Is Non-procreative sex OK for Christians?

Jay Dee

Is Non-procreative sex OK for Christians?

Feb 19, 2014

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

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Non-procreative sex OK for ChristiansI 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:

  1. You may not have sex 3/4 of the month (give or take)
  2. You may not have sex if your wife is already pregnant
  3. You may not have sex after child-rearing age has past
  4. 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)

This reminds me of a joke.

Question: What do you call people who use the “Natural Family Planning” method of birth control?

Answer: Parents

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?

Your Turn

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. 

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30 thoughts on “Is Non-procreative sex OK for Christians?”

  1. Darby Dugger says:

    I am excited to see your “part-two” to this in a week or two. As I am passionate about choosing only Pro-Life forms of birth control (here is a post I wrote on this recently in case you are interested: http://darbydugger.com/what-does-it-mean-to-be-pro-life/ )

    I agree that sex is for procreation, but I do not view that as the only purpose behind the gift. You mentioned several of those reasons above.

    However… I do disagree with your statement 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…” Simply because our choices have consequences. While I do believe that God CAN bring life forth from any situation… if we are telling God, “not right now.” “we are done.” — He may allow that for us in this life, but we may be missing out on something better He had planned for us. If we choose one of the many instances of birth control options that can abort a baby (IUDs, Hormonal BC pills, etc…) but pray that God would protect our baby should we conceive… that is no different than having your children drink poison and then praying it won’t kill them. So while, yes, God can bring us a baby even in the midst of our “preventions” — we must be aware of the consequences behind our choices. Options such as NFP, run no risk of killing a child are far safer ways to prevent and yet still be allowing God to change your minds. This response may be getting ahead of this particular post, but am super passionate about this topic and wanted to respond today.

  2. LatterDay Marriage says:

    I don’t think you are wrong, but the person posting the question is Catholic, so there is more to this for them than just what the Bible says. Catholic doctrine (as I understand it) is different than what this person has been taught. My understanding is that Catholic doctrine embraces that sex has a dual purpose and married couples having sex at times when pregnancy is not possible is perfectly OK. What Catholic doctrine is against is having sex and deliberately preventing a pregnancy from taking place. So it is not only for procreation, but you must not hinder conception from happening when you have sex, no condoms or other form of birth control other than NFP (which amounts to abstinence during fertile periods).

  3. craig says:

    LatterDayMarriage is correct. Infertile sex is not sinful in Catholic doctrine, but deliberately impeding the fertile aspect of sexuality is. So naturally-infertile couples are OK, and naturally-infertile times for intercourse are OK. Intrinsically-infertile acts are considered sinful where they constitute an avoidance of, or substitution for, the actual completion of intercourse. (Some of the same acts are OK as foreplay leading up to the ‘main event’, but apart from that are considered equivalent to masturbation.)

    One thing about Catholic doctrine is, you can look it up:

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P86.HTM

    1. Butterflywings says:

      See that’s why I don’t understand why catholics are not only ok with NFP but actually encourage it. It is deliberately impeding the fertile aspect of sexuality.

      1. Jay Dee says:

        I’m not sure, perhaps because you can’t have any sort of release during that time, so that’s punishment as a trade-off? Perhaps the sin/penance balance is met, I’m really not sure how that works in Catholicism.

    2. Elizabeth says:

      Very well explained. Our doctrine is very easily found and explained in any number of places. I am not sure what the writer of this inquiry was looking for except maybe that using contraception is ok and still adhere to Catholic doctrine, which is very clear on its teachings.

  4. Lindsay Harold says:

    Good article. I think it is clear that the Bible teaches at least two purposes for sex. Procreation is just one of those. While all married people need to be at least somewhat open to having children (after all, it is possible to get pregnant if you’re having sex, no matter what kind of birth control you use), contraception isn’t necessarily wrong (as long as you’re not killing a baby that has already been conceived).

    One verse that somewhat speaks to the idea of delaying or preventing children is John 1:13: “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Obviously, this is referring to Christians being children of God, but it is interesting that it speaks of natural children as being born of “human decision or a husband’s will.” This might suggest that it is perfectly okay to make that kind of decision – of when to have children and how many to have – as a couple.

    One passage that is often used against any sort of birth control is the passage about Onan spilling his seed on the ground and then being killed by God. However, it is not clear from that passage that Onan’s sin was trying to prevent conception per se. I think it was more that the ONLY reason he was allowed to marry Tamar was to raise up an heir for his brother and thereby to provide for her and for the continuance of his brother’s name. In having sex while trying to prevent procreation, he was robbing his wife (Tamar) of the child she needed to provide for her, and robbing his brother of the chance for an heir. He was using Tamar, but selfishly trying to keep from having an heir that would have taken some of the inheritance from his father (Judah) that would otherwise have gone to Onan. The Bible doesn’t seem to provide any clear guideline that preventing conception is always wrong.

  5. Bonnie @ Love, Marriage and Sex says:

    I have heard it said that sex should always be “open to life”. Therefore, sex doesn’t always have to be at a time where it is possible to get pregnant, only that there should be no PREVENTION of pregnancy. I think that this really inhibits what God meant when He created sex. As we all know, sex is immensely pleasurable, so I find it hard that it is an act only meant to bring children into the world. And birth control has been around since biblical times, although they used certain herbs, fruits and extracts to prevent pregnancy. Yes, miraculously (or not so much), it is never mentioned in the Bible. If this is such a big deal, I have a hard time believing God would leave that out of His word.

    The idea that contraception is sinful came not from the Bible, but from religious writers in the past. This is part of the problem I have with Catholicism. While I believe they are Christians who love God and want to do the right thing as much as any of us, they put a lot of emphasis on human beliefs and writings. My mantra is that we live by the Scripture not by the teachings of man.

  6. LatterDay Marriage says:

    I would disagree that any and all contraception is an offense in God’s eyes. God gave us the power to have children, but he also gives us the responsibility to choose how we use it. A couple who use birth control are still fulfilling a purpose of God when they have sex in that they are bonding. My wife and I have a larger family than many couples who use NFP, yet we have used a variety of birth control methods over the years.

    I would say that the motive for using birth control is important however. If a couple are materialistic and want to avoid or limit the number of children so they can afford a luxurious lifestyle, or if they are so self centered that they do not want to the job of caring for a child, then the sin is in their motive. If however a couple uses birth control so they can ensure they are able to meet their obligations to the children they already have, or for spacing out the arrival of new children to keep it manageable, or because pregnancy is a risk to the health or life of the wife, or some other reason rooted in managing the responsibilities of being a spouse and parent, I see no sin in using birth control that prevents conception.

  7. Alan says:

    1) Since this question addresses married Christians, I am hoping we’re going with only what the Bible says. Unfortunately the teachings of men through their own doctrines have come in over time and polluted the truth from God. This isn’t limited to Catholicism. Protestants have it too.
    2) A good book to clarify what is God-permitted regarding sex is the book by Glenn and Phyllis Hill “Sex in Marriage is Not Okay – It’s Great!”

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Oh yes, we protestants didn’t quite protest enough if you ask me, and then we started to add in some of our own garbage over time as well, didn’t we?

      I’ll have to check out that book. Thanks for the reference.

  8. FarAboveRubies says:

    I believe we should take a second glance at the original comment. He stated, “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! ” There’s a lot here to tackle. I will try to tread carefully.

    I was also raised a very strict Catholic. I could have wrote those questions as a young adult. As I got older (college), I drifted, on purpose, from my Catholic faith. Thank God I was raised in a Christian home. It gave me a good foundation and also some of the baggage. When I gave my heart to the Lord, everything changed. I no longer blindly follow man’s rules and regulations (Catholic, Lutheran, Assembly of God, or what have you). I listen to God’s inspired rules in the bible. Period. It is written that no man should add or take away from the scriptures. All denominations add and subtract from the bible. There is no perfect church until Jesus comes back. What this gentleman was taught about sex from his denomination and is so prevalent. Did you know that the priests back in the very beginning of the Roman Catholic faith were encouraged to marry! That’s right! Things changed in the year 1079 AD. Priests were no longer allowed to marry. In fact, during the Council of Trent (1551 AD) many manmade things were added. It was said, at that time, that as a matter of faith the council claimed that celibacy is holier than marriage. Wow! Not everything was bad though. Pope Pius X condemned the public schools in 1930. Have you seen what they are teaching in public schools today?

    My point is that all denominations have baggage. If you want to find the truth, you need to read the scriptures. They are God inspired. God gave men and women body parts that feel good during sex. I believe he gave us these parts to use and enjoy in marriage. He is our designer. Once you are married, relax and enjoy, just as God intended.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I agree, every denomination has it’s false teachings and baggage. I think that’s why the question is so valuable, the questioner wants to know what is the Truth, does it line up with what I’ve been taught. Now, for me, finding the Truth means going to the Bible.

  9. Mel Caldicott says:

    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.
    Blessings
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions

  10. Tat says:

    I don’t feel informed enough to comment on the question of when sex is sinful, but I just wanted to say I found your post a fascinating read.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Thank you Tat!

  11. Dan says:

    I am not so sure the questioner is looking for doctrinal interpretation as much as someone to say it’s okay to engage in some form of birth control or exclusive sexual activities that prevent conception by their nature, i.e. oral or anal sex and mutual masturbation. I am not saying he engages in any of these currently, but I am wondering if most of us are spinning our wheels debating and discussing theological doctrine when what he desperately wants is to engage in birth control and feel good about it as a Catholic. I’m not condemning him or his attitude, just wondering if we are really offering him any really effective advice since we cannot offer dispensation. And no, I’m not a Catholic. I just feel like that is what is really going on here since he admits to a “strict Catholic upbringing…” and is no doubt very well instructed in their doctrine. I feel for him on this issue.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Wherever this inquiry had orgininated, in short, she had been very much misinformed in the Catholic Church’s stance on sex insofar as it being solely for procreation. A Catholic author by the name of Gregory Popcak has written a book called Holy Sex! The Catholic Guide to Toe Curling, Mind Blowing, Infallible Loving by Dr. Gregory Popcak. It is a book even non-Catholics would find value in but more specifically, is to answer your inquiry and try and dispell all if those misunderstandings about the Catholic Church’s stance on birth control and sex. I know so many Christians bloggers who are not Catholic usually just sort of leave the Catholic viewpoint out of their blog entries, but Dr. Popcak is fully of godly wisdom and should be required reading for all Catholic couples who are true to their faith.

    But your writer has been woefully misinformed and insomuch as I enjoy many Christian bloggers perspective, there are a few Catholic bloggers who can also be found to answer and explain questions such as these.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      If you could provide links to these blogs, I’ll make sure to pass them along.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Awesome, thank you.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I would like to mention to additional Catholic blogs that I have discovered are very good.

    http://canwecana.blogspot.com
    http://www.catholichusband.wordpress.com

    I especially like Catholic Husband. If I were to blog, I imagine I would sound a lot like him, but from a woman’s pov, of course.

  14. Jophiel Angel says:

    This has been clearly explained to me by someone of the cloth and, as I understand it, sex is allowed as it is a doctrine of sin. As human beings, we are all born in sin. The only one who was not born in sin was Jesus. He was born perfect and came to save us from all our sins. But how can he save us and lead us to heaven if we do not sin? Therefore we must continue to sin in order to be saved by Jesus to ensure our place in heaven. This is the basis of Christianity and this is why it suits so many people.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Whoever told you that, never read Romans 6…

  15. Jim says:

    I don’t understand the confusion here. Sex is for procreation within marriage period. To have sex you must be fertile man and woman in the confines of a marital relationship. Every time that you have sex there must be a possibility of pregnancy or you do not have it, end of story! Woman during her period = No Sex. Man who can’t produce sperm = No Sex. Woman in menopause = No Sex. While sex is a gift from god, it’s pleasures requires compliance with all the above. Get it Got it? Good! We should all be living to serve god and casual sex without the chance of pro creation even if done within the confines of marriage is giving in to into the temptation of the world.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Well, I think the confusion is that this opinion doesn’t seem to be based on anything biblical.

    2. cunina2014 says:

      Jim, just curious… Can you point to scripture that supports your opinion?

  16. Roger Mari says:

    And what about the man’s bodily need for regular, frequent sexual release? Most MEN are physically and psychologically miserable without it.
    My two brothers both had wives who consented to sex only a handful of times in their marriages. One wife was so scared and repulsed by sex when she first learned what it was and how it’s done on her wedding night that she refused any sexual contact for four months! And when she finally tried it, she hated it and refused sex for the next 9 years, until my brother had no choice but to end their marriage.
    At the very least, religious doctrines need to show some true compassion and allow men in sexless or low-sex marriages, as well as single men and teen boys, to masturbate without viewing pornography. This shift in teachings, combined with discussion about how this activity should be judiciously used to relieve the masculine physiological need for sexual release, can pave the way for major, WIDELY ACCEPTED personal moral reform in the world today.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I’ve seen the studies on this and what’s reported in the media is not what the study actually concludes.
      What’s the studies I’ve seen show is that men should either be celibate, or having frequent sex. Either one provides a benefit. It’s the middle road of infrequent sex that causes health issues.

  17. Katherine Kuefler says:

    I’m a practicing Catholic and I have never understood how natural family planning is any different (or better) than other forms of birth control. You’re still having sex with the intention of not procreating. Birth control is birth control. If God wants to create life, he will. The virgin Mary is a great example.

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