What does the Church Teach about Oral Sex?
Some surprising answers to a common question
One of the most common (and frequent) questions Busted Halo gets from people is, What exactly does the Catholic Church teach about oral sex? It is an understandable question that is not easily answered with a simple yes or no response. The fact is, the Church’s teachings can’t be compartmentalized into questions on only one form of sexual expression. In order to understand what the church says about oral sex, one must first be aware of the Church’s teachings on the nature and purpose of all sexual expression.
First and foremost, the Church reserves all sex for marriage. This is not simply a way to restrict our natural sexual impulses, but rather to use them for what they were properly intended, namely for procreation of children and to build unity between husband and wife. Even Pope Benedict has spoken openly of his concern that limiting the Church’s attention on sex to “just moral prohibitions” can lead people to “have the impression that the church’s real function is only to condemn and restrict life. Perhaps too much has been said and too often in this direction—without the necessary connection to truth and love.”
While you won’t read any definitive lines in the Catholic Catechism when it comes to oral sex, the church does draw some directives from its traditional teaching on sexuality to provide some guidance. Many people are surprised to hear that even within marriage, the church makes a distinction between oral “sex” and oral stimulation. If we define oral sex as orally stimulating the male partner to orgasm, then the church would prohibit that even for married couples.
Two books that offer specific directions about the Catholic Church’s teaching on oral sex are Christopher West’s Good News about Sex and Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 2000) and Vincent Genovesi’s In Pursuit of Love: Catholic Morality and Human Sexuality (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1996).
Christopher West is a popularizer of the “Theology of the Body” based on Pope John Paul II’s book Love and Responsibility. He has written several books and articles on the subject, and in Good News About Sex , which is a practical summary of this theology, West offers some instances in which oral stimulation (stimulating genitals but not to the point of ejaculation) is perhaps acceptable within marriage:
- Foreplay: If it is used in the act of foreplay that leads to sexual intercourse where the male climaxes into the female, then oral stimulation is certainly permissible for a couple to engage in within marriage.
- The Big O: If a man was able to orgasm during sexual intercourse but his wife did not, he may bring his wife to orgasm after intercourse in whatever way he chooses (manual or oral stimulation). West writes, “Since it’s the male orgasm that’s inherently linked with the possibility of new life, the husband must never intentionally ejaculate outside of his wife’s vagina. Since the female orgasm, however, isn’t necessarily linked to the possibility of conception, so long as it takes place within the overall context of an act of intercourse, it need not, morally speaking, be during actual penetration.”
- No substitutions, please: Oral sex or stimulation can never be used as a replacement for sexual intercourse, but oral stimulation can be used to lead a couple to vaginal intercourse. Pope Benedict also points couples towards discovering love within sex instead of settling for substitutions for the real thing, stating: “No mechanical technique can substitute the act of love that two married people exchange as a sign of a greater mystery.”
- Men: No sex 4u: The reverse, however, is prohibited. A man’s orgasm is always tied to his fertility so therefore the church states that oral sex that would end with a male orgasm outside of sexual intercourse is not permissible.
- Intimacy Over Arousal: Not every single sexual act, per se, need be procreative, but within a “sexual session,” if you will, there needs to be openness to procreative activity. So there can certainly be oral stimulation throughout sexual activity within marriage, but if one is using oral sex simply to avoid pregnancy yet achieve orgasms, then one is limiting their sexual union to merely give arousal rather than intimacy.
- Premature ejaculation?: For something to be sinful there needs to be both intent and full knowledge of that intention to do evil. If one were to get very turned on and orgasm prematurely, that indeed is not a sinful act. Accidents happen. One needs to be mindful of their intention to sin.