation, that her husband was neglecting their sex life, the church proceeded to excommunicate the man." William Gouge, a Puritan, said that that married couples should engage in sex "with good will and delight, willingly, readily, and cheerfully." Another Puritan, this anonymous, said that in marriage couples "may joyfully give due benevolence one to the other; as two musical instruments rightly fitted do make a most pleasant and sweet harmony in a well tuned consort."

The Puritans were no strangers to sex, nor prudes, and most of the Evangelicals I've ever met do indeed follow along with the Puritan thoughts on sex.

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Nonetheless, having a sexual fantasy about that women in any way instantly degrades her. This is where the difference between God-given sexual desire and lust arises: fleeting sexual desire isn't in harmful or sinful, as it doesn't even involve the will at all

I still don’t understand how it degrades. Obviously, the writer in Song of Solomon isn’t experiencing a fleeting thought that he dismisses immediately. He is willingly engaged in fantasy. There is an intense feeling of attraction that he (and she) expounds upon. As I mentioned before, I think it’s a mistake to believe sexual fantasy=porn without a camera. Of course there are some fantasies that are like that, but I’m talking about things within the realm of “vanilla sex”.

As far as the laptop analogy: What if instead of fantasizing about robbing the guy with the laptop; I fantasized about how much fun it would be have that laptop, and the good times and pleasure that I would gain from it? See, where I’m going? There is a middle-ground that falls between the complete repression of sexual fantasy and the other extreme, pornography.

If all sexual fantasy is lust, and you cannot fantasize without instantly degrading a woman, under these assumptions: Can you fall in love without sinning? Love isn't all about sex, but it is an important piece of it. If you take way that deep longing for the physical body of your lover, (like the longing in Song of Sol. 7), then I don’t know if you can have true romantic love.

That's exactly what fantasizing over just any attractive woman is. Unless you're imagining having a full and happy life of love and commitment with her (and even if you are, you're a creeper and have multiple problems)

Why does that make me creepy or with multiple problems? Have you never fallen for a girl and fantasized about spending your life with her, being in love, and having intimate sex? This is the problem with the “pornification” of sexuality. The porn industry takes all love and emotion out of sex. They create sex as an image of male domination, degradation of women, and abuse; combining a distorted image of sex with this dehumanization. Evangelical culture then internalizes this distortion; assuming that all sexual fantasy must be like porn, and labels sexual fantasy sinful. But, in reality, it doesn’t have to be like that.

you're using her mentally as "essentially a receptacle for the male organ and nothing else." If it is a woman you know, but aren't in a relationship with, you're doing the same thing, basically saying to yourself, "I don't care for her the way someone in a sexual relationship with her should, but I would love to make some purple with that body." (In case you are unfamiliar with funny ways of saying things, blue = boy, pink = girl, blue + pink = purple).

But what about when you are in a relationship with them, and you do love them? What if you do care for them in the way someone in a sexual relationship should? I’ve been together with my girlfriend for almost two years. I really love her. I’m a little young to be considering marriage, but it’s something I definitely hope for in the future. Is it lust for me to fantasize about sex with her? By doing that, am I degrading her? Am I reducing her to just a receptacle? Certainly not! I just don't see how sexual fantasy categorically results in degradation, lust, and dehumanization. That's certainly not the way I fantasize about my girlfriend, and not the way she fantasizes about me either.

This is the problem with the more conservative-evangelical point of view on sex. It doesn’t leave any room for healthy expressions of sexual desire, like that of Song of Sol. 7. In an effort to condemn the evils of pornography, some evangelicals swing to the opposite side of the spectrum and paint sexuality as something that is dirty, degrading, and dehumanizing. This view, like that of the pornographer, distorts the real essence of human sexuality as God intended it to be. Another member posted this excerpt before from a book by Steve Gerali, Teenage Boys. This is basically the way I view issues of sexuality. It might clarify what I’m trying to say if you take the time to read it.

I’ve talked to hundreds of young guys in bondage to this notion. They’re exhausted and spiritually defeated because they’ve been told that sexual drive, desire, or thoughts are all forms of lust. They’ve read books about dating that tell them not to; books about sexual purity that make sex anything but pure; and books about guys that give the impression that everything sexual within them is a dangerous, ravenous, demonic, overtaking battle that must be aggressively waged. These texts are built around the premise that a guy—who is created by God as a sexual being—should only be sexual when he’s married. Until that time, he must battle the testosterone, or it will make him sexually impure. Guys come to believe that the slightest sexual tinge is the beginning of a cancerous spot that must quickly be eradicated. For a good number of Christian guys, all of their spiritual energy is consumed by eliminating sexual desire from their minds and bodies. This is nothing but a form of bondage. Guys are attempting the impossible—to be without testosterone.

We need to teach our guys how to think sexually pure (by this I mean they can think a lot about sex and still know that it’s pure). That doesn’t mean they have to ignore sexual desire or drive. It doesn’t mean they’ll never play out sexual experiences in their minds. (Sexual rehearsal is also a God-designed part of good sexuality. In fact, it’s instinctual.) If we continue to give the impression that all sexual thought is lust and should be avoided, we become false teachers who cause these young guys to stumble in the name of a faulty righteousness. (Pgs. 76-78)

Sex on the Brain

First, too much sexual thought doesn’t constitute lust. I’ve heard many people put a commodity on sexual thinking, meaning that it’s okay to have sexual thoughts as long as you don’t have them too much—or as long as you don’t entertain them. Christian guys grow up under the oppression that there is a “daily sexual thought quota,” which, by the way, is never defined. As a result, a guy starts to believe that any sexual thought he has and enjoys is lusting.

The third sexual line of thinking is sexual fantasy. That phrase ruffles a lot of feathers in the Christian community. So let me say it another way: healthy sexual development requires sexual rehearsal and imagination. Imagination and rehearsal are a part of good fantasy:

Part of what comes natural to us instinctually is the ability to create sexual rehearsal. Everyone daydreams about his or her honeymoon night, for example. We rehearse passionate kisses in our mind. We think about sex play that involves romantic interludes, exotic settings, even some elements of adventure. We may rehearse in our minds those sex roles and actions with people who we view as potential partners…Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that thinking through sexual situations, daydreaming of sex with a spouse someday, or envisioning passionate sexual circumstances is all lustful thinking.

Guys can’t read Song of Solomon, define sexual purity, know sexual roles, or eve understand sexuality in any form without sexual fantasy (imagination and rehearsal).

What he says here is more or less what I'm arguing. Would be interested in what you guys think of it.

God Bless,

Shel-Yudah

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Song of Solomon 7:1-3. How beautiful are your feet in sandals,

O prince’s daughter! The curves of your hips are like jewels,

The work of the hands of an artist.

Your navel is like a round goblet

Which never lacks mixed wine;

Your belly is like a heap of wheat

Fenced about with lilies.

Your two breasts are like two fawns,

Twins of a gazelle.

Song of Solomon 7:7-8. Your stature is like a palm tree,

And your breasts are like its clusters.

“I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree,

I will take hold of its fruit stalks.’

You seriously find this having, and I quote, a "very strong sexual desire"? Sure, it is not lacking in zeal, but I definitely don't think this is what you're trying to justify - your fantasies. Write poems all day about the beauty of the female body. I don't read 'let me insert my ... in your... and... and.. and.. and then you...' No, this is a very different fantasy. This is beautiful. This is something I would share with someone I love. The images in my head? Not so much.

One of the things they talked about was that hardcore pornography isn't just about sex. In fact, sex is only the medium to express the actual message. That message is: degradation of women (the derogatory name calling/and obscene dialogue, men spitting on women), asserting male power through violence (slapping, placing hands around neck in choking position, men pushing and bossing women around, grabbing them by the hair) and ultimately reducing the female body to what is essentially a receptacle for the male organ and nothing else.

Sure, that is one type of porn (which has its own name that I'm not going to get into). I'm not here to protect pornography, but if you think this is the only kind out there then you are very mistaken. There is pornography without spitting, dialog, etc.. That doesn't make it OK though. So why are you bringing this up?

What she is describing here: THIS is what obscenity is. THIS is what perversion is. Not just sexual fantasy. Pornography is not mere sexual fantasy. It is the embodiment of abuse of power.

Sorry but you don't have to beat a woman for it to be considered pornography in my book.

Think about it. You spend 10-15 years of teen/young adulthood hearing people tell you to avoid and fight sexual desire at all costs. Then one day, someone puts a ring on your finger and that sense of shame and repression of all sexual thoughts is to vanish immediately. It just seems unreasonable, and more importantly, unhealthy.

How is resisting sexual thoughts any different than resisting going further with a girlfriend? You are told it is wrong. You resist. Do you think virgins ever get married now a days? Many less than there used to be, but I don't think they get married and are still resisting sex. Marriage is different. That is not what this subject is about. If you don't have self control and have to convince yourself that all is well, good luck. Sexual thoughts and temptations can really take a hold of you and that's one scary path to walk alone. I've already thought about it. I went through a phase when I thought it was the only healthy thing to do. And so I did it occasionally, then I started doing it more often, until eventually, it took over my life.

Will I ever think these 'fantasies' you have painted are alright? No. Why? Because I've been down that route and it's no good. It's rough, relationships are torn apart, expectations are burned, and ultimately, you lose your senses as to what is right and OK.

You said that the problem with porn is that it "ultimately reduc[es] the female body to what is essentially a receptacle for the male organ and nothing else." That's exactly what fantasizing over just any attractive woman is. Unless you're imagining having a full and happy life of love and commitment with her.

Slave Of Elyon did a better job explaining the whole 'OK-fantasy' thing than I. Couldn't agree more, well worded.

Is it lust for me to fantasize about sex with her?

What else would it be? If lust is a sexual desire, then yes, fantasizing about sex would be a sexual desire - thus lustful.

Sounds to me like you've read one too many books. Where do I get my ideology from? My old youth pastor? Sure. A book or two? Yeah, I'm guilty of that too. Ultimately, though, I pull from my experiences. I've seen where lust leads me. It tempts me until I'm deep in a situation where I ultimately find myself call out for God to save me. I lose all self control and that image of a woman is anything but that which God has in store for me. What it all boils down to is: I can't control you, and I'm not going to try. Your walk with God is separate from mine and no matter what I say, I'm not here to sentence you or redeem you from hell. My experiences have shown me that sexual temptation is dangerous and leads me anywhere but closer to God. You can say this is putting a strain on other young men but I'd say it's strengthening them. Before I was free, my pleasure came from sexual fantasies. Is that how it was designed? Now I find pleasure in reading His word and living a life full of prayer, accountability, and fellowship. I don't need quotes from a feminist or a book by someone else too tired to learn some self control to realize that. To that I say: live your life as you please, but when those temptations get too strong to bear, when those fantasies begin to become reality, remember that God is there to strengthen you and pull you out. Don't be afraid to control your body - while that satisfaction is only temporary and will simply leaving you wanting more, God's well never runs dry.

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You seriously find this having, and I quote, a "very strong sexual desire"?

Yes, absolutely. What else would “Your stature is like a palm tree, And your breasts are like its clusters. “I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its fruit stalks.’” Mean? He’s talking about how arousing he finds her breasts, and that he intends to “take hold of its fruit”, i.e. touch her breasts.

I don't read 'let me insert my ... in your... and... and.. and.. and then you...' No, this is a very different fantasy. This is beautiful. This is something I would share with someone I love. The images in my head? Not so much

Well, the nice thing about fantasies is that they are what you want them to be. (That is the whole point of a fantasy) You are the author, not some sleazy, misogynist porn producer. I can’t speak for anyone else on this because I only know what goes on in my own head. But the fantasies that I have I would share with my girlfriend. At this point, I don’t think it is such as good idea just because a little too much sex-talk might drive us over edge and lose our virginity. But it’s not because I’m ashamed of those fantasies or I think she would find them offensive. And the fantasies that she has about me are probably not all that different. Something that evangelicals often overlook is that girls have sexual desires and fantasies too. They too want to have sex, and find pleasure in sexual fantasies, just like us. Are they dehumanizing and degrading men?

I think there is a right way and a wrong way to fantasize. Sex by itself, as God intended, is not a bad thing. It doesn’t degrade, it doesn’t dehumanize. It’s an expression love. Where it becomes bad is when it is done in a way that seeks to humiliate, demean, or mistreat someone. This is the case with most pornography.

Sure, that is one type of porn (which has its own name that I'm not going to get into). I'm not here to protect pornography, but if you think this is the only kind out there then you are very mistaken. There is pornography without spitting, dialog, etc.. That doesn't make it OK though. So why are you bringing this up?

While not all porn is explicitly violent, I’d say the vast majority of it is made in such a way to humiliate women, and for men to fantasize….not just about sex, but about forcing women to do things they don’t want to do…or to defile a woman in some way, by mistreating and disrespecting her. A common theme in pornography is for the male to take advantage of the female, tricking her into having sex. There was a time when I did use porn on a regular basis. One of the things that really turned me off to it was noticing this. It’s a very typical plot in a porno: A naïve, attractive, young girl find herself alone in the company of an older man. The man manipulates the girl, convincing her that it is okay to have sex, or does something else to deceive her. The violence, dehumanization, manipulation, etc manifests itself in different ways. Some stuff is “harder”, some is “softer”. But overall, pornography is not an accurate depiction of sex. Somewhere in the course of the porno, sex is being distorted, or misconstrued to serve a purpose other than what God intended. This is what separates porn from what I would call “vanilla sex”…conventional, intimate, biblical intercourse. I don’t see anything wrong with fantasizing about “vanilla sex”.

You have the choice as to whether or not you will dehumanize, degrade, or manipulate the woman in your fantasy. Simply put: Sex itself is not a dirty or dehumanizing act. Your fantasies about sex aren’t sinful unless you make them sinful. It could be just a fantasy about your wedding night, or you “dream girl”, or your present girlfriend, or just a girl you see as a potential mate. This IS the fantasy in Song of Solomon: A woman with beautiful legs, nice breasts that you want to touch, etc. This is vastly different then what you see in pornography.

Will I ever think these 'fantasies' you have painted are alright? No. Why? Because I've been down that route and it's no good. It's rough, relationships are torn apart, expectations are burned, and ultimately, you lose your senses as to what is right and OK.

Well, I think it depends on the fantasies. Porn and porn-like fantasies could do this. But if you are just playing out sex with your lover in your head, then I don’t see what harm this causes. In fact, I think as a relationship progresses, it’s actually a good thing. I know personally that masturbation and fantasy has helped me and my g/f save sex for marriage because we both have a separate, private, and safe outlet for the sexual feelings we have for each other.

Ultimately, though, I pull from my experiences. I've seen where lust leads me. It tempts me until I'm deep in a situation where I ultimately find myself call out for God to save me. I lose all self control and that image of a woman is anything but that which God has in store for me.

Then maybe it’s a case of different strokes for different folks. (or in this case, no strokes at all :lol:)I experienced something similar when I used pornography, but since I have quit that, masturbation is not really an issue for me. My life doesn’t spiral out of control if I masturbate. If yours does, then yeah, you shouldn’t masturbate.

Before I was free, my pleasure came from sexual fantasies. Is that how it was designed? Now I find pleasure in reading His word and living a life full of prayer, accountability, and fellowship. I don't need quotes from a feminist or a book by someone else too tired to learn some self control to realize that.
If you find that your walk with God is better when you abstain from masturbation, then by all means, abstain. But I think it’s a bad idea to unequivocally declare it sinful for everyone. Think about what Paul said in 1 Corinthians when he’s discussing marriage and singleness. Paul chose to be single, because he knew that is what worked best for his relationship w/God. But he didn’t tell everybody else not to get married. In fact, he encouraged people to marry if they thought that’s what would be best for them and their relationship w/God. I think a similar idea can be applied to the issue of masturbation and fantasy.

And by the way: Reading the critiques of pornography by feminists like Gloria Steinem and Gail Dines actually played a big role in convicting me to quit using pornography. Not all feminists are nuts. Some of them actually have some pretty good ideas

God Bless,

Shel-Yudah

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