Dear Yaw

Does Masturbation Equals Lust?

Dear Yaw

Some Christians argue that its not the act of masturbation that’s a sin but the thought because you need to picture someone before you get a release and that equals lust.”But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”[Matt 5:28] Well, you can’t have sex without a little lust. Does that make it a sin?’


Hi Kwadwo

Before I answer your question directly, I would like to write that human beings have powerful emotional capacities as part of their mind. In other words, we not only think, use our sensory capacities (sight, smell, hearing…), have a conscience and memory as well as other mental functions, we also have feelings (including sadness, fear, anger, love and joy) that are powerful guides to functional behaviour, if they are not suppressed but are allowed to manifest.

This emotional capacity includes feelings that are related to sexuality (and they may or may not be connected to a feeling of love). We need these feelings so that we know when we are attracted to another person and can, if the attraction feels strong enough, initiate contact with that person (usually by talking to them) and, perhaps, sooner or later, initiate and possibly undertake sexual activity with them.

These feelings are vital. Otherwise, we would never know of our interest in, let alone undertake, sexual activity with another person. And human reproduction would end, and our species would die out in a few decades.

One way to characterize these strong sexual feelings for someone is to label them ‘lust’ and this is usually done when the feeling of sexual attraction is considered separate from love. But I do not believe that this is functional and the word ‘lust’ is often used to scare us into believing that a strong feeling of sexual attraction is wrong. It isn’t wrong. It is different (from love or anything else for that matter). But given that this feeling is part of our genetic inheritance, it can only be suppressed at cost to ourselves and society.

So, to answer your question: there will always be occasions in which you are sexually attracted to someone but, for one reason or another, it will not be possible or perhaps appropriate to have a sexual relationship with them. In which case, masturbating with this person in mind is a harmless and functional way of expressing the sexual attraction you feel for that person.

Suppressing how we feel always results in dysfunctional outcomes. That is why it is better to feel and express feelings, even if this is not always done with the person concerned.


Robert J Burrowes

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes (Yaw) has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is and his website is here.

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