Christianity --Youth Issues/Intimate Issues


QUESTION: Hello, I have been dating my boyfriend for almost two years and we knew very early on that we were "the one" for each other. We met on an online dating site when I was 18 and he was 22 and we talked for a long time before we met so we knew that we were on the same page about our desires to save sex for marriage. He had made a purity promise and even though I had not I was just as committed to abstaining. Our first week together we were very careful at first but one night we made out a lot, we never humped each other or touched each other anywhere that would be inappropriate but we went farther than we wanted to. We both felt bad about it and talked about it the next day and decided to set come boundaries (like we couldn't kiss for more than like 10 seconds) so that it wouldn't happen again. Everything went fine for the rest of the trip and the next time he flew out to see me as well. (I lived in north west Oregon and he lived in Las Vegas) The trouble only really came after I flew down to Vegas in the summer to spend some time with him to really see if we were right for each other. We were very careful about touching and kissing at first but between the crazy amount of attraction we had for each other and the fact that he owned his own house so we were along together and sleeping in the same bed (which we had done in hotel rooms before but not for more than a few nights) the tension increased and before long we would be dry humping each other. We would do it until we had both been satisfied sexually (his mother had advised him to do this with me to deal with his desires) We were ashamed of what we were doing and kept trying to stop but it was very hard. I don't remember how exactly but we eventually moved to masturbating together and touching each other. When we did this, even though we still wanted to have sex eventually, we were satisfied.

I spent about three months in Vegas and then went back home for a few months. January of 2013 I officially moved out to Vegas to live with him because I knew that I wanted to marry him and we couldn't handle being apart. I never wanted to live with a man until I was married but I was in a rock and a hard place sort of situation. We have had a great experience living together and we do love each other very much. We know we will get married and I know that he will propose when the time is right. We continue to masturbate together and it has become normal for us. We have not had sex and we will not until we are married. I still feel ashamed of what we have done and would like to stop but I don't know how. We have tried and failed so many times, not to mention that it is way harder for him than for me because I constantly turn him on (not even always on purpose). We have rationalized what we have done by saying that a long time ago (like Mary and Joseph time) people weren't even always married by today's standards. They started living together and had sex and they were married and that was a official as it got. So since we know we are committed to each other why is it so bad?

We go to church every week, are committed Christians, and are trying to live a godly life though neither of us really have a good Christian mentor to talk to. This is one of the things that is constantly an issue of tension in my heart and I don't know what to do about it. I can't move out on my own and I can't move back to Oregon so our housing situation won't change. I don't know how to deal with this in a way that won't cause frustration and tension in our relationship. I don't feel right doing what we are doing but we are so used to it and so close now that it is hard to imagine life without that connection. It almost feels like we are married and it is a way that we connect with each other like how married couples have sex. I love him and I want to satisfy his needs but I also love God and I want to do right by him.

I would appreciate any input or ideas you may have. Thanks :)

ANSWER: Ursula - Let me ask you a couple questions first.  Answer them, and I'll give you my best advice.

Why aren't you getting married now?

Why do you think that having intercourse is a sin, and not mutual masturbation?

Have you engaged in oral sex?

What do you think the reason is why the Bible says not to commit adultery and not to have premarital sex?

What does "sex" mean to you?

How old are you now?

I'm looking forward to hearing from you soon.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: We aren't getting married now for many reasons. My family all lives in Oregon and his in Vegas so we have no idea where we would hold the wedding so both families could attend. He hasn't proposed yet, even though we have talked this all over a lot, because he always wanted to date for about four years before getting married and I always wanted to date at least two years (though I don't think this reason applies so much since we are already living together.) We can't really afford a wedding right now and I know that we could get legally married for not that much money but I feel like unless I involve my family and church it won't really mean what I want it to.

I don't think that having intercourse is a sin but I believe that God designed us to fit perfectly with someone of the opposite sex and that if we share that part of ourselves with more than one person we are basically taking away the gift of unity that he gave us. Instead of being united with just one person we are united with anyone and everyone we ever are sexually involved with. I learned this mostly from my mother who did things sexually with other people than just my dad and that she regretted and that she lived with the rest of her life. I could see how all those memories affected her and I did not want that. The reason I use to rationalize this whole situation to myself is that if we have never done anything like this with anyone else and never will then why does it matter so much to wait? We have both already made promises to God and to each other similar to wedding vows (though I understand they are NOT the same thing) so how will waiting really change anything? Neither of us had any problems keeping things physically under control in our past relationships but when we got together it was a completely different story because we knew we were going to stay together. We really do want to save sex until marriage because we want that final act to be special but I can already tell that it won't be as special because of what we have done already. I also think that because the Bible is so clear about sex but not so much about masturbation we were able to use that as a scapegoat kind of because my boyfriend doesn't like tattoos just because of what it says in the old testament so I think if there was a REALLY clear and obvious verse he would be more firm about it all.

Yes, we have engaged in oral sex. We have done basically anything you can without actually having sex, and we have done nothing anally.

I think that the Bible is so strict about premarital sex because of the reasons stated above and I believe that those reasons also apply to adultery. Another reason I believe adultery is wrong is because you are breaking you word to your partner and to God.

Sex used to mean to me anything that involved the genitalia of either person.I used to think that having oral sex was the same as actually having sex and that pretending it wasn't was just trying to fool yourself so you could call yourself a technical virgin. Now, sex means to me actually having sex and everything else is not the same. Even though we have not had sex I can already tell that while everything else we have done is similar to it, sex is still different. I regret that I know even this much though...

I am nineteen and will be  twenty in December and he is twenty four.

Part of me us just scared that even if we were committed and stopped doing what we are doing, how would we go forward? We are going to be attracted to each other. Should we just do it in separate rooms? Fight the urge completely? I can see how this whole situation is our bodies having control over us rather than the other way around and I can see it getting in the way of our relationship with God. I used to cut myself a couple of years ago and I remember that after I did the first time I felt this huge division grow between men and God (I always heard that sin separates us from God and I believe that this is true) so I kept cutting myself because I felt that I had no one to turn to, even God, because of what I had already done. I just kept spiraling and felt that there was no way out. That is kind of how I feel now. I can feel the division but am scared to try to stop what we are doing, I am still working on my faith. I hate that I am saying what I always hear others saying, "I am too far away from God, how can I fix this? He won't want me anymore, I am too dirty" even though I know that He can fix anything and make anyone clean.

I hope the reply is satisfactory, feel free to ask for any more details to help gain a better understanding of the situation. Thanks for your input.


Thanks for replying - your answer was extremely helpful in formulating some sort of answer.
The way I understand it, you are asking for advice on how to refrain from intercourse while still maintaining your close relationship with a man you’re committed to, and while living together.

That’s a tough situation.  A man and a woman living together, even if they’re not already in a relationship, will find so many opportunities and temptations it’s going to be difficult not to resist.  Add in the fact that you’re already committed makes it practically impossible.  However, I do know of people that have pulled it off, so that’s not off the table yet.

I wrote an essay about 15 years ago that I’ve changed very little since. One of my most asked questions I get is similar to yours, “How Far is Too Far?” It may not seem that long ago, but you were 4 when I wrote it.  Although society and culture has change a lot, the essay remains valid today.  Your developing relationship almost perfectly matches the steps contained in the essay.  I want you to read it now, and then I’ll give you some additional advice.  Here’s the essay:

How Far is Too Far?
By Carl Fuglein

Do you remember the first time you rode a roller coaster?  What emotions went through your mind?  Maybe fear and excitement.  As you got onto the ride, your heart started pumping faster and faster.  The seatbelt was fastened and the bar was lowered.  The ride started and you realized that you were committed to this experience.  As you went up the first hill, you became even more excited and more scared.  Maybe you screamed, "Let me off this ride!" because you lost your nerve. Too late.  You hit the top of the first hill and think, "Omigosh, I'm gonna die!”  Then you rush down that first hill and think, "Wow, what a rush!  That wasn't so bad; in fact, it was kind of fun."  There you go--up and down all the hills.

And when the ride’s over, you want to find a bigger, faster, scarier roller coaster.  Maybe even one that turns you upside down.  If you're like me, you just can't stop riding roller coasters.  You figure out that you're not going to die and that you like the feeling of exhilaration it gives you.  You will find that the first roller coaster just won’t feel the same, once you’re ridden on that bigger, faster, scarier coaster.  Having sex for the first time is a lot like riding a roller coaster—the anticipation, the fear, the expectations, and the feeling that you could die.  However, once you make it through the first time, you’re ready to do it again and again and again. You want bigger, higher, faster, and scarier sex just to get the adrenaline rush you felt the first time you gave your virginity away.  Except when you have sex, you give pieces of yourself away—some of your emotions, some of your heart, and some of the purity that God gave you.   

God gave us the beautiful gift of sex.  He intended it to be used for creating intimacy between a husband and wife as well as for procreation.  (See Gen. 2:21-23, 3:16, and 4:1)  Instead, humans have exploited sex by committing adultery, which includes pre-marital and extra-marital sex, (Exodus 20:14) and even thinking about committing adultery.  (Exodus 20:17)  But what constitutes sex?  This is the actual question that you are asking when you ask “How far is too far?”

There are many reasons why you may be asking this question.  One, you're looking for someone to give you a specific limit.  Two, you're looking for permission to do certain "things" without feeling guilt.  Third, you really don’t know what, in God's eyes, constitutes sex.  Look up these words in the dictionary:  sex; sexual intercourse; coitus.  Still not very clear, is it?  In my dictionary, sexual intercourse has two definitions - one is coitus, the other is "sexual union involving genital contact, but without penile penetration".  But human sexuality is not just physical; it’s also an intellectual, social, ethical and spiritual act with social consequences.

Human sexuality is complex.  It’s been said that women have sex to get love while men give love to get sex.  A commodity traded between two individuals who are using each other as a means to an end.  Women are turned on by emotional intimacy, while men are more aroused by a woman’s appearance.   Does that mean a woman should refrain from intimacy on all levels?  Should a man never look at a woman? It's all part of the human sexuality "dance" leading to sexual union. Humans do all sorts of strange things prior to having sex. When you're older and in a committed marriage relationship, merely "talking" and "cuddling" can constitute sex or at the least, foreplay.

So, we come back to the question again, what is sex?  A couple’s physical relationship might go like this.

1. He sees a pretty girl or she sees a cute guy.  She smiles at him, he smiles at her.
2. They talk, nervously. They both laugh.
3. She tells a friend to tell a friend to tell him that she likes him.
4. He tells a friend to tell a friend to tell her that he likes her back.
5. They talk some more.
6. They go to the library to "study".
7. On the way home, they hold hands.
8. They go out on their first "date".
9. They hold hands, and at the door when he drops her off, he gives her a hug, and maybe even kisses her, once, quickly.
10. They go out again, and maybe kiss twice or nibble on one another’s ear.
11. After they've been going out for a while, they “experiment”, and French kiss.
12. Wow, that was fun, what's next?  Lying down on a couch perhaps, but "just kissing".
13. While still fully clothed, but lying on a bed, he touches her and she touches him.
14. Step 14 is the same as 13, only with buttons unbuttoned and zippers unzipped.
15. Ditto, only maybe without some clothes
16. Ditto again, only with no clothes.  
17. Mutual masturbation. (this might start occurring in step 13)
18. Oral sex. (Could happen as early as step 15)
19.  Protected sexual intercourse.
20.  Unprotected sexual intercourse and perhaps “kinky” sex.

So, at which step is a sin committed?  What is the definition of sex?  Where does being friends end and “friends with benefits” or “sex” begin?  The difference between 1 and 2 is tiny.  The difference between steps 9 and 10 is tiny.  The difference between steps 17 and 18 is tiny.  The difference between steps 1 and 20 is huge.  A couple must consider the step that they together think is a sin, and agree upon it. Pretend that step is a cliff.  If you go that far, you're going to fall off the cliff. Every step after that one will be tiny; but hey, it doesn't matter, because you already fell off the cliff.   

Where should a couple place their cliff?  That's pretty much up to them based on their experience and their morals.  Ninety percent of adults, if they're honest, will tell you that sex is downright fun.  But there is a LOT more to sex than just the physical part.  Sex inside marriage is guilt free.  Outside marriage, it's guilt laden.  Remember that everything you do, along with everyone you do it with, will be in your mind on your wedding night.  If you truly love your bride or groom, wouldn't you want to wait to give it all to them instead of only part of you?  Going all the way will give you emotional baggage that will be extremely hard to empty when you get married, especially if one partner is a virgin, and the other isn't.
Unfortunately, the Bible does not directly mention French kissing; it doesn't mention oral sex (except in a very vague reference in Song of Songs), it doesn’t mention masturbation.  Any genital contact, even with clothes on is sex.  Most clinical definitions of sex are just that – any genital contact constitutes sex.  Anything that could lead to the act of making a baby outside of marriage could be a sin. Let me explain, if a step would prepare your body for the act of intercourse, (specifically, causing the male to have an erection and/or the female’s vagina to become wet) it probably should be considered a sin.  For most people, that point would be step 11, French kissing.  For some, it might not happen until step 12 or 13, for others it might start as early as 9 or 10.  Once you get to that point, i.e., real sexual arousal, any labels become meaningless and it becomes more and more difficult to stop – remember those raging hormones.  Your body will be saying “More, More”, and your brain will be saying, “Stop, stop!”  

If you've already stepped off the cliff, don't despair.  There is grace - God loves you and will forgive you.  But you must try very hard not to go there again.  Trust me, there is so much more to marriage than sex.  Sure, sex is great, but being married to your best friend, even without sex, is better.

Finally, consider this.  Pledge to not have sex until marriage.  Write it down.  Sign it. Something like this on an index card:   

“On __________, 2013, I made a pledge to myself and before God to not have sex until my wedding night.  Here’s my signature to prove it.  This card is my wedding gift to you.”

Put that card in your wallet and carry it with you.  Let it get crumpled and bent and worn out.  And on your wedding night, pull it out of your wallet and hand it to your husband or wife.  It’ll be the best present you will ever give your spouse up to that point.  What comes next will be THE best.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~End of Essay~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The question you’re asking is not really about sex at all.  You’re feeling guilty because of the choices you made, that you didn’t want to make, and you want to get your soul right with God.  As I state in the essay, sex is more than physical, it’s emotional, and spiritual. It’s about purity, it’s about respect; respect for your own body, his body, God, your parents and societal attitudes.  I can’t tell you that what you’ve done or not done is right or wrong.  You have to define “right” while respecting God’s authority and desire for you to remain pure in his eyes.  If you make a mistake or a bad choice, ask for forgiveness and it’s yours, but you have to really, really try not to do it again.  You haven’t done so well in that category, nor has your boyfriend.

Here comes the advice part.  The first thing I want you to do is to read my essay WITH your bf.  Together, at the same time.  Perhaps you could read it out loud to him.  It should give both of you some laughs, even though it’s serious.  Step 2 is seriously having a discussion and setting a limit on your sexual activity.  That’s your choice.  My advice or opinion on where that is, is irrelevant.  But make sure it’s somewhere that you BOTH are comfortable with, and make a serious written commitment that you will go no farther.  No matter what you decide, it’s going to be very difficult because you’re already at step 18.  You shouldn’t be living together.  If it’s impossible for you to get a separate place, one of you needs to move to a different room or get twin beds (yes, really).  You should not ever be in the same bed together or something’s going to happen that you don’t want.  If you find yourself tempted to go farther than you want, separate, go to your separate corners, go take a {separate} cold shower (they really work, if you’re alone).

My next advice is going to be tough.  You need to commit to one another, and you need to get married, NOW.  I know you probably want a big wedding, and this does not rule it out.  You live in the easiest place in the world to get married.  Just do it.  If either of you absolutely refuses to do this, then you need to answer the question, “What are we doing here?  Playing house, playing marriage, or just shacking up?”  You don’t have to tell anyone.  The marriage chapel will provide witnesses. It can be religious to get God involved.  Then, when you can afford it, get married in a big church wedding with both your families there.  The only person who HAS to know you're already married is the pastor.

I know this is a drastic step, but I think it’s one you need to make.  If you’re committed to one another like you say you are, getting married will relieve all of your guilt.  You’ll be able to have intercourse with a clear conscience.  You’ll open a whole new sexual relationship (just go to Amazon Books and search for sex manuals).

Your only other option is to move out and go home until you can afford marriage, but marriage now is going to make you feel so much better.  Trust me, I’ve been married 44 years.
Ursula, your question has been extremely difficult for me.  You have good intentions, and I know what you want in your heart, but waiting so long for marriage might break-up your relationship, and I don’t want that to happen.  Please get married.

Blessings, and hugs,
Carl (with a little help from my wife).

Christianity --Youth Issues

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Carl F.


I can answer questions from teens & young adults concerning their faith walk and on social issues which affect their lives. I can answer questions on sex, homosexuality, or drugs, and anything else that might be troubling you. After 30 years in youth ministry, nothing shocks me, and I promise to give straight answers to any and all questions. I can also answer questions from youth workers on problems they`re having with programming or with their groups.


I have been involved in youth and young adult ministries as a volunteer for over 35 years. I am currently a volunteer youth minister in a suburban UM church - I have a small group of 7th and 8th graders.

United Methodist Church, Chrysalis, Walk to Emmaus, Cursillo

Several training seminars, 9 years at National Youth Workers Convention, 1 year at Princeton Forum on Youth Ministry

Awards and Honors
Certified lay speaker for UM Church

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