Is It Important to Wait for Marriage Before You Have Sex?

I know your answers to this already, but if you’re an evangelical Christian, the expectation is that you’re abstinent until marriage. In some cases, you may even wait until your wedding day to share your first kiss.

Director Matt Barber and his team are trying to tell the story of people who go to these churches and abide (or don’t) by these teachings. Turns out waiting for marriage isn’t for everyone, even some of the Christians interviewed:

Jesus, Don’t Let Me Die Before I’ve Had Sex will be a feature-length documentary examining the sexual teachings of the Evangelical Church and exploring the undercurrent of idealism that leaves many people feeling frustrated and confused. Told in an honest and fair fashion, the movie will paint a picture of what is taught explicitly and implicitly by showing how churchgoers react to those teachings through anecdotes of first kisses, chastity rallies and secret obsessions…

Again, they’re not pushing an agenda that says Christians are right or wrong. They’re only interested in telling the stories of people who grew up with these rules around them and explaining where this sex-negativity (my term, not theirs) comes from.

If want to help this documentary come to life, they are raising funds on Kickstarter and would appreciate your generosity.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    How many young Christians have gotten married just so they could fuck and ended up hating one another for the next forty or fifty years?

    • walkamungus

      I know a heavy-duty Christian guy who did get married at about age 20 so he could have sex. Eight years and three kids later, she left him, and left him the kids as well. 

  • Inferno

    Well I’d just say that you don’t have to be religious to not kiss or have sex before marriage. In my case it’s simply because of fear of things like STDs and pregnancy combined with a severe case of social anxiety.

    • http://twitter.com/kariedgerton Kari Edgerton

      But you have informed reasons for remaining celibate, it’s not because someone is trying to tell you that you will be tortured forever if you decide to get your jollies off. The church also teaches that masturbation is bad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wolrah Sean Harlow

    The correct answer of course is no way, no how.  Sex is an important part of a healthy relationship, so how anyone thinks it makes sense to avoid it altogether until you’ve supposedly committed to the relationship forever completely blows my mind.

    Waiting until marriage to have sex is like buying a car sight unseen before you even get your license.  It’s completely illogical.

    • Anonymous

      While I agree with your sentiment, that it is important, and knowing your compatibility ahead of time is good; I would disagree partly with what you say (the car part) for the following reason.

      The SOLE purpose of having a car is to drive it. If you can’t drive it, there is no reason to have it. The SOLE purpose of marrying is not just a sex partner. To equate the two is to fall into the same trap that the religious do and perceive marriage as “the time you have sex” as opposed to sex being one component of a relationship and bond between the participants.

      • http://www.facebook.com/amandajeantetz Amanda Jean Tetz

        while sex isn’t the only thing in a relationship, as humans we have to come to terms with the fact that a healthy sex life is what is going to keep us happy. it’s just biological. we’re programmed to want to have as much sex as possible, while still ensuring our own health.
        so, no, marriage isn’t solely for sex, but a healthy sex life is incredibly important to a happy marriage. and if you disagree, I feel sorry for your spouse!

        • Anonymous

          I didn’t disagree, in fact – I said I agree, maybe you missed that part.
          My disagreement was with the car analogy and being “single purpose”.

          For example, one of the main objections to gay marriage by the religious is that it “validates sinful acts”. Most Christians I know believe that homosexuality itself isn’t sinful, but *acting* on it is. However, homosexuals are having sex regardless of whether their marriage is permitted, so if you equate marriage and sex as being 1:1, then there is no reason to push for equal marriage rights. The fact that sex is only part of marriage (and *again* I have to say an important part so as not to be misinterpreted) we unintentionally contribute to the idea that there aren’t other reasons people marry besides sex.

        • Anonymous

          Well, I’m asexual and comments like these really bother me. Im guessing that you wouldn’t tell a gay person that heterosexual sex is the only way to be happy in a relationship. Blanket statements like yours are offensive and inaccurate. You can only speak for yourself, not the entire human race.

      • The Captain

        “The SOLE purpose of having a car is to drive it” I guess you have never been to a collector car auction? Most of those cars are never driven.

        • Thin-ice

          Good grief! Cars are manufactured to be driven. Sitting in a museum  is a subsequent use, not the primary purpose for being made (unless it’s a Hollywood film prop car like in James Bond flms). Your point is almost completely irrelevant to the discussion.

          (If your point was sarcasm, then I apologize and withdraw above comment!)

          • http://twitter.com/kariedgerton Kari Edgerton

            Right, because my grandpa’s 1965 cherry red mustang convertible is perfect to be driven in the winter in Detroit. It’s a collector’s item, meant to be looked at and driven once a year for the Woodward Dream Cruise.

            Just like my Freddie Mercury action figures are manufactured to be played with, but do you see me taking them out of the box? Heck no!

      • Mairianna

        I agree.  Knowing HOW to have sex doesn’t  make a good marriage and you can’t make a blanket statement that if you don’t know how to have sex before you get married then the marriage is doomed.  That’s almost as ignorant as saying that you must be chaste before marriage.   Couples that have love and RESPECT for each other will learn to love together no matter how experienced each other may be.   

      • Ryan Moran

        Having a sexual relationship isn’t the SOLE purpose to getting married, but it is the only part of marriage that you can not do with someone outside the marriage without it being considered “cheating”.  You can have pretty much all other aspects of marriage with friends, but sex is the line in the sand that makes it cheating (obviously in non-open marriages).  Therefore, while it isn’t the SOLE purpose to getting married, it is one of the most important aspects of it and it would be stupid to agree to sexual exclusivity when you haven’t had sex with each other and have no idea what you even want.  It’s a complete roll of the dice. 

      • Anonymous

        Sex is a great way to find out what your partner is really like.  Just as you can tell a lot about someone by how he/she treats a waitor, you can tell a lot about someone by how he/she treats you in bed.  People reveal themselves in those circumstances.  Someone who is self-centered in bed is likely to be self-centered in life.  That’s one way that having sex with someone before marriage is important.

    • Anonymous

       For a lot of couples, they can have a great relationship without sex. Let’s remember the asexuals in the world or perhaps those who cannot have sex due to a disability.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you.

  • Wild Rumpus

    Is it important to learn how to drive before you buy a car?

  • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa

    I grew up under the “sex before marriage is the WORST THING YOU CAN EVER DO besides, like, murder” school of thought, and it messed me up so badly that I was too scared to even consider it AFTER marriage.

    I was told by my mother several times throughout my life that if I was “living in sin” as an adult she would show up at my sinful cohabitation house and drag me back to hers. (She said this both when I was a minor and when I was in college.) Yes, she threatened to kidnap an adult over religious ideology. And she wonders why I don’t like telling her where I am or what I am doing.

    Apparently when I was born, one of the first things my paternal grandfather told my mother was to be prepared to throw me out on the street if I got Teen Pregnant. I know he loved me and was proud of my academic accomplishments, but it intensely bothers me that *from the moment I drew breath* he was planning how to punish me if I didn’t live up to his religious ideology.

    • Thin-ice

      “I grew up under the “sex before marriage is the WORST THING YOU CAN EVER DO besides, like, murder” school of thought, and it messed me up so badly that I was too scared to even consider it AFTER marriage

      That’s my story too! Never had sex before until my 1st night of marriage . Actually, it was the 2nd night, because on the first night we could figure out the mechanics (I know, it sounds completely stupid) until we went to a local secular bookshop and bought a book about sex. (My mother bought a “christian” sex book – I think by Tim LaHaye – but it never got specific about how to have sex, just kind of beat around the bush – pun not intended). Our sex life has been screwed up ever since, and after 38 years of marriage, she hasn’t wanted sex for the last 4 years. DAMN YOU EVANGELICALS!!!!

      • The Other Weirdo

         Technically, if after 38 years of marriage, no sex was wanted for just the last 4, you’ve done pretty well for yourselves.

        • Thin-ice

          (And it may also have something to do with her having a little “fling” with the pastor of our last church before we both de-converted – which was nothing to do with that incident, BTW.)

    • Thin-ice

      …prepared to throw me out on the street if I got Teen Pregnant. I know he loved me…

      I fail to see that how that is love.

      • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa

         In his mind, shunning people who break God’s law even if you love them was The Moral Thing To Do.

        Several months before he died of a heart attack, I was talking to him on the phone about a guy I knew at school who unexpectedly left a suicide note (he was found okay and got help). My grandfather’s voice got really funny and he said “well, uh, you know, ah…” (I had never heard him sound so hesitant) “… sometimes boys in college start to worry that they’re… gay… and it can really upset them… so maybe that’s what happened.”

        I was so glad he couldn’t see my face. He was a very aloof man, never talked about his past, I didn’t know anything about his side of the family or who his friends were or anything. Right there, in that one sentence, spoken hesitantly, I think I got a tragic insight into what happened.

        He was always so unhappy. He held his marriage together and had two kids, but I always could tell that he had wanted something very different from life and just pretended to be content.

        • SK

           this broke my heart a little bit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amandajeantetz Amanda Jean Tetz

    Normally I try not to post youtube videos on this site, but when I think of people “saving themselves” I think of this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7S-2-PmXkM

    that’s all I have to say on the subject.

    • Anonymous

      I bet their first wedding night lasted a wholesome 30 seconds (and i’m being generous there), trully an unforgettable experience :p

      • Realnotes

        LOL

    • Anonymous

      See how weirdly and awkwardly they kiss. It looks like a bird regurgitating food to feed their young. And apparently caused on of their fathers to facepalm.

      • Annie

        Yes!  It’s awkweird!

  • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

    I was particularly struck by what the one woman said about how they teach that if you do everything right, you won’t get your heart broken. Of course that’s false, and sets people up to feel that everything bad that happens to them in the sex/relationships department is their fault. If only they hadn’t kissed that high school boyfriend, or had invited Jesus into their marriage more, or whatever. It discourages people from looking at what really makes people unhappy in relationships, thus adding more misery to the world.

    • The Other Weirdo

       It also dooms people to repeat the same mistake over and over. I’ve done nothing wrong, but still got my heart broken, so it must not have been MY fault. Next time will be different, I just know it.

    • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa

       Oh my gods this. THIS.

      “There is exactly one person out there for you that God has picked out” is such a poisonous idea to push on children (and it was definitely pushed on me). I’ve seen so many teenagers and college kids absolutely DEVASTATED after their first break-up because of this. They think they just ruined everything for the rest of their lives.

      • Anonymous

         Pitiful.

      • Laura M

        This is precisely what started my rift with the church. I’d had this boyfriend who thought I was The One and had convinced me we were Right. Anyway we ended up breaking the fornication rule and later he was in a huge car accident and got addicted to his pain medication. He quickly became someone I didn’t know and we broke up. I was already well aware of my differences with the values of my church but I thought it was just normal variation until some of my close friends started doing purity pledges and vowing to not even kiss someone before they got married. I can’t even wrap my head around that one.

        Tl;dr: that feeling of making such a HUGE mistake is horrible at such a young age.

    • Anonymous

       Oh, yes, that mindset is encountered in a variety of guises in the religious/fanatic world.  I learned that lesson a bit too well when I was young.  It’s been the most difficult inculcation for me to break free from.  Even though I frequently remind myself about the indifference and general randomness of the universe, I still blame myself for things that I can’t control.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Bryne/100002441143047 Arthur Bryne

    If my memory has the details right, in Kinnneman’s book “You Lost Me”, he cites a Barna Group study which says that 80% of unmarried 18-29 year olds have had sex… among Evangelicals.

    • Anonymous

       That reminds me of a study I came across which said religious young adults are more likely to NOT use contraception. I figure these young people think, “If I buy condoms or get on the pill, it means I’m PLANNING to have sex” and when the time comes, they don’t have protection but just go for it anyway. =/

      • Anonymous

        In more extreme cases they don’t even know how their own bodies work. They don’t know how they can get or get someone pregnant or how to avoid it.

        And yeah, the teen pregnancy rate is pretty high in that demographic or in states that have abstinence-only sex “education”

        • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

          I think the abstinence brigade has convinced themselves that if they withhold information, teens will think, “If I don’t understand how I can and can’t get pregnant,  then I just won’t have sex.” 

          The reality is that when teens don’t get proper sex ed from knowledgeable adults, they seek that information from alternate and often unreliable sources like their peers… and rather than getting medically accurate information, they learn myths like “you can’t get pregnant your first time”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1421016041 Leia Pearce

    My mom got pregnant out of wedlock and out of panic claimed it was rape… so I never got to meet my father.  I wasn’t even told of him until after he had passed away. But it kept her from getting kicked out of the house. If that doesn’t screw a kid up, the other aspects of Mormonism will… ;P

  • LifeinTraffic

    I have several Evangelical friends (well, I consider them acquaintances, but they consider me a friend, so whatever), all of whom have been virgins until their wedding night. Not a single woman is satisfied with the sex, the men are all confused about it (one talked to my fiance’ about the “myth” of the female orgasm), and they all obsess about it more than anyone I’ve ever met who has had sex outside of wedlock.

    I don’t mean this in a good way–it’s not “oh, I love sex and want more! No, it’s constant worry, every discussion that isn’t gawd is sex, it’s how to make it better because it’s awful. It’s awkward jokes, disrespect for the wife’s pleasure, very much about “conquest,”  and “wives giving in and having sex.” It’s so full of misinformation I have no idea how they actually manage to even accomplish the act at all.  Yet, they’re all freaked the hell out that both my partner and I had sex with other people, didn’t wait until marriage, and yet still see it as “special.” That  we can have a great sex life knowing “someone has been there before.” We pretty much refuse to talk about it, but seeing how messed up these people are about sex has done nothing but make me incredibly glad the fiance’ and I weren’t “pure.”

    There’s a reason we don’t go to a lot of social gatherings around here (because yes, these discussion happen no matter how large the group, or how unfamiliar people are with one another–it’s really, really weird. Living here is like living in Bizarro World).

  • Anonymous

    These comments are so sad.  Having a healthy sex life is a really wonderful thing.  It makes me really sad to think about all of the people out there who suffer mentally and are deprived of the joy of sexual intimacy because of these prejudices.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tiffany-Jade-Brown/640358790 Tiffany Jade Brown

    Even after I stopped believing in god, I had a hard time with the concept of sex. But that I also had to do with the fact that I’m a child sexual abuse survivor. Anyway, my boyfriend (now husband) and I didn’t have sex until almost two years into our relationship. I don’t regret waiting that long but I also don’t criticize others who don’t wait that long. Sex is fun. Sure, it’s a responsibility, but one that I’m glad I did not wait until marriage to enjoy.

  • Nena

    Both times I got married it was because I had such intense guilt about having sex with my partners. Both marriages ended in divorce.

    I am now in a furiously happy relationship with no guilt about having sex, and no intentions to ever marry. He and I may stay together for the rest of our lives, but there will be no religious  nor government involvement. And did I mention FURIOUSLY HAPPY.

    Christianity fucked me up in the head about sex for years. I am so very grateful to have escaped it.

  • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

    I’m so glad I didn’t try to save myself for marriage.  If I had, then my first sexual encounter would have been with my rapist instead of with a very fondly remembered ex-boyfriend.  And while the rape was traumatic as it was, I literally shudder to think how much worse it would have been had I been a virgin, especially one with religious ideals of sexual purity, when it happened.

    • Gordon Duffy

       this is an angle I had never considered. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anonymous

    I stopped attending church right when they were about to discuss “sexual purity.” I was around 12 or 13 at the time and just figuring out I as gay Even just the word “purity” turned me off, as if I am somehow damaged because I’ve had sex or sex outside of marriage. I knew the inevitable “homosexuality is a sin” was going to come up and I didn’t want to be around that.
    I really feel sorry for these people whose lives have been damaged because of religion.
    More and more I’m beginning to agree with Dawkins in that religious brainwashing is child abuse.

  • Lola

    I find it bad form to put down a lifestyle choice (waiting for marriage for sex or kissing) because of its association with religion. Yes, it is terrible that anyone would be forced into that lifestyle through social pressure or outright lies, but there are people who chose it and are perfectly happy with their choice. For some people (of any belief system) it is important to have a long-term committed partner before having sex, and we shouldn’t talk about it like something awful.

    • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa

       I don’t think anyone is really offended by people who truly CHOOSE this because it’s who they are. To an extent, I chose it, as I chose to keep waiting a little longer after I escaped religion – but the root cause was still me being traumatized about the whole thing.

    • Anonymous

      The awful thing is how coercing people into such “choices” screws them up. And how it prevents them from heaving a healthy sex life once they find a partner. That’s what people are complaining about.

    • Anonymous

       Is it really a choice if you sincerely believe that making a different choice is immoral or even evil? 

  • Anonymous

    This line of thinking also screws up the kids who don’t quite make it to the altar–especially the girls (of course).  I went to a Lutheran-affiliated college.  While the school itself was actually mostly secular, lots of the students had grown up in Missouri Synod churches (for those not familiar, Missouri Synod is about as conservative as Lutherans get before they start cutting themselves off from society, ala the Wisconsin Synod types).

    More than once, I encountered women who, having had sex once, decided they no longer ‘deserved’ to think of their sexual consent as something to be valued.  This, of course, is a remarkable way to end up abused and feeling even guiltier.

    I’ve always said that if I have a girl, especially, I’m gonna tell her that her criteria for the fiftieth time she has sex should be the same as for the first–affection, respect and trust, going both ways.

    • FSq

      “I’m gonna tell her that her criteria for the fiftieth time she has sex should be the same as for the first–affection, respect and trust, going both ways.”

      Cool! She is going to go both ways! YES!!! I hope she is hot….

  • FSq

    Shit, I don’t think you should even wait until the movie is over during the date to have sex, let lone wait until marriage….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

    Extremely interesting comments on here about people who claim that they are “messed up” because religious stances on sex before marriage. I can’t help but think that those who have mentioned this have other issues taking place as well. 

    I waited until marriage before having sex. I didn’t even have my first kiss until after I was engaged. I figured it out pretty quick though. No extra coaching needed :)

     I think some in the church take a good thing (sex only after marriage) and try to apply scare tactics so that people do not engage in it. I guess I’m lucky on this topic as I’ve never had anyone try to “scare” me into not having sex. It was always taught that sex is a special gift and should be reserved for your spouse. If you give that gift to everyone on the block, then you cheapen that gift. So, because I wanted to give my future spouse a special gift I waited. Showing that I care and respect the covenant of marriage  and do not take it lightly by reserving myself for one person has been wonderful. I have been married for almost 7 years and we are expecting our first child soon. 

         I can imagine what life would be like if either me or my spouse had been with other people. a) I would have felt like I wasn’t as special as I feel now b) Even if I wasn’t being compared, I might think or fear that I would be compared to a previous partner c) What if a previous partner had an STD? 

         None of these things are things that I have to worry about. That and my spouse and I feel even more loved because we waited 20+ years to give ourselves to each other. No other person can claim that they know me in such an intimate way as my spouse does. This is how it is meant to be.

  • JV

    Sex for human beings was always intended to be the physical union of one soul with another. It is a very important part of a true relationship that is based upon true love. Here is the problem we face today: many Christians in the past few decades have become victims of the sexual revolution that has rapidly begun to eat away at the morality of American society. Everywhere we look now, the world is pushing SEX down our throats (provocative commercials, the internet, pornography, the media, etc.). These social flaws would have been unimaginably immoral say 80 years ago. Now young Christians, along with the rest of American society, find themselves under immense pressure and temptation to give in to their hormonal desires, resulted in an unbelievably clouded mindset when it comes to thinking about relationships. They are so fixated on the temptations of the mind that they cannot truly seek the desires of their heart. Unfortunately, many young Christians of today get married for the wrong reason: to have sex! This should NEVER be the basis for marriage; not even close! Marriage should be bound by something much stronger. If both the man and the woman are putting their relationship with God above their relationship with each other, God will bless the union. Will their still be times of difficulty within the marriage? Of course there will be! But we can overcome any difficulty through a stronger power (God). Putting our trust in a human being will ultimately result in failure.

    • https://www.facebook.com/GentleGiantDK GentleGiant

      Thanks for providing a good example of a screwed up view on sex and marriage, although wholly unintentional on your part I figure.

  • Saletta77

    I waited to have sex untill I got married, and let’s just say that my sex life sucks. I’ve been married for almost nine years. I grew up in a strict religious home. No sex before marriage. On my wedding night it was bad, painfully so. And the whole honeymoon thing, well let’s just say it was a disaster. I thought waiting to have sex would cause me to have a good sex life, that doing everything right things would fall in to place. Now almost nine Years later the only person that’s getting theirs is my husband. Don’t get me wrong my husband is a good guys and I do it for him. I guess nothing is ever promised,not even a good sex life


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