Let’s get back to dismantling the misconceptions and false dichotomies of “The Cult of the Orgasm”. You can read part one here. I highly recommend reading both the original article on Her.meneutics and my first post before moving on to this post. But, to each their own. I meant to get this out yesterday but I was involved in a bit of a car accident and, while I wasn’t hurt, I was a little too shaken up to try to be funny and pointed about vibrators. But now I’m back in the game. Let’s go.
But not only is masturbation inherently focused on the needs of the self, it also involves trying to provide for those needs by oneself, instead of trusting God to know best whether the sexual intimacies of marriage are truly needed or best at the present stage.
Lots and lots of things we do, everyday, focus on the needs of the self. In fact, isn’t most of what we do focused on our own needs? We eat, we exercise, we buy ourselves clothes, cell phones, and movie tickets, we nap, we medicate our ailments. A slice of chocolate cake, two aspirin for a headache, or a trip to an amusement park all seem as self-focused as wielding a vibrator. If the logic of Ms. Broadway goes like this, “you shouldn’t meet sexual desires until God shows you that it’s time by presenting you with a marriageable partner,” then shouldn’t it also say for all self-focused actions, “you shouldn’t eat cake/take aspirin/go to an amusement park until God shows you it’s time by throwing you a surprise birthday party/landing you in the E.R./inspiring in you a roller-coaster based ministry.” Christians don’t wait on God for almost any other indulgence. Why is this different?
There, as they say, is the rub.
Actually, no. Ms. Broadway says no rub allowed.
And the older you get, the harder the desperation and anger are to fight, never mind the curiosity and sheer physical hunger that sometimes sweep through like the desert’s flash floods.
Whoa. Ms. Broadway is one tough noogie if she is fighting all those overwhelming emotions in order to meet her expectations of purity. You’ve got to give her credit there.
But I find one word particularly interesting, “curiosity.” I think that word tells us volumes. Ms. Broadway is curious about her own sexuality because she is unexperienced in sex herself (she tells us that she’s never been married, wrote a book, Sexless in the City, (which might give us a clue to why Sex in the City plays such a prominent role in her understanding of culture) and is telling us right here that she’s sworn off masturbation – so I think it is fair assumption.) And although she is professedly inexperienced, here we are, reading her proclamations about the morality of vibrators.
But masturbation fixes none of that. Instead of hope, it brings emptiness. Instead of moving you from loneliness and self-absorption to things that are excellent, praiseworthy, and encouraging (Phil. 4:8), it takes the mind to increasingly dark places. And instead of fostering greater self-sacrifice toward others, in breeds an increasing self-concern and inward focus.
Here are the increasingly grim, but unsubstantiated, pronouncements I mentioned in my first post. What proof does she offer that masturbation “brings emptiness,” “takes the mind to increasingly dark places,” or “breeds an increasing self-concern and inward focus?” I would offer my own unsubstantiated pronouncement that very few people who haven’t been taught that everything south of the belly button is Satan’s territory would have this reaction to masturbation at all.
She won’t even say if this was her own experience. If it was her own experience then I wouldn’t contradict her; I have as little right to comment on her sexuality as she has to comment on mine. But she doesn’t claim this experience as her own, but rather insists that it is a universal phenomenon. Which is problematic because she never gives us the slightest clue as to how she knows it’s universal.
The good news is, we don’t need masturbation to prepare for marriage and sex—if God has those ahead for us. There are many ways to grow in loving others well without being in a romantic relationship, and the more we learn to love like Jesus, the better for all of our relationships.
One part of this is most certainly right. We can train ourselves in relationship-relevant virtues before we know who we will eventually exercise them for. We can foster in ourselves and learn more about having patience with others, good listening skills, a generous nature, and methods of conflict resolution. And I won’t argue that learning to love like Jesus, a practice which requires an open-hearted take on forgiveness, will hurt a future marriage either.
However, most of the world seems to believe that masturbation is a pretty good precursor to sex. You’ll even find many sex-therapists and advice columnists advocate it as a way to make sex better within a marriage. Human plumbing doesn’t come with an instruction manual; everyone has got to find out how it works for themselves. It’s not a mandate for good sex within a marriage, but abstaining couples should plan on a lot more uncomfortable fumbling and disappointing endings than their masturbating counterparts.
The hard part is that a life without self-supplied sexual release is one in which loneliness, uncertainty, and libido can take on a starker, sharper reality. There is no escape, no cushion, no numbing device.
Let me get this straight, masturbation “brings emptiness,” “takes the mind to increasingly dark places,” and “breeds an increasing self-concern and inward focus,” but abstaining leads to a life with loneliness, uncertainly and a stark, sharp libido from which there is no escape, cushion, or numbing device. That’s a pretty rough deal that Ms. Broadway says God hands out. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
But the minute you turn to God in your hunger, there’s communion. That doesn’t make the circumstances easy or the night shorter, but in fighting through unsatisfied sexual longing with God, it’s possible to gain a measure of what so draws us to real sex in the first place: intimacy.
If this is what works for Ms. Broadway, then more power to her. I really want to be clear here – whatever works for you, either in the bedroom or in your heart of hearts, is wonderful. Three cheers and go for the gold. But Ms. Broadway doesn’t want you to go for it. She assumes that her experience and her religious beliefs are universal. And the only universal thing about sex is that there are no universals.
If Ms. Broadway wrote this article as an explanation of her own coming to terms with singleness and sexuality or as an encouragement to other women who’ve come to the same decisions, then that would be great. Women should be empowered and encouraged to make decisions regarding their sexuality in a healthy, thoughtful, and non-coercive way. But Ms. Broadway is being coercive. She’s saying that using a bit of silicone and plastic that goes bzzbzz is unwise and probably sinful for all Christian women. Accessing your sexuality without the permission and involvement of a man is wrong.
And that, my friends, is the rallying cry of the patriarchy.