A reader has asked whether masturbation within marriage is sinful, following my Blog post of earlier this week - 'An intimate gift for Hubby'
My view on this issue is as follows:
The scriptures are silent on the topic of masturbation, with no explicit or analogous references to the practice. Genesis 38: 3-10, the Sin of Onan, is sometimes claimed to purport that masturbation is sinful, but this interpretation is incorrect. After Onan's brother Er was slain by God, his father Judah told him to fulfill his duty as a brother-in-law to Tamar, by giving her offspring. However, when Onan had sex with Tamar, he withdrew before climax and "spilled his seed [or semen] on the ground", since any child born would not legally be considered his heir. So God slew him. His sin was therefore not the spilling of his seed, but rather his disobedience to God by refusing to fulfil his obligations under the law - he was happy to have intercourse with Tamar, but he refused to allow her to become pregnant.
We thus need to apply our own judgement in deciding whether masturbation is an acceptable practice.
My view is that for married couples, masturbation is harmful where it negatively impacts your intimate relationship with your spouse, for example where associated with the use of porn, where you would rather masturbate than make love with your spouse, or where excessive masturbation takes away your ability to make love with your spouse.
Masturbation involving your spouse, for example masturbating together, watching each other masturbate, sharing phone or FaceTime sex when separated by work or other travel commitments, etc is not in my view sinful or harmful to your intimate relationship. Rather the opposite, it can be very arousing.
A slightly more contentious area is married people masturbating without their spouse involved. My view here is that this is again okay where it does not negatively impact your intimate relationship with your spouse, as described above, where it does not involve the use of porn, where any accompanying fantasies are of your spouse and are not prompted by lusting after someone else, and where your spouse knows about and is comfortable with the practice.
Related Blog posts:
Talking to your children about masturbation
An intimate gift for hubby