I received this question on non-procreative sex through our “Have a Question?” page:
Hello, I’m so happy to have found your site but I am confused on a very fundamental level. I understand that for my partner and I to have non-procreational sex outside of marriage is a sin. My strict Catholic upbringing taught me that this remains a sin within marriage, and that sex should only be engaged in with the intention of procreation. Is this correct or have I been misinformed? Can married Christians enjoy non-procreational sex together? And if so, what about contraception? What is allowed and what is not? I hope you can help to explain this to me! I love my partner with all my heart and wish to marry her in the very near future, I’m just confused about this whole subject! Thank you very much for your guidance and God Bless.
So let’s dive right in. Please note: these are just my opinions, based on what I see in the Bible. If you have differing opinions, please, feel free to share them in the comments section below, but let’s try to keep it civil, because these topics have the potential to be volatile. I am not a catholic, nor have I ever been one, so I’m not well versed in Catholic dogma/doctrine, so I’m going to go by what I see the Bible say on the topic. My wife’s comments will be in purple, as usual.
What is the purpose of sex?
So, first I think we should look to the Bible to see what are the reasons the Bible gives for having sex.
Sex is for procreation
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”
-Genesis 1:28 (MSG)
So, the first reason we see in the Bible for having sex is procreation. Now, this one doesn’t tend to get contested too much. There is a the rare radical extremist feminist group that argues that all sex is rape, and so sex should not occur at all (yeah, they exist), but the rest of the world generally agrees that if you want to have a baby, sex is typically option #1. I do want to point out though that this command to fill the earth, to reproduce, to have sex, in essence, is given before the fall. Before sin enters mankind. It was instituted by God, in perfect Creation, and was declared “Good” or “Very Good” or “Very Functional”, depending on how you want to translate the words used. My point is that it is not sinful, it not disgusting, or shameful, something to hide from or pretend like you don’t do in marriage. It WAS designed specifically for marriage, to be protected by that union, and outside of marriage, it is a sin, but within the context of marriage, it is an amazing, beautify, awesome thing that God has given us.
It makes sense that God would tell us to fill the earth. There were only 2 people on the whole planet! He told us to prosper, when I think of what it means to prosper, life is full of joy and happiness and things are going well, we’re saving for retirement instead of losing money, etc.. Life would not be so full of joy and happiness if we couldn’t enjoy sex without the intent of procreation.
Sex is for Intimacy, Companionship and Pleasure
Ideally, I’d quote the entirety of the Song of Solomon here. This book is all about the sexual union(s) of a married couple. It is playful, and erotic, and sweet, and loving. There are no talks of children, of becoming pregnant or procreation. What there is, is a lot of imagery and language that speaks of their intimate love for each other, both physically and emotionally.
Now, some suggest that this book is about God’s love for His people. I challenge you: go read it, and decide for yourself.
I just read some of Song of Solomon from “The Message” version, and I was trying to find a verse that would show that sex is not just for procreation, but for fun and building a healthy relationship. I couldn’t find a verseon its own. Like Jay said, it’s full of playful and erotic behaviours. Go read a few chapters, and try and figure out how on Earth you could be thinking the way they think of each other and not have a passionate night of sex! They are so full of love and desire for each other! I believe God meant for us to enjoy those feelings and share them with each other by enjoying each others bodies. For my body is not my own but we are one flesh.
Sex is for Avoiding Temptation
Do not refuse and deprive and defraud each other [of your due marital rights], except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, so that you may devote yourselves unhindered to prayer. But afterwards resume marital relations, lest Satan tempt you [to sin] through your lack of restraint of sexual desire.
But I am saying this more as a matter of permission and concession, not as a command or regulation.
– 1 Corinthians 7:5-6 (AMP)
This verse is a fairly popular one for Christian marriage bloggers to use to speak against one partner limiting the frequency of sex within the relationship unduly, and it shows a key point: Paul seems to advise frequent sexual union between couples. In fact, the only time I sees a reason to abstain (and then only for a short time), is so that you may devote yourself to prayer or fasting. I know my wife likes The Message version for this verse:
Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it’s for the purposes of prayer and fasting—but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it. I’m not, understand, commanding these periods of abstinence—only providing my best counsel if you should choose them.
– 1 Corinthians 7:5-6 (MSG)
There was a part of Song of Solomon where the husband is outside, and knocking on the door, and the wife said she was bathed and dressed and in bed, and asked why she should come out and get dirty. By the time she got to the door, he was gone. Is the meaning behind this that she didn’t go to him, so he went looking somewhere else for a place to stay? Putting him in the path to temptation? I’m not sure. But to me it sounds like she was being a little selfish in not wanting to go to him, and he didn’t want to put up with her selfishness.
Is non-procreative sex allowed?
Now, MOST of the time, a woman cannot get pregnant through sex. I plan to write a post on this a bit more in the future, but quick basics are this:
- A woman’s menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days (some shorter, some longer, some irregular)
- For approximately one week of this cycle a woman is fertile
- This leaves three out of four weeks where she is not.
I just want to add that it’s not gaurenteed that of those 3 weeks you won’t get pregnant. I have heard of many people getting pregnant 2 days after their period ends! It is not common for that to happen though. There are ways to watch your fertility signs ladies so that you can reduce the risk of pregnancy if it isn’t wanted at this time in your life.
As well, after menopause, a woman becomes infertile, leaving absolutely no fertile weeks. This means that the teaching of non-procreative sex only would mean that:
- You may not have sex 3/4 of the month (give or take)
- You may not have sex if your wife is already pregnant
- You may not have sex after child-rearing age has past
- You may not have sex if either spouse is infertile
Now, this would seem to violate Paul’s “command” to have frequent sex. After all, Satan doesn’t take a break when wives are infertile.
It has never really made sense to me that God would design something that we enjoy so much, but that we could really spend so little time doing. I know I have sinned in the past when it comes the verse Jay mentioned. I was definitely the one controlling the frequency and it was very much hurting our marriage. I am so happy that we have a prospering sex life now that we can enjoy each others company fully.
What about Birth Control?
So, one argument against Birth Control is the issue of non-procreative sex that we discussed above. There is another that revolves around the commandment not to kill, which I’ll tackle in another post in the next week or two. (You can find the Birth Control post here)
The birth control that we use right now is called, “Natural Family Planning”. it’s been effective so far for us. We have used it to get pregnant and we have used it to avoid getting pregnant. It is a lot to keep track of sometimes, but it is nice knowing how my body works. I think God gave us intelligence to figure these things out, and know what’s coming and he also gave us free will and the ability to know if we could handle having more children at any point in our lives or not. I know some people are what they call “quiverful”, and I have thought about that for a long time, but I still think He gave us a brain and it is one of those things that is up to us. There is a lot to think about here, and I don’t mean to start a debate about this. If you feel that you have been called to leave your fertility and family size completely in the hands of God, that is amazing that you have so much trust that He will only give you what you can handle. I am of the opinion that if God wanted me to have a baby but I was doing everything I could to avoid it, He would find some way to make it happen, like those women that get pregnant during or right after their period, or while they are on the pill or have an IUD, failed condoms, failed vasectomy’s and tubal ligation’s. This also goes the other way, if you are experiencing infertility and you want a child, there are doctors, natural paths, and homeopathic drs, nutritionists and dieticians as well that can help you figure out the problem and address it. The way the world is now is not how God intended, and He certainly didn’t intend for you to suffer with infertility. The help is there for you if you need it. I would advise going the more natural root to help get to the cause of the issues rather then just treating the symptoms.
I can’t wait for Jay’s post about this so I can really get into it. I’ve become a little passionate about all this. Can you tell?
So, dear question asker: Do you feel like you have been misinformed? Read the Bible for yourself and decide. We’d love to know your thoughts. For me, I believe non-procreative sex is not only not a sin, but it is beneficial, good and advisable (if not a requirement). And to the other readers in our community, I’d love to know your thoughts and what you’ve been taught. Please share in the comments below.