What meaning do we give masturbation?
When our purpose is simply reducing sexual tension and pleasure we will have that (the body will continue to respond as it was created to), but we will also have misery and frustration because we are missing the Divine design; we have reduced ourselves to an animal that simply manages and is determined by his sexual impulses.
For the Christian who, by faith, chooses to engage in masturbation, must also elevate it from merely scratching a hormonal itch as an animal would to something that is truly glorifying to God. Masturbation must also embody the character of God in order not to become frustrating and/or enslaving.
Understandably, we struggle to elevate masturbation to such. It is not the one flesh union clearly celebrated in Scripture between a man and woman in marriage. At the same time, we don’t get to debase ourselves by engaging in something that cannot glorify God. It is all well and good if we are learning how to glorify God in all things. It is not okay not to move in that direction or to continue with something that is clearly not glorifying.
Even if we conceded that masturbation is initially triggered by hormonal development, it never remains nor is solely determined by hormonal expressions.
We are meaning-making beings. Whether we engage in masturbation or chose not to it carries meaning for us. The meanings are many and varied, ranging from being immoral, to a tension release, to a tool preparing for martial sex. What is consistent is that it has meaning and it’s not merely biologically determined or an instinct.
Additionally, for masturbation to carry meaning also implies that this meaning was learned. Whether through reactive or reflective attitudes, secret or open dialogue, parents or peers, or the church or the culture, individuals learn to attach meaning to masturbatory activities, and this meaning goes on to shape future behavior.
For those concerned about the direction of this behavior, they would seem to do well present a holistic meaning of masturbation, going beyond simply a benign physical expression to include meanings for one’s personhood and spirit.
(To be sure, meaning exist holistically whether it is acknowledged or not. That is, there will be holistic implications even if the acknowledged meaning remains reductionistic.)
Inasmuch as we are integrated beings (body, soul, spirit), anything we do carries the potential for spiritual awareness, of transcendence, and a communion with the divine.
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. -1 Corinthians 10:31
This being the case, sex, whether solo or partnered, always carries the potential of being more than just tension release; it has the potential to deepen our awareness and openness to God.