Openly discussing masturbation and sexual fantasy with your teens will help them avoid the explosive damage sexual misbehavior can bring.
Today's teenagers face far greater risks and challenges in getting acquainted with the opposite sex than we did when we were teenagers.
Why? First, puberty is awakening a teenager's sexual desires from one to two years earlier than in previous generations. Teenagers' pituitary glands are cascading more sex hormones into their bloodstream than they will ever experience again in their lifetimes. As a result, they must deal with the emotional and physical changes accompanying secondary sexual characteristics while they are still children.
Understanding Masturbation and Fantasy
Recent nationwide surveys indicate that about 55 percent of all 13 year olds, both boys and girls, masturbate at times. By the time they reach age 15, the figure rises to more than 80 percent. About 95 percent of adult men and 65 percent of adult women practice masturbation. Many young people are confused about this practice, and some are troubled by it. So you need to talk to your teens about masturbation.
Masturbation is a common source of guilt for people, especially for young people. Although the practice is not mentioned in the Bible, the Scriptures clearly teach that fantasizing about having sex with someone to whom you are not married is sinful (Matthew 5:28).
Since only a small percentage of young people report masturbating without fantasies, your teenager's sexual fantasies while masturbating are a cause of serious spiritual concern. Why? The source of sexual excitement becomes linked with the experience of sexual excitement.
God created sexual orgasm to be one of the most powerful pleasures a human being experiences. He designed your brain to form a neurochemical link between the pleasure of sexual orgasm and the fantasy you used to bring you to that level of sexual excitement.
This is why the source of sexual excitement a person uses to bring himself to orgasm becomes such a critical spiritual issue. Explain this to your teens.
Keep Sexual Fantasies About Marriage Impersonal
Help your teenagers to understand that sexual fantasy is a normal part of puberty. Until your children are engaged to be married, their sexual fantasies should be about marriage in general. Suppose your son asks you, "I'm really in love with Suzie. Can I fantasize about Suzie when I masturbate?"
Obviously, the answer is, "No." After all, if your son is a typical 15- or 16-year-old boy, there are likely to be many Suzies before God brings into his life the woman he is to marry. Help him see that using a specific person as the focus of his sexual fantasy while he is masturbating will devalue that person.
However, he can fantasize about how much better his wife will be able to make him feel than he can make himself feel. At the same time, he can reinforce his determination to save himself for her.
Teach your sons to understand that when they want to experience sexual orgasm, their brains will automatically conjure up the fantasies they have learned can provide this experience for them. If these fantasies are about how good it will feel to have sex with their wife when they are married, then there is nothing morally wrong with it.
If their orgasmic skills have been learned through the years by pairing orgasm with fantasies of making love to their future spouse, then they will bring into marriage orgasmic skills trained to respond to the body of their spouse.
Once your children are engaged, their fantasies can become personal. On their wedding night their spouse's body will become their body, and their body will become their spouse's body (1 Corinthians 7:4). Then what both of them have been dreaming and fantasizing about for years can be celebrated freely without the risk of complicating each other's life by bringing into their marriage a history of sexually transmitted diseases or pornographic habits.
Neither Condone It Nor Condemn It
When talking to your teens about masturbation, neither condone it nor condemn it. As a part of your conversations with them, you may want to share with them how you dealt with this practice when you were a teenager. Such information will be helpful to them. Let them know that when you were their age you had your struggles with your sexual urges, too. Don't go into detail, but be honest—particularly about masturbation.
Be honest enough to tell them if you felt guilty and, if so, how you dealt with that guilt. Assure them that the Lord helped you through those years just as He will help them. If their fantasies are of marriage while they are masturbating, and they don't feel guilty, don't impose guilt!
At the risk of being too repetitive, have the following conversation often with your teenager.
Remember, when you are pleasuring yourself, it is very important that your thoughts are on marriage. If you use pornography to stimulate your sexual excitement, then you will carry the need for pornography into your marriage. Sooner or later, your wife will discover this. You will feel embarrassed and humiliated. She will feel angry and inadequate.
So, when you are pleasuring yourself, think about your future marriage. Realize that when God brings His woman for you into your life, sex with her will make you feel better than you have ever been able to make yourself feel. When you are married to her, she will love you deeply and get to know your body well enough to give you the pleasure God has designed you to experience. Her body will fulfill your fantasies, and sexual orgasm will bond you to her.
Your fantasies of her before you meet her will only add to the intensity of that bond. By restricting your sexual fantasies to her and keeping yourself for her you won't be thinking about what sex was like with this girl or that girl when you are making love to your wife. You won't be using the fantasy of another woman's body to satisfy the lust you have for pleasure. The fantasies that have sexually excited you and brought you to orgasm have always been of the wife God would eventually bring into your life. Being true to her before you know her will make it easier for you to be true to her after she is yours.
What If He Still Feels Guilty?
If your teen feels guilty or expresses shame about his feelings or desires, even though his fantasies are confined to marriage, then teach him how to handle his guilt.
First, don't tell him he should not feel guilty. Remind him that God has promised to remove our guilt. Teach him how to bring God's grace into this part of his life until he is married.
I'm not advocating abusing God's grace, but encourage your teen to ask God for forgiveness every time he is morally prompted to do so. Let him know that God knows how difficult it is to deny all of his sexual urges until he is married.
So, if he is willing to keep himself for his future spouse and focus his sexual fantasies on marriage, God will give him grace and forgiveness for pleasuring himself as often as is necessary until he is married (1 John 1:7-9).
God's Grace is Sufficient!
Unfortunately, some parents leave children thinking that God won't forgive them for masturbating unless they stop doing it. Now, just think about how theologically wrong this idea is!
Does this mean that parents cannot be forgiven unless they stop what makes them feel guilty? How many times has God forgiven you of saying things you shouldn't say? Does He withhold forgiveness from you because you don't stop doing it? No, of course not! He forgives you again and again and again and again and again. The last thing a teenager needs dogging them for years is a cloud of masturbatory guilt. The spiritual issue is the fantasy accompanying the activity, not the activity itself.
With your help, your teens can learn to carefully focus their fantasies and desire for sexual pleasure on their future marriages. Inspire them to ask God to help them keep themselves pure for their future marriage partners. Encourage them to rely on God's mercy and grace to help them through these turbulent years of puberty. Pray with them that God will bring their marriage partners to them—in His own time and with the assurance that marriage will bring them more and greater sexual pleasure than anything they could have imagined.
This article was adapted from Richard Dobbins' book, Teaching Your Children The Truth About Sex: Discussing Sexuality With Your Children, From Infancy to Adulthood (Siloam). He is a professional psychologist and the founder of Emerge Counseling Center in Akron, Ohio, and Dr. Richard D. Dobbins, Inc.