Pre-Marital Sex: A Must-Have or Morally Wrong?
Sex before marriage is more common than ever, but lovers still face criticism
A simple Google search of "sex before marriage" will land you in a sudden, and conflicting, flurry of concerned inquiries and confident declarations from both prohibitors of and participants in pre-marital sex who engage in conversations -- without ever really coming to a consensus -- about why having it is important, why waiting is beneficial, why it's surely a sin, and why not doing it is ultimately detrimental.
Relationship experts and religious authorities may weigh in, but the question remains, as it has for generations: Should you or shouldn't you?
Following his wedding last month, FOX News columnist Steven Crowder—who "waited sexually in every way" with his wife—declared that they "did it right." If you're feeling judged, Crowder "couldn't care less" because they, the "young, celibate, naive Christian couple," were told their first time would be "awkward and terrible." But, shared Crowder, his wedding was "perfect," especially in comparison to another recently-wedded pair he'd met whose ceremony was simply "one big party [and] another hangover."
Crowder's not-so-subtle advice to society? "If you’re young and wondering whether you should wait, whether you should just give in, do it the world's way and become a live-in harlot/mimbo."
It's that exact slander that sexuality expert Dr. Logan Levkoff, author of "Third Base Ain't What It Used to Be," believes is the issue when talking matters of pre-marital sex—not one's measure of purity.
"The fact that we have a population that vilifies the concept of sex before marriage is a really bad thing," Levkoff said. "We are all sexual beings and choosing to engage in any kind of sex before you have some commitment does not make you a bad person, it makes you very human."
In fact, it makes you part of the majority. Ninety-three percent of Americans admitted to having pre-marital sex by age 30.
Additionally, Americans are increasingly getting married later in life. As of 2011, the median age of both brides and grooms for their first marriage had never been higher at 26.5 and 28.7 years of age, respectively. In 1960, 72 percent of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51 percent are.
"We are extending our adolescence, giving us greater opportunity than ever before to have multiple sexual partners, multiple jobs and live in multiple parts of the country before we settle into a monogamous partnership," said psychotherapist Dr. Tammy Nelson, author of "Getting the Sex You Want." "This is a time of life where we tend to be 'polysexual' and are encouraged to explore our 'options' before we choose that one person that we want to spend our lives committed to."
And couples who do decide to marry early are no more likely to make it in the long run.
"Waiting until marriage often means both early marriage and conservative views on marriage and gender," journalist Jill Filipovic wrote following Crowder's commentary. "And people who marry early and/or hold traditional views on marriage and gender tend to have higher divorce rates and unhappier marriages. It turns out that feminist values—not 'traditional' ones—lead to the most stable marriages. And feminist views plus later marriage typically equals premarital sex."
Indeed, a 2011 report from the University of Iowa, declared that "politically and religiously conservative states, especially in the Deep South, exhibit higher divorce rates than politically and religiously liberal states in the Northeast and Midwest."
Author Jennifer Glass, a sociology professor, wrote that contributing factors included, "the prohibition of sex before marriage leading to marriage at an earlier age and teachings against abortion and birth control [leading] to 'shotgun weddings.'" Also, that "young married couples may experience financial problems because of lower degrees of education and increased unemployment, which are risk factors for divorce."
Despite the progressive nature of pre-marital sex, relationship expert Dr. Margaret Paul still advises that lovers learn each other first. As of last year, 4 in 10 pregnancies in the United States were unplanned. And every year, there are an estimated 19 million new STD infections in America.
"It's not waiting for marriage that is the issue with sex, but that people have sex way too soon in a relationship, before the deeper level of love, caring and commitment is there," Paul said. "It's fine to have sex before marriage if two people have taken their time to know each other -- which means that they have to be together long enough to have conflict. People can seem wonderful until there is conflict."
It's those who never overcome the conflict that Levkoff feels are forgotten altogether when discussing pre-marital sex, because not everybody will experience a first night as flawless as Crowder's—and that's if they marry at all.
"Sexual chemistry and understanding your body and how to communicate that with someone else is an important part of a relationship," Levkoff said. "It's not something that you just magically get once you have a formal legal commitment to someone else. And if we expect that there are going to be fireworks emotionally or physically when that first happens, we are sadly mistaken. Also, the issue with 'not being able to have sex before marriage' suggests that there's this one experience that everyone has and that if you don't have the experience of marriage, than you're not entitled to sex."
Though the purist perception of having premarital sex may never change, today's shifting societal factors will certainly influence, at the very least, how often it occurs.
"'Waiting' for sex seems trite and somewhat regressed when we are talking about waiting until 28," Dr. Nelson said. "It made sense at 18, but now we are out of college, out of grad school and living on our own for at least five years. And still no sex? I have one question for [Crowder], does that include masturbation, too?"