Is touching all right if it isn’t for sexual purposes?

Last updated on September 23, 2020



I’ve been wondering for a long time if touching my girlfriend is a bad thing in God’s eyes? Not touching for sexual purposes, just a “why not” kind of thing. I’ve been dating my girlfriend for a long time. We both are Christians. Is it bad even if you have no sexual intentions and you make sure you don’t have sex? We have boundaries and we make sure we don’t cross them.


Boundaries are important, but if the boundaries are in the wrong place, it won’t do you much good.

A problem I have in answering your question is that I don’t know what you call “touching” and “sex.” I’ve run across guys who think that only when the penis enters the vagina is sex taking place. Because you are asking about limits, I need to talk about definitions as well.

I’m sure you are not talking about holding hands or giving a quick hug. I don’t you would be writing to me about those sorts of things. So the touching you are doing is of a sexual nature, but you are claiming that you are doing it “just because.” It comes across as not being very honest with yourself as to your intentions.

I know you are determined not to have sex, but have you also thought about the things that lead up to sex? God warns against lewdness. Lewdness refers to shameless behavior, particularly in regard to sex. It is behavior that is involved in pure self-enjoyment or behavior characteristic of an animal. So things like foreplay or behavior that arouses your sexual desire would be lewd. “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:13). Lust is thinking about doing something that is wrong and justifying that it would be all right at least in this case. The reason lewdness and lust are forbidden is that they lead up to sex. You don’t start something that you can’t morally finish.

Solomon points out the problem when he asked, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). You can show a hot coal all the affection you want. You can cuddle it and dote on it and it will still burn you. Your kindness to it doesn’t change its nature. How often do you hear someone say, “But I love her!” Solomon’s point is that your feelings toward a girl won’t change the fact that both of you have built-in desires and capabilities for sex. Trigger them and they follow the instincts built into you.

Solomon also asked, “Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?” (Proverbs 6:28). Using the same example of hot coal, if you walk on it, it will burn you. You can apologize and say you didn’t mean to step on it, but you’ll still be hurt because your intentions don’t change what it is. Thus, the excuse, “But I didn’t mean for it to go this far!” becomes an empty one because your intentions don’t change your body’s drive.

That is why Solomon concludes, “So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:29). Though he is talking directly about adultery, the same point is true about fornication. When you start intentionally stirring up sexual feelings, you are never innocent when things go further than you wanted. This is also why Paul said, “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (I Corinthians 7:1). By that, he means touching a woman in a sexual way.

Here then is the trap you are setting up for yourself. Instead of stopping before you start, you are allowing yourself some sexual stimulation with the claim that you can stop before it goes too far. You’ll be able to do that at first, but over time you’ll tell yourself that nothing “bad” happened last time, so going just a bit long or a little bit further won’t change anything. But people don’t think well when they are sexually aroused and eventually you’ll reach a point where instinct will take over your conscious thoughts. Then you’ll be writing me saying, “I don’t know what happened! I didn’t mean for it to go this far!”

The reason you don’t touch a girl sexually when you are not married is that you cannot legitimately have sex with her. You don’t start something that ought not to be finished.


Hi Jeffrey,

I understand where you’re coming from but why is it wrong to be sexually aroused, if you know you can stop it because you’ve done it before. Plus there’s no real option of sex at this point. What I mean is, we are always together where people can just walk in at any time. I understand that if we start something sexual we should expect that sex would happen, but what if you can stop yourself?

Can I ask this? How could you stop? How could I stop? I understand I’m arguing for why it’s OK for me to do it, and it’s probably because I like it and so does she. I’ve begun to believe the lie, then. Why would God put boobs on them and give us hands if we aren’t supposed to use them? I just really don’t understand why it’s bad if really it’s just touching her boobs and her bum because I know I’m not going to do anything more because I’ve fought that feeling and won, and I’m sure I can do it again.

I know I’m asking a bit much but could you tell me the answer with fewer Scriptures and more human-to-human? Not because I’m afraid of what you will tell me in the Scriptures, but because I’ve read all of them and asked many people. Could you please explain it to me in simple terms?


The ability to do something doesn’t imply that anything you can do should be done at any time. You have the ability to eat, but that doesn’t mean you should eat any time you feel like it. Let me take your argument a step further. God gave you a penis and her a vagina, so because they are there and you have the ability to use them, does it follow that you should use them whenever you feel like it? (This line of reasoning comes from I Corinthians 6:12-13).

Yes, you have hands and she has breasts. One day when you are married, you will be expected to use your hands to give your wife and your joy. “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19). But timing is everything. When you are married it is fine to stir up sexual passion in you and your wife because when you are married you can continue it to completion. It is actually expected — it is a duty in marriage (I Corinthians 7:2-4).

But before marriage stirring up sexual desire only leads to a temptation to sin. We have enough problems with sin without standing in front of that train. While you were able to stop, I can also tell that you struggled with it. It wasn’t natural to stop — you wanted to go further, but you restrained yourself and you had to fight with yourself. I notice that you are getting a bit more honest. In the first note, you claim that you were doing it “just because.” Now you are admitting that it is because you like it and you can see that she likes it. The reason for the restraint is varied, such as the fact that someone could walk in on you at any moment. I’ll grant you that given the same situation you probably would exercise the same restraint, but situations don’t remain the same. One of these days you are going to be alone with her — then what?

While you are confident that you can resist, are you as sure that she can show the same restraint? If she started unbuttoning your shirt or slipping a hand below your waistband, would you have the strength to say “No?” If she told you she didn’t want to wait for marriage, would you be shedding clothes or walking out the door? It isn’t that I think your girlfriend would do these things, rather I’m pointing out that you are making assumptions about your defenses that might not always be true. Your biggest weakness at the moment is your confidence in your ability to resist. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). Eventually, you are going to let your guard slip because you are certain it can’t happen to you.

The fact of the matter is that you are male and no male should ever trust himself when it comes to sex. A common mistake by young people is to assume that they have full control over their sexual impulses. That is usually true until it reaches a certain level, then instinct rushes in pushing all reasonable thoughts aside. It isn’t wrong to be sexually aroused, young men find themselves aroused quite frequently. But it is another thing to pursue arousal both in yourself and in someone else. While you might claim to be able to control both your actions and your thoughts, you can’t control another person’s thoughts. Purposely putting temptation in front of your girlfriend is not treating her with love and respect.

My goal in referencing Scripture is to show you that what God asks of you is reasonable and sensible. It is a part of who I am, so you’ll find me citing God often (I Peter 4:11).


I know what you saying is true and I believe I have been confronted with the sin of sex before with my current girlfriend, currently who I really do love more than anything. I would do anything for her in her best interest.

The thing about her self-control is true. She was raised in a non-Christian home. True, it complicates things, but, not to sound big-headed, I can restrain myself from doing those kinds of things. She has touched my penis before and we both enjoyed it (not under the clothes), but I had to stop it. I did so on behalf of both of us. She has told me that she wants to wait for marriage but it will be immensely difficult for her. I said that we have to wait. I’m sure the time will come when my greatest fear is there and she will try to seduce me but I will have to say no, but I cannot not say no.

As for the beginning of your email: Just because we have the ability doesn’t mean we should do something is true, but we do it all the time, even with eating. We eat because we can, not because we’re hungry. But for the penis and vagina argument, the reason why I restrain so much from sex is I know the consequences of sex before marriage, and I know how bad it can affect a child if a child is a result. I was the result of a one night stand between two men in one night and I know how it affected me. It’s not the greatest feeling on earth.

But back to our conversation. We have been left alone before and we did nothing even remotely close to sex. As for treating her with love and respect, how do I show her I love her and respect her?


A person who eats when they can and not because of need tends to get fat. We understand that it isn’t good for that person, even though many do it. Since you were a small child, your mother has probably told you “No, you can’t have a snack right now. We’re going to have dinner in just a little while.” We understand that desires are sometimes best delayed for a better time. It is a small illustration of a larger problem.

It looks like you do understand the problem. You agree that sexual touch encourages progression toward sex. About the only thing we disagree on is that you think you have sufficient resistance, though you know that you have limits and might break down. My point is not to push those limits simply because you know there may come a point when you won’t be able to stop. You don’t want to bring another illegitimate child into the world — I congratulate you on that resolve and encourage you to take every precaution against it happening.

You show her respect by treating her as someone special. She isn’t just some girl to have sex with. She is the woman you want to marry and have a family with. Even if she doesn’t see herself in that light, treat her with the purity that she deserves. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (I Thessalonians 4:3-5). Regarding love, I would like you to read Love is … and Love is Different. Understand that love is shown in how you treat someone when they are not being particularly loveable at the moment.


Thank you for your help, Jeffrey. I really appreciate it. Just so you know I have asked many people the same question and none of them really knew the answer. I appreciate it.