Masturbation within marriage : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread

In an earlier thread, in replying to a comment I made about masturbation, David S. asked what more could we possibly discuss that already hasn’t been covered. In another post dealing with masturbation, Dennis posted the following:

“Most Christians seem to condemn masturbation as a sin. I'm sure it is if the person doing it is having thoughts of females or males if they are unmarried. That could be described as a form of fornication. However what of the married person who performs self masturbation thinking only of their spouse; perhaps because they are absent from one another at the time due to business commitments etc? Could that be called a sin? If so where is it so described in the Bible or by the Church? There wouldn't be many adults in this world who haven't masturbated at some time in their lifetime, still that doesn't make it right.”

I disagree with the notion that any form of self-indulgence or self-gratification within the boundaries of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is acceptable. To carry out such behaviour knowingly is to desecrate this holy sacrament.

There are two principle clauses in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that deal primarily with the subject of Masturbation:

2352. "By MASTURBATION is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. 'Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that MASTURBATION is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.'[CDF, Persona humana 9.] 'The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.' For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of 'the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.'[CDF, Persona humana 9.] To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability." 2396. "Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are MASTURBATION, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices. "

CCC 2352 clearly states: “MASTURBATION is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action”.

In condemning masturbation, the Church makes no qualification for anyone who has had the benefits of the Sacrament of Marriage. There is no mutual self-giving or human procreation which love and marriage are predicated upon in the act of masturbation for one who is married, regardless of who they might be thinking of. In masturbating within the confines of marriage one spouse is not providing pleasure for the other; they are not procreating. In masturbating within the confines of marriage one is only fooling themself into rationalizing sin. One is merely accommodating their own desires under the pretense of claiming to enrich this holy sacrament. In knowingly doing this one adds sacrilege to the sacrament of marriage on top of the grave sin already being committed. The sacrament itself is being used as justification for grave sin.

CCC 2396 does not clarify itself by saying “except within marriage when one spouse is thinking of the other”. It states clearly: Masturbation is a grave sin! Period! There are certain moral obligations to do with chastity in any state in life. This fact is no less applicable for those who are married. There still remains certain obligations regarding chastity in marriage and, it can be argued, the responsibilities to chastity are of even greater dimension within the confines of marriage. So let us be careful not to mask our own selfish motives behind the notion that masturbation is noble when it is done out of love for a spouse. The Church has clearly told us this sort of behaviour is self-serving, not acceptable and should be avoided at all costs.

St. James and Mary Our Blessed Mother, pray for us!


-- Ed Lauzon (, November 26, 2001



I usually stay away from these threads. But, Now that my name is on the first sentence of your post. I will say thanks for all the hard work.

David S

-- David S (, November 26, 2001.

What about foreplay? Is it permitted to masturbate one's wife if one prematurely ejaculates?

It's not "detremental to the faculty of procreation" so it's ok-right?

-- geoff j (, July 30, 2002.

Geoff j,

Sounds right to me.

-- $ ($$$@$.$), July 30, 2002.

You can step in now any time, Moderator. Thank you.

In Christ.

-- Jake Huether (, July 30, 2002.

please, it is a sincere question

-- geoff j (, July 31, 2002.

David, I agree with Geoff that this can be a serious question with couples who only want their marriage union to give glory to God and live according to His law. I cannot agree with him however that it would be permissible to masturbate a spouse because the other spouse climaxed prematurely.

As I have said above, the catechism states clearly that masturbation for purposes of deriving sexual pleasure (only)is a sin. In 2352 the catechism states the reason masturbation is so intrinsically evil is: “sexual pleasure is sought outside of 'the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved”. Basically, the Church is telling us that while masturbation does represent an act of mutual self-giving, it still goes against God’s plan, in that it does not fulfill the second part of the lovemaking equation in marriage: human procreation.

Now one may argue that masturbation of a spouse is within “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order” of a marriage is permissible, however, but catechism also included the word “and” in describing the moral order in marriage to illustrate that any sexual feelings expressed in marriage are permitted as long as they promote “mutual self-giving” AND “human procreation”. So, to take Geoff’s example, masturbation of a spouse in this instance is not promoting human procreation as there is no intention of attempting sexual intercourse and therefore should not be engaged in.

However, I believe masturbation (without purposeful intended climax) of a spouse is permitted as foreplay when the intent of the act is to both give love to the other partner AND to procreate. If this act is used as foreplay to stimulate either or both partners to sexual intercourse, than I believe it is permissible. In the process if either or both partners climax accidentally than I don’t think they have committed any sin provided their original intent was to culminate their lovemaking in an act of procreation.

-- Ed Lauzon (, July 31, 2002.

I believe Geoff was asking as a means of foreplay. Therefore, Gene's last paragraph does apply to his situation.

-- Glenn (, July 31, 2002.

What about wives who cannot reach orgasm during intercourse? Are they to remain uncomfortably frustrated -- halfway there? When I was married in 1969, I was given a little booklet that discussed Catholic teachings on sex between married couples. It clearly stated that if the wife was not able to achieve orgasm during intercouse, she was permitted to achieve it through masturbation -- in the context of the marriage act, of course. The book even indicated that she herself was permitted to bring about the climax. I think it is definitely preferable to have one's husband assist in this. Many women do not achieve orgasm easily -- especially during the marital act. I wish there were specific guidelines from the Church on these matters. The confusion is very disturbing for those of us who seek chaste sexual lives.

-- (, March 15, 2003.


Hello, MM.
I understand what you have said, I have great respect for you, and I express my sadness that you seem to have long suffered with a physical problem. I want to start by saying that I do not consider you guilty of any sin. If you and your husband honestly believed that the booklet you were given in 1969 contained Catholic moral teachings, then you cannot be faulted in any way, even if the booklet was wrong (which it may not be).

I must say that, despite having read a great deal about morality, I am not able to say whether the booklet gave correct advice, because I have never seen this specific topic discussed (actions that seem masturbatory, but within intercourse). I can say, without hesitation, that there are many errors in publications about Catholic morality that have been published since 1965, but your booklet may be OK.

I am sure that the Vatican has never published a document that goes into detail about your kind of situation. Instead, things like this are usually judged via the consensus of experienced, orthodox moral theologians, who take specific cases and apply them to general moral guidelines. It could be true that your booklet explains a very old and respectable judgment of moral theologians. On the other hand, your booklet may contain suggestions from an unqualified layman who has presented an opinion that is contradicted by past judgments arising from the consensus of orthodox moral theologians. I'm sorry, but I just don't know, and it would not be right for me to express my personal opinion.

Instead, I would like to recommend that you contact, for advice and help, the good folks at Couple to Couple International. This is a Catholic organization that was founded in the early 1970s by a married couple who are still its tremendously experienced leaders, John and Sheila Kippley. If they cannot help you, they will surely be able to refer you to a person (perhaps a therapist or a moral theologian, or both) who can. Please go to and find the contact information at the bottom of the page. I suggest that you send them your post and my reply -- and then wait to hear from them. (Or you could phone them.)

God bless you.

-- J. F. Gecik (, March 16, 2003.

Thank you, John, for your gentle and honest response. I took your advice and submitted my question to Couple to Couple, International. I will let you know if I receive an answer from them. I believe that this topic of what is permitted in lovemaking between Catholic spouses in a committed sacramental marriage is one that truly needs to be addressed. From my own surfing around, I have found that many people do struggle with concerns in this area. I came across comments from a couple of different priests which stated that they found nothing morally wrong in any loving physical sharing between husband and wife, as long as it did not ultimately preclude the procreative and unitive dimensions of the marital act. I interpreted this to mean that openess to life, and an ultimate goal of sacred union in the nuptial embrace are what God requires for married sexuality to be holy. It seems to me that whatever touching, etc. that is done in foreplay to give pleasure and prepare the body for union is not morally wrong -- the same view held by the priests mentioned above.

This exalted union of flesh between husband and wife, which allows for the transmission of new life is so beautiful. The woman is prepared to receive her husband's self donation, which is the height of his physical delight, and in doing so gives herself to him. However, often her body is not yet stimulated to the point of reaching the enjoyment which is rightfully hers in this mutual exchange.

My understanding of why mastubation itself is morally wrong is that it is a solitary act, focused only upon one's self, one's own pleasure. There is no unitive or procreative value within it whatsoever. It arises from lust, and is often facilitated by deliberate stimulation from pornographic material. I believe that this is what the Catechism designates as the sin of masturbation, both within and without marriage -- a disordered use of one's body to appropriate the pleasures God intended to be enjoyed only by husband and wife within the holy sacrament which binds them and makes them images of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

How different this lustful masturbation is from the tender, loving exploration of each other's bodies between spouses as they prepare to become two in one flesh.

Having expressed my beliefs above, you may wonder why I posted my question. The Church is thankfully so explicit in matters such as abortion, contraception, homosexual acts, masturbation (onanism), etc. Yet, as you noted in your response, there is no definitive teaching about what spouses may or may not enjoy in preparation for intercourse. Perhaps that is because it really is very simple -- no prohibitions as long as the marriage act is completed in its fullness.

Yet, so many of us are still asking questions, because we don't want to risk that we may be offending God. But, we receive a mixed bag of answers from various sources. Surely the Church could address the issue of marital lovemaking with some specificity. Many couples would welcome the freedom, peace, and perhaps even new experiences such knowledge would bring. God bless, and thanks again for your response.


-- (, March 17, 2003.

Hello, MM.

Having read your new message, I realize that I had probably misunderstood what you meant previously. That is, I had pictured something unusual and quite different from what you have just now described, which seems to be very normal foreplay.

You stated, "It seems to me that whatever touching, etc., that is done in foreplay to give pleasure and prepare the body for union is not morally wrong ..."

That is absolutely correct. I have definitely heard/read statements of this kind from reliable, orthodox Catholic teachers/theologians. The only caution they always offer is that elements of foreplay should not be an end in themselves, intentionally used to bring about a climax. That is why I emphasized your words, above: "prepare the body for union."

Excuse me for misunderstanding your previous post, in which I thought that you were referring to a sort of self-stimulation/masturbation occurring during the actual act of intercourse. What moral theologians have said (if anything) about the morality/immorality of that kind of action is something with which I am not familiar.

God bless you.

-- J. F. Gecik (, March 18, 2003.

I was listening yesterday to a tape series by Fr. John Corapi, who I respect. He fielded a question from the audience that asked whether oral sex and masterbastion between a married couple was alright. His response was as long as it was foreplay directed toward the martial act, it is okay - same thing as the 1969 handbook mentioned by MM.

But would this include the use of masterbation to bring the wife to full pleasure after the husband?

God bless!

-- Hollis (, March 18, 2003.

John, you are not alone. It seems that I too, misunderstood Therese’s intent to her question. I assumed that when she asked, “What about wives who cannot reach orgasm during intercourse?” that she wanted to know if it was in keeping with the faith to reach climax after the “procreative and unitive dimensions of the marital act”. If this were her question, then this conduct would exclude foreplay which as we know occurs before union. The question of masturbation in foreplay has been discussed earlier in this thread and I believe you to be quite right in what you have just stated concerning masturbation when used as foreplay.

The act of intimacy in marriage between to partners has two-fold purpose. One, it is to procreate and two, it is a gift from God to the couple to enjoy to enable them to grow closer in their bond of love. In the case where a partner failed to achieve orgasm during intercourse, as the procreation condition for union has been met, so I see no reason why they cannot bring the unfulfilled partner to orgasm. Whether one spouse masturbates at this point or masturbates the other to achieve orgasm, I don’t think is an issue as this resultant act stems from and is merely completing the procreative, unitive act that both partners participated in. I don’t feel comfortable calling this stimulation to achieve orgasm after intercourse “masturbation” since I agree with Therese that self- gratification in the masturbatory sense is not taking place here. I would stress that the above is my personal opinion and would suggest she talk to several priests of obtain a consensus. When matters such as these are not widely discussed openly it is always good to obtain more than one opinion.

Hollis, can you tell us anymore about this book? Is it a book authored by or endorsed by, the Church? Is it avaiable today?

-- Ed Lauzon (, March 18, 2003.

Ed, Hollis referred to a tape by Fr. Corapi to which he had listened.
He also referred to the 1969 booklet that Therese mentioned in her March 15 post, above. (She did not give the title or authors.)

-- J. F. Gecik (, March 18, 2003.


I received a "thank-you note" from MM (who posted above). She was very pleased to have received a helpful reply from the Couple to Couple League, whom she contacted for information on her personal concerns. She offered to let me copy the CCL's reply here, if I thought it might help someone else. I decided that it may be helpful for me to post most of the note (which was written by Mr. William Sockey of CCL):

"Pope Pius XII, in his address to Italian Midwives, emphasizes that the pleasure associated with the marriage act is good and intended by God to be fully enjoyed as long as it is part of the marriage act itself. Not only that, but in charity, spouses should be more concerned with giving each other pleasure than with experiencing pleasure. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, for a husband to seek assistance from his wife regarding how to help her fully enjoy the pleasure of their marital embrace.

"What is not permitted is to arouse oneself outside of the marriage act. The Church has no specific teaching about doing things to arouse oneself while engaged in the marriage act, as long as our purpose is to enjoy the lawful pleasure connected with the marriage act."

God bless you.

-- J. F. Gecik (, March 18, 2003.

Thanks John (and MM) for sharing this wtih us. It's very helpful. It gives us concrete reference when these sorts of questions arise. It also seems to confirm what we've been saying in this thread.

I wonder if this address in its entirety of Pope Pius' to midwives is available online? It would be interesting to read what else the Holy Father had to say in this regard.

-- Ed Lauzon (, March 18, 2003.

Hello everyone. Yesterday, John wisely suggested that I contact the International Couple to Couple League for their position on this topic we have been discussing. I believe that they are an excellent source, and that the priests who advise them are wise and holy and faithful to Church teaching.

The League was kind enough to send their response, via e-mail, last night. I am inserting it here so that all of you can read it and discern for yourselves what they have said.

As for me, I am going to take their answer as definitive. We can drive ourselves mad going from priest to priest or source to source discussing these matters. Father Corapi and the Couple to Couple League are good enough for me!

I also atrongly agree with Ed that what occurs during lovemaking, which is so very holy in marriage, should not be called "masturbation." Are any of you familiar with the Holy Father's teaching on the Theology of the Body? I haven't read it yet, but hear that it's excellent.

Okay, here's what "Couple to Couple" said:

Dear MM, Pope Pius XII, in his address to Italian Midwives, emphasizes that the pleasure associated with the marriage act is good and intended by God to be fully enjoyed as long as it is part of the marriage act itself. Not only that, but in charity spouses should be more concerned with giving each other pleasure than with experiencing pleasure. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, for a husband to seek assistance from his wife regarding how to help her fully enjoy the pleasure of their marital embrace. What is not permitted is to arouse oneself outside of the marriage act. The Church has no specific teaching about doing things to arouse oneself while engaged in the marriage act, as long as our purpose is to enjoy the lawful pleasure connected with the marriage act. Take a look at our website: where Marilyn Shannon has an article on nutrition and female desire. God bless, Bill Sockey Executive Director +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

PS (from MM) Forgive me if I have been repetitious in this thread. I am new to the forum, and did not read any of the other threads on this topic, to which some of your referred. Thanks, and God's Peace be with you.

-- (,), March 18, 2003.

A little help.

-- T (.@....-), December 08, 2003.

Seems to be a good deal of posting in this subject matter.

I'm not trying to be a know it all, but have been down this road. The bottom line is that it is pretty normal that women don't orgasm easily in regular intercourse. It is helpful for them to be lovingly "masterbated" to orgasm in order to receive the husband.

The more difficult question comes in asking if it is licit that the wife be "masterbated" if she has already received the seed of her husband. Women do need an orgasm at some time during the act. John Paul II actually states this in his book titled "Love and Responsibility." If not, bad feelings will arise.

If the husband does ejaculate (properly in her vagina) before she orgasms herself, it is the right thing for marital harmony that he sees to her having an orgasm one way or another. It is part of the same marital act and contributes to harmony in the relationship.

By the way, for the hearty and generous souls out there. One marital act may contain numerous orgasms on both sides. The scenario in the previous paragraph simply outlines that there is no sin in pursuing one orgasm for the wife if the husband has already orgasmed and cannot give an orgasm to his wife through conventional sexual intercourse because his seed is spent.

Again, be wary of objectification of the spouse. This is more ordinary for the man than the woman.

Sex should always be an act of giving to the partner. Even the achieving of any orgasm through some self-effort in the marital act can be seen as way of giving in that you are thanking the partner for their gift of self in helping you. However, self-gratification for its own end, whether the partner is present or not, will always be more or less sinful.

MM, "Theology of the Body" is very good. Do also check out "Love and Responsibility" by the same author. Its all great stuff.


-- Pat Delaney (, December 08, 2003.

I also am A natural family planning teacher for the couple to couple. I was molested when I was 7 and have been married for 10 years and this is my two cents: I was not able to understand all the things that are allowed in the marital bed because I had bad judgement in that area from long ago. My husband likes to foreplay and as long as foreplay leads to openess to life there is no problem. I had a hard time understanding this until recently. I think there is a fine line between foreplay and tact!the thing you are calling masturbation foreplay outside of marriage.IN marriage it is called just that...foreplay. THIS IS FROM CATHOLIC PARENTS ONLINE:I USE THIS LIST WHEN I HACE A CONCERN. IT IS A DETAILED LIST OF ALLOWABLE BEHAVIOR.AND NOT ALLOWABLE 6. You shall not commit adultery. - - Fornication (intercourse prior to marriage) - Masturbation or other impure acts with self - Homosexual acts - Using a contraceptive - Dressing or acting in a manner intended to cause arousal in another (spouses excepted) - Kissing or touching another passionately for the purpose of arousal (spouses excepted) - Allowing another to kiss or touch you in a sexual manner (spouses excepted) - Intentionally causing a sexual climax outside of intercourse - Onanism, i.e. intentional withdrawal and non-vaginal ejaculation - Flagrant immodesty in dress - Bestiality (sexual acts with animals) - Oral sex (permitted as foreplay in marriage) - Anal sex or other degrading sex practices - Prostitution - Rape - In-vitro fertilization or artificial insemination - Surrogate motherhood - “Selective reduction” of babies in the womb - Types of fertility testing that involve immoral acts - Involvement in or support of human cloning - Willful divorce or desertion - Incest - Polygamy or polyandry (many wives/husbands) - Cohabitation prior to marriage - Destroying the innocence of another by seducing or introducing them to immorality - Lust in the heart (“if I could I would”) - “Swinging” or wife swapping - Transvestitism or cross dressing


-- (, March 09, 2004.

Bump for Elizabeth to read.

-- Curious (, September 13, 2004.

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