Posted by: nieophyte | September 16, 2008

(A)sexual Relations

The recent news about Sarah Palin, her pregnant teen daughter Bristol, and the newest gossipy revelation that Sarah and her husband eloped, with their first child coming into the world only 8 months after the shotgun nuptials has got me thinking a lot about Christians and premarital sex.

Well– that’s not the complete truth. Being in a serious relationship at 25 and not having sex has REALLY got me thinking about Christians and premarital sex … me being the Christian and the premarital sex not having been gotten.

Readers, I, your dear nieophyte, am a 25-year-old-virgin. In some countries, I am the holy grail, literally. I could potentially be sold to a distant prince for a whole lot of money. But in America, I am some mix between mythical creature, satirized comedic punching bag, and straight up freak. I fully accept these cultural stereotypes/pressures from outsiders … those who did not grow up attending true love waits rallies, signing pledge cards promising to wait until marriage, wearing silver rings with crosses on their ring finger. But what about the inner circle? The fellow rally attendee? The chick who signed the pledge card with you? The cashier at the Christian bookstore who sold you that ring?

In the past few years, I’ve been bewildered to find that a lot of my Christian friends have sex lives that pretty much mirror my non-Christian friends.  They have seemingly happy relationships with their Christian boyfriends or girlfriends that include regular sex. And you know what? Quite frankly, they aren’t the damaged people that I expected them to be …

Friends … what am I supposed to do with this? I mean, dole out all the pat sunday school answers you want, but I am a little confused. People seem to be having premarital sex and getting along fine in the end … I mean, hell, Palin is overwhelmingly popular among conservative Christians who are hailing her as a saint. Bristol is considered brave and admirable for keeping her baby.

And yet I grew up learning that people who have premarital sex have severely messed themselves up and will have to do some crazy feat of spiritual acrobatics to excorcise the evil sex demons out of them … I exaggerate, but I’m sure that if you were also raised in a conservative christian church, you get the gist of what I’m saying. Were these teachings wildly exaggerated to scare me straight into 25 years of virginity? (in which case, bravo Rebecca St. James and all your mid-concert lectures about abstinence … they really worked!) Or are all my sexually active Christian friends deluded and will they one day, while doing the dishes or something, go insane as all the repercussions of their bad sexual choices bubble out of them?

I really really want to know.

No answers here, just earnest questions.

yours truly,

nieophyte.

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Responses

  1. one of the most intelligent things I’ve heard is that physical intimacy is a shortcut/substitution for real intimacy.
    americans will run to sex because they can’t have real conversations and work out issues. so, instead, they have “make-up sex”.

    perhaps not the definition of demon possessed, but, I think there’s wisdom in abstinence helps with the intimacy of a relationship (as odd as that may sound)

  2. Being young and married, I don’t know that I regret waiting but I’m not exactly sure why we did. It’s such a personal choice, I think you have to really figure out what works best for you and then live that out the best you can.

    But to answer your question, no — people who choose to have sex before they’re married aren’t necessarily going to have any negative consequences (certainly not more negative consequences than what you get for waiting, necessarily).

  3. I’m in the same boat as you, nieo. I have enough friends who are faithful Christians, and have had sex or have sex, that force me to think twice about the demonization of pre-marital sex.

    In others’ revealing their sexual activity, my initial reaction was shock and judgment, and then a forced need to be a “loving Christian.” Now I don’t know. I am in a relationship as well, and My girlfriend and I are still virgins. But we’ve had conversations about what’s right and wrong. We’d ask in the past, “What does the bible REALLY say about pre-marital sex?” as if hoping to find a way to make it permissible (to be very honest). I guess that’s the problem with viewing the Bible as a definitive guideline for daily human activity.

    To push back on attgig, my girlfriend and I have successfully worked out many of problems and, I believe, engaged in real intimacy without sex. Does that mean that now we can have sex?

  4. “It’s such a personal choice, I think you have to really figure out what works best for you and then live that out the best you can.”

    Jason, I’m wondering if you can explain this a little bit more to me because I certainly understand what you’re saying, but it seems to me like this is a way to rationalize whatever decision you make. If you did have premarital sex, you could say that you and your then-girlfriend made a personal choice, right? So my problem with that is … well then, what’s the “matter” with premarital sex? Why all the chastity hooplah in church? Why does true love wait?

    My suspicion is that it is not meant to be a personal choice … that there are deep and lasting theological reasons for why we should only be with a person in the context of marriage … and I would really like to know what those theological reasons– that go beyond thou shan’t– are.

  5. dude. if you want to have sex, go for it. (is justification enough for you to go for it? is that what you’re looking for?)

    and I agree with nieophyte…there has to be deep and lasting theological reasons. like why did God tell Jews not to eat pigs, the most tastiest animal in the world, and why did he allow us to eat them? there is no logical explanation, but God said it so, so that’s it.
    Why did he say no to (can of worms…) homosexuality, when homosexuals seem to be in a fine/loving relationship?

  6. Whoa there Matt. Relax buddy. I was afraid that my push-back would lead to exactly the type of response you gave. I was actually looking for more follow-up to what you had said earlier.

    So if you can provide more clarification…

  7. just going off what you said:
    “as if hoping to find a way to make it permissible (to be very honest)”

    i’m relaxed… now stop trying to piss me off.

  8. nieophyte and others replying to this post: The hands-down absolute best book on a Christian apologetic for premarital chastity that I have ever read is Lauren Winner’s “Real Sex.” She breaks down a lot of the myths that the world AND the church tells about sex (i.e. women don’t have hormones, you will immediately regret it and irrevocably scar yourself and your partner) all the while offering a researched, nuanced, and dare I say Biblical answer to the question of why sex should be reserved for marriage. Get it, read it, discuss it.

  9. One of the things missing in this discussion is that sex leads to pregnancy and babies, unless that is artificially prevented. That is not to suggest that birth control is per se evil, but it does raise the issue that Catholic thought has often raised. The issue of premarital sex is essentially to me that it isolates sex from it’s social and relational context and consequences. It is (as practiced) by default sterile and asks for the benefits of the sexual union without any of the potential costs or consequences. As such it is desacralized and commoditized. The question is not why should Christians refrain from premarital sex. A “God said” literally should be enough. We are called to be slaves of Christ after all. But we should rather ask why Christians are so ready to disobey this command, and I think it is frankly because we can and our technological ability prevents us from experiencing the consequences of our disobedience.

  10. i will keep my response as absolutely short as possible:

    1. i agree that premarital sex is, in the bible and for real life reasons, probably less healthy than a lifestyle of abstinence. that’s generally speaking, not legalistically speaking, and it comes from my own experience. yes, experience.

    2. i agree that obedience to Christ trumps human rationale, although it’s unclear what Jesus would say (see below).

    but let me ask these questions:

    – what would a levitical priest say about the loving, emotionally careful, intentional act of premarital sex in a long-term committed dating relationship where the couple eventually gets married? should we stone the woman (but maybe do nothing for the man) as it sets forth in Deut. 22? are dating relationships a phenomenon for which the bible even has a good analog beyond “general principles”?

    – same situation as above: what would jesus say? what would paul say? what would a Pharisee say?

    – finally, to be a fair devil’s advocate for both sides: if the answer to the question of “WHY abstinence” is debateable, can those who ask it answer the question “WHY NOT abstinence” in a way that’s authentically christian? if both questions are a push, should we err on the side of sex, or no sex?

  11. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    Given Matthew 5:28, and the reality that we all have committed adultery in our hearts, (not to be a po-mo relativist or anything) the line between physical and mental sin seems to be blurred.

    The other thing is that given the realities of modern society, as the marriage age gets pushed far beyond the biological urges (until the 1960s, I think the average age of marriage in the US was 19), abstinence becomes more and more different, emotionally and physically.

    None of this is to excuse or justify pre-marital sex, but I think that the discussion needs to take place in a social context.

  12. different=difficult

  13. “one of the most intelligent things I’ve heard is that physical intimacy is a shortcut/substitution for real intimacy.
    americans will run to sex because they can’t have real conversations and work out issues. so, instead, they have “make-up sex”.” -attgig

    Firstly:
    I think sex CAN be used as a shortcut, but that it is not always just an empty facade of intimacy. Makeup sex (dunno why that was put in quotes) can be legitimate as there are so many mysterious levels to emotional and physical intimacy that you are unfairly ruling out. For instance, when my mom strokes my hair, I am not separating out all the different factors of what might motivate her to do it or how it makes me feel. I’m not thinking about the shallow pleasure of her physical touch – instead it means a multitude of things, all simultaneously, all wonderfully mingled together. She’s expressing her love and affection for me, soothing me, and is reaching out to make a connection just because. Because she can, because she loves me and wants to make me feel happy. You can sit there and dissect and splice things for all eternity, but my point is that everything is linked together. So makeup sex could actually be a passionate expression of feeling reunited with one’s lover, in both body and spirit… Because sometimes words just can’t do what the body can. It’s almost kind of like praise & body worship.

    Secondly… again for attgig-

    I swear, every time I read a comment of yours, whether on here or Dan’s xanga I feel an immense, tortuous annoyance. But right now I’m angry – consider your last comment the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    …the eff is your problem man. Dan was just being honest and not sugarcoating the truth, so why are you getting pissed off? Is it because he failed to use falsely humble christian jargon when “confessing”?

    None of these questions are rhetorical, so please have at it. I actually wish I could in person.

  14. Sharon … many thanks for recommending Lauren Winner. I have read her book, but it’s been a while and I seem to have misplaced my copy. I will re-order it again … along with Rob Bell’s book, Sex God, which is also a great read for those who are interested.

    Overall, a lot of these comments have been really helpful, but I’m still wanting something deeper … and echo a lot of the questions that anakainosis closed with. What I’m essentially asking is … does something happen to people who have sex outside of the context of marriage that alters them fundamentally, ontologically, spiritually? And if this is the case … should I be able to see it or shouldn’t people feel damaged by it and shouldn’t it be undeniable?

    Something I do want to bring into this conversation is the concept of grace … maybe people who have premarital sex ARE broken, but in that brokenness, grace abounds, restores and heals.

  15. nieo, I think there is something essential and even mystical about sex that is its restriction to the marriage covenant preserves not only for the persons in the relationship, but for society at large. That is why I references the desacralization of sex and its commodification. The sexual act is personal, but it is not really private and so in some ways is not really about just the people involved and what it does to them, though it does impact them. Sex is social and how it’s dealt with has social implications. As for the people involved, I think it makes them (and us) less human by cheapening that which is meant to be precious as we can plainly see in our larger society which has embraced wholesale an ethic that sex is only about the pleasure and union of the two (or more) persons involved in the act. It literally de-means, strips of meaning, the sexual act.

    Sex is not the MOST essential of human activities – a person can live without it. But it is the most human of activities wherein one person becomes literally one person with another thus re-enacting or re-presenting the mystery of the Trinity and inherent in the act is the possibility of re-production; the bringing forth of new life into the world

  16. let’s get personal. i can assign sin to my shady past in this area bc there was sin attached to it. i wasn’t just having premarital sex, it was fully an indulgence of lust. it was not a loving, committed act. but i realize that’s not the experience for everyone.

    on a “common sense” level, the sexual act does make a fantastic “gift” because it is one that is intuitively sacred. contrary to what our culture teaches, my sense is that one can’t not know that something happens when you take off all of your clothes and share your body with another human being. now, you can present any other gift to your future spouse, like a book of sunrises that you took a picture of every day that you dated, or that trinket from around the world that she mentioned she saw once on a layover through italy.

    but abstinence is another gift along those lines, “common sense”-wise, and because it is so intuitively sacred, it may arguably be the very best gift.

    for me, though, it’s not about moral codes (even if it’s right, it’s legalistic, if you ask me, and thus easy to violate), nor about making it a gift to a faceless nameless future spouse (i’ve always rationalized out of that one too). my abstinence is of the last 7 years (although i haven’t been a saint that whole time), and for me, it’s a matter of character and being able to present a record of physical fidelity that my future wife can find trustworthy, at the very least. i’m still working on that, as well as on emotional loyalty.

    but that’s my story with sexual purity. it’s not universal truth.

  17. i guess i’ll throw in my 2 cents.

    sex itself doesn’t fundamentally change you or your spirituality. it all depends on who you are, your views and the context in which you have sex. you may not believe me, but there’s a huge difference in how u feel the next day after a one nighter and sex with a loved one. sex is not intimacy, but it can enhance it like krazy. it’s like lighter fluid – u need it for a bbq, but if ur not careful it could burn ur house down. in hell flames.

    maybe for you, if you have sex, you’ll find yourself the next day remarkably the same. or maybe you’ll be bawling… which would be really awkward for the guy. but yeah, any change that you have really just depends on where you were beforehand, which is why fundamentally, sex doesn’t cause ontological change.

    i think i changed after i had sex. i felt pretty broken afterwards, but not because i felt dirty or whatever. i just felt like a fool for judging other christians who were sexually active, as if sex is some far-off evil sin that only bad bad people do. and as i dwelled on it, i felt pretty dumb for judging people for their other sins. and in the end i think i became a more understanding dude… kind of.

    maybe that’s the grace you’re talking about. it not only saved me from being struck dead immediately after i sinned, but it also erased all the brainwashing about sex, that it’s somehow a different class of sin, an uber sin with guaranteed years of psychological damage for me and the girl… grace flushed all the bullshit down the toilet. so if someone comes up to me and tells me about their struggles with sexual sin or something… i guess i can be more understanding. (by the way, that’s one good way to see if someone’s had sex. tell them about ur sexual exploits, and if they freak out, then you know they’re still saints.)

    that being said, you probably don’t want to have sex w/ ur bf, cuz it’d probably be the cause of a lot of unneeded tension… which wouldn’t be relieved until u stopped caring about it and just hooked up all the time. just my humble thoughts.

  18. on a side note, i was debating between that comment and “a/s/l?”

    i should have submitted a/s/l…..

  19. bravo, chris. good comment

    28/m/in the 404 baby

  20. while engaging in some merginglanes gchatting:

    Nieo: so … what is with all the haters on merging lanes
    Ana: i don’t know
    i think everyone just needs to get laid

    awwwww, we kid, we kid.
    Thanks for all the great comments folks. This has been very educational and encouraging! I think true love will wait just a little longer. But seriously … hopefully not too much longer 😉

  21. I hope I don’t have to wait much longer either (see my most recent post)… btw I’m in the 404 next week

  22. You are? Does David know too?

  23. See what I want so much, should never hurt this bad
    Never did this before, that’s what the virgin said
    We’ve been generally warned, that’s what the surgeon says
    God talk to me now this is an emergency

  24. Yup.. I know David; saw him this weekend and will see him tomorrow (Sept 22).

  25. (29/m in the 215)

    I’m technical a virgin. I think that should be sufficient to cover my perspective/experiences. I’m no saint… just hoping for mercy when my time comes.

    I think it’s simpler for Christians to live as if God wasn’t there… or maybe He said something different. Either way, it’s functionally atheist. So we have normal Christians having sex outside of marriage, that just tells me that Christians = sinners. I think we get surprised by that… as if there were actually innocent people out there in the Church somewhere…

    I know that this post is asking about the repercussions of pre-marital sex. I have to say, it’s different for each person. I wish I could generalize it, but I can’t. Can we at least agree that God is good and when He commands something, there is good reason for following? I can’t pretend to understand the entirety of spiritual, emotional, and physical price of sex outside of marriage, but I do understand that if God is good and loving and commands something… there is enormous weight behind it.

    For me, personally… it’s a mind-f@#%. Outside, everything appears normal, but inside there is some serious landmines lurking. Physical intimacy w/o commitment is just asking for someone to rip you to shreds and that’s just at an emotional level. We haven’t touched much on STD’s or pregnancies. And I’m out of my element talking about the spiritual aspects of it.

    I’m of the idea that those who have sex outside of marriage will have things to deal with, if and when they get married. We all will have to face our sins… both asexual and sexual whether we get married and our spouse forces us to face it… or we die, and God judges us. I’m hoping for grace in both my marriage and eventual judgment.

    On top of all this, there is the sub-current here in the USA of unrealistic expectations for marriage and weddings. And also that some sins are worse than other sins: murder, suicide, smoking, adultery, stealing, etc. These are hinted at here and there in the post, but I think that they too have brought us to this point. Our concepts of marriage and sin are being shaped by cultural rather than biblical standards.

    So the best piece of advice I can give you?
    “It’s better to marry than to burn…”
    I know, not a very good answer when all you can think about is… “It is not good for man to be alone.”


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