In 2009 and 2012, I wrote sex essays for the Tampa Bay Times — essays that sparked impassioned reactions. Some feedback came from readers who agreed that saving sex for marriage 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 selfgiving” (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 bad, as Kiri Blakelely recently wrote for the Stir: “Not everyone is great in bed, and most people don’t start out very good at all.” This myth — that we ought to have premarital sex so sex isn’t uncomfortable on our wedding nights — implies not solely that the quality of wedding night sex is paramount, but that how immediately sex is pleasurable is what determines its quality. But pleasure isn’t the only part of sex that makes it good. Unity makes it good. Procreation makes it good. That it facilitates teamwork and requires communication makes it good. (Fun fact: In a Yahoo essay, Michael Strauss at first shares Kiri’s sentiment: “You will both be much happier if you have at least moderate skill” before the wedding, he wrote. But then he added: “…especially if it was learned with each other.” Why 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.)
Myth 3: “You should have sex with the people you date because body parts.” Actual quote from Kiri’s recent sex post at the Stir: “Don’t you want to know if your husband is packing a hunting rifle or a tiny little plastic kid’s pistol? … I’m not saying size would be a dealbreaker, but don’t you have the right to know what’s down there?” Which I’ll answer with a question: Why do I need to know if knowing probably won’t change my mind? In subscribing to this myth — that we should have sex before we’re married because we ought to be familiar with certain body parts — we risk valuing a person’s parts more than we value a person.
Myth 4: “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 Kiri agrees (“Most people don’t start out very good (at sex),” she wrote), and so does Michael, who accidentally admitted that sex “skills” are learned. And they are, with communication, practice, patience, and time. Which means compatibility can be achieved. Which outs what actually underlies this myth: a quest not for compatibility (which can be achieved within a marriage), but for effortless compatibility, which wouldn’t require what we are far too quick to avoid: work.