In our fortnightly column “Great Sexpectations” the Woman Alive panel answer your questions on sex, faith and intimacy. Drop us a confidential email on and ask us anything. Here, we tackle; the tricky topic of masturbation and whether or not it’s wrong for Christian women.


[For clarity and without this reader’s full story, let’s take masturbation to mean pleasuring oneself by oneself and not with a partner.]

It’s a funny thing, masturbation. Growing up I didn’t even realise it was a thing women did. I definitely wasn’t taught about it at school in sex education classes and I’m pretty sure I read through all the Judy Blume books without coming across it once (do correct me if I’m wrong as it’s possible any innuendo passed my innocence right on by). However, though I wasn’t privy to any of the boys’ teaching at my brother school, I bet they covered it as normally as they would any other part of their sex education classes. And this is the problem about this topic right from the off. Masturbation – pleasuring yourself – is seen as standard for the men in our lives; often explained as a way to alleviate otherwise torturous feelings of desire. Newsflash! Women have sexual desires too and the gift of sex – and it is a gift – comes from God and is nothing to be ashamed of.

Growing up I didn’t even realise it was a thing women did. I definitely wasn’t taught about it.

Women and single women especially, can carry a lot of shame around sexual desires and impulses. Once taught as something to be endured rather than enjoyed, with the horrid advice to “lie back and think of England”, the idea that women might enjoy, initiate and even suffer without sex, seems rather millennial. But enjoy it we do and so I really feel for those who do not have the intimacy they crave from a physical relationship. Personally, I think masturbation is a poor substitute to actual relationship sex. I’ve masturbated in the past and not enjoyed the loneliness I felt nor has the eventual release lasted as long as the “high” from sex with a loving partner. And God, who created us, knows that. As sexual beings we weren’t advised to go into the world to enjoy a solitary existence.

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” Genesis 2:24. I’m not saying he was lying around masturbating but Adam wasn’t having much fun on his own. In all ways we were created for unity. Masturbation, in my opinion, takes away from that. Having said that, I don’t like the shame that takes place around conversations on masturbation. It’s an act that takes place alone, and therefore seen as a dark and dirty secret.

In all ways we were created for unity. Masturbation, in my opinion, takes away from that.

Now there is one Christian school of thought which suggests that if you wouldn’t do something at the front of the church then you shouldn’t be doing it at all. And um, I have a real issue with that because: context. The Bible talks about doing things in secret and that being a good thing (i.e. compare the two rich landowners who loudly proclaimed how much money they were giving away with the widow who silently dropped her last penny into the collection plate. Also see how Israelites were told to fast and pray – quietly and not drawing attention to themselves). I would also argue that your church doesn’t want or need to see you and your husband’s acrobatic – or lack thereof – bedroom skills during morning mass.

But the one who sees all, can give you real insight as to how he views you masturbating. For context and full transparency, I am super OCD about most things and God once gave me a picture of a car filled with rubbish. There were leaking drinks cans and bottles with sticky residue on the seats, half empty crisp packets strewn around and the remnants of hot food deliveries covering the floor. As I looked at it all, I felt disgusted – and disgusting. And I got it straight away. That was how God felt about me masturbating. Now I was single at the time and had been doing it seemingly innocently for years but that brought me to an abrupt halt and I stopped straightaway (with only a few occasions falling off the wagon since). That vision has stayed with me and it came as such a gentle nudging from the Holy Spirit. I knew and felt that I should stop, but I didn’t feel ashamed, rather it just felt like something God didn’t want me to do. I honestly don’t believe shame comes from God so please try to resist that if it comes to the surface.

I honestly don’t believe shame comes from God so please try to resist that if it comes to the surface.

So look, it’s a tricky one and that’s just my personal opinion so, as always, do try and work this out with the Holy Spirit who gave you sexual desires but if you want to explore the topic more, check out Sheila Gregoire’s excellent relationships blog: “Can we revisit masturbation in marriage?

If any of these issues have affected you, you can call Premier Lifeline for support. Premier Lifeline is a national, confidential helpline offering a listening ear, emotional and spiritual support from a Christian perspective. If you would like someone to talk with and pray for you, call Premier Lifeline on 0300 111 0101.

Our Great Sexpectations column is written by a number of different contributors who make up the Woman Alive panel. If you have a question for us, email: