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Sexually Struggling Sarah w/Spouse wrote:

Hi, guys —

I've been feeling so bad that I might have committed a grave sin but I'm not sure and feel embarrassed to ask a priest. Here it goes:

After intercourse, after my husband climaxed, he tried to bring me to climax but couldn't for a long time and so I tried myself while he was just caressing me but it was taking so long that I told him that he can go shower and finish his tasks for work. Then after a long time, l brought myself to climax.

  1. Did I commit a grave sin?
  2. Should this happen again, does my husband need to stay in the room with me and physically caress me while I try to climax myself?

I'm so confused and shattered about this. I was sick for awhile and we didn't have intercourse for fear of possibly getting pregnant, a baby getting a disease, and we didn't want to sin by mutual masturbation or using contraceptives so we just caressed each other trying to turn off sexual tension without climax to not sin.

Now that I'm OK to have intercourse, I have extreme difficulty in getting aroused or getting to a climax and when I have brought myself to a climax, my husband has left the room. Now I feel guilty about committing a sin and have already received Holy Communion a few times. I can't find clear Yes or No answers to my questions.

We are really trying to lead a good Catholic life.


  { Is this OK to enjoy my climax without my husband seeing it takes so long when he's embracing me? }

Mike replied:

Dear Sarah,

I hope this answer doesn't disappoint you.

The answer to each of these nuanced situations you have given us can best be answered by a spiritual director or priest who is faithful to the Church. If you have a hard time finding one in your nearby parishes, try seeking out nearby priests at religious monasteries or convents.

The pleasure brought about by the conjugal embrace of a husband and wife are there to bring about the greatest gift that couple can give society: a new life!

You appear to have a good sense of what Catholic teaching is. That said, none of us are perfect so do the best you can and again, try to find a counselor who can assist you in providing proper counseling.

My colleagues may have more to add.


Bob replied:

Dear friend,

You have a difficulty which is very common, and with loving patience with yourself and your husband, you can overcome and get through it.

Masturbation is a sin and needs to be confessed; however, this case is more like good love gone bad. You didn't start out trying to masturbate, but you let frustration with your arousal factor divide you and your husband. A mistake indeed, but not entirely uncommon. God has seen this a million times and can help you get through it. I think the guilt and stress around this is making it hard for you to be at ease in your sex life now that things have normalized a bit. You need to move on from that, let God heal you, and stop agonizing over it.

I once had a good talk with a priest friend of mine (very holy man) that helped me understand what was appropriate and not appropriate. Maybe we can help you do the same. This kind of talk is not easily discussed, for we have a certain taboo about intimate sexual details, but it is necessary for people to know. We need to do a better job at this frank discussion.

  • It is not a sin for a husband to bring his wife to climax (manually) when intercourse alone did not suffice to complete her arousal and satisfaction.
  • Foreplay, likewise, is not a sin, but part of the priming of the sexual engine.

The problem is when the acts become selfish, inward-oriented verses other-oriented and loving. (You had a guilty conscience because on a few occasions you may have crossed the line — don't worry, you can get back to it). Men and women achieve arousal and satisfaction quite differently, and the pressure to do so can only make matters more difficult so ease off of the expectations and let good communication take place. Help your husband to understand your needs and verbally express what pleases you. This will surely help him to get what is happening with you.

Just a few sexual principles:

Man's orgasm vs. Female's orgasm

A man's orgasm has a direct effect on producing an ejaculate which is naturally oriented toward fertilization of the woman (essential for procreation). It therefore should always be in the reproductive channel (vagina) for which it is objectively oriented. If it is not, the act is fundamentally frustrated in its objectivity and is therefore contraceptive in nature. That said, even if you fondle your husband or orally stimulate him, he needs to have his orgasm where it is intended. If he accidentally ejaculates before hitting his target, it is not a sin, provided he did not intend that — many factors can affect a man's control and he is dealing with his own humanity and weaknesses. We are simply imperfect, so be patient with him. What he is striving for is keeping the integrity of the act along with enhancing the bonding love of your intimacy.

This is about the intersection of the procreation and unitive dynamics of our sexuality. We were given the gift of sex to be fertile and populate the earth, but also to draw a tight bond between a man and woman who have committed themselves to a faithful covenant of Marriage so even when the procreative part of it is not effective, the unitive dynamic is still there. It binds us together whether we conceive a child or not.

When we divorce these two components from each other something goes wrong (I.e. artificial contraception disfigures the act, procreation without a conjugal act (mere test tubes) disfigures the act). We keep openness to life, so that God is ultimately in charge, and do our best to fulfill the other in a loving way so they have all the benefits of the loving sexual act. Orgasms are a healthful, holy outcome for a sexual practice in marriage. God designed our bodies to work this way. Our society, however, is hell bent on divorcing the two aspects of the conjugal act from each other. Procreation on demand is much more popular, by any and all means possible while being in a loving marital relationship is completely passe or out-of-date.

A woman's orgasm, while not absolutely essential for reproductive fertility (she can conceive without one), does amplify the fertility of the act in a biological way (the spasms of the cervix help move sperm closer to egg), but moreover allows her to feel satisfied and complete.

God intended sex to fulfill both partners, so if the man climaxes during intercourse but the woman has not, he needs to help her get there to complete the act. To neglect her, in a way, is a sin of omission. His responsibility is to serve his wife — even if it requires manual stimulation.

Sex is beautiful as God designed it, life giving, and incredibly bonding and pleasurable — but it can also be a source of great stress when pressures and other worries burden the mind so, in the end, your climax needs to be with your husband, not isolated.

He can be the one to stimulate you there or anywhere you choose, provided it helps you to get there and completes the act. Just don't seek fulfillment and climax without him, or without the context of intercourse being part of the equation.


Bob Kirby

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