In 2009 and 2012, I wrote essays for the Tampa Bay Times about why I’m saving sex for marriage—essays that sparked impassioned reactions. Some feedback came from readers who agreed that saving sex is a good idea. Other feedback came from readers who shared why they think premarital sex is better.
But their reasons—which still show up in my inbox—have this in common:
Today, we bust them:
Myth 1: “You should have sex with the people you date because you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first.” It is true that one would not buy a car without test driving it. It is also true that cars are objects, and that a person who owns a car is supposed to use it. But people are not cars. We’re not objects. A married person is not supposed to use his or her spouse. A married person is supposed to participate in “total mutual self-giving” (CCC 1644), and to exemplify the “absolute and unfailing love” God has for us (CCC 1604). The need for a test-drive, when the quest is for a car, exists because we have to see that the means (a car) serves its purpose. The need for a test-drive, when the quest is for a spouse, is a myth, because a person who treats a spouse like a means to an end is a person who doesn’t love.
Myth 2: “You should have sex with the people you date or wedding night sex will be awkward.” Or underwhelming. Or just plain bad. This myth—that we ought to have premarital sex so sex isn’t uncomfortable on our wedding nights—implies that the quality of wedding night sex is paramount, and that how immediately sex is pleasurable is what determines its quality. This myth requires a person’s focus to be on preparedness for a wedding night. It perpetuates the misguided belief that physical pleasure is what makes sex good. It isn’t. Unity makes sex good. Procreation makes sex good. That it feels good is an added bonus. Sex that isn’t immediately pleasurable requires a couple to use teamwork and communication and patience—skills a couple uses to practice chastity while they date, skills fostered when we prepare for marriage rather than just for a wedding night.
Myth 3: “You should have sex with the people you date because you need to know you are sexually compatible.” This myth wouldn’t be a myth if sex were static. But it isn’t. Even secular sex columnists agree (“Most people don’t start out very good (at sex),” one wrote; sex “skills” are learned, wrote another.) And indeed they are, with communication, practice, and patience. Which outs what actually underlies this myth: The quest isn’t for sexual compatibility. It’s for effortless sexual compatibility. Sexual compatibility can be achieved within a marriage over time, but our culture seeks compatibility that’s effortless because that sort of sex would not require what we are far too quick to avoid: work. A marriage doesn’t have to be doomed for newlyweds who discover that the sex isn’t effortless; instead, it can be fortified, when a groom and a bride agree to learn together.
Why the world says it’s ok to learn with each other before you’re married but not ok to learn with each other after you’re married remains a mystery. #Facepalm.
Arleen Spenceley is author of forthcoming book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, to be released by Ave Maria Press in Fall 2014. She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com and tweets @ArleenSpenceley. Click here to like her on Facebook.