Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Pornography Exposure Happens

In my last post, I mentioned that 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to pornography before age 18. You may think that this can't possibly happen in your houseyour filters are too good, your children aren't on websites that could link them to pornography, you know their friends aren't showing it to them, etc. Technology and predators have become more sophisticated, however. The following are some ways children accidentally access pornography online.

Innocent Word Searches

Sometimes a child will image search on Google a word or phrase that they may believe is perfectly innocent. "Miley Cyrus", once a popular, appropriate Disney role model, may be searched by a preteen in hopes of finding a picture of the girl who played in Flicka. The results she finds, with or without "Safesearch" filters on, will certainly include shirtless pictures. Also, "p***y", for a child, often means "kitty-cat", but placed in the context of a Google search, it will yield scarring results.

Misspelled Word Searches

Children, especially young children, aren't always the best spellers. They can be given an assignment to research Virginia for school and end up searching for female genitals. If they want to see pictures of cute clothes, they may accidentally search for "t*ts" instead of "tights". Mistakes like this, also, will not be prevented by a "safe search" filter.

Stealth Sites

A more targeted way pornography is exposed to kids is when they are attempting to access a legitimate websites. Some pornography producers will buy a URL that is only a letter or two away from a perfectly appropriate, child-safe website, and use the alternative URL for pornographic images or videos. Some filters may prevent some of these filters, but no filter is a guarantee.

Shock sites
Shock sites or images, are websites or images intended to shock the viewer, usually with sexually explicit content. They are frequently presented as a legitimate links. For example, Lemon Party, a shock site which depicts a series of homosexual acts involving three elderly men, is often publicized as a political platform.  Other examples of shock sites are blue waffle, 2 Girls 1 Cup, and Goatse(All the previous two links connect to informational articles on the website Know Your Meme, not to the shock sites themselves.) It should also be noted, as I was attempting to locate a list of these shock sites, I was directed to a website with pornographic ads. I had safe search on and was researching from the church, which has Internet filters.

The term clickbait refers to links that are designed with the intention of drawing in viewers or readers. They are often phrased along the lines of "Y
ou won't believe you missed this joke in Frozen!" Young children are particularly susceptible to this, as many of these "clickbait" links reference popular children's shows or icons. Here is an example of clickbait links (that may or may not link to pornographic websites).

Occasionally, pornographic websites will buy a URL that originally belonged to a legitimate or "safe" company but has since expired. They will then use the previously safe link to connect to a pornographic website.

Looping or Mousetrapping
Once a person has clicked on certain pornographic websites, they can be caught in a cycle that prolongs the exposure. One such method of prolonging is called "looping". Looping is when a stream of pop-ups begin to appear on the screen and will not stop until the computer has been entirely shut down. Another method is "mousetrapping", which is when the website will not let you log out, exit, or close the tab.

Children can also be exposed to pornography through pop-up ads, junk or spam email, and free online games.

What can we do?
Obviously filters are not nearly as effective in preventing this exposure as we might hope. However, it is not impossible to protect your children from unintentional pornography access. A few simple techniques can drastically reduce their chances of being exposed.
  1. Be aware of what devices can access the internet in your home. Today, almost every electronic device in the household can access the internet. Even some refrigerators are WiFi-equipped! Knowing which devices can access the internet is the first step in monitoring them.
  2. Make all internet use visible. Depending on your child's age, consider setting a ban on internet use in the bedroom. Periodically peek at the screen while they are using electronics. If they know they are being monitored, they are less likely to intentionally access something. Monitoring also allows you to be aware of what websites they are on (or if they are online when they shouldn't be).
  3. And encourage discussion. Your child should know he or she can always come to you without judgment if they see something they shouldn't. While it's not always possible to shelter them entirely, having an open, honest relationship can reduce the impact of exposure to negative influences.
As always, feel free to comment if you disagree, want clarification, want to give feedback, or have additional information to share!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Teenagers and Sexuality (Exposure through Media and Education)

You may be wondering why I've been on such a "teen sexuality" kick lately. I was wondering the same thing myself, to be honest. I knew it was a problem, but I didn't know how much of a problem, so I did some research into the pervasiveness of sexuality in teenagers' lives. I'd like to share my findings with you.

According to a 2013 survey of high school students by the CDC, 46.8% of high school students had had sexual intercourse at least once in their life. Thirty-four percent of high school students had sexual intercourse recently--within the past three months--and of that 34.0%, 40.9% did not use a condom. A shocking 15.0% of high school students had already had at least four sexual partners in their life.

The CDC also stated that in 2009, an estimated 8300 adolescents (age 13 to 24) in the forty CDC-reporting states had HIV, and in that same year, more than 400, 000 girls age 15 to 19 gave birth.

From the information I found at the CDC, I concluded that sexual activity is rampant among America's teenagers. But I didn't stop there. "Why is this such a problem in America?" I asked. "Aren't we teaching sexual education to our teenagers?" I found the Kaiser Family Foundation page on states' policy on sex education, and what I found there began to explain the sexual problems among teenagers.

Less than half of the states in America have mandated sexual education--schools in the remaining 28 states may teach it voluntarily. In those states that do require sexual education, most policies state that schools “must cover” or “must stress abstinence”. Only 11 states that have mandated sexual education (and Washington DC) “must cover contraception” in addition to abstinence. 

Of course these sexual education policies aren't working. Numerous surveys  have found that abstinence-only education does not delay sexual intercourse or lower rates of teen pregnancy. (For more information, check out this article from UGAthis publication by Advocates for Youth, and this research report on PubMed Central.) Even if they did work, twenty-two of the fifty states is not enough.

If teenagers aren't getting their sexual education from schools, where are they getting it from? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013 survey), teenagers spend only 48 minutes communicating or socializing per day. If they split that time up equally between friends, family, teachers, and non-academic leaders (coaches, club leaders, etc.)--and I'm willing to bet they don't--they would only have 12 minutes per day to learn anything from their parents. Simply put, teenagers do not spend enough time with their parents to be learning sexual education from them.

The next most obvious source of "education" that teenagers have is the media. I went to Billboard's top ten songs of 2014 to find out what sort of sexual messages teenagers are learning from music. This is when I started getting a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Read the following lyrics to see what the top ten songs are teaching today's teenagers

1. All About That Bass, Meghan Trainor
  • “I ain’t no size two, but I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do”
  • “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night”
  • "I got that boom boom that all the boys chase, and all the junk in all the right places"
3. Black Widow, Iggy Azalea
  • "It was us against the world and now we just f*****g"
  • "You never met nobody that'll do ya how I do ya"
  • "I'm-a make you beg for it, plead for it"

4. Habits (Stay High), Tove Lo
  • “I go to sex clubs, watching freaky people gettin’ it on”
5. Bang Bang, Jessie J, Ariana Grande, & Nicki Minaj
  • “If he hanging we banging”
  • “You need a bad girl to blow your mind”
  • "Bang bang all over you (I'll let you have it)"
6. Don’t Tell Em, Jeremih
  • "Body like the summer, f*** it like no other"
  • "Loving while grabbing the rhythm of your hips"
  • "She wanna s*** my d*** and I'm cool with it"
  • "It's that twitter p***y I met on the internet"
7. Animals, Maroon 5
  • "Baby, I'm preying on you tonight, hunt you down to eat you alive"
  • "We get along when I'm inside you"
  • "I can still hear you making that sound, taking me down rolling on the ground"
  • "Don't deny the animal that comes alive when I'm inside you"
8. Anaconda, Nicki Minaj
  • "Come through and f*** em in my automobile, let him eat it with his grills"
  • "He keep tellin' me it's real, that he love my sex appeal"
  • "He toss my salad like his name Romaine" (slang for annilingus)
9. Stay With Me, Sam Smith
  • "I'm not good at a one night stand"
  • "You can lay with me so it doesn't hurt"
10. Hot Boy (N***a Boy), Bobby Shmurda
  • "Your shawty gave me neck 'til I pass out" (slang for oral sex)
  • "If you ain't a ho, get up out my trap house"
You probably noticed, if you read through those lyrics, that the number two song was missing. The number two song is "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift, Nothing in that song is particularly sexually charged, although the music video has a number of scenes with both women and men in skin-tight clothing or underwear, and the dance moves (while not "Miley Cyrus" vulgar) are sexually charged. Also, the number nine song, "Stay With Me" (from the album In the Lonely Hour), has been stated by Sam Smith, the artist, to be written about another man.

If teenagers are getting their sexual education from music, it's no wonder the teenage sexual activity rates are so high in America.

Of course, they could also be getting their sexual education from the internet. Covenant Eyes, an internet accountability and filtering organization, found that 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to pornography before 18. 70% of boys and 23% of girls spent more than 30 consecutive minutes looking at pornography at least once. Thirty-five percent of boys had spent more than 30 consecutive minutes watching pornography on more than ten occasions, and 14% of girls had spent more than 30 consecutive minutes on more than one occasion. The content they have been exposed to in the pornography they have consumed includes group sex, same-sex intercourse, bondage, bestiality, violence, and child pornography, in varying amounts. Only 3% of boys and 17% of girls have never seen pornography.

Pornography is certainly the last place we want teenagers to be looking for sexual education. Music, also, is obviously not a safe place for teenagers to get their information about sexuality. The majority of teenagers aren't learning sexual education in school. Parents, therefore, have an obligation to teach their children sexual values.

If your teens aren't learning it from you, where are they going to learn it?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Parent Seminar on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

A date has been set! November 9th at St. John Lutheran Church, we will be hosting our second parenting seminar. The topic for this event will be "Talking to Your Teen about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity". Let me know if you have any questions!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Talking to Your Teen about Premarital Sex, Abortion, and Birth Control

I'd like to thank everyone who made it to the seminar this Sunday! I look forward to seeing even more of you at the next seminar in November (dates to follow soon). For those who weren't able to make it, I don't want you to have to miss out on the topic, so today's post will be on the information and discussion shared in the presentations. I presented on the secular perspectives of these issues, as well as how to guide a conversation with your adolescent, and Pastor Lundquist presented on the biblical perspective on them. For Pastor Lundquist's information, I will simply direct you to the sources he shared with the attendees, so you can look further into it yourself.

Premarital Sex

Being Christians, we are called not to "be conformed to this world," but in order to not conform, we must first understand what this world teaches. A quick Google search will tell you about the prevalence of opinions on why premarital sex is (or should be) morally acceptable. Articles such as "My Virginity Mistake", "I Waited Until My Wedding Night to Lose My Virginity and I Wish I Hadn't", and "I Regret Saving Sex for Marriage" are gaining traction and attention all through society. We can quibble about why this is, but the real reason is that it sounds good. To our sinful natures, that want nothing more than justification for sating our desires.

Articles such as these appeal to logic. They share reasons to have premarital sex such as
  • You need to check your sexual compatibility with someone before you tie yourself down to a lifetime of sex with them.
  • If you don't have sex before marriage, you'll rush into a marriage so you can have sex--and you'll end up married too young.
  • After all those years of sexual repression, you'll have to retrain your brain to think about sex positively.
  • Both personally and with a potential partner, you need to work out sexual issues before you're married.
  • You need practice before marriage to be good at sex.
  • If you think married sex is a magical bonding of two souls, you'll be disappointed by it.

Pastor Lundquist shared information on premarital sex from two different sources. The first was former LCMS President A. L. Barry's "What About" publication on "Living Together Without Marriage". To read this publication, follow this link, scroll to the heading "What About? Series", and download the file titled "Living Together Without Marriage". The second source was the Commission on Theology and Church Relations publication on Cohabitation.

Abortion and Birth Control

Abortion is defined as a "deliberate termination of a pregnancy," and in most US states it is legal up to viability (when the fetus could survive outside of the mother's womb; anywhere from week 24-26). In Wisconsin, abortion is legal up to week 24 gestation. Abortifacients, a term which will be discussed in relation to birth control, are drugs that cause abortions (by preventing implantation or by causing termination of implanted embryo). The prime example of an abortifacient drug is the Plan B/Morning After pill.

From my research, I have found that most forms of birth control can be separated into two categories: potentially abortifacient and non-abortifacient. Under the category of "potentially abortifacient", two sub-categories exist. The first sub-category includes those forms of birth control that prevent pregnancy by first suppressing ovulation and then, if ovulation still occurs, preventing fertilization (the union of sperm and egg). Examples of this first category include implants, the pill, the patch, and the Depo-Provera shot. The second sub-category of birth control works by simply preventing fertilization (prime example being the IUD).

In the case of their intended uses, neither of these sub-categories would be abortifacient. However, some scientists have found that these medications can cause a change in the uterine lining which may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. The medical community is split on whether these findings are true, as the rate of fertilization without implantation has not found to be any higher on these forms of birth control than that which would occur naturally in a woman's body--that is, no statistical evidence has led most doctors to believe that use of the pill, patch, IUD, etc. would cause a woman's body to terminate a fertilized egg that would have implanted were these birth controls not used.

There are, of course, some forms of birth control that are guaranteed not to be abortifacient. These forms include the condom, diaphragm, spermicide, tubal ligation, and vasectomy. When the time comes to talk to your adolescent about birth control, encourage him or her to pray and talk to a doctor before making a decision. 

According to contemporary wisdom, it would be unnecessary to even talk to a doctor about which form of birth control to use. Society--at least the half of it which is pro-choice--does not seem to value life in the womb. The pro-choice movement teaches that people should have access to abortions and all forms of birth control, at least until viability. They give reasons such as:

  • You shouldn't have kids until you're ready.
  • It's not a baby until it can survive outside of the mother.
  • If there's a disorder involved, aborting the fetus saves a child from suffering. Better to kill it now before it becomes a person than to let it become a person, suffer, and die on its own.
  • No one should have to be pregnant from rape or incest.
  • It's a woman's body, and she shouldn't have to do something she doesn't want to with it.
Christians since the 1st century AD have been vehemently pro-life. In the Didache, an early Christian writing rediscovered in the late 19th century, it is stated that the early Church held that Christians "must not...[be] a terminator of unborn children." The LCMS still holds to this position today, as President Barry shared in his "What About...Abortion" publication. To download this, follow this link, scroll to the "What About? Series" heading, and click on "Abortion".

Guidelines for Talking to Adolescents

If you're reading this post, odds are, you already know how important it is to talk to your adolescent about these issues. This shouldn't be a one-time conversation, though. Teens, especially, need to know that conversation on sensitive issues is always open. The more often you talk about these issues, the more "normal" they become, and the more likely your adolescent is to have a healthy perspective on them.

One of the key points in making conversations about sexual issues successful is to make the setting safe and neutral (for you and your adolescent both). If your teen walks in after school with a bunch of his friends, sits down in the living room, and starts playing video games, that is not the ideal time to bring up premarital sex. Another bad time would be when you spent the past half hour yelling at your daughter for her bad grades--she's not likely to want to talk openly about birth control at that point. However, if you're on your way to a Packers game and have a little time in the car (just you and your teen), that would be an ideal time to have this sort of conversation. Having family dinner (which I recommend for a number of reasons) is also an excellent time to have conversations like this.

Along those lines, it is important to have a set time each day that you deliberately connect with and talk to your adolescent. It is vital to set this time, because it shows your teen that you make him or her a priority in your schedule. Of course, just because you have a scheduled time to talk each day doesn't mean you only use that time to talk. When I was growing up, the best conversations I had with my mom were right after school or right before bed--our "scheduled" time to talk. My dad wasn't home as often, however--perils of being a soldier--so we didn't have that time every day. The best conversations I had with him were when he was driving me places, taking me to school or extracurricular activities. Make sure you schedule time, but take advantage of the spontaneous opportunities that arise for conversation, also.

A big no-no when talking to teenagers is condescension. Nothing says "I don't trust you" like treating them like a child, and not being trusted is a guaranteed turn-off for teens. True, at sixteen your daughter isn't a woman and your son isn't a man, but they're not a little kid anymore, either. Acknowledge that they have unique experiences and insights. You don't have to agree with everything they say, but affirm their right to have thoughts and opinions that differ from yours, and listen to those thoughts and opinions. When you listen to them, they are much more likely to listen to you.

Be encouraging of your teen, but be firm with them. They need to know they can talk without being judged. As far as it is possible, try to restrain your emotions while listening to them. Think and pray before every response you make. This may be difficult (especially if your seventeen-year-old daughter admits she's been sexually active for three years--or even three weeks), but it is absolutely vital to maintaining conversation.

You can love your child without condoning his or her actions. When they were three and screamed at you "I hate you" before running into their room and slamming the door, you still loved them. The same principles apply now, even though their actions have more severe consequences.

Be honest with your teen. You don't have to tell them everything, but they need to know you're human. If you don't know the answer to their question, tell them. Then research it together, or look it up on your own and tell them what you found. If you made a mistake you are willing to share, tell them. And if you aren't willing to talk about something, that's okay. Tell them you don't want to discuss it, and if possible, tell them why.

Finally, the single most important key to talking to adolescents about sexual issues is to use the Gospel, not just the Law. No matter what your teen has done, make it clear to them that there is freedom and life in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And don't just talk about the Gospel; live it. When your child confesses to you that they did something wrong, forgive them. Forgiving them doesn't mean you prevent all the consequences, but it does mean that you don't continue to be angry with them.

Sorry for the longer post today! A two-hour seminar is bound to have a lot of information, and I didn't want anyone to feel left out or miss anything.

Thank you for reading! Despite my experience as an adolescent and all my research, I understand that I am far from being an expert in this topic. Parents of adolescents would be the real experts; so those of you with adolescents, please share what your tips are! What works best for you talking to your teens? Am I entirely off the walls? Am I right on the money? Did I miss something big?

Let me know!
God's blessings,

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sympathy in Grief

Last weekend, my internship church and community experienced a tragedy far out of character for the community. A double homicide took the life of one of our members just a few short blocks from the church. While I didn't know the woman personally, she was involved in a couple different groups here, and St. John is devastated.

This woman leaves behind an elementary-aged daughter, and in a better situation, I would be connecting with the family to provide what ministry I can. However, in this situation there are legal difficulties and custody problems that make it difficult to connect with the daughter. Difficult does not mean impossible, however. Pastor asked me yesterday to attend the visitation and funeral today to meet this woman's family, especially her daughter, to offer my assistance in any way, and so the majority of my afternoon will be spent with this family.

Concordia's Family Life program is strong in many ways. It prepares students for life span development, interpersonal communications, faith formation, and almost anything that affects the family. However, there is no class on death and dying. There is no class on how to talk to a young girl whose mother was killed and whose father is unable to care for her. There is no way to teach a student how to minister in a meaningful way to a family experiencing tragedy. How does a stranger even begin to minister to someone going through such a deep and all-encompassing loss?

Thoughts like this have been at the forefront of my mind all week. I have searched for answers in the depths of the internet, in Scripture, in my network of colleagues, and no one seems to know the answer. Speaking to someone after the loss of a loved one is hard enough; that conversation is made doubly hard when one knew neither the deceased nor her family.

That being said, there are few situations in which a Director of Family Life Ministries is more needed than after a death. Through prayer and research, I have found a few guidelines for how to react to my congregation's situation that you may find relevant in yours.

1. Be present. Even if you never knew the family or the deceased, the presence of a church staff member can be incredibly comforting to the person's loved ones. The officiating pastor will be busy with the immediate family and with the service(s). Aside from the pastor (and you, the Director of Family Life Ministries), there may not be another church worker at the funeral or visitation. Whether you can minister to the mother, the best friend, or the second cousin twice removed who hadn't seen the deceased in years, your presence is vital.

2.. Ask for guidance. The best tip Pastor gave me yesterday was to ask the funeral director to introduce me to the deceased's immediate family. The funeral director will have been working with them to prepare for the funeral, and he (or she) will be able to introduce you to the family. 

3. Leave a card. Introducing yourself to the family in the midst of the busy-ness of the funeral and visitation is a guaranteed way to get yourself (and your offer of assistance) forgotten. In addition to speaking to the family directly, leave a card with your sympathies as well as your name, offer of assistance, and contact information. The family may not have the time or emotional capacity to accept your offer right away, but in a few days, weeks, or months, they may find that card and contact you.

4. Don't push. The family is overwhelmed as it is. Talking their ears off is the last thing you want to do, especially if they don't know you. Introduce yourself, offer your sympathies, leave your card, and then (unless they indicate otherwise), step aside. You can remain for a few minutes in case anyone would like to speak to you, but remember that grief, for many people, is a private thing. Once you have offered your ministry, let the family grieve in their own way and their own time.

If anyone has any other tips for similar situations, please leave them in the comments below. Please also say this prayer with me.

Lord, I thank you for the grace and forgiveness that you have offered through your Son, Jesus Christ. One day you will "wipe every tear from our eyes", but until that time, I ask that you would be with everyone affected by the murders in Berlin, Wisconsin. Guide the law enforcement of the community as they continue to search for justice for those families who lost a loved one, comfort the families experiencing the loss, and most of all, be with the young girl who is dealing with the loss of her mother and the separation from her father. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and rescue us from this veil of tears. Amen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

An Ethical Perspective on Masturbation

At first glance masturbation may seem to be an ethically neutral topic. The act of masturbation is completely individual, giving it the appearance of no effect on others, but the biblical and practical implications of the act are actually far more ethically charged than one might believe, and the effects of this private behavior can extend far beyond the privacy of one’s own body and mind. Masturbation can affect one’s relationship with a spouse—current or future—one’s relationship with God, and one’s personal psychological development.

As the ethical implications of male and female masturbation are equal, they will be treated in this discussion as one and the same. However, masturbation within marriage and outside of marriage present separate ethical dilemmas and will therefore be examined separately. Within a marital context, masturbation to any thoughts and images can cause a rift in the sexual relationship between husband and wife. Outside of marriage, masturbation to any thoughts and images is lustful, as whichever person is the subject of the desires is (obviously) not the spouse of the person masturbating.

In Luther’s Small Catechism, the explanation of the sixth commandment says “We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.” As an expansion on how to lead a sexually pure and decent life, we are told to consider sexuality a “good gift of God”. (Luther, p. 79). Also, Luther explains in the catechism that “God forbids sexually impure thoughts and desires” and “requires us to avoid all temptations to sexual sin.” (Luther, p. 81). Masturbation breaks the sixth commandment as Luther explains it, as it often is fueled by “sexually impure thoughts and desires” and always is a sexually impure action, as explained previously.

Some people believe that lustful thoughts toward another person are not sinful as long as the thoughts and desires are not acted on. However, in Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus says,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 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 go into hell.” (The Lutheran Study Bible).

Scripture is very clear in this passage that even the sexual thoughts of a person not one’s spouse is adulterous and therefore sinful.

Pornography, often used for masturbation, is opposed not only in the passage just provided, but also in Psalm 101:3, which says “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.” (The Lutheran Study Bible). Pornography, as it causes lustful thoughts (adultery, in the definition given in Matthew 5) and is “worthless” and “the work of those who fall away”, is also sinful and encourages the additional sin of masturbation.

Many people will argue that masturbation, when not done to thoughts or images of another human being, is not inherently sexual. Grantley Morris, in his article “Masturbation: Moral Quicksand or God’s Provision for Those without Adequate Partners?” had this response:

“Irrespective of what extremes one goes to in modifying one’s technique and one’s thought life to drain the act of sexual overtones, masturbation is still the stimulation of sexually responsive parts of the body. It is not like waste elimination or satisfying hunger, because it meets no bodily need. Moreover, it results in sensual feelings and bodily reactions virtually indistinguishable from those resulting from heterosexual relations. In fact, unlike light petting, it usually involves the very pinnacle of sexual pleasure, even beyond what many a woman experiences during intercourse. As is also the case for sexual intercourse, self-stimulation need not involve sexual thoughts or sights but it usually does, because it falls naturally into the same behavioral patterns as other sexual activities.” (Morris).

Clearly, regardless of the thoughts behind masturbation, it is inherently sexual and therefore has all the relational ethical implications for a married couple that any sexual act with another partner outside of one’s spouse would have. Of those who would claim masturbation is not sexual, Michael Okyere Asante says “The problem is they do not understand the meaning of lust, for when one responds to one's sexual desires in order to release sexual pleasure by stimulating self, it is also lusting.” (Asante).

While one may not consider the biblical arguments against masturbation applicable outside of a Christian context, the act also has practical consequences that leak into sexual intercourse. Those who consider sexual climax but not the other parts of masturbation wrong or immoral may deny themselves climax, leading to lack of responsiveness to stimulation during actual intercourse. Men who have denied themselves sexual thoughts and desires during masturbation under the delusion that it is only immoral when “made” sexual by the thoughts behind it often struggle with premature ejaculation when intercourse is introduced. Also, masturbation can become a compulsion or addiction which extends into married life and can cause lack of attention to one’s spouse,

As Asante’s article “Masturbation: A Christian Perspective” quoted Paul Cook, “The hormones released in the brain during sexual arousal cause a bonding to whatever we are looking at and/or thinking about at the time. This can cause us to be more sexually responsive to masturbation (and its associated fantasies) than to real sex.” (Asante). This responsiveness can cause marital rifts, as one spouse may no longer find sexual fulfillment in actual intercourse but only in self-pleasure. The responsiveness to fantasies can be dangerous in cases of particularly unhealthy fantasies such as anal intercourse, abusive sexual relationships, or immoral ones such as homosexual or incestuous relationships which might become the subject of one’s masturbatory thoughts.

Biblically, the rift caused in marriages by masturbation is strictly opposed in 1 Corinthians 7:1-9:

“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 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.” (The Lutheran Study Bible).

In this passage, Paul tells the Corinthians that it is the duty of a wife to sexually satisfy her husband and the duty of a husband to sexually satisfy his wife. When one spouse masturbates, they are denying their partner the right to satisfy them and also the right to be satisfied. Proverbs 5:18-19 says “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” (The Lutheran Study Bible). Spouses who seek sexual satisfaction in masturbation rather in intercourse with their marriage partner are refusing to “rejoice in” their marriage and the sexual bond that comes with that commitment to one another. This is adultery in the same way that sexual intercourse with another person is adultery, as it is choosing sexual fulfillment by someone other than one’s spouse and therefore failing to fulfill and be fulfilled sexually by one’s spouse.

Finally, God calls us to live with self-control. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 says “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God…” (The Lutheran Study Bible). All forms of lust and sexual sin are forbidden, and we are told in this passage to avoid them and learn to control our own bodies. Jesus said in Matthew 5, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 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 go into hell.” (The Lutheran Study Bible). When one masturbates, one is giving in to the passions of the body and refusing to exercise control. We have been freed from these passions by Jesus’ sacrifice of himself and therefore are no longer slaves to them. In Romans 6:13-14, we are told, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are free to exercise self-control and no longer have to “present [our] members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness” such as lust, adultery, and masturbation.

In conclusion, masturbation in all contexts is unethical. Outside of marriage, it is wrong as it can be due to lust for others not one’s spouse, and it sets unrealistic and sometimes immoral expectations for a future spouse. Within marriage, masturbating to thoughts or images of someone who is not one’s spouse is wrong because of two reasons: one, it is lust for another, which is immoral, and two, it is causing a sexual rift in the relationship. Masturbating to thoughts or images of one’s spouse is morally unacceptable because God has commanded that husband and wife are to fulfill each other’s sexual needs and not withhold from one another.

Works Cited
Asante, Michael Okyere. " Christian Living - Masturbation: A Christian Perspective." Faith Writers, 23 Aug. 2010. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. <>.

Luther, Martin. Luther's Small Catechism, with Explanation. St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1991. Print.

Morris, Grantley. "Masturbation: Moral Quicksand or God’s Provision for Those Without Adequate Partners?" Masturbation: For the Sexually Deprived or the Sexually Depraved? Compassionate, Biblical Insights into a Moral Dilemma for Born Again Christians., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <>.

The Lutheran Study Bible: English Standard Version. Saint Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 2009. Print.