My purpose with almost everything I write here is to communicate two things: 1) you are not alone and shame is not from Jesus, and 2) it is possible to develop an authentic theology of the body and live as an embodied sexual being and experience both healthy boundaries and real grace.

These two things have never been more true than for this post.

Please be gentle with me and with each other as we discuss this.

To begin, I’d like to tell you a story.

***

I didn’t have much of a sense of shame or self-awareness when I was young. I happily shed my clothes to play in the sprinklers in the front yard, and scandalized the neighbors (I was banned from playing with several neighbor kids because going nekkid in the sprinklers at 5 years old on a hot California afternoon in July was being a “bad influence”). I finger painted in my panties in our backyard at six, proudly drawing a red H on my chest and prancing around with it to show my parents. I skinny dipped in my best friend’s backyard pool with no thought that anyone wouldn’t do such a thing if given the chance.

I chatted up strangers at the grocery store and asked impertinent questions like “when are you going to have a baby? why is your skin brown? how old are you? do you know Jesus? do you like being fat?”

My mom used to say that God had given a child like me to introvert parents “to stretch us out of our comfort zone.”

And one summer evening, when I was 7 or 8, it was one of those evenings where the light fades late in the day and small children are restless in bed because they can still hear friends playing out in the street and the blinds are still glowing with sunset light. And as I was trying so very hard to be obedient and stay in bed and be quiet and fall asleep, I discovered a secret.

A few weeks later, my mom checked in with me and discovered me touching myself and we had a talk about it. “It helps me fall asleep quickly, Mom!” I explained.

“Well, it’s not really a good habit to get into,” she said. “Try to sleep with your hands away from your private parts.”

So I complied. Or tried to.

I was hooked. It felt amazing. But I managed to refrain more often that not, and kept it from becoming a habit.

Until I was 15 and more stressed than I had ever been before, with so much constant chaos at home, little privacy, regular demands on my time to babysit and help the family, lots of pressure to keep up in school (I was falling behind due to the chaos of toddler twin brothers and another infant in the house). And I was increasingly isolated from my peers as more and more of the things they became involved with were Things Our Family Doesn’t Do (movies, NCFCA debate, ballroom dance club, teen “care group” at church, top 40 radio, pop concerts, etc.). On top of all that, I found myself no longer getting along well with my roommate sister, and the constant tension between us over how to decorate our 10′ x 10′ bedroom, when lights-out should be, who could play music when, etc., sucked us both dry emotionally.

And so, to relieve the stress and distract my affection-starved self, I became addicted to sneaking romance novels from the library and reading them behind my school books. But after a while, I became fed up with the clichés and stock characters, and replaced this with a habit of masturbating when I was stressed and overwhelmed.

Dear reader, I didn’t realize that I was doing it to relieve stress, but looking back on how incredibly tense those three years were, I see it all now: that was my primary outlet and it was because I craved  affirmation, connection, unconditional love, and I wasn’t getting it at home and I couldn’t get it elsewhere AND. and. I was 15 and newly horny as hell. I thought instead that I was horribly perverted and a vile, filthy sinner.

I have the pain-laced journal entries from those three years to prove it. Usually confessory, they read something like this (spaced out at about two of these entries per week):

1) Frustration over some conflict with family member (during which description I beat myself up for being bothered by these things at all and ask God to make me more loving, loyal, content, peaceful).

2) Grief and appalled shame that I masturbated AGAIN.

3) Thanking God for being good to me even if I’m such a horrible worm and detestable in his eyes (cue long dramatic description akin to that found in Jonathan Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”).

What happened, between the mild conversation with my mother (who, to her credit, never ever told me that masturbation was a sin or that my sex drive was wrong or shameful) when I was 8 and this perpetual emotional self-flagellation for my wickedness?

A couple of things happened: first, I got caught up in a church culture where shame and self-loathing were used by authority figures to prey on the insecurities of their congregants for the purposes of social control. Second, I became displaced when we moved from California and lost a lot of my self-confidence when I was introduced to Southern social expectations and felt the pressure to conform to [what seemed to me] bizarre standards of dignity and politeness. Suddenly I was immersed in a culture where sinner, sinner, sinner was emphasized spiritually, and girls were expected to be ethereal, saintly, soft-spoken, and elevated above the physical.

Happy little dirt-and-trees-and-creeks-and-loud-laughter-and-louder-ideas me was totally lost, and I was overeager to perform well and please everyone. But I had this secret.

And so I was caught in an overpowering sense of fear, shame, and guilt. I was the messed up one, the girl who wished she could attend the men’s retreat session on lust and pornography. The girl who was afraid to date someone because what might happen if I “woke love” and my desires increased more than they are now?! I was embarrassed because I liked my body, and all my friends hated theirs and dieted and binged and cut and hid theirs under frumpy clothes. I did, too, for fear of boys looking at me, but secretly I dreamed that someone might notice me beyond my frumpy clothes and see that I could pretty and desirable if I got a chance to try being so. And they all chattered on about what the most romantic proposal might be and who’d end up having the first baby, while I wondered what it might be like to be kissed and wondered if I was the only one among us who felt this way.

The rest of the story goes like an American rags-to-riches story, where I steeled myself with the power of shame and I fought hard and worked harder at school and chores and keeping busy, and I read myself to sleep at night and eventually broke the habit. I was free.

And I swore to myself that I would never tell anyone. Not even my husband. Because it was too dark and shameful and no one could ever know that I was that sort of person. 

***

Here’s the thing, though. That wasn’t a victory.

I killed a habit. But I sold my soul to shame in order to do it.

And the problem wasn’t whether masturbating was right or wrong. The problem was that I was using it to cope with stress. I sought out the cathartic high instead of facing the real issues I was living with — loneliness, anxiety, fear, anger. It could have been any number of things — I could have discovered cutting, I could have developed an unhealthy relationship with food, or become obsessed with working out or studying. But instead I developed an imbalanced, unhealthy relationship to my sexuality.

But like any “addict,” I supplanted one addiction for another to overcome the initial habit: I replaced masturbating with emotional self-flagellation.

And I never addressed the most fundamental missing puzzle piece to this whole thing: I never bothered to pair up a grace-centered understanding of myself as BOTH a child of God and a sexual being.

Stopping the “addiction” didn’t fix what was broken.

***

I’ve been thrilled to see so many wonderful faithful saints raising their voices to challenge the shame-centered Church teachings on virginity. This is a start to healing in the church that has long been needed.

Here’s my bone to pick with the Church on this: we can’t possibly create healthy marriages and a healthy theology of the body (and ourselves as sexual beings) if we assume that men are the only ones with sex drives, the only ones tempted to seek out titillation, the only ones prone to thinking with their genitals.

I’m sorry. That’s bullshit. My vagina likes to try to make my decisions for me, too.

Men are no more rapists in their natural state than I am asexual in my natural state.

These caricatures deny us both our humanity and a chance at a decent conversation about our sexuality and bodies and God’s intent for these beautiful, mysterious, pleasurable, soul-touching things we’re capable of creating when joined together in the fullness of human connection.

Limiting the conversation to “guard your heart” and “porn is wrong” and “don’t have sex, you’ll be damaged goods” is cheating ourselves out of mature discussions about why these things work the way they do, why our bodies are important, why emotions are beautiful and powerful and dangerously good, and traps us in a black-and-white world where we can only think with childish terms of understanding and control the deeper, more mature intuitions of our emotions and bodies with the blunt tool of fear and shame.

Shame as a tool for control creates perversions and nullifies grace. It does things like: twisting developing sexual habits so that some of my peers can only get off when they feel shame or pain; preventing virgin newlyweds from having happy and safe honeymoon sex because they’re unlearning years and years of fear-based self-control; letting married women think that sex should/can only be on their husbands’ terms of use/desire (e.g., she should only be turned on by what turns him on because they’re soul mates/made for each other/designed for each other); keeping married couples from communicating about what they like/don’t like in the bedroom, because of unspoken expectations about How Sex Is Done; etc., etc.

I’ve known people who got married and couldn’t have sex without having panic attacks, throwing up/feeling nauseous, tensing up and being unable to follow through with penetration (both him and her), feeling dirty and ashamed for desiring one’s spouse, for asking for any sexual favor from one’s spouse, and the list goes on. This is directly caused by the Church (okay, fine, the evangelical church) abdicating from a nuanced, mature, intellectual discussion of a Christian understanding of sex and the body jointly. These two things should never be discussed in isolation from each other.

I am not just a soul. I am an embodied being and my body is who I am just as much as my soul is. God made me this way and called it good. And part of this existence is that he made me a woman and he gave me a healthy sex drive and my body is good and I like sex.

And sex is spiritual AND physical, intimate and natural, meaningful and a bodily function. All together. At once.

Masturbation is natural and not necessarily sinful on its own. But objectifying human beings for sexual pleasure is wrong just as it’s wrong to be addicted to anything. Both choices are compromising to the soul.

But the worst is shame. An appropriate grief for sin is right and good. But dwelling on your sin and obsessing to the point of self-loathing? Jesus never taught that.

Perfect love casts out fear. Living life with delight in Jesus and in the grace found in relationship with him sets us free from fear, from shame, from being chained to shame or lust or arrogant self-righteousness.

Instead we receive each day with the promise of wholeness through identifying ourselves with Jesus and living without fear.

Dear friends. You are not alone.

Don’t be afraid.


  • mamawest777

    Simply amazing! And so needed in our churches! It took me years to get past the Christian cultural lies on sexuality. Thank you for being so brave!

  • http://twitter.com/MaryRimi Mary Rimi

    Hannah– I love this. “Men are no more rapists in their natural state than I am asexual in my natural state.” It’s funny, I started masturbating when I was about 7 as well, but never even thought of it as sexual until I was 16 and my boyfriend asked me if I did it. The light shown, and I got why people must like sex so much; it feels good. I can’t say that I’ve ever been shamed out of it; personally, I’ve never felt it was wrong, though I’ve sat through many a lecture in my youth telling me how wrong self-stimulation is; “stealing from one’s husband” and such things. But even as a teenager I decided that was garbage; if God made me able to enjoy this and I’m not sitting watching porn, what could be wrong? I guess I’ve always been strong-willed, and I also know that Bible like the back of my hand and I don’t find a problem with it in the context of this present description.

    However, I’ve always been aware that there are girls who were not as comfortable as me with this; girls who’ve been made to feel dirty. That is wrong, and I’ve always wanted someone to help share with them the atrocity of telling them they’re evil for appreciating their bodies.

    One of the worst periods of my life was when I knew a man who wanted me to masturbate regularly for him, which made me feel dirty and used, objectified. It took quite a while to reclaim my sexuality after that, especially since I knew church individuals who were close to me (read: my brother) who judged me for it. But what was overlooked by the blind “anything sexual is wrong!” attitude was that I was was being pressured into doing something innocent for the vilest of reasons by someone who didn’t give the tiniest crap if I was actually pleasured.

    The church needs to rewrite its story on sex; we are sexual beings. No girl should feel guilty for having a body that responds to her own touch; no girl should feel dirty for doing something when she was pressured and threatened. Sex is more than just an act; there are so many dimensions and factors to consider, but often Christians just like to make people feel dirty and sinful. That is not what the church is for, that’s not what the Bible says, and it’s not what Jesus is about.

    Thanks for being brave Hannah. Love you.

    • http://danileekelley.wordpress.com/ Dani Kelley

      “No girl should feel guilty for having a body that responds to her own touch; no girl should feel dirty for doing something when she was pressured and threatened.” Yes, this, a thousand times. I could cry. This.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68110455 Julianne Christie

        i’m still working on this^ it takes time! :)

      • http://dramaticelegance.blogspot.com/ rachel lee

        I could sob with relief. This is incredible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68110455 Julianne Christie

    An excellent article, as usual :) I wish I could hug you through my computer, because I imagine this article wasn’t easy to write. It’s difficult to rawly put yourself out there, and I commend you. I’m still working on “freeing” my sexuality, coaxing it out from the dark room where I had been pressured for so many years to hide it. A low libido is something that really “shouldn’t” be happening until menopause, not to someone in her 20’s. What most women my age recognize as a normal, constant feeling, is something I have to consciously remind myself to allow to exist.

    As far as masturbation itself, I would recommend that if parents know their children have discovered life below the belly-button, it’s time to explain why touching, rubbing, squeezing, and massaging the penis, the clitoris, the breasts, etc cause us to suddenly have strange and amazing physical feelings. It’s also REALLY important for children to understand hygiene and especially for girls to know about UTIs, how to avoid them, and how boys’s and girls’ plumbing works.

    We know that so many young girls still get pregnant at less-than-desirable ages, despite having sex-ed in school, or not having sex-ed at all, however I really think that if parents made a strong effort to explain to their kids from a young age where babies and STDs come from and how to avoid them, we might have a lower rate of teenage pregnancies and STDs.

    and I’m not even sorry when I say this: Abstinence-only sexual education is NOT as effective as a lot of people seem to think it is. EVERYONE knows that NOT having sex will keep you from getting pregnant/getting someone else pregnant/getting or receiving an STD. But knowing that isn’t going to keep people from having sex if they really, really, really want to have sex.

    • http://twitter.com/profligatetruth Caleigh Royer

      this is very well said! bravo. :-)

  • http://danileekelley.wordpress.com/ Dani Kelley

    “Men are no more rapists in their natural state than I am asexual in my natural state.” This resonated deeply with me, as well – because I’m by no means asexual. (Though I do think it needs to be said that some people are asexual in their natural state, but that’s another conversation for another time.)

    As I was reading this, I just kept looking to my left at the last journal I ever kept, the only journal I could never finish writing. A month after I started writing in it, I was sexually assaulted. I believed it was God’s retribution for my porn addiction & masturbation habit. (I should perhaps note that I don’t think it was a porn addiction so much as a coping mechanism, but again – another conversation for another time). But just…man. Page after page after page, I pleaded with God to completely remove my sexuality. I told Him over and over again that I knew it could not be of Him, these desires I had. I couldn’t even name what I did – you know, “speaking of things that are done in darkness” and all that. I told Him that it’d be better for me to be dead than to continue the way I was.

    I honestly never, ever, EVER even heard the term or idea of a theology of the body until I met you here online. I’m serious. And the idea honestly just brings hope. It makes me more hopeful that belief is okay and can continue to be part of my life. And the alleviating of shame…man. There just aren’t words for me to explain what’s going on in my head and heart.

    So basically, thank you. Thank you so much. There’s still a 17-year-old Dani inside me, ashamed of my body and what makes it happy. And she really needed to read this today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristin.beisehandwerk Kristin Kraabel

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Sapphire

    I felt guilty for so long about this – I think I first discovered it when I was in kindergarten, and masturbating became more frequent in/after puberty when I stressed and it was the only way I could get to sleep (I found out later, that it’s actually a normal psychological response – for the life of my I can’t find that article. It was a few years ago). But I didn’t realize it was a normal, healthy, thing until adulthood.

    The scariest/guilt inducing experience came at TeenPact, Mr. Echols started going on about basically how we need to get married and make babies to further “the cause” (not his term, but that’s the gist) but also about purity (obviously, a loaded word), and he asked if anyone had lived a “secret life”(his term) and almost every hand went up, and I think he was shocked. I raised it, because I’d been keeping masturbation a secret (obviously) and had been beating myself up over it since puberty. A year or so later I asked my (now) husband what he’d raised his hand for, and it was the same thing. I wonder how many people like us, were just guilted into thinking something completely innocent and natural was horrifically wrong and like we didn’t have a chance in marriage because of it – and how many others raised their hands for the same reason. I already felt guilty for having a crush, I thought I had no chance after that, because I probably wasn’t pure anymore.

    There really wasn’t a sense of camaraderie with everyone raising their hands admitting something, it just sent us all into more shame and isolation and embarrassment at the weirdest TP Convention speech ever. I feel like that’s kind of what our environments breed – isolation when really we have all these experiences in common that I wish we could have, I don’t know, realized we weren’t evil or alone then.

    So this is way rambly, all I wanted to say was: me too, it’s normal, <3.

  • http://twitter.com/NatalieTrust Natalie Trust

    Indeed, “perfect love casts out fear”. In your honesty, in the truth of your words, may God use you to help others cast off bondage that has weighed down their body and soul.

  • Lauren

    AMAZING. Thank you!

  • Tammy Perlmutter

    Hannah (I’m pronouncing it WITH the umlaut, just so you know) thanks for this brave post on an “uncomfortable” subject. I have a friend who converted to Anglicanism a few years back and she’s writing a guest post for my blog on her decision to choose the Anglican church. I would love to hear more of your story.

  • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

    To a certain degree, this is an even bigger problem in the Catholic world. The Catholic Church considers ANY non-marital, non-procreative*, sexual activity is sinful, including masturbation.

    Some Catholics can really make it an issue of shame and fear. There is a “Catholic Purity Culture”, just like there is a Protestant one.

    But this shame and fear can come into the marriage relationship. We were told that our desire for sexual contact without pregnancy was a sign of lust and that we were using each other for sex. We were told that we were perverted for not wanting to abstain for a week and a half out of the month and not want a baby. (The contraception is bulimia analogy is Catholic Purity Culture’s version of the “spit cup”/licked Oreo.) We were told that we should have complete control over our desires so that we shouldn’t want sex at these times. We were told to avoid “the near occasion of sin” by getting too close when we were not willing to risk pregnancy. Everything was treated as a bunch of rules about what was and was not allowed in the bedroom.

    And then there is this idea among some very conservative Catholics that good marriages don’t need sex at all. That the happiest marriages can go months at a time without sex and not miss it. How many people are praising that former Episcopal Priest in Buffalo for giving up sex with his wife? That ain’t right.

    Needless to say, this Catholic Purity Culture is highly psychologically unhealthy and harmful to marriages.

    This is not to say that Catholic teaching is all bad. There is an integrated and very rich Theology of the Body, which explains the deeper meaning behind the teachings. Good confessors and spiritual advisers can get past the sexual issues and dig down to the deeper issues of loneliness, anxiety, fear, and anger. Saying it’s always “normal and natural” may be neglecting these issues. If taken from a pastoral, human, approach, couples can find it a very healthy way to live.

    But coming at sexual issues from a perspective that they are wrong, sinful, and shameful first is the wrong way to go about it. And a lot of people have been hurt by it. There needs to be a new conversation about the meaning of sex, marriage, and love on the Catholic side as well.

    *Note: Procreative refers to the act, not the result. Sex during pregnancy is a procreative act, even though there is virtually no chance it will lead to another pregnancy. Natural Family Planning is allowed because each individual act is procreative, even if the charts show conception is extremely unlikely on a given day. It is not contraception, but well-timed abstinence. Contraception intends to make the act non-procreative, even though all contraceptives have a failure rate. (Hormonal “contraception” is really temporary sterilization, which disrupts the healthy functioning of the body for sex, which is a more serious sin.)

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  • JoAnna K.

    I’m not yet ready to get in deep with conversation about a lot of the details you have shared, but I do have a long comment. :-) I’m not nearly as gifted or trained literary-wise as you are, but I still go through spurts of writing!!!

    Being a young married gives one a lot more to think about and work through — though it is 1000% worth it. :-) But I have realized especially in the last couple years that my parents worked hard and consistently to give me a healthy picture of my body and sexuality, from a very early age. My Mom has a teaching gift that asserts itself in every conversation (she’s gotten very little opportunity to exercise it of late, and sorely needs that) but even with the many discussions ranging to arguments we’ve had, she’s been amazing at communicating a balanced and gorgeous view of purity. My Dad’s great too. . .years of working with every imaginable crisis in counseling and working especially with lots of hurting teens/hurting parents have given him tremendous grace and depth on stuff like this.

    And, I wish you’d been able to share a few of these things with me back in the day. I wish I’d been able to see more how you could have been vulnerable or confused underneath the strength and grace that I saw and the uplifting you meant to me. You touched me more deeply spiritually than any friend I had at the time, even though I had several best friends who were 110% behind me with their love. If that encourages you to know that God was using you even though you were struggling secretly so — please accept that encouragement because I mean it with all my heart.

    I think based on my memories and journals of the time, that I would have been able to affirm you without shock on some, maybe much, of this. I didn’t do masturbation like you’re describing but it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch for me to identify. I, too, thought and dreamed and imagined much more about the kiss(es)… I however didn’t know that was considered unusual by some folks, particularly. (Well, I knew my Mom wasn’t quite the same way. . .her definition of romance is much more “take out the trash without being asked” than “red roses and sweet words.” Though she’s still quite affectionate. . .Just other things are how she feels loved most.) And while I read and imagined many stories about babies, I was (and still am, healthily) so scared by the nausea component of morning sickness that I usually rushed through the pregnancy to labor (oddly that wasn’t as scary) and then was happy with babe-in-arms and life happily-thereafter.

    Although I was the exact opposite as you when it came to dress as a little child. . .I loved my dresses and I always tried to be covered. . .though I was not ashamed of my body when I was alone or with my Mom. I didn’t feel it was dirty, I just wanted to keep it covered because I really dreamed that my future husband would find me beautiful and even intoxicating. (yes, yes, I actually DID think this way before my teens. Being a voracious reader made me think wide and deep but it’s just also how God made my mind.) All of this has helped with the sudden shock of being hospitalized recently. . .I was always so healthy that I never have been admitted to a hospital since I was born, and didn’t even go to a doctor since I was like 6. . .so being hooked up to a bunch of monitors and confining “cords” in the ICU plus the proverbial hospital gowns. . .and having to have help getting up to go to the bathroom every couple hours at least even when my night nurse was male. . .it was a sudden steep learning curve but I actually aced it. (Though I won’t be buying any hospital gowns for fashion wear. Besides the well-known innumerable gaps and holes, the prevailing pattern looked like a couple pills being chased around by giant bacteria.)

    Reading back over this comment before posting I feel that perhaps I am going to come across as snooty in some way, claiming to have always achieved the balance that you and many others are still grappling for. I’ve had many deep struggles too, many self doubts, and have many more unknown challenges and falls and scrapes and stupid stuff and silly stuff ahead of me. At core, I guess I am saying that while I encountered/learned from/still hold some of the views that you no longer do — I have thought and keep thinking deeply about many similar issues and can honestly say I’ve survived, even thrived, better than others. Maybe I’m rare…though I think it’s more that God’s grace has been outpoured on me AND that I’m right. I’m still a dig-in-my-heels-on-my-beliefs kind of person and I think you’ll respect that. :-) But I do NOT feel or believe that I was any kind of better Christian or that I’m superior to you and I do NOT want my struggle with clear words to communicate that. All I want and aim for is to compare myself to Christ and be accepted by Him.

    Call me out on anything I’ve said that you like, Hannah (or anyone). I can’t guarantee I can respond quickly, maybe I will stumble with my words even more. But I am here to slowly begin to learn how to dialogue well with you (and with anyone) and I will try.

    JoAnna

    • http://www.wineandmarble.com/ Hännah

      Hey dear ;)

      Glad you’re on the mend. We should take this to email and talk more. So happy that you’re not horrified and think I’ve gone heathen…

  • Amanda Pavlik

    Thank you for being bold and sharing this. Question, though: You say that masturbation is natural and not necessarily sinful on its own. What is your rationale for this? I experientially know this to be true, but I don’t have a well-formed argument for it. I am so thankful that you and others have stood up against the notion that sexuality (including masturbation) is innately bad, but I wish more would write about why or how specific acts are good and/or helpful. What are your thoughts?

    • http://www.wineandmarble.com/ Hännah

      I’ll have to write more on this at some point, but my simplistic answer is: there’s nothing addressing this either way in scripture (I need to look into the Church’s historical teaching on this, though), and the body is overwhelmingly portrayed as positively in the scriptures. This isn’t a cut-and-dried “it’s all good” or “it’s all bad,” but I think it’s overall a grey area where a good thing or a neutral thing can be used for ill with the wrong motives, but can be fine in the right context.

  • Carol Vinson

    Bravely said!

    “I am not just a soul. I am an embodied being and my body is who I am just as much as my soul is. God made me this way and called it good. And part of this existence is that he made me a woman and he gave me a healthy sex drive and my body is good and I like sex.”

    Words that every young person should hear. Oh the shame and guilt that could be avoided.

    Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/mmgutz Melissa Gutierrez

    Niiiiiiiiiice. Thanks lady. I still have questions like — what is the difference between simply rubbing my shoulders or arms to relieve stress? Or, how is paying for a normal massage (for relaxation or stress relief) different that like prostitution or something? I am excited that we are at the beginning of a Christian re-discovery of the body (the one that God says is so good, and can honor him in grossness or in glory, on the cross or fresh out of the grave). All muscles are God’s muscles!

    • http://www.wineandmarble.com/ Hännah

      Oh, goodness. I don’t think that has anything in common with prostitution! Here’s a good post on why the sex act is particularly significant, independent of bodily contact like a massage or rubbing your shoulders: http://seeprestonblog.com/2013/02/when-this-is-a-post-about-marriage-and-sex/

      And yes! All muscles are God’s muscles. :)

      • http://twitter.com/mmgutz Melissa Gutierrez

        Hannah — Thanks for that Preston post, I like that.

  • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com/ Lara

    Love.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/45VHRG2ODTJEIOV4GGGTKYARSU john

    Did Jesus masturbate therefore? He prayed in prostration, as all men did at that time. Ref. Joshua 7:6. To pray in prostration for hours, as the Bible speaks on many accounts, is equal to masturbate, more than once for the young men. Only you don’t touch anything by hand. Jesus prayed in the Garden in prostration too. But even without that brief record in the Gospel, we know He followed all customs of the Jews.

    Why is Jesus painted and presented as non-sexual non-gender being? What kind of clothing did He wear by the way? Exactly the one worn by the Jewish men and boys. Moses says the men should not wear women’s clothes and vice versus. The difference was not pants since the pants were not existent. The difference was the wide open robes on the chest of the men in those hot countries, up until today. Is it a secret for the religious Christians, especially those monks who went to the Holy Land centuries ago? Not at all. Why then they paint Jesus always with female cloths, tight up to the neck? Because the image of Jesus the Christians receive in their mind should be deprived from masculinity. Jesus for the believer is a non-sexual being, God, but not Man. From here to say that every manifestation of sexuality outside the procreation act in the marriage is a grave sin, is just ne step. How about the normal functions of the male body that should eject semen every week if not more often? If today it is answered more eruditely than in the past, still Jesus’ male body is a taboo exempt from everything and everyone. Apostle John warns that whoever denies that the Son of God became Man, has the spirit of the antichrist (ref 1 John 4).

    “3 and every spirit that does not confess that[a] Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

    Imagine Jesus in that manly outfit, barechested and dusty, who prostrates 3 times or 5 times a day to pray, at home or elsewhere, sometimes with other men, exactly as the Bible speaks in the Old Testament. If all did that, it would be strange if Joshua didn’t that as well. They would think for Him as not normally developed.

    Another rite is the tearing of clothes that is the most solemn prayer in special occasions mostly of national distress, and to be followed by sacrifice of animals. It is recorded countless times in the Bible. Notice that the people prostrate for Hours.

    Joshua 7:6
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    6 Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads.”

    The multitude of people mass prostrated in the consecrated Second Temple as well. They all most likely ejaculated at that time. And that is in the Bible.

    What is written for kings is absolutely practiced by common people. The tearing of clothes was so customary, most often when someone dies, but not only. That we see Moses prescribing only the high priest should not tear his clothes, i.e. all the others could and did so. If we think further, will realize they wore their clothes almost constantly torn, because they didn’t change them every month. Not only because of mourning. We see Barnabas and Paul tearing their clothes in Acts 14 not for mourning but to convince the people. So did the ancient Joshua when returning from the 40 day spying mission to convince the unbelieving Jews. They didn’t beieve him anyway, and God punished them all to die in the desert after 40 years.

    Jesus should tear His clothes at least at the time of the death of Joseph and his grandfathers and grandmothers, perhaps other close relatives, and should wear the ripped shirt for 40 days unrepaired. After that the shirt could be loosely tight but not completely repaired. This custom is valid until today in Jewish communities however performed much more symbolically.

    So just imagine Our Lord in His Earthly days how He really looked like – especially in His youth. He was a pretty handsome hot looking guy. The fact we are denied to know a single line for His youth from 12-30 year age, speaks also volumes why. He prostrated with His ripped shirt on the chest near His Heart, and prayed for hours, while in the process ejaculated His semen, for divine purposes known only to Himself as God. He did so because He has chosen to be born a human of male gender on planet Earth, not of female or neutral gender. The non-gendered Jesus amounts to rejection of the incarnation, and we have the warning of the beloved disciple John.

    BTW I don’t think John was homosexual, he just leaned upon the bare chest of His master. No one of the apostles asked why. I.e. that was also common practice not associated with sex, to hug each other in public. Furthermore, Jesus bared His chest to Thomas after His resurrection in the presence of all disciples and the women too. Seems our perverse society sees sex everywhere, but there are things that are not explicit sex relations and that Our Lord did freely. What would He tell our youngsters today? What He would tell our church leaders today, who seem deaf and blind even for the texts of the Gospel that reached to our times?

    • Kevin Schellhase

      *slow clap*

    • http://www.wineandmarble.com/ Hännah
    • http://www.shaneyirene.com/ Shaney Irene

      Where do people get these bizarre ideas that have no factual basis whatsoever? Actually, no, you know what? I don’t want to know.

    • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston Yancey

      You know, aside from your comment being utter crap, this is the one like I really take issue with: “He was a pretty handsome hot looking guy.” That’s not true. At all. For all your inability to cite Scripture with any sense of context, Isaiah is clear that he was not. “He grew up like a young plant and like a root out of the dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look upon him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by all, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (from Isaiah 53)

  • Ben

    This self-flagellating, hand-wringing relationship to one’s sexuality reminded me so much of myself when I was a teenager. I hated myself too. I was a Christian; I was supposed to be above it all. My sexuality was supposed to be pure and instead I was ruining it forever. I felt like a pervert in my natural state. I didn’t feel like I deserved anybody.

    They say Catholics got a monopoly on religious guilt, but wait ’till you’ve spent some time with evangelicals!

    • http://www.facebook.com/thomas.thurman Thomas Thurman

      Oh, good grief, yes, this. I’ve been reading some of my teenage diaries recently, and they were much as Hannah describes. So much stress wasted :(

  • http://1timothy112.tumblr.com/ Suzanne

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. i needed to hear that i am not alone. i NEED to know that other people WANT to talk about this stuff because it seems like i am alone and nobody wants to talk about it. which baffles me because how am i supposed to know what the heck i’m doing if i ever do get married? how am i supposed to know what to do with all of the “lust” inside of me? i mean, i’ve picked up a lot from cosmo and rated r movies but the church says i’m not supposed to read/watch that stuff (and i probably shouldn’t) but then how do i know things?! in the movie now and then a 12 year old girl asks her mom where babies come from and her mom says, “i think you’re too young to know but your friends are trash mouths so i’d rather you hear it from me.” i WISH the church would say, “we’re scared to talk about this and we’re ashamed and nervous and guilty, but the world is full of trash mouths so we’d rather discuss this together.” because in seeking out answers my heart is now full of trash that i can’t un-see, un-read, un-imagine.. and i don’t want trash, i want more Jesus. and like you said, we are created this way and God said it’s good! ugh, just thank you. THANK YOU!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=531857440 Criss Fowler

    I don’t know how I ended up on your blog. This isn’t normally the type of blog I go out of my way to read, and while I know that sounds like the beginning of a backward compliment, let me explain before I get ahead of myself: I’m a fairly liberal, “live and let live” agnostic who is stuck in the conservative south with a pretty traumatizing childhood in the kind of southern Baptist churches people stereotype. My experience with Christianity is deep, but it always hasn’t been a good one. When I come across things blogs that touch on Christianity, I sigh and brace myself to try not to be upset as I read some person who, I feel, gets it wrong. I’ve read a few articles on your blog, and the more I read, the more enthralled I am. With every word read, I am more compelled to stand on my chair and applaud you. You are a remarkable, intelligent woman and your blog is fantastic and thought-provoking.

    I have several more, ah… liberal? (I suppose that’s the word; we just call it “open-minded”) Christian friends who I have linked your blog to, and I can’t wait to discuss it with them. I’m so happy to have run across your blog, and your eloquently stated stance on morals and theology have resonated deeply with me. I wish more Christians would challenge the status quo and think a little bit, instead of accepting everything told and read at face value. My childhood church experiences probably wouldn’t have been so traumatizing if there were!

  • Felicia

    I’m very late to this conversation, but thank you for writing this. Its still helping us out here.
    I was another little girl who found this ‘relaxation technique quite’ by accident. I had a lot of stress with no outlet due to having an oppressive and abusive Catholic upbringing. Everything revolved around being convinced you were of the devil and having it beat out of you. This secret thing I found eased the pain and fear for a bit, so it was ok, right? Cue catechism once we were of an age, and even that was ruined for me. I was going to hell.
    Once I was emancipated, I went a little wild and sought to find someone to love me and to belong to. I still viewed sex as something special, but gave it away in the hopes that they would love me. They didn’t. Then I became born again. And I changed. I was modest and chaste. But masturbation became the dragon to slay. And slay again. And again. And oh, I prayed to become unsexed and frigid.
    Then I got engaged. He was a virgin, and never masturbated. I was honest about my past. He wanted me anyway. Fast forward 3 months after our marriage, and we were in counseling due to lack of sex. He said he couldn’t make himself do that to me because he thought of me as a sister in Christ. Unsexed indeed, though I wanted it so, now that I was married!! We were married for 16 years, no children. In a sick way, for years I viewed it as punishment for past sins. Then i got over it and resorted to relaxation techniques again. We are divorced now, and though I still have faith in God, I’ve not been back to organized religion.

  • http://dramaticelegance.blogspot.com/ rachel lee

    Hannah, this is magnificent. I wish I could pour out my thoughts in a better way. I don’t know how I’m just now seeing this post — how it escaped my notice, but I found it, and I’m sobbing with the feelings of familiarity, with the feelings of shame put on me by the Church over my body and the fact that I was “cursed” with a vagina and sexual feelings.

    Thank you for speaking Light.

  • Trevor

    Hannah – Bless you for such openness and speaking that which so many are so afraid. I grew up in a more mainstream traditional church, but heavy evangelical culture amongst my school peers and during the Joshua Harris “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” revolution which everybody evangelical seemed to fall for – hook, line and sinker. And from a male point of view, many of my fellow Christian male classmates tried their hardest to be “pure” and break habits of any sort of sexual gratification – only to have several of these men end up in jail for rape or rape attempts. It then dawned on me that there are healthy outlets and then there are non-healthy outlets. It’s caused a lot of re-thinking about what “Jesus would do” versus what “modern ‘Christian’ culture would do”.
    I just stumbled across this blog tonight and I am so ecstatic you are doing this! It is desperately needed! Where’s the like button?! :)

  • oswaldwasaleftist

    Let’s face it, we’re all our own best psychotherapists. No better way to get through your day than quality me time with your libido. We’re meant to do this. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the pleasure nerves we have in our libidos.

    There is a big difference between touching yourself down there at age 7 or 8 and age 15. You’ve most likely gone through puberty. Biologically you suddenly have the body of an adult woman. You don’t have the legal rights of an adult. You didn’t even look like an adult from what I’ve seen of the pre hair cut photo of you. This is what makes adolescence such a weird time in all our lives. This is where shaming teenagers about engaging in the completely normal behavior of stimulating their libidos is counterproductive.

    This desire among a minority of parents to repress maturity in their teenage daughters can become destructive. There is something I’ve noticed where I live here in the Seattle area. In recent years I’ve read at least a couple of horror stories of teenage girls living in prison like conditions with their parents and they’re being starved. In both stories they had brothers who were being fed. Why? While the religious coloration of the cases are downplayed, I don’t doubt for a second that these girls are the victims of religious abuse by their parents. I suspect that the girls are being starved as a way of retarding their sexual development. You should look into cases like this where the teenage girl effectively imprisoned and gets starved, while her brother gets fed.