MALE PATTERNED MASTURBATION
OF MISSIONARIES FOR STRESS RELIEF
CNC 6411 – Sexuality Counseling
Turned in 4/21/10
“Self-stimulation, personal blossoming, chronic demented practice, corrupt depravity, pleasant alternative, instinctual manifestation, genital misadventure and vice against nature” are some of the 200+ polarized descriptions of masturbation. (Bernot 2005, 84-94) Currently, Christian experts in sexuality are hotly debating this topic, but it is rarely openly discussed in churches. While the Bible remains silent on masturbation, it can be estimated that one third of ministers struggle with it as their sexuality, spirituality and ministry gradually decay. (xxxchurch.com n.d.) With this in mind, there is an urgency to understand patterned male masturbation for stress relief with its specific application for cross-cultural missionaries. For the purpose of this paper, masturbation will be defined as “the private, solitary act of self-stimulation, culminating in orgasm done in isolation.” The use of “patterned” relates both to: A. a consistent subclinical, yet atypical, means of coping with stress through self-gratification and B. compulsive masturbation. For those struggling with compulsive masturbation, this would be defined as “repetitive behaviors,” “the goal of which is to prevent or reduce anxiety or distress, not to provide pleasure or gratification” (American Psychiatric Association 2000, 457). The extraordinary amount of cultural and ministry stress a missionary encounters, in a foreign environment, makes him especially vulnerable to seek masturbation as an unhealthy coping mechanism. Etiology
Most literature views masturbation as a “normal, healthy way to explore your sexual feelings, express the natural sexual response, and safely experiment” “without worry,” “having a sexual relationship” or catching “a sexually transmitted disease” (Pfeifer 2006, 68). In this developmental stage masturbation enables a psychologically unready teen to cope with the awkward tensions of puberty through the “control” of their own sexuality. At the same time, the teen begins to experience shame due to the cultural condemnation of masturbation coupled with parental discomfort of talking about the transition of sexual awareness. This “sexual shame inhibits sexual loving” and “puts into motion distortions of sexual expression in both universal and unique ways” (Hastings 1998, 14-17). Hastings sees this sexual shame as “the” motivational factor behind all sexual acting out from addiction to pornography to lusting after others. Thus masturbation is both a learned coping mechanism from youth and part of a cycle of shame. A biological factor is that masturbation brings about a sense of “euphoria” as testosterone, dopamine and oxytocin are released. (Wright 2008) These hormones stimulate the reward center in the brain and reinforce the behavior. Steve Earll sees family dysfunction or unresolved family trauma, “any experience that wounds the soul”, as another factor. (Earll 2004) If repressed emotions such as rage, fear, inadequacy or loneliness are not resolved, they grow to be “so powerful that an individual becomes susceptible to addictions providing psychological relief” (Earll 2004). In order to anesthetize the pain, sexual fantasy through masturbation is used to alleviate the psychological ache with the unfortunate affect of fueling shame and the addictive cycle.
Thus masturbation is a developmentally learned behavior that provides a powerful biological experience to escape painful situations and emotions that fosters a sense of control. The unique psychological stressors of missions only increase the vulnerability to use masturbation and other sexual outlets for relief. In his article concerning missionary sexual purity, Ken Williams lists “loneliness, anonymity, unmet emotional needs, greater sexual freedom in the local culture and loss of support systems” along with the “it could never happen to me” mentality as significant missionary stressors. (Williams 2002, 250) Dysfunction
The alleviation of the psychological pain through learned masturbation leads to: a cycle of dysfunction, relational dysfunction, spiritual dysfunction and sexual dysfunction. The cycle of dysfunction can be seen as a modified Carnes addictive cycle. It begins as the missionary seeks a means of coping with the new tensions the mission field presents. First, this “wounding” is put at ease by “fantasizing” or becoming preoccupied with the ideal sexual or relational encounter. These fantasies represent the model expression of their sexuality from their home culture and may even include their spouse. Next the missionary prepares for a sexual encounter through ritual of mental and physical processes. This includes rationalization, justification (no one gets hurt,) and practical concerns such as time, place, kind of fantasy, etc. This then leads to the “acting out” of masturbation. Lastly, there is a “despair” for having acted out by which the missionary feels guilt over the act, confesses to never do it again, and yet feels dirty and shameful for having done it. This residual shame exacerbates the original stress, intensifying the urge to relapse into the cycle with fantasy/preoccupation. This can lead to a true Carnes sexual addiction cycle. (Earle Jr. and Laaser 2002, 12-17)
Patterned masturbation leads to relational dysfunction as the missionary withdraws into his own private world and away from the unity of marriage and friendship. Just like pornography it “promotes physical satisfaction without caring love, sex without responsibility, union without obligation for the consequences and exercise of the mating privilege with no regard to the immediate personal and physical consequences or the eternal consequences originally designated by God to accompany it” (Kirk 1989, 5). Obviously, this will lead to marital dissatisfaction by the spouse and sexual dissatisfaction for the husband whose masturbatory fantasies cannot compare with marital coitus.
Spiritual dysfunction occurs as the guilt and shame caused by the dysfunctional cycle grows “to the point that we become willing to give up everything to gratify” the sexual desires in order to find respite, even our “relationship with Christ” (Williams 2002, 252). There is a continuous futile loop of conviction, confession, repentance, and then failing that disrupts unity with God, forces the missionary away from those who could help and falsely enslaves himself to sin (Rom. 6:15-23) until masturbation becomes his ungodly master. Ministry effectiveness is disrupted as the missionary leans on his own understanding in place of God’s Spirit (Prov. 3:5-6, John 15:5).
Lastly, added sexual dysfunction can occur. Masturbation can lead to problems with Male Orgasmic disorder as their partner’s action and appearance does not match up to masturbatory fantasy. (Grant and Potenza 2007, 197) Also, new manners of acting out may commence such as having sexual fantasies about other women during marital sexual intercourse, destroying the unity of “one flesh.” Carnes found that 90% of men who struggle with sexual addictions are also involved in pornography. (Carnes 1991) Alongside this are: cybersex, flirting with national and missionary women, inappropriate touching, extramarital affairs, frequenting massage parlors, etc.
Dysfunction takes place as masturbation becomes the primary means of coping with the past and present stressors of life affecting many areas of overall functioning. Diagnosis
Diagnosis of patterned masturbation can be difficult because it is subclinical. Compulsive masturbation can be covered in the DSM-IV-TR under 302.9 Sexual Disorder Not otherwise specified which lists the requirement of: “Distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used” (American Psychiatric Association 2000, 582). Outside of the DSM-IV-TR there are two well-known models for sexual addiction that were developed by Carnes and Goodman, that are both based upon the criteria for substance dependence. The upcoming DSM-V may view this as a hypersexuality disorder, but it will not be considered an addiction. (Ruben 2010)
In clinical diagnosis, co-morbidity must be addressed. A survey of German sex therapists working with male sexual addicts found co-morbid rates of: Neurotic Disorders 26.9%, Sexual Dysfunctions 23.1%, Disorders due to Psychoactive substance abuse 19.2%, Mood Disorders 16.7% and Avoidant Personality Disorders 10.3%. (Briken, et al. 2007, 138) Along with this can be added adjustment disorder due to cultural stress that is experienced by most first term and some second term missionaries. (Nacy 2009)
Steve Earll gives five criteria that can easily be adapted for assessment. First, there is always fantasy involved. The person becomes mentally preoccupied with escaping the pressure. Second, there is a medicating of emotions – it is a “temporary relief of stress and the creation of happier or euphoric feelings” that temporarily quiets the chaos of the mind” (Earll n.d.). Third, there is a false sense of control whereby the person believes that the issues have gone away through the euphoric power of acting out. Masturbation has become the primary means of coping. Fourth, masturbation becomes self-nurturing – the person plans the time, place, how it will be carried out, how much stress or “being good” is needed before acting out. And last, it is self-destructive in the sense that it “produces strong experiences of guilt, embarrassment, violation of personal values, and broken promises to self and others” (Earll n.d.).
For patterned masturbation, the author would suggest that criteria one and two must be present along with one of the others (three to five) for any period of time across an 18 month time frame. This is due to the seasonal stress that missionaries face when “binging” may occur and then lie dormant. Other possible tools for assessment can be found at the sexhelp.com website.
Symptoms for missionaries may include: signs of depression, isolation, marital strife, sexual joking, loneliness, mood swings, peculiar boundaries in counseling, inappropriate touch, sexual explicit history in web browser, staying up beyond when family goes to sleep, preaching about personal issues, improper use of finances, etc. (Laaser 1992, 75) Treatment
Both Christian and Secular models of treatment believe that both the acting out and the root/source of trauma must be dealt with in order to see wholeness. P. Brinken et al. break down treatment into three generic components. First, there is teaching the person through psychoeducation regarding his dysfunction and helping them choose how best to involve others in the process. Second, there is group therapy, which helps the person with his story. Last, there is individual counseling that deals with developmental aspects. (Briken, et al. 2007, 134) Hastings (as well as Carnes and Laaser) views shame as the motivating behavior for all acting out. Therefore, addressing sexual shame individually through a non-judgmental examination of its negative effects will lessen shame and gradually the acting out. (Hastings 1998, 67) Carnes sees the group process as integral for the treatment of shame by transforming the belief system so that the person understands: 1. I am worthwhile; 2. I can be loved for who I am; 3. Others can meet my needs if I tell them and 4. Sex is just one way to have my needs met and to show love. (Carnes 2001, 168) Unfortunately, some Christian models are overly simplistic – confess, get accountability (software and personal), clean it up and maybe a group or counseling. (xxxchurch.com n.d.) A more complete model comes from Laaser involving both individual counseling and Christian 12 Step groups to breakdown each component of the Carnes “addictive” cycle: 1. Stopping the acting out - the total succession of sexual activities for 90 days. 2. Stopping the rituals – Identifying personal rituals, setting healthy boundaries, accountability, and practicing positive spiritual disciplines – prayer, Bible study, confession, meditation, etc (Matt. 6:25-34). 3. Stopping Fantasy - Identify what the fantasy symbolizes, find alternatives to having these needs met/issues resolved (such as sexual abuse), learn to choose rightly and gain self-awareness of how normal sexual desire turns into lust (James 1:13-15, Romans 12:1-2). 4. Healing from despair – Understand that healing only comes through the help and encouragement of God and others in the process leading to godly surrender and godly self-confidence (Hebrews 3:12-13, Romans 15:5, James 4:10). 5. Healing from the shame – work through unhealthy shame and trauma from the past, pass through healthy grief and understand one’s identity and worth in Christ (Ephesians). 6. Deal with the issues of: additional addictions, codependency and unhealthy relationships. 7. Create a plan for relapse prevention (Gal. 6:1-5). (Laaser 1992, 146-162) It would be preferable for missionaries to work through missional stress and patterned masturbation on the field while receiving techniques for stress reduction, support in acculturation and assistance with specific issues (eg. past trauma, support raising, raising MKs). Confidentiality will be a must for those providing care and each person must work through whether he will self-disclose to others on his team. Outcome
After receiving treatment, the missionary will be able to cope with stress in a healthy manner through utilization of spiritual and relaxation techniques and engage sexually with his spouse in a manner that fosters unity and “one flesh” without falling into the addictive cycle. For the single missionary, the use of masturbation for sexual release without lust is hotly debated. The author would agree more with Lowell Seashore who espouses that once masturbation stops, God’s natural function for dealing with sexual tension, wet dreams, will become more frequent. (Seashore 2005, 51-52) Therefore, single men’s sexual tension will be met biologically through a natural process.
While xxxchurch.com and settingcaptivesfree.com both report testimonies regarding “victory” over the struggle with masturbation; this is tempered by the fact that a slip or relapse may occurs within the first six to twelve months. (Laaser 1992, 160) Subclinical patterned masturbation would have a more favorable treatment outcome compared to those struggling to compulsive masturbation if one chooses to “work” the treatment plan. Cultural/Missional Implications
John Piper’s article on Missions and Masturbation points to the fact that the guilt and shame caused by regular masturbation leads young people away from participating in world evangelization. (Piper 1984) With the further disintegration of traditional families, there will be added vulnerability to patterned masturbation due to sexual abuse and family dysfunction. The battle lines need to be drawn for the sexual mind of young men in college. Christian colleges and missions agencies must openly address masturbatory shame in light of the fact that in Christ there is now no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), the role of trauma in a person’s background and how to “renew the mind” against lust (Rom. 12:2). Second, research needs to be done in the area of patterned masturbation of intercultural missionaries. The constant tension of living in a foreign environment along with the overtly sensual nature of many host cultures bring about unique stressors by which a missionary may easily fall into the “old habit” of masturbation. Pre-field instruction regarding coping with stress, godly sexuality and exploring past trauma would all be beneficial. The real danger lies in the missionary whose shame/pain is being covered psychologically through ministry and patterned masturbation. If the ministry begins to experience setbacks, the additional woundedness may overwhelm all other coping capacities and lead towards sexual addiction. One clear defense mechanism to be aware of that missionaries may employ during confrontation with their dysfunction is spiritualization. It is a form of magical thinking that God will provide supernatural empowerment without the missionary actually confronting the problem or taking responsibility. As Dan Scott eloquently says, “it masquerades as faith and trust in God when it actually uses God’s name to avoid reality. It is a way of taking the Lord’s name in vain” (Scott 2008). Finally, missionaries must understand that their ministry is not their primary means of pleasing God. As he recognizes that God could never love him less and or more fully than He does right now, the missionary will be enabled to break through denial and to seek God’s deeper work of victory over patterned masturbation through dependence upon Him and interdependent relationships in community. Bibliography
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