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Pre-Marital Sex in America

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16 November 2011

Pre-Marital Sexuality in America

In the Bible, we find instruction, along with real life experiences relating to sex and marriage. The Bible contains a lot of insight on intimate passion and how to please your husband or wife. To engage in sexual activity with your significant other in a covenant marriage is supposed to be a totalizing experience; it should be done in regards to not only reproduction, but also to the enjoyment of both people involved. When sexual intercourse is wholehearted in pleasing both yourself and your partner, and erotic emotion invades every part of your body and soul, we actually think about what we are doing and the person we are doing it with. This is a totalizing sexual experience. But there are plenty of married couples who do not have this experience. On the other hand, there are many unwed, Christian couples who do. If you do not need to be married to have a strong relationship with God, and if you do not need to be married to have a fulfilling sexual experience with your partner, why is pre-marital sex frowned upon?

In December 2006, researchers from the Guttmacher Institute found through research that about 95% of America’s public population had already had sex before they were married. Out of that percentage, about 84% of them were unmarried Americans between the ages of 18-23 (Regnerus et al. 1). While most of these people have sexual relationships with their first loves at younger ages or involve themselves in unreserved sex during college, many of them do eventually marry someone (whether that is the first love, the third, or the twelfth) at some point in their lives. Even with this being true, controversy still rises within the church about whether it is “ok” for unmarried people to indulge in what is meant to be a spiritual and physical glory to God, and an activity intended for husband and wife.

In Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships, Harry Schaumburg says “To be spiritually mature you must be sexually mature; to be sexually mature you must be spiritually mature.” (4) This could lead us to believe that if a person is spiritually mature, regardless of age, he should express his sexuality in order for that to mature as well, but he goes on,

Sex has been around forever. It is of interest to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, cultural background or education…Quite simply, sex is essential. And sex will not end until the new heaven and the new earth. Married people are supposed to engage in sex regularly, yet the truth is many do not and struggle sexually. Other couples use sex inappropriately in sinful ways. The way sex is viewed and worshiped in our culture is a perversion of the real importance of our sexuality. (21)

Schaumburg does not elaborate on which types of couples he is referring to here, but he does say a little about pornography and the impact it has on younger people; it promotes sex without long-term commitment. This is what I assume he regards as inappropriate sex, and I believe that may be indicating that unwed couples who engage in sexual intercourse are those couples who are sinning. But when he says, “Intercourse is a moment of passion, pleasure, union and intimacy that brings an emotional, spiritual, and relational experience…” (22), which agrees with the “sexuality vs. spirituality” quote I mentioned earlier, but contradicts what he has said here. Other couples can and do experience these emotions and are sometimes better off than those married couples who do not.

Schaumburg also mentions that while abstinence (staying a virgin until marriage) is still God’s standard, being a virgin on your wedding night is not all that God intends. To live spiritually and sexually for a purpose other than to fulfill a self-seeking agenda is what has been referred to as sexual redemption (6). This idea argues that premarital sex is acceptable in most cases where the objective is not only to please one’s self.

Stephen Grunlan believes that premarital sexual experience may affect the quality of marital sex. He quotes a hypothesis made by Frank Cox, secular sociologist,

Early sexual experiences largely set the attitudes and individual will have toward sexual intercourse throughout his or her life. If one’s early sexual experiences occur premaritally, the chances are that the quality of such experiences will be less than optimum conditions [sic]. As a result, large numbers of our youth may begin their adult sexual life with negative attitudes toward the sexual act. (90)

This suggests that people who have had sex before marriage tend to not enjoy it anymore after they are married. It also proposes that most people have unpleasant sexual experiences if it occurs out of wedlock. The sociological outlook on the issue is helpful, but can be questioned because it is ultimately one man’s opinion based on his studies.

In the article, Premarital Predictors of Marital Quality and Stability, interactional history is discussed. Interactional history includes acquaintance, cohabitation, premarital sex, and premarital pregnancy, and refers to the communication, conflict, and consensus building. It is stated that “the better acquainted the spouses in a couple are before marriage, the higher the marital quality” (Larson et al. 232). It is made clear that while cohabiting may help a couple develop a closer relationship, and that they typically learn to deal with conflict better than those who do not, the marriages between cohabiters are less successful than those who never live together before marriage.

A conclusion had been drawn stating that premarital sexual intercourse is related to later marital dissatisfaction and even divorce. In a study involving couples married between the years 1935 and 1938, researchers found that “premarital sexual experience with one 's fiancé & and other partners was related to lower marital satisfaction and divorce for men; premarital sex with one 's fiancé was related to divorce for women.” In 1977, it was discovered that the issue of unhappiness for married couples was not caused by premarital copulation unless the woman had been highly sexually active since before the age of 16 years. The effect of premarital pregnancy on a marriage seems to vary on factors such as ethnicity, location, and also whether the child was born before or after the couple was already married, even if conception occurred before (Larson et al. 233).

While this article does not mention religion, it gives facts about how pre-marital relations of all kinds directly affect marriages. With statistics from over 70 years ago that are consistent with those of today, what the article proves is reliable. In most cases, the aspects of our relationships before marriage that may appear to be helpful in development could be result in divorce.

According to James B. Nelson in his book, Embodiment, there are two basic reasons why sexual intercourse is reserved for marriage, one of which has been brought up already. The first is “the insistence that God has joined the two major purposes of intercourse together, the unitive and the procreative… [sic]” and that violating the sex act dishonors the Creator. He quotes, ‘It is not…necessary that every act of intercourse be directed towards conception, but the act is only justified within the context of a relationship which can…provide the resources for the nurture and education of a child (154).’ This statement implies that because people do not generally participate in pre-marital sex considering the possibility of becoming pregnant in that moment, it isn’t being done for what it is made for.

The second reason Nelson gives focuses on “the radical nature of the unitive dimension itself: the one-flesh perspective, [sic]” which is the specialness of the very first experience of sexual act. He says that the first sexual experience is so overwhelming and different from any other experience that it is best reserved for marriage, where it is symbolic and is given meaning (154).

‘Before marriage, and even in the most sincere and honest engagement, neither is fully and objectively responsible for the other: after is they are legally, socially, and personally committed. They are no longer independent centers of action but ‘one flesh,’ sharing all their possessions and potentialities, all their trials and tribulations…’ (154)

This argument is only fair, because in a marriage you share your life entirely with another. Before then, you can place blame and make accusations that will sound just, when in actuality you have all of the control. At this point, you are still a complete individual with no obligation to consider what will happen if you choose not to do something that you could potentially wish you hadn’t. In a marriage, the thought that you might suddenly want your virginity back, although impossible, is unlikely to appear. This expression of love is one that you have already decided that you would like to share with your significant other. It makes sense that it means so much more when the person that you make love to for the first time is the person that you will be with for the rest of your life.

There are reasons that are religious and reasons non-religious, some factual and some arguable, that support the idea that virginity should be held on to until marriage. Overall, those given here all make sense and are agreeable in one way – premarital sex has proven to affect the possibility and/or the outcome of marriages in a negative light. In most cases, it either never happens or fails somewhere down the line. It has also been established that for those who use sex strictly for pleasure are doing so in vain (although this also applies to married couples or individuals in a marriage who do the same) because the ultimate goal of sexual intercourse is to not only please yourself, but to please your partner and in cooperation with potential childbirth. Furthermore, the emotion that comes with sexual intercourse has been judged to be best invested in the married relationship. Based on all of this, it is easier to see now why many people frown upon sex before marriage.

Works Cited
"Christian Marriage Advice on Sex and Marriage." The Intimate Couple - Igniting Passion in the Marriage of Your Dreams. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. .
Grunlan, Stephen A.. Marriage and the family: a Christian perspective. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999. Print.
Lawson, Jeffry H., and Thomas B. Holman. "Premarital Predictors of Marital Quality and Stability." Family Matters 43.2 (1994): 228-237. Print.
Nelson, James B.. "The Morality of Sexual Variations." Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology. Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. House, 1978. 152-179. Print.
Regnerus, Mark, and Jeremy Uecker. "Introduction." Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think About Marrying. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. 1. Print.
Schaumburg, Harry W.. Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009. Print.

Cited: "Christian Marriage Advice on Sex and Marriage." The Intimate Couple - Igniting Passion in the Marriage of Your Dreams. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. . Grunlan, Stephen A.. Marriage and the family: a Christian perspective. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999. Print. Lawson, Jeffry H., and Thomas B. Holman. "Premarital Predictors of Marital Quality and Stability." Family Matters 43.2 (1994): 228-237. Print. Nelson, James B.. "The Morality of Sexual Variations." Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology. Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. House, 1978. 152-179. Print. Regnerus, Mark, and Jeremy Uecker. "Introduction." Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think About Marrying. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. 1. Print. Schaumburg, Harry W.. Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009. Print.

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