I believe a real man can control his sex drive, but for a long time, my sex drive ruled me.
A while back, I started asking myself some questions. Is watching porn a big deal? Is masturbation bad? These may or may not be normal questions to ask. But to make things weirder, I follow Jesus, and I’m trying to figure out what God thinks about me masturbating. Awkward.
One night, I couldn’t sleep because I had just found this new great Netflix series. I wasn’t thinking about sex or porn. But then a sex scene started. Now I’m wondering—do I turn away or do I watch? I really wanted to watch, but I know watching two people have sex is only going to make me want to have sex too. I convinced myself that it was OK. They’ll keep it tasteful. I’m strong enough not to let this affect me. The scene ended, the show continued, and then another sex scene happened. This time, I didn’t even question viewing it. I just watched, fully knowing I’m not helping myself. The next thing I knew, my laptop is closed, and I’m filled with guilt and shame because I just masturbated.
There’s a moment during masturbation where you feel a euphoric high that makes it feel like you’re having sex, and in your mind, you are. But then it ends, and you return to the sad reality of being alone. You’re flooded with guilt and shame. Now you want to clean up everything to forget what happened. Instead of having an intimate embrace with your spouse, you’re rushing to find a towel or tissues. It’s a lonely feeling that makes you crave real intimacy. You realize you’ve been tricked into settling for something that’s fake.
For me, masturbation is a big deal because I spent my college years, before I knew God, filling almost all of my free hours watching porn. I was struggling with an addiction and had no idea how to break it.
Everywhere I looked I was getting confusing information about masturbation and porn.
Our culture seemed to be exposing everyone to as much sex as possible, saying do whatever makes you happy. When I did go to church, I hardly ever heard anyone talk about porn or masturbation, but when they did, it would be discussed with fear and judgment. I felt stuck between a culture telling me to masturbate whenever I want and pastors preaching that if I masturbate, then I’m going to Hell. Thanks, everybody.
When I can’t make up my mind about something, it helps me to pray about it. When I prayed, I wondered if porn was really a sin or if it was just what Christians said to scare people away from it. Then, I stumbled across this verse in Matthew 5:29 that gave me a pretty loud and clear answer.
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out, and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Wow, that’s insane, I thought. You want me to gouge out my eyes if I look at porn again? Yeah, right. I’m already single and not dating. I don’t think becoming blind will help me find the right spouse. It was extreme, but in my heart, I knew the verse was right. My eyes kept causing me to stumble. Porn was building up lust, which then spilled out into my life. I was looking at women around me in an unhealthy way. My mind was so consumed by pornographic images that I couldn’t look at women on campus or even my professors without thinking sexual thoughts.
My mind was a slave to sexual images, and I couldn’t give the women around me the respect I knew they deserved. I was tired of it. I needed a healthier way of thinking and living that wasn’t completely consumed by sex. I knew two things:
- I couldn’t do this through my own willpower.
- I had to admit I wasn’t strong enough. I had to cut off anything porn-related.
The first step to mastering my sex drive was asking God for help. I could not break these addictions alone and needed regularly to admit I needed Him to be free. Simple prayers like, “God, help me break this,” are incredibly powerful—even if you’re not really the praying type.
The second step was identifying triggers. Mine were seeing people have sex in movies and hearing about sex in songs. To aggressively change, I spent a period of time where I had inactive Netflix and HBO accounts, and I tried not to listen to music with sexual lyrics.
This was difficult because my favorite show is Game Of Thrones, and my favorite music artist is Kanye West (Don’t judge me―I’m from Chicago like Kanye). Both are infamous for overusing sex in their art. It was harder than you might think for me to give those two up. But once I did, it felt good to walk in freedom from extra sexual temptation.
Once I started removing triggers from my life, I began to win the fight.
You’d be amazed at how much “out of sight, out of mind” really works. When you don’t tempt your eyes and ears, it’s much easier to keep walking down the path you want. The urges still happen, but not nearly as often as when I had visual images to spark them.
The next question that had me stuck sent me praying again. So what if I masturbate without porn? I’m not looking at anyone in a sinful way, and I still get to satisfy myself, so that’s a win-win situation, right?
I believe God wants to free us from both the lust that drives us and the shame that follows it. We actually get the most freedom when we turn everything over to God. That’s where change can really begin. God wants to show us his better design for sex. I didn’t find a loophole in the system by masturbating without porn. Instead, I realized I was still choosing to settle for less than what God was offering me.
I’m a single guy who wants to be married someday.
I believe God is preparing me to be someone’s future husband one day. A huge part of that preparation is learning to control my sexual urges while I’m still single. If I can learn to say no to the urge to have sex with myself now, then I will be able to say no to it when I’m married as well. One thing I learned from talking to married Godly men is that the fight to stop masturbating doesn’t end when you say “I do.” Learning to give up my needs and preferences actually gives me more power and freedom, not less. It builds strength, restraint, and trust for my future spouse.
From what I hear, there are moments in marriage when your wife won’t be around. It can be tempting to satisfy your need for sex in another way. Your spouse may be gone on a business trip, sick, or just might not be in the mood. In moments like that if you choose to have sex by yourself—or worse, with someone else because you can’t control yourself—then you’re cutting your spouse out of something that is meant to connect you two together.
Thinking of my future marriage and the great sex life I want with my future wife has been the biggest driving force for me to continue saying no to masturbation. I don’t want anything ruining my future sex life, including myself.
If you’re not driven by the idea of marriage, then I can tell you that mastering your sex drive and living free from porn is a fight worth fighting for yourself, too. Having a mind and heart that isn’t constantly looking for sex everywhere you turn, frees you. Not to mention it helps you to be able to respect other people (especially the opposite sex) for who they are and not how they might make you feel. Living free from any addiction is always worth the fight it takes to get there.
There will be lonely nights when you fall short and fail. But that doesn’t mean you should quit. Try asking God for help. Start a new streak of not watching porn. Find a community of people who can help you be accountable. Download apps that are password protected that will block porn on all your devices. I can now watch Netflix and HBO again. I can also listen to Kanye again, although now I don’t want to for different reasons (that’s another article).
All that being said…no, you aren’t going to Hell if you masturbate. And no, you shouldn’t give in to every urge that makes you feel good in the moment. There’s hope in overcoming porn addiction, and it starts by admitting that there’s a better way. Master your sex drive so it doesn’t master you.