Is premarital sex okay?

So lately a few college-age people have written to ask what I think about premarital sex. (Those who wrote are Christian, but I would answer the same if they weren’t.)

Ah, spring. As the great Shakespeare put it, “Tis the humpiest of seasons.”

Anyway, right. So:

I am not against premarital sex. I do think pre-love sex is almost necessarily problematic. We are not designed to be content when our bodies are engaged to a greater degree than our hearts.

But sex with a person with whom you are absolutely in love is not an offense against God or your higher nature.

Absolute love, however, means absolute commitment. And being absolutely committed to a person means being ready and willing to spend your life with them.

Line le’ bottom: If you love someone enough to sleep with them, then for your own emotional (not to mention physical) well-being, you should love them enough to marry them. And they should feel the same way about you. And each of you should have proven to the other that your relationship is of that very special order.

You should be proud of that relationship. You should be so proud of it that you formalize it, and publicly announce it.

And in this society, at this time, that means exchanging rings.

Generally speaking, I would recommend waiting to have full intercourse until you are engaged. (And note, please, the vital distinction between engaged and married. They’re most definitely not the same thing. And I assume this goes without saying, but before marriage always practice safe sex.)

That said, I hardly waited until I was engaged to have sex (How I Lost My Virginity to My High School Teacher); and I lived with my wife for about three years before we got married (The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives).

But—and, again, generally speakingI’m comfortable going with Beyoncé on this: if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it.

Goodbye, family that takes my brother's side, despite what he did to me
That lovable man who abuses you
6 truths about "forgiving" sexual abuse
Mary: "How do I feel, Joseph? Pregnant. Very pregnant."
About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is the executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Andrew D. Sargent via Facebook

    It’s ok as long as you’re willing to be stoned to death for it – according to the old testament.

  • Leonard Smith via Facebook

    It is destructive in many ways and it seems no real good come of it but it is real and not likely to go away. I think a fairer question would be to ponder extra marital sex. The young are not the only ones who grope each other outside of marriage.

  • नैओमी गोंज़ालेज़ via Facebook

    people can have lifelong commitments without marriage, I mean the divorce rate in this country shows that marriage, although viewed as an absolute commitment by society is in practice not that. plus more and more young people are delaying marriage (if they choose to get married at all). Marriage is a nice societal construct, but def not the be all sign for absolute commitment.

  • Mariah

    Thank you, John.

    My husband and I were engaged, lived together, but could not get married for various reasons that need not be discussed here for several years before we were finally married last May. We were engaged for four years and 2 days when we were finally able to tie the knot. Each of us came from a very traditional Catholic family, both of which tried in their own ways to be supportive but were increasingly uncomfortable as we unexpectedly welcomed 1, and then a 2nd child, still unwed. We have never broken up, we’ve been committed the entire time, and I even stopped correcting people when they called him my husband. He, several times, introduced me as his wife, despite not having a marriage certificate. Even our church recognized as a committed couple raising a family.

    We were finally married last May, and all that really changed is my last name, and our savings account- depleted by the wedding. Still, I’m glad we did it. We would happily have married less than a year after he asked me to marry him, if we were able. It was very frustrating to be told by a couple members of my family that we were living in sin.

    I’ve since learned, one member of my family can find sin in anyone, and will write you a strongly-worded letter about how you’re going to hell for it whenever he sees fit. Now we’re going to hell because I have used birth control, and my husband recently had a vasectomy. You know, because I should be perpetually pregnant in God’s eyes. Nevermind wanting to sufficiently provide for the children we have, right? Now we’re married, and that’s alright, but we’re committing adultery AND abortion in one by preventing pregnancy, so therefore we’re going to hell even more than before.

    Whatever.

  • Mariah DiPlacido via Facebook

    Agreed! And thank you for this post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jo.hilder Jo Hilder via Facebook

    If we are telling young people that sex before marriage is the worst sin they can commit against each other, we are lying. The terrible things that too-young married couples are capable of doing to each other when they marry do they won’t be “living in sin” can be far, far worse.

  • Lynne Jacobson via Facebook

    Of course it’s okay. As long as you are not hurting self or others either physically or emotionally. Don’t risk getting sick. Don’t risk pregnancy.

  • Robert Wood via Facebook

    @नैओमी गोंज़ालेज़ Divorce rates in the US have been on the decline. Secular marriage was never meant to be about absolute commitment, it’s basically just a co-habitation contract+ when you get right down to it. Usually what happens with this contract is that views get latched onto it that just aren’t there. The Christian ideal of marriage is not the same as this contract. And in the Christian ideal, its best to not even get the contract.

  • Kirsten A.S. Mebust via Facebook

    I think it’s a reasonable response. I also think we do nothing much culturally to help people understand the differences between sexual desire and “being in love” and long-term commitment. Have you got some ideas about how to do that?

  • Paul Spencer via Facebook

    Go through a divorce and find out that marriage is only a business contract.

  • Stephen Alan Whitehead via Facebook

    John, in a slightly lighter vein. Sex before a wedding is not recommended.. if it’s going to keep the Minister, guests, choir, organist, photographer and caterer waiting. The wedding planner may also sue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mad-Maddie-Mendelsson/783945797 Mad Maddie Mendelsson via Facebook

    Pre-martial sex is one of the many things that’s none of my business. Besides, sometimes when people have pre-marital sex, they get married and stay married. Sometimes, single people have cute babies; no reason to judge.

  • vj

    Great response, John. I also particularly liked the approach advocated by Peet in a comment last year (I am a terrible nerd – I keep a file on my computer of all the things you and your comment-leaving-readers write that really resonate with me…):

    “The basics of a healthy relationship:

    1. It is mutually public. You’re not sneaking around, you aren’t embarrassed with who you’re with, you want other people to see what a lucky guy/gal you are.

    2. It is mutually exclusive. You’re not betraying the person you’re with. You’re devoted to one person.

    3. It is mutually committed. You aren’t using someone until you find someone you think is better. You haven’t put a time limit on the relationship. You’re together through good and bad times. You’ve got each others’ back, for good.

    That’s it. If your relationship falls within those parameters, as far as I’m concerned, you’re good to go, sex wise.”

    Waiting for marriage worked for me and my husband (we were 22!), but I realize that for many people it doesn’t – the above parameters seem like a pretty good non-official-marriage way of testing if you and/or your relationship are ready for physical intimacy, and I wouldn’t object if my kids used them as the basis for their relationship decisions.

  • Erich Buehler

    Hmmm. Aren’t we also then supposed to stone people to death for braiding their hair, or picking up sticks on Saturday….. Not saying yea or nay to the original issue here, just saying the Old Testament argument won’t hold up unless you’re an ultra-orthodox Jew, and I’m not convinced even then.

  • Penny Visalli via Facebook

    Very well stated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leigh.kelly Leigh Pinkston Kelly via Facebook

    Yeshua defined marriage when he said, “What The Lord has joined together, let no man put asunder.” Two people haven’t been joined by The Lord until they have children together. In an era before contraceptives, that meant sex and child bearing were pretty closely connected, hence the prohibition on divorce. (Annulment was usually fairly easy to get if there had been no consummation though.) Today, with our long life spans, it is essential that we chose partners who are satisfying sexually as well as emotionally and the only way to really do that is to “test drive” the proposed spouse by cohabiting for several years (with or without a contract) prior to having children. A lot of unhappy marriages could be avoided that way.

  • Lymis

    I won’t weigh in too much with my own take on the actual subject, because I think it will be out of line with the general consensus.

    But one thing I think we do need to reasonably do is make a distinction between “premarital sex” among people who are very young and still discovering who they are and far more likely to have unrealistic expectations that having the slipper fit guarantees a happy ending and don’t have the life experience to separate arousal, infatuation, intimacy and love, and the often significantly different experience of people who do have more life experience, more grounding, and a different perspective on life.

    In other words, I think “is premarital sex okay” is a very different discussion with two sixteen year-olds than it is with two 40-year olds., or two 80 year-olds, no matter where you come down with regards the actual answer.

    We often assume that either the only discussion that needs to be had is with the youngsters or that the answers that apply to teenagers map onto everyone else, and I think often that’s an error.

  • Leslie

    I appreciate you moderate position on this issue. But, even saving it for the engagement (I know you said “generally speaking”) isn’t always the answer. I’m in my mid-20′s and have never had sex. Not for any particular “moral” reason, but I suppose, in part, because I’ve never been in love. I’m increasingly aware of how weird it is to still be a virgin a few years away from 30, though, so I’m trying to get a move on. At the same time, I have zero interest in getting married in the next 5 years. Even if I meet the right guy. I’m just not ready to give up my freedom.

    It’s a different world today, and I consider marriage to be a big deal. But, I don’t want the white picket fence or the 2 1/2 kids. At least, not now (or anytime close to now). That doesn’t make me immoral. I just want something different from my life. I still plan on saving sex for a committed relationship, but waiting until marriage (or even an engagement) might turn me into the next 40-year-old virgin. I think I’ll pass :) God will understand.

  • Gary

    Great points Lymis. I am more in line with you on this than with John. I find nothing in the bible that declares it to be sin unless the law of love is broken. Therefore it becomes a matter of opinion and circumstances. I totally agree that it is an entirely different thing between 40 year olds as opposed to 16 year olds. But one thing I see way too often in the fundamental church is the advice to two 20 year olds in a relationship that are no where near ready for marriage to go ahead and marry anyway because sex would be a mortal sin. This is just so irresponsible to me on many levels. I am not saying they should just go ahead and have sex…but I am saying that depending on circumstances it may be preferable to marriage. And since I do not see sex as a sin when handled responsibly…I don’t even view it as the lesser of two evils.

  • Melody

    No offense, but what’s with the cynical comments regarding the Old Testament? I reread the post and found nothing in John’s advice about God or the Bible. It seems he’s speaking more in terms of what he thinks would be best in real life, not what God or the Bible says is right or wrong.

  • Gary

    Not exactly. Only if you were a woman who was the property of a husband or a father…or if you took the property of a husband or father without paying the price. But a man who had sex with a prostitute (or various other women) had no issues. The law was more about property rights than about morality.

  • Laurie Parham O’Neill via Facebook

    “Two people haven’t been joined by The Lord until they have children together.” WHAT? Are you kidding me? Do you realize how many people you hurt terribly by saying that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Beth-Beyer-Abbott/1347716796 Beth Beyer Abbott via Facebook

    No one here has mentioned the spiritual implications of sex. I believe there is a mystical union between two people in the act of intercourse. What are other’s views.

  • Melody

    It’s okay, she doesn’t know better. She’s probably never dealt with infertility.

  • Gary

    Who exactly is harmed by this?

  • Gary

    I’m sorry…I mistook your comment. I thought you were referring to the morality of it and not the fertility issues many couples face.

  • mike moore

    Back in olden tymes, Joe Jackson sang, “It’s Different for Girls.” Sounds like it may also be different for nice straight guys.

    I loved my years of dating and getting naked just for the sheer fun of it. Making out like high-schoolers even when we were long out of high school. Clothes littered in the living room and down the hall. Not quite making it to bedroom. Skin-on-skin for the first time. Later, the exhausted tangle of sheets and bodies. The trip to raid the fridge afterwards, sometimes asking the question, “so what’s your last name?”

    People liked to say to me, “someone always gets hurt,” but for my friends and me, that simply wasn’t true. Or, it was true in the exact same way that my chaste friends always got hurt in their dating game … they’d date for a month, or two, or six, and one of them would think they’d found “the one” at, inevitably, the same moment when the other announces they want to break up.

    26 years ago, after having a ton of fun (and, often, true intimacy … guys I’m still friends with almost 30 years later) bouncing around beds for 7-8 years, I had a “first date” one night. After dinner, we blew off the movie we’d planned to see and went back to his place to rip each other’s clothes off. We’ve been together ever since.

    Sex is best with someone you really love, no argument there. But for some of us, a naked romp was just way (waaaay) more fun than watching “Miami Vice” or “Cheers.”

  • Gary

    Which by the way is the reason why Jesus simple law of love is so superior to the old law in every way.

  • http://audioarchives.blogspot.com spinetingler

    “Is premarital sex okay?”

    If not, you’re doin’ it wrong. Try more lube.

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Lore

    One problem with the question of premarital sex is defining sex in the first place. In the world of the Old Testament, sex was penetration. A gold-star lesbian would have been considered a virgin in many ancient cultures.

    My own thoughts on premarital sex: Do everything you can to protect yourself from STDs. Don’t do something that could result in pregnancy unless you know your partner is committed to raising a child with you or you’re in a socioeconomic position to raise one on your own. Beyond that, consider the effects of sexual activity on your own and your partner’s emotional health. Would adding sexual activity to your relationship dynamic make the relationship more healthy and functional or less so? And if the relationship isn’t healthy or functional to begin with, you have bigger issues than whether or not to have sex.

  • Elsa Wiens via Facebook

    There is absolutely a spiritual component to sex – when there is one. That is my distinction between having sex and making love. And it’s got nothing to do with whether or not you are married.

    I know this first hand, having done it both ways. The one person I never should have had sex with was the one I was legally married to.

    Pre-marital sex is essential to our physical and emotional safety. Never, never again, would I get married to someone without finding out ‘what’s in it’ for me. Some people get up to some very weird stuff in bed: so if the rules say you’re not allowed to find that out ahead of time, and then you’re not allowed to get out of it through divorce – you are (pardon the expression) screwed. Sex is way too important to leave it up to chance like that. Our lives are way too important to blindly follow rules put into place centuries ago.

    What does ‘what God has joined together’ mean, anyway? If that means any sex act, then rape victims have to stay with their rapists. Even if it’s incest. How can something decided upon by a human being (and don’t forget, in biblical times this meant a male human) be seen as God doing it? In those times women were property. If a man divorced his wife, she was thrown out onto the streets with no means of support.

    The biblical rules were not talking about a mutual and equal relationship. They couldn’t have been, because there was no such thing. Those rules were in place to protect women, so men couldn’t just use them and throw them away. Which in those days was very dangerous.

    We live in different times. Why is there 50% divorce rate? Because we CAN. We don’t have to stay in painful marriages anymore. Women can support themselves, although once they have children it becomes more difficult. Still, it is possible because there is a system of support in place, even though it is not ideal yet.

    Now that we CAN get divorced, we have to figure out how to do relationships properly if we don’t want to. Ooops, got sidetracked there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nea-Bryant/100000197161695 Nea Bryant via Facebook

    i vote for mystical union.

  • Keith A. York via Facebook

    Recent article I read about couples who live together before marriage and have already made a commitment to marriage(life time together in a monogamous relationship usually will stay together; however those who shack up without that commitment already in place then their relationship is pretty well doomed to end. It is ignorant(blind) to think having multiple sex partners(even before conception) does not effect you adversly in some way(for future relationships). There is a certain amount of extra(?) intimacy involved in knowing you or your partner are sharing somthing you have waited and kept sacred for only one other person. Just a few random thoughts.

  • Ellen Bollinger via Facebook

    hold on, re read thepost…she wasnt advocating that, she was remarking on it…..

  • DR

    Mike are you gay? I wonder if this dynamic is different for men. For women, sex outside of the context that John’s painted can get emotionally tough.

  • LSS

    After the initial wtf?! reaction, and then re-reading your comment (and agreeing wholeheartedly with the part about it being optimal to not have children until you know you are really going to stay together), i have this question, well actually questions:

    (1) are you getting the “not joined until children are produced” idea from the Bible or from elsewhere? And either way, what is your source? It sounds a little familiar but not like something that would necessarily apply now.

    (2) based on this idea, couples who marry and choose not to have kids, as well as couples where one or both are infertile, are not really married. What about that?!

  • DR

    Where did John reference the Old Testament??

  • LSS

    Also the people who choose not to have kids. Also the same-sex couples… How is God even going to join them, according to that theory?!

    Dh and i never planned to have kids. We’ve been married for nearly 7 years. If “la migra” had followed that theory, his fiancé visa would have been invalidated and he wouldn’t have gotten his citizenship.

    I just think something is missing, maybe she meant that was an old testament idea or a cultural idea of the time and didn’t specify.

  • Melody

    I know, right? Seems some readers have chips on their shoulders and are using this topic as a platform for that.

  • Kristi Knox via Facebook

    I see. I misunderstood. I apologize, Leigh. Previous post will now disappear. :/

  • Scott McDaniel via Facebook

    Is premarital sex okay? Yes, it’s FABULOUS

  • नैओमी गोंज़ालेज़ via Facebook

    Also remember in biblical times at least in the period of the hebrew bible men had multiple wives and concubines…

  • Michelle M

    First of all, I don’t know if Laurie Parham thinks this idea is somehow in Scripture, because it’s not.

    Secondly, this comment is hurtful to me, a woman who had children with an abuser and is now divorced from said abuser. I am in no way “joined in the Lord” to my ex, and quite frankly, I never was, even when we were married. We are co-parents; that is all. This comment also hurts a woman who was raped, got pregnant, and chose to keep the baby. This also hurts a single mom who was abandoned by the father of her children. With Laurie’s Pollyana-esque comment, these woman are joined together (by the Lord!?) with these evil men. When you are joined together “by the Lord”, the assumption is that you can never be free. And that’s wrong. This also goes for fathers who are horribly wronged by the mother of their children.

    While it is true that having a child connects two people, they are connected by their own choices, not because God connected them. God didn’t make them jump in the sac right when she was ovulating. Sometimes one parent must break free from the other parent for their sake and/or the sake of the child.

    The idea that children is God’s way of joining two people together makes God seem like a controlling ass who tries to permanently connect people who are wrong for each other just for fun. And He’s not.

    I guess what bothers me the most about this comment is that some churches will tell people to hang on to their horrible exes because “God is going to change them” and “God is going to work a miracle, you’ll see”. And the innocent party ends up turning away from God in their pain and hurt because they can’t believe God would force them to be so miserable.

  • Michelle M

    Oh no, I used the wrong name! My apologies, Laurie Parham! I am in agreement with you. This comment is for Leigh Pinkston Kelly.

  • Gary

    Many believe the mystery Paul spoke of regarding the two becoming one flesh was referring to children…one flesh from two. Perhaps this was what she had in mind?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sullivan/100001025481213 James Sullivan via Facebook

    and wives were in their early teens…and men were, often Much older

  • erika

    right on

  • mike moore

    way gay. and, at least among my friends, sex does indeed seem very different for women. thus, Joe Jackson.

  • नैओमी गोंज़ालेज़ via Facebook

    So how we view marriage love and sex differs depending on time period, culture etc. Not every society has viewed premartial sex or sex with multiple people as harmful or bad.

  • Gary

    Oh I agree. I am not sure she meant it in the way it has been taken…but if she chooses she can clarify her comment.

  • Theresa Pickel via Facebook

    Yes premarital sex is ok and so is living together before you get married than there are no surprises.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.geddes Katie Geddes via Facebook

    I am 50 years old, never married. Am I really supposed to be a virgin?

  • M

    I have a couple of thoughts on the topic. In no way am I basing this off of what John said, so please don’t respond by saying “John didn’t say that” because I already know.

    I was raised to believe that premarital sex was one of the worst things that I could do. My parents weren’t the ones who pushed that on me, but I heard the message, loud and clear, when I was at church. My youth group obsessed on it and I grew more and more afraid of anything that had to do with sex. I ended up having sex when I was 20 and the horrible guilt and feeling that I failed God, that came along with it, was way worse than the fact that the relationship I was in failed. I didn’t think I was going to marry the guy. I think I just wanted to get rid of being a virgin. I was sick of thinking about it. I was sick of worrying about it. I think I did it, just because it was easier than all the fear.

    I am married now. I got married at 30. Sadly, my I have deep rooted issues with sex that I am starting to believe came from the Church. I have a hard time being sexual. I get embarrassed easily and feel shame, anytime I try to be sexy with my husband. I find him extremely attractive, but it is hard to undo years of being told that “sex is bad”. I know they said, “unless you are married” but after years of not being married, all you focus on is “sex is bad”. I think I need to go find a therapist to talk to . My husband is wonderful and understanding, but I don’t want to live in a passionless marriage and I know he does not want to either.

    I also know that I am not alone in this. I think that teaching children that sex is not a game and that you should be in love is fine. No one wants 15 year olds to have sex and some sort of preventative measure needs to be taken, I’m just not sure that instilling the fear of God’s wrath into them, is the most healthy way to do it.

    I believe that girls are targeted more than boys and that so much of our worth is based on our virginity, when we are younger. I had friends who had sex as teenagers and figured that they were ruined now, so why not just keep having sex? Our traditional ways of teaching children about sex are damaged.

    I also believe that making the human body an object of shame, instead of beauty, can be incredibly harmful to our own self image. I recently heard a mother freak out because her child saw a work of art that had a woman with one breast exposed. All she was teaching her little girl is that breast are shameful. I understand you need to teach modesty and decency, but I think it is more important to teach children where their worth comes from. To often they are told that it comes from their bodies and what they do with them, which often sets them up for failure. Not enough of them learn that their worth comes from God and that He loves them. If we can teach proper self worth, I think that less children will search for it, in the arms of someone else.

    I have no answer for how to teach worth. I am not a parent and I can’t imagine how difficult it is to raise a child. I just hope that I am able to find a way to guide them, on this topic, that is not based of fear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lillian.chioma.nwosu Lillian Chioma Nwosu via Facebook

    No, Katie; you’re not. ;)

  • Poppy

    @Keith I dated a man who believed the things you mention. I was the person who was divorced and had a few committed partnerships that included sex before I met him. Yes it affected me: it made me more aware, experienced and knowledgeable about myself, how to be a good partner, and what I wanted and needed in a relationship. He tried to follow to the letter the teaching of the church on sex (for all intents and purposes, he was a virgin). He didn’t have the self-knowledge that comes from truly giving of yourself, because he thought it was “wrong” and “bad” to experience what most adults do even within the confines of a committed relationship. While he desperately wanted it, he didn’t have enough awareness or experience to make a life decision on the magnitude of marriage. And our relationship failed. I hope he remembers that next time he tries to judge a person like me.

  • Patricia Dittmar Boese via Facebook

    I’ve seen too many friends who believe otherwise with their children rushing into marriage at a young age and one time a friend with a 25 year old daughter who had not been kissed until she was engaged. When I asked about it, she said that the man was supposed to teach her how to kiss the way he liked. I always thought that at a young age if you could keep your hands off each other for a long engagement than maybe there wasn’t enough chemistry there and there’s no way I’d want kids marrying simply to have sex at 19. I vote for responsible pre-marital sex while speaking to them about the real implications of connection that go so much beyond the physical. I always thought if you could put it in a card game form like Pokemon (simple to understand) then they could see that casual sex might take away “mana” life points, etc. But sexual compatibility is a huge factor in marriage. It definitely needs to be checked out and you shouldn’t seal the deal without finding out first if you are good together. You wouldn’t buy a car without driving it and heck, you can get rid of those easily.

  • Poppy

    You are so right! I hope you get the support you need because you deserve a full, healthy sex life free of shame.

  • Logan Judd via Facebook

    We shouldn’t be as uptight about premarital sex as we should about irresponsible premarital sex. Who cares about premarital sex, as long as the two are being responsible about it (using protection, contraception if they don’t want kids, etc.)?

  • Gary

    Awesome comments. Hope you are able to find the help you seek. You both deserve it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    No offense or anything, for real. But you might want to give some serious thought to why you equate getting married to losing your freedom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lois.arata Lois Arata via Facebook

    Sometimes my eyes play tricks on me and when i first read the title of this post I thought it read ‘It’s premarital sex day’, hahahaha! YIPEE!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    I’d like to see that file!

  • Jay

    I am afraid that I do not agree with the line ‘And in this society, at this time, that means exchanging rings.’ I believe that commitment has nothing to do with being married and, for many members of the LGBT community all over the world, they are denied the luxury of being married. Does this make them less committed then married couples? No.

    I have known couples that have married, and divorced, in the space of three and sixteen years. I also know couples that have been together, solidly, and unmarried, for many more years than that.

    Commitment comes from love, respect, good communication and consideration. Marriage is a bonus (often, for those that can afford it).

  • http://www.facebook.com/divadarya Darya Teesewell via Facebook

    Then again, one might view sex as a purely physical function; satisfaction of a basic drive. If you are committed to someone and have sex outside your commitment;that probably be hurtful or fatal to the commitment.
    That said, there’s a lot of ways to partner.

  • Hallie Mac via Facebook

    I think this is the first time I’ve disagreed with John. Loving what Elsa Wiens said!

  • Tim

    I know some people, whose personal identifying details I’m going to keep secret but have given me permission to tell you all the sketch of the story, who would beg to differ. Both women.

    I largely agree with the point of your premise, John, but there is a lot of complexity it doesn’t correct for.

    First, I know someone who was abused as a child and didn’t have sex until her wedding night after the abuse and was in the hospital that night and missed her honeymoon because they were both so uneducated about those nether regions that they didn’t notice how much damage she had undergone–she had severe scar tissue problems and had to have 3 surgeries and wait almost a year after the last before being fully intimate with her husband again–which almost led to a divorce.

    Another woman had a similar problem, except they both had some experience before they got into this relationship. They vowed not to go there until they got married because they didn’t want to flub up their relationship by complicating it too early. Needless to say, they were not compatible physically. It was just too painful for her to be intimate with him, which would have been good to know when they started dating.

    In other words, I do think we need to tie sex to at least the idea that we could go all the way to the altar with the person, John, but for our own education, safety, and knowledge we need to have some experience and know that sex is indeed possible before one makes that commitment, otherwise, people lose too much.

    From my experimenting as a gay man (and I know you mean the equivalent of marriage for us) and my physiological issues that stem from being severely abused, I know what I can and can’t do sex-wise. I also know what to tell my partner to expect (and a lot of it is disconcerting). Problem is, if I hadn’t been loose as a young adult (18-22, am almost 26 now) I wouldn’t know these things. I wish I had had a guy during that time that I could have trusted, and perhaps envisioned a life with, to explore these things, but I knew better from those women’s experience than to wait until I was 30 or 35 and postitively contemplating a life together.

    Many Sunday blessings,

    Tim from Kansas

  • Judy

    I was also raised in a church that taught that premarital sex was a sin. For me, that was one of the few things of my fundamentalist upbringing that I am glad I listened to. I met the love of my life in college and married at age 21. Both of us waited until the wedding night for sex. I do not feel that it at all inhibited my sexuality with him, but rather enhanced it, because we shared something special that had never been shared with anyone else. From a health aspect, it definitely has advantages m in that neither of us has to worry about sexually transmitted diseases. From an emotional health aspect, we do not worry that one of us is comparing sexual prowess of former lovers with the present one.

    I do not think the actual piece of paper is what makes it special, it is instead the act of standing in front of God and witnesses and declaring a commitment to each other. While the legal paper is denied our LGBT brothers and sisters, they too can still make a public affirmation of commitment. I had hoped that our children would follow our lead, but they chose not to, convinced that we were old fashioned and that waiting for a commitment was not necessary. While I do not think premarital sex is a sin, I think that they have missed out on a joy that my husband and I have shared.

    After thirty four years of marriage, we are still pretty sexual for old married farts.

  • Gordon

    No one can overstate the power of sexual attraction when you’re young. Hell, it still amazes me, and I’m in my 50′s now! It’s primal…it’s biological…and we all know that those two things will trump religious teaching every time. I don’t have any children, but for some reason my nieces and nephews have, over the years, thought that makes me an expert on what’s going on in young minds and hearts. One of them, when she was just 18, came to me and said that her father (my brother) was badgering her about her relationship with her boyfriend. Bro said, if you’re having sex or even thinking about having sex, you need to get married. I asked my niece if she was in love with her boyfriend and if she wanted to marry him. She said she didn’t know. I didn’t ask her if she was having sex, because I’m not stupid. So, I reminded her of her Aunt Jo, my sister.

    Jo met Derrick when she was a freshman in college. My parents lived in the Middle East then, and Jo was pretty much on her own – except for me, her big brother who lived in the same town and stayed as close as she would let me. (I’m six years older.) I met Derrick and after about 15 minutes I knew this was not a guy I wanted my sister to have anything to do with. I kept that to myself, though, because as anyone with a little sister (or brother!) knows, the last thing they will benefit from is an older sibling telling them what to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s boyfriends or clothes. We have to keep our place.

    Anyway, my sister dated this boob for about six months and then announced she was dropping out of college and moving to Long Beach to live with him. I knew I couldn’t convince her not to go, so I actually advocated for it because I knew the relationship would run its course, it would end and she would get back to her life in Oregon. I also told her she couldn’t lie to our parents about what she was doing and she needed to tell them she was dropping out of school and moving to Long Beach. She did. My parents immediately leaped into action and came home. I was relieved because I figured they would talk some sense into her and, hopefully, convince her to slow down…not move so fast…make the morning last… and all that jazz. BUT, within a few days of my parents’ return home, I get a call from little sis and she has great news: She’s getting MARRIED! Rather than face up to the fact that their little girl was having sex with her boyfriend, my parents concluded that she needed to get married before she could live with him. And, in spite of all I tried to do to talk sense into anyone who would listen to me, she did marry Derrick. And she has had more than 25 years of heartbreak. I’m talking abuse, drugs, infidelity, restraining orders, etc. Every trashy reality TV example of a bad marriage has at one time or another visited itself on Jo. She is now raising her only child’s baby because he and the mother are too screwed up to do it. Oh, it is a mess my friends. A royal mess.

    A wedding is a magical thing and marriage is an amazing commitment that is to be honored and celebrated. Neither has ANYTHING whatsoever to do with sex or religion. And, before any of you start admonishing me about Jo’s choices and blah blah blah: She’s heard all of that. From me. We are still close, although my loathing for her husband has made that hard over the years. Ah, family. Right?

  • Christine McQueen

    I’m wondering if anyone here was as naive as I was at 19. I say that because, the first time I had sex, I literally didn’t even know what was happening until it was over! I thought all we were doing was “making out” – kissing and fondling.

    Fast forward six months to when I met the man I fell in love with and married six weeks later. I knew he was the man for me when, at our first “make out” session, he didn’t seem to notice the one physical flaw I had spent most of my teen years trying to hide. And when I asked him about it, his reply sealed my love because it wasn’t what I’d ever heard from most, both male and female. Had we waited for sex until the engagement, there likely would never have been an engagement, much less a marriage.

  • A Person

    John, I know you said “Generally speaking (and please remember I said that when you’re complaining at me), I would recommend waiting until you are engaged to have sex.” What would you consider exceptions to this? I have medical problems that will make it difficult or impossible for me to have sex in the traditional way; I’m not sure I can get treated for them. I would rather try to have sex with my significant other before we got married, so they could understand what our sex life would be like and make an informed decision about whether to commit to me for life, than wait until after we got engaged or married to find out that our relationship was never going to work because of our sex life.

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I remember my reaction to my mother on the phone when she announced to me a niece of mine being pregnant:

    Mom: “They’re planning on getting married, he’s going to do the right thing by her.”

    Me: “But she’s so young… Is she sure he’s right for her? You know, in this day and age, a girl doesn’t automatically have to marry a guy just because he gives her a kid.”

    Some conversation later had me trusting my niece’s judgement, because she’s a smart girl, but “if he hurts her, I’ll fly out there and do things to his face.” Something like that. Just me being a protective aunt. This is the second niece of mine to do baby-before-marriage. It’s actually not an uncommon route in my family. That and the fact that one of my happily married younger cousins just had a third (or was it fourth)? kid prompted me to say “What’s in the water out there?”

    I’m only 32 years old and I have GRAND-nephews.

    You can say that’s why I’m an advocate of commitment, if nothing else – the “stay side by side” even if things aren’t on paper because, you know, protection doesn’t always work and other options can be unplesant – though it helps to have supportive family. (Mine has problems, but is ultimately thick).

    After all, mine supports my… unusualness. People are right when they say “marriage is for those who can afford it” in this day and age. It’s the reason why the man I’ve been living with for over six years now and I aren’t officially married. I do have a ring… There are complicated finanical issues involved that keep us from being on paper. At the same time, however, premarital sex isn’t a problem for us. Neither of us are particularly interested. We’re asexuals who fell in love, apparently. Maybe someday, but it’s not like we have any overriding urges – it’s not like there’s no attraction, it’s just we like the relationship as it is. Besides, the birth control I take for a particular health problem is something I’d have to pay more attention to if we did anything, and that’s a hassle. Considering the state of my mental health, a kid would be the worst thing for us… but seriously, don’t come to me for advice, I’m a freak.

    I guess I’m saying is that, just in case of stuff happening, if you’re going to do stuff, it’s good to have a commitment, and even better to have a family who will be there for you in case commitments fall through.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Yes, A., I certainly think it’s safe to say your situation is exceptional. There is no one way for this sort of thing; certainly your path is a unique one, and needs its own set of rules for traversing.

  • Gordon

    By the way…one of my many regrets in this whole saga was insisting that my sister tell my parents she was moving in with this guy. In hindsight, I would have lied through my teeth if that would have kept her from marrying him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/q123robin Bonnie Palmer via Facebook

    like a wise person once said: ITS NOT PREMARITAL SEX IF YOU NEVER GET MARRIED.

  • DR

    JOE JACKSON!

  • DR

    I love this. I’m actually ok with believing that God puts some constraints around sex in order to protect us and help us integrate it in the way He intended it. I don’t know all of why sex exists or why God created it to be experienced in the ways we do but for me, there is a lot of freedom and dignity in approaching it the way you’ve stated here.

  • Martha Jean

    I think it is most likely that young adults are going to have sex, often as a biological urge, and maybe it’s better to build a spiritual sense of strength and teach them to learn to listen to what they really want (not other’s coercion or expectations). Also, teach them to be safe if they choose premarital sex, and let them know how, like you, they will learn from their mistakes. Fear, punishment, sin, and ignorance are unlikely ways to ever have a loving, growing relationship with a partner, married or not.

  • SquirrelyGirl

    Absolute perfection John! I was determined to remain a virgin until I got married. But didn’t realize until years later that “saving yourself marriage” and “saving yourself for the one you love” is two entirely different things. A perfect wedding with all the pomp and circumstance does not a marriage make. When eventually I met the man I should have been with (had I not been so determined to get married and so I COULD have sex! And we truly believed that int the south in the 70′s) –I felt bad that I had not “saved myself” for him! By society’s standards it was perfectly okay for me to have sex with someone I wasn’t truly in love with … because we stood in a church somewhere and they blessed us and said it was okay to have sex now.. WHOO HOOO…we could hardly wait. Truth is… it was not a relationship based on love but a relationship based on what people in our church had told us it should be. It didn’t last long. So listen to John Shore kiddos…without true commitment and love..no amount of sex will ever be enough and marriage just so you can have sex will never be good at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Diane-Whitley/729349407 Diane Whitley via Facebook

    I personally won’t buy a loaf of bread without squeezing it– and it costs a buck and only has to be pallitable for a week at most… How would an individual know whether they were gay if they resisted all their urges on the assumption that sex would be wonderful when it happened simply because they had a marriage blessed by God… I try not to discuss my views with young Christians as I would not want to be accused of leading them astray. That is my logical appraisal of a spiritual state… and I have been married for 16 years and divorced at the age of 21. (I believed it was better to marry than to burn with lust) my views have mellowed (like good wine) with age.

  • charles m

    John, there is a certain “Pinball Wizard” quality to your insights….

    amazing stuff indeed.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    JOE JACKSON!

  • mike moore

    yeah man, Look Sharp … Joe Jackson! ( “Don’t you know that it’s different for girls …”)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kate-Holland/100001468756612 Kate Holland via Facebook

    John I really like your blog posts in the main — this one I disagree with pretty strongly. It seems like you have decided that your own experiences of sex and love are universal. People are very different, and experience the act of sex and the sharing of love in many different ways. Also, even if one is someone who believes in finding a soul-mate and life-partner (and I am), sexual compatibility is very important. One really good way to find out if someone is sexually compatible is to go to bed with them. In my view, as long as everyone is being honest and careful of each other’s physical and emotional well-being, I don’t see any spiritual or moral problem with pre-marital sex. I don’t see how Jesus would have a problem with it. In my view, He has bigger fish to fry than where you stick it. ;-)

  • Allie

    Just as we can’t judge what the apostles would have thought about committed gay relationships from what they said about coercive pagan sexual practices, we can’t judge what the Bible might have said about sex with a greatly reduced risk of pregnancy. At the time Biblical writers were calling any woman who lost her virginity outside of marriage a “whore,” having sex meant having a baby, and given the lack of available occupations for women, having a baby without a man was not a good idea. And for men, having sex with a woman outside marriage meant fathering a child you didn’t plan to take care of.

    That’s not the case today. Birth control is not 100%, but used properly it is pretty darned close. It’s still not a great idea to risk catching a disease, but you can also catch a fatal disease from a doorhandle.

    If God were to come to me and offer to erase all my sexual experiences that happened outside of marriage, I would think God had turned into the Devil, because only the Devil could be so mean. Those are some of the greatest moments of my life and I don’t regret even one of them. They didn’t make me value myself less, they didn’t unfit me for marriage (19 years now, very happy, perfectly faithful) and I am in touch with several of my past partners and know they feel the same way.

    Sex is like glue – it bonds things, and if you don’t want them bonded, you might not want to get it on everything. It’s risky – there are diseases out there and 50% of all American babies are unplanned – and even smart girls suddenly act like morons when it comes to using birth control. But geez. The payoff is huge. Let’s stop lying about that. Sex feels great and it makes you feel great and most people most of the time don’t regret having it or wish they had been more biblical about it or more in love. It’s largely poisonous so much of the time because people who enjoy it are told it ought to be poisonous, so they talk themselves into thinking they shouldn’t have done it.

  • textjunkie

    I am so glad I do not have kids and am not actually responsible for having to make a decision about this! I was raised in a Christian family, taught that sex outside of marriage was not God’s will for anyone, sex is a beautiful expression of love within the context of marriage, and balancing that against sexual libido led to a lot of soul-searching, bible verse searching, quibbling, teasing, and just flat-out weird behavior. In retrospect, the tension between the two drives drove me completely nuts for most of my adolescence and college years.

    I think it’s a set of expectations that only work in cultures where kids are getting married at 13, 14, 15 years old. Once that’s no longer the case, we need a different set of rules. Your suggestion that sex is ok in the context of engagement is one suggestion; I think that’s still too much of a burden, but I don’t have a morally consistent counter-suggestion. I’m not at all certain how “special” I think sex should be. Certainly if I had kids I’d want them waiting until 17, 18, and being absolutely committed to safe sex, and having enough self esteem that they won’t have sex just because they want someone to like them, or to be cool, or because they are bored, or because someone else is manipulating them into it. Is it so special they should wait until they are sure they want to spend the rest of their lives with this person? Nope, because at 18 they will happily convince themselves that they are going to get married, just to be able to have sex. And *that* would be the real tragedy, not having sex with the wrong person.

  • textjunkie

    This!!

  • Michael wbl

    you know im actually a (college aged) virgin, but after i decided to have sex with my first girlfriend in highschool (she wanted it i didnt) and she then promptly broke up with me, ive found that ive lost the meaning of sex. i dont care much either way if i have it or not or who with. i try to care but i honestly cant. i sometimes wish i could care again, and i often hope that the girl i lose my virginity to will genuinely love me, and i her. alas, in college and with no one to terribly interested in me, i think that will most likely not happen.

  • LSS

    it could take a while. It took dh over 5yrs to help me relax about being romantic. But it can happen.

  • LSS

    Oh wow. I thought if it had a literal physical meaning it was insert tab A in slot B. (Or other configurations, of course.) this may just be my literalmindedness but i figured if you were as close as 2 bodies could be, penetration was the only closer you could get… and the physical aspect echoed the closeness of trust that you would want to have in order to get that close anyway. That sounds kind of tacky but when i thought i had figured it out, it seemed like a pretty great idea.

  • Gary

    Indeed!

  • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

    I totally disagree. I think Jesus cares about everything that we do that involves our head and our heart and the potential for damaging either (or someone else’s). Sex is super powerful, to reduce it to something that we “stick it” in feels a little degrading, frankly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DianeReischling Diane Re via Facebook

    @Kate Holland – I disagree with your disagreement. “Where you stick it” seems to be kind of a diminishing way to talk about something that is so impactful on just about every level for a human being. There are thousands of people who’ve modeled this approach who are happily in love and happy with their spouse.

  • LSS

    There *is* life after college. Some people find their first (lasting relationship, sexual experience, or both) around age 30… and some even later.

  • Gary

    She didn’t say He doesn’t care…just that He would not have a problem with what you choose. Remember she did point out “as long as everyone is being honest and careful of each other’s physical and emotional well-being, I don’t see any spiritual or moral problem with pre-marital sex. ”

    I think you are taking the comment out of her intended context. Law of love…this is clearly what Jesus cares about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kate-Holland/100001468756612 Kate Holland via Facebook

    Diane Re: please forgive me if my words offended you. I absolutely did not intend to deny that waiting until marriage can be a very meaningful and right choice for some people. I just think that there are a multitude of personality types, some of whom may make choices about sex and love based on different criteria. My point was, if people are respectful and caring in their approach, I see no harm in different choices. This wasn’t meant to diminish the experience of people who chose to wait to make love until they are engaged or married. I have respect for that choice too — I just don’t see it as the only legitimate one. And I was being flip with that last sentence — again, I am really sorry if it was inappropriate or caused offense. It was just me joking about something that causes me some real discomfort in some aspects of my faith. I worry that we spend a lot of time thinking about sex and religion, and ignoring the larger and more radical implications of what Jesus was saying about the way we treat our fellow human beings. But that’s a different conversation. Once again, please accept my humble apologies if I angered you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Phillips/837628746 Jonathan Phillips via Facebook

    I am glad that you and your readers have broached the subject. The church certainly needs to rethink the mesage of abstinence and qualify that for people – not sure what I am going to say to my son when he is of age. Having said that there are practical evolutionary reasons why we have emotions tied to the act of sex – I would refer everyone to Richard Wright’s book The Moral Animal. In other words, there is still an emotional impact to having sex outside of marriage, but fewer practical concerns than there used to be in the ancenstral evolutionary environment. Also, as you pointed out in other blogs, Jesus was more concerned with social justice than our sexuality…

  • DR

    I find her description of sex very degrading and I think it diminishes its power. We clearly disagree and the Law of Love is exactly what I am talking about.

  • DR

    Michael, lots of people these days find love in their 30s and even 40s! Don’t lose heart, it’s pretty normal to find love after college. xoxo

  • http://www.facebook.com/DianeReischling Diane Re via Facebook

    No worries at all Kate, that context helped a lot. Thanks for taking the time to explain (and I agree with you).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kate-Holland/100001468756612 Kate Holland via Facebook

    My pleasure! Thanks so much for raising your concerns.

  • Gary

    Yes she was being a little flip…for which she has now apologized. No reason to turn her comment into something she did not intend.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    I simply didn’t understand her objection. I can’t imagine to what she’s referring when she writes, “It seems like you have decided that your own experiences of sex and love are universal.” That … doesn’t match what I said at all.

  • Gary

    Yeah I didn’t get that from your post at all. You simply shared what you believe on this very subjective of subjects. She perhaps thought your views were a little restrictive. (Not deliberately trying to speak for her here.) But as I said, this subject is very subjective.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    People often react not to what I actually wrote, but to what, for whatever reasons they might, they’ve rushed to assume that I said, or meant. That’s really common.

  • DR

    Gary, I had a reaction to it and I stated it. I didn’t take her comment out of context, she actually needed to clarify her context and she did that. You disagree. I don’t care that you do. We have differing perspectives on this issue and you’re entitled to your opinion but you’re kind of policing my comment to an odd degree and that’s more about you than me. That I read something differently in the comment doesn’t mean I took it out of context. Please move on. Thank you.

  • DR

    I’m not really sure why you’re speaking on behalf of Kara, here. She clarified her point without your help and seems to be doing just fine on her own.

  • DR

    (Kate. Not Kara.)

  • Gary

    Policing your comment? Seriously? Never mind your policing her comment…that part must be ok?

    Look DR…I have absolutely no issue with you disagreeing with me. (Though I doubt we disagree nearly as much as you imply.) None the less it is a blog where give and take is the norm…even when YOUR objections are called into question. Your “move on” comment is one I find very demeaning.

  • DR

    You’re clearly fixated on something here that I don’t get. So I’ll leave you to it.

  • DR

    I love this comment. Though the fear of getting pregnant actually did “protect” me from sex at an age where I know it would have really hurt me. Fear can be a gift to protect us from ourselves and our attachments but when sex is *grounded* in the things you’ve mentioned, that’s terrible. I think that’s why John’s perspective resonates with me so much, it provides enough security and perspective to really experience sex with abandon and love, not fear.

  • Gary

    I responded to John’s comment to me. Why are you policing my comment? But I assure you…just as much as you don’t care of my disagreeing with you…I don’t care if you disagree with me.

    Look DR, I have great respect for much of what you write on this blog. There is no need for us to start a pissing match here. But if you can’t handle a little give and take it is going to be difficult…no?

  • Gary

    Passive aggressive tactics neither impress me or scare me. Move along.

  • DR

    Dude, honestly – I’m totally bewildered by your comments, they seems so out of character. I had an exchange with Kate, we found some common ground on and I moved on the second she clarified a few things. I’ve no interest in defending my perspective or explaining myself to you anymore. It’s pretty obvious she and I figured it out ourselves. I don’t care if you think this is “passive aggressive” or not, I’m focusing on the actual substance of the post. Not this (anymore). This is creeping me out.

  • DR

    Wow.

  • DR

    I love this entire comment, especially this:

    “Sex is like glue – it bonds things, and if you don’t want them bonded, you might not want to get it on everything.”

  • Gary

    Seriously? You totally misrepresented her comment and I called you on it. Great that you believe you and she worked it out…but seriously get a grip. Your overly defensive posture here is both counter productive and insulting. “Creeping me out”? Tell me that statement is meant to be anything other than aggressively insulting.

    Get over yourself.

  • DR

    This is the kind of tragedy that happens and causes such painful divorce! I wonder if the “you need to get married” isn’t more about following what those parents believe God’s Law to be, but more about what it might look like to their community?

  • Gary

    I’m done with this nonsense.

  • DR

    No, it’s honest. It’s creeping me out. You can believe that or not, that’s not my call. Your hostility about this is really unsettling but what’s more unsettling is that I keep commenting and keeping it alive on a thread that could probably benefit from us not going back and forth on something we are experiencing completely differently. Good night, Gary.

  • DR

    I’ve been thinking about this post a lot today, for some reason. If anything, I am wondering about the role of fear in our lives with something as powerful as sex. I think as adults, this is a topic that is layered and complex (as most are when we acknowledge them for what they are). As kids? With something like sex that is so powerful? I wonder if fear around it might be more of a gift in certain scenarios then others. I think of how fear prevents kids from doing a lot of things they’d do without thinking (even adults, really).

    What boundaries do we put around sex for kids? That’s probably more for parents to decide. My sister was here this weekend, she has 4 kids and this was something we talked a lot about. My brother is one who instills a lot of fear around grades, sex, etc. He’s got amazing relationships with his kids but it’s a sore spot. My sister is intentional about not being fear-based in her parenting but in some ways, that causes problems. Kids can’t always cognitively make the right choices that set them up well in the long-term.

    I write this very glad that I’m not a parent. It’s hard enough to manage this for myself, let alone kids.

  • sayla1228

    While motives are important in understanding the context of a message, it doesn’t wipe out the ‘unintended’ impact of the message at all. While DR has her own procivilities regarding Kate’s comment for good reasons, Kate don’t react well with John Shore’s post at all feeling that John’s post is imposing something that isn’t true in her experience even though the last couple sentences shows he understood and respected that people have their own views of pre-martial sex. I don’t see John making his views the universal view at all

  • Gary

    I agree that John was not trying making his views universal.

  • DR

    Most of the people I know fell in love way after college! I wonder if it’s the norm, now? It seems like adolescence has extended itself and the new age of marriage is mid-30s (though my experience isn’t universal). It would be interesting to know what the age norms are for marriage.

  • Allie

    John, my husband and I were talking about the post about your virginity, and he made a point which I thought was worth passing on.

    You enjoyed that experience, you don’t regret it, and you don’t feel as an adult looking back that it did you any harm. Would it have been improved if you had loved that high school teacher enough to marry her, and vice-versa? Because it seems to me, and it seems to my husband, that that would have been DISASTROUS, it would have harmed you in a lasting way, it would have been exactly what people mean when they talk about how a relationship between a school age boy and a teacher is exploitative and crazy, because one is in a different stage of life than the other.

    Point being, sometimes casual sex is less harmful and more okay (which to me means more Biblical, since what God wants is for us not to fuck ourselves and other people up) than committed love sex. Sometimes casual sex is great fun that harms no one and committed sex means one or both of you ought to be committed.

  • otter

    Funny how both you and John make perfect sense…. but in different situations. He describes the ideal pairing but you are clearly living in reality….My takeaway is we all are blessed with intuition….so USE it. Rules don’t work in every situation….. Waiting can be as wrong a choice as casual sex.

    Thanks for a sane post.

  • Donald Rappe

    The expression pre-marital sex sounds so much more hopeful than extra-marital sex. The meaning of the word sex has become so ambiguous that anything a person says on the subject can be easily misconstrued. I do believe that there should be plenty of pre-marital foreplay. This answers a lot. If you can’t get foreplay going, how likely are you to be compatible? If you can and you find lots of good self lubrication and erection how incompatible sexually could you be? I think the question of sexual compatibility should be known before people pledge their troth to each other.

  • vj

    I think you’ve got the right meaning. There is a NT passage that includes that admonishment to believers to NOT ‘unite’ themselves with a prostitute, because ‘he who has relations with a prostitute becomes one flesh with her’ – I don’t think there is any reasonable way to interpret that as having anything to do with the possibility of conception and producing a child as a result….

  • vj

    :-P

  • vj

    Mostly agree with both of you, but I do think we need to consider the Biblical advice that ‘it is better to marry than to burn with passion’ is at least the source of why most churches do consider that pre-marital sex is a Bad Idea. There may well be cultural considerations that applied then that are different today, but that should at least give us pause when it comes to giving (hopefully *not* unsolicited!) advice on the matter…

  • vj

    I agree! Hence it is advisable to be emotionally mature enough to at least have some sort of mutual commitment to one another before engaging in sex – for many couples, that includes waiting until they are married, but in a modern context that it not necessarily the only type of commitment.

  • vj

    “Those rules were in place to protect women, so men couldn’t just use them and throw them away.”

    YES – I’m so glad somebody else gets this!

  • Gary

    Yeah I tend to agree with you vj concerning the one flesh but who knows for sure? The child as one flesh is simply an explanation I have heard thrown about many times.

  • Gary

    Good set of parameters there for most people. Though not all consider sex to be quite such a major deal so long as the respect and trust are present and no one takes unnecessary risks physically or emotionally. But I find it personally Hard to fault those who have a more liberated approach if it works for them so long as all involved agree.

    As for me…your basics of a healthy relationship work well in our poly 4-some with a couple of modifications.

    1. It is mutually public only so much as is practical. Way too much baggage with our lifestyle choice.

    2. We are mutually exclusive…but committed to more than one. We most certainly do not betray the people we are with.

    Like you…my wife and I waited for each other and at least in part for marriage. (There was still a little something left for the wedding night, though admittedly not much) We were young (19 & 20) and have been married for 29 years next month. I have only (biblically) known my wife and my 2nd of 5 1/2 years and same is true for her. But we were very fortunate in that we were a great match and incredibly compatible. The percentage of couples as young as we were and so fortunate seems to be very small. To find the balance we have in our quad is even rarer I think. In truth…I think most people make some mistakes along the way and experiment a bit more. But if they are not what I would call a user…then I personally cannot fault anyone for their sexual choices. Between them and god.

  • Tony John via Facebook

    the way I see it its not about sex – its about love, monogamy and commitment.

  • Lorela Delos Santos Franklin via Facebook

    Wow mr. John shore! Very well said. I will be so outcasted, but I do agree with you. Publicly.

  • Fake Name

    I usually post under my own name but for this one I’m going to go anonymous. I was one who waited until marriage and so did my husband. We were married when I was 24 and he was 25. Our wedding night turned out to be very difficult, though we enjoyed plenty of premarital foreplay, as one commenter above put it. I could not figure out why it was so hard to do the actual act when we’d always enjoyed messing around so much. I thought it was my fault. It wasn’t until literally YEARS later that I realized my husband is hung a little differently than most men (I think this is true, but since he is still my only partner I can’t be entirely sure). To be blunt (hence the fake name), when erect, his penis is at a downward angle, which can make many standard positions rather difficult. We also had to use a condom right off because I was on a medication that lowered the efficacy of the Pill, so I think that didn’t help. Anyway, we have worked around the issue and been creative, but I often wish we’d given sex a try before the wedding night so I would have known our difficulties in advance. I also wish I’d been able to figure out what exactly the difficulty was and how to deal with it sooner. I’d had minimal sex education and had no idea why the mechanics were so troublesome. I now have 3 sons (yeah, I figured out a good position for getting pregnant) and I know I couldn’t tell them all that I just wrote here but I do hope to teach them that waiting is not always the best option.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.driggers Timothy Driggers via Facebook

    When marriage is talked about in the bible were they actually talking about how it’s done today with getting a marriage license and the ceremony or were they talking about committment of love.

  • Sally Eyman Price via Facebook

    It was more a property transaction, I think.

  • anonymous for a moment

    Why not just look up pictures online to find out about your husband’s anomaly (if it even is one)? I know my husband was always showing me a lot of pictures (he would send me porn links because i’m a recovering prude and it was funny to hear me shriek in shock at seeing it) but some of it was educational like sex manuals, just to give me the idea that this stuff even existed out there.

    I know your husband’s anatomy is not the point, but i guess i mean the “internet is for porn (and also education)” idea as being useful for the rest of those like us but younger. … I am shocked how i am not the only one who had “minimal sex education” … I mean there’s all kinds of stuff out there, even if you just look at the manuals and medical stuff. i know there are many reasons to be against porn industry for ethical reasons, that part i only included cos it was funny, but one can very well just stick with the educational materials.

  • Fake Name 2

    Your story kind of mirrors what happened to us. I personally had a grand total of two sex partners (one in a very brief relationship that was not intended to be a one-night stand, so I do completely agree with making sure there is a commitment) before getting together with my wife, but she had waited till she was over 30. She doesn’t really like sex, it turns out. So we “bought the cow” notwithstanding it doesn’t give “milk”, and I have always wondered if the waiting were part of the problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Derek-A-Collins/563951499 Derek A Collins via Facebook

    Timothy, in most cases when the Bible talks about marriage, it is talking about polygyny, forced marriage, the marriage of older men to ‘children and concubinage. The only people enjoined to have ‘only one wife’ are bishops.

  • LSS

    Yeah i was wondering about that, especially when one commenter said you [John Shore, not Allie] were applying your own experiences as universal and it seemed, in the light of that post, that you were actuallly doing the opposite. Was the difference because you weren’t a christian then? And you are writing to youths who are already christian who had asked you this question? And you don’t want to mess up their consciences or whatever?

  • LSS

    If you go to a christian college, they may tell you (well, they did at mine and for some reason i think it might be common) that if you don’t find your future mate there, you probably will never find one. Because it’s the greatest concentration of “like-minded” or “similar worldview” people that you will ever live in for the rest of your life. I think it was a very damaging thing that they told us that. Some of my best friends in college and i all found great people to marry LONG after college, like you said, in the area of 30s ages or maybe late 20s.

  • anonymous for a moment

    How long has she been trying? It definitely worked that way for me and it took me like 5yrs to relax. Seriously. my husband has the patience of a saint… Or something.

  • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

    Oh my goodness. What a terrible thing to push young adults into. Wow.

  • nai

    except that Jesus was a law who followed the Old Testament and probably viewed himself more as a reformer than someone started a new religion. Furthermore, all of his teachings of love are found in the “Old testament” (Hebrew Bible).

  • Gary

    My Christian college said the very same thing and as far as I know they still do. Definitely agree with DR. Horrible.

  • Nancy Johnson via Facebook

    John, I agree with what you have written here and it is what I have taught my three children. However, I would add that while it is desirable to wait until one is this mature to engage in sexual intercourse, we human beings – as you have said yourself with your own experience and I can say the same – have rather strong sexual urges that are difficult to suppress. So what I also taught my children is that if they were going to be sexually active, it is better to admit it and take precautions than to pretend it is not going to happen. Pregnancies are far easier and less painful to prevent than they ever will be to deal with once they occur.

  • Nancy Johnson via Facebook

    And I know you wrote something about “safe sex “but I think sometimes that piece is missed. We probably all know stories of someone who was not going to have sex until she was ready, and then ended up pregnant and either had a baby and kept it, gave the baby up for adoption, or had an abortion. None of those are easy and all of them are life-changing events. Good old Ben Franklin and his ounce of prevention!

  • Gary

    I agree and always attempt to take biblical advice. One of the most difficult things about doing so however is making sure I know as much context and culture as possible so as not to follow the direct opposite of what was genuinely being said. (This is a HUGE blind spot most of us agree much of the church presently has with homosexuality)

    One of the cultural differences present when this was written was the availability of sexual satisfaction through pagan and idolatrous practices. A man could go to a cult temple and have sex with temple prostitutes so satisfy his sexual needs. This was obviously very displeasing to God. It was far better to marry so sexual satisfaction was available if the alternative was sexual idolatry. But when we read into this passage a prohibition of sex outside of marriage it neither takes this culture into account nor much other scriptural evidence to the contrary.

    Admittedly it is tough to know if we have enough information to properly understand scripture. But this is why I believe the guiding principle Jesus gave us (the law of love) is to be our ultimate guide. Jesus did say if we keep that we have kept the law.

  • Gary

    I don’t see it as a new religion either…rather the culmination of the old. Jesus declared He came to fulfill the law…which He did at the cross, and let us all know with that wonderful declaration “It It Finished!”

    The teachings of love are universal I believe…which is why they are found in the OT as well as most of the other world religions. And Jesus was constantly pointing out the failure of applying the letter of the law (legalism) over the intent of the law (love).

  • Lymis

    Just picking up on your last point, why in the world would it be you that told your sons about it? Seems like that’s a “dad” sort of discussion to have – especially since they have the same anatomical issue, they got it from him.

  • LSS

    Crap, i was almost hoping i was wrong about that (*_*) but somehow i didn’t think so.

    You didn’t go to GCC, did you? That would be funny.

  • vj

    Amen! I believe that there is credible research that indicates ‘graduates’ of True Love Waits type of programs are actually MORE likely to end up with unintended pregnancies than teens who (a) get decent sex-education and (b) are not under so much pressure to not have sex – it seems that if/when they ‘succumb’ to having sex, they are not adequately prepared to take the measures needed to prevent pregnancy….

  • vj

    I think I might have to add this bit to my file….. ;-)

  • Gary

    No, but I wish it was limited to just one college. Unfortunately I think it is very common among fundamental Christian colleges.

  • vj

    I do agree that the key (in all things, really) is non-coercive mutual agreement (as it seems your 4-some have) and shared expectations – which, I think, are not always easy to achieve (even within marriage, as others have pointed out).

    I know that for me, as a believing but un-churched teen, the primary motivation for me to decide against having sex (aside from the opportunity not presenting itself, although I do think it’s good to at least think about these things before they become imminent) was reading repeated ‘agony aunt’ letters, in a local magazine, of the ‘my boyfriend said that if I loved him I would sleep with him, so I did, then he dumped me’ variety…. I concluded that the ‘commitment’ side of things was pretty important to me!

  • Peggy

    John, I love your answer! It is along the same line as what my father told me, but much more eloquent. Being from the Midwest, he said, “Any animal on the farm can have sex…doesn’t make you special.”. Luckily I understood what he was trying to say and I let it guide me. Have it mean more than the physical act. However, I have a 9 year old daughter and my idea is to lock her in her room at 12 and arrange a marriage at 30. My liberal, pacifist husband says he will just sit at the dining room table cleaning his gun when a young man comes to call. Amazing how having children can remove all brain activity from your head! ;-)

  • Gary

    I resonate totally with your reasons as a teen for waiting. Mine were similar but definitely also included the whole fear of burning for all eternity in hell component.

    I agree with another poster who mentioned the failure of the “True Love Waits” efforts in churches leading to more unwanted pregnancies because of the lack of education and deep seated shame associated with sex. I actually wish our youth would wait until they are emotionally mature enough to handle sexuality in a healthy way. But of course the reality is the hormones are incredibly strong as teenagers and most kids will experiment.

    We raised our own daughter with the expectation that sex was an absolute forbidden sin in God’s eyes and to avoid it at all costs. Then when she came to her mother and I late one night sobbing that she was worthless and disgusting in God’s eyes…we found out she had had sex a few times over the course of a week without protection. She was one of the lucky ones who did not get pregnant or an std.

    As I look back on that incident…I see the damage that my views caused. My daughter felt totally worthless in God’s eyes…and she put herself at risk for becoming a teen mom. Wow. Talk about failing her as a parent.

  • Gary

    And as I look back I see it was you who posted on the true love waits stats. lol

    Kudos.

  • Linnea

    I respectfully disagree with John on this one. I’m in my mid-30′s, have had several sexual relationships, and no harm done. I don’t know if I’ll ever get married, though I did think I’d marry my first boyfriend. Didn’t happen.

    I think it’s more important that your relationship is honest and respectful, and that you have emotional intimacy as well as physical intimacy, and that you’re comfortable discussing things like birth control, disease prevention, etc. The whole “wait until marriage” thing is seriously outdated. Does it work for some people? Sure, but not for everyone. I don’t agree with jumping into bed with everyone you’re attracted to, but if there’s a spark there and you’re together for at least a few months, go for it.

  • Gary

    I posted the following excerpt to you a couple pages back…but it really goes here on this comment so I am pasting a cleaned up (grammatically) portion here.

    I totally agree with you concerning the failure of the “True Love Waits” efforts in churches leading to more unwanted pregnancies because of the lack of education and deep seated shame associated with sex. I actually wish our youth would wait until they are emotionally mature enough to handle sexuality in a healthy way. But of course the reality is the hormones are incredibly strong as teenagers and most kids will experiment.

    We raised our own daughter with the expectation that sex was an absolute forbidden sin in God’s eyes and to avoid it at all costs. And of course she went through the “True Love Waits” propaganda at our church. Then when she came to her mother and I late one night sobbing that she was worthless and disgusting…we found out she had had sex a few times over the course of a week without protection. She was one of the lucky ones who did not get pregnant or an std, but needless to say there was emotional damage. (More so from the our and the church’s teaching than from the actual sex)

    As I look back on that incident…I see the damage that my views caused. My daughter felt totally worthless in God’s eyes and ours…and she put herself at risk for becoming a teen mom. Wow. Talk about failing her as a parent.

  • Diana A.

    You have to know yourself though. I learned the hard way that casual sex does not work for me. Unless I love, respect and trust the guy, I simply don’t get aroused.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    I didn’t say to wait to get married.

  • DR

    !!!!!

  • Diana A.

    One thing I will recommend is that you date/make friends with/get to know a lot of different women. Don’t let a perceived lack of interest on the part of the woman get in the way of developing a friendship with her. Some of us are slow-burners. Respect her boundaries and your own and I think you’ll eventually find yourself caring again.

  • Tom Weller

    I’m convoluted on this one John. I’m engaged in writing another book, this one entitled Christianity is NOT a religion. Little c christians love to use the S word to define so many of our current issues, including gay marriage. And so, I have delved into the issue to determine why it is so convenient to set good ole number 7 above the other 11 commandments…..Hmmmmmm.

    I have established an hypothesis that it is not who sleeps with who that is of issue, but WHEN AND HOW! This plays to the definition of promiscuity versus loving sexual behavior. It is my contention that good ole number 7 admonishes us to avoid promiscuity, leaving sexual behavior reserved for a “committed” relationship. There is a lot of evidence on both sides of this equation, but it would seem that “marriage” is the line of demarcation as it were. I’m not at all sure I agree with that line, but, I’m learning more each day and enjoy hearing opinions on the issue. When good ole number 7 was presented to the ancient Hebrews, they were a wandering tribe, barely able to sustain themselves and therefore could spend time only on the essentials. We have, on the other hand, become a hedonistic society, self absorbed with our own pleasures. Obviously as always, somewhere in the middle lies the answer between the two extremes. For now, it would appear by the research I’ve done, that your definition is adequate, and yet faulty, subject to a case by case analysis of the people and motives involved. Complicated? YES, absolute NO! I’ll be monitoring this discussion John. Thank you for addressing this issue.

  • Diana A.

    This is true, you didn’t. I wonder why so many people think you did.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brandon-Higgins/508467844 Brandon Higgins via Facebook

    This made me throw up, it is completely wrong. Sex is only designed for heterosexual marriage. I don’t care if its the day before your wedding, anything before the union is formed is fornication and sexual immoral. Premartial sex spoils the relationship and could destroy your life (i.e. Having a kid with someone you’re not married to.)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    It’s why I don’t write on this subject: people just … kind of lose it a little. Like, here’s a response just into my FB page (meaning it’ll show up here on my blog soon enough): “This made me throw up, it is completely wrong. Sex is only designed for heterosexual marriage … .” Because … I said anything about that at all? Crazy. But most people—like you, Diana A!—are encouragingly sane. But if there’s one subject that more quickly pushes more people’s buttons, I don’t know what it is.

  • Jesse Tee via Facebook

    Brandon – Get down off the cross, already. Someone else needs the wood. If YOUR belief system tells you that premarital and/or same-sex sexual activity is wrong, that’s your own OPINION. Gay people exist. Get over it.

  • charles m

    if there was no possibility of conception, it wouldnt really diminish the expression- it is one of commitment really- there are all sorts of other physical activities which can be physically fulfilling- but sex is something sort of special though, and I think John nailed the overarching idea of “if you are going to commit to the expression- be committed to the person”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brandon-Higgins/508467844 Brandon Higgins via Facebook

    @Jesse I’ll take that as a compliment “Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

  • charles m

    if I can add to that previous comment, the commandment said “do not commit adultery” which takes the issue of sex into one of trust and integrity- its a matter of not hurting your partner, who believes in your fidelity and commitment to their relationship to you- not the act of sex itself. Whether that is an issue in more casual settings is individually subjective, and a matter of how God might be speaking to the individuals involved.

  • LSS

    But everybody who gets engaged gets married, right?! (~_^)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    UNLESS THEY FIND OUT THEY’RE SEXUALLY INCOMPATIBLE.

    Being, you know, the entire point of taking such care to make that distinction.

  • Gary

    I am puzzled by what appears to be a strong reaction here to some of the comments expressing a level of dissent with this post of John’s. The topic of sexuality for a Christian is extremely subjective. There will be (and are) opinions all over the board. If one of the purposes of this blog is to allow the healthy exchange of ideas and opinions…then why the defensive posture?

    Perceived levels of acceptable morality vary tremendously among believers, and scripturally we are told to allow each other the right to determine for ourselves what is right for us. This is not the same kind of discussion we have when the issue is homosexuality and someone comes in spouting hurtful bigotry. There is clear harm done by those who would maintain it is a sinful abomination. They literally are promoting that we cause harm to an entire segment of the population. But no one here is promoting victimizing anyone. There should be a much higher level of tolerance on a subject such as this.

    We all get that John DID NOT SAY “wait to get married”. None the less many of us have come from environments where that was an absolute demand…hence we discuss that perspective in our comments. It in no way implies that we have lost our ability to read and comprehend above a 3rd grade level and keep forgetting what he said. And characterizing our comments as such is quite disingenuous it seems to me. (And perhaps a bit insulting?)

    John I love your perspective on this. It is refreshingly genuine compared to what I have been raised on. But that does not mean that my perspective on what represents acceptable morality is going to match yours to a T. You put your opinion out there in the form of moral advice to others when you made the following comments.

    “Absolute love, however, means absolute commitment. And being absolutely committed to a person means being ready and willing to spend your life with them.”

    “Line le’ bottom: If you love someone enough to sleep with them, then for your own emotional (not to mention physical) well-being, you should love them enough to marry them. And they should feel the same way about you. And each of you should have proven to the other that your relationship is of that very special order.”

    Like it or not everyone…John spoke in absolute terms concerning how he believes a Christian should behave. I don’t object to his doing so. Not just because it is his blog…but because it is a valid opinion that should be given voice. But not everyone is going to agree with these statements in their entirety. Many here do not necessarily agree with the notion that we must be “ready and willing to spend your life with them” with regards to our sexuality. Granted…it just so happens that I do plan to spend my life with both of the two women I have had sex with. But this is because it is what works for us…not because I believe it represents what everyone else “should” or must do.

    John was asked for his opinion. He gave it. I think it is a healthy and good opinion. There are other opinions present here as well that also represent valid choices. Perhaps a little more respect is due for healthy disagreement over victimless issues?

  • Michael Hogan via Facebook

    @Brandon – I had sex with my wife before we were married, and I don’t feel that my relationship was “spoiled,” or my life was “destroyed.” This sounds more like rhotoric, than anything you can back up with facts.

  • Gary

    This type of homophobic bigotry is exactly the kind of comment we need to aggressively combat. These are the views that lead to tragedy. Not whether or not I have to commit to someone for life to have sex with them.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Gary: Thanks; I appreciate the defense. But, to be clear, I was not speaking “in absolute terms concerning how [I believe] a Christian should behave.” My advice was meant no more for Christians than anyone else. All my writing is consistently informed by my insistence that Christians do not necessarily have a morality of a nature any different—and certainly not any higher—than that of anyone else.

  • Don M. Burrows via Facebook

    Good thing Brandon cited Luke (which at 14:26 seems to suggest no marital/familial relationships are OK with Jesus) rather than Song of Songs, whose lovers meeting surreptitiously in the fields for a (literal?) roll in the hay would find such black-and-white views of “fornication” puzzling.

  • Gary

    Yes I misspoke to put the Christian qualifier in your comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    I don’t think Brandon finds a whole lot puzzling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brandon-Higgins/508467844 Brandon Higgins via Facebook

    You’re Taking Luke 14:26 COMPLETELY out of context and to be fair our English doesn’t do the Greek justice. And the purpose of Songs of Solomon was to present marriage as it should be as God’s design. A quick google search would have sufficed.

  • Gary

    You qualified that the questions you received were from Christians which is what I picked up on and headed into that context. I like your comments even better now that you have framed them as you have. Not that I am in complete step with them…but I do like them. ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brandon-Higgins/508467844 Brandon Higgins via Facebook

    For Luke 14:26 http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081127141831AAKszSt LOGOS covers the Greek very well.

    And Songs of Solomon explained: http://www.gotquestions.org/Song-of-Solomon.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Brandon: You might want to take a moment to find out who Don Burrows is before you start talking to him about contexts of original Biblical texts. You’re playing with the big boys now.

  • Diana A.

    Like!

  • Jesse Tee via Facebook

    Hee hee!

  • Don M. Burrows via Facebook

    Thanks, Brandon. I’m pretty well versed in Greek. The verb is μισέω, “to hate,” the very one (in its noun form) used in “misogyny” and other terms that mean to hate or despise. The full verse is Εἴ τις ἔρχεται πρός με καὶ οὐ μισεῖ τὸν πατέρα ἑαυτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τὰς ἀδελφάς, ἔτι τε καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἑαυτοῦ, οὐ δύναται εἶναί μου μαθητής | Translated literally: “If anyone comes to me and he does not hate his own father and his mother and his wife and his children and his brothers and his sisters, still indeed his very own soul, he is not able to be my disciple.”
    I’m confident there are Christian apologetic ways to interpret that verse to make it less jarring; I’m also confident that they probably do violence to the text itself, which offers no such softening. I’ll stick to the commentaries and scholars who research and publish this material and skip the Yahoo answers forum, thanks very much.
    A “quick Google search” might suffice for you; for all others, I suggest you reference any secular scholarly commentary on Song of Songs, which isn’t invested in making it say something metaphorical (something it never asks us to do), and you will find that it is ancient erotic love poetry, and that the couple in it are not in fact married (though they may be engaged). It’s a great work. So is Luke. But neither of them (nor any other book of the Bible) neatly and without complication props up the sexual ideologies of present-day, right-wing Americans.

  • Don M. Burrows via Facebook

    Ha, thanks John. I can’t wait to tell that one to my wife. Seriously, I can’t wait. I’m going to e-mail her now and say “see — someone says I’m a big boy!”

  • Elsa Wiens via Facebook

    Brandon, I’ll repeat what I said on the blog: Sex is too important to leave it to chance like that. Our lives are too important. Sexual incompatibility is a HUGE source of pain in marriage. HUGE. It is irresponsible and immoral to require people to wait until they are stuck ’til death do us part’ to find out. Many, many men and women live in misery because of this. Is that okay with you Brandon? It’s not okay with me. God did not put me on this Earth to live in that kind of misery. If you choose to do it, go right ahead, but don’t put that curse on everyone else.

    Sex can be an amazingly beautiful and rich experience. It is one of the few that you can engage in, with someone else, that encompasses the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of our selves. Marriage does NOT sanctify it. It is already sacred, and a marriage ceremony or certificate does not ensure anything about its morality or it’s quality. I and many others can testify to this.

    Sex within marriage, just as sex outside of marriage, can be beautiful or ugly, it can be consensual or rape, can be respectful or humiliating. Ideally, these things must be discovered before the marriage takes place, so that being stuck with the destructive and painful possibility is minimized.

  • Tracy Smith via Facebook

    Mary had a baby by someone she wasn’t married to…

  • Tracy Smith via Facebook

    And does the author mean “premarital” or “nonmarital” sex. Premarital sex is sex with someone you later plan to marry, while non-marital sex is all sex out of marriage, with marriage not necessarily being in the equation in the future. I don’t have a problem with either, so long as those engaging in it are on the same page about the nature of the relationship and take the proper precautions. Strict honesty is the key. So far as love goes, love and sex are two different things. While they can exist together and it’s a wonderful thing when it does, they can exist separately and also be a great thing. We have to remember that marrying for love is a relatively recent thing, not dating much before the 17th century or so. For much of history, marriage was mainly a practical arrangement and love, if it happened, was icing on the cake, and not the reason to get married in the first place.

  • Tracy Smith via Facebook

    Oh, and college age people are not “kids”. College age people can enter the military to defend our country, get married without permission, be responsible for their debts, and so on. “Kids” are not legally able to do any of these things

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brandon-Higgins/508467844 Brandon Higgins via Facebook

    The cool thing about Christianity is that we have a living God and don’t have to base all of our beliefs off of a translation. Even without the apologetic interpretation I can tell you that its not in God’s nature hate and I’m sorry if other “christians” today have said something different, but God isn’t mad at you, he’s madly in love with you.

    I often read Songs of Solomon as a neat little representation for Christ and his bridegroom (The Church), but to each his own.

  • Soulmentor

    Take if from a gay man……that penile shape, while not uncommon, is NOT the norm. It IS a problematic condition, something about the cellular structure of the underside of the penis that shortens the underside, thus pulling it into a downward curve. It even has a name but I can’t think of any links now. Years ago I saw some online discussion of a surgical procedure that can remedy it but not without risks of damage that can cause even more problems. It’s actually kind of an unfortunate handicap, especially in situations like yours where you have no frame of reference about what it’s supposed to look and be like and you don’t know what to do with it. Perhaps it was best that way for you in your case because, if you had known it in advance, like in early dating, might it have turned you off to the man you now love?

    And it’s quite possible, if you think of it, that your man didn’t know either that it was an abnormality if he too had no sexual frame of reference from seeing other men in arousal either in real life or porn.

    In any case, you worked out what was not only difficult for you but no doubt somewhat humiliating for your husband, and are to be admired for the love that made that possible.

    And isn’t it amazing how a discussion of premarital sex can prompt so many tangenital issues.

  • Leslie

    No offense taken, for real. I appreciate the insight. Maybe I should’ve been more specific: marriage would be too confining for what I currently want from life (travel and independence). I have wonderful family, but my brother’s disabilities required us to be basically housebound aside from school and work. I love him very much and wouldn’t trade him for anything. But, in the next chapter of my life, what I want most is to see the world and do some of the things that weren’t possible when I was a kid.

  • Fake Name

    Well, I was in a bit of a hurry this morning so I didn’t go into great detail, but it was from pictures on the internet that I figured out he was a little different. It wasn’t even porn but a link from an article about the wide range of what constitutes “normal”. My husband is still “normal,” though apparently part of a smaller percentage of men. The article was all about how it’s o.k. to have different kinds of penises and linked to a normal-guy-submitted website of various kinds of organs. So I did see some different ones, just not in person.

  • LSS
  • Fake Name

    I don’t intend to have any need to have talks that their dad could have with them. Just meant that if they ask me I would not tell them they should necessarily wait for marriage. I basically mean I’m not going the route my parents did with the wait, wait, wait and the alternative of not waiting is so horrible, etc.

  • Fake Name

    Thank you, Soulmentor. I try to avoid calling it “not normal” though I suspected it wasn’t normal, since he is my dear husband now. I have also thought that if we’d had sex earlier it might have ended the relationship before our otherwise great marriage and lovely children. It’s also almost comical to me that it took me so long to realize what the issue was. Over a decade, in fact. I’d even asked friends for advice but no one else cottoned on to what the real problem was because I didn’t even know how to explain what was wrong. I’m all for better sex ed than I had (which is a whole other tangential issue, I suppose).

  • LSS

    (~_^) <— winking face, to denote sarcasm in original comment. I haven't personally known a whole lot of engaged couples that didn't then marry, but i'm pretty sure some break up instead of marrying.

    Sexual imcompatibility, if people were sure about it, would seem like a good reason to not go all the way to marriage. There might be other ones, too, such as getting to know the person more and finding out OTHER incompatibilities.

    For what it's worth, i think your general principle makes a lot of sense. not saying it's perfect for everyone (which neither are you, obviously), but if a young and single student said that was their view about sex, i would probably be relieved for them that it wasn't at either extreme.

  • Soulmentor

    This is a moot issue for me now. I look at your blog pic and think Ah, those early times!!!!! So long gone now. My advice would be to let the love happen (responsibly of course) when it happens; make the memories because the time comes when there is little hope for new thrills and memories.

    Trouble with memories is that while you can remember you did or had this or that, you can’t recreate them to FEEL them again. One still desires what one can no longer have. Some things seem to not die. It’s just not fair.

  • LSS

    In the situation in his story, it seemed like there *was* respect and trust, but maybe not love, at least not the kind that makes you spend your lives together. Maybe friendship only?

    That wouldn’t be enough for me, either. For me, even knowing what i know now about my former puritanical boundaries, it would still *have* to be the “ready to spend your life with them” level of love…

    but having present the elements of respect and trust, is kind of different from Casual Sex, also.

  • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

    A previous commenter brought up stoning. FYI.

  • LSS

    Oh ok i am glad that worked out.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    *sigh.*

    yes. good point.

  • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

    Agreed. A committed relationship would require compromise that right now, as a single woman, I’m not sure I’m willing to make. I like being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. It’s a childish attitude, I know, but until I meet a man I truly love, I’m not interested in giving up the life I have.

    John, are you saying you have more freedom in marriage than as a single person? I’d be very interested in hearing about it. :)

  • नैओमी गोंज़ालेज़ via Facebook

    lol. Brandon really that’ show you respond to Don? I would comment further but Don really hit the nail on the head.

  • नैओमी गोंज़ालेज़ via Facebook

    It’s also interesting how you consider a book in the Hebrew Bible written many, many years before the birth of Christ, and years before the existence of what we now term “the church” to be about Christ and the bridegroom. That is simply historically inaccurate. You said nothing whatsoever that refutes Don in fact it simply proves that perhaps you need to spend a bit more time studying the historical context of the books and verses you so carelessly site.

  • D. Trac..

    Is it ok according to the Bible? The article could have begun and ended there.

    John Shore you’ve made up a God that thinks like you. I’d like to see your Bible. Must have pages torn out, or passages whited out and your own ideas written over the top. It may not bother YOU if people ‘fornicate’ but it bothers God because its bad for humans and he loves us enough to mention a lot, specifically, so we don’t miss it.

  • D. Trac..

    sex compatibitly is toooooooo important. Oh yes, God puts so much empahsis on the mechanics that he wants you to test drive your a few prospective spouses. YOU PEOPLE ARE UTTERLY DELUDED. Just another fanciful, wishful thinking treatise by someone who wants to call themself a Chrsitian while the fornicate

    BTW is pole dancing ok for Christians too, if its done “tastefully and artistically”? Perhaps your church can install a pole in its fellowship room Frankly most of you already have one there, based on your obsessions with all things sex related.

    ok delete me as usual

  • Gary

    I’d like to see YOUR bible frankly. Because I have been a student and teacher of the bible for 30 years and what you say simply ain’t there. Seems you are the one who has “made up a God that thinks like you” because you are reading a lot into passages that is not warranted.

    Hint: You may want to begin with studying the proper meaning of words like “fornicate”.

  • Gary

    Ok – This has just gotten too ridiculous to respond to. Clearly you are a troll.

  • Gary

    Wonderful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brandon-Higgins/508467844 Brandon Higgins via Facebook

    The Old Testament was written as a book foretelling the coming of a savior, it isn’t that far fetched.

  • DR

    With over different denominations of Christianity – many of which split due to issues with interpreting Scripture – it’s pretty clear to most reasonable people that the “Is it ok according to the Bible” filter actually means “Is this ok according to what my specific pastor in my specific church in my specific denomination”. The problem you’ll more than likely have moving forward is believing that your specific pastor in your specific church in your specific denomination defines “what the Bible says” in any kind of declarative way. You’ve been able to enjoy that privilege for a long time, but now those days are over.

  • DR

    I don’t recall your user name here and I’m here quite a bit. Perhaps you’re one of the Christians who demands his/her own standard of what “Christian” means in a hostile, creepy way – gets banned for it – and then lies about his/her identity, recreates another user name and evades the boundaries that the owner of the blog has set. Because you know – you’re so “moral”.

  • Diana A.

    True that!

  • DR

    Many of us believe that sex outside of a specific construct does, actually, create “victims” (using your terminology). That is our experience and so we’re adding that perspective to the dialogue.

  • Melody

    Sorry, troll. You have us confused. You’re the deluded one who can’t let go of your hate and bigotry. If you hate John’s writings so much, get lost.

  • Melody

    Brandon, get off your self-righteous high horse and get over your self-made martyr syndrome. You can’t prove your outdated, bigoted views are truth, just because your English version of a Greek Bible tries to confirm your views. You aren’t being persecuted. You’re being confronted for your ignorance and prejudice. No one here is ashamed of Jesus. Jesus is ashamed of you.

  • Soulmentor

    *******John Shore you’ve made up a God that thinks like you.******

    Xenophanes, Greek poet, philosopher, theologian once posited that if horses had gods, they would look like horses.

    And probably think and act like them too. I’m as sure you get the point as I am that you don’t want to.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    “D. Trac” is the same cowardly fundy troll who has previously used the names jess, PDCH, cannby, detractor—each having its own email address. Will block. Sorry that, cockroach-style, I let him skitter back in.

  • JD Miller

    I heard a story about a preacher who gave a sermon to a group of college students, telling them not to spend an eternity in hell for an hour of lovemaking.

    He was overwhelmed by the students who came up after the sermon to ask, “How do you make it last an hour?”

  • Peggy

    Tracy, at 47 I can honestly say I was a college kid, aside from all the things I was legally old enough to do. Hind site.

  • http://www.nightwares.com/ Warren

    Marriage is a social institution. Sex is a force of nature. When they come into conflict, it’s not the social institution that ‘wins’ the battle. It might be a good idea for us to recognize this reality.

    A better, more important question might be, ‘why do we think marriage is so important, and why do we behave as though there are never acceptable alternatives to it?’

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Natalie-Jones/100001438912549 Natalie Jones via Facebook

    @Brandon Obivious troll is obivious.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    Oh, BARF.

  • John Slattery via Facebook

    Is it OK? Heck, it’s fantastic. Moreover, you might as well get all the premarital sex you can because once you’re married, well . . . . : )

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    Proof abstinence isn’t 100% effective, either…

  • http://www.facebook.com/john10423 John Gragson via Facebook

    the SOS has always been explained to me as a bit of poetry–erotic at that. i’m not entirely sure why it’s even in the Bible. that much said, if Brandon gets that “it’s not in God’s nature to hate”, and that you needn’t base your understanding of God on a single translation, i don’t see why he is convinced that “Sex is only designed for heterosexual marriage.”

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    I think 99% of all sexual incompatibility problems would be revealed through honest, frank discussions of what one expects from / is willing to put up with in a spouse.

    Money concerns are the big marriage killer.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    Sex adds an amazing layer of complexity to a relationships for most people. Not everyone, sure, and as long as there are people who insist to me that their consentual sexual relationships with people they aren’t madly in love with are truly not a problem I’ll take them at their word for it. For me, though, love and sex always came as a package. When I had sex with people I didn’t truly love, feelings of love soon followed and weren’t necessarily reciprocated. Much of the pain and self-hatred of my early 20′s was lived out in my poor sexual choices, which did nothing but make me feel worse about myself.

    I got lucky in middle age, that’s all I can say. Mr. Barnmaven and I enjoy a very delightful intimate relationship – and a very deep and trusting love. I can’t go back and undo my younger years, but I hope I can give my daughter a better road map than I had. I also hope that I can prepare her enough so that if she does delve into sex before she is in that committed relationship that she protects herself from pregnancy and disease and that she at leasts picks her partners wisely.

  • Tom Blegen via Facebook

    sex has been around longer than marriage…

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    Brandon, my savior already arrived. He died on the cross to make sure everyone knew the depth and breadth of love that God has for all of his creation. You and me and every single one of us. Fortunately, that crazy mad love He has for all of us isn’t contingency-based.

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    I covered similar territory a short while back on my blog, but from a slightly different POV: http://buzzdixon.com/christianity/question-1/

    I’m working on a follow-up to that post, one that looks at Christ’s teachings re it being better to foreswear all sexual desire >if possible< and focus purely on things of the spirit, with marriage being the best substitute for celibacy (i.e., find a mate you can cherish and provide an avenue for romantic / sexual expression so both of you will have time / energy for things of the spirit rather than spend most of one's time pursuing purely physical pleasure at cost of one's spiritual growth).

  • Shawna W

    I couldn’t agree with you more! This sounds exactly like something that could have been written from my perspective. Especially the early 20′s self-hatred thing. Kudos and thanks :)

  • Amber Glo Fry via Facebook

    They once did a survey on this in Sweden and the participants were stumped on the term “pre-marital sex”…hadn’t heard of it before…since, I guess…they don’t categorize sex by pre-marital, during-marital or after-marital there.

  • Cathy Elings-Sysel via Facebook

    oops. 25 years too late…LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/enjoeyme Joey Boyd via Facebook

    sexual compatibility is a huge factor in any marriage and all that should be figured out before the wedding night.

  • Larry Petry via Facebook

    you can’t deny that we all stand within a hyper-sexualized culture. It seems we value sexual gratification as a very good (“extremly important”), if not, Ultimate good. What if we stepped back and considered, in the great vast scale of things, that sexual gratification may not be as crucial a life priority as we (our culture) thinks?

  • Gary

    I love this!

  • Shawna W

    “mechanics”? You must be joking. You are obviously unhappy in your “mechanics” department if that’s what you think a healthy, happy sex life is about. As Elsa mentioned above, a healthy sexual relationship envelopes the “physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of our selves.”, not just the mechanics of it. There is no piece of paper with some signatures on it that can change that. Just because 2 people who truly love each other and are having intercourse are not legally bound by a piece of paper, does not make them “fornicators”. And if these two said people want to try pole dancing in the comfort of their own homes, does that mean they’ll go to hell too? Curious to know what your Bible says about pole dancing….enlighten us, please. You’re the one who is deluded.

  • DR

    This is so awesome.

  • Gary

    It certainly can create victims. Just like consuming alcohol can lead to destructive uses of it and create victims. But consuming it responsibly does not create such victims and scripture promotes it’s consumption in various places.

    I have never engaged in what I would call recreational sex. That is sex outside of a deep and loving relationship. But many have and do and absolutely defend their right to do so given the “construct” of equal expectations and responsible behavior. I don’t consider a person who chooses for themselves what is right and appropriate to do with another to be a victim of that other person. There actions may have consequences they were not prepared for…but what choices in life don’t have such a possibility?

  • Gary

    “Their” actions…typos…grrrrr.

  • DR

    It’s so creepy how these people come onto this blog with the posture that they are attacking those of us who are “true Christians” as they ride their “I’m a real Christian” white horse on in to conversation. Only to be banned because of how terribly rude they are and then actually LIE to get back in. It screams “cognitive dissonance”. How maddening for non-religious people to have to deal with this everyday.

  • Shawna W

    Oh, yeah, because having a child out of wedlock is utterly life-destroying. Dude, aren’t you the least bit shameful of the crap you’re typing?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brandon-Higgins/508467844 Brandon Higgins via Facebook

    @Tom not if you believe in creation.

  • Christine
  • Soulmentor

    I knew times that lasted longer than that…..all with men!!!!!! The trick to that is to include Love. When Love is in the mix, you never want to stop.

  • DR

    I don’t consider a person who chooses for themselves what is right and appropriate to do with another to be a victim of that other person.>>>

    “Victim” is a word that often implies we are dealing with behavior done to us by someone who intended to do harm. And as you’ve said, the contract of equal expectations and responsible behavior takes any culpability off the table. For example if I set up a scenario where I have a friends with benefits type of sexual scenario – where the man is super clear upfront that he doesn’t want a relationship with me, that he likes me but he’s not looking for exclusivity or intimacy beyond sex – then I know the deal. Am I a “victim” of my own choices if I go for it, thinking I can handle that and my heart just isn’t equipped in hindsight to handle it? That perhaps, it wasn’t designed to handle that? I’m hurt. And I’m going to shut down as a result and possibly hurt others because I’m operating from a hurt place. Is it “technically” the fault of the man for jumping in and going for it? No, of course not. No blame, no culpability. But at least for me and a lot of women I know, we betray our deeper heart desire for intimacy when we make that decision and false hope gets in the way of making a better decision.

  • DR

    (Brandon’s Facebook is pretty revealing).

  • DR

    For whatever it’s worth, he’s in high school. :)

  • DR

    You’re such a mirror for the restlessness in peoples’ hearts. It’s got to be weird to have this happen so much.

  • Gary

    I know…totally floors me. Hence Ghandi’s famous line so resonates with me when he said “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

  • Melody

    Wow. He’s open to the public, huh? I remember when Facebook started allowing high schoolers and thinking what a bad idea that was, particularly since they made such bad arguments on debate forums. Guys like Brandon remind me of Zophar–a teenager trying to tell Job, a seasoned and experienced man, what to think of God. The youthful arrogance makes me want to vomit.

  • Christine

    So much for poly people just being permiscuous. Lol. How many people who would reject you for it have had way more sexual partners than you – and you’re still committed to both of yours! How messed up.

  • Gary

    What???

  • vj

    Lovely!

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    “Would it have been improved if you had loved that high school teacher enough to marry her, and vice-versa?”

    Paging Mr. Gingrich…

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    Serious question:

    For purposes of this discussion, how are we defining sex?

    Home run, that’s a given…

    But third base? Second base? First?

    What about bunting? Or the infield pop fly rule?

    Is it sex if you suit up?

    Joking aside, where are we drawing the lines?

  • Anthony B Warren via Facebook

    To speak or not to communicate, that is a problem. Perhaps it is careless for someone to so freely flounder on a intimate physical level. I am not a historian, or much of a religious sort or in a relationship currently, but I am with my own opinion.
    From what I’ve read and heard, marriage seemed to have some sort of societal impact on the welfare of the families involved, less so of a consideration on the actual individuals concept of self. Perhaps this gave the two something more to work with than just themselves.
    That being said, I doubt that we can continue that stance on marriage. There is only so much land, electricity, water, textiles, etc that can be bought and sold and we are becoming far more numerous than 2k years ago.
    Elsa Wiens mentioned that someone can encounter misery once married, which I’ll have to fully agree with. Some reasons are perhaps superficial or more in depth than either person can relate to.
    I don’t think it’s too far flung to incorporate civil rights into this discussion. However I would like to refrain from enveloping it much more than a mentioning of the relationship. If I were to get caught up on the simplicity of pre-marital sex, I would be denying the societal impact of marriage as well. In this country we’ve place more value on a marriage based on ethnicity and culture than on the functional aspect of a relationship deemed to be sacred. However I don’t think it’s a good idea to throw down that battle axe of expectations that marriage can bring. Sometimes I wonder if I’m more in love with Disney than Disney can ever admit to loving anything about me, and unfortunately the same goes with religion. I don’t want to be mystified into some formulaic marriage routine, I am not your cookie dough to be satisfying your egotistical depravity. You are an individual as well and rightly so. Not that there is absolutely no similarity, I just don’t think I need too much intimacy with someone who isn’t there for me such as a partner would be.
    I would like to be in a relationship with someone, and longer than a few months or just a few years. Sex isn’t everything, but there are times I want to convey that it means more than just an instant gratification that it can tend to be. Not communicating at all or some sort of a one-sided aspect of a conversation that can so intimately affect a persons life, can be quite damaging. With all due respect, I understand this expectation of relating has worked for you and perhaps will continue to do so. I however doubt the guy I’ll be with could fully agree with you on this matter. I do value my potential partners views and opinions, so I will end this here. Peace be with you.

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    Methinks he’s referring to the story of Adam & Eve, where God created woman to be man’s equal and helpmeet, with procreation added as an afterthought. however, since animals — and for that mater, plants — had already been created as fully developed species before the introduction of humanity, creationism does teach that sex was around before marriage.

  • karen

    I had to laugh. As an American that lived in sweden for 4 years until just very recently, you are right they would have NO earthly idea whatsoever! Many – if not most, people are not married there, yet enter into this long term commitment known as SAMBO- basically being the legal explanation for two people that are long-term committed -share mortgages,assets, and children without the pesky ordeal of walking down the aisle and adding an expense they have no money for anyway- such as a wedding.

    They meet, they have sex, they move in together, and before long there’s kids. No less commitment than a “marriage”, but certainly not something that they feel they have to do so that society considers them a couple.

    Marriage-as we know it in the States is roughly a legal arrangement anymore. YOu can add all the romance and the religion, and whatever vows you want to it-but go through a divorce , and you’ll realize that it’s just a bag of legal mombo-jumbo in the end.

  • gretchen

    John, you did a great job in saying this, and I’m glad it was said by a MAN who has had experience in and out of love.

    C.S. Lewis once said that each time we have intercourse without love, we harden our hearts.

    Thanks again!

  • Gary

    I agree with everything you just stated and it is why I personally have avoided casual sex. But many choices in life have consequences that may not be what we anticipated. I have said previously that I believe sex should be handled with a very high level of respect and care. There is much potential for emotional as well as physical consequences with it.

    My point has nothing to with determining what is right for you or anyone else for that matter. In fact…that is the point I am trying to make here. When sex is appropriate is a very personal and subjective decision without any absolutes for right or wrong outside of what I always fall back on…the law of love. Not everyone agrees with John’s view that you should be willing to spend your life with someone before you have sex with them. (This has been my personal choice in the matter in fact) Great advice for many…others can handle the risks associated with sexual activity from a bit more liberated point of view perfectly fine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.macdougall1 Kevin MacDougall via Facebook

    Can you offer up a comment on the Rod Carew, John? ;)

  • vj

    Beautifully put, DR.

  • Christine

    Thanks for sharing those stories, Tim, including your own. These are important issues to consider. I hope you can all find happiness sex-wise.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Interesting use of the word “liberated.”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    For the sake of this post, I was real careful to stipulate “full intercourse.” I figured that was about as clear as I could make it. (Buzz Dixon! You rock.)

  • vj

    Oh wow, that’s awful to have gone thru that. I’m so glad your daughter did at least come to you, and I’m sure you guys put some effort into helping her overcome her feelings of worthlessness. I am also reminded of the phenomenon (I think addressed in a book a few ago?) of our hyper-sexualized culture actually ‘condemning’ girls/young women in a lose-lose situation: if they remain virgins they are ‘prudes’, if they have sex they are ‘sluts’; and that if a young woman has sex, that’s the only yardstick by which she is measured/valued – regardless of her intellectual or other achievements. Totally sucks!!

    I’m glad you shared this incident – it reminds me that I need to make sure my own kids understand that whatever they decide, I won’t judge/condemn them… (my own mom once told me that she would be happy to organize me some birth control if I decided to have sex; it pretty much freaked me out at the time – I’m much more conservative than she was! – but at least I knew I had options).

  • vj

    :-)

  • vj

    I know, right? How did we end up in a society where who/how many sexual partners a person has/had is the most important yardstick by which we measure a person’s character? I am so much more than my sex-life!!!

  • Christine

    Erection and lubrication alone do NOT sexual compatibility make…

  • Leslie

    Yeah, it’s a shame that this “sex is evil and forbidden” teaching is spewed so heavy-handedly to kids. Adults may not realize it, but kids (especially young kids) really do absorb everything you tell them and retain it for life (even if they intellectually disagree with it).

    I went to Catholic school for a bit, but didn’t get exposed to the purity sham. Thank God. Some of the girls I know who did still feel anxious around sex… with their husbands. My mom always told me: “sex is best with someone you love” and that, interestingly enough, is what what preserved my virginity through high school… and college… and grad school… :)

  • vj

    Another potentially tragic consequence of the very rigid ‘True Love Waits’-type of approach (which, thankfully, your family was spared) is that when these teens DO get pregnant they (a) feel that they cannot face their parents and (b) are tempted to have abortions [which are generally frowned upon by the very parents and church leaders that place the no-sex pressure on them in the first place]. A young woman left a comment recently on one of John’s other posts in which she confided that she had an abortion because she knew her dad would freak if he found out she was pregnant; from the details of her comment, I’m guessing that her dad is opposed to abortion, yet his own rigidity has resulted in his own daughter having one. I just feel so terribly sad for this young woman to have to go through this ALONE.

    [please, everybody, let's not go down the abortion debate route here...]

  • Christine

    Yeah, not normal. (I know WAY too much about penises for being a lesbian…) The downward angle will mean the tip of the pensis will not rub against the G-spot during missionary-position vaginal sex and may put too much pressure on the delicate vaginal/anal wall to be comfortable. That position with that shape penis is highly unlikely to result in a vaginal orgasm. Different positions is definitely the way to go. If you’re looking for additional information, find a good health-centered sex store. They’ll likely have educational material specifically aimed at finding positions and other solutions for this type of situations. Expert advice never goes astray.

    Even if no one ever had premarital sex (yes, like saying even if the world WAS flat), why would we not want to promote this type of education in advance? We should put greater value on people actually getting to enjoy sex when they do have it, whenever that is.

  • Christine

    Neither.

  • Leslie

    A more civilized approach to sex all around would solve this country’s teen pregnancy problem. I can’t help comparing our prudish attitudes toward sex in the States to those of Japan… where teen pregnancy is non-existent. Comprehensive sex-ed nationwide would be great, along with eliminating all taxpayer funding abstinence-only programs. If the “True Love Waits” crowd wants to brainwash more youth, they can do it on their own dime.

  • Gary

    Marriage as it should be as God’s design? The SOS??

    Well if that is the standard for God’s design…then we should all be having pre-marital sex and should not be exclusive with each other once we are married. That is if, as you suggest, the Song Of Solomon is supposed to be our guide.

    LOL

  • Christine

    LOL. I love it when people think google searches hold all the answers to our moral, theological, and epistemological questions. The Internet era teaches us how to find, but maybe not how to filter….?

  • Gary

    Not my word originally. Comes from a group of Christians who believe in sexual freedom within the context of the law of love. They refer to themselves as “Liberated Christians” as in liberated from false teaching concerning sexuality found in most churches.

  • Christine

    Read this comment first. Yes, context is everything… LOL

  • Allie

    That would be Paul’s teachings, not Christ’s.

  • Christine

    Yay for actual scholars. If only all such forums had people who read ancient Greek… *sigh*

  • Gary

    Yes I had a best friend in high school who went through an abortion purely because of the expectations shame and being ostracized by the church. Only in this case she was planning to deliver and place her child up for adoption, but her Christian parents forced her to get an abortion rather than deal with the stigma they knew they would face. I struggled with so many implications of that experience for many years. You cannot imagine all the emotional baggage my friend has had to carry with her.

    I agree this is not meant to open an abortion debate…but merely illustrative of the complete havoc such horrible and destructive views cause.

  • Allie

    See, I’ve always been perplexed by people who find that “hate your relatives” verse a sticking point. I have seen too, too many mothers who told their daughters, “Let your dad rape you, he pays the bills,” one too many sets of parents on the news paying for high-priced lawyers for sonny the murderer. Jesus isn’t saying anything you have to make excuses for, he’s saying that evil is evil even when it’s the people you love doing it, and part of being a Christian is to stop making yourself an exception and look at things fairly.

  • Christine

    I like the article. Thanks. A certain personal wisdom can go a long way, and, of course, we are the ones to live with ours actions, so we should understand and feel confident in our choices. And, I agree that at some point, a stanch and inflexible view will to some extent shut down this self-understanding.

  • Aimée Clifford via Facebook

    Oh, cool, something else an atheist and a Christian agree on.

  • Christine

    We’ve move from absolutely-obvious-if-you’d-bothered-to-google-it to “it isn’t that far fetched”. Sounds like progress to me.

  • Allie

    I think John’s opinion as voiced here is generally a good guideline which will work well in many situations for most people. The only thing that bothers me is that there’s evidence it’s NOT his real opinion, as based on his statements about sex elsewhere. He gives the example of his own first sexual encounter, in which he certainly did not love his partner enough to want to stay with her forever, as a positive experience. And I believe that pretending to believe something you don’t really believe is a bad idea.

  • Gary

    So true. Many of the most pious Christians I know have had tons of more sexual experience than I have and almost brag about it. Go figure…lol.

  • Gary

    Indeed. It is a part of me…but it is not me.

  • Diana A.

    In D. Trac’s case, God apparently looks, thinks and acts like a horse’s pa–oh wait, that isn’t a very Christian sentiment, is it?

  • Christine

    Funny. I don’t recall Adam and Eve’s wedding…. hmmmm. I just remember them messing everything up and then God telling them to go start doing it…. curious…

  • Diana A.

    Thank you!

  • Gary

    How to find but not how to filter. What a marvelous statement. Absolutely true!!

  • Christine

    Sounds Romans 14-esque. Not sure why. Would they see that scriptural view as being relevant to their views on sexual mores?

  • Diana A.

    I think that it is his real opinion. Just because he made different decisions back in the day and has no real regrets about them doesn’t mean that he doesn’t see the potential for harm in those cases.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Yes, pretending to believe in something you don’t really believe is a bad idea. I can’t imagine who but a child would argue that.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Diana A: Once again, you’re hired.

  • Diana A.

    Cool!

  • http://www.facebook.com/naywittsy Naomi Witts via Facebook

    @ Elsa. You know I’ve heard people use the argument of sexual ‘imcompatability’ or different ‘styles’ being the deal breaker and I think that people using this point need to explore the deeper issues behind these kinds of statements. God is an amazing God that designed sex to bond two people together with this kind of act of love that is not only pleasurable but fun and exciting… and varied. Sex is so good that it can be varied and changed and can take a lifetime to explore the possibilities and depth of with another person. I think His design for sex between two committed-for-life people is a strong ingredient for a good marriage…. and hopefully a great life-long relationship. It’s not the ONLY ingredient though…. and if two people have entered into a commitment where a difference is sexual style or taste in the bedroom is enough to make these people reconsider their love and commitment to each other…. well I’m sorry to say that the problem isn’t just with the bedroom… it’s with the other important ‘ingredients’ being neglected in a marriage; ie. friendship, communication, conflict resolution, time spent together, etc, etc. I would even say that commitment to their own needs has become more important than commitment to the other person.

    I’m definitely NOT condoning rape or saying that a person who has been deceived into an abusive ‘marriage’ is ok at all… and the bible’s teaching is clear that such unfaithfulness (either by an unfaithful treachery or unfaithfulness means another person is not bound any longer in these situations). However, to say that a bad sex life is reason enough to leave and not stay and work through the problems is not really giving marriage the depth it deserves.

    I am married… and I know that sex is such a strong element.. it sets the temperature for a marriage and can colour it hot or cold, gloomy or warm. However, human beings are not pieces of rock or cement… unchangeable identities that cannot move or adapt to another person…. nor is sex made in a way that if two people like different spices in the curry so to speak.. they can’t have their tastes changed and still enjoy the curry if you get my meaning. If two people have really entered into a marriage that is truly about deep commitment and have spent time building on their relationship… they know each other enough and have explored each other emotionally enough to know whether the spark is there or not huh. People don’t need to have had sex to know that being lovers is going to be awesome or not. Movies and books are made on this kind of pull…. and there are thousands. But the pull is not just sexual.. it is about chemistry between two people full stop. If people get married based on a bond that is purely sexual and there are no other foundations to weather the storms that will come.. then that’s a very sad thing indeed… and if two people have let the fire become a barely there spark so that the temperature of the marital house is not only cold but gloomy and distorting their view of the other person.. then that is sad too.. but the spark can be flamed into a roaring blaze again if it’s not left to die?

    Marriage is a serious commitment.. and if people are entering into it lightly and not seriously.. or including sex in a relationship that was made for bonding in a committed way? This messing with some strong stuff… and so logically there are serious consequences. Calling the problems about incompatibility is kind of like saying you are going to let the olives on a pizza mean you cannot eat the pizza instead of picking out the olives really. I think trust in God’s design and plan for two people in a marriage is another issue that could be addressed also? <3

  • Gary

    Romans 14 is very much a big part of the liberated view mindset. With freedom comes responsibility and a big part of that responsibility is respecting the views of others and not leading them into freedoms for which they are not ready.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Um … I’m gonna say … not given that fact that I’m afraid I don’t know what about Rod is just now particularly interesting. I assume I’ve missed something?

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    No, definitely Christ (tho Paul did elaborate on it). IRC, it’s in Luke (my notes are on my computer), the passage re some are lucky to be born eunuchs, some can become eunuchs, for everyone else there’s marriage.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    This is very well said, Bar. Thanks for it.

  • http://icarusalways.blogspot.com/ daemon

    Well written, but what would you say to Christians guys who are gay and are not allowed to get married in their home states? Are we to remain abstinent until the government give us permission to be married?

    daemon

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    See “Wings on a Pig,” and others here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/gays-xtianity/

  • Christine

    I think you might be missing what most people are calling sexual compatibility. I don’t think people are saying that people should split up if they just have a different “style or taste”. The comments are full of much more serious issues than this.

  • DR

    Yeah, the word “liberated” got me too. But I think get the intent, to be free from some of the really oppressive doctrine around sex that we’ve over corrected.

  • DR

    I would bet you a million dollars that in 10 years, young Brandon has a handsome fella on his arm. :)

  • Christine

    How I do love the practical applications of that chapter when good instances arise. Here is one of those places where maybe it does indeed make sense. Food for thought. Thanks for elaborating.

  • Christine

    At least then he wouldn’t have to worry about unintended pregnancies.

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz
  • http://www.facebook.com/marylee.trevino Marylee Trevino via Facebook

    Protect your heart the same as your body. Living up to the Puritan Ethic is impossible!

  • Michael wbl

    i went to a christian college last year and they did not say anything even remotely like that.

  • vj

    Do also bear in mind that John’s early experiences were while he was not a Christian, and this particular post was written in response to a question from Christian students.

    If encountering the Living God didn’t change what we think/feel about stuff, what would be the point? There is a difference between being at peace with one’s past decisions (there is no point in wallowing in regret, ‘what ifs’ or ‘if onlys’) and being able to recognize that those choices are maybe not what should be recommended to others – the joys of hindsight, etc.

  • Gary

    Yeah I would imagine not all are as fundamental as the one I went to. In mine it was usually in some of the sermons at the required chapel services for all on campus students.

  • http://kellythinkstoomuch.wordpress.com KellyK

    I think you raise some valid points, and marriage should absolutely be about much more than sex, and two people who love each other should be willing to work through sexual issues and find areas where they are compatible.

    I also think there are different levels of incompatibility. To use your analogies, there’s a difference between not liking olives and being able to pick them off the pizza and disliking pizza so much that you need to eat something else in a different room because the mere presence of pizza makes you nauseous.

    I think it’s possible for two people to have some incompatibilities and work around them. If your partner likes A, B, and C, and you like C, D, and E, then you end up doing a lot of C–and maybe experimenting with some of the other letters to see if they can be done in ways that you both enjoy. But what do you do if your partner likes A, B, and C, and you hate all of those things, but really want X, Y, and Z, which they have no interest in? (A lot of the time the expectation is on the woman to just lie back and pretend she likes it, which I have all kinds of problems with. I’m not accusing you of that, but when we say that sexual incompatibility is something people should just get over, it’s often women who are expected to be more accommodating.)

    There’s also physical incompatibility. What if it’s not just that you don’t like A, B, or C, but they hurt? Or they just aren’t physically possible for whatever reason. A lot of the comments on this thread have talked about disabilities, or physical scarring from past abuse. I don’t think those issues can really be compared to not liking the same things on your pizza.

    Also, you don’t necessarily know what you like or want until you have some actual experience, which complicates things further. If you’re talking about sexual compatibility when you’re both virgins, it’s kind of hazy and theoretical, about what you think you might like.

    I don’t think any of these things are necessarily insurmountable, but I also don’t think we should assume they’re easy, or that people who have issues with compatibility just aren’t trying hard enough.

    I do think that if two people are going to wait until they get married for sex, they need to be realistic about it. They shouldn’t think that their wedding night will be perfect and amazing. It’s totally possible that the sex will be awful, and it will take them both some time to figure out how to make each other happy in that area. If they have this fantasy that because they waited like they were supposed to, everything will be perfect, then they’re in for a huge disappointment.

    I also think waiting should be something they’re both committed to and believe in, not something they should do just because their family members tell them they should.

  • Gary

    Yes DR that’s it exactly. I can see how the usage in my context could be confusing though. (Not sure what you mean by over corrected though)

  • Lymis

    I’ve given this question a lot of thought since John posted it, and while I’ve known my answer more or less from the beginning, I wasn’t quite sure why I was having problems with the question.

    It seems to me it’s the wrong question. Or maybe, more clearly, it’s the right question asked the wrong way. And it the question is flawed, then it’s really hard to get the right answer, because you have to keep tucking in parts and cutting off others to get it to fit a question it really wasn’t intended to answer.

    The question shouldn’t be “is pre-marital sex okay?” It should be “Is non-marital sex okay?”

    In a way, it becomes a weird moral circular question. It’s phrased as “pre-marital” because it carries the assumption that everyone is going to get married, that marriage is a given, and that having sex before marriage is jumping the gun. But the reason people are assumed to to be going to get married is because sex is so very important in human lives. Everyone is going to be married to have sex, but everyone has sex to be married. And even that isn’t quite as much of a problem, except that it carries some assumptions about marital sex.

    Is pre-dinner snacking okay? The common wisdom is that no, of course it isn’t, because it will “ruin your dinner.” And when you unpack it, the assumption is that the snack will be some sort of junk food, high calorie, low nutrition, eaten mindlessly, while dinner is going to be good nutritious food, and sometimes the assumption includes that it will be a quality social moment and bonding for a family or a relationship. That snacking inherently damages that dinner.

    But reality doesn’t work that way. An apple or some other healthy snack is in some ways good in and of itself. And if a healthy snack at the right time means you can wait until you get home to have that healthy dinner rather than just grabbing dinner at whatever fast food restaurant you pass, then that snack actually improves your chances of a good dinner. And it can be a part of a series of healthy and responsible lifestyle choices around food. And if circumstance don’t support having that wonderful healthy formal dinner, then consciously chosen healthy snacks are better than a crappy and toxic dinner you rush into because you’re too hungry to wait.

    Sure, if you use what I just said to “justify snacking” and then extend that to nothing but candy and chips, it’s unhealthy. But if you just talk in terms of “snacking” without talking about what and when and why, then you’re doomed to have a discussion that is only partially meaningful.

    A lot of the rules for sexual morality were set up in a time when puberty was later, marriage was far earlier, and there was no reliable contraception, and for the most part, single women couldn’t survive, and were effectively property. Having even consensual sex outside of a marriage put a woman literally at risk for her life, potentially ruined her prospects for survival, and destroyed her market value in terms of transferring from her father to someone else. And that ignores the consequences for the child. When those rules were laid down, we were asking someone to wait a couple of years before having sex before entering a marriage that was primarily focused on survival.

    Now we are asking someone in a society that inundates them with sexual imagery to hit puberty at 12 or 13, and wait until they are in their early twenties, or with school and career, often until they are in their late 20′s, to start having sex, in a society that doesn’t put nearly the life-destroying weight on a loss of virginity, in which mostly reliable birth control is available, and in which the main point of marriage is emotional bonding and mutual compatibility and support.

    I think John comes very close when he said that it isn’t the actual marriage that is as critical as the deep connection – the idea of waiting until you would be willing to be engaged rather than waiting until marriage. But I still think that misses the point.

    I think that healthy non-marital sex requires being able to see and value the other person as a person, one with whom you are going to share an intimacy that does carry potentially serious and life-changing consequences. I think sex rises above “junk food” when it involves vulnerability and the recognition of the other person’s fundamental humanity. Seeing yourself and the other person as people who have the potential and the need, and yes, the right, to make that same level of interpersonal commitment, and recognizing the value and sacredness of what you are sharing, whether it is in the context of actually making that commitment to each other or not.

    And that if having a loving, fully human sexual relationship with someone whose humanity you honor keeps you from making an inappropriate commitment to someone you don’t love and can’t bond with, or rushing into a marriage that you aren’t ready for, including bringing children into the world into a toxic marriage or unstable setting, then I think that counts as a positive good in its own right, not just a “necessary evil” or “tolerable sin.”

    As the controversies over same-sex marriage have heated up, the bigots have ended up revealing their own flawed view of marriage – gay people “can’t” get married because what defines marriage is the coming together of two interchangeable and unimportant people for the express purpose of having unprotected sex to produce children. Marriage isn’t about love, because gay people can love each other, but not marry. It isn’t about finances, or support, or non-procreative sex, or even being good friends and caring for each other. In their view, it really doesn’t even seem to matter if they’ve even met, and things like personality don’t matter – just the genitals.

    I can’t help but see a lot of the fetish for “saving yourself for marriage” to be a part of that same underlying idea. Not even so much because of what people think they think, but because of what people actually say they think. It would be one thing if the discussion was framed as love and commitment, and that the reason marriage is the bright line divider is seeing it as the height of the recognition of that commitment and love. But then a teen get’s pregnant with a stranger and “the right thing to do” is get married, or nobody blinks twice at a television show that auctions off a millionaire while millions of committed gay couples who have been together for decades are perverts who will destroy marriage – and it’s pretty clear that what is being discussed isn’t in any way about love and commitment.

    I can absolutely support a discussion about judging sexual morality by the intentions, openness, vulnerability, compassion and humanity of those involved. I can’t support framing it in a way that makes pressuring a pregnant teen to marry “the right answer” while dismissing as trivial life life commitments of loving couples who cannot or choose not to formally marry. There’s something wrong with the question, and a wrong question can never give a truly right anwwer.

  • Gary

    This may be the best comment I have seen on a blog. EVER!!

    Truly outstanding discussion Lymis. And what makes it so superb is that it genuinely has the potential to help a lot of people struggling with this very real issue in their lives.

    Simply Awesome.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    As always, I appreciate what you’ve said, vj. But, for what it’s worth, my ideas about what is and isn’t moral, and why, and all that, did not change at all when I became Christian.

  • Gary

    That’s cool John. Now the obvious question is why is there an apparent disconnect in your advice to those asking the question and your own personal experience? Perhaps I am reading into it. You said you don’t regret and I should not assume you meant it represents a good choice necessarily.

  • mike moore

    thanks, John, for almost causing me a heart attack!

    after 12 hours of racing thru airports and flight time, I land last night, innocently hit my iPhone and find I’ve got almost 200 e-mails!!! fortunately, they were almost entirely about premarital sex and made for a most interesting ride to my hotel.

    keep shaking it up!

  • Lymis

    John, you’re overlooking the huge number I’ve times I say that you get something dead right and how well you put it. Of course if I write an in-depth comment specifically about your writing I’ll get to some point of disagreement. The rest of the time, it’s because you’re spot on!

    In this case, I’m not so much disagreeing with you as with the whole body of commentary on what I still think is answering the wrong question. As far as it goes, you’ve got a great answer to that question. And if it doesn’t feel like the wrong question to you, then I can certainly understand that.

    It’s entirely possible that a huge part of my take on this is that it was quite literally impossible for me to have marital sex until I was 48 years old – unless I was willing to live a lie and marry a woman. So my personal questions of sexual ethics and morality couldn’t simply assume marriage as the inevitability, or at least the freely available option, that people who take the “pre-marital” part as a given can.

    It changes the question dramatically. And because I was forced to look at it from an entirely different perspective, I’ve found that I notice things in the discussion that other people seem to think they are having that many of them don’t seem to notice are biases and preconceptions that they are operating out of.

    In a lot of ways, it comes down to the fundamental need to treat your partner like a real live human being, as real and human, complex, and vulnerable as you are yourself. That “loving your neighbor as yourself” in a specific context. Morality is never about what bodies are doing. It’s always about what hearts and minds are doing.

  • LSS

    well good (^_^) it was only just in case they told you that, so you wouldn’t think it was true.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Judi-Gentry/100000425218393 Judi Gentry via Facebook

    It is ok. If you want to be real, you have to admit that sex with some people is better than with others. Sexual compatibility is an important part of marriage; once the craziness of the initial hormones of a new relationship have stopped, sex is what will keep the intimacy of your relationship alive.

  • Soulmentor

    Please note: I did not say it was “not normal”. I said it is not the norm. Big diff. I hate the words “normal” and “abnormal” and think they should be stricken from the English language except to refer to them in discussion about their appropriate usage. They are used mostly abusively and inaccurately, which can’t be helped if one uses them because there IS no normal or abnormal. There is only what is, alongside societal norms.

    While some things are wrong, evil, improper, disrespectful or whatever, anything that exists is “normal” , tho not always the social “norm”.

  • Michael wbl

    at mine only about 30 people went to the chapel services and the remaining thousands of people used the break between classes to get lunch

  • Gary

    I wish. It was a requirement of ALL students at mine.

  • LSS

    i know, right?! we had to go to a certain number of ours, maybe half-ish? it felt like quite a lot of them because one had to wake up early for it, but was probably not that many.

  • LSS

    we can replace by TYPICAL and ATYPICAL.

  • LSS

    yeah that’s what i am trying to ask, too. i would think it was too nosy, but this is your blog and you told us both… your experiences and your recommendations.

  • Michael wbl

    fortunately valparaiso university is fairly progressive as christian schools go. they took a lot of effort to avoid shoving lutheranism down their students throats.

  • vj

    OK, sorry to have assumed… NOW I’m curious, though, what, if anything, DID change? I’m interested, because I’ve been a believer for almost as long as I can remember, and you had a later-in-life encounter with Jesus, so I’m intrigued by how that impacted on you personally. And on that topic, you did once say that you were writing your memoirs/autobiography – still a book that I’d love to read ;-)

  • vj

    I think a better way to express my curiousity (OK, nosiness!) is that all my pre-Christian memories are also pre-teen memories, whereas you have a couple of decades of pre-Christian life experience, and I’m intrigued by how that plays out – both in general, and in your specific case, ‘cos you’ve given us some interesting glimpses on your blog…

  • vj

    Agree!

  • Gary

    “Always about what hearts and minds are doing.”

    Perfect Lymis. Totally agree.

  • DR

    Here’s where I struggle with your comment. Marriage is in many faith traditions, a sacrament. Granted, for the GLBT community they can’t marry so this conversation doesn’t make sense for them but for straight Christians, there is a quality of commitment and holiness that is coupled with the concept of marriage. Marriage, for Christians, has been the covenant that seeks to be the end goal of relationship, the standard for commitment. When the GLBT community is allowed to marry (and we all agree it’s oppressive and unjust that they can’t), won’t marriage continue to be the standard for commitment?

  • Lymis

    I certainly hope that it will. I think it will take a generation or so for the gay community to treat it as being as much of a given as straight people do, but the fact that gay people are, for the most part, raised by straight people will go a long way toward bringing both the expectations of young gay people and the expectations for young gay people in line with those of young straight people pretty rapidly once the homophobia is out of the way.

    And that will be a wonderful thing. It will shift things from having society lined up to oppose gay love and commitment to having it support it, and adding in the recognition that holiness can be as present in same-sex relationships as opposite sex ones is long overdue.

    But that’s all discussing marriage. The question was about sex. Even if the level of intimacy and commitment that are present in the best of marriages is the ideal, and even if a marriage is the ideal vessel for creating and maintaining that intimacy, it seems to me a real problem when we start making the ideal the minimum allowable.

    Back to the food metaphor, I could say that the ideal is a balanced, wonderfully prepared, healthy meal shared in community with family and friends. But I’d never say that it’s immoral to eat any other way. And even refusing to condemn other dining choices doesn’t keep me from saying that if you eat every meal every day behind the wheel of your car, you’re cheating yourself out of some of the most important things about food and eating.

    Similarly, saying that I think that sex isn’t moral only within marriage doesn’t keep me from advising against the kinds of sexual choices that are shallow and dehumanizing.

    And, of course, even if I said marriage is the ideal, I’m really saying that ideal marriage is the ideal – we all know marriages that are abject disasters, emotionally shredding, and toxic to anyone around them.

    So it seems to me that we are using “marriage” as a proxy for things like commitment and treating your partner like they matter, that their happiness is important, and like you’re going to have to wake up next to them tomorrow and the day after and the day after and live with the consequences of how you’ve treated them. And of course, marriage is far, far more than that.

    But I see so often people saying and meaning “get married” and then speaking as if a shotgun marriage as the result of a pregnancy is the same “ideal” as the conscious choice to combine two lives in love in the presence of God and the community. And I see all too often the pressure on people to marry – anyone – rather than make the “immoral” choice of being sexually active before you find someone you are willing to make a sacred commitment to.

    I’d rather we separate the concepts out, and talk about the real concerns in their own right. Because I think marriage with the wrong partner for the wrong reasons (and just getting to have “moral” sex is definitely a wrong reason in my opinion) is a far worse choice with potentially far worse consequences than having a loving, honorable, and compassionate non-marital sexual relationship with someone you don’t make a permanent commitment to. And I don’t see that as approving selfish sex that treats the other person as non-human.

  • http://Www.unnameablecuriosity.wordpress.com Christine

    No, Gary, you’re wrong! THIS might be the best post ever. :)

    Well thought-out, Lymis, just great. You show clearly the terms are being conflated. Indeed, we need two different conversations.

  • Elsa

    I totally agree. You have articulated this beautifully, Lymis, and you are right, it was the wrong question. And for too long the discussion of marriage has been focussed on the wrong issues.

    Thank you for this!

  • Michael wbl

    gary i literally only read this comment because you approved it. normally i skip long comments because they tend to be worthless and inflamatory. this was a phenomenal exception. thanks for encouraging me to readit.

  • Michael wbl

    lymis, maybe YOU should start a blog. I would follow it.

  • LSS

    the comments of this blog are generally an exception to that, well, of course it depends on the person and what is behind their words.

  • http://www.asad123.com Asad123

    Great comment. I like how you extend the discussion and bring up new, complex issues. As you explained, compatibility is not a simple yes/no question. Compatibility is like a spectrum with many possibilities.

    When people choose to wait before marriage, that can be a beautiful thing. But it’s not magic. A man might feel that because he waited until marriage to lose his virginity that he deserves to have a good sex life. But how many things in life work the first time you try them? It takes practice and a desire to improve. No matter what you decide, there are no easy answers and no guarantees of happiness.

  • Emery

    Hi John,

    I love reading your blog!

    I was curious about a few things in this article:

    1) Is this a faith statement?

    “I do think pre-love sex is almost necessarily problematic. We are not designed to be content when our bodies are engaged to a greater degree than our hearts.”

    Because, not to be rude, this seems like something that would be very difficult to claim with biology.

    2) “But sex with a person with whom you are absolutely in love is not an offense against God or your higher nature.”

    What is a person’s “higher nature”? Is this a concept we see in Christian tradition, or is this a personal belief?

    3) Having sex with, and being married to, someone you romantically love (a concept that varies in meaning from culture to culture) is a fairly new Western concept, and still does not exist in some areas of the world (in fact, in many cultures romantic love is looked on as silly and childish), so why do you believe this is something that God is actually concerned with, seeing that you will also not find this concept in Christian scripture or tradition? Is this simply a faith claim?

    4) Many cultures in the world did not have marriage ceremonies until recent years. Marriage ceremonies were only apart of complex societies. Out of the examples of relationships that we find in the bible, a wedding is not found to have began their relationships. Not to mention, the family that we often see portrayed in the bible is a man, however many wives he has, however many concubines he has, his children and his slaves. Even in the bible sex was not with one other person for life. And while you did begin the article by saying, “I am not against premarital sex,” you concluded saying, “You should be proud of that relationship. You should be so proud of it that you formalize it, and publicly announce it.” Why do you think this ceremony has any significance to God?

    5) While in one of your last statements, you seemed to recognize that marriage is simply a product of culture by saying, “And in this society, at this time, that means exchanging rings.” I was curious why you find our culture’s standards on relationships important? And if you do find our culture’s standards on relationships important, I was curious how you balanced this belief out with your views on the LGBTQIAP community and polyamorous persons?

    6) And I guess my last question is about this statement:

    “I would recommend waiting to have full intercourse until you are engaged.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you saying that everything except for intercourse is an entirely different animal? I was curious why you made a distinction, because the brain responds in the same manner to all sexual activity. Does this have to do with biology, or is this a personal conviction?

    I hope you don’t find my manner of questioning rude. I just wanted to be clear with my words.

    I would love to hear back from you!

  • Emery

    Sorry! I didn’t realize just how long this was.

  • Linnea

    Sorry if I misread it, John. That’s what it sounded like.

  • vj

    My thoughts exactly ;-)

  • DR

    Got it. Love this, thanks!

  • Gary

    There is a lot of wisdom scattered in the comments here.

  • vj

    Michael, you should ALWAYS read a comment from Lymis! They are often long, but that’s because he has so much good stuff to say, and he always says it beautifully….

  • Michael wbl

    and i enjoy reading them often more than the actual article, but this was exceptional.

  • Michael wbl

    i plan to

  • Melody

    And who gets to define correct theology? Certainly not you. You care more about legalism and literalism than what really matters. Get lost, troll.

  • Thomas

    So where in the bible does God condone or bless homosexual behavior again?

  • Andy

    Well said!!! My feelings exactly … Though never expressed so perfectly.

  • Melody

    This is about premarital sex, don’t change the subject. And why are you so obsessed with that, FRANK? It doesn’t matter whether it did when it was written, because that applied to a specific group of people in a specific time in history. You only want it to still apply because of your unabashed hatred for gays and for anyone with more liberal leanings than you. Do us all a favor (yourself included) and SHUT UP.

  • Thomas

    Yes it’s about premarital sex. The marital part is one man and one woman in a lifetime covenant created and still upheld by God. Sex outside of this bond is harmful and not blessed by God. It’s quite simple really.

  • Diana A.

    So don’t engage in it then.

  • DR

    Life is simple for people who don’t think and who don’t truly pursue the Truth of Christ.

  • Kathryn

    I would like the pre-mariral sex conversation to be expanded to include (and ACCEPT) women’s relational needs. To include the many health-issues that men and (mostly) women face (did you know that women are TWICE as likely to develop mental health problems and TWICE as likely to contract STI’s than men?).

    Sex is a health issue: anyone who wants to dumb it down to “Is it okay?” is severely limiting their own understanding of a very complex issue that can affect them for the rest of their lives.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Yikes, K. It’s a blog post, not a comprehensive treatment of the matter.

  • mike moore

    Kathryn, being a little harsh, I think.

    First question is always, “is sex OK?”

    Once that big question is answered, then comes the conversations about “do you have any STD’s? birth control? are you man-scaped? do you enjoy clown sex?”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    It’s true. One should take care to establish, define, and at least intellectually resolve all issues related to normative sexual relations before finally settling down, concentrating, and then boldly daring to face the full ramifications of what exactly it is that is happening when Bozo gets boinked.

  • Martha J

    I like clarifying questions. They make me think about why I believe what I believe.

  • Sheila

    I have been a widow for several years. I was faithful to my husband for almost 18 years of marriage. If the time comes I have bonded with a man enough to get to the point that I am thinking of being engaged and getting married..oh yes I am taking him out for a test drive at least once. Case in point I have met a christian man I really like. We spend time together as friends by mutual choice. We feel no need to rush into a sexual relationship. Our desire to have a Christ based relationship outweighs the need for a sexual relationship.

    That will come in time if it is meant to.

  • Alexi Trevor Malmgren

    in australia we have couples who live together for decades without a formal ceremony . 60% of aussi couples never marry . most ausies with a spare $10grand would rather put it toward a house than a lavish wedding with evey uncle bert and aunty mavis thye havn’t seen sine there were 3 .

  • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

    One of my favorite authors on the subject:

    Copulation is spiritual in essence—or it is merely friendly exercise. On second thought, strike out “merely.” Copulation is not “merely”—even when it is just a happy pastime for two strangers. But copulation at its spiritual best is so much more than physical coupling that it is different in kind as well as in degree. [...] But most sorrowfully–many people never achieve spiritual sharing even with the help of male-female advantage; they are condemned to wander through life alone.

    Robert Heinlein
    Time Enough for Love (The Notebooks of Lazarus Long)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X