Where sin begins in same-sex physical intimacy

There’s a couple threads on CAF that dance around this topic, but none that directly address it that I’ve seen. My apologies if I’ve missed one. I thought it to be something that should be explored from a moral standpoint as a potential help for those with SSA in the Church.

That is to say, would a same-sex relationship with no sexual intimacy but with romantic intimacy (kissing, laying on each other watching movies, and all other emotionally intense stuff that still does not fall under a sexual activity) be immoral? For the sake of the moral argument, please do not bring up scandal: I realize that is a concern with any Catholic who does such a thing, but I am seeking only to understand the inherent moral licitness of the individual actions themselves.

[For the sake of avoiding scandal, I will, however, clarify that I have not had any same-sex physicality since becoming Catholic, nor do I endorse it].

Anyways, to give a broad, personal example from before I was Catholic, with ex-girlfriends, while sex was not a small part of the relationship, there were many nights where there was no sex involved, but there was still such a large degree of…emotional intimacy. This can be hard to explain to non-lesbians, but it’s like, even though there’s no sex involved, your whole world zones in around this one girl and hers on you, and it really is an unbelievable experience. Maybe this question only applies to women with SSA, as I don’t pretend to understand gay/bisexual men, but would a relationship that barred itself from sex and restricted itself to nights like those, and all the other emotionally intimate aspects of a relationship be immoral? Because if not, it would help individuals with SSAs avoid feeling sentenced or trapped. I know many lesbians (myself included) who feel more closeness and love from a single kiss with a girl than anything a guy could do, up to and including sex.

I am seriously asking for opinions; do not think that I am pushing in any direction, even though I am a lesbian myself. I wish to follow Christ above all else. But if this was licit, it would certainly make life easier for individuals with SSA.

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The body has a language. So for instance, passionate kissing says to the other person that you want to possess them. Now in my case, having experienced true possessing and being possessed (physically) in a marriage, I realize that none of the things I want to do with other men – whether sexual or non-sexual – involve anything like possessing or being possessed by them. “My lover is mine and I am his” is a nice-sounding phrase, but the things that men do together sexually does not “embody” this phrase.

So it seems to me that passionate kissing communicates something that cannot become anything more than intense longing, among men at least. And I have heard this from dozens of men: that sex between men never breaks the barrier, that there is always a longing there unsatisfied. All this to say that passionate kissing is out.

There is another type of kissing, that communicates something like, “Wow, it’s nice to be here with you.” I don’t see that type of kissing at intrinsically wrong. But our culture’s touch-language isn’t clear on this. Usually kissing gently indicates a willingness to kiss passionately, and that’s a real concern. But I’ve seen women give each other massages with a great deal of tenderness, without communicating anything at all inappropriate. There’s always the question of the near occasion of sin, but the actions themselves here seem fine. Playing with each other’s hair is another thing that seems totally fine with me – and is quite intimate.

Not to complain, but I think men have it harder. With men, a back massage would communicate sexual desire, as would hair-playing, as would nearly any other physical contact. Over the past 150 years, the acceptable language of physical intimacy between men has been reduced to hugs, pats on the back, and high fives. But men (gay and otherwise) need more physical intimacy than that. I honestly don’t know what the solution is. I want to experience more closeness than that from my straight friends, and I totally wouldn’t find it tempting at all, but I wouldn’t dare for fear of alienating them. But with friends I know are same-sex attracted, I worry that appropriate physical intimacy could quickly become inappropriate, because I know myself.


At any rate, great question, S!

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First, having the world shrink to the person you are with is not a lesbian thing. It has happened countless times to me with my wife. Remember that homosexuality is a distorted reflection of what God designed for man and wife.

Secondly, even discounting scandal, if there is a sexual attraction then at best one would be putting themselves in a near occasion of sin. What you are talking about is called continuous proximate occasion of sin. The Church has stated several times that purposefully placing oneself in a position that can lead to sin is in itself sinful (see for more info).

Try looking at it from this standpoint. I am married so would it be okay for me to have a nonsexual relationship with another woman where we kissed, cuddled, and did everything up to sexual intimacy? Do you think it would be okay for a priest to share prolonged kisses and snuggle on the couch with a friend? I would say most people would agree that either was inappropriate.

It’s a little like asking how far can I go with a venial sin before it becomes mortal? We should not look for loopholes in morality, but for ways not to start down the path in the first place.

Think of it this way…there are 4 false Gods…Wealth, Power, Honor and Pleasure. It is the last one that is central to all physical/intimate human relations. When there is no possibility of pregnancy and the resulting responsibility to rear a child born of the love between two people the physical relationship quickly becomes one focused on pleasure alone. This is also a reason why the Church teaches against artificial contraception…it opens the door to sex with whoever, whenever, wherever…you get the picture.

In bearing a child, a couple bears witness to the creative energy of God…their love results in God’s love being born again in the form of a new person. Love grows - we are fruitful. When we find ways to circumvent God’s plan we are deciding for ourselves what is right and what is wrong…a perogative that is God’s alone.

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” …and so he fashioned a woman.

I don’t think this is a good comparison. Men don’t need intimacy with women other than their wives, but men do need close relationships with other men. (Likewise, women need close relationships with other women). Not that I think kissing and cuddling is a good idea in same-sex relationships, but you’re comparing apples and oranges.

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I think that is too simplistic and/or poorly constructed. The consequence you describe are not fairly levelled against older persons, or those avoiding pregnancy for a time.

Sex with a loving spouse (always) entails elements of pleasure-seeking, pleasure-giving and love. It may entail a desire for a child. It should always entail an acknowledgement that should a child result, the child will be welcomed.

Well in my personal opinion I would use the same standard that is used for non married heterosexuals in the sense that I would see it as hypocrital to treat both groups separately and place different standard for one and another. While there may not be any threads as to where sin begins with SSA there are threads as to the topic for heterosexuals. For example I think I personally would avoid anything that creates a near ocassion of sin. Sleeping on the same bed with a person you are attracted, I would avoid that.deep kissing to me would be a big no no. I would also avoid any situation that would create in the other’s person mind a hope that there may be a possibility of an actual relationship in the future. I would also do a lot of praying. Ask God for guidance and explain to him your situation and ask him to show you how he wants you to conduct your life. Also given that there may be to many gray areas, I would talk to a priest. Maybe in your situation you would benefit from having a good spiritual counselor who can guide you and give you advice, specially as to gray areas.

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I think this is an excellent point. Intimate relationships evolve, and one cannot know precisely how the other is thinking at every moment, or how they will interpret and respond.

I disagree with your unmarried heterosexual couple analogy though. That relationship may naturally evolve with purpose, and by its nature send signals that would be out of place in a close same sex relationship we are contemplating, causing just the problem /confusion described above.

So I just asked my wife if she has ever felt the need to give a female friend a romantic hug or kiss and her response was a stone eyed stare followed by “Seriously…” So in other words, no.I then asked if she needs to touch another woman to feel close to them; again, no.

Using your logic it would be wrong for me as a man, but not for the woman I was being non-sexually intimate with because she is a woman?

The problem here is when mixing *eros, philia, *and *agape. *I feel *philia *(aka brotherly love) for my closest friends (male and female). That also can become self sacrificing love (aka agape). I never feel sexual desire (eros)for male friends. For female friends that I might feel sexually attracted to I make sure I do not have prolonged physical contact as it would put me in a near occasion of sin. Not from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint.

So the question is if a SSA person can achieve agape (what I believe the OP wants) when they also have eros for that person? Hanging out and having a close friendship would not be an issue, but kissing and close physical contact would be a no. I say that because it has moved beyond unavoidable temptation (i.e. a glance that inflames the passions) into placing oneself squarely into a tempting situation.

Again, purposefully placing ourselves in near occasion of sin is in of itself a sin. We cannot purposely do all those things that would lead up to sin with the intent of stopping at the brink. Think of it as someone who has a disregard for their life. They get a thrill running full tilt at the edge of a cliff and stopping a hairs breadth from the edge. Even if their intent is not to kill themselves they still have culpability for their own death if they tumble over the edge.

I think you missed the part where the poster delineated those relationships as involving cuddling and the like.

My personal point of view: don’t to do anything with a non-spouse that one would not want a spouse to see–I think most of us in this society would know where those boundaries are.

And consider that there is a reason that society has these boundaries; they may not know the phrase near occasion of sin (sigh, or even the word sin :(), bit they do understand betrayal.

Sure, but it might not be a good reason. Plenty of straight men think the boundaries of male-male affection at this point in history are very harmful and bad.


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OK. Some women do. People experience affection different ways. When I was a child, my father suddenly was gone one day (car accident), despite being very close and intimate with me before that point. I’ve longed for affirmation and loving touch from older men since then. There is nothing sexual about this longing, nor is there anything sinful about it.

Different strokes for different folks, you know. :stuck_out_tongue:

Using your logic it would be wrong for me as a man, but not for the woman I was being non-sexually intimate with because she is a woman?

Huh? If this is what you’re asking, I *certainly *don’t think it’s wrong for straight women to cuddle with each other. As for lesbians, that would have to be on a case-by-case basis, and it could be sin, or the near occasion of sin.

So the question is if a SSA person can achieve agape (what I believe the OP wants) when they also have eros for that person? Hanging out and having a close friendship would not be an issue, but kissing and close physical contact would be a no. I say that because it has moved beyond unavoidable temptation (i.e. a glance that inflames the passions) into placing oneself squarely into a tempting situation.

I think the OP is looking for philia, or storge (affection). I agree that putting oneself into temptation is a bad idea.

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Yes my point was focused on people of child bearing age and generally those struggling with any form of pleasure addiction (which is most of us). Those avoiding pregnancy for a time can practice NFP.

My personal opinion is any **intentional action **that inflames lust in an unmarried person’s heart or is meant to inflame lust in the heart of another, is sinful. It matters not to me whether the persons involved are gay or straight. We are all called to live our lives chastely and modestly regardless of our sexual orientation.

Married persons are called to live their vocation chastely and modestly within the confines of their marital partner only.

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Disinterested friendships -not relationships of a romantic nature (and avoiding near occasions of such…)

Friendships without “romantic” overtones.

Contact: Courage.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.


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Would not the restrictions of the 6th commandment apply to all - whether straight or gay?

This commandment forbids impurity in thought, word and deed. I presume that gay people have “friends” of both gender meaning they genuinely enjoy their company without any sexual connotation and in the very same manner as do those who are straight. If one is truly living a life in Christ, this question is a no-brainer because everyone with a conscience knows without doubt when a line is being crossed and temptation becomes a consent to sin, and not just in the physical sense.

There would, of course, also be the normal obligation to avoid the near occasion of sin. If you are a gay female and a female friend tempts you, than you would have the duty to nix any situation that could cause either of you to give into sinful desires.

I suppose. But I have yet to find a straight marriage where “we aren’t having sex anymore” is seen in a positive light, whereas the term “lesbian bed death” is commonly applied by the heteronormative world that doesn’t understand that those lesbian relationships seek happiness for each other, not in lust, and that some complete at a point where sex is no longer needed by either partner. In the sense that sex, while certainly used for [physiologically] unitive reasons, is not necessary to create true eros joy between two lesbian partners, I would have to say that lesbian relationships are quite unique.

This is assuming that one would be in a position of occasion of sin. This is not necessarily true. I could make out with a girl for an entire day without tempting myself to have sex with her. I’ve never understood this modern idea of making out, or massaging (as PS referenced), or cuddling as “leading” to something. Nor have I ever experienced that in a relationship with another woman. Sex happened when it happened; it wasn’t a lead-up from other actions that led to an uncontrollable urge to engage in the act. I was in full control when I had sex and in full control when I didn’t. It would be the easiest thing in the world for me to avoid sex. What is not easy, however, is constantly repressing every desire I ever have for women. If there was a way for me to licitly express it with a girlfriend (which, by necessity, involves no sex obviously), it would make my life infinitely easier.

This is a moot point. In each case, you have your bride and the priest has the Church as his bride. In my case, I would have no such spouse that I would be diverting my attentions from or cheating on. I would merely be helping another person through life and giving them companionship as far as I could licitly. I think a more accurate example is, like mary referenced, whether a heterosexual couple could licitly make out or cuddle before marriage. I don’t think the potentialities of the relationships affect their sinfulness or not, personally. If it is licit for a heterosexual couple to make out/cuddle/do anything else prior to marriage, I see no reason it shouldn’t be licit for a lesbian couple. In both cases, they are barred from sexual involvement.

Which is why I am asking where sin starts, not mortal sin.

I am sorry I didn’t make myself more clear. I was implying that the girl you were with would be fully aware of Church teaching on sex and fully willing to abstain from it.

I would assume so, since your wife is assumedly straight! Obviously lesbians have desires towards other women that straight women do not have. And no, these desires are not limited to merely sex.

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If it was not a near occasion of sin (or, rather, if the couple were not at risk of having sex by doing these actions), would you think it was sinful, PS?

I don’t know. Even with the deeply delineated understanding the Greeks had for love, I don’t know if they have a word for the love I am talking about that exists in lesbian relationships. It involves desire to some extent, so it can not fully be free from eros, but it does not need any form of sexual involvement to satisfy desire, so it cannot be fully eros. It cannot be storge due to desire and philia seems too mild to fully represent it either. But what I can say is that, depending on the relationship, temptation would not necessarily be a problem. Again, I could make out with a girl for an entire day and not put myself at any risk of losing control of my actions to go further. I don’t understand why men say they can’t, but then I don’t understand guys in general :shrug:. It is a very unique relationship type.

But if the action does not inflame lust, but rather satisfies in itself the desire to make someone you deeply care about smile and be happy, and sexual activity is not expressed in said action, is it still sinful?

To everyone: I suppose what I am asking is hard for a non-lesbian to understand, but please at least take me at my word that lesbian relationships are fully capable of existing without sex, even though sex would obviously be preferable in a relationship for most lesbians. With that assumption in place that temptation/near occasion of sin is not an issue in the cases I am describing, would you still consider it sinful?

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