Father Knows Best: Two reasons to be sexually active before marriage

Do you have a question about life, love, or faith? Submit it online, fill out the form below or email it to [email protected]

Hey Rev!

Me and my girlfriend had sex a while back and continued to do so until recently when we decided to stop and go to confession. We have since stopped and are planning stopping until marriage. So, my question is, is it a sin to engage in other acts instead of actual sex, such as oral or hand wise? Also, masturbation: I’ve stopped since I went to confection but it’s really testing my fires.


House-ad_SPO_FKB_new_0429139Dear LC:

Before I get to your question, I have to say thank you to the auto-correct feature on your phone. I can’t tell you how tickled I am by the idea that you’ve stopped masturbating since you went to a whipped chocolate and cream delicacy. I’ve been giggling in my office for the past 5 minutes.

My educated guess, LC, is that you are writing in the hopes that someone will give you and your girlfriend permission to have sex. If that guess is right then consider this column your official authorization to fornicate. Go forth with my blessing and hop into the bed or the back seat of the car of your choosing. I promise not to tell anyone.

The overwhelming majority of couples at whose marriages I officiate and/or for whom I perform premarital counseling are already sexually active and already living together. And for the life of me, LC, I can’t figure out why I need to be troubled about that. While I recognize that there was a time when the moral norm was to be — or at least was to be pretend to be — celibate up until your wedding day, I don’t find the arguments for preserving or restoring that norm persuasive. Indeed, I can think of at least two pretty solid reasons that being sexually active before a wedding is a good idea.

First, sex matters. If you and your girlfriend are planning on promising one another that you will stay together until you are parted by death — and if you plan to be monogamous until death comes — then the two of you have a right and a responsibility to find out that you are sexually compatible with one another and to do so in a shame-free context. I don’t remember who it was that said that sex is 10 percent of a marriage when it’s working and 90 percent of a marriage when it isn’t (God forbid that I’m accidentally quoting Dr. Phil), but he or she was sure right. I have witnessed more than one otherwise happy marriage fail over sexual misery. Go and make sure, LC, that sex with your girlfriend brings both of you delight and connection and comfort.

Second, it’s hard to think straight when you’re horny. If you and your girlfriend are going to enter into a sacrament as momentous as marriage, then you want to be confident that you are called to the 90 percent of marriage that isn’t sex. You want to be able to say with conviction that the two of you are best friends, that you are strong business partners, that you are sustained by conversation and by silence together, that you hope for a lot of the same things, that you are able to walk with one another in times of love and loss. Don’t go to the altar carrying even a nagging doubt that your real motivation in getting married is to get laid.

As to other kinds of sex, LC, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that, no, oral sex and mutual masturbation aren’t sins. The bad news is that they are both still sex. To refrain from putting Tab A into Slot B while you and your girlfriend roll around naked together and to argue that, somehow, this represents abstinence or virginity is to engage in an absurd exercise. Any kind of serious sexual contact is a profound act of intimacy and vulnerability and, as such, it carries real risks. To pretend otherwise is to be dishonest with yourself and to be careless with your partner.

I’ve written two columns on masturbation (find them in the archives on and I think I’m ready to leave that subject alone for while.

Before I wrap up, LC, let me get all theological on you. The evidence of creation is that God really likes sex. And more than that, God hopes that sex will be a source of joy for you and for your girlfriend. It is my prayer that the two you will find a way to discover and to embrace that joy, to let go of all of the confections that you hold back.

About the author

Martin Elfert

The Rev. Martin Elfert is an immigrant to the Christian faith. After the birth of his first child, he began to wonder about the ways in which the Divine was at work in the world. Shortly thereafter, he joined Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC, where he and his new son were baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2005 and where the community encouraged him to seek ordination.


Click here to post a comment

  • Hhmmm. Interesting response. If I were to extrapolate your position, then any two (responsible?) people can and should have sex before marriage? Curious if you see any boundaries here. Also, I think you really missed an opportunity to bring a stronger or more exhaustive theological response to this question. For this generation being raised in a hyper-sexed world where sex has no strings, how can we teach them about God’s intentions for sex (assuming we think there are any besides pleasure or procreation)? I don’t like many of the past traditional positions, but you left this wide open for anything, and I don’t think that is what God had in mind. I’ll bet many people would not even think that God has any greater purposes for sex nor would they want to respect those. I hope to do better than your answer as I encounter this issue with real seekers.

  • I mean no disrespect to Rev. Martin, but considering the question refers to confession (or confection…), I am guessing the couple are Catholic.

    The question was posed to Rev. Martin, and he answered. That’s fine, though I disagree with his reasoning. But it would have been polite, IMO, to suggest they seek the counsel of somebody of their own faith, because whatever this answer is, it sure isn’t Catholic.

    Best regards!

  • Finally a(nother) priest who makes sense on the subject of sex. And there are plenty of others out there. Those who see his response as an invitation to anything-goes are mistaken. He is calling for a more thoughtful, loving and theologically sound approach to human sexuality. It is about time for the Church to release its (supposed) control over something so fundamental, so beautiful, about our lives. For God’s sake – for everyone’s sake – look beyond the phobias and neuroses that we have inherited from the past. It is time to get real.

  • Please explain how the theological position of those agreeing with Rev. Martin is more sound, thoughtful and loving.

  • Funny. The Hebrew belief was always one that stated that sex outside of marriage is adultery. So when God says, “Don’t commit adultery,” He’s saying “Don’t have sex outside of marriage.”. Period.

  • What matters most here is God’s opinion of fornication, or sexual intercourse before marriage, instead of what man thinks. God knows what is best for us since he is our Creator.

    Hebrews 13:4 brings out:

    “Let marriage be honorable among all, and let the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”

    Other scriptures dealing with God’s view of fornication are found at Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:20-21; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9; Ephesians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:8-10; Revelation 21:8; 22:15.

  • If the couple went to confession, then they are aware of what the Catholics teach as truth of God’s commands. In light of that, they would be required to obey the laws of the church and resist all sexual contact/temptation until marriage.

    Over the past decades, sex has risen to an almost imperative human act on the level of breathing oxygen. We overemphasize its importance as a critical facet of human nature, while underemphasizing its reason for being; procreation. Love is 90% compatibility to be together for life……sex is, maybe, 10% of marital importance.

  • Not sure why this is called “Father Knows Best.” It leads one to think the Reverend is Catholic. But after a few paragraphs it is clear that he’s not. My only fear is the Fr. Mark is Catholic, and is teaching something opposed to both the Gospel, and the Church. Hopefully Fr. Mark is Anglican??? 1Cor 6:18-20.

  • The Gentlemen in question who authors the ‘spiritual’ responses to the queries posed by others in this feature appears from an orthodox perspective to be wholly unqualified for the role he assumes. I know…I know, now I’m guilty of an ad hominem. Put another way, I cannot wrap my mind around the advice he gives and square it up with the normatives of scripture. Progressives will argue that I’m a bigot, or repressed; I charge them with revisionism and the rejection of 2000 years of orthodoxy. The Christian walk is not a cakewalk, it is a challenge to our natural inclinations. To suggest that the proper response to our natural inclinations is to surrender, makes the requirement that we bear our cross daily null and void.

  • Good points, well articulated. This concept of dealing with our sin nature is lost among a concern to be more accepted by the surrounding culture.

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.