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What's the Real Problem: Masturbation or Porn?

A lot of Christians are vehemently opposed to porn. They don't like the masochistic themes, the unethical treatment of women and children, the addictive tendencies, the feel of being cheated on, the comparison they experience… etc, etc, etc. They find adding a third party to be offensive to the exclusive commitment between two partners. Most points are strongly supported by biblical values and backed up by a God who designed sex for more than consumption of others. Porn at the very least doesn't bless in Christian sexuality and at most appears to be destructive and shame-inducing.


It's easy for me to educate the Christian crowd on the injurious effects of porn, because they're already walking that way anyway. They want to hear more about why they shouldn't do what they already don't want to do.


But I find it much harder to convince people of the reason porn is so appealing and how our craving for porn is merely a symptom of an injury (not just sinful bad behavior) and a deceptive misuse of a natural, good, beautiful drive.


It's scary for many Christians to talk about the goodness of their own bodies. Many have been taught a narrative that says, "You suck. God is good. The only way to survive is to cling fearfully to a damning God." That narrative emphasizes our despicableness, our worthlessness, our tragic, weak, miserable selves. So when, as a sex educator and Christian myself, I say, "But wait… You are designed FOR GOOD, BY GOOD. Your body has important information!" all the Christians say, "Now hold on a minute there…"


They will quote Jeremiah 17:9 and tell me to be careful. So then when I take it a step further to say, "It's important to listen to your body, to learn how it works, to enjoy it," those same Christians really freak out.


Am I implying masturbation there? Yes, technically I am.


Masturbation is so commonly tangled up with pornography, that many people can't tell the difference between the two. But there is a difference.


Masturbation in its most basic form is about discovering, exploring, and enjoying one's own body and pleasure. While it can include a false image of sexual engagement, it doesn't have to. (In fact, if the only way you know how to enjoy your body is to engage visually, I dare you to learn another way.)


Not that there's anything wrong with enjoying visual stimulation!! Clearly God designed us that way and even works that way Himself! (He didn't HAVE to make the planet blue and green and lovely… but He did).


Why is this so important to me? Because for SO LONG we have been shaming/hiding/ignoring the natural, normal, healthy information our bodies give us that many people are limping along confused and stunted in their lives, definitely not enjoying the really incredible gift our bodies are to us. At worst we are walking around wounding each other with our unacknowledged desires and repressed rage.


How can we celebrate and be thankful to the Giver of all good and perfect gifts when we are stuffing those gifts into the closet? How can we utilize and master said gifts if we deny their existence?


It's time to untangle the two. Porn is not masturbation. Masturbation is not porn. Learn to listen to your body.


Unsplash: Ferhat Deniz Fors

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