women and masturbation
April 25, 2024

Christian Women and Masturbation: What’s Really Going On?

Written by
  • print

“I wonder what the Bible really says about Christian women and masturbation.” 

Molly, a Christian teenager with a secret struggle, took to Google to find answers. She prayed that her church youth group would address the topic of her hidden fight: masturbation. A missionary kid, she listened attentively when topics related to sexuality were mentioned in church, hoping for a clue to answer her question.

That summer, the youth group announced they would be doing a four-part teaching on sexuality, including the topic of masturbation. Molly felt hopeful. “I can finally get some answers!” To her dismay, the youth group leader announced that the boys would be hearing the teaching on masturbation, but the girls would be sent to a separate room to learn about dealing with anxiety. Why? Molly was told, “Girls just don’t struggle with that problem.” Her heart sank. Clouded by shame, Molly felt like she was the only Christian female struggling with the sin of masturbation. 

Christian Women and Masturbation

In my ministry at Harvest USA, masturbation is just one of the many sexual issues that impact women. You might be surprised to know that on Harvest USA’s website analytics, “masturbation” is the most widely read topic within our menu of articles and resources year after year. In other words, people have questions about Christian women and masturbation, and we see this reflected in our website. 

But Molly? She is now a pastor’s wife, mom, and Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling (MABC) student at Faith Bible Seminary in Lafayette, Indiana. I interviewed Molly about the topic of masturbation because it’s the subject of her master’s thesis and was a source of significant shame in her teen years. Molly hopes to complete her degree in 2024 and have more opportunities to write, teach, and speak on this seldom mentioned topic. 

Molly’s research included interviews with Christian women with past and present struggles with masturbation. She interviewed a small sample, but her findings are consistent with what I’ve heard in my ministry experience. Here are some things seen in most responses:

  • Women began masturbating as children, without any idea what it was—but most knew it had to be hidden. They did not tell their parents. (Take note, parents: be proactive in normalizing talks with your young children about this topic. For support and resources on this check out our free video courses for parents and articles on having this important discussion.) 
  • Women waited months or even years to share this struggle with anyone. Shame was a pervasive theme. 
  • Though they attended church regularly, these women had no idea what the Bible teaches about masturbation.
  • They experienced cycles of pride and shame around giving in to temptation and having periods of abstinence. One woman said she was “neither fully known nor fully loved. I was too deep into my sin to stop, but I was too involved with my campus ministry to tell anyone I was struggling. I felt like people loved me because they did not know about this secret sin, and if they did know that about me, they would not love me.”
  • Women also expressed a very narrow definition of pornography, which sometimes made their conviction about the ungodly content they were consuming to fuel masturbation murky. Things like sex scenes in R-rated movies, fan fiction, and erotic literature  “did not count” as pornography, and that led them to excuse those sinful pursuits more easily. 

They read information online suggesting that if you can masturbate without having lustful thoughts, it’s not sinful. Because there is no chapter and verse in the Bible saying “thou shalt not masturbate,” questions about what the Bible teaches are an important part of discipleship for young people. For a more detailed treatment of these questions see our article “Solo Sex and the Christian.”

Women, Shame, and the Gospel

Why do Christian women struggle so deeply with shame around masturbation?

  1. Silence. Many women have simply never heard anyone talk about masturbation as an issue women face. They assume from the silence that they must be the only one struggling. Women ministry leaders, take note—this topic is a discipleship issue like many others. See to it that resisting masturbation is mentioned in your ministry context as a regular part of a life submitted to Jesus. Women are struggling and asking these questions. Will you serve them by bringing up the conversation?
  1. “It’s a man’s problem.” Many women are taught that sexual sin, particularly things like porn or masturbation, are issues guys deal with but not women. This seems to be the most shame-inducing factor. But praise be to God that the dark corners of shame are where the gospel uniquely shines! I asked Molly what she would say to a woman struggling with masturbation. Her answer: “You’re not alone and God loves you. This is not an abnormal category of sin, but something that is common to man—and woman! (1 Cor. 10:13).”
  1. No teaching on God’s design for sex. Many Christian women do not have any understanding of God’s design for sex overall. In the absence of biblical teaching, some women ingest what they read in popular magazines and believe masturbation is a form of self-care or an inconsequential private act. Or, having no big picture of why God designed sex, masturbation seems to be in its own “extra-abnormal” category, furthering their shame.

What If I Am a Woman Struggling with Masturbation?

You’re not alone (1 Cor. 10:13). You need to hear the gospel again and again, because the enemy seeks to take your sin and accuse you by making sin not just something you’ve done but who you are. Resist him. How? Walk in the light. Confess your sin to the Lord first. Read Psalm 32. Pray that the Lord could provide a trusted woman in your local church to whom you can confess. If Harvest USA can help, reach out and make an appointment with our women’s ministry.

Pastor and author Sam Allberry pointed out two lies we are vulnerable to when we’re caught in sexual sin: “you are uniquely ruined by this, and you can never tell anyone.” I think Molly said it well at the close of our interview: “Jesus died for this; you’re not weird. Confess and come into the light!” Her life and story give beautiful testimony to God’s redeeming grace to set sinners on a new path. He is faithful.

More resources you might like:

Caitlin McCaffrey

Director of Women's Ministry

Caitlin McCaffrey is the Director of Women’s Ministry at Harvest USA. She holds a BA in liberal studies from The Master’s University and an MA in teaching with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis from National University. She is a board-certified behavior analyst and certified brain injury specialist with training in trauma recovery and biblical counseling.

More from Caitlin McCaffrey