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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Shame on Top of Shame: Why Pornography and Masturbation Are Not Just a Man’s Problem

Shame on Top of Shame

Janet’s Admission

Janet sheepishly said to me, “I want to tell you something, but I don’t want to say it…”  She sat on my counselor’s couch, held a pillow over her face, and just sat there.  I gently prodded her for a few minutes, and then she came out with it:  “I struggle with masturbation.”

Awkward as it was, I’m glad she was honest with me (Ephesians 5:8-14).  She has struggled with masturbation for a long time, but hasn’t ever told anyone.  It begs a question—why hold on to this secret?

Debbie’s Admission

Debbie had come to see me because her life was a mess.  Every other sin she had committed was common for a twenty-five-year-old female, but one sin was much more difficult to admit.

“I struggle with pornography.”

Surprising?  Not really.  With the rising tide of pornography, this vicious plague from the internet grows daily.  And understanding the nature of sin, we’d expect men to struggle with pornography much more often because men are visual by nature.  But women?  Women are relational.  Do they really struggle with pornography, too?

The plain reality is YES.  A growing number of women struggle with pornography, but it is painful to admit.  Again, it begs the question—why?

A Man’s Sin

Pornography and masturbation are often talked about in our culture as a man’s sin.   Guys struggle with it.   Books, articles and blogs are written about men addicted to it.  TV shows and real life often make guys the villains.

That’s one reason why it is so difficult for women to admit struggles with pornography and masturbation.  It’s thought about, talked about, written about as a man’s sin.   Supposedly women’ don’t struggle with sexual sin in the same way that men do.  But I’m here to set the record straight—that’s just downright false.  Women struggle with these sins, just like men do.

Pornography and masturbation carry with them a high degree of shame.  But for women, you need to pile shame on top of shame because women supposedly don’t struggle like men do.

Picture a woman who struggles with pornography or masturbation who goes to church. The pastor or Sunday school teacher teaches a lesson about sexual immorality, and warns the men in the room about sexual sins.  Yet, she sits there, all the while, wondering if she is an odd-ball because she struggles with these sins, too.  She thinks: “There must be something wrong with me because he’s only talking to the men.”

So it becomes harder for women to admit and harder for women to overcome because there is twice as much shame.  Women aren’t supposed to struggle with these things.  But sadly, they do.

An Important Caveat

While pornography and masturbation are often both a problem for men, for many women, there is only a struggle with masturbation.  For these women, the goal has nothing to do with using others by viewing people on-line, but more about using their own body to bring self-gratification.   You look inside their heart and often you’d find loneliness, boredom, a desire for anxiety or stress-relief, dreams about marriage, anger, and lust.  For some, add to this a distorted craving for the physiological effects of masturbation; they are hooked on the sheer pleasure that comes from arousing one’s self.

What are You (A Woman) To Do If You Are Struggling?

First of all, if you are a woman and you struggle with these sins, find an older, godly woman at your church (Titus 2) and confess these struggles and get accountability.  (If you can’t find an older, godly woman in your church then seek out a mature Christian female friend.)  As hard as it is to admit, the first step in fighting sin is to bring these things into the light.

Second, ladies, consider how Jesus loved the shameful.  Do you remember how he cared for the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), the blind beggar at Bethsaida (Mark 8),  blind Bartemaeus (Mark 10), many others who were sick (Luke 4), those suffering with severe seizures or paralyzed (Matthew 4), and some covered with leprosy (Luke 5)?   Just like he cared for them, he also cares for you.  There is no shame that Jesus can’t overcome.  God’s grace is a grace that transforms, even the most shameful.

Run to Jesus.  Confess Your Sins.   Turn to him and trust him.  As one of his children, you get to associate yourself with him, regardless of the guilt, shame, regret, and pain.  You are not alone.  Run to the Savior who can cover up your shame so you no longer have to feel exposed.

This entry was posted in People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Pornography, Sexual Purity, Women/Wives and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 
  • Searchingtruth

    Is masturbation without pornography always addictive or always a sin? For a man whose wife is living in another country for many months and who masturbates while thinking about her or talking to her, is it a justified practice? I’m not trying to justifiy myself but I don’t want to feel unnecessary guilt.
    Thanks for your comments.

    • Responder

      Searchingtruth, I think you raise a good question.

      I think there are some situations it is obviously sinful to masturbate. If you are being lustful and masturbating thinking about women other than your wife that is clearly sin. If you are masturbating rather than engaging your wife, that too is a sin.

      Your situation, being physically separated, is one area that is more complex and less clearly a sin. Most of the good brothers and sisters I know who would say masturbation is sinful say this is so because sex is designed to be the mutual giving and receiving of a man and woman, within marriage, to each other. They say masturbation goes against the design of God for sex, as it makes sex self-centered and self-focused. I pretty much agree with this position. I also think masturbation by spouses who are physically separated is not sin within certain guidelines.

      In the case of spouses physically separated here’s what I think 1-these spouses are still supposed to not burn with passion and be fulfill the sexual desires of their spouse, 2-there are some ways spouses can still come together to give one another sexual satisfaction and pleasure in a way that glorifies God, 3- masturbating together via skype is a way to give yourself to your spouse (and vice versa) and meet their sexual desires so that they/you do not burn with passion, 4-you can seek to please and delight in your spouse through masturbation together online or even through recorded videos, photos, etc (as opposed to masturbating purely for your own pleasure and satisfaction). I think its fair to say masturbation with your spouse on a webcam, over the phone, even watching a video they record for you on a webcam or phone, is not the same as self-centered or lustful masturbation.

      I think masturbating with your spouse, or even with your spouse in mind, when physically separated, is qualitatively different than masturbating lustfully or choosing not to find delight in your spouse. This also allows for the situation that if you are not able to masturbate together at the same time you can still delight in each other and seek to please each other by telling each other you enjoyed each other, how they pleased you, etc. Again, if masturbation is done lustfully, by yourself when you could physically engage your spouse, or with only the focus to please yourself rather than please and delight in your spouse as well, then I think masturbation is a sin. But if you are seeking 1-to give yourself to your spouse, 2-delight in your spouse, 3-be pure for your spouse, and 4-are seeking to obey the command not to burn with passion by delighting in your spouse by coming together sexually as much as is logistically possible then I dont think thats wrong or sinful. I actually think thats probably wise for most people.

      Practical experience, I think, lines up with this theological position too. While I was separated physically from my wife for an extended time because of work I think attempting to be intimate with my wife on skype was very important to be able to let my spouse be the source of my delight and fulfillment and protect me against lust and burning with passion.

      I may be wrong and I’m open to hearing other thoughts but thats what makes the most sense to me at this point.

      • Sammy Watinka

        All your talk of “sin” and “god” is just laughable.

    • Greg

      Without clear instruction or warning in the Bible, it is my personal opinion that masturbation is a scruple, or matter of conscience, in a similar sense that some issues in the Bible are literally considered “conscience dependent”—i.e. to some believers extremely offensive, and yet to others perfectly acceptable (e.g. Romans 14:5-8).

      What is clear is that it should never include lust (Matthew 5:28), nor should it be more important than God in our lives (i.e. a form of idolatry), or become an addiction that controls us. Is it possible that lust or fantasy about a particular person are the impetus for it? Yes, and that is clearly sin. But it is also possible to masturbate without lust when the focus is genuinely on the sensations and for the purpose of release rather than fantasizing about a particular person. Providing that lust isn’t part of it (and that requires each person to be 100% honest with themselves and God), masturbation provides a means of relief and release from ongoing sexual tension that is otherwise a very real challenge and frustration for the single person. For some people (and I suspect this is a greater challenge for women) fantasy is much harder to wrest from masturbation, and so it becomes a sinful temptation. I understand that many Christians disagree with this viewpoint, and I respectfully agree to disagree with them.

      Contrary to what some may believe about men, nocturnal emissions (or “wet dreams”) do not serve as a “natural” release for sexual tension, because for many men, they are very rare and unpredictable.

      What about its impact on marital intimacy? Being a virgin, I obviously have no idea what it’s like to make love with a spouse, but it’s obvious that, on its own merit, masturbation drastically pales in comparison to all that sexual and emotional intimacy in marriage entail and provide. It is obviously no competition (and should be no threat) for marital intimacy. If it is impeding intimacy in marriage, it is because there are deeper relational issues between husband and wife that need to be addressed.

      Ultimately, God is looking at the heart of the person as to how and why it is used, and each of us are accountable to Him for our thoughts and actions.

    • http://twitter.com/MzAgape Sonya L. Williams

      This is why its so important to not only know what the word of God says but to also recognize God’s voice. There will always be a variety of opinions on whether masturbation is a sin or not but when comes down to it what does God have to say about it? Just as the men who wrote the bible heard from God, we too as (wo)men can hear from God too. In your quiet times, ask God do give you clarity on if it is His will for you to do such a thing. From my own personal experience I can tell you that its possible to abstain from all sexual behavior during any type of separation if your heart is to please God. When you are truly fulfilled by God, its not as difficult to wait. Yes we all have weak moments but keeping in mind that the real thing is so much better, its worth the wait. I agree that men/women’s struggles are similar but most of the time women struggle more in their emotions than in their flesh. Personally, my desire simply for male companionship was always a greater issue than my desire for sex. So the struggle may be quite different man vs woman but at the root of it all, when we’re not fulfilled by God and how He pleases us, we’ll always seek something/someone else to fill that void.

  • Carey Green

    I think the point about the psychological draw of masturbation goes for men as well. It’s not only about the “using of others” through pornography (though yes, that is there too). Men get hooked on the “comfort” of the act just like it is being suggested is true of women. To me that makes the point of this post more powerful… women and men’s struggles with the issue are very, very similar.

  • Sue

    “Supposedly women’ don’t struggle with sexual sin in the same way that men do. But I’m here to set the record straight—that’s just downright false. Women struggle with these sins, just like men do.” thank you…there is no help or hope for those who in bondage to secrets. Christ took our shame for us.

  • Pingback: Resources for Counseling Porn Addicts | Beggars Daughter

  • Greg

    “…understanding the nature of sin, we’d expect men to struggle with pornography much more often because men are visual by nature. But women? Women are relational.”

    I would have added “in general” to each of the above to avoid yet another myth–that no women are visual by nature, or that no men have the capacity to be tempted in both visual and relational aspects. It’s true that MOST men are visual, and MOST women are relational; but there are a number of women who–by their own admission–are as tempted by visuals as any man alive.

  • MariaR

    I am also curious why the acts of masturbation and pornography are the actual focus. These seem to be symptoms of something deep going on.

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