Angela* sits down in my office. After a long conversation about love and God and concerns over family and employment after graduation, she falls silent. I sense she is weighing whether or not to continue the conversation. Then, in a burst of bravado, she plows through her reservations and blurts out: "I struggle with masturbation."
Earlier this semester, Jasmine*, another student, asked me to mentor her. In our first meeting, she revealed that she has struggled with masturbation since junior high but has managed not to masturbate for two years.
Angela has been sexually active and comes from a family that professes to be Christian but is inundated with perversion. Jasmine, on the other hand, appears to be the "perfect" Christian girl, ministering alongside her father (the pastor of her church) and her mother. Her family appears to be relatively healthy. Jasmine has not been sexually active with another person.
These two lovely young women, from distinctly different backgrounds, seek to be faithful followers of Jesus. For them, and I imagine other women, masturbation is about much more than sheer pleasure.
Do we Christians make much ado about nothing when it comes to masturbation? Many of the college students I work with wonder whether it is a categorical sin, a harmless way to relieve sexual tension and stress, or something in between. Opinions vary among Christian leaders. In an e-booklet aimed at men, Mark Driscoll doesn't mince any words about masturbation. The Mars Hill pastor states:
What I am not counting as masturbation is the manual stimulation between married people whereby a husband and wife enjoy pleasuring one another's genitals, as taught in the Scriptures, either orally (Song 2:3; 4:12) ...1
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