“Masturbation is an attempt to make ritual contact with the penis… to connect with the lost maleness.” Joseph Nicolosi
“Notice that the struggle with pornography or masturbation is most difficult when you are lonely, beat up, or longing for comfort in some way. This will become more intense the closer you get to your wounds.” John Eldredge
Mike could not wait to get off work on Friday. He thought of only one thing all day: his mountain bike hanging in the garage and the miles of new trail he planned to explore come Saturday morning. A coworker had told him of an “off the beaten path” single track a short drive into the mountains down an old logging road. He said it boasted some pretty spectacular views. Mike was sold. He really needed some adventure and time alone with God. And his wife kindly agreed to watch their twin girls to give him a little space.
Saturday he blasted out the door as soon as it seemed convenient. Highway became county roads became gravel roads – all climbing higher to his destination. And then he was lost. Seems this trail truly was a hidden gem and the logging road to it not used all that much. He hadn’t figured on that. His excitement took a nose dive. A half hour later, still searching, he was full tilt angry – at himself mostly, for not looking better at the map, since of course his phone was useless out here. Nearing utter exasperation, there it was suddenly, the road. “Yes!” he cried with a fist pump to match. He cranked his music again and all the excitement came bursting back.
Not two miles later, a big metal gate hung unapologetically across the road, marking it as closed for washouts and bringing his plans to a halt. His heart sank. This was an obstacle he could do nothing about. He sat stunned for a minute and finally turned around in defeat. Tears welled up in his eyes. He felt ashamed, alone, and close to a very familiar grief. He shut all this down with anger. “&%$# me!” he screamed. He drove in silence for awhile, seething with hatred for himself, thinking what an idiot he had been for not checking road conditions.
In the quiet, another familiar feeling came – the urge to masturbate. Where the hell is this coming from? he thought. He prayed. He fought to avoid it. And as if his shame and contempt needed anymore fuel, he ultimately gave in.
So where did that come from?
Masturbation is never just about a man getting his rocks off because sex is never just about sex. Never. Men are not that simple, not that animal. I know that may be a new thought. Masturbation is deeply connected to the things going on in a man’s heart. Boredom, discouragement, loneliness, anger – all of these could be at play and more. He’s medicating something, masturbating to take away something he doesn’t want to feel. Especially his feelings about himself as a man, that he’s a failure or weak or just simply doesn’t have it together like he feels he should. Most men are not aware of this in the moment. That’s the difficulty. In the moment, a man just wants comfort, relief from… something. Some unnamed something.
Its inherent in the symbolism of masturbation. Let me walk you through what I mean so you get the picture. I will do this as tastefully as I can. Literally, in the act of masturbation itself, a man is taking the biological symbol of his masculinity, his penis, into his own hands. And symbolically affirming himself, as in “giving himself strokes.” And his “manhood” rises to the occasion.
The picture couldn’t be more clear: Masturbation is self affirmation. It is a man’s attempt to affirm himself as a man and in so doing take care of his feelings of failure or weakness. A man masturbates to rouse his strength, his confidence, the masculinity within, to feel like a man again. He wants relief from all the ways he is not enough. As Joseph Nicolosi says so poetically, he’s making “…ritual connection with his penis… to connect with his lost maleness.”
John Eldredge once pointed out that puberty awakens two things in a young man: his sexuality and his hunger for the blessing of his manhood. If his father and the men around him don’t realize this need and affirm his sense of masculinity, then these two desires can become confused and intertwined. A young man can see his sexuality as the means to feel like a man – to be affirmed or at least to find relief from all the ways he doesn’t feel like a man. Masturbation becomes the way to medicate all the ways he was never loved well by his father or father substitute. He is getting relief from his insecurity and lack of confidence. In holding his penis, he is symbolically holding his broken sense of masculinity and trying to give it CPR.
Making more sense?
And can you feel the sadness of this? Its never going to work. Masturbation will never do anything to help. Its an attempt at self love, at caring for yourself and it won’t make you anymore whole. No one can affirm themselves. If anything, it only piles on the shame, the self hate, the feelings that you truly are a failure as a man. The urge to masturbate must be a sign to you that some deep place inside either is in pain and needs healing or simply needs for more love and affirmation.
Mike pulled back on the road now a complete wreck. At least the anger had subsided, I guess. It was hard to feel much other than utterly broken. And his sadness had only increased. Aware only that something important was happening in his heart, he wisely decided that now more than ever he needed to be with his heart and God. He found a familiar trail, closer to home.
There on the trail in his time with God he became aware of how young he felt, like a little boy. He remembered these feelings, knew them all too well. His father had abandoned him emotionally at a young age, checked out into alcohol. All of the pain of having had to find his own way as a boy and young man came back. And there was that sadness again, but this time he welcomed it. He sat and wept and prayed. And God said, “You are my son. I love you.”
The desire to masturbate should be a sign that some place is hurting in you. You need love. You need comfort. So ask yourself what’s really going on in your heart. And let the urge lead you to seek love from God and others.