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Our readers asked:

Is phone sex with my wife sinful?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

Question: I have had to be away from my wife of ten years and our children for several weeks as I am taking a Christian course but my sexual urge is driving me “crazy” now. It’s almost all I think about and I am not happy about that.  I need to focus on other things but sex is almost all i think about! Would it be a sin against God if my wife and I were to masturbate with each other over the phone?

Our contemporary world presents us with possibilities and choices never thought of in previous times.

On one level, I wonder if you should strive more to control your sexual appetites and not allow your sexual urge to drive you “crazy.” Easy for me to say. And I’m the guy who cannot resist eating an extra Tastykake or two, or three. Compulsions are to be resisted, but success in these areas takes great training and time. We form our habits and they form us, as St. Thomas Aquinas realized. Be patient with yourself and trust God’s grace to mold you into the person God desires you to be.

So, imaginatively place yourself in this masturbatory fantasy, and then imagine Jesus watching you and your wife doing this. Would he be OK with this? So much of what we should or should not do becomes clear if we ask ourselves how we would feel if we knew our grandparents were aware we were doing “X” “Y” or “Z.”

Love is to be expressed between two people and sex is a great act of union, communication and love. For some people phone or Skype sex (there was a scene about this on the TV show Parenthood in September, so I guess this is becoming a common practice) may be truly coming from a loving place, though less than the ideal of actual sexual union–what all married couples should strive for. For others, it may be selfish and insensitive using of the person on the other end of the line or side of the screen as the case may be. Only your conscience, rightly formed, can determine what this kind of sexual act means.

 
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The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Emmy

    Tastykakes ARE good…

  • Ray

    What happens between married couples is THEIR BUSINESS and theirs alone. The church nor the community are invited to the marriage suite. Thus
    we do not need to have the approval of either.

  • Robert

    I have been married for 40 years to one woman. I haven’t lusted after another woman in all that time or desired to have physical relations with another person. We have four children and sadly lost two others to miscarriage. My wife and I continue to seek the comfort of each others bodies. We no longer need to practice natural family planning which we did for a long time. On the other hand, I believe that was she and I do between us to express our oneness and true love for one another, to comfort one another, to provide enjoyment to one another in our sexuality, and to relieve one another from the stress and anxiety that attacks us in the world is blessed by God. There is nothing objectively wrong in the sharing of bodies in marriage. The Church says that in marriage the two become one. If that is true, then every act of sex is masturbation since it is pleasuring the self. Where is the self in the act of love? Is it unselfish for a man to stop making love to his wife after ejaculation and leave her frustrated and unfulfilled? Or is it right and giving to use a non-genital way to bring her to orgasm. How many marriages fail because the couple actually feel guilty every time they have sex, or that one or the other partner is not sensitive to what pleasures the spouse. Today because of problems with the economy some couples have to be separated for long periods of time because they cannot find jobs in the same part of the country and neither’s salary is enough to pay the mortgage, get the kids through college, and still meet the needs of the Church community and to take care of those who don’t have enough to eat or a place to live. I can see where phone sex could keep a couple physically one (and not just spiritually) even though they are separated by thousands of miles. While this isn’t the ideal, there are many things that are imperfect and I do not think that God punishes people because they are imperfect. Of course the couple wants to be together in a more perfect way. Who wouldn’t? But for the Church or the commenters on this site to condemn the actions of others and judge them by rules that were NOT given to us by Christ but clearly come out of terrible misconceptions about sexual love by many of the Church fathers and others who allegedly make up the “Tradition” of the Church who twist what God has given to human beings to freely express love and union with another with whom they have sacramentally become one and make sex a dirty thing.

  • Steve

    Masturbation is not wrong because of the lustful thoughts that are often associated with it. Lust is NOT the normal sexual desire for one’s spouse; it is a separate sin that occurs when one seeks sexual pleasure in a disordered way, such as through the objectification of an individual, whether they are married to that person or not. With that definition, spouses should not “lust” after one another but instead treat each other as the beautiful creatures that they are!

    The purpose of sexual activity is to unite the spouses and for procreation. To that end, sexual activity must be open to the creation of life, which is why masturbation is wrong even if it helps bring the couple together.

    • Geraline

      Masturbation I believe its not wrong if your doing it with your spouse no one else It is lustful if outside marriage

  • V

    I thought that masturbation was considered a sin because of the lustful thoughts for another=sin. But if your lustful thoughts are towards your spouse, sanctioned by God then how is that a lustful affair? Having sex with your spouse, your mind is involved too. If you’re simply wording those same thoughts to your spouse that you’d otherwise be feeling if in person I do not see anything wrong with it.

    Trust me. My husband has been deployed to Iraq twice, both times over a year at a time. I highly doubt God would intend for us to be judged, or condemned by black and white laws. Instead he’d see intention, the location of our hearts, and find us acting justly and in accordance with our holy union.

  • JAC

    Do not be fooled, we do not know whether those who comment are who they are. I could have easily put Fr. or Rev. in front of my name.

    Courage.

  • Amanda

    Hear, hear Laura & Mary! In addition to prayer he should go for a run. Man up!

  • Mary

    Thank you Laura, I totally agree! Mind you I am surprised that it took a lay person to clarify the church’s teaching so clearly, and am a little miffed that the priests in this thread were so airy-fairy on such an important aspect of the theology of the body.

    People deserve the complete truth, not a softened ‘what works for you’ approach.

  • laura

    sorry to be a kill joy but the catechism tells us that masturbation is WRONG!!

    This article is not rightly forming any ones conscience. Instead it is being wishy washy with Catholic teaching,

    Rev. James D. Barbee you say
    “I would suggest, if both parties are comfortable with the act, that it would be ok and MUCH more preferable than seeking sex outside the marriage which could be a distinct possibility if the problem is as serious as it sounds.”

    So in your reasoning you choose the lesser of two evils if all your spiritual direction went like this it would be highly problematic.

    Also it does not allow this man to overcome his desires, which is possible through prayer and fasting. Instead of giving the opportunity for spiritual growth it robs this mans dignity by suggesting he is a slave to his sex drive…

    “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us”….

    my suggestion pray King David’s prayer…
    create in me God a clean heart!
    and the rosary will help too!

  • Rev. Lamont Peterson

    I THINK IT IS SAD THAT THIS MAN IS SO AFRAID OF WHAT MINISTERS AND PRIESTS MIGHT THINK THAT GOD MIGHT THINK THAT HE CANNOT HAVE SEX WITH HIS WIFE, WHETHER IN PERSON OR ON THE PHONE..COME ON IT IS HIS WIFE FOR GODS SAKE, I SAY IF IT FEELS BA…D IN YOUR HEART THAT IS GOD SAYING PLEASE DON’T….GOD JUDGES NOT US, DON’T ASK FOR PERMISSION FROM HUMANS TO DO WHAT YOU FEEL IS RIGHT IN YOUR HEART, IT ISN’T OUR PLACE TO TELL YOU YES OR NO !! READ YOUR BOOK OF FAITH WHAT EVER THAT BOOK MIGHT BE AND DO WHAT YOU WANT AS LONG AS IT DOESN’T HURT ANY ONE OR IMPEDE ON THERE WILL OR FAITH

  • Steve

    Why is so hard to just say it is Catholic teaching that masturbation is clearly wrong and that the purpose of sexual acts is to unite the couple AND should be open to the possibility of life?

  • mary

    Two things come to mind; first, what does his wife think of this idea, and second, a marriage requires commitment and sacrifice. Sometimes the “needs” of a man or wife have to be put aside for a time.
    He says he is attending a Christian course, maybe as a part of this course he could study Christopher West’s Theology of the Body and read up on NFP.

  • Rev. James D. Barbee

    I highly respect the answer given by Mr. Malloy and support it to a point. I would, however, take exception with my grandparents knowing! lol Sex is a very personal and private subject between married couples. Yes, God does know and see what is going on but He also knows the urges and desires in the humans he created. When travelling, it is hard to be away from your mate and I would suggest, if both parties are comfortable with the act, that it would be ok and MUCH more preferable than seeking sex outside the marriage which could be a distinct possibility if the problem is as serious as it sounds. I would also suggest that both of them pray about the issue and allow God to help them with their decision and to help them become more in control of their urges and compulsions as stated above.

  • adthmo

    Fr. Richard, I completely agree with you on becoming the masters of our compulsions. Though, I was wondering why no comments on being “open to life”?

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