Sex before Marriage.

Here’s a debate about that i’ve seen some Dopers come down on one side or the other. Though I don’t think i’ve really ever seen it as a debate, per se; it tends to crop up as a tangent in the ubiquitous religion debates or gay marriage debates. I know some Dopers are in favour of this as a personal choice, though I know of none who favour it as a good plan for all people, so this may not get any interest. Oh well.

My side of it is this; I don’t get it. Usually, when I hear it brought up (not generally here, and yes, I am generalising) the idea that someone shouldn’t have sex before marriage seems to be a factor of marriage being a highly important bond. Sometimes sex is deemed shallow and a meaningless thing without the bonds of marriage; sometimes to the contrary it’s deemed a highly important thing, often in terms of procreation, and that’s why it should be kept to within a marriage. I’d say that the many kinds of contraception deal with the procreation problem, assuming that the person in question isn’t againt those outside of marriage. But really my main objection is that it just doesn’t seem like a good plan.

The general idea of marriage is that it’s a pretty important and life-changing decision to make. It’s not something to be entered into lightly; though the anti-sex-before-marriage people may disagree on many things, this seems to be something of a constant, and i’d wager most people who aren’t bothered when people have sex would agree, too. People don’t propose at the end of a first date (generally). You get to know one another first. You find out what the other person things about things - their general outlook on life. You might meet their family. All the things that let you know that this is a person you can honestly promise to (and look forward to) spending the rest of your life with. And yet, on this particular issue, the idea seems to be that you should not get to know someone this way. And that just seems odd to me; I would think that the more value one placed on marriage, the more you would want to know about the other person to make sure you were making the right choice. And sexual compatibility isn’t guaranteed.

To me it’s like someone saying that you shouldn’t talk about politics before you get married. Everything else is fine, but talking about politics, about your views of how society works and how it should work, is a deeply intimate thing that should only occur within a marriage. Only when you are truly sure of someone, and have made a guarantee with them, should you share your views. And to me it just seems like it should be the other way around - you can’t know you’re sure without finding out these things.

But, like i’ve said, I don’t get this, which generally with me tends to mean I just haven’t heard the whole story. So what are people’s thoughts on this?

As far as I know, it is purely a religious belief. Take religion out of the equation, and I don’t know anyone who advocates total abstinence before marriage…

Realise that the Old Testament (Tanakh) was compiled around 450BC, and the basic laws of the Jewish faith probably set down centuries before that.

It could be said that life was a bit different back then than in modern day.

One of the main issues was that women were by-and-large property. If a girl has an accidental child before getting married, that ends her prospects for going into another household and then her parents have to support her and the child for the rest of their days. Then there’s secondary issues of inheritance and such. A bastard son is sort of an awkward duckling when it comes to inheritance laws, and a bastard girl, who is going to pay her dowry?

Most ancient Hebrew law, the basic way to understand it isn’t “God said no.” But rather that ancient Jewish priests and chieftains generally came down on the side of quick and easy solutions. If something had the chance to cause any sort of hassles, “No. Never. We stone you to death.”, was a good all-purpose policy.

Although when I was single there were a lot of sexual things I had no problem doing, sexual intercourse was the one thing I wouldn’t do. To be honest, religion is part of it, but there are two other reasons that, if I were to become an atheist and single again, would keep me from having sex before marriage.

They are not wanting to cause an unintentional pregnancy, and the other is not catching an STD. Yeah yeah, I know, wear a condom and so on, but condoms break, and while waiting till you’re married isn’t 100% guaranty against unwanted pregnancies and STDs, it is the safest bet.

I knew a couple of guys where I use to work who had big chunks of their paycheck taken out for child support. That made me feel so glad that I never fooled around and wound up in the same boat.

Personally, I have no problem with sex before marriage: I lived with my husband for several years before we formalized the relationship, and I’ve never had a single second thought about that.

However, I think the sexual incompatibility thing is a bit of a red herring: for one thing, no sex before marriage doesn’t mean no talking about sex before marriage, and it seems highly unlikely to me that any two people who knew each other very well, who like and love each other and who both go out of their way to please each other in all things, who are considerate and kind in all their encounters, and who are willing and able to both talk and listen, are likely to find that despite all this, they are some how “sexually incompatible”. That doesn’t mean that heavenly choirs will sing right out of the gate, but if you’ve been able to resolve a dozen or more other issues before marriage, I don’t think it’s crazy to take it on faith that you will be able to resolve any sexual compatibility issues that arise after marriage. Especially if you had some frank conversations about expectations before the wedding.

I am bothered by double standards–calling for celibacy among unmarried men but not unmarried women demands the development of an underclass of sexually active women that are separated from society, and that is disturbing.

It’s rooted in sexual control of women and archaic treatment of women as physical property. It was about trying to eliminate doubts about paternity. A woman who had premarital sex was devalued as property.

The notion that men needed to be celibate before marriage is a more recent phenomenon.

It is purely a religious thing now all about ritual purity and magical thinking. Somethimes they will try to rationalize it by saying that its more “special” if thy save it for marriage, but it isn’t. I’ve done both and I can say that sex before marriage takes away nothing from sex after marriage. I’d actually say that wedding nightsex i BETTER if you’ve done it before. Of course it is. Why anybody thinks that experience would do anything but make it better makes no sense to me.

While your idea is true in theory, it seems pretty likely to me that most of the people who refuse to have sex before marriage are the sorts who will have serious problems with a “frank conversation” about sex as well. I’d expect most of them to say nothing to each other and hope for the best.

I can think of few things more useless than two people who have never had sex trying to decide if they’re sexually compatible by talking about it.

I dunno. I’ve known some pretty frank religious conservatives in my day. IME, nice kids in conservative religious families still neck and make out and talk about sex, they just delay coitus (or “below the waist”, or where ever they draw the line) until after marriage.

I agree that there are still ultra-conservative people who seem to encourage total sexual ignorance before marriage, and I agree that seems likely to lead to problems after marriage. But even then, marriage is full of having to work out potential incompatible areas, many of which you really can’t predict or talk about in advance, because life springs things on us. I don’t regret having sex before marriage, but I don’t think it made my marriage any better or more secure–it’s neutral.

My wife is from China. Went to high school in the 1980s.

China at that time was amazingly prudish. Girls and boys didn’t even date in high school. (This was central China; I’m not talking about Beijing.) She tells me that there were classes that betrothed couples could attend … to make sure they knew the Facts of Life before getting married. She didn’t have sex before marriage. That was the norm; taken for granted.

The point is that it was also an ideologically atheist society. Unless you count communism as a religion (which there could be a case for that), their traditional attitudes about marriage did not have anything to do with religion.

Make of it what you will.

For one thing, talking ought to give you some idea of each other’s expectations. More so, however, it’s that the being able to talk frankly about sex means you can have some degree of faith in your ability to resolve any compatibility issues that arise after marriage. Sex isn’t rocket science.

This came up in a discussion between my mom and I and same-sex marriage. Mom’s quite pro-gay but she balked at this one.

She said that marriage is a commitment between a man and a woman who love each other and want to take a vow before God and state to remain together for their natural lives. Same-sex marriages lessen different-sex marriages. <-- paraphrase

I asked what in that wouldn’t apply to a truly loving same-sex couple? The only thing involved in a straight marriage vs a gay marriage is vaginal penetration by a penis. Everything other criteria else a gay or lesbian couple can meet. It seems to me that reducing a life-long commitment to the proper form of pig-in-a-blanket cheapens marriage too.

Marriage is more than sex and to say that you can’t have sex until you are wedlocked does the same.

Yes sex is the closest two people can get to being physically one, but that doesn’t mean intimacy. Marriage IS intimacy.

You don’t know what you want until you do it. There isn’t a thing two virgins can learn about their sexual compatibility by talking about it.

Well. From a purely physical standpoint, I suppose not, but if you happen to have one or a few really hot fantasies that totally do it for you, talking about them with your partner is one good way to find out if he/she shares them. I speak from experience. Ahem.

Nobody, you don’t need to have vaginal sex to catch an STD.

Just teach your kids to not have sex with people they don’t care for or about. That will alleviate about 99% of the problem. It’s not a matter of whether you have sex, it’s about who you have sex with. Marriage is a social contract with implications far beyond, and more important than, having sex. Marriage isn’t a contract to have sex and that’s where people, religion and pompous blowhards get it all wrong.

Teach you kids to care, really care, about other people. Then their decisions will have substance.

And when you are 22 you don’t know what you will want at 30 and when you are 30 you don’t know what you will want at 45. Libido and preferences shift and evolve throughout our lives, and I’d argue that perfect sexual compatibility when you get married could be bad for a marriage–after all, if your sexual needs are in perfect sync at the time, you never learn if the other person is going to be considerate and flexible if your needs/tastes/styles change. I’d rather be with a person that pays attention to me and wants to please me than with someone who happens to be my magical perfect match in a given period–because that won’t be my match in ten years.

Yeah, but how often does reality match fantasy?

Talking isn’t going to tell you if somebody can give head, or tell yiu if YOU would like giving head. It doesn’t tell you how somebody feels and smells in the act. It doesn’t tell you how aggressive they are, how fast they are, how orgasmic they are, how gentle or generous or selfish.

Talking about sex you’ve never had is like talking about food you’ve never eaten. You’re deluding yourself if you think it really gives you any useful information.

I once saw a survey in a magazine about whether people had better sex if they waited until after marriage.

The people who’d waited thought they did, but they had no basis for comparison.
The people who hadn’t waited thought THEY did, but, again, they had no basis for comparison.

Like DtC, I can’t imagine the kind of conversation two virgins could have with each that would be helpful. Maybe some that might be moderately helpful.

It also seems to me that the kind of person who can stop, at a certain point, and coldly say, “Let’s wait,” is not going to warm up significantly after marriage. I’m thinking of girlfriends I had, who were insistent on being virgins at the altar and who turned out to have lots and lots of problems with sex after marriage. And one boyfriend who put on the brakes, and who finally came out as queer about 10 years after we dated (and after one marriage).

I did have a friend who, after too many guys, decided that the next one she wasn’t going to do anything until after marriage, and she wouldn’t so much as kiss a guy. I would have had to do that, too–there were guys I could have kissed without getting caught up in it, but you don’t really know until you’ve kissed them and with certain guys, that’s too late.

People can be intimate without being married, and lose intimacy even after being married. And I can’t see considering yourself close enough to take such a major step without sharing sex.

Not to mention, the evening of a very stressful wedding day is an absolutely awful occasion to have sex for the first time.