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Positive Protestant beliefs on masturbation

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Protestant beliefs accepting masturbation:

We have not found any biblical verses which deal directly with masturbation. Still, when this section of our web site was first written in 1997, all of the Protestant web sites dealing with the topic severely condemned the practice. Some even taught that masturbators would automatically end up in Hell.

Since then, some moderate voices have emerged within the mainline and conservative Protestant community: 

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Acceptance by mainline Protestant groups & individuals:

bullet There is no reason to be fearful, guilty or...concerned:
Pastor Paul of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Atlanta, GA wrote:

From my point of view, masturbation only becomes a problem if you are doing it so often that you hurt yourself (bruising or making yourself irritated) and/or you no longer desire a healthy sexual sharing with the person you love. In other words, it replaces the sexual act with your partner in life. If you are finding yourself preoccupied with masturbation and or the material that generally goes along with it then I would say you have an issue to deal with. Otherwise, you sound like a healthy man to me who is concerned that what you do is OK with God. The fact you are concerned about sharing your sex life with the one for whom you love is something I wish there was more of these days.

However, saving yourself for your husband is about not being with any person other then your husband either before or after. While most would not admit it, masturbation is practiced even during the marriage. In fact, masturbation is one of the tools we have for saving ourselves for that special person with whom we will live and maintain our life with. So, my dear child of God, while many in the world may be shaky, fearful and guilt-ridden with an act that everyone does--there is no reason to be fearful, guilty or all that concerned, morally, ethically, or spiritually. 5

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Acceptance by Fundamentalist and other Evangelical groups & individuals:

bullet Masturbation is OK as long as it is done with the right fantasy:
New Man, an Evangelical Christian magazine, published an excerpt from Richard Dobbins' book "Teaching your children the truth about sex." 8,9 Dobbins notes that "nationwide surveys indicated that about 55% of all 13 year-olds, both boys and girls" and more than 80% of of 15 year-olds masturbate. He emphasizes the importance of parents talking to their children about the practice because so many are confused and troubled by it.

He writes: "
Openly discussing masturbation and sexual fantasy with your teens will help them avoid the explosive damage sexual misbehavior can bring." His prime concern is that the youth, during masturbation, will use either pornographic pictures or fantasies involving a specific person. Their brain will train itself to link the sexual stimulation with the fantasy that they use. This can cause a need for pornography to be carried over into their married life. However, if they direct a fantasy towards their future spouse, "...then there is nothing morally wrong with it." For the teen, "The spiritual issue is the fantasy accompanying the activity, not the activity itself."  He suggests that the parent:]
bullet Inform their child that sexual fantasies are a normal part of puberty.]
bullet Teach that for a teen to Involve a specific person in their sexual fantasies before becoming engaged "will devalue that person."]
bullet Warn them about the dangers of using pornography or mental images of specific persons to stimulate their sexual excitement.]
bullet Teach them that, while masturbating, they should fantasize about making love with their future spouse.]
bullet Explain that they should ask God for grace, if needed, to overcome feelings of guilt.]
bullet Neither condone nor condemn masturbation.]
bullet Review their own experiences during their teen years.
bullet Masturbation is not much of an issue with God:
Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, a Fundamentalist Christian advocacy organization, has written:
"It is my opinion that masturbation is not much of an issue with God. It is a normal part of adolescence which involves no one else. It does not cause disease. It does not produce babies, and Jesus did not mention it in the Bible. I'm not telling you to masturbate, and I hope you won't feel the need for it. But if you do, it is my opinion that you should not struggle with guilt over it. Why do I tell you this? Because I deal with so many Christian young people who are torn apart with guilt over masturbation; they want to stop and just can't. I would like to help you avoid that agony." 1

See also a Q&A section in the Focus on Your Child web site. 2

bullet Masturbation in and of itself is not wrong:
Gerald Coates writes:

"Compulsive masturbation, simply for the purpose of self gratification, with other people in mind is wrong. .....But masturbation for the purpose of self control is something altogether different. The act in and of itself is not wrong. When someone is under pressure to the point of distraction, whether single or married, it is often better that they relieve themselves - for at that point no mental stimulation is necessary." 3

Coats has been severely criticized by other Evangelicals. 7 His views on masturbation may be atypical of conservative Protestants.

bullet Christians should not condemn masturbation:
Dean & Laura VanDruff write:

"Since scripture does not forbid masturbation directly, neither should Christians in general. 'Nothing beyond what is written' in terms of how we should help lead others to the Lord is the rule....We should stick to emphasizing the things God has told us are important, and not be teaching things that the Lord has never expressed His opinion on.....Sex was not created for this, you can be sure. That God allows masturbation to even work is a mystery (ever try tickling yourself?) and so it is reasonable to assume that it is a 'gift' to keep ourselves from temptation.... masturbation, never forbidden by God, can be used as one of the ways that we can 'learn to control our bodies'; not by inflaming the body with pornography or fantasies so that it can be done too often, but in using it to keep ourselves from dangerous, physical temptation when it can (rarely) be done without sinning in any way." 4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. James Dobson, "Preparing for Adolescence - Straight talk to teens and parents," Regal (1979). Believed to be out of print.
  2. James Dobson, "Challenges in the Teen Years: Masturbation," Article, Focus on the Family, at:
  3. Gerald Coats, "Kingdom Now," Kingsway (1993). Believed to be out of print.
  4. Dean & Laura VanDruff, "Masturbation: A Sin for Christians?," Acts 17:11 Bible Studies at:
  5. Paul Turner, "Seeds of Hope: What does the Bible say about masturbation?" Gentle Spirit Christian Church, at:
  6. Ra McLaughlin, "Self Abuse?", Third Millennium Ministries, at:
  7. Neil Richardson, "Unmasked: Gerald Coates," Christian Witness Ministries, (2001) at:
  8. Richard Dobbins, "Time to talk about the M word," New Man magazine, 2006-May/June, Pages 29 to 32.
  9. Richard Dobbins, "Teaching your children the truth about sex," Siloam Press, (2006). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book

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Copyright 2005 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-DEC-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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