I readily admit that this question, which was posed by a respondent to our survey on vibrators, is outside my job description. But within Christian circles, to which I belong, it’s one of those nettlesome issues that continues to raise questions—and hackles—on both sides of the fence. So I tread lightly on this topic.
However, as a doctor who treats women during periods of significant hormonal transition that can drastically affect their sex lives and thus their intimate relationships, I have a vested interest in the topic. In my practice, I preach that masturbation, whether with a partner or alone, is an important part of a sexual regimen that keeps tissues healthy and desire alive.
For older women who are single, and who aren’t ready to give up on the possibility of another sexual partner, masturbation is an important way to retain the ability to have sex at all. As we’ve said before, it’s the old use it or lose it conundrum.
For many women of every age, masturbation is the only way they can achieve orgasm. That’s just a physiological fact. Another fact is that most people masturbate. Children masturbate. So do adolescents. So do adult men and women. A lot of them just feel guilty about it.
Prohibiting female masturbation and calling it sinful and repugnant effectively prevents a whole lot of women from ever achieving orgasm at all, and, given enough time, can disallow that nice 60- (or 70- or 80- ) year-old widow from ever having a sexual relationship again because she will lose the vaginal capacity to.
I really wonder if this is God’s will or a very labored and human interpretation thereof.
In order to make sense of this sticky wicket and at the risk of venturing outside my dog run, I did a lot of reading and absorbing of various viewpoints about how the Christian church views masturbation.
Unsurprisingly, opinions were all over the map, from the official and completely unambiguous statement in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (“…masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered act”) to the broad and nuanced perspective of some Christian writers and pastors.
I’ll start with the most uncontroversial point, the fact everyone agrees on: the Bible says nothing… nothing… about masturbation, either for or against, which is an enlightening fact in its own right, given that Biblical authors rarely avoided opining on any number of human activities.
The most common objections to masturbation seems to circle around a concern about entertaining lustful fantasies while masturbating and about its connection to pornography, a concern about sexual addiction, and a concern about its isolating and self-absorbing qualities when sex is ideally an act of sharing and communion.
Because of these concerns, Christian ministers were more likely to label masturbation as sinful.
Since I’ve opened up this can of worms, let’s dig in more deeply in the next post.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.