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Why masturbation is a problem, whether you’re married or single

Jay Dee

Why masturbation is a problem, whether you’re married or single

Jan 26, 2016

There were some people who were … let’s say disgruntled … by my podcast episode last week where I shared my views on solo masturbation.  Many argued that there’s no reason single people can’t masturbate.  So, I thought I’d write a post in response and

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Why masturbation is a problem whether you're married or singleThere were some people who were … let’s say disgruntled … by my podcast episode last week where I shared my views on solo masturbation.  Many argued that there’s no reason single people can’t masturbate.  So, I thought I’d write a post in response and expand upon the ideas I shared.  Of course, you’re welcome to believe as you wish, but at least then you know my reasons, instead of having to guess at them.

There are three basic reasons why I think it’s a bad idea.  One theological, one physiological, and lastly, one psychological.

Theological reasons against masturbation

So, let’s get this one out of the way first, because it’s likely to cause the most arguments.  As people are thrilled to point out, there are no verses in the Bible dealing with masturbation directly.  Yeah, I’m perfectly willing to admit that.  I find it a strange argument, since Christianity is rife with things that are not directly spoken of in the Bible.  Some I believe are correct, like the Trinity, some I believe are incorrect, like child baptism, keeping Sunday instead of a Saturday Sabbath, and ordination (just to step on everyone’s toes equally).  Something being spoken of directly, or not, in the Bible doesn’t seem to be a case for doing or not doing something.

Instead, what I think we should do is look at the aggregate and see what that points to.  And so, in the Bible I see healthy sexuality as something that is shared, shared only with one’s spouse, and must be carefully guarded in order for it not to become a sin.

Some will argue that masturbation is God’s way of providing release for men (in particular), but then in the same argument they’ll typically cite that if you don’t, you’ll have nocturnal emissions, which to me seems to be the natural “safety valve” if one is needed.  So, that’s not much of an argument in my books.

Some will say that God always provides a way out of temptation, and masturbation must be it.  However, that doesn’t seem to be in line with the Biblical teaching of self-control, of character building, of strengthening your will and relying on God’s perfect will power when ours falls short.

Ultimately, I believe our sexual experience is a precious thing, and intimate thing, and something that is intended to be shared with our spouse, and them alone.  When you exercise your sexuality without your spouse, you cheapen it, you dilute it.  You make the experience with your spouse less special.  Less unique.  But, that’s my opinion based partially on the physiological reason.

Physiological reasons against masturbation

I was sent a paper this week from a reader, who shall remain anonymous, who was defending masturbation.  In this paper, he wrote this:

Yes, sharing sexual activity with your spouse is first and foremost about the emotional and spiritual connection.  It isn’t just physical.  There IS a bond that occurs when you have sex with someone, even if you aren’t married to them! (1 Cor 6:16)  It is called “pair bonding” and it fuses your soul together with someone.  This is why sex isn’t to be taken lightly.

But that is if you are engaged in the sex act with another person.  


This is a separate act from masturbation.  Masturbation is about feeling the relaxing and enjoyable feelings of an orgasm.  It is also about experiencing sexual release when you feel the need.  […] This doesn’t take anything away from your marriage or the sexual relationship you have with your spouse.  What you share with your spouse isn’t just a physical experience.  What you share with your spouse transcends the physical experience.  It includes the physical in the process, but it is more than just physical.  It is a joining together of your bodies and your spirits.  In masturbation, you aren’t joining to anyone.  They are two completely different experiences.  

The only way masturbation would take something away from the marriage would be if you were only masturbating and never coming together with your spouse.  

He’s right, “sex is about more than just the physical act”.  However, sex includes a lot of physical stuff that goes on.  While you may or may not be able to “pair bond” with an activity, masturbation does still release the same chemical cocktail including oxytocin and dopamine.  The dopamine in particular helps rewire your brain.  Now, when you’re having sex with your spouse, it helps teach your brain that sex with your spouse is good and you want to do it again.  However, the same happens when you masturbate.  You train your brain that this is good and fun.  It also comes with a lot less work involved.  After all, you don’t need to think about anyone else, you don’t have to be concerned about their pleasure, you can stop as soon as you’ve had an orgasm and enjoy your orgasm high.

So, your brain sees this and recognizes that you can get this dopamine and oxytocin with a lot less expenditure of resources.

For single people, they get used to this.  There’s no one else to worry about, there’s nothing to compare it to, and so many get years of training their brain to be used to having sex on their own.  As a result, we have a lot (and I mean a lot!) of sexually selfish newlyweds.  Don’t tell me they don’t exist, because I get emails from their spouses regularly.

There’s also the concern that you can train yourself to only be able to orgasm from your own methods of self-induced orgasm.  More and more men are finding when they get married that they can’t orgasm from sex.  For some, they’re just unused to a partner.  For others, they’re used to a firmer grip than a vagina can realistically offer.  For others they say “it’s too wet”.  I get emails from all these types, and from their new wives who are devastated, thinking they are the problem.  Now, women often have the same struggle, but since the female rate of orgasm from intercourse is so low, it’s hard to say what’s from masturbation, and what’s from other influences, or even just natural.

Now, physiological patterns can be overcome with time.  People do it.  They learn to enjoy sex; they learn to appreciate their spouse.  Honestly, it usually doesn’t take that long learn (though it can).  The bigger risks, I think, are the psychological reasons.

Psychological reasons against masturbation

As I mentioned before, one of the largest issues is learning to be selfish as a sexual being.  When you masturbate, you train your mind to think “I can have this whenever I want, as often as I want”.

Now, many people say that married people shouldn’t masturbate, but it’s okay for single people.  Let’s think through this.  You spend, potentially, years as a single person, learning that orgasm is on-demand, as it were, and then suddenly you get married, and you’re supposed to suddenly stop.  Except your body has been used to a steady supply of dopamine, a highly addictive hormone that tells your brain that you just did something exciting and good.  And now, all of a sudden, you are required to wait until the other person wants to have sex too.

And it just doesn’t work.  I have literally communicated with hundreds of spouses who find out years later that their husband or wife has been hiding a masturbation addiction for years.  The top 2 posts on this blog for the last year are Why Do Married Men Masturbate and My Husband Admitted to Masturbating, How Do I Get Over The Hurt?. Together, over 95,000 people last year read those posts.  My podcast episode Why Do Married Men Masturbate was the most listened to in the first day, almost 200 people, and I don’t think most of them were thinking “Oh, I wonder what he’s going to say”.  Most listened because they were hurting, they were struggling, they had questions, they’re ashamed, they’re feeling guilty.

For many singles, who are used to masturbating, when they get married, they can’t give it up.  It’s too hard, especially if their marriages are struggling, and most marriages are, unfortunately.  Ultimately, masturbating becomes an easy exit.  It’s a release of the tension in the relationship, it’s just easier to masturbate than to deal with the issues at hand.  You get your dopamine fix, some oxytocin, and you feel okay, for a while anyways.

Sadly, I also sometimes see spouses who prefer their husbands or wives masturbate.  Why?  Because it takes the pressure off of them.  They aren’t interested in being their spouse’s sexual outlet.  They don’t want that intimate of a relationship.  It’s a bother, or they don’t want to deal with their hangups, their baggage, their pain.  So, they tell their spouse to go “help themselves” and leave them alone.  It hurts too much to dig into those old wounds.

And many listen.  They resign themselves to that, because that’s what their spouse wants.  They give up and just say “yes dear”, and off they go.  Now, it’s marginally better than having your spouse tell you to go have an affair, but not by much.  It still is the same message.  I don’t care enough about you to be your sexual partner, go be your own partner.  It’s reminiscent of being told as a kid “Go play by yourself, I don’t want you as a partner”.  Except, it hurts more, because this is from someone who promised to always be your partner, until death, and because sexuality is such an intimate and private thing.  This stabs at our core.  It’s sexual, and emotional, abandonment.  And worse than that, it’s manipulative, because they trick their spouses into believing that masturbating is ultimately selfless, because it puts less strain on them, when in fact, it’s a synthetic, a bad copy, a counterfeit to what marriage and sexuality should be.

Look at the comments on the podcast episode.  It’s full of people who have given up.  They aren’t trying, they aren’t fighting for their marriages, they’ve just decided that masturbation is how they’re going to survive until they, or their wife, die.  Not only that, but they’re angry that I suggested there might be something better.  They’re, not happy, but content, to stick with masturbation as a replacement for a healthy sexual relationship.

But, if you could take masturbation out of the picture, suddenly there’s new incentive to fix the relationship.  For couples that come to me for coaching, those that struggle with this issue, I ask if they’re willing to institute a new rule in their house.  We call it the “In me or on me” rule.  In short, the husband (I’ve only gotten husbands addicted to masturbating so far), is only allowed to ejaculate in his wife, or on her.  That may sound crude, but it works.  The caveat is that she has to be available (within reason), whenever he’s feeling the need to orgasm.  I mean, he can’t interrupt dinner with the family to go get his fix, or pull her out of church, or something like that.

But, what happens is amazing.  Suddenly, orgasm is not on-demand, it’s fairly readily available, but not as quick as just jumping into the bathroom for a minute.  He has to wait occasionally.  He learns he has some willpower after all.  As well, his wife is always present, which means that he now is “pair-bonding” with her, even when it’s not “sex”.  Lastly, many wives realize…it’s kind of arousing, and so the next time he wants to masturbate, she asks for sex instead.  After all, she wants to feel good too.  I’ve had couples go from sexless marriage to frequent sex, almost overnight.  It’s absolutely awesome to see unfold.  These men never want to go back to masturbation again.  It’s not worth going back.  The wives, are ecstatic as well.  They suddenly have a husband who’s putting all his sexual attention on her, and they know their husband’s aren’t going anywhere else to get their sexual needs met.

As my reader wrote in his paper, “Masturbation is about feeling the relaxing and enjoyable feelings of an orgasm.”  It’s only about making me feel good when I want it.  It’s a very selfish habit and addiction.  But, masturbation and sex, as he says, “are two completely different experiences”, and I agree.  They will have two completely different effects on your marriage as well.

So I’m going to continue telling people not to masturbate

Because, I believe it’s based on solid biblical principles (even if not a direct, specific verse), because of how it affects your brain, your body, and because I’ve seen too many marriages hurt by the practice, and I’ve seen too many healed by stopping.  I’ve even had interactions with couples who say they don’t mind that their spouse masturbates, but by the end of our conversations, they’ve realized that it’s been making them selfish, that it’s been detracting from their relationship.  They go on to find a new level of relationship they weren’t able to get to before, because they weren’t 100% focused on each other sexually before.

So, if you are masturbating, I challenge you to stop.  I challenge you to put all your sexual energy into what matters.  I challenge you to stop being selfish.

If you have questions about masturbation in marriage, you might be interested in these:


37 Questions for spouses to ask each other about sex

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22 thoughts on “Why masturbation is a problem, whether you’re married or single”

  1. Dan says:

    I click the ‘thank you’ and it wouldn’t let me also click the ‘agree’.

    I agree with you 100%. For every reason you’ve stated and more.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Thank’s Dan. I’ll click agree for you 🙂
      ….or not. It won’t let me click agree either. Guess I’ll go figure out why.

  2. J says:

    Agree. I hope I was not one you were referring to having “given up”. The podcast I was standing on both sides of the fence in the stance of whether it is sinful. When it comes to whether it is good for a person…no. it’s not. It can be viewed as selfish in ways, I see it more as lonely. In my case in the past it could have been a bad developed habit/porn, or the result of a marriage where there is total veto power held by my spouse and high refusal rate/low initiation rate. Sometimes I’m not sure which one caused what.

    The reality is is that masturbation belittles yourself, what you mean to other people in this world, and those relationships. When done because there is a lack of sex, it lowers confidence. It also leads to loneliness, you meeting your own needs that way, isn’t even meeting the need. There is no intimacy desire or love involved. Question is…how do you come back from this?

  3. Kay says:

    I sure hope the writer sees your post here, Jay. He wrote: “The only way masturbation would take something away from the marriage would be if you were only masturbating and never coming together with your spouse.” WRONG WRONG WRONG. As I’ve written a number of times before, I have a three day rule, which means that my husband and I never go more than three days without some kind of sexual encounter, usually more like every other day. So my husband’s masturbation was not “interfering” with us, but it was nevertheless wounding me DEEPLY. How could I ever be enough for him? Even now, though I believe he has stopped after we both decided to find our satisfaction only in one another (never alone), Satan still uses his past actions to cast doubt–both in my adequacy as a wife and his trustworthiness. I believe your post is spot on. There are NO beneficial reasons for masturbation in marriage. My heart breaks for the refused husbands who feel they have no choice. I hope they take your advice to heart and refuse to accept and cover for their spouse’s sin through masturbation.

    Just out of curiosity, what do you wish you had done differently during the time your own marriage was struggling sexually in this area? You may have written about this before; I’m still pretty new here. What do you regret the most–about your actions? What impact did that have on your marriage and how did you overcome this? Have you written about what happened to cause things to change between you and Christina? Her “sexual awakening,” as other sites call it? Or was it your own actions that instigated change? I’d love to hear more about your story. Feel free to simply direct me to past blogs (or I will try to poke around here more one of these days); I don’t mean to create more work for you here.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I sent him the link, but to be honest, I don’t think he really read it. His response made it sound like he just skimmed over the post and missed the main point.

      You can lead a horse to water…

  4. Abiel Olalekan says:

    This site has been helping me to know some biblical facts.

    Please, i want to know if sex during early pregnancy or towards ending of pregnancy is allow?

    What can i do? my wife did not like sex at all and i like sex………….. I see it as a big challenge in our marriage

    How many times is it okay to have sex in a week?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Yeah, sex in pregnancy is certainly allowed unless there are medical complications and your doctor has specifically told you not to. In fact, some women find sex during pregnancy better thanks to the increased blood volume (which aids in arousal).

      As for your wife not liking sex, that’s a huge topic. Does she not like it because it doesn’t feel good, or because of bad teachings regarding sex, are there medical issues (like pain), or meds she’s on that lowers her sex drive? Was she abused as a child? How is your relationship besides sex? There’s no “one size fits all” answer I’m afraid. No magic pill.

      As for how many times a week you can have sex. There’s not really a limit. I know there are couples who manage over a dozen times a week (though that’s quite rare). Most would be happy with 2-3 times per week if you’re looking for an average.

  5. Happily Married Wife says:

    Here is my question. My husband and I are married 25 years. He is a truck driver, home most weekends, but sometimes only home once every two weeks. We have a VERY active ans adventurous sex life when he’s home 3x easy on friday/sat/sun. When he’s gone, we both miss each other physically and emotionally. We do a lot of “texting” and “talking” 😉 back and forth at night. I love when he describes what he is doing to himself, and I tell him what to do. I LOVE hearing him masturbate to completion, and he does the same to/for me. Sometimes we even send pictures to each other during our sessions. Now there’s are days I tell him no, don’t finish (usually Thursdays), I want you to be dying for me when you get home. This is a way we have been able to stay close to each other both physically and emotionally… We have a lot of fun with it, especially when we tell each other what to do… Is this type of “solo” masturbation wrong? I also never had a problem with him needing to “relieve himself” while on the road, when we couldn’t talk… I still have kids home and sometimes, “talking” isn’t really feasible. It would seem that you would believe it was wrong to allow him and I to do that…am I reading that wrong?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Yes, and no. I have written about mutual masturbation, which is what you seem to be describing when you talk, text, send photos, etc..

      On your own complete…yeah, I wouldn’t suggest it, but that’s opinion. You’ll have to make up your own mind.

      If you like, I have posts on the subject here:
      Mutual Masturbation Survey Results
      Is Mutual Masturbation OK for Married Christians?
      Is masturbation a sin?
      What is Your Opinion of Solo Masturbation due to Separation?

      In short, I think it being a shared experience in the key.

  6. Sarah says:

    I’ve been married for 15 years and until recently had 1 orgasm. My husband and I had tried everything, positionso, toys, oral sex and honestly I was just annoyed by it all. After 10 years of marriage I took the plunge and tried masterbation…. fail proof. My husband suggested that we do it together but, yeah… it was awkward and uncomfortable. I prefer to be alone and have my privacy and I honestly don’t fantasize about anyone as frankly I’m not aroused by a visual of anyone. Recently my husband shared that he’s no longer cool with it so basically I’m resigned to not experiencing orgasms……I know that marriage isn’t fair or 50/50 but I just feel that this is a non- negotiable… I wrong

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I would urge you to try it again. I completely understand that it can be awkward and uncomfortable the first few times, but that’s only because it’s new. You can achieve the same thing together and then the feeling will be much better because you won’t be conflicted about compromising your marriage.

      It took us quite a few times to be able to achieve orgasm while mutually masturbating together. Give it time and be patient. Most things are awkward and uncomfortable the first time.

  7. lazer says:

    I once wrote a high ranking popular TV preacher well respected and asked him about masturbation,
    He said God will not condemn you for masturbation. You may lose or forfeit gifts and kingdom inheritance but will to be condemned especially if you repent and try not to do so.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      That’s an odd thing to say. On the one hand he says God won’t condemn you, but on the other hand he says you have to repent and try not to do it. Which is it? Either God is against it or He isn’t.

  8. lazer says:

    continued -So either when I’m out and about look at women with lust or “purge my system “and then – I’m clear. I don’t have head or mental issues, or all the things the married people -happy in bed telling me what it does to you physically. Most people on sites saying not to masturbate are happy in bed lots and lots and lots of sex in their life so of course they will say such things.
    This just gets things out of the way so I can ignore women for the first part I’m nice to them but treat them just like one of the guys, ,and move on in life. Women has always hurt me in all my past so for me they hold such very little value.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      If you have no regard for women, then please don’t get married.

  9. David says:

    Christian wife left (divorced) me. The desire for sex doesn’t just suddenly stop so solo sex it is

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I’m sorry for your loss. I 100% agree, the desire for sex wouldn’t suddenly stop in most cases.
      However, just because you have a desire for sex, doesn’t mean it needs to be met.

      Two of the fruits of the spirit are patience and self-control after all. It’s nothing anyone wants to hear, but the truth is sex is not a need for survival.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I have a healthy normal relationship and masturbate. That said, millions of people do it and lead healthy supportive relationships, are doing fine. If you hang your hat on a theologian belief then yes you might think its wrong based on another persons opinion written a zillion years ago but that’s Theology. Theology is another “persons” writings embraced by group think, written and passed around as fact. Fact is 80 of the Catholic Church masturbates and a lot of people have happy successful marriages. I believe you’re wrong on this issue but that’s just my normal human heathy opinion supported with real time data from millions of healthy normal people. (no I’m not going to post the zillions of data points, cause we could and it would be an endless discussion) Very unfair to claim masturbation is wrong when in fact it’s normal. Again, you’ll state its not, I’ll state it is, you’ll post some study, I’ll post the opposite study.. Mine will be based of real time facts as will yours (with a touch of theology).
    Neither side will end up taking a position of “winning” both will dig in with supportive facts.. If you want to take a little private time and masturbate in private do so, it’s human, it’s normal, just don’t let your desire over run your life. similar to drinking, to eating, to exercise, to becoming a “hoarder” and collecting junk. Those are all example of excess, MODERATION is fine, if people over eat and become gluttons should we ban all eating to save everyone? no, just teach moderation not absonance.
    again, folks its normal, healthy, and we will always have a difference of opinion.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Right, an appeal to the people fallacy. “Everyone is doing it so it must be good”. Not a good argument. The rest is anecdotal and hard to prove – do they healthy supportive relationships? Would they be healthier and more supportive without solo masturbation? You can’t answer those, so that doesn’t help your argument or mine. Likewise, I think citing the Catholic Church as an example of the moral high ground, particularly when it comes to sexual immorality is … well, not a good yardstick in my book. And as you said, there are conflicting studies.

      Anyways, I don’t hand my theological hat on someone else’s belief, certainly not one from “a zillion years ago”. I developed it on my own. In fact, I remember the first time I heard about the argument against solo-masturbation, and I rejected it out of hand simply because I believed as you did – that it’s natural and everyone does it. I grew up being taught solo masturbation was fine thanks to organizations like Focus on the Family. It wasn’t after I grew up, did my own research, spent some time thinking about it and researching sexuality and personal development (as well as biblical principles) that I recognized the lie.

      Now, the argument of moderation is interesting, because moderation is only good when we’re talking about good things, which you’ve made perfectly clear you can’t pose a solid argument for solo masturbation being good that can’t be easily countered. I posed several arguments, none of which you refuted and you haven’t been able to show that solo masturbation is good except by simply stating it “a priori”, which is another logical fallacy. So, then the moderation argument is useless because no one would say heroin or cocaine or murder are good in moderation. Those things we do teach abstinence from, and I think we’re better off for it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    You’re correct David, many of these comments our shame driven and that’s just sad masturbation is normal healthy activity.

  12. Anonymous says:

    It is clear from the Bible that God’s original design was that the two should become one flesh. It’s also biblically clear that solo sex falls short in that aspect, thereby making it inferior, as you correctly point out. What kind of marriage is it when solo is the preferred mode?However to translate inferior as sinful is merely an inference in contrast to the clear biblical condemnation against the conjoining into one outside the marriage relationship. While inference is an important tool in studying the Bible, it carries numerous hazards if taken too far. Do you have any thoughts on one preacher who said single people should not read Song of Solomon as it could trigger solo cravings? To me it seems no part of the Bible should be off limits to anyone.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I would argue it’s not only inferior but contrary. Solo masturbation not only misses out on benefits in the marriage but also works against the marriage. Not praying is inferior to praying. Praying to another god is contrary.

      I like the idea of saying the Bible shouldn’t be off-limits to anyone, but the truth is, we tend to limit certain things. For example, we ask new converts to read John rather than Revelation. We tell Children the stories that are fun and exciting, not the ones that involve killing women and children, or a bunch of men while they’re incapacitated due to being circumcised. I don’t remember learning about David dancing naked by the fire as a child or Lot’s daughters having sex with their father. As well, there is the counsel in Song of Solomon itself not to awaken love before its time, which may be a warning. So, I can understand the stance.

      However, I think it’s the wrong approach. We have a tendency to tell solo people that sex is bad, dirty, terrible, etc. and restricting single people from reading Song of Solomon goes along that same path – that sex is bad. I think we should do a better job of teaching people that sex is amazing and that they should find a spouse to have it with. So, no, I don’t think I would restrict that from single people. In fact, I think there’s a lot of good lessons in Song of Solomon for people before they get married about how married sex actually is, the pitfalls and the joys, so that they don’t have a romanticized view of it going into marriage.

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