On a sexuality blog, it should be no surprise that I would eventually get around to discussing masturbation. There are heated opinions all along the continuum from “What's the big deal?” to “Never, never, no, never!” I realize that I'm wading into potentially deep water here.
So what better way to face a possible tidal wave than with a friend? Thus, Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage and I have decided to pair up and deal this touchy topic (no pun intended). We'll brace ourselves and try to withstand the undertow together. We are answering the same nine questions regarding masturbation to see if we can enlighten this subject a bit.
Remember that both Julie and I come from a biblical point of view, but we hope to speak to couples from all backgrounds. My moniker is simply “Me” and my answers are in red, and Julie Sibert is listed as “Her” and her answers are in purple. (Or simply remember that she's the smart one and I'm the snarky one.)
Is it wrong for a married person to masturbate?
Me: First off, I'm going to not allow my love for Cyndi Lauper and the dance-inducing rhythm of “She Bop” to sway my answers (she was good in concert!). That said, I don't believe that is always wrong to masturbate. The purpose of sexuality in marriage is reproduction, intimacy, and pleasure.
While masturbation does nothing for reproduction, it can be incorporated by a couple for intimacy and pleasure. Unfortunately, most masturbation by married persons is not lending itself to those goals but rather hindering or replacing healthy sexuality.
Her: It depends. I’m not just riding the fence on this issue. I truly do believe it depends. There are circumstances where it would definitely be wrong for a married person to masturbate.
In particular, it would be wrong if they are doing it to withhold sexually from their spouse, if it has become an idol on their heart or it has become addictive, if they are doing it while visualizing someone other their spouse, if they are doing it while viewing pornographic or explicit material, and/or if they are doing it secretly – meaning they are purposely hiding the activity from their spouse.
Additionally, if one spouse has specifically asked the other spouse to not masturbate, then it would be dishonorable, hurtful and disrespectful to ignore this request, in my opinion.
So obviously there are reasons – many reasons – when it would be wrong for a married person to masturbate.
Are visualization and fantasy always part of masturbation?
Me: I have heard through the grapevine that men cannot climax without conjuring up a visual image of a woman. Yet, my two direct sources of information (thanks, guys) say that it is difficult but not impossible. Moreover, is it a problem if the husband is imagining his wife?
I think it's definitely possible for a woman to masturbate without thinking about a specific guy (yes, gals get to it as well). However, women may imagine another man without a specific picture in their head – like words another man said or that titillating thing the hunky guy in the romance novel did when he brought the main character to climax.
Yet, if visualization and fantasy are a part of masturbation, they must focus on the marriage partner, not the muscle-rippling actor or curvy actress in the last movie you caught.
Her: Usually when people have strong opinions against masturbation, this is one of the main arguments they stand upon – that it is impossible for someone to masturbate without visualizing someone else.
This usually then is translated that the visualized fantasy involves a person or people other than one’s spouse (or that it always involves the viewing of pornography).
I understand the concern, but I question the absolute nature of the argument.
In other words, I think there are plenty of women who would argue they could masturbate without thinking of anything but the pleasure itself (Yes, women masturbate). And while I do think fewer men would be able to say the same thing, it’s a stretch to say it’s impossible that a man cannot masturbate without visualization.
And the argument totally disregards the possibility that a married person masturbating could be fantasizing about their own spouse in a completely healthy and honoring way.
For example, is it wrong for a man away on business to masturbate while fantasizing about his wife, who he loves and adores? I don’t think that’s wrong, especially if they’ve had open discussion as a couple and have found that masturbation in these circumstances strengthens their closeness.
Are there circumstances in which masturbation would be beneficial to a marriage?
Me: Knowing that plenty will disagree, I say yes. Self-pleasure can be incorporated into a couple's lovemaking; for instance, a husband may penetrate his wife while she stimulates herself and the result is an orgasm they both enjoy greatly. That increases, not detracts, from intimacy and pleasure.
Also, couples apart from each other for long periods of time could talk to each other by phone and use sensual flirtation and self-stimulation to mutually enjoy a time of sexual pleasure. Be careful to ensure privacy with phone sex, though; if your darling kid listens in on the other line or discovers a suggestive picture of mommy on daddy's cell phone, you might find it easier to converse about quantum physics with your children than the inner workings of your marital life.
Her: Absolutely. Certain guidelines, though, need to be met first.
For one thing, a couple needs to agree that they both are comfortable with when and why the masturbation is happening, that it is not being done to withhold from a spouse or as an excuse to get out of having sex, and that it truly does endear the couple to each other – not cause distance or strife in the relationship. For great insights on this, definitely trek over to Mrs. Gregoire’s post.
I cringe when I hear a wife suggest something along these lines… “Well, I just assume he take care of it himself. That way I don’t have to have sex with him.” Yuck. This clearly would not be an appropriate use of masturbation, because it is doing nothing to endear the spouses to each other.
I can, though, think of circumstances where masturbation is a positive part of a marriage. What about when a couple is separated by military deployment and either spouse masturbates while fantasizing of their spouse who is far away? What about in the latter stages of pregnancy, where sexual intercourse is uncomfortable and a couple incorporates masturbation into their intimate time together?
I definitely think there are circumstances when masturbation can be beneficial to a marriage.
For answers to What if my spouse cannot adequately bring me to orgasm during lovemaking? Does masturbation have a place during sexual intimacy? and Is it okay for someone to masturbate while their spouse watches, if this is acceptable to both of them and is a turn-on? click over to Intimacy in Marriage.
Thanks so much to my lovely friend, Julie, with whom I have chatted about mommyhood, baseball, and most definitely sexuality! Both of us have a passion for passion – that is, we want to help marriages by addressing sexuality openly and honestly and helping husbands and wives foster marital intimacy.
Be sure to stay tuned for Part 2 at the same hot time, same hot channel on Thursday!