Is oral sex wrong before marriage?

Is it wrong to partake in sexual acts like oral sex, fingering and handjobs before marriage? If so, what can go wrong? I’m a firm believer that sexual intercourse should be reserved for marriage due to scientific evidence, but whether the same applies to other sexual acts is a point of conflict for me.

I believe the church makes it clear on its position being that the sexual acts you mention are not deemed appropriate outside of marriage.

However, I would like to look a little deeper into ways we can apply  the “law of chastity” to our lives and use it for our benefit.

One very common way that “sex” is defined is through the lens of vaginal/penile intercourse.  This is, of course, the one sexual way in which children are conceived – and therefore, the sexual act that is attached to one of the most grave and sacred consequences of sexuality.  One of the greatest charges we each carry is that of responsible procreation.  I believe this is why most religions have something to say about sexual expectations and behaviors.  In fact in our faith – this capacity is tied closely and beautifully to divinity: being able to participate in the creation process with Heavenly Parents who invite us to become like Them.

However my definition of sex and sexual expression is much more nuanced than merely intercourse.  And the consequences (both positive and negative) much more varied than pregnancy.  I believe any form of romantic expression towards someone we are attracted to is part of our sexuality.  This includes behavior from holding hands, massage, writing love notes and kissing to the fondling of breasts and genitalia, oral sex, and intercourse.

Looking at it from a purely physical perspective, the risks of sexuality are unintended pregnancy (via intercourse, including when the man has “pulled out” and on rare occasions by semen ejaculated near the vaginal opening) and sexually transmitted diseases (via intercourse, oral and anal sex, rimming and on rare occasions fingering).  But sexuality encompasses much more than purely the physical aspects of our being.  Sexuality is emotional, it is spiritual, it is intellectual, it is tied to attachment, pleasure, pain, and joy.  It encompasses fantasy and reality.  Healthy sexuality requires vulnerability, honesty, reciprocity and a certain sense of personal maturity.  So when teenagers, for example, who commonly relate stories of oral sex, anal sex and fingering in my office accompanied by a certain pride of still being “virgins” – I believe we are missing the mark on true sexual education.  After all, how do we define “virginity?”  Is it only in the absence of the penile/vaginal intercourse mentioned above?  Is that even a useful term?  And why does it hold so much more value than the rest of our body in its sexual expression?  Don’t get me wrong – I am glad in these situations that pregnancy is not being risked.  However, I believe there is a disservice being done to ourselves when we measure our sexual expression only in one definitive way.

It is not my job to tell people what they should or should not be doing sexually.  Ultimately, these decisions and the responsibility of making these decisions lie on each individual.  It IS my job to help people explore their sexual capacity, their sexual values, their sexual experiences, their relationship to God as they go through these, and allow for the progression of sexual healing and sexual health.  So, in answer to your question – I believe that oral sex and allowing someone to touch you in a sexual way are just as emotionally vulnerable sexual positions to put yourself in as intercourse.  You are sharing of yourself sexually and you are bonding with another human being at a very personal and intimate level. How you go about sharing of yourself sexually, especially before the commitment and loyalty of marriage, is a decision each person needs to make for themselves – hopefully in conjunction with your partner, scientific research/information, and God.  You should also take into account where you are in your sexual development (i.e. a 14 year old will probably be making different sexual decisions than a 55 year old, etc.).  And that is the beauty of each of us having our own unique sexual journey.

The law of chastity is only useful when we see sex as a gift and a divine capacity.  Otherwise, it can be interpreted in unnecessarily shaming and unhealthy ways.  Unfortunately, the words themselves (law of chastity) and some of the ways it has been taught can come with some unfortunate baggage that can mar our feelings about it – distancing us from God in our discomfort rather than helping us turn towards him when most needed.  The law of chastity is meant for our benefit – for our protection – for our learning on how to create healthy boundaries.  Guidelines and direction meant to steer us towards principles which lead to joy, pleasure, health and growth.  Most of us will stumble at times through our sexual journeys – having regrets, questions, doubts, wondering if we are normal, etc.  This is expected.  And why we have an infinite atonement available 24/7.

Sexual Risk Factors

Sex: Making the Right Decision

4 Things You Didn’t Know about Oral Sex

Sexual Hookups and Psychological Health  There is obviously a difference between a premarital “hookup” and a premarital committed relationship where sexual acts may be taking place.

The Emotional Risks

Teen Sex May Take Emotional Toll 

Why Monogamy Matters

 

 

 

  • Anonymous

    Hi Natasha,

    Thanks for this post. I really enjoyed it. I don’t necessarily struggle with this exact thing but I have something similar…
    I am a 26 year old female. I am LDS and live in a suburb of Salt Lake City. I am active in the church and hold a current temple recommend. I am recently divorced after being married for 6 years. After being sexually active for that long I find it hard not to masturbate every so often.

    Now, I know that masturbation is frowned upon in the church, but is it really that bad? I kind of look at it as the lesser of two evils.
    I guess my question is this… Can I still feel worthy to attend the temple if I sometimes engage in masturbation? I have heard both extremes. I know of a person who masturbates daily but feels that it is perfectly acceptable and wouldn’t hesitate to go to the temple. I know someone else who had a bishop tell them that they had to have 6 months of masturbation sobriety before they could attend the temple. So which is it? Why is there so much variation in policy? Is there an actual policy on this?

    Thanks for your time,
    C

    • http://natashaparker.org Natasha Helfer Parker

      I have not seen a current written policy on this – as far as I can tell, masturbation is not mentioned in the current bishop’s handbooks. I have written about my stances on masturbation at length on this blog answering these exact valid questions you have and I encourage you to read my opinions. In short, I would expect masturbation to be part of your life as a healthy, sexual, single adult.

  • natashahelferparker

    It is my understanding that there is nothing currently in writing as far as policy – in fact, masturbation is not mentioned in the current bishop’s handbooks as far as I’m aware. The only place masturbation is addressed without actually saying the word is the “For Strength of Youth.” I have written about my opinion regarding masturbation on several occasions and encourage you to look those up. As an adult, single woman I would expect masturbation to be part of your self-care.

  • RaymondSwenson

    I was a prosecutor for five years. If any of those forms of sexual contact were done coercively, one person forcing the other, or one of them being a minor, it would be a criminal offense, constituting rape. The actions are clearly forms of “sexual intercourse” and violate LDS standards of behavior and temple covenants outside of marriage. A married person who engages in them with a person not their spouse has committed adultery under the standard definitions of the law in the USA. Some of those activities are ones that even some prostitutes decline to perform, meaning that they are more significant kinds of sexual intercourse than the kind that can result in conception. The notion that they are innocent, less serious forms of sexual activity than normal intercourse is a lie that has been fostered by males taking advantage of ignorant females with any kind of lie that will enable them to use the female for their sexual gratification. When a president of the US engaged in such adulterous behavior with a young woman in his employment, his defenders set back the cause of women’s equality in the workplace by thirty years, even as they hypocritically attacked people in the armed forces for conduct that was not as egregious as that president’s.

  • anonymous

    Hi Natasha,

    I hope you can answer some of my questions. I am a 19 year old LDS girl and I can’t find any answers about whether what I’m doing is wrong or counts as pornography and masturbation.

    I occasionally read erotic fanfiction, and I can’t figure out if that counts as porn. Everything always talks about pictures and videos and I’ve never so much as glimpsed anything like that. However, I do read fanfiction with graphic sex scenes (sometimes just as part of a story and sometimes with hardly any real plot). If that does count as porn, I think I could stop without too much effort, but, if is doesn’t, I’d like to continue. Would I have to talk to my bishop? I really don’t want to. I’ve just moved into a new YSA ward and don’t know the bishop well and my bishop at home is my friend’s dad and I don’t want him to think less of me.

    Also, I can’t figure out what the church’s position on masturbation is. I’ve googled a bunch, but this blog is only of the only relevant pages that came up. Also, I’m a girl, so masturbation is less clear cut. I don’t do anything penetrative, but I do like to touch myself in ways that feel nice. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember (since age 5 or 6), but only in the past couple of years have I started to associate it with anything sexual. Is that okay? No one has ever told me what the right thing is and For the Strength of Youth is rather vague.

    Thank you,
    Confused

    PS I really can’t donate anything, be cause my parents are still able to see my debit card account. Sorry, I hope you can still answer my questions.

    • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

      I have some thoughts for you to mull over. Natasha probably could share something much better. But i’ll offer my thoughts in hope it helps you find some resolution.

      First off I think its important to remember that there is no such thing as an accidental sin;mistakes? Sure accidental mistakes happen all the time. But if you are worrying that you might be sinning remember a sin is something we intentionally do, knowing it is not what God wants us to do. But it is not a sin to do your best to make the right choice, and because of lack of knowledge, circumstance, etc… being innocently making a wrong choice. That is a huge part of the atonement, not just covering our sins, but also our mistakes that we make because we are no where near perfect yet, and probably wont be in this life.

      To address your personal questions about whether pornography could come in literary form without pictures or videos? I think it could in the strict sense of the definition of pornography being any material that is created to elicit a sexual response from the viewer/reader of said materials. However is written literature that describes sexual encounters in detail be pornography… My thoughts are “maybe”.

      Which brings me to the crux of my thoughts on your questions not only about whether your fan fiction is pornography, or whether it is right or wrong for you to masturbate, and if it is still considered masturbation whether or not its penetrative or not. Here is the thing whatever answer anyone, or I give you… what matters most is how you feel about it, and how you feel your relationship with God is affected. Obviously you seem sincere in your desire to do what’s right. And there will be a lot of people, including bishops who will think “they know” what the right answer is for you. But when it comes down to it, you answer to God for your choices, not them. And you have the gift of the spirit, and capability to receive direction on what you think Heavenly Father wants you to do. So I think that should be your main focus, its easy for others to give our biased advice quickly because especially in the here and now its easy to tell others what to do. Its entirely something else to make that decision for yourself.

      I personally would say I agree with Natasha’s position that masturbation is in no way a sinfull thing. In fact I would be as bold to say it is key to developing a healthy sexual understanding of ourselves in a safe environment. There is some 30+ year old literature where two or three church leaders claim it is sinful. This has however not been repeated in any general conference, or other official church channel since. Any literature that you run into that tells you otherwise is almost exclusively quoting these 30 year old quotes, and I would be weary of assuming that these few very old, and singular comments are official church doctrine. If you dig deep enough into the history of the church you can almost always find a quote that will tell you just about anything you are looking for. Key thing there is that official doctrine is taught often, and taught clearly, and taught through the entire church priesthood structure. It’s not just taught by bishops, or one general authority, or member of the twelve even. It is repeated often, it repeated clearly, and through the entire body of the church. I think it is very important to note that despite the extremely important matter of sexuality to God, that through out all the standard works masturbation is never directly referenced. There is one indirect reference I know of where God condemns a man for not impregnating his wife when God told him to. But he instead “spilled his seed on the ground” That is hardly a condemnation of masturbation as much as it is a condemnation of disobeying a direct commandment of God to impregnate his wife. So why would the lord not address a subject directly, especially a subject that is so vitally important to us, especially since the urge to masturbate is such a common and universal one.

      I think it’s most likely because it probably is ok or isnt ok depending on how you do it, why you do it, your personal mindset behind it.

      My feelings on the matter is I believe masturbation is very sacred, and it should definitely be looked at as a possibility of something God may want you to do to help foster a healthy sense of sexuality regardless of your marital status. That being said I think once again, and this includes the erotic fan fiction in my mind… I’d ponder both activities, and listen for the influence of the spirit. And I will flat out say I can see it going both ways. I mean seriously. I can see your answer being. Yes, these things are appropriate, and in fact you might even gain more guidance in how to increase the influence of the spirit in your life.

      That’s one thing people rarely talk about. But the passionate act of sex can be the most powerful revelatory tool as far as bringing the spirit into our life. Our sexuality is amazing, and yes even the wild, extremely erotic desires. Those are beautiful God given things that we are blessed with to bring us closer to heaven.

      Now don’t get me wrong, not every time needs to be some sacred intensely emotional experience. There are many good healthy reasons for utilizing the gift of sexuality. What I am trying to get at is that your desire to be sexual, to enjoy that aspect of who you are is beautiful, and amazing. Many bring shame and guilt into the equation of sexuality, and that it is some fallen act that God tolerates… That is in my mind very clearly an evil and or ignorant mindset to have. Sexuality is sacred. Also it is extremely down right party fun! I mean these are all different aspects of sexual intensity that play different purposes in our life. My wife’s sex talk from her mom was this. “Sweetie, Sex is fun! Try lots of different positions, and don’t use it to manipulate your husband. Women who do that are acting evil!” I am just getting at that it should be light hearted too!

      The reason I share all this is because I think a)it’s awesome that you are just trying to do your best, and recognize that masturbation, sexuality are very enjoyable, and that you are looking for truth b) I hope to share a candid in depth experience from someone who has been on both sides of the debate, and give you confidence that you are already capable of getting the right answer for you. It may change over time depending on circumstances, etc… but believe in your ability to connect with God. That was a huge part of the Savior’s message to us. That the power to choose God is within us, not someone else. It’s our choice.

      My wife and I will tell our children that it is up to them to decide whether they should masturbate or not, and the appropriate thoughts, images, etc… to utilize in their sexual fantasies, and what God would want them to do.

      I recognize that maybe a foreign idea to you that God is very much interested in your sexual happiness. But he is, and that is not a weird thing. In fact a distant detached God seems more out of place to me.

      Anyway I asked my wife to respond to you, because I thought she would have something good to say on the matter. But she declined and told me she thought that hearing from a member of the opposite sex would be more beneficial. She shares all these same views, and I specifically asked her to tell me if I could say that, or if she wanted to add something else. She is 27, I’m 31. I mention that because sometimes getting advice from those who are much older then us can seem so distant. But it was only a few years ago when we finished up school, and I just thought that would help you not feel so alone on the subject.

      I apologize for the length. And I hope this helps resolve some conflict in your mind. I know you are fully capable of making good choices. I hope this helped you find some answers you were looking for. If not, sorry. I’m sure Natasha’s could answer with much more skill. I have great respect for her opinions and have been following her blog for a few years now.

      Just remember you wont accidentally sin. So no fears that you might accidentally do something evil. people who say otherwise really havent thought the whole gift of the atonement through the whole way.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve kind of stumbled onto this blog after a late night discussion with my husband. I’ve got a question I’ve been mulling over for quite some time and I don’t know where to ask such a delicate and personal question. Maybe this is the place? I’d just like to know what’s considered “normal” in regards to how often LDS couples have sex? Our sex drives our different, mine changes/lowers even more when I’m pregnant, and I just don’t know if I’m abnormal in my expectations. Thoughts?

    • MrShorty

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen any good data for LDS couples specifically, though I do not see any reason why LDS should be any different from the population at large in this respect. Numbers that I tend to see:

      Almost universally, experts consider 10 times or less per year “sexless” marriages. This is just less than once per month.

      “Averages” I tend to see range from a couple times per month to a couple times per week. I do not know if these numbers include “special” circumstances like pregnancy or illness.
      I have not seen anything concrete for “too often.” Except maybe for “honey I have to get out of bed and go to work today or I will lose my job” kind of too often (often enough to interfere in other necessary activities).

      I don’t know what your expectations are. As I see it, the range of what might be called “normal” is pretty broad. I think that one of the real challenges of married life is how do you negotiate frequency when one wants 2-3 times per month and the other wants 2-3 times per week. How to navigate sex during pregnancy or illness is another complication on top of that.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment and info! Obviously this is not a topic of conversation that is universally acceptable ( in most circles, I would think), so I appreciate your candor.