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May 09, 2006



Well, this coming from someone who doesn't have a lot of "relationship experience" (I've only ever had one boyfriend, our relationship has lasted approximately two years, and we don't 'date' per se, if that makes *any* sense), but where I "draw the line" as you phrased it, is holding hands.

I heard it put an interesting way once, that "Purity is not a line, it is a direction". In other words, we shouldn't look at it as a line of the sand that we can walk and, one step to the left or right, we're either "pure" or we're not.

But, I fully understand the confusion over where to draw the line. Have you ever read the "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" (and it's sequel on courtship, entitled "Boy Meets Girl")? There are some good sections in there that talk about the physical...

Wish I could be of more help.


The only advice I have is figure out what you will/will not do before "the moment" and let him know--otherwise, it's too easy to go too far and seems random to him when you stop suddenly.

I think it's possible to stay "pure" and do more than hold hands, but it is a very slippery slope. And he has to be on board with the idea of protecting purity (yours and his) or all of this is moot.

Good luck!! This is probably one of the biggest obstacles modest girls have with modern dating. :(


The rule I give my children is this: If you would be embarassed to do it in front of people you respect (parents, clergy, etc.) then don't do it in private, either. That makes activities like ballroom dancing perfectly ok (at least in our family) but not make-out sessions. Another guildeline is that if it makes it difficult for you to keep your standards, it's too far for you.
I would also recommend that you stay in public places where you can be seen, if not heard, as well as avoiding any inhibition-lowering substances. Tends to keep people on their best behavior.

Alexandra Foley

Oooh, great topic, Lily. When I used to give 'modesty talks' to teens in Boston girls always wanted to know "just how far can I go?" It is certainly a tough question. I once read St. Thomas Aquinas who said that anything that invokes lust is a dangerous thing. This seemed extreme to me at the time, but over the years this has made more sense and been a good guideline.

One of the hard things is that, like the previous commenter says, there is no line in the sand. A conscience that is well developed is really the only solution. I have found that people who have an intimate relationship with God don't find the question of "how far" as difficult because they see anything that pulls them from that love of God (such as lust) as less desirable than a false intimacy in their relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

I am interested to hear other people’s thoughts. Thanks for opening this up for discussion.



Spudmomof6 probably said it best, but I'd like to add just a couple of things. First, you asked whether there was a "universal rule for all of us." My first inclination was to say "No," but after I thought about it a bit the words of a well-known Christian author, Elisabeth Elliot, who has written much on this issue, came to me: "Keep your hands off and your clothes on." Simplistic, yes, but then I increasingly find that the best advice ususally is!

That said, I still feel it depends largely on the individual and their temptation threshold. Just as certain foods are "triggers" for some and not for others, certain kinds of touch may be more stimulating for some than for others. Couples need to work this out together and not be ashamed to make their feelings known ahead of time, before a compromising situation arises.

Another piece of advice that I read several years back, and that I thought was particularly wise, was the question as to whether an act of either partner will "honor" the other. That takes some thought on both parties' sides, but you sound up to it!

Sorry I can't offer something profoundly original from my own brain, but every time I try to, it seems that somebody else has said it already...


I highly recommend a book by Lauren F. Winner: "Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity."


K. just recommended Lauren Winner's book; there is a great "line" in there that Winner and her now-husband used when they were dating. A trusted mentor of theirs said "If you wouldn't do it on the steps of the Rotunda (a prominent building on their campus), don't do it at all." In their case, that allowed for kissing, but no more. I think that is a great rule. Everybody is a little different of course, and some wouldn't even go that far, but this strikes me as something that one could live with and not "slide" past as easily as other "lines".

I've come to like guidelines on pre-marital intimacy that refer to the outside world (what you'd do in front of your parents, on the steps of the Rotunda, etc). because it takes into account that one's sexual life, while private, is not "no-one else's business." Also, it preserves the private aspect of physical intimacy for marriage, when it can be enjoyed.

Amy G

I don't have any personal experience with this, as I was not modest when I dated and married my husband. However, my nephew and his wife were excellent models for this. It was so refreshing to see their courtship and engagement, especially through the eyes of a conscientiously modest mom (now). They did hold hands, and even hugged. For them, pecks on the cheek were not tempting, so they did that as well. However, they always made sure that they were chaperoned when at their respective houses (usually a parent, but sometimes a sibling). They typically went on group dates when it was an activity like a movie - accountability. I know they went bowling, putt-putting, church activities, etc. a lot because they were fun relationship-building activities. They made this commitment to purity because they wanted God to bless their marriage & knew of the horrors of marriages that were based on a physical relationship instead of an emotional and spiritual one. They may have read the Josh Harris books, too.



I agree with spudmomof6, and add don't do anything that you wouldn't feel comfortable telling your future children.

I once asked a previous boyfriend if he would be ok if he had a daughter my age participating in activities I wasn't comfotable with and he said "Of course not, I'd go after tha lowlife!" Then why was it ok for him to want to do them with me? It wasn't.

I don't think there is any universal answer, do what you feel is right.


You might also try "Sex According to God" by Kay Arthur. It's a study on what the Bible does say about the physical aspects of dating/marriage relationships.


I have to admit to going farther in my "friends with benefits" relationship in college than most people reading this site on this site would condone.

The irony of the situation is that my partner was a very devout Catholic, who was as apparently as lonely and frustrated as I was, and tried to coax me into doing just about everything but intercourse. But of course, just as friends...we apparently weren't "suited" to dating each other. I had always been too chubby, too shy, too smart, too sarcastic for boys to pay attention to me...and I was grateful for any attention and willing to accept those terms.

I put up a good resistance, but ultimately was curious and...how to put it modestly?...shed the top half of my clothes for a while. I'm not sure if I regret it or not, since I wish my first experiences had been with someone I loved. Or who had been willing to hold my hand in public. I don't think I'd look back on the physical aspect with as much regret as I do if we had cared about each other. Hookup culture indeed.

I've lost contact with him--part of me hope he's found love, and part wishes that he hasn't. I've been single for the five years since since I'm unable to trust men anymore.


As many have mentioned - it is a personal preference. Though I am technically a virgin (I have not had intercourse), I don't proclaim innocence and I don't regret any of the activities I have engaged in. In college, I was swept into the hook-up culture and "made-out" with several boys that I basically could care less about - but, when I say "made-out" - I pretty much mean first - base (pretty innocent in today's culture). However, I was the one that was able to put the brakes on before the clothes came of - I lacked the desire to take it further and I felt that the smooching was no - biggie. But, I ended up falling in love with one of my friends with benefits and it was a relationship that lasted for a while. I was miraculously able to "draw the line" to perserve my "virginity" - but that was very very difficult and I realize I did it for the wrong reasons. I was protecting myself from the perils of an unconventional relationship and I thought that drawing that very thin line would prevent me from emotional commitment and unfortunately it did not (I was still heart broken in the end). I don't regret what I did because I was in love. But, from my experience, I would suggest you not take if further than where you feel comfortable - you know your ability to control your sexual desires - it is harder for some and easier for others. However, if you are going to remain modest according to God's teachings, I would suggest that the minute it feels that you are giving a piece of yourself to your partner, then you should draw the line.

Celeste Cuellar

When I became a single adult again in my early 30’s it was very difficult for me to make a determination about how far was too far? I remember reading "Passion and Purity” by Elizabeth Elliott and although I was impressed, it didn’t tie in very well with my own situation. Finally I found a good book written many years ago in the late 70’s by a priest and the advice he shared was this – any activity (mental or physical) whose purpose is to arouse and excite, i.e., what we’d commonly call foreplay, was out of bounds for the unmarried who wished to be chaste. I remember thinking that was pretty strict, but I could also tell there was truth in that admonition because it didn’t make me particularly happy to read it!


I like Celeste's comment... how true, that at least *I* tend to feel like my back is up against the wall when people come out with something strict like that, and yet the truth of the statement resounds in me to some degree.
This is a tricky issue that my 'beau'(darn I hate the word 'boyfriend') and I are dealing with in our courtship. I tend to wonder whether the "not doing it on the steps of the Rotunda" rule is helpful, though, because my beau and I tend to have very intimate (not in the sexual sense, but in the soul-bearing sense) conversations about our desire/plans for marriage or pray together... both things I wouldn't want to do on the steps of a school building, but both are pivotal and helpful for our courtship. I suppose this advice applied to PHYSICAL things in particular, and in which case, it becomes one of those statements that make me feel all defensive and annoyed, because I secretly suspect they are true. It's hard being a modest girl sometimes...

Christa Taylor

Hello Lily,
As a young single woman myself- I know your struggle. But these wise women are right on.
One writer mentioned Elizabeth Elliot. I would highly recommend her book : Passion and Purity.

I have personally committed to a "no-touch" relationship, keeping all my "firsts" for my husband after we are married.


As an orthodox Jew, we have pretty straightforward guidelines-basically, you are not allowed to touch a member of the opposite sex unless you are related, so at many weddings, the bride and groom hold hands for the first time when walking down the aisle after the ceremony! It also means that men and women don't dance together, and we aren't allowed to be alone together either. It sounds pretty extreme I know, but I read an amazing book by Gila Manolson called The Magic Touch that explains it quite eloquently, and it really makes so much sense. It sounds hard, but it's really worth it-I didn't grow up doing it (I'm 23), but I am now and I wish I had been all along! Someone who follows these rules is called shomer negia ("guardian" of touch in Hebrew)

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