Masturbation is most commonly used to describe a person stimulating their genitals to become sexually aroused and, in some cases, to achieve orgasm. Masturbation triggers the release of hormones and neurotransmitters linked with positive emotions, sensations, and physiological responses. According to peer-reviewed articles, masturbation is a safe and healthy way to engage in sexual activity. They also emphasize that masturbation can provide an opportunity for sexual empowerment; that it is not inherently harmful; that it relieves tension; that it can provide a variety of benefits, including sexual pleasure, joy, and distraction; and that it can provide a healthy approach for people to learn more about their bodies and how to enjoy sexual pleasure in a variety of ways.
Despite how common masturbation is, studies show that it can still carry a lot of stigma and shame. According to research, stigma may limit one’s ability to experience pleasure from masturbation. For example, if you are taught that masturbation is sinful, you may be discouraged from engaging in it, despite the potential benefit of sexual pleasure.
Years ago, I read an article written by a trauma-focused certified Christian counselor. She was also knowledgeable about masturbation, both professionally and personally. She traveled the world for nearly three decades, spreading a message of forgiveness, healing, and restoration from the effects of trauma. This author states that “Masturbation that goes beyond innocent curiosity-driven exploration and discovery, such as obsessive sexual manipulation or rubbing against dolls, chair arms, or pillows, sex play with other kids that goes beyond the typical “playing doctor” games, imitating aspects of adult love play, and inserting objects into the vagina or anus, “are symptoms of sexual abuse.”
This article piqued my interest in delving deeper and determining the underlying “root” cause of my masturbation obsession, which had plagued and crippled my life for many years. Masturbation and the pleasure it provided were something I experienced. However, after accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, this act no longer gave me pleasure, but rather guilt and shame because I knew it wasn’t pleasing to God and I wanted to please my Savior. It was now an addiction, and I was not in control. I had become its slave. The bible scripture found in Romans 6:16 declares, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves, slaves, to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?
The Beginning of Sorrows
How did this act invade my life? As a little girl in elementary school, I vividly recall reading a pornographic book about a character and acting out what was written on the pages. I kept it hidden from my parents, but when my cousin came to stay the night, I tried to show her how to masturbate. At the time, I was about seven years old. How did I come across this book? Someone must have given it to me, or perhaps I discovered it. It’s not like today, when you can just click on a website and there you have it, porn at your fingertips.
I agree that masturbation can frequently begin as a self-soothing behavior. It was a poor way for me to deal with stress and meet basic human needs for comfort. As a Christian, I struggled to avoid masturbation. I was miserable, but it was difficult for me to stop. Masturbation, became, as I grew older, a poor substitute for the lack of love and intimacy in my life. Masturbation is a contentious issue and though Christian leaders disagree on its spiritual and moral implications, the Bible says in Romans 12:1 NKJV, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Finally, I was overwhelmed and convicted in my heart about masturbating. As time continued, I realized that the pain I tried to numb with masturbation was just another sign that I needed God to intervene in my life. And because this “sin” was at the heart of my being, I decided to reveal my dark secret to the pastor at my church, but not before God revealed something to me. His mercy grace and love were at work on my behalf because he knew how badly I wanted to be free of this act.
After a weekend of indulging and attempting to satisfy an insatiable need for love through masturbation, I attended a church function and stood in agony, asking, “Is anyone else struggling with sin?” In response to my question, others attempted to offer me comfort, but one person approached me and said, “I understand how you feel because I was molested as well.” I was stunned and baffled by her remark. I left the event wondering what that person meant. Soon after, I met with the pastor and told her about my dark secret. Following my meeting, I was offered the prayer without judgment, and I was reassured that God’s desire to set me free was greater than I could imagine. I was determined to get a hold of God after that meeting, so I shut myself away and asked the Lord to fill in the blanks about my childhood, which He did. God chose that moment to reveal something to me that had previously been hidden from my awareness.
The Hidden Thing Revealed
I remembered living with my grandparents when my mother was ill and in the hospital. It was there that the sexual molestation took place. Though this act was blocked from my memory the symptoms began to emerge right away. According to studies, repressed memories, also known as dissociative amnesia, are common in people who have been through childhood trauma. While some people can only recall a short period, others are missing entire years of their lives. Other symptoms of repressed trauma can include low self-esteem, substance abuse disorders, increased physical or mental illnesses, and interpersonal problems, in addition to memory loss; all of which I was all too familiar with.
According to mental health professionals, survivors of childhood trauma frequently repress memories as a defense mechanism. Suppression, while intended as a defense mechanism, protects no one. Rather, those who suppress their traumatic memories will be driven from within by unseen, unidentified forces. It is not that repressed fear, hurt, grief, and pain will not be expressed; rather, they will manifest unconsciously in many disturbing ways.
Neither the victim nor others understand why he or she feels and acts the way he or she does. As a result, the victims are left even more vulnerable to identity confusion, which is exacerbated by misunderstandings from others and the pain of rejection, loneliness, and further wounding. “Molestation throws its victims into exaggerated patterns of disturbing acts.” Masturbation had become a normal yet obsessive pattern in my life by the age of eight.
I was relieved to learn that I did not seek it out, but that it sought me out and latched onto me through sexual trauma. I will always be indebted to my Lord for having mercy on me and taking the initiative to bring healing and deliverance to my wounded soul, but only after battling and overcoming the darkness that sought to keep me in bondage. I’ll soon write and post another blog entry about how this was accomplished.