Is touching on top of clothes sexual?

Last updated on August 29, 2020


My question is: Is it wrong to touch my girlfriend on top of her clothes? I understand that it can stimulate thoughts, but honestly, is it considered sexual? As long as I stay on top of her clothes is it wrong? I’ve heard the saying abstinence is key, but as long as I don’t touch her skin would it be considered sex or sexual? I do intend on marrying this girl when she is out of college or at least almost done.

I read a few other articles on here and they were very well thought out. Does the same person respond to all the posts? Because the person I saw did a very good job. I hope that the same person responds to my post; I really need some guidance.

By the way, I know you will most likely bring up the verse “it is good for a man not to touch a woman” because that is the most commonly used verse for abstinence, but what people don’t understand is the word touch in that verse translated from the Greek as: to take hold of or (one of the many kinds of) touch. “Take hold” of translates into English as rape. Touch translates into English as pressure touching or sex. So please do not use that verse unless you can give me one that shows touching on top of clothes is sex.

Thank you.


Most of the writing on this site is by me, Jeff Hamilton. If something is written by another person, their name will appear with the answer or article. I generally don’t bother putting my name down.

Let’s start with your question of whether a touch is only sexual if it is skin-to-skin. Not to be rude, but to prove my point: If a guy put his hand between your legs and started rubbing your groin, would you consider it a sexual advance even though you had jeans on and he was only touching the outside of the clothing? My guess is that you would probably deck the guy because you would rightly interpret his action as sexual. Therefore, the presence or absence of clothing is not what necessarily defines sexual touching. The location of the touch does make a difference.

The length of time the touch occurs does make a difference. We don’t think about an accidental bump or brush. But prolong contact gives a different message, as does the type of contact.

We also need to note that the areas on the human body that are sexually-oriented are basically the same between males and females, but the strength of the sexual feelings caused by the touch of different areas do differ between men and women. It would be a mistake to assume that what feels only mildly pleasurable to you gives your girlfriend the exact same feeling.

Look at it this way: Imagine that it is ten years from now and you are married to this girl. You walk into your home one day and see a man touching her as you currently wish to do, would you have just cause to be upset? Would you accept the man’s explanation that he wasn’t thinking any lustful thoughts so no sin had taken place? If you reject these actions because she is married, why do you want to excuse them when they are done between two unmarried people?

This then illustrates Solomon’s point: “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:27-29). Solomon’s warning is that a man cannot claim innocence when he touches another man’s wife because when you start something, it naturally leads consequences just as holding a lump of hot coal against your chest is going to burn your clothing.

You played games with your word definition, using a two-step process that is not legitimate. The Greek word in I Corinthians 7:1 is haptesthai, which means to touch, cling to, adhere to, or fasten to. It is used when Jesus touched someone to heal them (Matthew 8:3) or when the crowds sought to touch Jesus (Luke 6:19). The word, by itself, does not have a sexual connotation, and it definitely does not imply rape. We understand that we are talking about sexual touch because of the context. “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (I Corinthians 7:1-2). Because many men and women do want to touch in a sexual way, Paul says they ought to get married, where the natural outcome of such touches can be properly be expressed in sex without sin. Paul says that for the time, it is better not to get involved with the opposite sex (not to touch). But not all can follow that recommendation. “But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (I Corinthians 7:8-9). The topic is not rape or pressuring someone into sex, but a lack of self-control brought about by sexual desire. Paul states it is best not to start arousing such desires, but if the desire is strong, it is better to get married than to commit sin.

Now, look at your question again. You admit that touching your girlfriend, even through her clothing, stimulates thoughts, but you don’t want to admit they are sexual in nature? So what are they? Do you get an urge to go rabbit hunting when you touch her? Do you have a nearly uncontrollable desire to work on your math homework? Or are you going to be honest that touching does give you sexual pleasure and an impulse to go further?

The point of all of this is that there is a natural progression for sex. One of the primary starting points is touch. If you are committed to not having sex before marriage (as you ought to be committed), then the sensible thing is to not start the sequence that eventually results in sexual intercourse.

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).


So wanting to have sex is wrong? Even if you don’t share the thought with anyone and never have sex?

And oh by the way, I didn’t mean in between her legs, I meant her chest, backside and legs. 


You are doing what I warned about. Because a guy is strongly sexually sensitive between the legs, you know better than to touch that area. But a guy is less sexually sensitive on the chest, so you assume it would be acceptable to touch there on a girl. Yet, a girl’s breasts are much more sexually sensitive than a boy’s. When it comes to potential sexual situations, you have to consider not only your response but also the response of the other person.

There is a difference between being hungry and wanting to eat so badly that you are willing to take food away from someone else. The former is a desire, the latter is a lust — even if you don’t tell anyone about it or never actually do it. In the same way, there is a difference between having a desire for sex and wanting sex so badly that you are willing to do it with someone to whom you are not married. The former is a desire and the latter is a lust. When you want something so badly that you are willing to consider sinning to get it, it moves from a desire to lust. Lust is wrong because you are mentally accepting sin. “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy” (Romans 13:13). Though you don’t act on it, that change in attitude toward sin will eventually get you into trouble. “The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the unfaithful will be caught by their lust” (Proverbs 11:6).


OK, so, um, I realize what you are saying now. I understand I am not supposed to touch her chest or in between her legs. When I came to my senses I realized that. I apologized to the Lord for my thoughts.

But if I honestly have no desire for sex, would it be wrong for me to hold her hand, hug her, or put my arm around her? Are the buttocks considered a sexual place?

I know I am supposed to know these things, but I have been ignorant of sin my whole life. I have been recently exposed to all of it, giving me the ability to do anything I want. Because I didn’t have beliefs set in my heart on what was right and wrong, I am very lost and confused. I know that the devil is the author of confusion. So that means I am obviously doing something wrong. That’s why I looked for help. I’m glad I found you.


As hard as it will be, the primary thing you have to do is be honest with yourself about your motivations. Holding a girl’s hand is not seen as sexual. To give a hug in greeting or departure is something you would do with just about anyone and not give it a thought. To open a door and guide a girl through is not a problem either, nor would sitting next to each other with one arm around. As a general rule, consider that anything you would typically do with your mother, aunt, or sister as acceptable behavior.

The problem with sexual desire is that when it is triggered it clouds your judgment. That is why it is better to discuss limits on behavior objectively when you are not caught up in the thrill of having a girl close to you. Instead of thinking of what you can acceptably get away with, consider that as her boyfriend, it is your job to protect her honor — even from yourself. Not only should you not be doing things to stir up passion, but you should be looking at situations and asking yourself if this might cause others to gossip. For example, you might go over to your girlfriend’s house and play video games all afternoon. But if her parents aren’t there, it could cause others to wonder if you two were involved in sexual games because there was no one there to be a restraint. Rather than cause the potential of things looking bad, take steps to avoid them. If she is alone, then insist on going somewhere public together.

This rule works in far more situations than sexual ones. Paul used it for handling contributions: “providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (II Corinthians 8:21). Things were considered as to what was morally right in what was done as well as how things might appear to other people. Consider it your job to think of those things.

Being ignorant of sins is good as far as your innocence toward sin, but it can be bad if you are not aware of the traps around you. That is why Solomon talked about the naive young man: “For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, and saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, a young man devoid of understanding, passing along the street near her corner; and he took the path to her house in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night” (Proverbs 9:6-9). The young man’s lack of understanding did not protect him from being solicited by an immoral woman and giving in to her desires. It was his ignorance that allowed him to think that he could pass through the wrong part of town at a bad time of day and nothing would happen.

That is why I make myself available to young people to answer whatever question is on their minds. I would rather you avoid sin that trying to figure out how to get out of sin. “For a harlot is a deep pit, and a seductress is a narrow well. She also lies in wait as for a victim, and increases the unfaithful among men” (Proverbs 23:27-28).