Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of silly stuff in the fifth chapter of Porn Again Christian, entitled “Masturbation.” The first half or so is Mark Driscoll’s general pontification on the subject, with musings on practical and moral considerations. I could write at great length on each of the stupid things said here — such as his declaration that “masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman,” or his apparent belief that the male body can build up a tolerance to masturbation and need ever more and more to be satisfied, the way that drug users build up a tolerance and need increasing amounts for the same high. Yes, this chapter is ripe with material. But I’m going to hold back, because there is a Q&A section at the end of the chapter that has some really dreadful advice. That’s where our focus should be.
Before we get there, I do want to highlight something Driscoll says while laying out his definition of masturbation, near the beginning of the chapter.
What I am not counting as masturbation is the manual stimulation between married people whereby a husband and wife enjoy pleasuring one another’s genitals, as taught in the Scriptures, either orally (Song 2:3; 4:12) or with their hands (Song 2:6). I am also not classifying as masturbation self-stimulation done with the blessing and in the presence of one’s spouse. What a married couple does together with a clear conscience is for their pleasure and freedom. What I am referring to by masturbation is self-pleasuring done in isolation that is usually also accompanied with unbiblical lust.
We’ve already discussed this idea of “unbiblical lust,” and how some lustful feelings are necessary or even endorsed by a “biblical” perspective. We’ve also discussed how nothing in the Song of Songs identifies it as describing the activities of a married couple — though other parts of the Bible do issue prohibitions against fornication. This is all a theological mess, but I was surprised to see Driscoll take this rather permissive stance, that “What a married couple does together with a clear conscience is for their pleasure and freedom.” Can he keep up such a healthy attitude? We’ll have to wait and see. (Don’t hold your breath.)
Now, let’s get to the Q&A. Some are not so bad, and a few are merely cringe-worthy. But these three question + answer pairs are so mind-bogglingly bad that they deserve special attention. Essentially, Driscoll is encouraging dysfunctional relationships. I’ve arranged these in order from bad to worse.
Question: My wife and I watched pornography together a lot before we became Christians and imitated what we saw people doing on the television. We both really enjoy watching pornography and wonder if it is okay to continue watching pornography if we do it together and only have sex with each other?
Answer: No, you should not watch pornography because it is a sin of lust. Also, you do not want your lovely wife to think of herself as a whore. Since it is your job to wash her with the Word of God, cleansing her and making her holy, you should put down your dirty, defiling porn and pick up your Bible as the beginning point for your marital intimacy.
Wh-what? What happened to, “What a married couple does together with a clear conscience is for their pleasure and freedom”? They’re both enjoying watching pornography together, as a married couple, with the aim not of lusting after the strangers in the movies but of finding inspiration for their sex life as a couple. I would actually eliminate a couple of those criteria as necessary for porn-watching to be morally permissible, but you have to admit this clearly passes Driscoll’s standard. You can’t just say, “it is a sin of lust” — we’ve already established that some lusts are acceptable and even healthy if you are evaluating this from a biblical, Christian perspective.
I’d assume that biblical perspective is what Driscoll means when he says, “pick up your Bible as the beginning point for your marital intimacy” — but it still makes me giggle. It sounds like he’s suggesting that they use the Bible as their Kama Sutra. Maybe he’d prefer if this husband had sex with his daughters? Or if this marriage incorporated a few more wives and maybe a couple dozen mistresses? Somehow, I suspect that learning these lessons from the Bible would be frowned upon. Hmm.
Question: I am much hornier than my wife and need sex far more often than she does. She has gotten tired of me keeping her up at night to have sex when she is tired and so we have porno that I can look at and masturbate to when she’s not in the mood. She’s okay with this and we’re wondering if it’s a sin?
Answer: Yes, it is a sin. You should stop this practice immediately and throw out all of your pornography. You are lusting after women and committing adultery in your mind and your wife is depriving you, which is a sin (1 Cor. 7:3–5). Lastly, your wife’s lack of interest is likely indicative of your failings as her husband to love and initiate with her outside of the bedroom. The key to your sex life is to address underlying problems you may be having. You need to work on your marriage.
Wow. This is scary. It is a known medical fact that men tend to have higher sex drives than women. Pastor Mark’s advice here is for women to disregard their own feelings and interests, and put out any time their husbands snap their fingers. It says so in the Bible, ladies — you have to give your man everything he wants, whenever he wants! How convenient for the men, right? So much for “pleasure and freedom.”
He does place some responsibility here on the husband, but that’s no real help, as it implies that “underlying problems” in the marriage are the real reason a wife wouldn’t be interested in sex sometimes. It’s inconceivable to Driscoll that a happy marriage could involve one person with a higher libido than the other. Maybe that partially explains the higher divorce rate among conservative Christians — they marry, they observe a basic fact of science, they conclude they must be incompatible and divorce? — but it’s so misguided.
The really bizarre thing is that this married couple has found a solution that works for them, a solution they are both happy with. Everyone involved is getting their needs met and is being respected. No one is being hurt or treated unfairly. Then, this Christian pastor feels compelled to intervene and tell them they are sinning. This business of taking each other’s needs and wants into account and finding solutions that please everyone — it is totally un-Christlike! …Right?
Question: My wife wants sex more than I do, what should I do?
Answer: Don’t tell your buddies or they will mock you incessantly for the rest of your life after staring at you blankly without blinking for about an hour in total silence. Do have sex with your wife as often as she likes and thank God.
I think Driscoll intended this to be funny, but it’s not a joke. It’s really sad to me that anyone might come to him seeking the advice of a moral leader on this sort of a scenario, get this as an answer, and go away still believing that he is a role model in any sense. It’s clear that Mark Driscoll has a perverse, sexist view of what marriage is about, and an even more twisted and malformed view of sexual morality. Nobody should be reading the advice in Porn Again Christian for anything more than a laugh, or maybe a good cry.
Next time: Chapter 6, “Manly Men.”