sins of sensuality - where is the line between sinful and not sinful?

I am a 24 year old male, single, and in desperate need of answers to some questions about sins of sensuality.

I think we can all agree that it is not a sin to purposely look at a pretty girl’s face, even if you are not married to her. And we can all agree that it is a sin to have sex with a girl before marriage. Between these two extremes, somewhere there has to be a line between what is sinful and what is not. After 10-12 years of struggling and constant failure, I have concluded that my only hope for staying out of sin is to hear from an overwhelming number of Catholics where exactly this line lies, so that in times of temptation I will stop adjusting my opinion to suit my desires, but I will have a rock of truth to hold onto. Below I have given a number of scenarios, asking if they are sinful or not sinful. I’ve made up these scenarios to illustrate key concepts that I need to be able to grasp. I need to have clear, unchanging, and unrefutable answers to the scenarios listed below. There can be no gray areas; an action is either a sin or it is not. Answers like “It depends on…” or “I don’t know” are fine, but saying “This is a gray area” will not help me. There is a clear and absolute answer for each scenario, and I appreciate any knowledge that you can offer to help me find these answers. If the traditional Catholic view is different from the modern Catholic view in any situations, please specify.

(If you are not comfortable reading explicit sexual terms, do not read any further.)

Which of the following is a sin, and which is not, and why?

  1. You look at a modestly dressed girl with a beautiful face and give glory to God for creating such a beautiful girl.
  2. You look at a modestly dressed girl with a beautiful face to enjoy looking at her beautiful face without having a single thought about God.
  3. You’ve been in prison and haven’t seen a girl in ten years, and then when you’re released from prison you see a modestly dressed girl with a beautiful face. You look at her beautiful face in awe and give glory to God for creating such a beautiful girl. Because you’ve been deprived for so many years, this simple pleasure causes you to have an erection. You continue to look at her face for another two minutes with a full erection, without having a single unchaste or impure thought about her.
  4. You look at a modestly dressed girl, and although she is modestly dressed, you are able to identify that she has a very attractive body. You stare at her body in awe for about five seconds, then look away and make an effort to keep her out of your vision and thoughts for the remainder of your time around her. (Were those five seconds sinful?)
  5. You do the same thing as #4, but continue staring at this modestly dressed girl for several minutes. You successfully repress any unchaste thoughts or desires to do something sinful with her, but you enjoy staring at her.
  6. You do the same thing as #5, and because you have an unusually low tolerance for sexual pleasure, just looking at this modestly dressed girl gives you an erection, and you continue to look at her.
  7. You look at an immodestly dressed girl with an attractive body in awe for about five seconds, staring at certain body parts, then look away and make an effort to keep her out of your vision for the remainder of your time around her. During those five seconds, you did not have a single unchaste thought about her, but simply enjoyed staring at her somewhat exposed body. (Were those five seconds sinful?)
  8. You do the same thing as #7, but continue staring at her for several minutes. You successfully repress any unchaste thoughts or desires to do something sinful with her, but you enjoy staring at her somewhat exposed body.
  9. You look at an immodestly dressed girl whom you do not find attractive, so looking at her gives you no pleasure whatsoever. You allow yourself to look at her freely without restraint, not because you like it, but because you are in a place where it would take effort to keep her out of your vision, and you neglect to make that effort.
  10. You watch a movie with nudity, and you decide not to skip over the scenes with nudity. You do not find the naked girl(s) in the movie attractive at all, so you do not enjoy the nudity; you continue watching without restraint only because you’re interested in the plot.
  11. You have a friend who is a girl and you find her very attractive. While both of you are modestly dressed, you give her a hug and enjoy it.
  12. You do the same thing as #11, but you have an unusually low tolerance for sexual pleasure and hugging her gives you an erection. You knew beforehand that it would give you an erection, and you did it anyways.
  13. The girl in #11 and #12 gives you a hug, and you could have pushed her away knowing that it would give you an erection, but you didn’t.
  14. You stroke your hand through a girl’s hair and don’t especially enjoy it.
  15. You stroke your hand through an attractive girl’s beautiful hair and enjoy it (without her objection, of course).
  16. You have an unusually strong attraction for girls’ hair, and you stroke your hand through an attractive girl’s beautiful hair again and again for several minutes, leading to an erection and a great deal of pleasure (without her objection, of course).

(continued below due to length restrictions)

17) You are dating but not married to a girl, and you kiss her on the cheek once.
18) You are dating but not married to a girl, and you kiss her on the lips once and for only a sudden split second.
19) You are dating but not married to a girl, and you kiss her on the lips for three seconds. No erection results.
20) Same as #19, but an erection results.
21) You are dating but not married to a girl, and you kiss her on the lips for several minutes. No erection results.
22) Same as #21, but an erection results.
23) You look at a girl you are dating but not married to and imagine what it would feel like to kiss her on the lips for, say, 30 seconds. You have no desire to do so in real life, because you think it would be sinful. All you do is imagine what it would feel like. No erection results.
24) Same as #23, but an erection results, and you continue to imagine it. Again, there is no desire to kiss her in real life, only imagination.
25) You are in a play, and your character is supposed to passionately kiss with another (female) character for a few seconds, so you do so as necessary for the production. You do not find the girl playing the other character very attractive, so you don't enjoy it; you do it for the purposes of the production only. (Would it be a sin not to quit?)
26) Same as #25, but you do find her attractive, and you get an erection whenever you kiss her, and you do so as necessary for the production.
27) You look at pictures of a modestly-dressed girl with a beautiful face for a long time and enjoy looking at them. No erection results.
28) You look at pictures of a modestly-dressed girl with a beautiful face for a long time, causing an erection, and you continue to look at them. You have no unchaste or impure thoughts or desires about her, but simply take a great deal of pleasure in looking at her beautiful face and hair.
29) You lay awake in bed for several hours, imagining yourself kissing a girl on the lips for several minutes, causing an erection. Your thoughts are not impure; you are only picturing the girl's face. You have no desire to kiss her in real life, because you think it would be sinful. Of course, you do not touch your genitals at all. You simply take pleasure in imagining yourself kissing her, and it causes an erection, and you continue this imagination for several hours.
30) Same as #29, and after several hours you unexpectedly and uncontrollably ejaculate.

Thank you so much for enlightening me. It will help me more than you can imagine.

FYI, I am hoping to make another post in the near future, giving the entire story of my failed struggles and asking for advice. I just wanted to post this separately for the purposes of length.

All of your questions are not frozen in time. You may kiss a girl and then what? All of your examples are not isolated, like viewing a scene on TV, and then stopping the DVR. You have to know where all of this is going.

Generally, there's a motivation for wanting to kiss a girl. Is it just out of admiring her beauty or are you expressing some emotion toward her? Is the kiss about love or just "I like to kiss pretty girls."?

Only you know what motivates you. Reading your questions, it's unclear why you want concrete answers without knowing your motivation. At times, it seems like you have a sort of disconnect between your desire to avoid sin and your physical reactions.

Only you can tell when you cross the line from thinking "she's pretty" to imagining the two of you in a sinful situation. That's the problem for all guys. We can switch from simple admiration and go to sinful imaginations. Self-control is a virtue.

Hope this helps,
Ed

[quote="edwest2, post:3, topic:216015"]
All of your questions are not frozen in time. You may kiss a girl and then what? All of your examples are not isolated, like viewing a scene on TV, and then stopping the DVR. You have to know where all of this is going.

Generally, there's a motivation for wanting to kiss a girl. Is it just out of admiring her beauty or are you expressing some emotion toward her? Is the kiss about love or just "I like to kiss pretty girls."?

Only you know what motivates you. Reading your questions, it's unclear why you want concrete answers without knowing your motivation. At times, it seems like you have a sort of disconnect between your desire to avoid sin and your physical reactions.

Only you can tell when you cross the line from thinking "she's pretty" to imagining the two of you in a sinful situation. That's the problem for all guys. We can switch from simple admiration and go to sinful imaginations. Self-control is a virtue.

[/quote]

With the exception of scenarios 9-13 and 25-26, the only motivation in all of the scenarios is to satisfy a physical attraction to the girl. None of these scenarios give any consideration to the future. In the scenarios about kissing, suppose I don't yet know her well enough to know if I want to marry her, but I do know for sure that it would be intensely pleasurable to kiss her right now. For how many seconds may I kiss her?

Scenarios 9-13 and 25-26 do provide motivations, so I await your responses to these if you have any.

Also, can you please explain what you mean by "a sinful situation" and "sinful imaginations"? I do not know which situations and imaginations are sinful and which are not.

I know it's a lot of questions, so it may help just to write 1-30 with "S" or "NS" next to each number.

Thank you for trying to help.

I would suggest you get a good Priest for a regular confessor to help you sort things out. It may be that you are struggling with scruples in this area..in some of the questions. (Not in everything mind you..but in a number of them..)

These links can be of help:

jimmyakin.org/2009/01/appreciating-beauty-vs-concupiscence.html

catholicreference.net/index.cfm?id=36447

ewtn.com/expert/answers/dating.htm (though I would twique it a bit...for under pure intent I would add if one has begun to consent..sin already begins...I think the author intents it to be just "spontanious enjoyment/desire before any consent")

A few important things: seeing the person and binding all things to the person...

and the virtues of chastity and modesty ....as well as prudence. These will help you to live...

One needs of course to be able to answer these sorts of questions...(get a good confessor) ...but new questions will always arise....one can not live by a kind of casuistic approach ...one needs to inform ones conscience rightly and increase in these virtues..so such will become a kind of second nature..connatural.

What you are asking for can not be answered with any straight answer. Does that make sense? No, not really. So, consider this: (this is not mine, I just heard it somewhere and have offered it before)

Imagine a cliff by the ocean.

If you drive up to this cliff you get a most beautiful view! But the drop off the cliff is deadly.

On a clear day, you might be inclined to drive near the cliff and enjoy the view. On a cloudy day, you might want to stay further back. At night, or maybe after a few drinks, you should avoid the area altogether.

The point is, there isn't a hard and fast line. Of course, you don't drive your car off the cliff on purpose. But at different times and different settings you may be able to approach the cliff and enjoy the view.

You need a priest to help you under the difference between scruples and sins. Call the parish, make an appointment and take your list.

I don't understand. If I say, "Suppose I go to a bike shop and see a bike that I like, so I steal it, solely for my own enjoyment of it". Everyone would say, yes, that is a sin of stealing for sure. No one would say "It depends", because I've already told you everything that it might depend on. If I say, "Suppose I am 10 years old and I break a chair on accident, and my father comes home and asks me if I broke it, and I say no, because I am afraid of being punished (and perhaps it would be useful to know that the father only punishes by spanking and not letting you have dessert, nothing more abusive)". Everyone would say, yes, that is a sin of lying for sure. No one would say "It depends". In both of these cases, I gave enough background information to make the reader SURE that it's a sin.

So now I ask, "Suppose you've been in prison for 10 years without seeing a girl, and then when you see your first one, it gives you an erection, even though you only look at her face and she is modestly dressed, and you have no unchaste or impure thoughts or desires about her, nor do you intend to ever see her again, but you simply look in awe at her face and it gives you an erection". I've given ALL the motivations and ALL the relevant background information. In your example, adv1sor, I've already specified whether it is cloudy, so you should feel comfortable telling me whether you think it's safe in this scenario. So why, after being so specific, is it so difficult to give me a straight answer? If it's because you don't know the answer, that's ok, but please tell me that. Or if it's because I left out something else that it depends on, please tell me what it is.

If someone asked me, "Is it a sin to look at an immodest girl's exposed body parts for several minutes with an erection?", I would respond with confidence, "yes, that is a sin of impurity". All I am asking is for someone to respond to my questions the way I would respond to this person's. If you don't know all the answers, don't answer all of them.

For example, it is pretty obvious that #1 and #2 are not a sin. I wrote those just to get the ball rolling. So let's get started...

  1. Not a sin
  2. Not a sin
  3. ...

Anyone care to pick up where I left off?

Here's a couple that might be bothering people. I will provide sample responses to show people how they could be answered.

17) You are dating but not married to a girl, and you kiss her on the cheek once.
-Sample response: It would be a sin of infidelity if you are in a relationship with someone else. If you are single, it may or may not be a good idea depending on your goals, but a kiss on the cheek in and of itself is not a sin.
18) You are dating but not married to a girl, and you kiss her on the lips once and for only a sudden split second.
-Sample response: The Catholic Church condemns kissing anyone on the lips unless you are engaged or married to her. So if you are engaged, no, it is not a sin. If you are not engaged, yes, it is a sin.

These would be GREAT answers! Unfortunately I made them up... are they correct answers? Surely somebody knows what Church teaching is.

Dear dsf,

I feel for you, since I was once a 24 year old male worrying about the same sorts of issues. I would like to give you detailed answers to your 30 situations, but it's late and I simply don't have the time or the energy. Instead, I will give you my overall perspective on this issue at age 50.

After reading the beginning of Job Chapter 31, I decided to "make a covenant with my eyes." The way I have interpreted that is that an unintentional first glance is not a problem, but I immediately bounce my eyes away and do not go back to gaze or even take a second glance (a perspective I obtained from books by Stephen Arterburn). Any further looks must be above the neck only. Therefore, for me, (4) would be across the line, since "bouncing my eyes away" takes a lot less than 5 seconds. (5), (6), (8), (27), and (28) would therefore be way over the line, (and pretty creepy). In a similar vein, dwelling on sensual thoughts like (29) and (30) would be over the line, since in the same way as not taking charge of your eyes, you aren't taking charge of your mind -- you are indulging a fantasy that is presumably providing mental satisfaction if not physical. As a general rule, if an activity tends to give a person an erection, they should avoid that activity and definitely not prolong that activity, since it may lead to a situation of temptation and impure thoughts. You can't blame your body for unintended erections at age 24, but that's not an excuse to create situations that you can predict will lead to that consequence.

In the broader view, however, when thinking back on Jesus' teaching ministry, I can't recall any examples of Him explaining something like "given this continuum of actions, the line between moral and immoral is ." Instead, He seemed instead to direct us to think always of the things of God's kingdom and to avoid all forms of impurity, since he did equate the visual satisfaction of savoring a woman's attractiveness with adultery.

My advice would be... Rather than trying to find a line and then declare it completely okay to look at or think about a woman up to that line, instead strive to consider women in holiness, so do not objectify them as objects of attraction to any extent. On the other hand, don't beat yourself up if you do not live up to that standard, just keep trying to improve. (The culture has given you 24 years of indoctrination that looking at women as objects is normal, cool, and even manly. It is a habit that takes a long time to break, especially under continuous bombardment of objectifying images.)

Praying for us all,
- curl

Thank you, curl, that was very helpful.

I usually do view women in the way you suggest. 99 out of 100 times, I do. But unfortunately, there are some women who are far too attractive for this to be physically possible for me. And even if I stay away from such women, there are some times, when I am alone, when my sexual desires are so overwhelming that if there is any possible thing I can do to satisfy them without sinning, I must do so. In such cases I usually look at modest pictures of attractive celebrities (i.e. #27 or #28). Why would this be a sin? #27 is essentially the same as #1 and #2. As for #28, there is no impurity, no lust, no masturbation... so why is it a sin? The erection?

You seem to take the view that any purposeful action leading to an erection is sinful. If that is the case, you would have to call #3 a sin. But #3 doesn't seem like it should be a sin. Do you think it is?

When you have the time, I would greatly appreciate your opinion on #13. If any purposeful erection is a sin, then do I really have to tell the girl, "Sorry, I will hug all the other girls but I can't hug you because you are too hot"?

Thank you so much.

[quote="dsf11785, post:11, topic:216015"]
Thank you, curl, that was very helpful.

I usually do view women in the way you suggest. 99 out of 100 times, I do.

[/quote]

I'm glad you were able to take my comments in the spirit they were intended.

I'm also glad to hear that you are living your life with a goal of rightness about this.

But unfortunately, there are some women who are far too attractive for this to be physically possible for me. And even if I stay away from such women, there are some times, when I am alone, when my sexual desires are so overwhelming that if there is any possible thing I can do to satisfy them without sinning, I must do so. In such cases I usually look at modest pictures of attractive celebrities (i.e. #27 or #28). Why would this be a sin? #27 is essentially the same as #1 and #2. As for #28, there is no impurity, no lust, no masturbation... so why is it a sin? The erection?

Let me pause to applaud your desire to not sin in matters of purity. :thumbsup: It is a rare attitude in today's culture.

Getting into the finer points, however, it seems as though you are using the action of gazing at celebrities as a way of partially satisfying sexual desires. While that visual satisfaction is certainly less bad than physical satisfaction, it probably isn't really that good either. One perspective from this is again from the Arterburn books, that men are such visually-wired creatures, that we actually do get some degree of satisfaction just from visual images -- if so, then you ARE taking actions to satisfy sexual desire, even if those actions are primarily mental.

So I perceive a distinction between some of your cases. #1 and #2 sound like natural reactions to seeing a girl pass by in everyday life, while #27 and #28 differ from those on several levels. First, you CREATE the situation by picking up the picture. This is analogous to deciding to walk back and forth multiple times through the food court of a crowded mall because you know you will be able to see attractive girls there. Seeing them in this case is not random and innocent, but calculating and somewhat predatory (seeking out views of them to satisfy your cravings). Second, I think that deliberately gazing at pictures for a long time is not really healthy in the long run. I think you are objectifying and fixating and obsessing about the image or thought of an attractive woman.

One perspective on all this is the supposed statistic that men think about sex every _____ seconds. (Fill in your favorite statistic here. :) ) That may well be true. I'm not sure why God wired us that way, but He did, so that's not a sin in my book. The problem is what we then DO in response to that thought -- We can either say to ourselves, "OK, brain, now let's get back to work" or "That's a nice thought, let me savor that idea for a few minutes or a few hours." It would be less negative AND more positive to move on to something else - chores, exercise, hobby, volunteer work, etc. So I consider #27 and #28 across the line because they are overindulgences that are not healthy to you as a person and approaching idolatry.

You seem to take the view that any purposeful action leading to an erection is sinful. If that is the case, you would have to call #3 a sin. But #3 doesn't seem like it should be a sin. Do you think it is?

When you have the time, I would greatly appreciate your opinion on #13. If any purposeful erection is a sin, then do I really have to tell the girl, "Sorry, I will hug all the other girls but I can't hug you because you are too hot"?

To re-emphasize a point in my earlier post, I do not believe that an unintended erection is a sin. So as far as "purposeful action leading to an erection," I feel it depends on the PRIMARY INTENT versus the SECONDARY CONSEQUENCES. There is a long tradition in Catholic moral teaching about this, including the philosophy behind the theory of waging a "Just War." (If you want to look into this reasoning, you should find an expert, rather than me.)

From this perspective, I think that #13 is NOT a sin. The primary intent is a very good and positive one, to express caring and friendship, and pushing the person away to avoid the hug would probably create needless distrust and sadness in the other person. The unintended consequence indicates that there might be sexual overtones, but that is outweighed by the positive aspects of the primary intention. (By the way, I would think that it would require a very rare combination of friendship and understanding to enable the appropriateness of telling a girl that you can hug others but not her because she's too hot. I can perhaps think of only one person in my life that I could have told that to. If she's that one person for you, then fine, but otherwise, avoid that conversation, keep the hugs short and friendly, and don't dwell on the unintended consequences.)

On the other hand, I do believe that an erection is an INDICATOR that a particular situation has at least some degree of sexual overtones to that person. For example, suppose I would notice often having an erection while watching the women's matches on World Wrestling. Since the primary intent is not good or positive (wasting time, voyeurism) and the secondary consequence indicates that I am receiving some degree of sexual stimulation, it's an indication that watching those matches is inappropriate for me.

I think #3 IS a sin. That person would be deliberately prolonging visual stimulation (a negative primary intention that objectifies another person and probably causes her uneasiness or discomfort). The indication of the secondary consequence indicates that the gazer is getting at least some sexual gratification from the image, and that makes it doubly inappropriate.

Praying for us all,
- curl

Situations are dynamic and changeable. Unless you plan on carrying around a notebook containing all of the answers to all of your questions, how will you deal with situations that aren't covered? Will you tell the young lady in question, "Wait right here." jump on the internet and put up a new list of questions? While the young lady wonders what you are doing, are you thinking about how you would want to handle the situation as opposed to waiting for a reply from here?

Talk to a priest. Try not to be embarrassed. Priests get this stuff. All you need is a properly formed conscience that will kick in whenever you are in a situation that might cross the line. It will tell you to stop at a certain point.

This kind of self training takes time but it's worth it. The dignity of women needs to be upheld. I suggest you cut back on TV and movies that present women as sexual playthings, especially movies with unmarried, sexually active couples around your age.

Hope this helps,
Ed

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

So is Sin, Only you know what is in your heart. You know when you look at a Women, or for my sake a Man and what you are thinking. SO DOES GOD!!

If I look at a Man and think wow what a good looking man. And thats the end of it. Its all cool.

The same for you, you look at a beautiful women and think wow what a beautiful women and move on. ITs cool.

But if you let your imagination move on to other things lets say. And I think we can all agree what they are. Its not:cool: ANd sin done took over!!

(Post 1)

I was going to reply to each question individually, but i decided, it might take less time to just give you a general explanation.

The "line" between sinful and not sinful, is chastity, and lust.

Chastity has to do with the moderation of our desires for sexual pleasure, and likewise lust has to do with immoderate and inordinate desires for sexual pleasure,
the sexual pleasures are moderate when they are kept in their place and not used outside their purpose, they are immoderate when they are used outside their proper place and separated from their purpose,
of course it goes much deeper than that, but that is a good general idea,
God has created everything with a purpose, and lust is simply separating the pleasure from the purpose...which of course is bad, not just because it goes against Gods law, but it is for the very reason that God knows it is bad for us and will hurt us, and because it goes against His nature, that it is sinful,

and of course lust being sinful, that means, outside of marriage, and inside of marriage, we practice chastity, so whether married or not, there are rules to follow.

so first of all, i'd like to point out, even though lust is a most grievous sin, we should not preoccupy ourselves with it even while we are fighting it,
because to give it our attention that way means that we are thinking about it, and to do that excessively keeps the sin on our minds, so that we ourselves are doing the tempting, and we make it very hard for ourselves to avoid the sin, because we are told to run away from temptations of impurity, but while we occupy our minds with it that way, it just follows us.
we are even told in the scriptures that this sin should not even be mentioned among Christians, because it is such a great and grievous sin, but of course we must speak of it in order to warn against it, but when it is unnecessary, we should not even speak of it...

of course to remedy such a preoccupation with the sins of lust, we can instead concentrate on and practice the virtue of chastity, in a moderate way of course, because to do anything immoderately is not good.

the sins that the 6th and 9th commandments forbid are all sins of impurity, such as, unchaste looks, words, jests, touches, and any other acts that violate modesty, and also everything that leads to impurity,

the first thing to be aware of is bad thoughts, because that is always where it starts, a bad thought may be voluntary or involuntary, but as soon as we realize the thought, we must drive it from our mind very quickly, by saying a prayer such as the Hail Mary, or by invoking your guardian angel, and then with Gods grace, you will not sin,
but when we entertain with pleasure these bad thoughts, then they are sins...and from those come bad wishes, desires, and intentions, and bad deeds...
Jesus said "blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God", and if we want to be pure of heart, we must not only avoid the gross sins of impurity, but also all unchaste thoughts, desires, wishes, and intentions,
other grievous sins that fall under impurity are unchaste words, immoral songs, and improper touches. and those sins become even more grievous when committed in the presence of innocent children.

there are several things that lead to impurity, which you should, if you are particularly weak to it(as most are) try more seriously to avoid.
the things that tend to lead to impurity are, curiosity of the eyes, immodest dress, bad company, reading bad books, going to parties(you know the ones i mean), watching indecent shows or movies, and idleness and intemperance.
it is very important to avoid the things that lead you into this sin, because the sin of impurity, unlike most the other sins, is always mortal, there are no venial sins of impurity, unless of course one of the 3 requirements for sin in general are missing, which are full knowledge, full consent(doing it of your own free will) and that the matter actually be grave(which it always is in this case).

so, i know, it seems impossible, but it isn't, by the grace of God you do not have to commit this sin, i know personally because i have been in and out of all of that, and by the grace of God i have not even sinned by thought or desire in that way for quite a long time, even though i was falling into it for so long...

i know it also seems like an unreasonable thing to ask, but you have to understand, it is society that makes it so hard, not God, it is society that has pushed it on us slowly, more and more throughout the years to the point we have reached now, to make us think that giving into our passions is somehow "normal" and that it's healthy...which we of course know is not true.
but that is the state of mind they're pushing on us, so that even if we acknowledge these things as sins, we still don't see them as really being that bad...when in reality they are the most shameful of all the vices.

so, to get more to the point, here is what you need to know and do in order to avoid the sins of lust,

first of all, you must take notice of what tends to lead you into this sin, and those are known as "occasions of sin", which we are commanded to avoid, so whatever leads you into impure thoughts, desires, actions, or anything else, just try your best to avoid altogether, that might sound somehow unreasonable, but remember this is your immortal soul we're talking about, extreme measures can most certainly be taken, and it would not be unwise to do so.
and in general we must avoid any unnecessary touching of those we are not married to, such as hugging, kissing, caressing, or whatever else, which again, society makes these things out to be innocent and good outside of marriage, but you should know from experience alone, these things make it harder to resist temptations, and tend to lead you right into them, which we are of course commanded by the church to avoid.

(continued in next post)

(Post 2, read post 1 first)

if you want to know what is a sin and what isn't, learn from the church and not society, because for one, just look at the miserable and degraded state our society is in...it's shameful how much impurity there is, and if society has been giving us the right advice, then why so much sin??? it's just not true, if we wish to be pure, we must avoid these things, and simply ignore what others may tell you about it being "normal" and "healthy" and "harmless"...you and I know better, you know how it weakens your thoughts and desires, the more you consent even to the little things, the more you desire, and that's only going to get worse if not corrected...

ok, so to sum it up...avoid the near occasions of sin.

other remedies against this vice are, always have instant recourse to God or our Blessed Mother or your guardian angel or other saints, because to neglect imploring their assistance and Gods grace is one of the main reasons we fall.
also, always seek the advice of your priest, if you are unsure if something is a sin, ask him, and likewise, if you are unsure if something you did was a mortal sin, by all means confess it,

do not be to scrupulous with this sin, because it is not so much circumstance that makes it sinful(such as the many circumstances you have listed) but instead it is a matter of consenting to the pleasures of lust,
so for example, just seeing an immodestly dressed girl is not a sin, but then to stare at her immorally and to take pleasure in that is sinful,
it is not just being tempted, which is not a sin, but when you first realize the bad thought or desire, and consent to it instead of driving it away, then it is a sin,
and then of course, like i said before, when in doubt, just ask your priest.

so, to know whether or not something is a sin, just ask yourself, "does it lead me to impure thoughts, desires, or actions?"...if yes, then it is a sin! pure and simple.

of course that's not all there is to it, because even while something may not be a temptation to us, it could very well be so to our neighbor, and so then it should be avoided for their sake,
and of course anything the church warns us against or cautions us about, we should always take seriously and obey, because to disregard what the church says, falls under the sin of pride, by which we are pretty much saying "I know better than the church" or worse "I know better than God"...which would be mortally sinful.
if the church tell us what to do or avoid in order to protect ourselves against a certain sin, we should take that advice, even if we don't understand it, because remember that the Holy Ghost guides the church, and God has given authority to the leaders in the church, and as we are told in the bible, all lawful authority comes from God, and so we always do ourselves good to obey our superiors even in things we don't understand or don't agree with(provided it is not sinful, in which case we must disobey)

ok, and then of course there are the usual aids in helping with this and every other sin,
such as frequent confession and communion, daily prayers and reading of good catholic books(especially the lives and writings of the saints), fasting and mortification are especially helpful in overcoming the sins of lust, because, as we are told, some devils are only driven away my means of fasting and mortification.
adoration is very helpful, and having a good relationship with God is really always required if we want to be good Catholics, which is one of the greatest means in overcoming our sins,
saying the rosary every day is also important, and will help you greatly.
those things are all really quite necessary for all Catholics to do, but some other remedies and aids against this sin which are more optional, but also very helpful, are things such as -
the practice of saying 3 hail Marys in the morning and at night for the intentions of purity and holiness, that was a practice of Saint Maria Goretti,
also, when in times of temptation, do as Christ did when the devil tried to temp Him, quote Holy Scripture,
for example, when tempted to impure thoughts and desires, say "Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.",
another great help is, try to reflect on the image of Jesus crucified, and upon what He endured on account of our sins, or in particular, the scourging, which He endured especially for sins of impurity.

try to develop both a hate for impurity, and a love for chastity, which you can do by contemplating on Gods love for you and His own great purity, and also by reading the scriptures, or reading the lives of the saints,

and then also by simply praying to God for an increase in the virtue of chastity, and the rooting out of the vice of lust, God will help you to understand and know these sins, and also the virtues, and your desires will also change.
so it is very important to pray every day, because it is only by Gods grace that you can overcome anything, we are completely and utterly dependent on God, and we must always go to Him first in all of our needs, big or little.

well...i think that's enough, and i hope this helps, although i have a feeling you were asking something more specific and i missed the point...but anyways, before i go, here are some very good sites that i think will help you very much in your current troubles, and also in all of your spiritual needs...

audiosancto.org/
alabamacatholicresources.com/index.html
catholicapologetics.info/
gaiaonline.com/guilds/viewforum.php?f=211197
tanbooks.com/index.php
fraternitypublications.com/

alright, hope this helps, take care.

Hey curl, I'm impressed that you were able to turn that list into a very productive conversation - It's been sitting in the back of my mind how to respond for about a day or so :)

And dsf, hey :)

I'm 22, fresh out of college and had a fairly rough year (heartbreak, overworked, graduation, and, oh yeah :p, I broke my neck on top of it all too! (I also fully recovered for the record :thumbsup:))and I've been struggling with similar issues too. For the most part I agree with curl's assessment of the list, so I'd like to share an insight that I gained recently. Its still fairly new, but it has been actually giving me a fair amount of peace and renewed strength.

For the past few months, I'd been struggling to maintain purity. I won't go into too many details, but I go to confession, expect to be fixed, and then feel shattered when I'd screw up only a few days later, and would run back to the confessional. At some point, my little wind up key totally unwound, and this cycle was starting to wear me down. The biggest thing that has given me peace is realizing that I wasn't totally blameless in between "screw ups". I'd push that fine line, and slide from from "#1's" to "#4's" and so on eventually to find myself at "#29's" and worse!

I started avoiding these near occasions, and I've been meditating and praying, and finding productive projects (I repaired a previously hopeless couch this week!). Instead of dwelling on urges, and worrying and thinking about them, I might try to do something productive, it usually passes. I'm far from perfect though, so I'm not trying to trumpet my own horn, but I'm feeling hope, and I hope you'll find hope too :)

Send me a link when you write the companion post. I'd definitely like to hear the rest of the story!

[quote="dsf11785, post:1, topic:216015"]
IMO -

Which of the following is a sin, and which is not, and why?
1) You look at a modestly dressed girl with a beautiful face and give glory to God for creating such a beautiful girl.
Not a sin.

2) You look at a modestly dressed girl with a beautiful face to enjoy looking at her beautiful face without having a single thought about God.
Not a sin.

3) You've been in prison and haven't seen a girl in ten years, and then when you're released from prison you see a modestly dressed girl with a beautiful face. You look at her beautiful face in awe and give glory to God for creating such a beautiful girl. Because you've been deprived for so many years, this simple pleasure causes you to have an erection. You continue to look at her face for another two minutes with a full erection, without having a single unchaste or impure thought about her.
Not a sin. It's not a sin to have an erection.

4) You look at a modestly dressed girl, and although she is modestly dressed, you are able to identify that she has a very attractive body. You stare at her body in awe for about five seconds, then look away and make an effort to keep her out of your vision and thoughts for the remainder of your time around her. (Were those five seconds sinful?)
No. How could they be?

5) You do the same thing as #4, but continue staring at this modestly dressed girl for several minutes. You successfully repress any unchaste thoughts or desires to do something sinful with her, but you enjoy staring at her.
Not a sin.

6) You do the same thing as #5, and because you have an unusually low tolerance for sexual pleasure, just looking at this modestly dressed girl gives you an erection, and you continue to look at her.
Not a sin. Again not a sin to have an erection.

7) You look at an immodestly dressed girl with an attractive body in awe for about five seconds, staring at certain body parts, then look away and make an effort to keep her out of your vision for the remainder of your time around her. During those five seconds, you did not have a single unchaste thought about her, but simply enjoyed staring at her somewhat exposed body. (Were those five seconds sinful?)
No. Not at all.

8) You do the same thing as #7, but continue staring at her for several minutes. You successfully repress any unchaste thoughts or desires to do something sinful with her, but you enjoy staring at her somewhat exposed body.
Not a sin.

9) You look at an immodestly dressed girl whom you do not find attractive, so looking at her gives you no pleasure whatsoever. You allow yourself to look at her freely without restraint, not because you like it, but because you are in a place where it would take effort to keep her out of your vision, and you neglect to make that effort.
Not a sin.

10) You watch a movie with nudity, and you decide not to skip over the scenes with nudity. You do not find the naked girl(s) in the movie attractive at all, so you do not enjoy the nudity; you continue watching without restraint only because you're interested in the plot.
Not a sin.

11) You have a friend who is a girl and you find her very attractive. While both of you are modestly dressed, you give her a hug and enjoy it.
Not a sin. It's not a sin to enjoy a hug, man.

12) You do the same thing as #11, but you have an unusually low tolerance for sexual pleasure and hugging her gives you an erection. You knew beforehand that it would give you an erection, and you did it anyways.
Not a sin. But depending on how close your hug is, it might be a little awkward with the girl. :p

13) The girl in #11 and #12 gives you a hug, and you could have pushed her away knowing that it would give you an erection, but you didn't.
Not a sin. You're risking your friendship with the girl over an erection. Not a good idea. Also how do you think the girl would feel if you pushed her away? She would be hurt and wonder why you don't like her.

14) You stroke your hand through a girl's hair and don't especially enjoy it.
Not a sin.

15) You stroke your hand through an attractive girl's beautiful hair and enjoy it (without her objection, of course).
Not a sin.

16) You have an unusually strong attraction for girls' hair, and you stroke your hand through an attractive girl's beautiful hair again and again for several minutes, leading to an erection and a great deal of pleasure (without her objection, of course).
Not a sin. It's touching her hair, not touching her vagina. BIG difference.
(continued below due to length restrictions)

[/quote]

[quote="dsf11785, post:2, topic:216015"]
17) You are dating but not married to a girl, and you kiss her on the cheek once.
Not a sin. A cheek kiss is nothing.

18) You are dating but not married to a girl, and you kiss her on the lips once and for only a sudden split second.
Not a sin.

19) You are dating but not married to a girl, and you kiss her on the lips for three seconds. No erection results.
Not a sin.

20) Same as #19, but an erection results.
Not a sin. An erection is just a natural response. Just your body saying it can give your future wife a baby.

21) You are dating but not married to a girl, and you kiss her on the lips for several minutes. No erection results.
Not a sin.

22) Same as #21, but an erection results.
Not a sin. Erections are not sins.

23) You look at a girl you are dating but not married to and imagine what it would feel like to kiss her on the lips for, say, 30 seconds. You have no desire to do so in real life, because you think it would be sinful. All you do is imagine what it would feel like. No erection results.
Not a sin. And it would not be sinful to kiss her for 30 seconds.

24) Same as #23, but an erection results, and you continue to imagine it. Again, there is no desire to kiss her in real life, only imagination.
Not a sin.

25) You are in a play, and your character is supposed to passionately kiss with another (female) character for a few seconds, so you do so as necessary for the production. You do not find the girl playing the other character very attractive, so you don't enjoy it; you do it for the purposes of the production only. (Would it be a sin not to quit?)
No at all.

26) Same as #25, but you do find her attractive, and you get an erection whenever you kiss her, and you do so as necessary for the production.
Not a sin. But it will probably be awkward when performing in front of a crowd, lol. :p

27) You look at pictures of a modestly-dressed girl with a beautiful face for a long time and enjoy looking at them. No erection results.
Not a sin. Why would it be one?

28) You look at pictures of a modestly-dressed girl with a beautiful face for a long time, causing an erection, and you continue to look at them. You have no unchaste or impure thoughts or desires about her, but simply take a great deal of pleasure in looking at her beautiful face and hair.
Not a sin. Again erection does not equal sin.

29) You lay awake in bed for several hours, imagining yourself kissing a girl on the lips for several minutes, causing an erection. Your thoughts are not impure; you are only picturing the girl's face. You have no desire to kiss her in real life, because you think it would be sinful. Of course, you do not touch your genitals at all. You simply take pleasure in imagining yourself kissing her, and it causes an erection, and you continue this imagination for several hours.
Not a sin. And it would not be sinful to kiss her. However you shouldn't be imaging it for SEVERAL HOURS. It's not sinful too, but you could be doing something more productive though.

30) Same as #29, and after several hours you unexpectedly and uncontrollably ejaculate.
Not a sin. You didn't want it to happen.

[/quote]

I hope I helped you. If you have any questions just ask.

HOWEVER you seem very scrupulous to me and I HIGHLY suggest you getting that under control before it becomes something that tortures you so much you loose your faith.

(The beginning of this post is directed to everyone except curl.)

Dear friends,

Thank you all for your moral support. Unfortunately, none of it will help me unless I receive answers to the questions in my original post.

I am not asking for your help in overcoming my temptations. I am asking what actions are sinful and what are not. Next time I have a temptation, I am going to tell myself: This is not a sin, so there is no need to resist this temptation. Therefore, please answer my questions above so that when I say this to myself, I will realize, no, it IS a sin! 30 people on catholic.com told me so! THAT is what will help me.

If you would like, you can post a several paragraph response explaining how to battle general temptations of impurity, suggesting how to solve my problem, and arguing that asking my questions above will not help me. But I know what my problem is, and I know my temptations, and I know the way I think, and I know what I have tried, and what I have heard, and what has worked and what has not. Based on all this, I know that receiving a solid answer to the 30 questions above is what will help me. It may not make sense to you, but it would take too long to explain why. Therefore, please answer the 30 questions above, even if you think that a different sort of response would be more helpful; because I guarantee you that getting answers to the questions is what will help me. I need cold information backed by logic, not moral advice.

Adam, thanks for trying to help, but I would like to get answers from real Catholics. It seems you don’t even think that impurity and lust are sins, and those are clearly condemned by the Church.

Curl, thank you for your very helpful post. Your explanations of #3 and #27 made a lot of sense. As I now understand it, to pursue sexual pleasure as one’s primary intent is always a sin, no matter how small the sexual pleasure. But one does not have to take extraordinary measures like wearing a blindfold or refusing to hug a girl (#13), in order to avoid erections that are secondary consequences. This is a brilliant explanation that I had not thought of before; suffice it to say that it makes a lot of previously seeming contradictions no longer contradict for me. I must say, however, that although I was raised a traditional Catholic, never in my life had I imagined that it could be a sin just to look at a girl’s face. I sure hope you’re wrong, because if you’re right, being a Catholic will be incredibly difficult for me now.

If you have the time, curl, I am interested in your responses to #9-10 and #17-20. #9 and 10 deal with situations of impurity when there is no sexual pleasure whatsoever. #17-20 will help me understand whether it is the act of kissing or the pleasure derived from it, or both, that is sinful.

To everyone else, again, please directly address my questions in my original post. If you can’t address them all, just pick a few. I’m not asking for moral advice, but for cold information backed by logic.

Do other people agree that #3 and #27 are sins? I think that’s going a bit too far. Think of this. God created food for the purpose of feeding us. That is why gluttony is a sin - you are eating food in great excess solely for the pleasure of it, not just to feed yourself as God intended. With this logic, then, suppose I’ve just eaten a meal, and then I eat a candy bar, not to keep myself alive, but just because it tastes good. I exploit the pleasure of the taste of the candy bar - I use food contrary to its purpose, for my own selfish purposes. Is that a sin? Of course not. Surely with sexual pleasure, it must be the same way. It’s a sin to use sexual pleasure contrary to its purpose, but there must be some tiny amount of sexual pleasure that is allowable before it becomes sinful. Can’t I just look at a pretty girl’s face?

runningdude, keep persevering in what you’re doing. You rock.

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