Adolescence 3 / Young Adulthood (v2)
So we have spent the last couple of articles talking about the adolescent phase of human sexuality and how that is an important phase of sexual development for young people as they need the development of not just their physical bodies, but also their sexual organs, or reproductive systems. In singleness, of course, the reproductive aspect of these systems is not being utilised. However, in marriage, the reproductive aspect is also not being utilised, and it then becomes a question of the other purposes of a person’s sexual organs outside of reproduction, and how this can be realised in singleness while maintaining sexual purity and a personal Christian faith.
In a marriage the sharing of each other’s physical bodies is an act of physical and spiritual intimacy that also involves God. In singleness, aside from the involvement of God in one’s everyday life, essentially one is sharing one’s body with oneself. In other words, the act of masturbation for a single person is a means of sexual expression and fulfilment because they don’t have another person in their life to share that physical intimacy with. Religious legalists and conservatives often charge that masturbation is purely a selfish act of physical pleasure and cannot be compared in any way with the act of sexual intercourse between a husband and a wife in holy matrimony. It is true that masturbation cannot be the same as sexual intercourse because it only involves one person, but in that act, the person is learning how to be intimate with his or her self. In the act of sexual intercourse between two people, each of these people is learning about what makes the other person tick at the time when they are sharing their bodies together in bed, and that is what constitutes physical intimacy between two marriage partners. Sexual intercourse between two marriage partners can also be a selfish act of physical pleasure for both of those people. So while masturbation could be purely about physical pleasure in a selfish way, it can also be a time where that person who is masturbating is learning how to be sexually fulfilled in the time of singleness and be prepared for being sexually fulfilled in a future marriage.
We’ve entitled this part both about adolescence and young adulthood because today’s focus is on the development of sexual maturity for a young person that will usually parallel the development of physical maturity. At the beginning of their adolescence they will have only the immature knowledge that their bodies need this physical pleasure through touching themselves and that will be about all they will be focusing on to start with. For the larger percentage who do not have a Christian faith, masturbation will end up having a sinful focus as it becomes consumed in sexual lust, adultery and pornography. However, for a godly teenage girl or boy, staying focused on the principles of their faith will eventually see masturbation become more about an awareness of sexual fulfilment of their physical bodies, in particular their sexual organs. It is important that this becomes a key focus of masturbation for singles as they need to be focused on something during masturbation and it absolutely cannot be another person because that would bring sexual sin (idolatry or adultery) into the situation. Sexual fulfilment is a Godly blessing for Christians to be able to achieve and when a single Christian young woman or young man is achieving sexual fulfilment in a godly way, which may encompass other activities apart from masturbation, they are worshipping their creator. Masturbation is an act of sexual fulfilment for a single person because it is a recognition that their sexual organs are designed, amongst other things, to produce pleasure when physically touched or caressed, which eventually leads to an orgasm. In the act of masturbation, the goal is not solely the achievement of that pleasure, but the recognition that the pleasure is the reward received for achieving the orgasm, which is the primary means of sexual fulfilment for a single person. It is important for a Christian single person to focus masturbation in the context of achieving this sexual fulfilment on the assumption that it is a legitimate godly desire of their personal life and that it is an expression of their sexuality that is wholly in accordance with the way they were created by God and are expressing their love for Him in acts of worship.
What is an important aspect of adolescence for both males and females is how masturbation can contribute to their sexual development. We believe that masturbation is a very natural and normal thing for either a boy or a girl to discover during adolescence, and that it should be supported and encouraged for Christian adolescent boys and girls to masturbate as much as they need to in order to learn about the sexual aspects of their bodies during the time of puberty when there are such major changes taking place in their bodies. The important focuses for both Christian boys and girls at adolescence that should be emphasised in sex education by their parents is that masturbation is healthy and can be used within a framework of godly boundaries to make a positive contribution to a life of faith and maturing into a faithful Christian adult whose life is deeply pleasing to God and is suited for acts of service in life whether married or single in adulthood. Therefore there can be more to masturbation for Christian boys or girls during puberty than just physical pleasure, but as mentioned elsewhere, with limited understanding of sexuality early in adolescence, physical pleasure will tend to be a predominant factor, whereas as adolescence progresses, especially with the influence of ongoing Christian faith, the knowledge of a godly purpose of sexual development will become more important.
A very important aspect of sexual development for girls or women in particular is related to our changing theology that has tended to follow the development of gender roles in society. There is still so much condemnation of females inherent in complementarian theology practised in many churches. Christian egalitarianism has made inroads into much of this, but is still only recognised by a small number of larger churches, and has as yet no counterpart to purity culture (“True Love Waits”, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and other moralising publications and programmes that urge women to repress their physical desires and portray them as sexual objects for godly men to possess and use). The best thing that could come out of our work is that we have produced an egalitarian counter-culture to the damaging puritianism. We do want to state at this juncture that we believe women and girls are in the same position as men and boys in being able to make their own decisions about when, how and how often to masturbate, as a personal matter between them and God, or between them, a spouse and God. Women do have a greater range of physical means of stimulation of their genitals compared to men, as well as being able to orgasm multiple times in a single masturbation session, and have a shorter refractory time between multiple masturbation sessions. No adolescent or adult woman should feel condemned in any way, for negative implications or suggestions such as that she is too young to be masturbating, that she masturbates at a high frequency, that she prefers to insert a toy or fingers into her vagina, or that she uses both hands to stimulate her vulva, or likes to suck on her own nipples. We believe none of these issues are inherently linked to sinfulness; we only suggest that men or women who masturbate read the list of gotchas in Part B of our Masturbation For Christians 101 Series. For any Christian adolescent or adult women, masturbation need only be focused on godliness and personal devotion to God to be in support of a lifestyle of sexual purity.