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Teens, Porn and Solo Sex: Sex Talk in a Sex-Crazed Society

Attention Teens...

Men and women —even long-time Christians— can struggle with things like pornography and masturbation. This should be no surprise. Yet those guys you mock in your mind—the ones sneaking in and out of Adult Bookstores—did not get started as adults. I have yet to meet a man who struggles with sexual sin who did. His brokenness and sin always started when he was a teen—and often even younger. Invariably I hear, "I was 13 when I first looked at pornography..." or "I was seven when I started to masturbate regularly..." or "My first sexual experience with a girl was when I was 11 and we imitated my dad's magazines..." or "My uncle molested me when I was five...." Here is a correlation I have discovered working with men who struggle with sexual sin: the younger a man was when he was first exposed to sexual images or actions, the deeper the wounds and the tighter the cords which bind him. This article is for teens—and those who care about them—and is an attempt to start working on a vaccine against sexual "addiction" in our sex-saturated culture.

The Big "M"

Masturbation. This is 'solo sex'—sexual activity by yourself, bringing yourself to orgasm. There is no way to consider pornography or other sexual sin without first addressing the question of masturbation because the goal every producer of porn has in mind is always masturbation (or other more complicated sexual acts)—and nothing less. The subject is foremost on the minds of young men and women, and our self-absorbed culture keeps it that way. It is discussed quietly among friends, and occasionally a youth pastor might mention it amid the blushing silence of a church group. Yet it is a behavior shrouded in false teachings, misunderstandings, and biblical ignorance. It is also a behavior in which virtually everyone engages once in his or her life, or maybe even on a more regular basis.

The very word "masturbation" often brings a feeling of uneasiness into a room—we are embarrassed by the word. Lately, comedians use the word simply for shock value. Mostly for the sake of brevity, I will use the letter "M" throughout most of this article to refer to the behavior.

"M" has been said to be "God's gift to the single." It has also been referred to as a horrible sin that will lead to blindness or warts. While it is possible to cause physical damage to oneself by frequent, compulsive, or rough manipulation, "M" normally causes no physical harm to an individual. It does not cause blindness, and it does not cause warts. In fact, many people today rationalize that it is a way to avoid diseases that could be contracted by sexual contact with other individuals.

However, we cannot leave the question in the realm of medical consequences. Just because something does not hurt you physically does not mean it is necessarily right. A person holding a gun and robbing a convenience store does not get warts from the gun, yet does that mean his act is okay?

When it comes to questions of right and wrong, we need to go to the Bible. What does the Bible say about "M"?

Nothing.

That's right. The term and its Greek or Hebrew equivalents never occur in the Bible. The act is never described and never specifically addressed. The sin of Onan, which is often mentioned in some circles, was not masturbation. Genesis 38:6-11 is clear that the sin of Onan was that he refused to obey his father's request that he produce a child with Tamar. Onan was not involved in "M" but in what is called coitus interruptus—he withdrew from her and ejaculated on the ground. He was not involved in solo sex, but he was disobeying a specific biblical law.

The only principle that the Bible clearly gives regarding this subject is found in the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28. Jesus says this, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart," (NIV). Jesus cuts to the core and states that the issue is lust. He continues in the next two verses with the tough remarks that if our eye makes us sin we should be willing to cut it out, or if our hand makes us sin we should be willing to cut it off. He links the sinful look to what may be an act of "M" with His allusion to the hand causing us to sin, (Matthew 5:30). Yet Jesus starts with the heart and then goes to the act, and not the other way around. Jesus does not condemn "M" with a blanket statement—"Thou shalt not masturbate." What Jesus seems to be teaching is that the attitude of the heart is the problem. This causes us to ask the question in a slightly different way. In other words, "Is 'M' always a sin?"

The issue is not "M," but it is lust. What is going on in your heart and mind if and when you engage in "M"? Are you visualizing a particular girl (or guy)? Are you fantasizing about someone? Are you looking at porn pictures and placing yourself in them? It is clear that all these acts are lustful and fall under Jesus' statement in Matthew 5. Is it possible, however, to "M" and not lust? This is where every person reading this article must stop and analyze his or her own heart. Only you can answer that question for yourself.

But there is another angle on this problem of teen sexuality and lust...

To Fornicate or Not to Fornicate?—That is the Question

Fornication. This is an old and archaic word, but can be useful still. Fornication means to have sexual contact with someone outside the context of marriage. Married couples cannot fornicate together. The "F" word in our day is quite different from the "F" word in the time of King James. Our "F" word simply refers, in a vulgar way, to the act of intercourse. This "F" word means much more.

The big question for teens who are dating or thinking about dating is what they will do sexually. Many Christian young people struggle with their desires and formulate the question, "Isn't it better to masturbate than go out and have sex with someone else?" If premarital sex—if "F"—is not an option, then maybe "M" is the lesser of two evils.

The problem with masturbation is the lust factor. The problem with fornication is also the lust factor. But added to the lust is the outright disobedience factor. And added to both of those is the damage you do to another person when you use him or her to gratify your own needs. Fornication can also create a life, with all the messy complications of a teen pregnancy. So it seems to make sense right off that "M" is not nearly as bad as "F."

So—is "M" the answer?

To force us to choose between "F" and "M" is to create a false set of options. It is a way of structuring the argument to force a certain conclusion. This is the lie of the world, which wants to lead you into sin no matter which choice you make. Our society would see it as an either/or choice between "F" and "M" when there are actually other options. How about changing the "M" to "Maximum Pleasure" and the "F" to "Faithfulness"?

"F" Stands for Faithfulness

For as Jesus moves the discussion to lust, He moves to the heart. And so the real issues are issues of the heart—purity of the heart. So where is your heart? Are you asking questions about sexuality—about masturbation—because you wish to honor the Lord in all you do, or are you trying to see what you can legally get away with so as to grab what you can while minimizing your guilt? When you think about your sexual contact with your date, are you trying to figure out how far you can go before you have to stop?

This is where the whole issue of petting comes in. This is where the whole issue of pornography and "M" circles back. This is where the whole issue of fantasizing about girls in class returns. They all boil down to heart issues, to purity issues. The question needs to shift to why you want to have "M" or even "F." What is going on? Is "M" a means to escape reality? Is "M" a way to control reality? Is it something you stumbled upon as a pleasure that allows you to escape the pain of dealing with rejection? Is it a way of doing something that your parents do not know about, which you figure they disapprove of, and which is your secret rebellion? Is it your way of "medicating" yourself instead of going to God with your disappointments and deep longings? Is it your way of saying to God that you are not willing to wait for Him to give you peace? Is it your way of building a fantasy relationship instead of a real one? Is "M" an idol that you run back to when times are rough?

Similarly, what about "F"? Is it a way to escape a painful family situation? Are you using physical pleasure to manipulate the other person to like you? Do you use sex as a tool to achieve some goal—a weapon to conquer or control someone else? Is there not idolatry lurking here, too?

Instead of focusing on particular behaviors—on rules—you need to dare to look at your heart motives. This is hard work for anyone, especially for teens, but it is so crucial. Why do you feel like you need to look at porn? Why do you feel like you must touch her in a certain way? If you are attempting to be faithful to God in all of life, then you must look to Christ and allow Him to re-form your questions in this direction. You will focus in on what your desires say about the condition of your heart. And when you become aware of the hardness of your heart, look to Christ. He alone is the Pure One, the Faithful One, given up to death on the cross for unfaithful, impure men. He alone can give you faithfulness in pursuing a pure heart.

"M" is for Maximum pleasure

Maximum pleasure is what everyone seeks all the time, whether aware of it or not. Each decision you make reflects your belief system— what you believe will bring you the greatest joy, benefit, pleasure, peace. The Bible invites you to live to the max—to go for the deepest joys, pleasures and satisfactions in life (Ps 16:11). Yes, sexual orgasm in the context of marriage is awesome and wonderful (God designed it that way!), but that same fire outside the fireplace is very destructive and enslaving. And, contrary to what our culture tells you, there is much more to life than regular orgasm anyway you can get it. So if you want maximum pleasure, then you need to make 'maximum choices'— decisions not to settle for second best. Sometimes that means you must "flee sexual immorality" (1Cor 6:18) before it stares you down face to face. It is nearly impossible to stop when you are in the back seat of a car and the windows are fogged over. It is nearly impossible to avoid lustful "M" if you have been surfing the free teaser screens on the web or dabbling in cybersex chatrooms.

Maximizing your pleasure means thinking long-term. If you hope to be married someday, it means realizing that lustful solo sex is a sin against your future spouse. And if God calls you to singleness, the false intimacy of porn and solo sex will destroy your capacity to enjoy real, healthy connection with other people. It also means thinking through the implications of your actions and realizing that you may be setting yourself up for sin. Do not be deceived; you will reap what you sow (Gal 6:7).

Maximum choices recognize that sin is progressive. Isaiah 30:1 notes that often people "add sin to sin," and Romans 1:18-32 shows how one sin leads to another. Often, the sin you engage in now will continue to grow, gaining more and more control over your heart. Porn habits and "M" habits will only deepen. Sexual contact with your date will go from one thing to another, and with each new relationship you will want to start where you left off physically with the one before. You need to make maximum choices now, to protect yourself from yourself in the future and to maximize your own pleasure and peace in the long run.

This is where you teens have an advantage over us adults. You are able to pluck out the weeds while they are still small and have not developed an extensive root system. Through a commitment to faithfulness and maximum pleasure, you can greatly curb the growth of sexually enslaving sins. Most importantly, however, is that through honestly going to more mature Christians, you can get accountability, prayer support and community. This is God's means of grace to you. Genuine intimacy is the antidote to the false intimacy of porn and the counterfeit nurturing of masturbation. He is offering a way out of the trap, even before it snaps shut on you.

Always remember that your longing for intimacy is really your longing for relationship with God. If you have blown it, come to the Cross— for forgiveness and new power to walk in purity. Jesus offers you Himself—drink deeply of Him, instead of your stagnant pool of porn. You will have no rest until you rest in Him.

Permission to reprint granted by Harvest News, a quarterly publication of Harvest USA.

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