Why Do I Think Sex Outside Marriage is OK?
Tuesday, December 13, 2011Tweet
Disclaimer 1: This post is about sex.
Disclaimer 2: This post talks about rape and sexual abuse and has the potential to be triggering.
Disclaimer 3: This post is kind of long. Sorry.
Sometimes there are questions that I avoid until you guys make me confront them head on.
I've talked before about why I don't think it's fair to jump to conclusions about people who have sex outside of marriage or who wait until they're married to have sex. There are too many judgments and assumptions on both sides of the equation, and no two people are exactly the same.
I've also linked to a blog post by John Green about how actually attaching a concrete definition to "sex before marriage" is all but impossible.
But as someone who identifies as a person of faith and comes from a community of faith that says in no uncertain terms that you shouldn't be having sex outside of marriage, I figured I'd have to defend my own personal views sooner or later.
So here I am, after having received a comment on my previous post essentially saying that the problems of sexual assault would go away if we just kept sex within marriage. I couldn't even get myself to start on this post last night because I just kept making loud noises of frustration every time I re-read the last paragraph.
Keep in mind that I had just read this post on Jen's blog.
This commenter talked about the widespread problem of sexual abuse and sexual assault, and then she said, "I do not believe that sex in general is inherently wrong but I do believe that sex in the wrong context is one of the most destructive sins of all. It ruins lives and causes trauma. And that's is why I am rather conservative in my views about sex and believe that it should be reserved for marriage. I think that it is worth doing whatever possible to protect as many women and children (and men, in rare cases) as possible. If everyone saved their sexual impulses for the right context-- a monogamous marriage--I think the world would be a better place. And we might finally be able to view sex as what it was meant to be--a gift from God." [emphasis mine]
Tell that to the woman getting raped by her husband every night. You think that's not traumatic because they're having sex in the "right context"?
Think about that a minute.
To me, what's important is that sex happens in an atmosphere of love and mutual respect, as a way of expressing love and caring for one another by the gift of oneself. I don't see it as much different than the spirit of service that should pervade the rest of a relationship, except that God decided to make it physically pleasurable.
I don't believe a marriage certificate is necessary for the above. And I believe you can have a marriage certificate and not have the above.
The idea that we have to restrict sex to marriage seems to stem from this idea that we have too much sex, that our "sexual impulses," as she said, are just running wild all over the place, and that that's the problem. That sexual abuse and assaults wouldn't happen if we could just have less sex in the world by limiting it to certain contexts.
But here's the problem with that argument: Sex is not the problem.
Let me say that again: Sex is not the problem.
By and large, sexual crimes are not about the sex. Let's face it, if a guy just wanted an orgasm, he has the ability to achieve that all by himself. What we're talking about are crimes of power and domination and control. Sex is the means, not the end. It's a tool. A weapon. Something that is taken, rather than given. And that is the problem.
Not the legal status of the people involved in a sexual act.
I would argue that the man who is forcing himself on his wife at every opportunity is doing way more to corrupt and distort the beauty and Godliness of sex than the couple who is lovingly serving each other in bed but don't happen to have had a wedding ceremony.
I'm focusing on sexual crimes because that's what this commenter was trying to argue about -- that having sex outside of marriage is somehow the reason for sex being distorted in this way. But I don't think that's the only way that sex can be distorted. A woman who withholds sex from her husband as a way to bargain with him or "punish" him for something he did -- that's a distortion of sex too. That's using sex, or the lack thereof, as a weapon.
I'm also not a fan of casual sex -- e.g., hookups, first-date sex -- not because it happens outside of marriage, but because I don't think it's generally an expression of love and service to one's partner in those contexts. If you're having sex with someone you just met, or with a "friend with benefits," then sex is more than likely intended to be solely about your own pleasure. It's a lustful, selfish kind of sex. (And it does have consequences. I did a research paper on "hookups" in grad school and the whole appeal is that it's supposedly sex with no lasting consequences, but there are almost always emotional, if not physical, consequences.)
And really, sex can be lustful and selfish even within marriage. Like I said in the comments of my previous post, a couple could be adhering to all of the supposed "rules" about sex -- having it in a monogamous married relationship, with no barriers to conception -- but be doing it solely as a way of feeding their individual pleasures and not out of any affection for each other. And I think that is a shadow of what sex should really be.
I believe that sex in its truest form is an expression of love and service. And that's true regardless of whether the partners involved are straight or gay, married or unmarried. Sex is not distorted by taking away the religious or governmental recognition of the partners' commitment to each other. Sex, as given to us by God, is distorted when it's used as a form of domination, of violence, of selfishness.
Having said all of that.
You may know that Mike and I saved sex for marriage. In fact, we saved our first kiss for marriage. So I feel that to give this topic its full due, I also need to talk about why we made that choice. That will be Thursday's post. [Update: Here's that post.]
Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.
Update: Dianna E. Anderson wrote a fantastic post on this same issue that responds even more directly and beautifully to the problems in the comment I received.