[MAKE SURE TO READ THIS LINK FIRST IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME VISITING ENGLISH MANIF.]
Warning: Explicit and sensitive subject matter. Please read with discretion.
I must give credit to the people who read English Manif; I have not gotten that many angry messages from people who oppose discussing masturbation in a public venue. It's an embarrassing topic and one that we often do not want to deal with.
But our fear about discussing masturbation is a major factor in the general failure of efforts to help people go straight. Often you see someone who feels, in their heart, that they really ought to be able to quit the gay scene and go straight. But they keep finding themselves unable to follow through on it. Sometimes you can't figure out what's going wrong. You see that the guy states that he doesn't feel right in the gay scene and he is sure he isn't gay; he says he likes the idea of being with a woman; but then, when he tries to make things happen, he ends up giving up. Along the way he decides that he just can't do it. And it's hard to figure out why he couldn't do it, when he started out so certain that he wasn't gay and needed to go straight.
Often, if the hidden glitch isn't porn, it's masturbation.
So this week we are focusing a lot on guys in Phase 2 of the journey. Phase 2 is the point when a guy has already decided he isn't really gay and needs to change to the straight scene. He first has to close the door on the gay past. In Phase 2, remember, he isn't trying to pursue girls or coach himself into straight sexual desires. He is simply putting to rest the gay label and prepping his mind, body, and soul, for the next step. (The next step is Phase 3--the time in hiding--which we will discuss starting June 4.)
For a quick review, here are the 10 steps, in no particular order, that you have to take care of, when you are getting through Phase 2:
1. Make sure this is what you want to do, and commit to it.
2. Put away the "Big Lie"--the label "gay" and all the assumptions about it defining limits of who you can be.
3. Make a plan.
4. Say your goodbyes to the people you knew in the gay world.
5. End all pornography use.
6. Reduce and cease masturbation.
7. Join the conversation with straight men.
8. Get into a daily Bible-reading program.
9. Exercise with a purpose.
10. Start opening your heart to women.
So let's deal with masturbation. Why is this even on the list? I've dealt with this before in this link but I'll explain further. Keep in mind I am not a psychologist or scientist, I am just a literature professor who has a lot of experience with the journey from gay to straight, and a lot of experience talking with other ex-gays.
Masturbation is a big part of many men's lives
We don't talk about masturbation but the reality is that the overwhelming majority of men engage in it. When I was a kid this did not involve porn all the time because pornography was not everywhere around us. (The fact that I grew up without constant porn saturation may have worked greatly to my advantage when I first changed to pursuing women in the 1990s.) From what I understand, the male body produces a lot of hormones that cause a guy to produce sperm, and after there is too much of it in a guy's system, he has to release it. If he does not have a sex partner who can help him do that, he touches himself and gets himself to release. If he goes too long without releasing this, he has a wet dream.
Before the days of omni-present porn, men used to masturbate while fantasizing but without looking at an explicit erotic image. I am not sure how common that is now.
Religions have usually frowned on masturbation and there is often shame attached to it. That is understandable, because it is a very self-absorbed act, obviously. If you do it too much you waste a lot of time and become gradually less able to feel affected by the cues in the world outside yourself. Here is a website run by secular, science-based men, mostly straight, who try to help people overcome excessive masturbation:
A lot of the research there can be helpful if you want to learn more. For the purposes of understanding how this relates to the journey from gay to straight, let me explain what I understand from what I have experienced and learned from others.
What I gather from the topic in general
While men feel shame or guilt about masturbation, the inclination to masturbate comes from things that are normal. This is not to encourage you to masturbate, just to say that the urges behind the action, whatever you deem morally about it, are not entirely awful. God designed men to have sexual desires. God designed those sexual desires to be strong.
The desires had to be strong enough to propel men to pursue females even if it meant competing against other males and engaging in feats of bravery or hard labor in order to win the female's consent. If men did not have any strong, powerful urge inside them, then they might choose not to work very hard to win a woman.
The end result would be that men and women would not connect. And God created men with the mission to find a wife, be a good companion to her, and fulfill her desires. Jesus Christ refers to "eunuchs" and the Apostle Paul refers to some men who have the gift of non-desire. Aside from these rare exceptions, men are called to be sexual and to fulfill women with their sexual gifts. Unless they have been set apart as eunuchs, men are not living up to God's design if they feel nothing in the way of sexual urges at all.
But God also designed men to be kept humble. This is why, for example, He told Paul He would not remove the thorn from Paul's side even after three requests from Paul to remove it. If men could know exactly when, how, and where to enact their sexual urges all the time, men might become proud, even arrogant.
So God designed men to deal with a certain level of uncertainty and unpredictability with their sexual desires. Men are not born knowing who their wives will be. Men do not pass through puberty and magically know whom to marry, or on what days they need to perform sexually to father children. Men are also kept humble by the biology of their sex; they cannot be certain when they are ready to engage in sex with a woman, and when they will not be. Impotence hangs over men's heads even if women have no corresponding anxiety about sex.
But inside men is an engine of desire running non-stop, constantly creating more of the man's seed and constantly filling a man with a general, sometimes confusing need to have contact with someone and release his energy. When men climax, they not only unload these natural fluids that have built up inside them, but they also find a sudden relaxation in their sexual tension. This is "horniness" as people would say vulgarly. Personally I don't think it is purely evil; clearly, I say from reading scripture, the Lord rejoices when a man embraces his wife. God delights when, inside a marriage, a man uses his sexual urges to bring pleasure and happiness to the woman he gives his life to.
But here is where it gets complicated. Men often find horniness so unbearable they masturbate. Men may have unwanted arousals that become embarrassing, or they may start to get irritable and fidgety. Sometimes when this energy builds up, it seems men get erections that can become painful if they do not go away. And of course it is difficult to do the tasks a man needs to do, if he has an erection.
So men kill many birds with one stone when they masturbate. Different motives cause them to. There is simply a biological need to empty sperm that has built up inside him. There is also the psychological need to get a release from the tension and sexual distraction. Sometimes in practical terms a man just needs an erection to go away so it will not annoy or embarrass him. Then there are deeper, secondary reasons men masturbate. Sometimes men masturbate because they are starting to feel attraction to someone they cannot have sexually, so they use masturbation time to fantasize, deciding the fantasy is the best they are going to get. Sometimes men use masturbation as an additional "drug" to feel better when they are lonely, stressed out, or bored. Sometimes men simply get addicted to the pleasure they get from the release.
If these secondary motives grow in importance and overshadow the more basic reasons for men to masturbate, then masturbation can become a serious problem. It is not healthy to live in a fantasy world and feed unholy desires or thoughts toward people you cannot have. It is not healthy to hold oneself back from doing the hard work of meeting and courting a woman, as well as pleasing her in the bedroom--things God wants us as men to do; when men masturbate all the time they are stopping far short of what God gave us sexuality for.
Lastly, at a certain point, men self-destruct sexually if they are masturbating at rates far in excess of what could be justified as basic biological tension release. The skin on their male parts can become desensitized or sore, making it more difficult for men to engage in actual sex because it will be painful to do so. It is fully possible for men to exhaust their private parts with constant masturbation. Exhausted, men may find themselves in a state of intimacy with a woman and they cannot give her the joy they need to give her. As the men on the No Fap website seem to say, masturbation becomes an all-consuming, harmful habit when men lose the vitality, excitement, and challenge of connecting sexually with someone else.
Your self is no replacement for another human being. And unfortunately masturbation is always in a sense having sex with yourself.
Masturbation and gay life
I would have no way of knowing whether men or women masturbate more. I also cannot guess whether straight men or gay men masturbate more.
But I can make one generalization about gay life and masturbation. When you are gay, there is no clear dividing line between masturbation and sex. When you are straight, there is a bright red dividing line between masturbation and sex. Allow me to explain.
When a straight man masturbates, he is touching himself so that his private parts feel stimulated. A straight man does not have an abiding urge to touch another man. So the male private part does not give pleasure to the straight man's hand when he engages in this.
But think of what happens when a gay man masturbates. His own private parts like being stimulated. But he also likes touching other men's private parts. So he is getting double pleasure. He is feeling the stimulation straight men get to their sensitive sexual parts. He is also enjoying, in a subjective sense, the experience of touching a man's private parts. A gay man can have a split screen inside his head as he masturbates, as if he creates a double of himself and actually has sex with his own twin. This is perhaps why "twincest" became so popular in gay porn in recent years ("twincest" is porn featuring identical twins having sex.)
When a straight man has sex with a woman, there is almost nothing in this act of intercourse that resembles what he does when he masturbates. He is not touching himself. He is constantly navigating the woman's body and letting her body stimulate his private part in ways that he cannot fully control. Making love to a woman is much more enjoyable than masturbation but making love to a woman requires the use of many parts of a man's body; it also requires the man's patience, concentration, and comprehension of the woman's feelings. When he makes love to a woman, a man's hands are usually busy caressing her or doing something other than touching himself.
When a gay man has sex with a man, almost everything about the experience feels like masturbation. The first reason for this is the anatomical differences. Whatever kind of sex the two men engage in, at best only one man can reach climax without manually stimulating his own private parts. One man is literally masturbating or at best being masturbated by the other man. Oral sex has the awkward feature of forcing the two men not to be able to relate face-to-face or at eye level. Anal sex allows the two men to be at the same eye level or face to face, but it is impossible for two men to both be active in anal sex. One must be penetrated while the other penetrates. The one who gets penetrated has to achieve climax by stimulating himself. The "top" is usually too busy to concentrate on his active sexual act and on stimulating the bottom simultaneously. So anatomically, gay sex is always 50% or more masturbation. Since neither oral nor anal sex feels very graceful for two men, often long stretches of time when two men have sex with each other consist of the two men masturbating next to each other.
If this sounds embarrassing or not very romantic, imagine how awkward it is to be a man and actually trying to have a great sex life with so much of sex involving masturbation.
Other factors enhance the link between gay sex and masturbation. When a man masturbates he stays completely within the timing and perspective of a male (himself). When a man has sex with another man, he is also staying within the timing and perspective of a male.
Masturbation causes a man to provide his own sexual cues and images, in the process controlling the rhythm and sequence of the whole sexual experience. "Masturbatory" activity is very narcissistic, self-obsessed, and detached from the outside world. Gay sex is also like that. During gay sex the mechanical awkwardness of anal sex and the lack of eye-level contact during oral sex makes almost all the activity lack the gracefulness and elegance of straight sex. In anal sex the bottom is extremely passive and has to stimulate himself. In oral sex one man seems to have an overly dominant position over the other and almost feels like he is using the other man as a tool. In any sex act between two men it does not feel like a man has to navigate or negotiate another person's desires and feelings with much curiosity, sensitivity, or humility.
Masturbation is selfish and gay sex is also given to a lot of selfishness. "Tops" are rarer than bottoms in the gay scene, so you have a lot of gay men competing with each other for a few tops, who tend to feel entitled and all-powerful because they have so many options and have to be catered to. Gay sex does not evolve and get better in a monogamous coupling, the way straight sex gradually evolves as the man and woman learn about each other's bodies. As a result, gay men confront boredom with each other very soon. They tend not to have long-term relationships as much as straight people do. When they have long-term relationships they are often open relationships so they can look for new and exciting options for the bedroom. All these aspects of gay life strengthen the feeling that men are self-serving, self-focused, and self-loving. Combined with the physical links to masturbation, it makes so much of gay life highly masturbatory.
Why masturbation poses a huge challenge to the ex-gay.
Once you have engaged in a lot of gay sex and you have body memory about being with other guys, all masturbation serves to bring back the body memory of your gay past.
There is no way to masturbate without bringing back the feeling of being in the gay scene. What do you do when you masturbate, even when you are not watching porn, even when you are thinking about straight fantasies? Under any condition, male masturbation involves you touching a male private part, observing a strictly masculine rhythm, drawing from within yourself to get pleasure in a way that is detached from womanhood, devoid of true curiosity, unchallenging, and extremely familiar and repetitive. Whenever you masturbate, no matter what you fantasize about, you feel the absence of something you can only have when you have sex with a woman: the sexually different perspective, the female "other," the sexual force outside of yourself that compels you to navigate pleasures and satisfactions that are out of your control.
Masturbation imprints heavy body memory on you. It is an out-of-the-ordinary physical event because it causes a climax, something your body will remember. So each time you masturbate, you are burning more body memory into you, which will continue to haunt you in upcoming weeks. And every body memory based on masturbation is gay body memory.
Even when you try to masturbate while fantasizing about heterosexuality, the act of masturbation is setting you back, throwing you backward toward your gay past, and making you that much farther from the straight future you are working toward. Every act of masturbation drives you to think, feel, remember, hunger, act, and climax like a gay person. It invites the memories of your gay past back and implants new desires for gay sex back into you. It gets you more and more comfortable with being gay, and makes you less and less equipped to be straight.
What is the solution?
As I remarked in this past post, there are clear ways to deal with masturbation. First, you have to reduce it and get close to total abstinence. I don't want to be so extreme you drop out of the journey. It is probably too hard to say you are never ever ever going to masturbate ever again. You can tap out after 90 days, and then get ready for another three months without it. But you have to make masturbation rare so that everything else you are doing is flooding your body and mind with thoughts, experiences, and feelings that are not gay in the way masturbation is.
Also, you have to burn off the body memory that past masturbation has given you. Because masturbation is out of the ordinary, it stands out in your body memory, as do the fantasies that accompanied it and the gay sex that resembles it. Exercise is crucial to flood your body with better body memory and crowd out masturbation.
If you are on this journey and you have never had sexual intercourse with a female, you have a huge challenge at this point because you have no body memory of sex with a woman. You have to keep praying and ask God to fill your heart with hope. At the end of the journey, you will feel with your body the sexual delight that God designed you for. The problem is that you cannot try to get a sneak peak of this delight by masturbating or watching porn, because both masturbation and porn will only bring gay sex back into your mind and body, setting you back.
If you did have sex with a woman at some point in the past but you are still on this journey, do not try to build on that memory and masturbate while thinking about it. While your memory will be straight, the masturbation act itself will be gay, and the gay effects of masturbation will outweigh your memories.
If you are in Phase 5, you are already with a female partner and you must never masturbate again.
That's right: Once you are in Phase 5, masturbation is as gone as porn. You will never do it again. You have to be ready at all times to make love to your wife if she wants it. That is what God designed you for.
But in Phase 2, the important thing is to start the masturbation ban and get ready for the struggles of living without this activity through Phase 2, Phase 3 and Phase 4.
Mental exercises to get through the masturbation ban.
It is not going to be easy to force yourself to masturbate no more than 4 times a year. Here are some ideas:
Keep a record in your calendar. You need to have a daily planner. Mark the day you masturbate (use a secret code if you must.) If you slip up and masturbate within fewer than 90 days, then note how many days you went, and force yourself to go longer for the next stretch. Seeing the number of days get bigger and bigger will start to give you confidence you can do this.
Meditate and pray when you feel aroused. This is challenging, because part of you may not want to anger God by praying while you have an erection. But I can think of no Bible passage that forbids it, and God always delights when you pray. If you feel it would be sacrilegious to pray in such a state, then simply meditate. Get into a resting position sitting or lying down, and let your erection remain, even if it is painful, until it goes away on its own. It will go away eventually. Try to breath deeply, close your eyes, and let your body feel the heightened senses during the duration of your erection. Tell yourself, this is the gift of sexual desire, building you up for the moment when you will have a wife. It is healthy. It is good for you to feel this energy. Let it flow through your body. Do not touch yourself. Give your private parts freedom to do whatever they want. Over time, if you can turn the stress and tension of built-up sexual desire from something negative to something energizing, you will make it through this. You will gradually adapt and evolve. You will become someone who interacts with the world outside yourself and takes cues from unfamiliar places--and from those unfamiliar creatures known as women.