A Defense of Premarital Sex

Avoiding sex before marriage isn’t much of a problem in a society where people get married shortly after they become sexually mature. Unfortunately, the West isn’t such a society. Take a look at how things have changed.

Medieval marriage

Centuries ago, first marriages in Europe were typically at 25 years, with brides a couple of years younger than grooms. Yes, Shakespeare portrays Juliet as only 13, but that was uncommon. Noble folk typically married earlier, but Juliet would’ve been young even for a noblewoman.

Onset of puberty in the 1800s was about 16–17 for girls and a year later for boys, with sexual maturity requiring another five years.

This meant that young people typically had just a few years between sexual maturity and marriage. Even so, premarital sex was common (though out-of-wedlock births were frowned upon). Until the mid-1700s in Britain, betrothed couples could live together and have sex, and pregnant brides were common and accepted. Customs in Colonial America were about the same, and a third of New England brides were pregnant.

Marriage today

The average age at first marriage in the U.S. is now 27 for women and 29 for men, a bit older than centuries earlier. The bigger difference is the age of sexual maturity. Onset of puberty is now 10–11 for girls and a year later for boys. The process is complete about five years later.

While the cause of this change in puberty is debated—some combination of improved nutrition and hormone-like chemicals in our environment?—this means an average of over a decade of sexual maturity before marriage. Abstinence before marriage is now much more of a trial.

What does the Bible say?

The Bible has a lot to say about sex. It talks about a girl who is presented as a virgin but isn’t. It talks about adultery. It talks about when rape is okay. It talks about how to take captured women as wives. It talks about which relatives you may not sleep with. It even talks about which relatives you must sleep with. (More on the Bible’s crazy marriage and sex customs here.)

The Bible also has plenty to say about premarital sex. Or nothing, depending on your interpretation. The issue revolves around the Greek word porneia.

The New Testament uses this word a lot. It’s clearly a bad thing, but it’s not clear exactly what it means. It’s often translated as “fornication,” which is consensual sex between two persons not married to each other. That includes premarital sex, so the Bible prohibition appears to be clear.

But explore other translations, and the issue is trickier. Some define the word as “prostitution,” because the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) used it this way.

A popular translation is “sexual immorality,” though this ambiguous. Even if the sins in this category were clear in Paul’s mind, they’re not clear in ours, and we are only projecting our own biases when listing what this prohibition must mean. No, “sexual immorality” doesn’t clearly prohibit premarital sex, and it’s not included in the long list of sexual sins in Leviticus 18 and 20.

Even if premarital sex were prohibited in the Bible, so what? The Bible celebrates genocide, polygamy, and slavery, and yet we reject them. You might say that God was bound by the customs of the time, and that’s why they’re allowed. But no matter—they’re not allowed today. Similarly, if a ban on premarital sex makes no sense for modern society, drop it.

The Christian response

One approach, often adopted by conservative Christians, is to get married early. You want sex? Fair enough—just get married first. But a rush to marriage driven by a desire for sex can make for a poorly grounded marriage. A Barna study came to similar conclusions as earlier studies when it concluded, “divorce rates are higher among people who are members of conservative Protestant faiths,” and “divorce rates were lower for people who described themselves as atheist or agnostic.”

Just as sex-driven marriage isn’t the best approach, neither is abstinence-only sex education. More knowledge leads to less risky sexual behavior. Not teaching safe sex or discouraging teens from the HPV vaccine is like banning fire extinguishers because otherwise everyone will set things on fire.

Another approach

Let me propose a different approach. Nature will give adult bodies to teens whether we like it or not. We don’t give them the keys to the car without driver’s education, so give them the owner’s manual to go along with their adult bodies as well (more).

Instead of a one-size-fits-all demand that premarital sex be off limits, society should (1) provide sex education that minimizes unwanted pregnancy and STDs, (2) make contraception and condoms easily available, (3) emphasize that “No” means no in a relationship, and (4) teach that sex alters a relationship and shouldn’t be treated lightly. Finally, have abortion available as a backstop.

Yes, there can be harm with sex, but there can be harm with cars and the internet, too. Sexual compatibility is an important component of a strong marriage. Should the couple figure that out before or after committing their lives to each other?

The gap between sexual maturity and marriage has gone from a couple of years to more than a decade. The ban on premarital sex is naive, especially when it’s just a tradition and isn’t in the Bible. This is like female genital mutilation in predominantly Muslim societies—it’s only a tradition, and it’s not in the Quran.

There’s nothing inherently harmful in premarital sex, and the sin of premarital sex is one of those rare problems that you can simply define away.

We are living at a time where some people . . .
want to test whether the milk is good before they buy the cow.

John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
(commenting on the decision of Prince William and Kate Middleton
to live together before their wedding)

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 12/23/13.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

 

"What about rock music called "the devil's music?" Did Jesus ever say "Gimme that old ..."

25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid ..."
"That's probably why then. It would be awkward to say that you personally going there.Glad ..."

25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid ..."
"...or a burning hell to make it interesting."

25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid ..."
"I asked my BIL if he believed in a burning hell. He replied "yes." I ..."

25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Sam

    Sentamu speaks as if it’s a terrible thing to be sure of what you’ll be getting yourself into.

    • E.A. Blair

      It’s also quite insulting that he compares human women to cows.

  • Herald Newman

    What does the Bible say?

    Does it matter what the opinions of people, now long dead, have about sex and who is allowed to have it? I can understand why some older societies had taboos against premarital sex, but I see little reason to believe that those taboos should be applicable today.

    Just as sex-driven marriage isn’t the best approach, neither is abstinence-only sex education.

    I can’t think of a more detrimental form of “education” than “abstinence-only.” The sheer number of young adults who don’t understand what sex is, and the actual consequences of it are, boggles my mind.

    On a mostly unrelated note, I saw this post over on Longnecker’s blog, and I still shake my head at the trash coming out of Catholic priests, who show themselves to be out of touch with the modern world.

    • I see little reason to believe that those taboos should be applicable today.

      Agreed, especially since Christians will happily pick and choose the biblical stuff that they follow. Homosexuals are icky? Sure! Slavery is A-OK? Nope.

      • I recently realised in one such discussion that a lot of reinterpretations are about letting general principles trump specific statements. For example:
        * Slavery: Allow “we are all made in the image of God” to overrule specific commands and accommodations.
        * Homosexuality: Allow “love” to overrule specific commands.
        * Women speaking: Allow “all one in Christ Jesus” to overrule specific commands.

        Of course, in each case they then come up with reasons why the specific commands might be culturally relative, but to me it is interesting the idea of reinterpreting specific commands by general principles, no matter how worthy those principles are.

        • Christians are happy to reject Old Testament demands or customs that are seen as immoral today. When they keep something like an Old Testament prohibition against homosexuality, that’s just cherry picking. “Hey, my hands are tied! It’s in the good book” won’t do when they reject slavery and genocide.

        • Greg G.

          “Hey, my hands are tied! It’s in the good book” won’t do when they reject slavery and genocide.

          … while eating scampi.

        • Otto

          …with a tattoo on their arm

    • Michael Neville

      Longnecker doesn’t allow comments. I wanted to explain how he had something wrong but I can’t because he’s a wimp.

      • What does he say when he basically admits that his argument can’t take the heat?

        • Michael Neville

          He doesn’t say anything from what I can tell. He preaches his sermons, the faithful bow their heads, and then everyone leaves until the next sermon.

    • lady_black

      So, Longnecker is butt-hurt because Catholics aren’t having enough baaaaay-beeeees to sacrifice one or two to the priesthood? You know what you have to do, Cowboy.
      Get rid of your ridiculous ban on priests marrying. Then you won’t be asking women to take one (or ten) for the team.
      He wonders why both parents are working? It’s because the Rent Is Too Damn High. And so is everything else people need to live, Of course, he wouldn’t realize that, because the same families he wants to pop out ten children are paying his goddamn bills, as well as their own. What a tool. If I were him, I wouldn’t allow comments either.

      • The Eh’theist

        Longenecker is actually married (he started as an Anglican and “transferred”), and has 4 kids. http://dwightlongenecker.com/about-fr-longenecker/

        That said, he still thinks the rules should stay like they are. Not a deep thinker that one.

        • I love it when Christians are happy to impose rules on other people that don’t apply to them.

          “You can’t have abortions” (from men).

          “You can’t get gay married” (from straights)

          “You can’t get married” (from Longenecker)

        • mobathome

          The two rules:
          1. I can’t so you can’t.
          2. I can but you mustn’t.

        • When you explain it that way … it makes so much sense!

        • lady_black

          So he abandoned his family? Or he’s some special snowflake?

        • The Eh’theist

          Special snowflake. John Paul II and Benedict XVI created special opportunities for some Anglican and Lutheran clergy to become catholic with the possibility that they could become priests, even if married.

          Eastern Catholic priests can be married, so it wasn’t a big stretch, that’s why I find it ridiculous that Longenecker is so gung ho for single priests. Basically he’s saying that he and all the Eastern priests are inferior, and yet I’m sure he’d be offended if you treated him as less than another priest.

        • lady_black

          Is he required to be celibate?

        • The Eh’theist

          I don’t think so, others aren’t.

        • lady_black

          Then, they have no point, do they?

        • Ficino

          Ah. Maybe the fact that L is a convert is an element in what I take as his extremely rigid and self-satisfied attitude.

      • Jim Jones

        Or allow women priests.

    • E.A. Blair

      as a victim of Catholic education, I can recall being warned about “impurity” long before I could have been able to understand what they were talking about. I heard a story about a 3rd grade girl who liked to play dress-up and then confessed to committing adultery because she thought that meant “acting like an adult”.

    • MR
  • The_Wretched

    I’d argue for pre-marital sex on the grounds that people need to know what they like and don’t as well as what their sexual needs and wants are. Much of our sexual behavior takes some sorting out and lack of sexual compatibility (frequency & novelty in particular) is one the big three reasons for relationship failure.

    • Greg G.

      <i>are</i> = are

    • Greg G.

      Is it pre-marital sex if you don’t get married?

      • The_Wretched

        It should be renamed “never married” sex.

  • Otto

    Again in an ongoing theme; Christians and Christianity are internally inconsistent. Homosexuality is bad because it is supposedly unnatural (the Catholics call it being ‘disordered’)…while premarital sex is natural but in those cases we are supposed to go against nature (and apparently ‘order’).

    • Ficino

      Catholic moralists are very free to throw around arguments based on claims of what is ‘natural.’ They work from what the Church defines as natural, and from what moral consequences they think follow from that definition. Science etc. doesn’t define ‘natural’ in Catholic moral theology, though they may pretend to respect science’s ability to help us understand nature.

      • Otto

        They are free to do so but it does not make their position internally consistent.

      • Giauz Ragnarock

        “Natural Law” brand “nature” really does sound like ‘whatever we need it to be for this very special argument’. Unfortunately, it is very difficult and can take years to unbullshit the bullshited- as many of us know from experience )-3

        • Ficino

          I agree with you. No Socratic “follow the argument where it leads” stuff with Catholic moralists.

    • Ficino

      Aquinas wrote that “sodomy” is a graver sin than standard hetero fornication. Sodomy is both unlawful and unnatural, while male-female vaginal sex betw unmarrieds is unlawful but natural. So is prostitution, if it’s vaginal intercourse. By his logic masturbation is a graver sin than rape. I think Aquinas gave standard doctrine on this.

      Isn’t the usual Catholic defense of their ban on fornication a claim about natural law? They say that nature gives humans the reproductive faculty, not only to sire children, but to raise them in a stable household. So the kids need a mommy and a daddy who are, basically, married. I think the most traditional would argue that it perverts the faculty of reproduction to use it for pleasure, even between a man and a woman having vaginal intercourse, and not also for making babies to bring up in a family.

      So they try to say that people’s natural urge to fuck isn’t by itself natural; it has to be the urge to fuck and make a baby and raise that kid in order to attain the natural end/goal of our having our sexy bits.

      • Wikipedia says that “the first official declaration that marriage is a sacrament was made at the 1184 Council of Verona.” That was before the time of Aquinas (b. 1225), but not by much.

      • Kodie

        Fornication is natural, but marriage is a primitive social construct to stabilize the structure of the inevitable outcome, i.e. children. I almost call it birth control except it doesn’t control birth, it just attempts to control the conditions one is born into by legal means. Probably why divorce is also not recognized by the church. If men couldn’t just leave and deny any offspring, or if women were not chattel, or if people had access to pregnancy prevention methods, including abortion, we wouldn’t really require marriage, which we don’t, because we have achieved all these alternatives, at least theoretically.

        Fewer people seem to need to be married to have children, not just casual flings that result in pregnancy, but couples who are still committed to each other, or women who just want to have a baby even if they don’t have a husband. It’s becoming more acceptable in the last few decades. DNA testing allows women to collect support for their children from a father of their child they are not married to. Women are independent citizens with their own jobs and money and do not strictly need to go straight into their husband’s household for lifelong support from their father’s house. And we have invented a variety of ways for her to prevent a pregnancy from popping up and devastating the path she is trying to forge, if that does not include having a child right now or ever.

        All of those progressive events are horrifying to the religionists who are trying to maintain that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman so that a child has proper [gender] role models in a stable household where the father is secure that he is supporting a family that is genetically related to him, and that people who use [other means of] birth control are inferior to women who enslave themselves to a husband and the prospect of giving birth to as many babies as god determines, and that a fertilized cell is an innocent baby.

      • Otto

        Which still doesn’t change the fact that the Catholic church will admit it is perfectly natural for a man and a woman to want to have sex and that to abstain from sex goes, at least in some measure, against nature. Then, as you point out, the Catholic church appeals to a different law, essentially they move the goal posts. They could just say sex outside of marriage is unlawful, period instead of changing the baseline to fit the argument.

        • Ficino

          In the Book on Definitions falsely attributed to Athanasius, it says that marriage is according to nature, harlotry (porneia) is against nature, and viriginity is above nature. This spurious work doesn’t go into detail about what makes harlotry against nature, but I agree that traditional doctrine would exalt virginity to a state above nature.

          I think cynics are right who say that natural law ethics done by Catholics usually turns out to be spin put on what the Church wants to decree for other reasons anyway. But I know that natural law defenders deny this vociferously and insist that their conclusions are just the conclusions that anyone would reach who is reasoning rightly.

        • Michael Neville

          I think that natural law means “We have an opinion which we can’t justify so we’ll call it ‘natural law’ and pretend it’s so obvious as to need no further justification.”

  • busterggi

    If porneia is prostitution there ain’t a Rebublican nor preacher who’s innocent.

    • Otto

      As a comedian pointed out (I forget who)

      Selling is legal
      Sex is legal
      Selling sex is illegal

      • bryce1012
        • Otto

          I should have known…

      • Tommy

        Or get this: sex for fee is illegal. sex for free is not. A woman can have as many sexual partners as she wants, but she can’t charge.

        • Kevin K

          Actually, it’s even weirder than that, because it is perfectly legal for a woman to charge money for having sex — on camera. So, when it’s filmed for the sale to and/or vicarious enjoyment of others — then it’s legal. The sex you see in your favorite porno is 100% legal sex for which the performers earn a fee.

          If a sexual encounter is sold as a private act only — then it’s not legal.

          (Of course, in this regard, the law is gender neutral. Gay porn is as legal as gay prostitution is illegal.).

          Strange world we live in.

        • Greg G.

          So, when it’s filmed for the sale to and/or vicarious enjoyment of others — then it’s legal.

          Sex is nobody’s business except the three people involved, plus the cameraman.

        • Bravo Sierra

          Sex on TV is okay, but it’s harder now that I have a flat screen.

        • RoverSerton

          flat screen is great if you take it off the wall first! Maybe you are too stupid for sex? /s

        • Greg G.

          Ah, yes, the good ol’ days.

        • Otto

          I say, hey – whatever a man, and a woman, and another woman with a penis and a midget do to a donkey, that’s their garsh-darn business.” – Dave Attell

        • RoverSerton

          I agree only if the Donkey can give consent and is over 18. Otherwise, pictures or it didn’t happen.

        • Dangitbobby

          It get’s even weirder.

          In many states an adult can legally have sex with a minor (16 to 17 is legal age of consent in most states, 14 or 15 in some places like with marriage + parental consent) but in that situation it becomes illegal if a camera comes out, because then it’s kiddy porn – illegal for money or not!

      • Jim Jones

        Paying one person to do it with you: illegal

        Paying two people to do it with each other while you film it: legal.

        • Otto

          Many have cut out the middle man…2 people, one with a camera. So apparently you can go pick up a sex worker as long as you have your iPhone record it. … come to think of it someone should try that as a defense, that would be interesting.

    • Jim Jones

      Greek pornographos ‘writing about prostitutes’

  • bryce1012

    We don’t give them the keys to the car without driver’s education, so give them the owner’s manual to go along with their adult bodies as well.

    Dan Savage takes this metaphor through its paces in Chapter 3 (“Sex Dread”) of his book, “American Savage.” It’s an excellent analysis of what’s wrong with our approach.

    • Are you saying that the car/owner’s manual analogy isn’t valid? If so, could you summarize the problem?

      • bryce1012

        No, I’m saying it’s a very very good one. Savage just takes it into more detail, makes some more comparisons, etc. The whole book is worth reading, but this chapter in particular stuck with me because of how well the drivers-ed analogy works.

  • When I was a kid the Catholic ban on premarital sex (and let us not forget those impure thoughts…) was total. Ideally you have two virgins marrying after a long numbing courtship and wedding, and on their first night together they were expected to figure out what goes where with almost no knowledge of self or other involved. Sexual knowledge was not taught, it was banned.

    Frankly it’s a wonder babies happened at all.

    I often wonder how many ‘good marriages” went to hell during the honeymoon.

    I also often wonder how many of those marriages would never have happened if the couple had done some exploratory investigation beforehand.

    Things are way better than they were, and frankly if two people want to live together, they should. For centuries marrying off daughters has been used as a barter tool to gain property, acquire land, livestock, power. We criticize prosititution, but where’s the difference?

    • Jim Jones

      I was told that my high school science teacher taught a class on sex ed for newly married couples. I had no evidence either way but he did have a set of books on the subject in his office and I read one when he was out.

      And learned what was what.

      • E.A. Blair

        I was taught what was what by a widow about my parents’ age who was a customer on my paper route. Yes, it was illegal, but people didn’t even talk about things like that then. As a result of this hands-on education, I was able to make the women in my life happy.

        • Greg G.

          Well, if that’s why my paper was late, then OK.

        • The Oneida community (NY state, 1800s), now known only for silverware, was a commune that had progressive ideas about sex. Older members of the commune would teach the young people about the mechanics and (presumably) how to please one’s partner.

        • Otto

          There have been a number of cultures that practiced this tradition. I took a sexual anthropology class in college and it was fascinating.

          Some cultures have recognized 5+ genders, so this whole idea that the transgender stuff of today is something we made up is BS.

        • Tommy

          “Back then they didn’t call it abuse, they called it fun” – Ike Turner commenting about his sexual encounters with a middle aged woman

      • Jack Baynes

        The movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall has a newlywed couple that waited until marriage for sex. The wife is excited and enthusiastic about sex, while the husband is utterly horrified once he finds out what sex actually involves.

        • Jim Jones

          There was a famous poet(??) who was horrified to find his new wife had hair “down there”.

        • epeeist

          There was a famous poet(??)

          John Ruskin

        • Jim Jones

          Thanks.

        • Michael Neville

          He didn’t notice that he had hair “down there” and couldn’t extrapolate that women did too? Not a bright boy, our Johnny.

        • Carol Lynn

          He only looked at tastefully nude Greek statues, who either hid them with a drape or showed the female pubes hairless.

    • Kevin K

      I married a Catholic, and we went through the pre-ceremony “counseling” (with about 20 other couples — it was a class).

      There was a separate priest who came in and gave the “sex talk”. Probably the most-embarrassing 2 hours of our young lives. Being told which thing was OK (anything to get the “juices flowing”) and which wasn’t (anal). Of course, by that time, we already had plenty of experience.

      But honestly, the thing he was most concerned about was that you never-ever-ever use birth control of any kind — including pulling out (which, comparatively speaking, is about as effective as gasoline as a fire retardant).

      • Matt Cavanaugh

        Our priest thankfully skipped the messy stuff and just emphasized that the ultimate purpose of marriage was to make babies and raise them Catholic.

      • Reminds me of a similar story, but in a Baptist context. The couple asked about sex positions and techniques, and the pastor was surprisingly accepting–him on top, her on top, role play, and so on. Basically the entire Kama Sutra was on the menu.

        Then they asked about sex standing up.

        “Absolutely not!” the pastor said.

        Why was this one so bad?

        “Because that could lead to dancing!”

  • Dannorth

    ” Not teaching safe sex or discouraging teens from the HPV vaccine is like banning fire extinguishers because otherwise everyone will set things on fire.”

    via GIPHY

  • kraut2

    I do not even get why this is even worthy a discussion on an atheist website? Marriage is nothing but a contract between two adults to share their economic and social success or failure, and has implications only if the terms of that contract are violated. In Canada after you have been cohabiting with a sexual partner for – I thinks it is two years now – you are considered married in regards to children, property etc.
    I think the headline is misleading, and we should be speaking about teenage sexual encounters and how to teach them to be sexually responsible.

    Marriage is an option for a cohabitation, nothing more and just a legal formality.
    I have been married now for 45 years with that interpretation as the background (the taxes for a couple were less than for singles) after we married having lived together for three years.

    • I’m startled that you don’t see the connection. This topic is worthy because some Christians’ medieval, prudish attitude toward sex is causing problems in society–their rejection of contraception, comprehensive sex ed, abortion, same-sex marriage, and so on.

      If you’re saying that you’re not one of these closed-minded Christians, that’s great, but that simply means that you’re not part of this problem.

      • skl

        But aren’t “contraception, comprehensive sex ed, abortion,
        same-sex marriage, and so on” at all time highs?

        • I don’t know, but even if they are, there continues to be a strong effort against them all in the US.

      • kraut2

        No, I am a fucking atheist and while I understand that it is importatnt to counter and take to pieces Christian Ideology – why should something posted on an atheist blog that is only of interest to Christians without any connection as far as I can see to non Christian morality? Are you trying to run a Christian Sex Helpline sponsored by atheists now or is it just a USA thingy lost on an European?

        • Tommy

          What he is saying is that it’s his blog and he’ll discuss whatever the hell he wants.

        • kraut2

          One is allowed to wonder out loud, isn’t one?

        • Tommy

          Don’t be ridiculous.

        • I didn’t suggest that you were a Christian, but thanks for the clarification.

          I write loads of posts that talk about the fucked-up attitudes toward social policy that Christians have. Yes, it’d be nice if Christians came here and got a clue, though I’m sure that doesn’t happen much. The majority of readers are atheists, I’m sure. Many Christians are out-of-touch on this point of social policy. That seems to be an important issue to atheists.

          If it seems incredible that any atheist would care, that’s fine–just tell yourself that this post is me doing a little thinking out loud for my own benefit.

        • mobathome

          Perhaps @kraut2:disqus is asking “Why preach to the choir?” Another question is “How does your writing help us when discussing the relevant issues with Christians?”

        • Greg G.

          I think writing is a way to hone one’s own arguments and presenting the writing to public criticism is a way to determine which arguments need to be refine or if they are useful.

        • A helpful clarification, thanks.

        • smrnda

          I thought Bob brought up a point that often gets ignored by Christians promoting abstinence before marriage – that the age at which people go through puberty has declined. Let’s just say biology isn’t a strong point for some Christians, particularly ones who are horrified at pre-marital sex.

        • Robert Baden

          How many atheist ex-christians carry over unexamined unhealthy ideas about sex?

        • smrnda

          That’s an underrated problem. The conditioning for guilt and shame about sex is pretty strong. As a society, we still don’t seem to be fully rid of it.

    • eric

      Marriage is an option for a cohabitation, nothing more and just a legal formality.
      I have been married now for 45 years…

      …and that is why you see it as just a formality. Sure, it’s just a formality…if nothing goes wrong. But when there’s a custody battle, that ‘mere legal formality’ becomes important. With remarriage, the issue of step-parent vs. ‘original’ parent rights become important; the new marriage can give the ‘step’ person rights they would not have as a mere boy/girlfriend. If we consider the fact that different US states treat rape accusations differently depending on whether the people are married or not, and the question of whether two people are married or merely cohabitating becomes critically important for a criminal prosecution. You bring in the fact that it can create a lifelong obligation of alimony, and it’s important. And what about an untimely death? Your parents and your siblings don’t like your partner. You die, leaving kids or resources in your wake. Do you think a marriage certificate is a ‘mere formality’ to your family or partner? It could be critical to where those kids or resources end up.

      So for all these reasons (and probably more), yeah I think it’s absolutely important that we teach young people that sex before marriage can be okay. Can you make mistakes? Hurt people? Hurt yourself? Yes, yes, and yes. But as someone who did not have the easy simple luxury of being married for 45 years, I can tell you that I would strongly, strongly suggest to young people that if they want to get their couple thing on but aren’t sure about this lifelong commitment idea, that cohabitation without marriage is a much better initial choice than marriage-so-we-can-have-sex.

    • RichardSRussell

      I do not even get why this is even worthy a discussion on an atheist website?

      Cross Examined is not so much pro-atheism as it is anti-religion, specifically contra-apologism. And there are a ton of religiots who espouse sexual abstinence until marriage. So yes, this is very much an appropriate topic for criticizing their airs of moral superiority and unctuous righteousness.

    • Matt Cavanaugh

      I’m usually the first to complain about ‘preaching to the choir’, but this is a critical societal issue that affects all of us.

  • Jim Jones

    I used to think the marriage should happen after the bride was pregnant. Now I think it should be after the baby is born since there are some bad genetic combinations.

    • Kevin K

      Except you have to wait for 18 or so years to find out if the child will vote Republican.

      Now that’s a bad genetic combination.

  • Bravo Sierra

    Just ask all those teen kids in the Christian summer camps how much sex they’re not having, but make sure you ask them to define it for you first.

    • Greg G.

      At college, I once overheard summer band camp organizers warning other organizers that no matter what they did, there would still be parents calling in a few month to complain about their daughter’s pregnancy.

    • epeeist

      but make sure you ask them to define it for you first

      Definitely, you need to make sure there isn’t a loophole that could be outside of the definition.

  • Greg G.

    Jesus and Mo on gMatthew as fan fiction:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/comic/rise2/

  • smrnda

    The fact that young people now have a longer gap between sexual maturity and marriage is one of those facts from biology (there are many) that evangelicals either don’t know or ignore.

    They also don’t acknowledge that what it takes to be an adult now is different than the past. Long ago, people got older and then would work farming or in the family trade. Many would have made a gradual transition from household chores to working as an adult from the earliest years. Chances are, you would do the same type of work as your parents, in around the same place. Specialized training or education was rare.

    These days? Becoming an independent adult is much harder, and takes longer. Do what your parents did? With technological change, new jobs are emerging and old ones are disappearing. It can take years of education or training, and then even more time to acquire financial stability once you’re working. School and the early years of a career are not necessarily very accommodating of parents with young children. And getting married? That’s not a decision to rush into, since ‘is this person compatible’ is a more complicated question.

    So many both complain that people ‘have kids they can’t support’ when they marry young, or else complain that people take ‘too long’ to get established. It’s just human biology and economics. If they push early marriage, they’re pushing financial and personal instability.

    • MR

      They fear evolution of society as much as the fear capital-e Evolution.

      • amyjane

        Absolutely. They know the old ways are dying, and they are grasping at straws to keep the crazy liberal women and minorities nutty enough to believe we should have equal opportunity and human rights in society. I take great comfort in the way the younger generation voted in this last election.

        • MR

          Uh…, I’m not sure where to place your sarcasm….

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I think she means younger people mostly voted against the old conservachristian dumbshits.

        • MR

          Yeah, I think I got that, but the middle part is a little ambiguously confusing. Not that I haven’t posted an ambiguously confusing post or 20.

        • amyjane

          Edited for clarity! I mimicked the way my father, unfortunately, speaks, but in no way support his viewpoint. Sorry for being unclear!

      • smrnda

        So much of their religion was built on rules about sex. Once they lose the ability to shame people, they lose power.

        • MR

          Plus, controlling sex gives you power to control who is in your tribe.

  • RichardSRussell

    Whatever’s running in that stupid video ad right below “Follow Cross Examined” keep hijacking control of my screen to jerk it away from whatever I’m reading or typing at the moment. Bob, could you please complain about this to the Patheos administrators? Thanks.

    • MR

      For a site ostensibly dedicated to religion (patheos), they sure do fail in the ethical advertising realm.

    • I understand that some biggish back-end changes are happening. Perhaps this is a short-term problem associated with that? Thanks for letting me know.

  • JedRothwell

    I am glad you pointed out the actual marriage age in Medieval Europe. It is a myth that people often married young. This topic is covered in detail in Laslett’s book, “The World We Have Lost,” which I highly recommend.

  • fractal

    Personally,

    I would not consider marrying someone I had not had sex with.
    Religion or no, compatibility counts.
    Most religions are infused with patriarchal directives meant to keep women in their place as property.

    Forget it!

  • Snooterpoot

    The prohibition of premarital sex is part of the patriarchy that is the foundation of fundamentalist religions. A girl/woman is owned by men. If her sexual behavior can be controlled, then all aspects of her life can be controlled.

    It’s one of the reasons why I left fundamentalist Christianity.