In case you missed it, May is National Masturbation Month.
Yes, there is such a thing.
Founded by Good Vibrations, a sex shop in San Francisco, May was chosen as National Masturbation Month in 1995 to protest against the firing of the Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders, who suggested that young people should be taught masturbation in their sex education classes. Since 1995, many events have been created to celebrate what Good Vibrations said in its annual press release is a "necessary reminder that self-satisfaction is a healthy, accessible form of pleasure engaged by almost everyone."
In San Francisco, the Center for Sex and Culture, sought $30 tax-deductible donations to its organization, to host a Live Masturbate-a-Thon. Participants could masturbate at the Center or at home. In its press release, it states, "All genders, all orientations are welcome to explore self-pleasure in a supportive group environment." The Center however stipulates that, "anyone striving for the longest masturbation record (currently set at nearly 10 hours) must be done at home."
In Philadelphia, from May 1-27, Live Masturbate-a-Thon participants are also raising money for local sex education groups like ScrewSmart and Pleasure Rush! On May 30, participants are invited to attend, "Creamium," a game show and dance party at which prizes will be handed out for "Most Creative Fantasy" and "Most Pleasure Connections."
Events like these are taking place in cities all across America.
Those who support masturbation, the sexual stimulation of one's own genitals, argue that it is normal, healthy, and should be done without shame.
Scientific journals have been studying trends in sexuality since the late 1940s. The Journal of Sexual Medicine reported some of the most recent national masturbation statistics. In 2010, it surveyed several thousand men and women from age 14-70 and found that 68 percent of men and 43 percent of women masturbated at least once in the month in which they were surveyed. ("Sexual behavior in the United States: Results from a national probability sample of men aged 14-94." Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, (suppl 5), 255-265)). As the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University reports, the percentages are much higher among undergraduate students, as high as 98 percent among men an 44 percent among women.
The fact that masturbation is as prevalent as it is raises a deeper question about how people perceive their bodies. To whom do our bodies belong? Can I do with my body whatever/whenever I want even if it is within the privacy of my own home? Is the only purpose of performing a sexual act self-gratification? Does my body only belong to myself?
Many Protestant leaders are talking about sex in healthy ways, from Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, to Dr. Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, to nonprofit anti-porn organizations like www.XXXchurch.com, of Fireproof Ministries. And the late John Paul II focused on teaching a "Theology of the Body," insisting that human sexuality is intended for one purpose: "the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman."
Yet, the crux of the ideological divide goes deeper than sex, deeper than a Theology of the Body, but to the core of why, as human beings we are alive on this earth.
The Westminster Catechism provides a simple answer, in fact the answer to the very first question it raises: why are we here? It's answer: the purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. (1 Cor. 10:31; Rev. 4:11; Ps. 73: 25-26).
What does this mean?
We are to reflect God's glory-to show his handiwork, to reflect his beauty-in everything we do. When a person seeks to glorify God, he/she seeks at all times and in all actions to do what is pleasing in God's sight. All of life, every square inch of it, is to be lived to honor God. Obviously, no one can possibly do this without Christ, but God did create men and women in his image-with the knowledge to understand God's revelation of himself in this world, with the ability to obey and to be set apart to the Lord, and to foster human flourishing.
The Apostle Paul admonishes in 1 Thess. 4:3-7 that it is God's will for us to be sanctified in Him, to avoid sexual immorality, to control our bodies in ways that are holy and honorable.
While many may struggle with sexual sin, Paul warns that this kind of sin always leads to a lust for wanting more (Eph. 4:19). Masturbation leads to sexual addiction, which leads to a progressive intimacy disorder that prohibits people from experiencing sexual acts with others, leaving them emptier and emptier.
Pointing out the bondage of this brokenness, the sexual disordering of one's life, can be the most healing discussion one may ever have with another person. For the deepest problem of our lives is the exchange of the glory of God for anything else-even ourselves (Rom. 1:23). The fact is that we can all exchange the truth of God for the lie that we have sole authority over our own bodies.
Beneath all the maladies of the world is our failure to worship the Creator. And the sexual disordering of our lives profoundly reveals where our heart worship lies. Are we worshiping ourselves or God? Are we seeking to glorify God or ourselves?
Minister John Piper explains that from the beginning of creation, God's relationship to His people is correlated to Jesus' relationship to the church, his bride (Eph. 5:31-32). In these relationships, Piper clarifies that "the man represents Christ and is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. The woman represents God's people or the church. And sexual union in the covenant of marriage represents, pure undefiled, intense heart-worship. God means for the beauty of worship to be dramatized in the right ordering of our sexual lives."
When focusing on ourselves through masturbation or non-marital sexual relationships we disorder our relationship to God. The beauty of heart worship, of glorifying God is destroyed. However, there is hope Piper exclaims, the healing of our souls, our deepest heart's longings is possible when we "return the glory of God to its rightful place in our affections."
The answer to those masturbating alone at home, or in groups, is that there is a better, more intimate way, a supernatural way to enjoy sex. Our bodies were created for more than self-gratification. Why settle for emptiness when we can have authentic intimacy with God and our spouse and serve a purpose greater than ourselves?