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 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.