Understanding and Counseling the Problem of Masturbation

I.  The problem of masturbation

II. The causes of masturbation

III.The effects of masturbation

IV.Biblical viewpoint of masturbation

V. Counseling the problem of masturbation



Jimmy had never told anyone his secret. It had started when he was twelve or thirteen, and it began almost by accident. Jimmy has hidden a “dirty” magazine under the covers of his bed and was looking the pictures by flashlight when he was suddenly aware of a new feeling, a strange sensation that felt good and scary all the same time.  Moments later, he left another new sensation.

At first he was afraid he’d wet the bed. Then, upon realizing that wasn’t it, Jimmy grew frightened. He feared that something had gone wrong with him; he was even a little scared to go to sleep, afraid it might happen again. He didn’t know what to do.  But he knew he couldn’t tell his mom or dad about it.

In the months and year to come, masturbation became habit with Jimmy. He enjoyed it and even planned it, carefully hiding away in a private place where no one would discover his secret. He knew the guys in his gym class would make fun of him in high school; it had become an obsession with Jimmy. He thought about it all day long. And the slightest stimulation would make him seek release through masturbation, like a drug addict hungry for his next fix.

He tried to tell himself there was nothing wrong with his secret, but sometimes he felt so dirty and guilty he could barely stand it. And he knew he would die of shame if anyone else ever found out what he did when he was by himself.



Masturbation is the self-stimulation of one’s genitals to the point of orgasm. It is a common struggle of adolescence. It is joked about, whispered about and worried about among teenagers. It also practiced to what many might consider a surprising degree.

Studies reveal that most young people have masturbated at least some time during their adolescence. Alfred Kinsey reported that 93 percent of adult males and 62 percent of the females he surveyed admitted to having masturbated.

While masturbation certainly does not disappear after adolescence, the practice seems to be most prevalent among adolescents.

Dr. G. Keith Olson, author of Counseling Teenagers, explains:

With onset of puberty the adolescent male is able to ejaculate, and masturbation from this point on is usually done in order to reach orgasm. Nocturnal emissions and masturbation are the two most commons ways that adolescent boys release their rapidly building sexual tensions.

Masturbation has been much more of an issue for adolescent males than it has been for girls for two primary reasons. First, early and mid-adolescent girls typically do not have a strong need for genital sexual release. Their sexual arousal is satisfied for a longer period of time through being held and cuddled. The stronger sensations of genital arousal being occurring with more intense petting and foreplay, and especially with genital penetration. A second reason for masturbation being less of an issue for adolescent girls is that their sanctions against masturbation have much stronger. Until quite recently masturbation in females was thoughts to be abnormal.

Masturbation is a subject of great confusion and conflict among teens and a subject of much debate and disagreement among Christians. Some condemn in unequivocally as sin; others say it’s “not much of an issue with God.” The wise parent, pastor, teacher, or youth leader should approach the problem carefully, seeking to understand its causes and effects as well as the biblical perspective of the problem before trying to help a young person who is struggling in this area.


Adolescent is a time of monumental physical and emotional upheaval in a person’s life. The changes all adolescents encounter often surprise and confuse them, and they are often ill-equipped to understand and cope with them. While this is true of all adolescent, a few factors make masturbation a greater problem for some young people.

      Physiological Changes. Some youth do seem to experience the physiological changes of adolescence earlier and more intensely than others. The pressures and urges that lead many youth to masturbate are a natural, normal part of growing

      Unhealthy/Uneducated Views of Sexuality. In addition, some kids have been raised to view any awareness of their bodies particularly any sexual awareness as “bad”. Their parents many have slapped their hands when they explored their genitals as toddlers, or perhaps the parent avoided any discussion of puberty.

      Rumors and Secrecy. The rumors and secrecy that so often surround the subject lead many youth to view the pressures and urges that often lead to masturbation as “weird”, “perverted” or “pathetic.” Consequently, they avoid confiding in parents, friends, or church leaders about their struggles at a time when they are ill-equipped to handle such things themselves. While many Christians views masturbation as harmless release, the potential effects of the practices warrant serious consideration nonetheless.



Teens have long whispered among themselves that the effects of masturbation include insanity and blindness. Some insist that it causes one’s to face to break, out and one’s hair to fall out. Others claims it is related to mental illness, tuberculosis, and epilepsy. These claims are, of course, false, the real effects of masturbation (though perhaps just as damaging).

      Guilt. Masturbation, like all sin, carries true moral guilt, factual guilt, the invariable result of disobeying God. While Masturbation isn’t always accompanied by a sense of guilt in the person committing the sin, it can create an overwhelming sense of “dirtiness” in some and a nagging sense of moral discomfort in others.

      Obsession. Some young people are son tangled up in the masturbation problem that they hardly can think about anything else but sex all day long. And the more they engage in masturbation, the more they depend upon it, the more they want it, and the more they are trapped by it. They are caught up in one big vicious circle. Masturbation can gain such a tenacious control over them that it saps their energies, takes their minds away from their studies, and sets them to thinking about sex everywhere they go and with every person they see.  Obsessive behavior built around masturbation and sexual fantasies is destructive psychologically because it nudges an individual further and further from reality, until truth itself is a stranger to the person.


       Self-Involvement. Control is the ability to say no to pleasing yourself in order to please another. Masturbation please only one person – YOU (2 Timothy 3:2-4).  Masturbation is a totally self-centered act and creates more self centeredness.


       Objectification of Others. Since masturbation so often involves images and fantasies, it can result in the transformation of people into things. When masturbation turns a person into an object that is used to achieve orgasm, a destructive and dangerous mental process has began.  Masturbation can become an obsessive and enslaving habit fueling and refueling the fire of one’s lust can lowering people to sex object status. It can become entangled with the obsessive compulsion of pornography and can lead to increasingly perverse fantasies and desires and possibly aggression against the opposite sex.

Low Self-Esteem. Masturbation and the control it can exert over a person is one of many factors that can cause the self-esteem of a teen who is struggling to form his or identity to falter and even crumble. Teens who engage in masturbation sometimes hate not only their actions but themselves; they are ashamed of what they do, they feel powerless to control their urges, and their self-images are often damaged by their secret behavior.

      Spiritual Deadness. Masturbation and other forms of non-marital sex are condemned in Scripture and descried as sin. If this form of sexual   immorality continues, one’s spiritual vitality and influence are certain to decline. Sin must be confessed and forsaken if one is to expect spiritual growth and avoid spiritual deadness.

      Sexual Addiction. The young person who allows lustful thoughts and feeling to prevail in his or her mind and heart may be setting the stage for sexual addictions. Lustful fantasies increase the person’s desire for such stimulation, until the youth is addicted to the fascination and/or release the visual stimulus delivers.  An escalation of thought and behavior often follows until the addiction drives the youth to pornography and perhaps also acting on his or her lustful thoughts.


The Bible neither endorses nor condemns masturbation. In fact, it doesn’t even mention it.

The story of Onan (Gen 38:8-9) is not about masturbation but coitus interrupts in which he refused to fulfill his duty as brother in law and to ensure offspring for his dead brother it is his refusal which displeased the Lord. The absence of any mention of masturbation is surprising considering how widespread it is now and likely was when the bible was written. Absence of its mention could be construed that God does not treat it as seriously as say adultery. Masturbation is widely practiced.

Using the creation narrative as our guide and the principle that the male genital is designed for the female genital, just as food is for the stomach (1 Cor 6:13). Then neither practice can be said to conform with the design of our Creator and should be regarded as deviations from design which are sinful.

Masturbation should tell most people that they should be married, unfortunately life is not always so accommodating. In most cases marriage should put an end the practice of masturbation, although this does not always happen, such is the fallenness of man. In its favor masturbation is safe sex and does not cause pregnancy. If it is not accompanied by pornography and fantasies and used merely as a release mechanism it is better than fornication and may prevent fornication.

While masturbation is not mentioned impure thoughts are, and these need to be avoided. Therefore we need to take control over what we look at and avoid those things that give rise to or stimulate lust - papers, magazines, TV, films etc. We should take the responsibility to guard our minds.


(Phil 4:7-8 NIV) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. {8} Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

Paul's advice to Titus is to urge the young men to be self-controlled, this is good advice. In 1 Th 4:4-5 Paul tells us that "each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God". Also in 2 Tim 2:22 Paul's advice to Timothy is to flee the evil desires of youth and a positive command is introduced which is to pursue righteousness, faith love and peace. If the result is that a young man burns with sexual passion then the solution is marriage.


(Titus 2:6) Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.


2 Tim 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace,

along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.


Apart from impure thoughts masturbation takes what should be love for another and perverts it into a kind of self-love. Instead of giving pleasure to another it is self pleasing.

Usually it is a phase that young men go through before marriage, with marriage tending to occur later in life people are turning to sexual immorality or masturbation instead, instead of being perhaps a short phase it may last for many years. When combined with pornography it becomes an addictive combination that can lead to obsessive and negative results. Within marriage masturbation should not become a substitute for sexual intercourse because that would be defrauding your partner of their marital rights.



Parents or other adult may believe there are few opportunities to discuss masturbation with a teen. However, the opportunity must sometimes be made. If the subject has been broached before mid-adolescence, the there is every possibility that the youth (especially in the case of a male) is already struggling with masturbation. The following outline may help the parent, pastor, teacher, or youth leader deal with the subject sensitively and effectively:

LISTEN. Invite the young person to talk openly and honestly about his or her sexual urges and struggles.  Assure the young person of confidentiality. Initially, speak only to make it easier for the youth to speak, never to express shock, outrage, condemnation, or revulsion. Ask questions designed to provide helpful information (“How long has this been a struggle for your?”), not to satisfy curiosity.

EMPATHIZE. It is extremely easy for parents and other adult to forget their own adolescence and minimize the struggles youth endure. But while masturbation does often decrease after adolescence, sexual passions and desires continue. Remember your own weaknesses and struggles in these areas, and use them to gain a compassionate perspective on the difficulties face by the young person. Understand that a teen is likely to be embarrassed to discuss such matter with an adult, and even more if her or she is uncomfortable with his or her sexuality and /or behavior.

AFFIRM.  Explain to your teen that the feelings of sexuality she has are normal. She may feel deeply attracted to someone or have strong sexual feelings toward them, and she needs to know that these feelings are okay and normal.
Teach your teen about the changes in his hormones when you counsel him. All teenagers are going through hormonal changes that may cause them to feel highly sexual at certain times.

Counsel your teen on how to control his sexual urges. Although it may be satisfying at the moment, let him know that having sex when he is not physically or emotionally ready can be damaging to his self-image.

Share your feelings about premarital sex with your teen. Let her know what your values and morals are and help her establish her own when you counsel her.

DIRECT. Masturbation can be reduced by prayer, a sincere willingness to let the Holy Spirit control.

        1.       Get honest with God. Realize that the lustful thoughts that lead you to masturbation are a sin against God. Be honest about your sin and ask for cleansing.

        2.       Plug into power. Recognize that you cannot win this battle in your own power. Only Jesus Christ living in you can change your desires and habits. Begin now to have a regular consistent time with the Lord every day.

        3.       Renew your mind. This problem started in your mind, so let God change your mind. God’s way of renewing your mind is to get you into the Bible. That’s where God’s thoughts to become your thoughts. Read one chapter of the Bible every day. Memorize one verse a week.

        4.       Focus your eyes. Keep your eyes away from anything that turns you on sexuality. Obviously you can’t live in a monastery, so your eyes will see sexually stimulating object. But don’t keep on looking at them – especially pornographic material, soap operas or R-rated movies.

        5.       Control your body. When your body feels like it will explode if some of the sexual pressure isn’t let off, bring it under control with exercise, serving others, of fun physical activities.

       6.       Confide in a friend. Ask a person of the same sex who is SPIRITUALLY mature to hold you accountable.  Get him or her to ask you regularly if you are avoiding lust.

       7.       Avoid tempting situations. Resist a second look at a sensually dressed person, and avoid magazines and TV shows that stimulate you sexually. Be on your guard when you’re alone, especially where it’s easy to be tempted.  

       8.       Press on despite failure. If you fail, don’t get discouraged. It took time to get into this habit; it will take time to get out of it. If you fail, don’t lie in the dirt, but get up and dust yourself off by immediately confessing your sins and receiving God’s forgiveness in faith. Don’t though, accept failure easily.

       9.       Go for total victory. You don’t have to sin. You don’t have to let the radiator get overheated. As you offer yourself to God (instead of to sin, as an instrument of wickedness), your sexual energy will channeled to make you a powerful man or woman of God. Trust Christ. Obey Him. He will give you victory.

       REFER. In sexual matters particularly, it is critical that an adult of the same sex as the youth offer the comfort and guidance (if a female teacher is concerned about a young man, for example, she should involve a man if offering counsel to the youth.) Offering comfort to a young person of the opposite sex is dangerous course, both to the adult and to the youth.


      Referral should be considered when counselees appear to have more complicated sexual problems than the counselor can handle, when their sexual problems are accompanied by considerable depression and /or anxiety, when there is great guilt or self-condemnation, when there are extremely disturbed behavior and thinking in the counselee.



Josh McDowell's Handbook on Counseling Youth