Have you ever heard anyone tell you to let your conscience be your guide? Back in the days when I used to let my conscience be my guide, I felt guilty about everything. I thought that picking my nose was a sin–and yes, most of the time I ate the fruit I picked! My first attempt at shaving my legs made me feel so guilty that I reverted back to not shaving them, until I saw someone staring at my hairy legs on a bus one time and decided: enough was enough! I debated dying my hair for a really long time before having it done. I was never comfortable with the lengths I saw females go to, to make themselves “beautiful.” I worried about the sins of vanity and pride. I also believed it was a sin to be overweight, and I felt very ugly in my own skin. But I strangely suspected that there was something holier about being plain and ugly than about being beautiful and … well … sexual.
If I were to let my conscience be my guide, I would have a miserable life in which I avoided doing anything that might have the slightest appearance of being “wrong.” But when I was in high school, one of my teachers told me about a “seared conscience.” He said there were kids out there who were able to commit murder without feeling any remorse whatsoever, because they had a seared conscience. It was then that I realised that no one’s conscience can be trusted. No two consciences are the same. I might feel like it’s sinful for me to shave my legs because God put hair there on purpose, but most women in western society would never think twice about shaving their legs because it is socially accepted. The Bible tells us that our hearts–which I believe includes our consciences–are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).
In a similar way, when I started masturbating at age 22, I felt sick with disgust. I was convinced I would never do it again after that fateful first time (in another country–might I add), but I was already addicted. We really can, as human beings, hate the things we love and love the things we hate. I spent the next five years feeling guilty every time I gave into the desire to masturbate, which was about once a month. Sometimes I cried afterward and I prayed and begged God to make me stop. My conscience told me it was a sin.
But interestingly, the Bible never once ever addresses masturbation. You would think that if masturbation was a sin, then Leviticus 18 would have something to say about it in its extensive list against certain sexual behaviours. But it says nothing whatsoever about touching one’s own sex organs, sexual arousal, wet dreams, erections, orgasms or masturbation. Similarly in the New Testament when Paul addresses sex and marriage, he says nothing about touching oneself or getting off and he certainly doesn’t say it’s wrong. If anything, he says that those who burn with passion should get married. I can make a stronger biblical case against wearing make-up, jewellery and cutting hair than I can against masturbation.
There are a lot of mixed opinions about masturbation. I’ve heard some people label it “self-gratification,” and declare it a sin because we should be seeking God for our needs, not trying to satisfy the lusts of our flesh. But when you think about this argument logically, is it self-gratification to eat food? Who is going to determine whether the food is a gift from God, or whether it was the selfish indulgence of the consumer?
Other people say that masturbation is healthy for the body. But then again, sex is also healthy for the body. Some say that masturbation takes away the temptation to have pre-marital or extra-marital sex, while others testify that once they started masturbating, sex was the next logical step. At the end of the day, all I can do is open up the discussion by talking about my own experience in this area. You will have to decide for yourself whether you find this practise healthy or unhealthy.
My experience is that after five years of feeling ashamed of myself every time I succumbed to the feelings in my vagina that demanded my attention, I decided not to trust my feelings anymore. After talking with a pastor and a naturopath, I concluded that it was healthy for me to masturbate, since I was not having sex, and my body was horny. In deciding not to trust my feelings, I learned how to retrain those feelings. This might be called desensitisation, but one can’t assume that desensitisation is always a negative thing. Our ears become desensitised to certain sounds so that we do not become distracted every time a bird sings or a car drives past the window.
In order to retrain my feelings around masturbation, I decided to deliberately masturbate much more regularly and to self-soothe if I experienced any guilty or negative feelings afterward. There were times I bawled my eyes out after masturbation, called myself a slutty whore and prayed that I would just stop experiencing all sexual arousal. My feelings were often extreme because I had learned to feel wrong about all things sexual. I needed to learn to tell myself that everything was okay. It doesn’t matter whether I’m a slut or not because God still loves me. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and I refuse to continue feeling guilty. God made me sexually female. He gave me my sexual organs. In fact he gave me a clitoris on purpose and the only function a clitoris has is sexual pleasure! If my body can orgasm in my sleep–and it can and has–then how can it possibly be a sin to enjoy climaxing?