Why Non-Virgins Can’t Have Good Marriages

I recently came upon a blog post by an evangelical in Belgium reacting to the recent outpouring in the Christian blogosphere on the problems with evangelical purity culture. This blogger reacted with confusion, calling what he was reading about “a purity culture I don’t know.” I think he correctly credits his confusion to the cultural differences between the two nations, even within evangelicalism. Anyway, this one statement of his stuck out at me:

What I’ve never heard  in all of this was stuff like the following, all of which I would’ve disagreed with then as much as I would do now:

—Non-virgins will by definition have a bad marriage.

It sounds crazy when put that simply, doesn’t it? But it is actually what I was taught. So I thought I’d help clear up this blogger’s confusion on the topic by explaining why I was taught that non-virgins could not have good marriages.

First, I was taught that if a husband and wife had sex with other people before marrying, they had, in effect, already cheated on each other. And if you know your spouse has cheated on you in the past, how can you know that they won’t cheat on you in the future? It’s a trust issue. If your spouse didn’t love you enough (this is part of why the culture I come from encourages things like writing love letters to your future spouse) to be able to keep himself from cheating on you, so how can you trust them?

Second, I was taught that if you and your spouse had had sex with each other before you got married, you also wouldn’t be able to trust each other. Why? Because you would forever know that your spouse didn’t respect and love you enough to wait until marriage to have sex with you, and also that your spouse wasn’t able to keep from committing sexual sin. If your spouse had so little respect for you, and had no qualms about committing sexual sin, well, how could you trust him or her? You couldn’t. There would forever be suspicion and moments of looking over your shoulder, wondering.

It is true that trust is a crucial foundation for any marriage—indeed, any relationship. It is true that broken trust can tear a relationship apart. And for this reason, I think it actually is true that having premarital sex, whether with each other or with someone else, can be damaging to the marriages of many conservative evangelicals. I’ve seen it happen myself, actually. The suspicion and distrust born out of the past existence of premarital sex can and does get in the way of conservative evangelical couples’ building of true and genuine intimacy.

But there’s just one problem here. The existence of premarital sex is only a breach of trust if people believe that it is sexual sin and represents a failure to truly love and respect one’s future spouse. In contrast, if one doesn’t see sex as something that is supposed to be saved for marriage, and doesn’t expect one’s spouse to be a virgin, there is no broken trust. When one doesn’t see sex before marriage as a form of cheating on one’s future spouse, the existence of premarital sex does not cause suspicion or resentment. (I’ve written about this before.)

It’s sort of like the social construction of gender, actually. A girl who grows up hearing that girls are bad at math will likely end up being bad at math. It’s not that girls are actually bad at math—it’s just that she thinks they are, and that matters. It’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy. Even so, premarital sex doesn’t actually ruin future relationships—unless one thinks it will. And many conservative evangelicals very much think it will.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Gail

    This is exactly what I was taught as well. We participated in this program called True Love Waits where we signed certificates pledging our virginity and wrote letters to our future spouses. I honestly feel icky just thinking about it now. Manipulating 12-year-olds into pledging anything about their future sex lives is just creepy. At least it was both boys and girls participating and not just girls like so many purity culture activities. And I guess the joke’s on them, because that pledge certainly has no bearing on my current sexuality.

  • ako

    Yeah, it’s a blatant self-fulfilling prophecy. You could use the same logic to claim that anyone with an outie bellybutton was doomed to a bad marriage. Just convince them that people with outies are untrustworthy and incapable of real love, and come the wedding night, off come the shirts, and the spouse seeing an outie will go “Oh”, and start having all sorts of marriage-damaging suspicion and mistrust. And before you know it, they’ll have a string of troubled marriages to point to as ‘proof’ of marrying someone with the proper sort of bellybutton.

  • Kit

    I think it’s fascinating how differently evangelicals must view sex. There’s this impression that sex is just about love, and I just don’t think sex HAS to be about love. I can love someone without ever having sex with them, and I can have sex with people I don’t love for perfectly legitimate reasons.

    I’m not saying that sex isn’t something to treat responsibly and seriously, far from it. However one chooses to approach sex is something they should think about seriously before engaging in it. Not everyone can have a friends-with-benefits relationship, not everyone can have one-night stands, but if people decide that they can and they want to, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Sometimes the alternative is worse; for example, while the religious right thinks that as a woman I have no sex drive, I really want to tell them that no, really, I have a sex drive and I actually go a little bonkers when I haven’t had sex in four or five months and it’s distracting and awful. I hate feeling that crazy, and as long as my partner and I are both single and both on the same page there’s nothing wrong with having sex just to have fun and meet your sexual needs.

    None of this has in any way impacted my ability to have a good relationship with someone, far from it. In fact, I find it’s a great way to avoid men who don’t respect me and my right to choose. I am worth more than just my virginity!

  • minuteye

    This sounds sort of related to what you may have spoken about before, which is the depression and guilt experienced by women who’ve had an abortion because they’ve been told their whole lives that’s how they should feel about the experience.

    • Miranda

      You’re EXACTLY right! It’s hard to talk about even still because those of us who have made that choice feel dirty and guilty, even if we had perfectly good reasons and practicality on our side. It’s hard to explain…I feel *societally guilty*, not personally guilty. If that makes sense. It’s like I should feel bad about what I’ve done–of course, I’m considered a murder now, right?–but I feel worse because I DON’T feel like that. And of course the fact that it’s a hard decision from the get-go doesn’t help matters.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        Miranda, you might want to check out imnotsorry.net. It’s a site for women who’ve had abortions and didn’t feel sorry and are tired of feeling they they’re supposed to be guilt-stricken. I can only imagine the emotional wonkiness of societal guilt, but it might help to check out the stories of other women who feel similarly to you.

  • http://truthspew.wordpress.com Truthspew

    I learned that the more the better before settling down. You learn things. Which will be good for each other.

    Honestly the whole purity culture to me is completely alien. Oh they tried, but I was always one to analyze what they said and contrast and compare it with current thinking, not 3rd, or 13th century shit.

  • http://concerningpurity.blogspot.com Lynn

    I would also add that it is implied that having sex before marriage will make your married sex life less amazing. Like it takes away God’s blessing for your sex life. I was even told that masturbating would take away your spouse’s ability to pleasure you.

    • The_L

      I just thought of another problem: If it’s a horrible thing to marry as a non-virgin, then you should never, ever remarry if you are widowed or divorced. Because then, you won’t be a virgin anymore.

    • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

      Only if your spouse is one of those stubborn virgins who is terrible at sex and refuses to learn. With anyone else, masturbating makes things better – you know what you like, you can teach each other, and many women can’t orgasm from penetration alone so masturbation is a good way of increasing the pleasure of sex.

      Experience with others, I think, is a toss up. Sometimes it can mean exposure to new ideas, but often it means learning how to pleasure one individual, which is not necessarily applicable to pleasuring a different individual. Far more important, imo, is experience with yourself.

  • Miranda

    This kind of mentality doesn’t just harm marriage relationships: it harms victims of sexual assault and abuse. They teach us to think that even if the assault/rape wasn’t our fault, it really WAS because men just can’t help their sexual natures, and because of our inability to dress a certain way, &etc., we are at fault for what happened and are now damaged goods. From that point on, generally, victims end up in abusive relationships simply because they think that they are worth nothing and that when they are treated poorly it’s because they are tainted. Of course the new thing sweeping the evangelical atmosphere is this “born again virgin” ridiculousness: it seems to further cement that it’s about words and not about reality. Virginity is somehow the most important thing–not the relationship, not the person, not even their “relationship with Jesus.” It’s just about the V-card. Insanity like this was part of the reason why I started looking at Christianity closely and eventually guided myself away from religion entirely. As a much happier atheist, I am only many years after the fact able to understand that I am not damaged; I am not broken, and I am not worthless. Christianity EMPHASISED that worthlessness–and that caused irreparable damage.

  • Cristi

    Growing up, I don’t really remember the trust issue being brought up. I remember being told that it’s like actually physically giving away a piece of yourself. You can’t have as good of a marriage because you’re no longer bringing your whole self to your marriage. Someone else has that part of you. And for people that have sex with their spouse before being married, it’s like opening a present before Christmas. You’ll always know that it wasn’t as special because you jumped the gun and you’ll always have the memory that it could have been really special but it wasn’t because you didn’t wait – almost like every time you have sex with your spouse it will remind you that you didn’t wait and you’ll never be able to truly enjoy it the way someone who waited could.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      I don’t understand … why does opening a present early make it less special? Am I going to play with it less? Enjoy my playtime less? Did my parents use less thoughtfulness to get me a present that I opened early? That analogy makes no sense in my head.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        Thats the thing, now that I am out of that culture, I can see how rediculous it is. While I was there, I nodded agreement and it all made SO much sense.
        Both parts of it – its basically exactly what I was taught. Sort of Joshua-Harris-Lite. We got some “purity” stuff, but mostly it was about saving that gift and not ruining it, partly because it would make “Christmas” less special, but also because you might not actually marry your fiance (the horror!), so you would be risking giving away part of yourself to someone you might not marry – and WORSE, TAKING away something from that persons future spouse. (Plus, what guy in the church would want to look at you if you had slept with one of their mates before you married him? All his friends would ridicule you, and all his future-wifes friends would actively hate you once they found out. And they would)

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    My perspective is slightly different- I was taught that having sex was THE ULTIMATE thing you could do romantically, and if you already did it with someone else, then it won’t be special with your spouse. That sex with your husband can never surpass the memory of sex with your ex-boyfriend. (Because apparently all sex is the same?) And I suppose this makes sense, if one believes what purity culture says about how all that matters in a relationship is what a couple has or has not done physically.

    Oh and also, if you had sex with an ex-boyfriend, then you’d always be comparing your husband to him and never be happy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

      That kind of viewpoint makes sex out to be the ultimate aim of marriage. As if a marriage cannot be complete without sex! While sex is a very important component of marriage, it’s not the be-all and end-all of it. I have had men in my past who were technically better than my husband and I am sure the same goes for him. Yet they weren’t the kind of people we would have been ultimately happy with in a marriage. Putting the quality of your sex life at the top of the list does not automatically make for a happy marriage and I say this as a woman with a very high sex-drive married to a man with a low sex-drive. Does this mean that sex shouldn’t be considered at all? No. At the same time, it’s not the only thing that matters and for evangelicals to make it sooo special that your whole marriage will be ruined by having it with other people is absurd.

      • Rosa

        Exactly, Lucreza!

    • ScottInOH

      All these comments sound so familiar to me, and this one seems the most familiar. I’m still just realizing how misguided those old teachings were:

      – “You’ll be thinking about your exes if you have sex before marriage.” Won’t I be thinking about what could have been if I don’t have sex before marriage?

      – “There’s only one first time for sex, and it should be with your spouse.” But there’s only one first handholding, crying together, going out for ice cream, meeting the other’s parents, etc., and those were probably before marriage and could be done with lots of people. Also, why should the first time be so special as compared to the other ones? The first time my wife and I tried to redecorate a room together it wasn’t nearly as good as our most recent attempt.

      – “You’re giving away pieces of yourself [especially if you're a woman/girl].” That’s wrong in a number of ways, including (1) I’ve lost nothing, so how does it make sense to say I’ve given something away, and (2) what, I should sell it instead of giving it? It’s not transaction at all! What a horrible way to think about a relationship or about sex.

      All of the secular reasons fall apart under scrutiny (although I didn’t see that as I was growing up). They’re left with, “God doesn’t want you to do it.”

      • Rosa

        Which should be enough for a believer, and also puts the same weight on things like “be good to your neighbor” and “Keep the Sabbath holy”, instead of putting this huge overemphasis on sex.

  • smrnda

    The idea of writing love letters to a future spouse seems a little creepy and weird – you’re writing letters to a person that doesn’t exist, so they’re likely just empty praise for qualities that the future spouse is supposed to have, which reduces people to a checklist of things they can either have or not that make them acceptable partners. It’s like you don’t have to know someone at all, you just have to know they fit the checklist, and then they’re someone you should love. That’s a pretty empty view of relationships.

    The whole virginity thing seems all about expectations. You teach people that they should value virginity, and then they do,but if you taught them not to care, it wouldn’t be an issue. To me, this is more evidence that marriage, for lots of Christians, is nothing but a pissing contest of “My Marriage is better than your marriage since I followed more rules!” Such a shallow, degrading view of relationships, turning them into nothing but a status-seeking activity, is really repulsive. It’s all about egotism and showing off how high your standards are.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

      She doesn’t understand why she hasn’t met the man of her dreams/letters *headdesk*

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia
      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        Ugh, I just cant. Both of those… Ick.

      • Sarah

        Wow. They seem kind of stalkerish even though it isn’t about a specific guy. Creepy.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      Oh my god, I HAD a checklist of things I wanted in a future spouse.
      Things like “can be a godly head of the household” etc etc ad nauseum
      Threw it out about a year before meeting DH, and while he meets almost none of the “old-christian-me” criteria, he meets SO many others I would never have thought of from that perspective.

      • Alice

        What’s even more creepy than writing them is the women who give all the love letters they’ve ever written to their husbands when they get married. They want a grown man to read all the mushy stuff they wrote when they were teenagers or preteens? EWWWWWWW!

    • Jaimie

      Alice you took the words right out of my mouth. How creepy is it that a grown man is supposed to read and appreciate some love letter written to him, when the writer had no idea who he was, when she was a teen? Or younger? Gag! Is it supposed to mention sex and purity? Double gag!

  • Christine

    The title of this post alone is great insight into how messed up it is. The term “virgin” (at least when applied to people) always squicks me out. “Why People Who Previously Had Sex Can’t Have Good Marriages” would be discussing much less toxic teachings to begin with. I would, in fact, argue that “Why People Who Previously Had Sex Can’t Have Good Marriages” wouldn’t exist as a blog post, because this insane emphasis that having sex changes who you are (you are no longer a Virgin, you are now a Non-Virgin!) is somewhat necessary for a belief like this. Can you still believe that sex outside of marriage is wrong without the focus on virginity (=purity)? Of course. You can also still believe that it’s the worst thing you can do, but it moves more into a moral discussion than an innate value of the person. (Judgements about someone’s value as a person will, of course, still happen, but those will be based on the person’s moral standards, rather than on their sexual history.)

  • http://abekoby.wordpress.com Abe

    Yes, I’ve read that many Asian cultures don’t even have a word associated with sexual guilt. Those cultures did not create such a concept, and thus, they don’t really have sexual guilt about premarital sex. They might have other undesirable things to think about in bad relationships like many of us do, but it does go to show that guilt about sex is not inherent to all people, it’s something we created that we now have to live with.

    • Nerdsamwich

      No, we don’t. We can choose to reject that guilt, and more importantly, we can refuse to hand it down to our children.

  • BabyRaptor

    My boyfriend’s parents ragged on him endlessly about having sex with me, what with us not being married. Finally, I told him to point out to them that sexual compatibility is HUGE to marriages working out…You know, the old “Would you buy a car without driving it” analogy.

    His mom replied that neither of them had slept with anyone else before they married, and they worked out just fine. His response was “Yeah, you think so. But you have no idea what you’re missing.”

    He says it shut her up, and his dad later made noises about being angry at him for saying it because now Mommy Dearest is thinking about What Might Have Been.

  • Judy L.

    It’s this ‘giving away part of yourself’ and ‘guarding your heart’ and ‘not giving away pieces of your heart’ that I find so bloody insulting. Your heart, your sex, your physical affection are not finite resources, and it’s offensive to suggest that they are. Isn’t it a little hypocritical that a Quiverfull mother’s heart can grow to produce love for yet another addition to her litter of children, and yet those children only have a finite amount of heart to give to their future spouses?

    And virginity isn’t a thing – it’s a state of not having done something. Sure, it’s nice to explore new experiences with someone you like, but inexperience isn’t a gift or a commodity and it sure as hell shouldn’t be regarded as a virtue. They set up virginity as though sex for the first time is like going to Paris: You’re supposed to go to Paris for the first time with your husband. If you happen to be kidnapped and taken to Paris against your will and are lucky enough to survive the kidnapping, or if you’re a slut and you ran off to Paris with your boyfriend, you are ruined forever because you can only go to Paris for the first time once, and now it won’t be special when you and your husband go to Paris together for the first time because you’ve already been there.

  • Sarah

    How does one that has been indoctrinated in Catholic schools leave the sexual guilt behind? It has been 11 years since I left high school and I still have sexual hangups. I heard that “sex is like duct tape. The first time you use a piece, it is really strong and holds stuff together. But tear it off repeatedly and it loses it strength. That is what happens when you have sex before marriage. It isn’t strong and you have been used.” I know it is complete bullshit. There is other stuff too. I never had to write a letter to my future husband though. That is so disturbing.

    • TicklishMeerkat

      My greatest sympathies. I had those same “mental tapes” playing in my head when I dumped my first husband (the fundamentalist minister mentioned in #26 below) and it took some time to free myself of that indoctrination. And I wasn’t even raised evangelical–I converted in my teens out of Catholicism! It’s just gotten more and more disturbing and creepy, what Christian culture’s doing to young women as their hold over them gets weaker and weaker. Abusers don’t like losing control of their victims; as the victims work free, the abusers just get worse. I suspect we’ll see worse out of Christianity before its hash gets well and truly settled.

      To free myself, I read a lot and began talking to friends who were out of the church who were in sexual relationships. When you’ve got enough people laughing at the mere idea of sex being like duct tape and hear enough women getting just TORQUED at the idea that they’re worth less as human beings now that they’ve (gasp) had sex, it’s hard to hold onto that programming. When you see just how belittling, infantilizing, and dismissive Christianity’s fixation on virginity is for women, and how it’s used to control women, punish them for dissent, and limit their choices, it’s hard to even feel wistful for the loss of that programming. It takes time, but as you interact more with people whose lives are a raised middle finger to that kind of puerile narrow-mindedness, you’ll likely find your old indoctrination falls from you like a shroud. Good luck, Sarah :)

    • ScottInOH

      It may seem small, but participating in discussions like this one can help. It certainly is/has for me.

      (Can I also point out that the duct tape analogy, like so many of them, implies that sex never gets better after the first time–and in fact gets worse–even if you never have sex with anyone but your spouse?)

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        Now THATS an excellent point Scott!
        Ugh, if that were true, I would have given up after the first time as it was AWFUL! Yeuck.

  • TicklishMeerkat

    Luckily, there are plenty of people now talking about sex and making it perfectly clear that toxic attitudes like those are unhealthy and that sentiments like that just aren’t true.

    I was a virgin when I got married to my fundamentalist minister husband, and it ended disastrously–who’d have thunk he’d turn out to be abusive and a stalker? I was a non-virgin when I got married to Mr. Meerkat, and we’ve been so blissfully happy in our 11 years together that people refer to us as “sickeningly in love” and “torrid.” A relationship is not defined by what’s between its participants’ legs, nor are its chances of success.

  • Rae

    Another ridiculous thing that I’ve heard of is that if you have sex before marriage, you’ll “get used to” or “develop preferences for” one particular style of sex or another, and then when you’re married (and this goes doubly if your spouse is also not a virgin when they’re married and has supposedly also found one specific way he or she prefers to have sex) you’ll find that you’re “incompatible” because you and your spouse will want to do different things in bed and/or because your spouse won’t be able to live up to whatever your ex liked to do in bed.

    Which, when you come to think of it, is some of the stupidest, stupidest reasoning ever. Like everyone is a blank slate as a virgin, and then they magically imprint with the first kind of sexual activity they’re exposed to. Hell, even when I was a rather fundamentalist teenager and I had a mental image of the guy being unable to get it up unless him and his wife did exactly what him and his ex-girlfriend did, I still thought that it was kind of horrifying because it assumed people were too stupid to learn to have sex in more than one way, and if it was true it meant that in a marriage between virgins, they’d only be able to enjoy whatever kind of blundering intercourse they figured out on their wedding night.

    • smrnda

      This can be the case for everything from bathroom cleaning technique to cooking ability. Yes, we compare people. Do we not eat food since our future spouse might not cook as well as a previous partner? Or is it just that you can’t reduce people to 1 or 2 features that are all important. To me, I think sex is a lot like cooking – you sort of get used to people’s preferences when you’re around them a lot.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        There’s also always the possibility that your spouse will be, um, BETTER than your first partner or past partners…

    • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

      When I mentioned this blog post on my Facebook, someone answered that, as a teenager, her parents told her that when a woman has sex for the first time, her vagina “takes the shape” of the penis, which makes her unable to receive pleasure from any man other than her first. So don’t have sex because, y’know, SCIENCE!

  • alr

    Here’s a radical thought, though. One that this blog’s black and white views likely can’t handle:
    You can have a good marriage without sleeping together first, too.

    We can’t trade one bad assumption for another. Not if we truly respect people making their own choices freely.

    • Generally Speaking

      Maybe I missed something, but I don’t think Libby Anne stated or even suggested that assumption at all.

      I have no doubt we all need reminders to be open-minded. I’m just not sure she’s the one who needed one in this case.

    • TicklishMeerkat

      Where are you seeing her demand that all couples sleep together before marriage? Because I didn’t catch that.

    • BabyRaptor

      I must have missed where Libby advocated for forcing all couples to bone before they were allowed a marriage license.

      Oh, wait. That didn’t happen. You’re just trying to feel superior.

      Also, the christianists are the ones with the horrible track record of not letting people make their own decisions, not the Atheists.

    • Christine

      alr, as much as a lot of the content does communicate “it is better for a marriage to have sex first”, Libby has explicitly stated on other posts that she agrees that not having sex before marriage isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

      And can someone please explain to me how saying “it’s bad to not have sex before you get married” would be the same as saying “let’s disallow marriages where people didn’t have sex first”? Nowhere in alr’s comment was it said that Libby was trying to force people to sleep together. The comment was about the “it’s bad to not have sex before marriage” attitude that pops up here all the time, which is very different from “you must have sex before marriage”.

      • ScottInOH

        Christine, perhaps I misread alr, but I took this

        Here’s a radical thought, though. One that this blog’s black and white views likely can’t handle: You can have a good marriage without sleeping together first, too.

        to mean alr thought “this blog” (which I took to mean Libby Anne’s original post) was arguing that you CAN’T have a good marriage without sleeping together first.

        She did not say that or even imply it. The argument, with which many commenters here agree, is that (1) you can have a good marriage if you’ve slept together (or with other people) first, and (2) you can have a bad marriage (and/or a bad sex life) if you haven’t.

        Neither of those implies someone must have sex before getting married, and I’m pretty sure no one on here wants to force anyone into anything. It’s important, however, to understand that (1) and (2) are true and that those preaching otherwise are wrong.

      • Christine

        Number 2 is where I raise an objection. It’s not that it’s untrue, it’s that the implication that failing to have sex before you get married is the only thing that can lead to a bad marriage/sex life. That may not be the intent, but it’s along the lines of the dihydrogen monoxide jokes. “All serial killers were exposed to dihydrogen monoxide”. Sure it’s true, but it’s meaningless, and the misdirection is caused by the implication that there is significance. Sure, it’s true that you can have a bad marriage without having had sex first, but the implication of (2) is that not having sex before marriage may cause a bad marriage/sex life and/or that having sex before marriage is a preventative measure against bad marriages and bad sex lives, hence the objections.

      • ScottInOH

        I think we disagree, although I may still be misunderstanding.

        #2 says a bad marriage/sex life is possible even if you were abstinent before marriage; it doesn’t say abstinence will produce bad results or that you can’t have good results if you are abstinent until marriage.

        At the same time, it’s different from the H2O joke because it does actually make a non-trivial claim: the purity teaching that pre-marital abstinence is essential for marital success is false. I think that claim is supported by empirical evidence.

      • Christine

        Sorry, I tried to communicate that I knew that wasn’t what you were trying to say, but it got lost in some of my clarity edits. My point was that, intent or not, it communicates that message, especially to those of us who grew up with regular Christian teachings against pre-marital sex (as opposed to the purity culture). Coupled with the “here are reasons that would make having sex before marriage a good thing” and “sex before marriage is wrong = purity culture” tropes, the message becomes even stronger. I was aware that it wasn’t intentional, but it is very strong.

      • Generally Speaking

        “It’s not that it’s untrue, it’s that the implication that failing to have sex before you get married is the only thing that can lead to a bad marriage/sex life.”

        I haven’t picked up that implication, but perhaps I’m missing something.

        “Coupled with the “here are reasons that would make having sex before marriage a good thing” and “sex before marriage is wrong = purity culture” tropes, the message becomes even stronger. I was aware that it wasn’t intentional, but it is very strong.”

        Perhaps it’s so strong because the opposite message has been what so many people have been exposed to and inundated with for so long, without much exposure to alternatives, such as what is proposed in this blog.

      • ScottInOH

        Thanks, Christine. I certainly understand how it can be heard that way, and it’s how I would have heard it until quite recently. So it sounds like you and I actually don’t disagree on much except maybe some points of emphasis. Works for me! Thanks.

  • Sarah

    It probably would have helped my first marriage if I had been a virgin. But then again, it would have also helped my first marriage if I had been blind or mute or maybe both. My ex-husband could not live with my past, which was on par with his, but he also couldn’t deal with me making eye contact with the cashier at the grocery store or calling my family one a week.

  • Ella

    I remember being taught that your first time would be with you forever – it’s supposed to be special and that’s why you wait (at least that was the reason that stuck with me to wait). I did actually stay abstinent until I was well in college, and only as I was leaving Christianity did I let go of that.

    My first time wasn’t with my husband, but I was engaged at the time. I can’t remember it, at all. When I’m with my husband, I’m with him, and sure as hell not thinking about past relationships.

  • Bobby W

    I don’t think that those who aren’t virgins when they marry will necessarily have bad marriages, but I would argue that, at least for some people, it will hurt them.
    It is only women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship who have an elevated risk of marital disruption. >http://socialpathology.blogspot.com/2010/09/sexual-partner-divorce-risk.html
    There really is no such thing as no strings attached sex. Unless you blacked it out of your memory.
    Thing is: Relationship science is hard science. Oxytocin is not some disinformation cooked up by the evil patriarchy. It’s a chemical that floods your body after sex, during breastfeeding, and through the early months of motherhood. Men also experience it, though its effect is tamped down somewhat by testosterone. The effects of sex hormones are bound to reside on a spectrum. Some women may produce less, which leads to less emotional attachment. Some men are suckers for oxytocin, and love spooning after sex. Anyone who regularly dismisses a large body of peer-reviewed academic studies in this area is as ridiculous as a member of the Flat Earth Society.>http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2010/08/02/hookinguprealities/deconstructing-the-sluthood-of-jaclyn-friedman/
    Men care about your sexual history.
    This makes feminists see red, but it’s a fact. In the two years I’ve been writing this blog, only 3 of more than 100 male commenters have said otherwise. (It’s unclear whether any of the 3 were really straight males.) For hooking up, guys want a slut with great skills. For dating, guys want a woman who has had sex mostly in the context of meaningful relationships. There’s a short-term box, and a long-term box for virtually every man, and your number is the key determinant of what box you go into.
    Men are especially sensitive to the idea that women live it up with players when they’re in college and their 20s, only to seek a really great guy later on to marry. If that man was in the 80% of guys who didn’t get laid a lot in college, forget about it. He doesn’t want to pay up now for what you gave away for free to so many others.>http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2011/01/03/relationshipstrategies/eleven-key-insights-from-the-men-of-hooking-up-smart/
    I notice most of the comments on this article were made my women. In your eyes virginity does not matter. As a man, I will say that these days, absolute virginity is not really that big a deal. I will tell you that you don’t want your partner to know how many men you have slept with. Most men do have a problem with it. Not making excuses or saying that it’s right or wrong, but it’s true. Men know that the more people a woman has slept with, the higher the odds that she will cheat. And yes, this is verifiable. I could find no such information about men. Cheating is so important a topic to men because we can never know for sure if the child is ours or not, and not everyone can afford one or is willing to imply that they don’t trust the woman involved. We’re not going to want to take a risk on a woman who is more likely to cheat. Some men can get over it, but I would say that a majority doesn’t want to do so.
    Each additional sexual partner increased the odds of infidelity by 7%
    I don’t disagree with you Libby Anne, non-virgins can have good marriages. But, I do think that waiting can have it’s benefits. Here’s a report on a study that found that waiting to have sex until marriage correlates with higher sexual and overall satisfaction with the marriage, http://waitingtillmarriage.org/study-couples-who-waited-have-happier-more-stable-marriages/ ,
    and here’s a critique of said study.
    Also, http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/10/study-people-who-wait-to-have-sex-are-less-dissatisfied-in-marriage/263766/
    I do not endorse cheating by men or women. I do not say that it is right or wrong for a man to judge a potential partner based on the past number of partners. It’s just something that will happen. I do endorse waiting for someone that you love, for both men and women, but if you want to give it away to some random person who doesn’t care about you, go ahead. And please, no ad hominem attacks saying that I just say this because I can’t get laid. I live in the shittiest part of my town. Two doors down lives a woman who’ll sleep with anyone over the age of 13, and I do mean anyone. I haven’t found a person I care enough about to have sex with. That is why I’m a virgin.

    • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

      You are using some very interesting terminology. You say that guys who didn’t get laid a lot in college don’t want to “pay up” for something that their potential partner “gave away for free” – Pay up? What are they paying, exactly? And on your blog, the About page talks about a “sexual marketplace.” There’s that transactional language again.

      If your conception of a committed relationship is one in which men “pay” for sex and women sell it, you and I are working from very different definitions.

      As far as I am concerned, the kinds of guys who have such a transactional approach towards sex – in other words, the kinds of guys who would be reading your blog and therefore skewing your results – are not the kinds of guys that I would be interested in pursuing a relationship with.

      If a man is uncomfortable with or dislikes an aspect of me or my history that I can’t change (or that I don’t want to change), he is not a suitable candidate to be in a relationship with me. Problem solved.

    • Rosie

      Wow, Bobby. If all or even most men were really like that, I’d still be single by choice. As MrPopularSentiment points out, any man who is uncomfortable with who I am or where I’ve been is not a suitable relationship candidate for me.

      Interestingly, I’ve had more sexual partners since I got married I had than before. “Married” is not necessarily synonymous with “monogamous”, nor is extramarital sex “cheating” if everyone involved (including my husband) gives their informed and uncoerced consent.

    • Noelle

      “Relationship science” is hard science? Oh dear. I must’ve missed the large double-blind randomized-control studies performed on large groups of people using excellent statistics to discover real-world differences on anything. Then repeated in other settings to create a cochrane-base worthy metanalysis of the whole thing. Ya gotta disprove the null hypothesis.

      You get me something with an A rating on the USPTF that connects virginity to marriage outcomes, I’m interested.

    • Knayt

      Putting aside how little details like “controlling for extraneous variables” seem to be conspicuously absent from the studies in question, I also note that your anecdata consists of “only 3 of 100 male commentators has said otherwise”, which itself is flawed. I could be counted in one of the 97 for the simple reason that I haven’t offered an opinion*; somehow I doubt I’m the only one. That anecdata consists of a huge chunk of unknowns, and blithely counting them as part of some perceived default is intellectually dishonest at best.

      Then there is this “pay for” nonsense. A relationship is not “paying for” sex. The underlying economic model is abject bullshit, that only makes sense if you assume that almost all men want sex, almost all women don’t want sex, all women want relationships, and all men don’t want relationships, making sex a female currency used to purchase relationships (at this point the actual proponents of this ludicrous model usually throw in some whining about how hook up culture is driving down the economic value of sex as a currency and thus women who indulge in it are ruining things for everyone).

      Feel free to check these assumptions. Go right ahead and ask men if relationships are tedious work they don’t enjoy, and feel free to ask women if they don’t actually like sex. I expect a mixture of laughter, mockery, and derision in response. At least, in the responses that aren’t just sheer shock.

      *Hint: I really, really don’t care about past sexual history.

  • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    Anyone else get the feeling that Evangelicals are creating a problem just so that they can sell us the treatment for it?

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      And the ‘solution’ doesn’t even work, so you’ll keep buying it and hoping it will.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        I initially wrote “so they can sell you the cure,” then realized that it’s not a cure and isn’t meant to be. It’s a treatment that, we’re told, must be taken for the rest of your life. You MUST follow the rules, you MUST save your first kiss for your wedding day, you MUST eschew a career, you MUST submit, you MUST have more children even if you lack the material and emotional resources to care for them… It never ends, and all are part of the treatment for an entirely artificial problem.

      • Rosie


  • Mel

    So what happens if one person is a virgin and the other isn’t? A half-horrible marriage?

  • For me…

    Others do marry non-virgins and it worked fine. For example, (from friends) a man marries a woman who has already 2 children and yet, they already live together like the man was the original husband of the woman for several years already. Another example, (not about marrying non-virgin) here’s a girl i knew from school which already had a baby at the age of 14 and she still have suitors even if they knew that she has already a child or rather, a non-virgin. So, in this case, good marriage with a non-virgin woman or man isn’t impossible. There are a lot of proofs already.But as we all know, we are all different from each other. It is not guaranteed that all marriages will work out fine. It is still on the hands of the couple to handle everything, whether they married a virgin or a non-virgin.