Why do married men masturbate? This is a question that I’ve been thinking about for most of my marriage. I see a lot of arguments on both sides of the fence but the Bible isn’t explicitly clear on the topic, so that leaves me with logic, as I’ve always loved this quote:
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.-Galileo Galilei
Let’s look at some stats on masturbation
According to a Kinsey Institute survey, 72% of respondents said they used porn to masturbate. So let’s look at some porn statistics in Christian circles.
- In 1996 a Promise Keepers survey at a stadium event revealed that over 50% of the attending men were involved with pornography in the last week. You can bet that number is lower than reality as most people wouldn’t admit it. Plus, this is only in the last week.
- 37% of pastors say that porn is a current struggle.
- Over half of evangelical pastors say they have watched porn in the last year. (Scary, eh)
- IN a 2000 Christianity Today survey, 33% of clergy admitted to having visited a porn site. Of those, 53% have visited these sites “a few times” in the past year. 18% visit porn sites between a couple of times a month and more than once a week.
- 57% of pastors say that addiction to porn is the most sexually damaging issue to their congregation (Christians and Sex Leadership Journal Survey, March 2005)
- 29% of born again adults in the U.S. feel it is morally acceptable to view movies with explicit sexual behaviour (The Barna Group)
- 47% of families say porn is a problem in their home (Focus on the Family, October 1, 2003)
Why are we discussing porn? Well, because if they are watching porn, you can bet they are masturbating. But, now let’s look at some masturbation stats:
A survey of 600 Christian men by Dr. Archibald Hart revealed:
- 61% of married Christian men masturbate.
- 82% of these have “self-sex” on average once a week, 10% have sex with self 5-10 times per month. 6% more than 15 times per month, 1% more than 20 times a month.
- 13% of Christian married men said they felt it was normal.
At a poll at The Marriage Bed forums, over half the men said they were having sex with their spouse once a week or less.
Data into knowledge
In the above survey by Dr. Achibald Hart, we see 61% of Married Christian Men masturbate (wives, take a look at your husband, over 50/50 chance), and only 13% of them feel it is normal. That means that 53% of all Christian married men are masturbating and don’t feel it is normal. Take another look at your husband if you are a wife there is a 50/50 chance he’s masturbating and doesn’t feel it’s OK, so he might not be sharing it with you.
Again, in the survey by Dr. Hart, if you add the figures up, 60% of married Christian men are having sex with themselves once a week or more. While in the marriage bed poll, over half the men said they were having sex with their spouse once a week or less. Who wants to bet that a large overlap of these is the people who are having sex with themselves as often or more than with their spouse?
Now, if 53% of all Christian men are masturbating and not feeling ok with it, and over half of the men at the Promise Keepers convention said they have watched porn in the last week, that sort of adds up to a scary Venn diagram with a major overlap. I posit that a very large majority of these Christian men are masturbating while watching porn.
What does the Bible say?
As I said, there are none that explicitly talk about masturbating, but I think we can find some applicable verses:
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.Matthew 5:28
If you are masturbating and thinking about someone other than your wife, this is adultery. Plain and simple.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.Ephesians 5:3
Now, the standing that masturbating is sexual immorality is weak, so I’m not going to argue that one here. But I will argue that a lot of men are masturbating out of greed. They are taking what they want where they can get it instead of where God designed your sexual energy to be focused (a man’s wife).
Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.1 Timothy 1:18-19
Here Paul tells Timothy to hold on to the faith and a good conscience. As we saw earlier from the stats, most men who are masturbating do not have a clear conscious about it.
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God;1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
And a call to control yourself, to not be overtaken by passionate lusts.
But, I think the largest argument is not an explicit verse, but rather the overriding message of the Bible with regard to marriage and sexuality. You should devote 100% of your sexual energy to your spouse. That means when you are unmarried, you don’t expend sexual energy. Otherwise, by doing so, you are cheating on your future spouse. We call this fornication. When you are married, focus all your energy on your spouse. If you don’t, we call this adultery. So, if one is married and masturbating alone, focusing his sexual energy on something other than his spouse (porn or an idealistic version of his wife, or just focusing on his own pleasure), then I’m going to call that adultery, and the Bible is very clear on that.
Now, I say this in all love, having struggled with all this before. I have a 15-year history of porn addiction, from my teenage years through most of my marriage. There were times I could not perform sexually because I had already masturbated too many times that day. There were times I avoided sexual encounters because I was worried my wife would realize I was being sexually active without her. And at all times I was hiding something from my wife.
The damage this causes a relationship is not measurable, but it is substantial, even if you wife is not aware of it. If she is aware, the damage is greatly increased.
So, I understand that some people will still think masturbation is OK, that there is no harm, that it’s not adultery, it’s not sinful and they are doing it without lust, so who is it harming? Talk to your spouse about it, see if you are harming them by masturbating. If your spouse doesn’t know, then I submit that you are lying to them by not telling them part of your sexual activity.
The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.1 Corinthians 7:4
Your body is not yours alone to do with as you like or feel, and if you are using it in a way they do not approve, I believe you are breaking the spirit of this verse.
Why do married men masturbate?
In short, I think there are three reasons.
- Ignorance – They don’t realize what effect it might be having on their marriage
- Selfishness – They know but don’t care, they are just chasing an orgasm
- Addiction – Some are addicted, and they need help. Loving, but firm, help.
Do you know of any other reasons?
P.S. Since writing this post, I’ve received a bunch of other questions about masturbation in marriage. You might be interested in these:
- Is masturbation a sin?
- Why masturbation is a problem, whether you’re married or single
- Is Mutual Masturbation OK for Married Christians?
- Mutual Masturbation Survey Results
- If masturbation is sinful, what do you do if you don’t orgasm during sex?
- What Is Your Opinion Of Solo Masturbation Due To Separation?
- Is masturbation for medical reasons okay?
- What do you do if you suspect your spouse of secretly masturbating?
- My Husband Admitted To Masturbating, How Do I Get Over The Hurt?
- Why does my low-drive spouse masturbate?