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Talking to Your Child About Masturbation

While the Bible is silent about the subject of masturbation, it is not silent about sex.

By Dennis Rainey

One of the biggest mistakes we can make on the subject of masturbation is to be silent and not discuss it. Most young men, especially, will deal with this issue, so the more information and understanding they have, the better.

Obviously, masturbation can also be an issue with girls. As with boys, real relationships—not fantasy—are the goal. Self-stimulation may be increasing among women because of messages from the culture like, “Do this yourself. You don’t need a man.”

With boys this subject has to be broached by Dad and honestly discussed (Mom should discuss this subject with girls). It’s worth mentioning that some highly respected Christian leaders have varied beliefs concerning this subject. I would differ with some on this issue. Let me explain.

Over the years, I have been reticent to take a strong stand on issues that are not clearly spelled out in Scripture. The Bible is silent about the subject of masturbation. However, it is not silent about sex. Nowhere in Scripture do we find God blessing sex done in solo.

Four observations are worth noting and discussing with your child:

Masturbation betrays the natural function of the sex act as God created it. Sex was not created for a solo, but a duet. God gave us sexual urges to move us to deeper intimacy and unity in marriage with the opposite sex.

Masturbation is primarily focused on self, while sex in marriage is focused on the other (see 1 Corinthians 7:3-4). Why would God want us to spend our single years after puberty learning how to use this gift to satisfy ourselves when the nature of sex is to seek to find the way to satisfy your spouse? There’s already enough selfishness in this culture that needs to be eradicated.

I believe the higher road is to teach our sons and daughters to learn the discipline and self-control that will have to be practiced as a single person, and later in marriage when refraining from sexual intercourse (due to illness, separation because of work, mutual agreement, etc.).

Masturbation can and often does lead to other forms of behavior—lust, use of pornography, sexual addictions–that are destructive both now and later in the marriage relationship. Marriage isn’t a fantasy; it’s a real relationship with a real person who won’t always measure up to your dreams. Because the fantasy nature of masturbation and other sexual sins are so closely related, I would have grave concerns about telling my son (or daughter) that these forms of sexual behavior are okay, because I would have no way of knowing where that practice might lead him.

The biblical prescription to singles who are struggling with sexual lust and temptation is to marry, not to masturbate (see 1 Corinthians 7:8-9). Paul here could have provided physical relief for those who lack self-control and burn with unmet sexual needs, but instead he points them to marriage.

I can’t help but wonder if the huge problem of pornography that we have in the Christian community has occurred in part because we haven’t trained our sons to develop self-control in their thought lives and passions.

Fathers need to strongly encourage their sons (and mothers need to encourage daughters) to abstain from masturbation. We also need to be ready to offer generous amounts of grace and forgiveness if our children fail.

Adapted from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.

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