i am so glad that i did not wait to have sex until marriage. in fact, i'm not only glad that i wasn't a virgin when i got married, i'm also glad that i wasn't a virgin when i met my husband. not only am i glad, but also feel morally sound. this may be a shocking statement to many of my religious friends, but i don't make it offhandedly or for shock value. before i continue, let me preface with a disclaimer. A) i am talking about premarital sex, not teen sex. they are separate issues that are too often confused. B) i am talking about my own experience, and what i have personally witnessed. if it is different from your experience, great. i'm not judging anyone else's experience.
the way i see it, there are two major disservices done to people by pushing abstinence until marriage. first, those who do have sex are more likely to have unsafe sex. rather than making informed sexual choices and being prepared (condoms, birth control, etc), young people from the "waiting" camp end up taking greater risks with their health. furthermore, they aren't able to seek education and advice because if they admit to having sex the only acceptable response within the church is total shame. you can only admit to being sexually active if you are repenting, never in hopes of finding guidance about physically and emotionally healthy sexual relationships. messages to young single christians always talk about how damaging premarital sex is, but it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. sex without physical education and emotional support is indeed damaging, but it is the church that forces premarital sex into this category and then piously states "told you so" when someone ends up pregnant or emotionally scarred.
secondly, those who don't have sex often develop a really weird view of what marriage is and means. in many singles groups marriage is only talked about in terms of being the appropriate venue for sex, and many young couples get married to satisfy hormonal urges rather than for healthy and loving reasons. rigidly teaching abstinence until marriage is intended to make marriage something special, but what it really does is oversimplify and devalue marriage and set couples up for failure. they marry the first person they are overwhelmingly sexually attracted to, regardless of long term compatibility. alternately, i know couples who so bought into the idea of sex as being sinful that even once they were married they didn't consummate it.
christian singles are told that premarital sex will ruin future relationships and lead to divorce. they are told that any sex outside of marriage is 100% wrong and only about using people. but in my opinion, a major way to ruin a marriage is to go into it thinking it is simply a license to have sex, rather than seeing it as spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually, as well as sexually meaningful. and what worse way to use someone than to marry them just for sex?
i firmly believe that my marriage is stronger and better because having sex did not figure into the decision to get married. my husband and i didn't choose eachother as marriage partners simply because we wanted eachother as sexual partners. nor did we get married because we had sex and felt guilty and obligated. we got married because we love and respect eachother deeply, are best friends, and want to be together for life. we had sex while we were dating, and experiencing my then boyfriend as a sexual partner showed me important things about his character that made me want him as my husband. part of why i knew he was the man i wanted to marry was because i knew in the most intimate way that he was respectful, considerate, generous, and fun. getting to know eachother physically while we were dating helped us get to know eachother on many levels. by the time we decided to get married we knew eachother deeply and trusted eachother deeply, in part because we had been sexually intimate. our hormones didn't make the marriage decision for us because we didn't repress them, and instead they helped to build a strong relationship that ended up being something we decided to continue for the rest of our lives.
but for me it goes a step further. i am glad that i had sex before i met my husband. i am glad that the awkwardness of first sex had worn off and i was free to just enjoy him. a lot of my embarrassment with my own body and inhibitions were gone, so i could be a more attentive and joyful lover. i am glad that i had other sexual partners as a comparison, in the same way that i'm glad i had dated other men. that way when i felt a deep emotional, intellectual, and sexual connection with him i knew that it wasn't simply because he was the first but rather because he was the "one".
rather than setting us up for failure in marriage, premarital sex helped us to build a strong foundation of love and respect for and enjoyment of eachother. we went into marriage recognizing and respecting it as a union of souls and lives, not just of bodies.
to be fair, i know that choosing not to have premarital sex is right for some people. many healthy marriages happen between people who are virgins until the wedding night. sex is not the only way to learn intimately about someone. my point is that it is a valid way, and that vilifying sex is often detrimental to individuals and relationships.
furthermore, purity, in my opinion (which i believe to be biblical), has a lot more to do with personal integrity, respect and care for others, and honesty - with what's inside - than with the state of one's hymen. obsessing about physical "purity" obscures the real issue and lets people off the hook of being internally pure. although i was not physically a virgin when i got married, i believe that i entered into marriage in purity...purity of spirit. isn't that what jesus was always talking about? in the gospels jesus chides his disciples for focusing on outer purity (in their case it was dietary laws) rather than inner purity. he said that what comes out of a person is what makes them pure, not what goes in. he talked to the woman at the well about living with a man who wasn't her husband, but the issues were adultury and promiscuity, not virginity. in fact, in all of the gospels i don't recall jesus mentioning premarital sex at all.