Self Service. Not the kind at the grocery store.

It could just be the timing (the subject has come up in the Digital Age–where everything’s public–and at a time when “self servicing” is becoming more socially acceptable), but masturbation is a rather, pardon the pun, hot-button topic at the moment. This is especially true regarding female masturbation, which is being discussed in Christian and secular forums alike in a very public way that, to my knowledge, the subject of male masturbation has never had to endure.

Recently, Christianity Today published an article in response to all this chatter (some of it in house) about female self-pleasure boldly titled, “The Real Problem with Female Masturbation.”

First, the good. Jordan Monge gets several things very right. The first being her premise that reducing women, and especially women’s sexuality, to emotional psychology is problematic. White Protestant America in particular has a looooong history of desexualizing women. And Monge rightly observes how this part of our worldview is unhelpfully informing the current conversation surrounding women and self pleasure.

Unfortunately, too often the conversation doesn’t overcome the unhelpful stereotypes about the female sex drive…or lack thereof…

Christians remain uncomfortable with the idea of women possessing sexual desire. Even as they talk about the ideal Christian woman being a steamy hot wife willing to fulfill her husband’s every desire by not depriving him once married, we don’t want to imagine the wife’s own libido.

To fully address female masturbation, we don’t need more psychoanalysis about sex that implicitly negates female sexuality. We need a biblical approach that recognizes both the immense pleasure of the female orgasm and the inherent goodness of sexual desire while reserving its proper place for within marriage.

Good stuff. These are, as I said, very old cultural attitudes Monge is fighting against here; they’re attitudes that the culture at large has largely moved beyond; but of course, as is sadly the norm, conservative Christians are way behind the curve. All of which is to say, this part of Monge’s premise is spot on and very helpful.

Unfortunately, where Monge goes right is also where she goes wrong. In an effort to acknowledge and even celebrate the ways in which women and men are fundamentally similar, Monge proceeds to treat male and female sexuality as more similar than they are. After rightly applauding men for calling a spade a spade (though whether masturbation outside of marriage is always lustful — Monge’s other major premise — is another conversation for another day), Monge takes a leaf from a man’s guide to combating lust. She does follow this up with a nod to the different triggers of sexual desire in men and women (presumably visual versus emotional/intellectual or even purely physical stimuli), and she even provides a valuable tip about how important it is that women know their bodies, specifically their ovulation cycle, when a woman is both most fertile and arouse-able.

Where Monge falls short, however, is when she states “there is no good moral outlet for these natural [and in some sense good sexual] desires before marriage” perhaps forgetting that men do experience a natural outlet for the sexual tension in their loins… and women do not. And this is why Piper’s ANTHEM solution is helpful but inadequate.

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