This post is focused on talking about masturbation. It’s written for parents, especially scared parents, about how to talk to boys about masturbation.
I learned about masturbation probably the same way other guys did: I discovered it on my own. No one talked to me about it. No one told me how to do it. I didn’t even have a name for it for the first several years of my adolescence. It wasn’t included in any “sex talks” from my parents or the public school system. It wasn’t until I heard a group friends at school joking around about “jacking off” that I discovered that I wasn’t all that unique in my secret habits.
When boys get to the age where masturbation becomes a habit linked with lust, how can Christian parents address the subject? How can parents begin talking about masturbation with their sons?
In my last article, I addressed the subject of younger children and masturbation—specifically when no lustful fantasy is involved.
In this article I’ll be addressing how to talk to boys 11 and up about masturbation. The exact age when boys begin engaging in lustful fantasy varies from child to child, so this is a guideline, not a rule.
Nervous about having sex talks with your son? Check out our course Having the Talk for more tips and advice about talking to your kids about sex.
(As I stated in my last article, I’m well aware that women and girls also masturbate, and yes, daughters should receive education about this as well. I’ve deliberately chosen to focus on boys in this article because (1) I am a man, and (2) I have four boys and no daughters.)
Talking About Masturbation and Ejaculation
As I said in my previous post, going from the Merriam-Webster definition of masturbation, we are talking specifically about the stimulation of one’s own genitals in a concentrated manner that often leads to orgasm. Even young boys can masturbate to orgasm, but pre-pubescent boys will not be capable of ejaculation.
One study states that on average boys experience their first conscious ejaculation (called “semenarche”) at 12.9 years old. Other studies state the average is a little older: 13 ½ years (± ½ year). For most American boys, semenarche is a result of masturbation (as opposed to a nocturnal emission or “wet dream”).
In retrospect, most boys feel unprepared for their first ejaculation because they were never instructed about it beforehand. Most boys experience a mix of emotions, often great pleasure mixed with a desire for secrecy, and one study concludes that this is because it is socially taboo and most parents don’t have any intention on talking to their sons about it.
Parents, be forewarned: Talking about masturbation with your son means getting comfortable (or pushing through your discomfort) about saying words like “orgasm,” “arousal,” “ejaculation,” “erection,” and “semen.” If you cringe at the thought, you must reset your thinking. These are not “dirty” words. Your boys need a language for their experiences, and if you don’t provide them with that language, they will learn it elsewhere.
Masturbation and Lust
For some men, masturbation is not an act associated with fantasy. Dr. Doug Weiss says there are some who masturbate and “stay connected” to themselves and only concentrate on the physical activity itself. They don’t “escape” into fantasy. For most pre-pubescent children, this is what masturbation is often like—unless they have been sexually abused or shown graphic pornography. However, for teens and pre-teens, sexual fantasy is the driving force of masturbation most of the time.
Surveys show that boys remember beginning sexual fantasy (beyond just attraction) shortly after turning 11, on average.
While the Bible says nothing about masturbation as an activity, it has a great deal to say about sexual lust. For parents, this should be the focus of our conversation for boys.
Boys should understand: Masturbation is—more often than not—the bad fruit of a bad tree. Even if the desire to masturbate a specific moment isn’t tied directly to a lustful thought, it is often the result of many instances of lust throughout the day. If boys feel an overwhelming desire to masturbate, they need to look at how they handle the issue of lust.
Biblical Definition of Lust
In the Old Testament, the term most often translated “lust” is the same word translated “covet.” In fact, the 10th commandment, which forbids coveting, draws out a possible sexual application: “you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Deuteronomy 5:21).
In the New Testament the Greek word often translated “lust” is epithymeō, and at its root it means a strong craving or longing for something. When it is used to describe sinful longings, it can refer to cravings for evil things, but more often than not it refers to an inordinate desire—even a desire for good things.
Sexual desire is something created by God and therefore good. Lust is when that good desire becomes inordinate: when we begin to crave sex in a covetous way. Joshua Harris’ short definition of lust hits the nail on the head: “Lust is craving sexually what God has forbidden.“
Jesus is clear that lust, like all sin, is hell-worthy. “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
Teaching Point #1: Attraction is Not Lusting
When you begin talking about masturbation to your son, please remember that it is important to help a boy understand the naturalness and goodness of sexual attraction. It is the way God created him.
The Song of Solomon is full of poetic examples of a married man enjoying the physical beauty and body of his wife. This book is called “the song of songs” (1:1), meaning “the best song of all”—it was Solomon’s greatest poetic achievement, inspired by God to show the place of sexual love in marriage. Young boys need to understand this: their attraction to girls is something God wired into them, something He delights in because it is part of His creation.
At the same time, boys also need to develop an appreciation, not just for the goodness of sex, but the power of sex. Just as sex creates and maintains a powerful bond between a man and woman, sexual attraction is a powerful force. It should never be underestimated—and mixed with our sinful hearts, it can easily be twisted into lust.
Teach this truth to your son: Attraction is not lust, but it can easily become lust. Sex is good. Sexual attraction is good. Lust is evil. The point of distinguishing between sexual attraction and lust is that we do not want our sons harboring false guilt, always mistaking their attraction to girls as a bad thing. The point of distinguishing is not, however, to create an easy way for our boys to rationalize lust as “just attraction.” He needs to know lust is real, his heart is deceitful (Hebrews 3:13), and lust can be very ensnaring. When he experiences physical or emotional attraction, he should learn to embrace this rule of thumb: appreciate a girl’s attractiveness but be watchful of your sinful heart.
Teaching Point #2: Lust is Idolatry
Lustful fantasy, at its heart, is like a sexually-charged mental movie. Boys cast their latest crush (or crushes) as the leading lady in the movie of their minds. In that film, the woman plays a certain roll and reads the script she has been given.
These mental movies come in all types—from elaborate romantic comedies to low-budget pornos—but if boys are honest with themselves, the main character of these films is not the woman. The main character is the boy himself. At best, the woman is a supporting actress to the heart of the fantasy. The person who takes center stage is the boy who is fantasizing: he is lead actor, director, writer, and producer. The woman is there to attest to his attractiveness, his irresistibility.
In his book, It’s All About Me: The Problem with Masturbation, Winston Smith notes that this the sinful nature of lust: turning someone into an object that revolves around you. Lustful fantasy is creating a you-centered world that plays to your desires for pleasure, power, or control.
Smith likens lustful fantasy to playing god. “No matter how widely your fantasies may vary, in every instance you play god with people. You reduce those made in the image of the true God to mindless robots who serve your whims.” This is the heart of the problem with sexual fantasies: they train the mind to be self-focused, pleasure-seeking, and escapist, the exact opposite of a life that does all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Idolatry is at the heart of lust. Paul draws this idea out:
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Notice what Paul is doing: he is going from the more overt and outward sexual sins and moving to the sins of the heart. He starts with habitual sexual immorality (such as adultery, prostitution, or fornication), moves to evil desire (a strong craving), and then covetousness, which he calls idolatry.
When talking about masturbation, teach this truth to your son: Lust is offensive to God because it is self-idolatry. Do this by identifying with his tendency to lust: chances are, you can relate to the above concept of sexual fantasy. Dissect your own sexual fantasies in front of your son—not with an emphasis on graphic details, but with an emphasis on how your fantasies are self-focused and self-absorbed. Say to your son, “This is one way our sinful hearts are guilty of idolatry. Instead of making God our greatest joy in life, we escape into an imaginary world in our minds where we are the most important thing, and we use images of the opposite sex in our minds to make us feel important or loved or attractive.”
Follow this truth with grace: While it may feel good to get a girl’s attention in your imagination, God’s favor is so much better. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44). What helps us not escape into the fantasy of lust is resting in the reality of God’s approval. In Christ, we have been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and given every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3-10). Don’t escape into fantasy. Escape into the reality of God.
Teaching Point #3: Lust Robs Women of Their Dignity
Christian men are called to treat “older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:2). If we were to follow the lead of our porn-saturated culture, we would say, “Treat older women as cougars and younger women as ‘barely legal.'”
Again, the distinction between attraction and lust is key here. For boys, noticing a girl’s attractiveness is as normal as the day is long. What matters is if they allow that attraction to turn to a strong craving through gazing, fantasizing, and objectifying.
Boys need to learn that woman and girls are creatures created in God’s image, and they should be treated with dignity and respect—even in a boy’s mental life. Lust robs women of that dignity. When they find themselves heading down the mental trail of lust, they need to learn to take their thoughts captive.
Teach this truth to your son: That girl is somebody’s daughter. She isn’t just the next actress in your fantasy: she is a human being, created in the image of the Creator of the universe, who has passions, goals, dreams, and purpose.
Teaching Point #4: Lust is Unmanly
I appreciate John Piper’s excellent definition of what biblical manhood is, in his book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper
This is what we want for our boys as they grow into mature men:
- We want them to honor and prize the women around them, not be patronizing or authoritarian.
- We want them to accept the responsibility of servant-hearted leadership, not taking what they can get from others.
- If they get married, we want our boys to become strong and tender lovers, not forceful or impotent.
- If they become fathers, we want them to take the lead in their homes discipling our grandchildren.
- We want our boys to see Christ not just as their Savior, but as the ultimate example of what humble, self-sacrificing men are meant to become (Philippians 2:6-8).
Contrary to what our culture might say about manliness, lust is a movement in the opposite direction from mature masculinity. Nothing about lustful fantasy trains a man to honor women, to serve unselfishly. Lustful fantasy makes a man feel like a man without requiring him to be one.
When talking about masturbation, teach this truth to your son: Imagine yourself 10 or 20 years from now. What kind of man do you want to become? Do you want to be the kind of man who sees women as objects that serve your desires? Or do you want to be the kind of man like Jesus was: a man of self-sacrifice, love, and power?
Three Principles. One Verse.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22
This single verse should be the mantra of every growing boy. It is short, easy to memorize, and packs in 3 critical strategies boys need to learn and practice: run from, run to, and run with.
1. Run From
Our boys have “youthful passions.” The first course of action this verse prescribes is: flee.
- Boys should be taught the importance of mentally fleeing: capturing their stray thoughts when they notice attraction turning to lust.
- Boys should be taught the importance of visually fleeing: bouncing their eyes from the images of girls they find attractive.
- Boys should be taught the importance of emotionally fleeing: often what triggers lust are emotions of loneliness, discontentment, or frustration; boys need to learn when those emotional triggers are cropping up and turn them into occasions for prayer.
- Boys should be taught the importance of physically fleeing: getting out of situations where lust or sexual temptation looks inevitable.
2. Run To
It isn’t enough to run from lust. If all our boys have to choose between are lust and nothing, this is a sad choice. The human heart was never meant to merely be void of desire. You don’t kill sin by pushing it down. You kill sin by replacing it with holy desires. This verse tells us what boys need to do: pursue.
- Boys should be taught to pursue righteousness: doing the things that are right in God’s sight. Boys need to develop a love for what it means to treat a woman in a way that is right.
- Boys should be taught to pursue faith: a strong trust in God. Boys need to develop a trust in God that He knows exactly how to help them manage their desires for love, their raging hormones, and their future relationships.
- Boys should be taught to pursue love: a benevolent affection toward God and others. Boys need to develop a strong conviction that lusting isn’t loving, and there is great pleasure in showing others the love God calls us to show.
- Boys should be taught to pursue peace: a harmony with God and others. Boys need to understand that lust does not lead to peaceful relationships with others but only more sexual frustration and tension.
3. Run With
Boys also need to begin to develop strong relationships with others who can help them as they battle lust. These should should be those who “call on the Lord” (i.e. fellow Christians, as in Romans 10:13) from a “pure” (genuine) heart.
- Encourage boys to talk with you (especially you, Dad). Talking about lust with mom or dad may not sound like that most natural thing in the world, but parents should identify with their sons as fellow sinners who understand the power of lust.
- Encourage boys to talk with their Christian male friends. Are there some peers at church who seem genuine. Encourage your son to pursue accountability relationships with those friends.
- Encourage boys to talk with other male mentors. There might be older men at your church who can serve as big brothers to your son. Look for opportunities for your son to build natural connections to those people.
A Final Word on Masturbation
For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides.
And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions with no real woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.
In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself…
After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of ourselves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.
– C.S. Lewis
I hope this post gave you wisdom about how to approach talking about masturbation with your son.
More Articles on Sex-Ed:
- Talking to Young Boys about Masturbation
- The #1 Mistake Christian Parents Make When Talking About Puberty
- 3 Strategies for Biblical Sex Education At Home
- Cut the Smut: Teaching Your Son to Guard His Eyes
- Talking to Kids About Sex: 3 Things Christian Parents Shouldn’t Do
- Moms and Sex Ed: 7 Tips for Teaching Young Boys
Excellent article! Kudos to you!
Thank you Luke for this wonderful study. I’m a single mom of a grown young man and reading this brought me to tears and asking God for forgivenes for the ways I failed my son. How I wish I’d had this when he was growing up. I’m saving it now for my future grandchildren (I hope ;)).
Glad it was helpful to you. I’m sure a lot of parent have regrets—especially about things like this.
Single parent to a teen
Love this article, it really helped a lot. I do need more help though, I’m a single mother and my son is 12, and currently going through puberty. I have already had the talks with him about his body changing, what sex is, where babies come from, how to wait ’til marriage, but he recently started getting what’s slang termed as the “morning woody”, and having it sometimes during the day and he got embraced about it, he feels like he’s sinning when this happens, and he cries. It is just me raising him and I want to explain things in a Godley manner without making him feel bad about himself. How do I do that?? In addition, my son’s father is not in his life and never will be, he is a convicted sex offender, and I feel my son thinks that he is like him in because of his body changing. What do I do??
Great questions. As far as the “morning woody” goes, you can explain to him that it’s just a sign that his body is working properly. Doctors have several theories about why nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) happens. Some think it is hormonal: testosterone levels are at their highest in the morning after you wake up—possibly enough to cause an erection. Others believe it has to do with your brain not releasing as many hormones that suppress erections during sleep. Many times, NPT isn’t caused by any kind of sexual stimulation. For both morning and daytime erections, friction can also be a major cause: his penis is meant to respond to friction that way.
Explain to him that random erections are as natural as the day is long. They are merely physical responses of the body—like the stomach growling when you’re hungry or pressure on the bladder when you need to pee. There are hormonal responses going on in the body all the time that may have nothing to do with your mental state (like sexual thoughts, or whatever).
Hello I’m a grandma and my grandson IS NOT discreet with his new founding as a young boy. And it’s not lusting over ANY girl but he finds sexual movies, which I thought I got rid of. And I find him ignoring me as I ask if he’s okay. I have not experienced this, my son was discreet and had friends ( his dad passed at an early age) I don’t know how to approach this. His mom is worst shape than I, and she doesn’t want to talk to me about it when I bring it up. He’s more and more active now. I just want to help and biblically at that. Thanks this I’m hoping helps me to talk with him.
Wow! Excellent article. Can’t wait to show my hubby. It’s time we talked with our son!! Love your biblical approach!
Great! Hope this is helpful as you consider how to talk to your own children.
Thank you so much! My Oldest boy ( I have 5 of them) turns 12 in April. I had no idea how to approach this subject. So grateful you wrote this article!
Glad I could help!
Luke, thank you for addressing an issue we are all to often embarrassed (especially mothers) to talk to our sons about. This gives a biblical, loving approach to use with my 4 boys that takes the awkwardness out of the equation, because it comes from a loving God. Using His Word shows them that He always leads us to a purity that even boys should show toward girls, not just the other way around.
Yes, for moms it can be difficult. Some boys can get embarrassed by this kind of conversation, but the more matter-of-fact you can be about it, the better. The more of a “big deal” you make the conversation, the more awkward it will be. This is why it is so important to establish a pattern of biblical conversation in the home first. If a parent never talks to their kids about the Bible or sin or temptation or God’s expectations, and then they pull out the “lust talk,” it seems forced and difficult for everyone.
Luke, I understand your perspective, but I only partially agree with it.
I am a married dad with three sons, two in their teens and a 25 year old.
Growing up in a devout Christian family, my parents were a bit unusual for strict Christians in that they were always open and honest about sexuality, including masturbation, in an age-appropriate and tasteful manner.
They communicated their negative beliefs about promiscuity and adultery, and criticized examples of males exhibiting lustful attitudes towards females they were not married to.
But they did not condemn the judicious use of masturbation under all circumstances.
When I turned 11, I began to have wet dreams (“early bloomer”), so they knew I was beginning to undergo puberty. We talked together about these physiological changes and what they produce, and the need to have realistic but morally sound strategies to deal with my manly needs and urges.
I know from my own personal experience, that of my younger brother, my 3 sons’ experiences, and those of my Christian best friends (2) during my teens that the coping strategies you propose are at best only very minimally effective and do nothing to relieve the intense physiological need for periodic sexual release. Contrary to what you say, this physiological need for release builds rapidly in a teenage or 20-something male and often does so independent of any environmental stimulation or salacious thoughts. The level of intensity can vary between guys, but most often, this need for frequent, periodic sexual release far outstrips the frequency of any wet dreams. And as far as hoping that trying to avoid focusing on sexual thoughts and impulses and refraining from masturbation goes, combined with heavy doses of exercise, this traditionally favored strategy actually backfires and makes it even MORE difficult for a young man to avoid lustful thoughts and sexual temptations, especially given the opportunity.
It also sets a young (or older!) guy up for repeated failure and possible emotional damage from imposed guilt. Think that’s not possible? A young Salt Lake City teen boy commit suicide when he masturbated after promising his pastor and dad that he wouldn’t. What a needless tragedy! And consider married men who have extended periods of time away from their wives, like military personnel and spouses who travel for work. For these men and women, masturbation is a valuable tool for managing each spouse’s physiological needs and cutting down on the temptation to stray from the marriage. Likewise, when the wife is ill or pregnant or a spouse is unwilling to have sex for a prolonged period of time, masturbation can literally save the marriage, along with the husband’s sanity.
While the Bible teaches us that we should not lust nor commit adultery in a marriage or fornication or homosexuality with another person, scripture does not prohibit the act of masturbation, either while single or while married, once the person has asked their spouse if they wish to have marital sex at that time. The Bible is clear and outspoken about the sexual sins, but it is conspicuously silent on masturbation. It also does not equate masturbation itself with lust, covetousness, idolatry, and other sins.
This makes it clear that the judicious, careful use of masturbation is not to be considered sinful and forbidden in and of itself, AS LONG AS THE FOLLOWING CAVEATS ARE CONSISTENTLY FOLLOWED:
1. Do not use any form of pornography or erotica which involves anyone other than your spouse.
2. Do not allow yourself to fantasize about sexual encounters with anyone you are not married to. Especially, don’t fantasize about sex with anyone you have access to.
3. Don’t joke around coarsely with friends about masturbation or sex. You can have a tasteful, mature, medically accurate, and non-salacious discussion of said topics with a friend, but try to avoid the licker room banter. It’s not only sinful, but it’s sexist and misogynistic, too.
4. Don’t over-masturbate. That is, don’t do it multiple times a day, every day, just for entertainment. 3-4 times a week is probably enough for most younger guys. A little more if there’s a genuine physiological need.
Another factor to consider: boys begin puberty at least a couple years earlier than when I was young. And many men need to delay marriage until their late 20’s or beyond for educational or career reasons. That means having to face 2+ decades of sexual needs before being able to marry, assuming that they have found a young woman with whom they share true love and genuine compatibility.
God loves us, cares about both our spiritual and temporal well-being, and doesn’t want to make things impossibly difficult for us. With the above-mentioned caveats in place, masturbation can be used judiciously by people without negative spiritual consequences.
First, I think you might have misunderstood part of my viewpoint. I am not wholeheartedly against (as you call it) “the judicious use of masturbation.” That’s just not what this article is about. This article is the second in a two-part series. In the first article I make clear there is a kind of masturbation that is driven by sinful lust and there is a kind of masturbation that isn’t.
I think the most interesting part of your comment is, as you say it, “the intense physiological need for periodic sexual release.” (As you can see, the heart of this article is not about that—it is more about habitual lust of which some masturbation is only the fruit. This sexual release need, as you call it, is really a separate topic.) I might swap out the term “need” for something a little more descriptive like “desire” (and I have reasons for that, if you care to know), but generally I agree with you: this is a certainly something parents should address with their kids.
Roger, I’m curious to know from you and your family’s experience if it is possible for a teenager/single man to masturbate without lustful thoughts/fantasizing. My husband does not think it is possible/realistic. If it’s not realistic, then it seems like masturbation needs to be a no-no. If it is realistic, what goes on in the man’s thoughts? Other than lustful images, where would the mind be during such an experience?
Great article! Hopefully I will be able to communicate this with my son soon. I also thought I would mention another resource: Theology of the Body is John Paul II’s teaching on love, life and human sexuality. I have found that it deepens your understanding and love for God and gives even more of reasons for why we should do it God’s way.
I’ve sat under quite a bit of Christopher West’s teachings. John Paul the Great was way ahead of his time.
I have had some good conversations (they are ongoing conversations) with three of my four children–they are 16, 12, and 10. This article is great. Thank you for some more tools in my parenting tool belt.
FINALLY, a practical approach to broaching this subject with our son. Thank you!
Glad you found this helpful!
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup
Thank you for writing this and sharing it!
Are you at all considering publishing a step by step study for this topic the way you did with The Talk? My husband gets overwhelmed when talking with our kids about things of a sexual nature off the cuff, but he felt very comfortable when we did The Talk as a family because it was all laid out step by step. It was a wonderful resource for our family!
Yes. It is on my to-do list, for sure.
This was SO well thought out. Bravo! Can’t wait to share with others. Blessings.
Luke, I find it odd that no male has posted a response. You and I both know that this isn’t a subject that is appropriate for a mother and son to discuss. As a man, I understand what lust is and I understand what masturbation is.
As a Christian, I understand the difference and truly understand that masturbation doesn’t equate lust.
What I do not understand is how learning about ones body, the enjoyment we find within ourselves, can be misconstrued and with random scripture taking out of context, can deem a healthy and sometimes very needed part of life as wrong
I think women have written comments here primarily because our blog readership is predominantly female.
You are correct: masturbation and lust are not the same. This is exactly why I said that there are different types of masturbation: a type that is tied to the expression of lust and a type that is not. My first post on this topic fleshes that out in greater detail.
I’m not quite understanding your question. Can you be more specific?
Thanks for this article. My son’s almost 13 and I think he needs me to say what I know about this subject. At this point I’m only in the prayer stage. i’m putting this need for my guidance and my execution of it on God’s altar. Without him I can do nothing. With his Spirit i can do anything.
Agreed. I hope this information gives you plenty to pray about.
Do you have any idea how miserable it is for a young teen to contemplate having to suffer 20+ years of unrequited physiological need for sexual release?
Contrary to what many misinformed Christians have been told, teens boys often get wet dreams infrequently, far from enough to alleviate the need for semenal release.
Over the years, I’ve known of teen boys who have stopped attending church and reading the Bible because their parents and/or their pastors made them feel like Christianity and masturbation can’t mix. To regain God’s favor, the boys would have to suffer for decades– or sabotage theirs and their future family’s future earnings by cutting schooling and career prep short, getting a low skill, low wage job, and getting married right out of high school– a financially and maritally risky proposition these days.
Now, what good can come of that?
Hey Roger, if you have any good data to share with us about nocturnal emissions, that would be great. I’ve not read any recent studies that claim what you are claiming, so I’d be very interested in hearing what you’ve read.
I personally don’t know any teens who are miserable as they contemplate a lack of sexual release until they are in their 30s—or why a teen even would think in such longterm pessimistic themes. It certainly isn’t my experience.
Regardless, I think the heart of your comment is challenging this notion that Christianity and masturbation don’t mix. I know I wrote some about this when I worked for Covenant Eyes. I generally agree with you that there are examples of non-lustful masturbation, and I think it is important for parents and pastors to communicate that. I would prefer not to talk about the urge for sexual release as an “unrequited physiological need” as I think there is more helpful language, but I don’t disagree with the overall sentiment of what you’re saying.
I taught my first four children as they were taking baths when they were little. I told them about their private parts were to share when they got married. Not for now and not for anyone else. The last four, were helped by the first four. I’m it sure that message got passed on. Oops! I had to do some catch up work!
I do like your definition in the first part to distinguish between profitable and not. Self-control, not our habits controlling us. Very good!
And, I like how you divided it according to purpose and thought process. Very good again! That was a big help! Many flounder trying to figure that out. You rightly divided the Word of God!
Keep it up!
Thanks. Glad you were encouraged by this!
Habits are one thing.
But driving physiologically based needs are another.
Males, especially young teen ones, need to release accumulated semen periodically– more often than wet dreams typically provide. If they don’t, many suffer distracting, sometimes painful and medically problematic symptoms. Guys’ prostates and testes were not designed to go without release for extended periods of time. This is medically documented fact.
That said, we males should not have sex with a female we are not wed to or with another male.
The Bible is explicitly clear in forbidding adultery, fornication, and homosexuality. But it says nothing about judicious masturbation, which is masturbation undertaken without lust for a woman other than one’s wife (if married), without use of pornography, and not to excess.
Any links to medical journals or other resources would be really helpful here.
Mam, I don’t think you fully realize the degree of need for semenal release that most teen and 20-something young males experience.
While adultery, fornication, and homosexuality are decried as wrong in the Bible, masturbation without porn or other lust is not.
Please don’t make the mistake of reading things into the Bible that are not there. Life is tough enough!
I know I’ve asked you for this in other comment threads here already, but links to any studies on this subject would be really helpful so we can talk over the specifics.
You are terribly misguided and your idiotic ideas would be greatly harmful if they were believed by anyone.
Masturbation is a Godly act that is healthful and universally good for people.
The only thing harmful about masturbation is the vile guilt you insist on adding to it. Your stupid religion is the cause of immeasurable pathos by insisting that sex is full of sin.
Sexual fantasy involved with masturbation is not lust, just like dreaming of cupcakes is not gluttony. Your views would be silly if they were not so demonstrably hurtful.
Wow. I was thinking about deleting your comment, but then I thought it was just too much fun to throw out. Let me see if I can sort through this.
1. What about this article or any article on our site gives you the impression we think “sex is full of sin”? Not that I haven’t met some folks who believe that nonsense, but what about anything on this website gives you the impression we believe that?
2. What about this article gives you the impression we think masturbation (that is, the actual act itself) is sinful? In fact, in the preceding article, I wrote, “when parents ask if they should tell their children masturbation is a sin, I do not recommend they put the act of masturbation itself into the sinful category. This, of course, is not the end of the matter, but it is an important place to start: In all God said about sexual topics, He never once said the act of masturbation is sinful, and neither should we, when speaking only of the act.”
3. I’m not following your logic: “Sexual fantasy involved with masturbation is not lust, just like dreaming of cupcakes is not gluttony.” Since the very nature of lust is covetous desire and the very nature of gluttony is eating lots of food (and not just dreaming about it), why would these things equate? One is sin of thought and the other is a sin of action.
4. Where did you get the ideas that masturbation is (1) a godly act, and (2) a healthful and universal good? By what standard do you call anything “godly”? What makes you think masturbation is healthy across the board for people?
I have been researching this topic as we have 4 boys. Why do people feel guilty and ashamed of masturbation? I don’t believe your guilt is imposed on you by someone else but it can be painfully exaccerbated by religious parents. The tone of the reply above is worryingly angry and insulting so why would I listen to him? It is a tricky subject, no getting away from that. I wonder if the reason for fathers not talking to their boys about this is because they masturbated and experienced the shame and their parents didn’t talk to them about it. I personally don’t think it is as much of an issue for girls. My husband will not speak to our boys about this so rather than remain silent, I have addressed the subject. I think the aim of ‘self-control’ is a good aim as masturbation can become compulsive. It is a self-directed practice, and sex is meant to be someting we aim to be un-selfish in because we aim to please our spouse and vice versa…ideally!..and masturbation creates the habit if being focussed on our own pleasure only. I have said to my boys, rightly or wrongly, that they don’t ‘have to masturbate’ and that they would be better off not doing so as they might feel ashamed and guilty and that sexual pleasure is something we look ‘forward’ towards in marriage. I don’t think they have taken my advice by the way and that concerns me, to be honest. How do I handle the subject after they have rejected my advice. I wonder if this ‘masturbation phase’ in boys contributes to the withdrawn moodiness so many off them go through in teen years.
Hey Ann. Just to clarify, are you saying Robert’s comment is angry, or that my reply to him is angry?
I think it is hard for a lot of kids to talk to their parents about this matter specifically because of the shame involved. It “feels weird” to talk about these things. As far as how your kids have taken your advice, in all matters of parental advice, it is best to connect before you correct. By that I mean correction happens best in a context of a loving connection to your kids: when they know they are loved, they take correction in a new light. I say this not because I have any reasons to think you aren’t doing this, but to help you (and anyone else reading this) to ask, “How can I do better at really connecting with my kids so they really experience my love for them?”
You’re saying all the right things, for sure. I think, in general, somewhere along the line, this issue of their sexuality needs to get connected to a much bigger and broader moral compass. For Christian kids, this means they need to start thinking about how they fail to make God the Lord of their life and how to place other things (even good things) at the center where God deserves to be. When kids start to realize the greatness and majesty of God, they begin thinking about how they need to submit everything to Him (even their sexual urges). They start to pray more, search the Word of God more, and seek to apply God’s standards to their life more. They start to lean on Christ more—and even if they fail, they lean on Christ for their identity, not on a perfect performance track record. Sometimes masturbation (all sin in general) can be a symptom of a restlessness that can only be calmed by being grounded in something bigger—being grounded in God.
I feel bad for the sons of everyone that read this article.
Care to share why, Matthew?
Because masturbation is a healthy and natural part of life. I shouldn’t have to give up my sexual desire because i need to save if for some guy in 10 years… porcupines and monkeys and dolphins masturbate. I’m a girl and I’ve masturbated daily since I was 12. it’s natural, brings down blood pressure and stress hormones and improves mental health.
First, bear in mind this article is written for parents of boys, not parents of girls.
Second, I’m not suggesting you give up your sexual desire. I’m not sure if there’s something I said here that led you to believe I’m advocating some kind of asexual existence, but nothing could be further from the truth. A sex drive is a God-given desire. The topic here is more related to lust, not having a sex drive.
Third, I have no doubt that masturbation is “natural,” but I’m not sure you can claim health benefits from it. If you want some good reading on the subject I recommend a great article from the Journal of Sexual Medicine by Dr. Stuart Brody. It’s a meta-analysis of many studies about masturbation. The long and the short of it is (1) there are absolutely no documented health issues associated with not masturbating, (2) masturbation does not nearly have the same kind of health benefits that sexual intercourse does, and (3) in specific instances, masturbation can bring about negative health effects.
Fourth, I’m not sure why you bring up porcupines, monkeys, dolphins, because as far as I can tell, you’re none of these creatures.
Yes you can claim health benefits ! As a percent of uncircumcised boys I have learned that there is a physical , God created purpose in masturbation as a child-adolescent . Many boys are born with a very tight forskin . Without regular manipulation of the penis the foreskin remains too tight for intercourse and can become adhered to the head of the penis and cause severe pain in adult sexual relations.
I have gone back and forth on this topic in my evangelical upbringing and have learned so much since mothering sons . I think Christians need to be especially careful drawing conclusions on what God intended us to do with our own bodies when we are still in our youth . Shaming a perfect creation design is a sad stance for those who follow Him.
Hello Luke, I am so thankful for coming across your article, I am a single mom of two boys. My 11 year old and I have a very good, open talks about any subject but I was finding difficult how to explain masturbation in a way that is not judgmental, natural but that also matches my spiritual beliefs.
I will read this with my son.
Thank you very much.
You’re welcome! Glad this was helpful!
My son is 10. We have a very open relationship and have talked about why we don’t touch our privates for arousal about a year ago. Last night he was upset because he feels like he is struggling with touching them. I was looking up parent talks on masturbation from Christian perspective and found your article. Thank you for the time and effort and may God bless you. I am wondering if my son is still to young to go into the details of masterbation? I have only surfaced the topics so far. My parents never talked to me about my sexual desire. I have been an active Christian from a very young age, but always drawn to sexual desires. I had my son out of wedlock at 17. For this reason, I find it hard to tell him not to, but I try to explain my parents didn’t and that’s why I think it is important to talk about these things openly because it is a natural desire. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Again, God bless you and your family!
First, I would recommend reading my first post on this subject, specifically for younger boys.
Second, from the information you gave, I see nothing wrong with talking to your son about masturbation. I think it’s a healthy subject for parents to discuss with their kids.
Why aren’t girls mentioned in this?
Because it’s about boys specifically. We have one for girls in the works. Don’t want to bite off more than we can chew in one article. 🙂
Thanks for the article…really helpful 🙂
Only thing I’m still confused about is this… Do you think its ok for boys to masturbate (without fantasy, if thats possible)?
I’m Mum to an 11 year old boy who is starting to notice women in bikinis on magazine covers in shops! He make’s comments such as “oh look, thats not right” …as he takes a very lingering look at just how disgraceful it all is!!
I’m aware of the dangers of fantasy associated with ‘M’, but can we tell boys it’s wrong to do it at all?
Doesn’t the semen ‘need’ to come out/will it harm him physically if he doesn’t?? (i know that my Husband feels a lot of discomfort if i’ve had a headache for more than a few days)! 😉
If it is to be avoided, how is it possible to try and get a young Man to wait until marriage?! Is it more likely to make him stumble into sin with a girl, if he’s not experiencing a release of sexual tension by himself??
Thanks (if you can reply)!
I’m not aware of any research that would suggest a man “needs” sexual release of some sort. There’s plenty of research to suggest that ejaculation has many health benefits for a man (although the primary health benefits are ejaculation during intercourse, not during masturbation—belief it or not, there’s an observable difference).
I won’t take the stance that masturbation is universally sinful. I think lust is most certainly sinful because that seems to be clearly revealed in Scripture. Each boy needs to understand himself in this regard. There are some who masturbate who remain fairly “connected” to the physical act itself (it is merely about physical stimulation). There are others who masturbate in a more “detached” manner and can’t seem to masturbate any other way (i.e. they are lost in lustful thoughts when they do it).
I also think it is safe to say that masturbation can become an unwise habit in a person’s life: a habit of retreating to solo-sexuality. This is not a good preparation for marriage, to say the least.
As far as talking to your son, focus the bulk of your conversation on the topic of lust and objectification. This way the if he starts experimenting with masturbation (as most boys do), he will have a very clear idea in his mind what about it is sinful: lustful obsession. As you broach the subject of masturbation, make it absolutely clear that the act of ejaculating itself is not a sinful act—the question is what drives the desire. The last thing he needs is shame felt about his own body.
Thanks Luke! I am a single mom of a 12 year old boy and have been noticing/thinking he has been masturbating for a few months now. Honestly, I can feel myself wanted to be mad, but I have been ignoring it. I overheard him talking to his friends online about this and women. I was mortified and felt if I confronted him it would have been blown out of proportion (by me).
I should have been sleeping hours ago, but I have been searching the internet to find something that was in line to what I believed but didn’t know how to talk to my son about. I am still a bit nervous, but I think you for this article. I will re-read until it becomes a natural conversation, then I’ll talk to me son.
Thank you so much!