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I have a lot of friends (both Christians and non-Christians) that are currently taking human sexuality courses in school. These friends will come to me and tell me about the health benefits of sexual intercourse. I've done some research myself on the topic and I find many physical health benefits of the human body having regular orgasms. These scientific studies claim that even masturbation causes the body to experience these health benefits. These benefits include things like stress relief, strengthened immune system, lower blood pressure and heart attack risk, brain stimulation, and the list goes on.

As a new Christian, this is all very confusing information to me. I suppose my question comes down to: *Why would God create us to physically benefit from sexual immorality and masturbation if these things are evil/immoral? *

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This would be a good question for your Pastor/Priest, not necessarily for this site. Please see How we are different than other sites? and Is it valid to ask if “Christianity” teaches anything?. We can't answer "Why God does anything" here. Speculating about God's motives, when not revealed explicitly in Scripture, leads to a lot of different opinions. –  David Stratton Feb 24 at 1:01
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Sex is not a sin. If sex is a sin, then God wouldn't have said "Be fruitful and multiply" to Adam and Eve. :P –  Anonymous Feb 24 at 1:02
    
I realize there's no concrete answer. I was only looking for more perspective on this topic. –  Edcro94 Feb 24 at 1:02
    
How exactly do you go from "Sex is good and healthy for you" to "Why would God create us to physically benefit from sexual immorality?" I also didn't realize that Christianity was in the business of explaining biochemistry. The better question here would be "What is the Christian position on sexuality?" And then cover this topic in the body. –  fredsbend the Grinch Feb 24 at 15:48

5 Answers 5

It is a misconception that the Bible is anti-sex.

Indeed, the Song of Solomon is an erotic love story. Even the Catholic Church admits that sex is supposed to be pleasurable. Likewise, the only story about masturbation really doesn't say that masturbation is the reason for punishment. And, even Southern Baptists are saying that the church needs to be more sex-positive - in the right context

That the church would teach that sex should be reserved for marriage is consistent with it - most sexologists will tell you that sex is better with the same partner.

In Hookups, Inequality Still Reigns - NYTimes.com

“As far as my ability to climax consistently, that’s something I was able to have in my monogamous relationships that I never had” in less committed circumstances, she said. ... Yet mediocre sex was a small price to pay “for the freedom to be able to enjoy it all.” The physical aspect of a tryst with a relative stranger was gratifying, she said, even if her chances of reaching orgasm were limited. When her partner’s performance was lackluster, she still took pride in her own sexual prowess.

This article was interesting to me in how it keeps justifying the sexual revolution. It flat out admits that casual sex isn't nearly as good as committed - but they continue to say, “Go for it anyways!” By contrast, a committed, monogamous, marriage-based relationship is one that is far more fulfilling to emotional and mental health.

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Though the Bible may be vague on masturbation explicitly, Christ is very clear on lust. And I'd be highly skeptical of any claims to "lust free" masturbation. –  svidgen Feb 24 at 14:49
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Otherwise good answer. And in fact, the Catholic Church not only "admits" that sex should be pleasurable, but often councils it's married members to have a lot of it ... –  svidgen Feb 24 at 14:53
    
@svidgen I agree about lust. I am intentionally not bringing that up because I'm trying to stick to the question and the point. –  Affable Geek Feb 25 at 19:21
    
I wonder if it would be worthwhile to make a more explicit distinction between sex and sexuality. I think Mere Christianity had a nice comment about the greater brokenness of the sexual appetite (compared to the food appetite); of course, "objectifying" food seems less criminal than "objectifying" another human being. –  Paul A. Clayton Jul 31 at 18:50

Sexual Intercourse is Perfectly Healthy

There's nothing inherently wrong with sex. God created all the animals to reproduce this way (Ge 1:22, 8:17). The intimacy between a husband and wife is not strictly for procreation (Song of Songs). I am not surprised to hear that there are health benefits associated with it.

Enjoying Something in the Right Way

The things that God created for us to enjoy are meant to be had in certain ways. Food is good and can be pleasurable, but that doesn't mean that it's OK to acquire it by sinning (theft, extortion, etc.). Similarly, sex is something meant to be enjoyed within the confines of (committed, monogamous) marriage.

(Excepting the means by which they gather data,) What do these studies say about sex that is contrary to Christian belief or doctrine? Studies about eating habits or exercise regimens suggest things about health that are similarly non-contradictory with Christianity.

That it is possible to reap (some of) the benefits of sexual intercourse while obtaining those experiences in the wrong way (fornication, perhaps masturbation—I'm not asserting one way or the other on that—it was mentioned in the question), that does not validate the notion that we ought to be having sexual intercourse with anyone we please. Honey is good and good for you. Stolen honey is likely no less healthy for your body, but that doesn't make stealing acceptable.

Sin Has Consequences

In the end, we (and sadly, others) will always reap the consequences of our choices. Fornication has emotional consequences that this study didn't address. Having sexual intercourse isn't wrong, but having it in a way God doesn't intend is.

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If you are finding this confusing, you should talk to a pastor or another Christian whose wisdom you respect and trust. But let me give you a generic overview of the Christian approach to sexuality.

According to Christianity, there is nothing wrong with sex.

That's been the view of virtually all Christian groups for hundreds or thousands of years. Sex is something invented by God, for our pleasure as well as for reproduction. As such it is entirely to be expected that there are health benefits and psychological benefits from it. The idea that Christians believe sex is bad or is only for making children is a myth. There certainly have been Christians who believed the myth, but "sex is bad" has never been any kind of official teaching of any significant group.

It is true that Christians believe (in general) that sex should be reserved for marriage. It is an intimate thing and should only be undertaken with a marriage partner. Within that relationship, however, the Bible positively encourages sexual expression. You will find Bible references explicitly telling marriage partners NOT to abstain from sex. It's also true that some Christians used to believe sex is bad in itself, but that belief was never widespread and has essentially vanished now.

So again, all the things you list are entirely to be expected as benefits of sex. They also show that God designed for us something enjoyable that also makes us healthy.

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That second paragraph looks like it got truncated –  Dennis Meng Feb 24 at 6:55

You assume masturbation is a sin. All I can say in this regard is, "Hold on there, big guy, that ain't necessarily true!" Immorality is a sin, yes, but masturbation, I'm not so sure.

Now, some denominations may in fact take a stand on the issue and come out and say that masturbation is wrong under all circumstances. If I were really interested, I'd probably do research to find out which denominations do and which do not. Frankly, I'm not that curious.

The Christian denomination in which I was brought up did not have a "policy" in this regard--neither written nor spoken. True, I grew up in a time when no one in my circle of significant others really talked openly about such things. Yes, we knew immorality (fornication, adultery, incest, rape, and so on) was sin, but we never talked about the M word. Since I was brought up a Protestant, I wasn't required, as were my Roman Catholic friends, to go to confession and tell a priest I had engaged in "self abuse" and then do penance.

Nor did my parents and I ever have a "talk" about these things. They were good Christian parents, but like most parents in the 1950s, they were highly uncomfortable talking about such things, so they didn't. In retrospect, I kind of wish they had forged ahead in spite of their discomfort, but that's water under the bridge or over the dam.

Back to masturbation. Apart from a chapter in Leviticus (i.e., 15), which deals with emissions, or discharges, of semen and blood, and the whole notion of ceremonial uncleanness, the Bible does not mention the word masturbation, let alone proscribe it in so many words.

The notion that sex is dirty is not taught in Leviticus 15 (or anywhere else in the Bible, at least that I am aware of). Ceremonial uncleanness in ancient Israel's theocracy was such an issue back then, in part, because the pagan religions and cults of the nations roundabout Israel in those days very often linked religion and sexuality, to the point where they had cult prostitutes in their houses of "worship." God wanted His children Israel to distance themselves as far from that sort of thing as they could; hence the various rules associated with the cultus of both the Tent of Meeting and, later, the temple.

God was not saying sex is bad, dirty, or something that prevents a person from worshiping Him. He was saying that because He is a holy God, our worship of Him must never become lackadaisical, careless, or pro forma, nor should we ever become blasé about the infinite moral gulf that separates us in our sinfulness from Him in His holiness. God is to be revered, and His rules for worship were (and are) to be followed to the letter, in both Testaments!

What kind of masturbation is therefore allowable, since the Bible neither sanctions nor approves of masturbation but is largely silent on the matter? Having said this, I am quick to point out the Bible gives us general guidelines and principles in this regard. For example, God certainly cares about what is going on in our minds. Sexual thoughts can, of course, be impure, and Jesus indicated as much in His Sermon on the Mount.

For a man to look lustfully at a woman, to desire to have sex with her, and perhaps even to fantasize and plan about how he can actually carry it out, is tantamount to adultery, according to Jesus. It may not be as bad as adultery in terms of consequences, but such fantasies can become the seeds of the deed! As Martin Luther (I believe) said, "We cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, but we certainly prevent them from building a nest on our heads!" Selah.

In conclusion, a few points. First, for the male of the species (and I am a male), nocturnal emissions can at times provide a "release valve" for pent-up sexual urges. That is the way God designed us. Masturbation, too, can also be a "release valve" for both males and females, but it can border on sin when

  • it ceases being a private act

  • it becomes habitual to a harmful degree (though I refuse neither to speculate on "how habitual" is habitual nor on what constitutes "harmful").

  • it is fueled by pornography

  • it is stimulated or triggered by thoughts which you know are dishonoring to God (see Matthew 5:27-28)

  • it constitutes defrauding your wife or husband when you are married (see 1 Corinthians 7:3-5)

This short list is not meant to be exhaustive. Furthermore, I haven't even touched on the "health benefits" you mentioned in your question. About the best I can do in making up for my having bypassed this part of your question is to give you a somewhat strained, albeit biblical, analogy.

A principle in God's word is that God

"causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45 NIV).

In other words, the good gifts God gives His creatures, such as rain and, yes, sexuality, He gives to all His creatures, righteous and unrighteous alike. The health benefits of sexuality will be the same, I suggest, for Christians as for non-Christians.

The spiritual benefits of sexual expression in marriage between one husband and one wife for life, however, can never be experienced fully by people who choose to express their sexuality in ways which are not pleasing to God and are not according to His design for human sexuality. There may be pleasure in sin for a season, but that season is quickly over, and often it is accompanied by things which are far from pleasurable: broken marriages and families, venereal disease, sexual addiction, emptiness, regret, shame, and a host of other consequences, not one of which would we choose deliberately prior to sinning.

What exactly are the "spiritual benefits of sexual expression" in accordance with God's design? True intimacy, for one--and perhaps the most important--thing. The kind of intimacy which is expressed in really getting to know another person at the deepest levels of your being. That kind of knowledge is why marriage is such a beautiful metaphor for the relationship between Christ and His body, the Church universal. That kind of knowledge is why the notion of "becoming one flesh" through marriage speaks of another oneness of far-surpassing worth; namely, the oneness between Christ and the Church whom He loves and for whom He gave His life in sacrifice at the cross.

"This mystery [of marriage] is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and His church" (Ephesians 5:32)

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I heard it say that Sex is like a fire. If it is in the fireplace, it is very useful, it makes the room warm, it is beautiful to look at. But if you take out the fire from the fireplace and and put it on the floor, it is dangerous, it is disaster, it can burn down the whole house.

Sex is very healthy and good for married couples. It was designed by God, for God said "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). But once sex is used outside the wedlock, it is disaster. It can destroy the family, it can take your peace, it can take your life, for their are deadly sexually transmitted diseases.

Apostle Paul gave advice to married couples that they should enjoy sex and they should not deprive each other.

Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5, NLT)

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