Monday, September 24, 2012


"[T]he cultural message that waiting until marriage is the best choice is simply wrong. And it's wrong for almost everyone."

"So here it goes: having sex before marriage is the best choice for nearly everyone."
—In an excellent essay for the Guardian, Jill Filipovic breaks down the morality of premarital sex.

116 Comments / Post A Comment


"In terms of happiness, sex is better than money, and having sex once a week instead of once a month is the "happiness equivalent" of an extra $50,000 a year."

No irony, that explains A LOT. That is harrowing.


@aliceandstuff Yes. And I find it harrowing also.

Judith Slutler

@aliceandstuff Ha ha ha ha ha, no wonder LDRs suck so much!


@aliceandstuff You know there was even a comment under that article that said "I'd rather have the cash".
I feel pity that his sex just isn't as good as $50 large. That's a very bitter pill!


I feel envy that you can prioritize *anything* over 50k a year, hell I'd have to think about it long and hard if some one guaranteed me an extra 5k a year.

... actually no I wouldn't. I'd sign away my dick for 5k a year in a heart beat at this point.


@Onymous Yeah, I haven't had sex in 6 months. I've gone this long, I could hold out for much longer if I could get an extra $50k this year.


@ImASadGiraffe Sorry, didn't think that one through.
If I didn't have a Mr TARDIStime and I was unemployed, there might be a shuffling of the priorities (except Carolita's article about taking a lover has me reconsidering that AGAIN...).
That said, I am anxiously awaiting a response after interviewing for an admin job where the hours are from 4pm - 11:30pm that pays just over that $50k, so... diff'rent strokes.


What's missing from this whole discussion about sex, no sex, $50,000, etc., is the right numbers. Let's keep talking.


@Tulletilsynet What is your right number?


@TARDIStime Or even just... the right number?
I guess everyone has their price (never thought I would use that phrase in relation to people paying someone NOT to have sex).

Porn Peddler

It continues to stun me how transformative, wonderful, and life-affirming good sex can be. And this is coming from someone for whom that knowledge should be as clear and obvious as the fact that I exist.


Waiting for sex until marriage is totally pointless, because the entire point of that was to make sure that any offspring a woman had actually belonged to her husband, to protect HIS property rights and rights of inheritance.There is no reason to perpetuate this now (and really shouldn't have been in teh first place, but that is patriarchy for you.)


@Megano! yeah, even if determining paternity with certainty IS the most important thing evar, we live in a time where science is a lot more effective at that than moralizing. that is, for those of us who believe in science, I guess.


@entangled plus women have property rights now. But basically, waiting till marriage has never been about anyone's sexual satisfaction, so why are pplp still doing it?


@Megano! You answered you own question upthread: "but that is the patriarchy for you."
People (the patriarchy) are still perpetuating this because it suits them!
Until this will no longer suit them (never) they will want to perpetuate these myths on the vulnerable.


@TARDIStime *to the vulnerable.

Briony Fields

Purely anecdotal, but my friends (all religious) who waited until marriage had depressing sex lives. They just didn't know what they were into or how to figure it out, and they felt like they were obliged to do it any time their husbands wanted it. Obviously not everyone has this experience, but although their husband were decent guys they were all steeped in a culture that isn't very empowering for women, ESPECIALLY sexually.

When one friend finally got divorced she told me she and her husband had never been compatible sexually, but she was afraid to admit it because they were taught that sex would magically just ~be great~ if they were truly in love and waited. Damn!


@Briony Fields

Sex: it's awesome, but it takes a little work and practice to make it awesome. It is not, in fact, a magical "Fade to black and awesome stuff happens!" moment.

It really could be worse, though. A grad school friend's friend, very religious, was not only waiting for marriage to have sex. She was waiting until the wedding to kiss her fiance for the first time. So not only was the question of sexual incompatibility being delayed, but so was the question of *whether she liked kissing the man she was marrying.* And this was going to be tested for the first time in front of all her friends and family.

dj pomegranate

@TheBourneApproximation I grew up conservative Christian and I remember being at a friend's house one day looking through photo albums--we were about 14? Back in the days when I totally wore a purity ring all the time. One of them was her sister's wedding album and she pointed to the "first kiss" picture and said, "That's the first time they ever kissed!" Most reactions were a sort of respectful awe: "Wow, so great for them! How wonderful!" And I didn't respond because I was thinking, "That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard." I just could not (and cannot) imagine marrying someone I'd never kissed. WHAT IF IT'S TERRIBLE!


@dj pomegranate yeah. I have friends who waited til marriage/way longer than me into a relationship, and they seem happy now. However. these are friends whose relationships exude good communication skills and are not cut off from the world and wouldn't be afraid of counselling if something wasn't working. Honestly, I think it's a legit choice for some people, but it is so tied to purity culture that I find the whole thing hard to deal with.

baked bean

@theotherginger Yeah, I think it is possible for a couple to have waited until marriage to be happy, but they need to do it right. Like, there should be "newlywed" classes for them about how to communicate and what to do, birth control, etc., because if they grew up in a family like mine and had friends like I was supposed to, they wouldn't learn any of that stuff anywhere.

I often wonder though, if people whose morals are to wait until marriage would also not admit if things weren't great.

I have only ever had one partner, and he is my current one, but as long as it's working it's working. We communicate well, and, you know, we're not married and won't be any time soon. Even if he will be my only partner ever, I did try it out with him beforehand, and can't imagine not having done so.

I just think about the first guy I ever made out with and how awful that was (and that was just making out!)... and if I thought I couldn't try anything with anyone ahead marriage and my husband was awful like that, even if he was "really nice"? And I know he would NOT have been worried about what I wanted at all. Oh God.

Sella Turcica

@Briony Fields I had a roommate who got engaged while we were living together. He wanted to wait until marriage. She was more of a, well, free-spirit until that point. They were (and five years later, still are) very much in love. She respected his wishes, so she waited with him. But she taught him all about couples massage. They got some practice in before the real deal. They are expecting their second child and they're both pretty happy.

fondue with cheddar

@dj pomegranate Now I'm picturing that video from I don't remember what where the newly-married couple kisses for the first time and it is the most awkward, gross kiss ever. Does somebody know what I'm talking about?

I had a lot of partners before marriage, and I learned a lot about sex, relationships, and even myself from them. For me, sex before marriage was undoubtedly a good thing. Also? The sex I've had since my divorce has been the best. ;)


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) That's from that Virgins show that was on TLC...

It's funny as I got a completely different view of this article on my FB feed. A 'friend' is a prominent clergymember of a large religious demonination and he sometimes posts articles for people to debate. This one was handsdown an article failure as the commentors had no idea how someone could find happiness with another person if you had had premarital sex with them. Many of them had married young and were well into decades-long relationships so for them their personal anecdata holds out. I dont often associate with people who are this conservative so its always an eyeopener.

fondue with cheddar

@faience Interesting.

More thoughts on this (and I haven't yet read the article): We learn how to socialize by having friendships and by dating. Learning to socialize when we're young prepares us to have healthy adult relationships when we're older. Sex is a physical act, sure, but it's also a form of social communication. We best learn to navigate those waters in the same way: by engaging in sexual relationships. We make mistakes and we learn from them. Making those mistakes before entering into marriage gives you the opportunity to screw up within the context of unimportant relationships rather than jeopardizing the marriage.

Having sex the wrong way taught me how to have sex the right way. Having sex for someone else's pleasure taught me how to have sex for my own pleasure. Having sex with someone who disrespected me taught me how to respect myself. Having sex for the wrong reasons taught me how to have sex for the right reasons. I made a LOT of mistakes. and I'm really glad I learned those lessons when I did, when the stakes were low.


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) I agree completely. I dont want to discount the views of the people on my fbfeed but they are a rarefied bunch who I think dont acknowledge thoroughly the role of a unified religious and cultural community places in keeping people from divorcing (in some cases through shame) if a marriage is incompatible sexually.

I myself just left a relationship that was fulfilling in all ways but sexually and if we hadnt explored that part of the relationship I might be still with him now and on the way to, what is in my mind, a huge mistake. It was a good lesson in realizing that sex is both important to me and that I need to value my own pleasure a lot more.

fondue with cheddar

@faience Wow, that must have been a really difficult decision. Was it mutual? I hope it was mutual.


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) Sadly it was not. It did come after many months of trying to solve that part of the relationship to no avail. As much as it hurt, it was really the best for both of us in the long run. He might have been happy with the status quo as it was but I wasnt. Anyway sorry about the overshare. It's been an odd couple of weeks.

fondue with cheddar

@faience I'm glad you did what's best for both of you, but I'm sorry it was so painful. If you did everything you could it's really not a failure, but still...it's always sad when a relationship ends.

And no apologies necessary. I'm a chronic oversharer here myself.


@faience I hear you and it is THE WORST.

hahahaha, ja.

@faience: Just wanted to extend my sympathies and empathies, too. I agree with @Slapfight, it's awful, esp since there was always a part of my brain shaming me for putting so much emphasis on the physical part of our relationship when cleeearly the emotional part should have been enough, right?? It's all part of the fucked up noise of what a "good" relationship should look like.

I still get knots inside thinking about the fallout (for both me and the ex), and it's been a few years since it happened. I'm so sorry you had to go through this, too, and I admire and respect you for having the guts to make this decision and go through with it. I know this might not mean much coming from a stranger on the internet, but there it is.

And now I am crying softly at my desk and I used up all of my tissues yesterday. Will my trials never cease D:


@hahahaha, ja. I really do appreciate the feelings from all you internet strangers. And I know that guilt, too, but I found not being able to express some of the emotions physically wasnt something I could live without. Plus there's just the pleasure aspect independent of any of the serious feelings I had for the guy. It kills me because otherwise I saw a real future for us.

And man I hear you on the weeping. :-( Ive been watching australian reality cooking shows and keep tearing up at the mushy bits and I have to wonder whats wrong with me. Extra awkward when I have a small breakdown at my desk and my officemate starts to wonder what the hell is wrong.


Speaking of purity, did anyone else see that episode of Taboo with the Purity Balls? That made me so uncomfortable. The dads all up in their tween-age daughters business, walking them down the aisle to "purity" and dancing with them all in the name of No Sex. The way one of the dads kept talking about his young daughters' sexuality (and basically squelching it) made me feel sooo icky.

Also, while I appreciated the article and thought it was very informative, the number of times punctuation was used outside the quotation marks was a bit alarming.

ETA: I just Googled, and maybe the punctuation thing is strictly American? It appears that way. Ignore my ignorance!


@olivebee The punctuation outside the quotation marks is proper style in British writing.

ETA: Whoops, posted this before your ETA!


@Emby Considering how many years I spent as a copy editor/proofreader, it made me cringe to see it. But that must mean I don't read a lot of British articles. Although, I read quite a bit of British literature, and I have never noticed the reverse punctuation in novels. Is it just a journalistic thing? Or do British novels published in the US get edited differently? I feel so ignorant, but I'm genuinely curious.


@olivebee British novels published in the U.S. are generally edited differently to account for grammatical differences (terminology, punctuation, etc.). Cf. Harry Potter.

That being said, it's generally a journalistic thing. The punctuation stays outside of the quotation marks if the punctuation is not part of the original quote. If it is, it remains inside the quotation marks.


@olivebee I don't know about current motivations in usage, but the practice of keeping punctuation within quotations marks, if I recall correctly, originates from early typesetting. For whatever reason, it was difficult or impossible to set the punctuation outside od the quotation marks, so inside became de rigeur and remained that way (at least in American writing) well past the practical limitations that started it.


@meetapossum Yeah, I knew that rule for direct quotes, but what threw me for a loop was mainly where the quotes were used as air quotes ("the right way" or "purity"). Interesting. There are always more grammar rules to uncover, I suppose, no matter how well you think you know it.


@olivebee This segment showing a purity meeting on the show Shameless sums things up pretty well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScGdkX13BWk

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@Lyesmith Was going to bring this up but you beat me to it!

baked bean

@Emby OMG I always want to write that way, knew it was wrong, and never realized the British did it! It always made so much more sense to me in some contexts, like if the punctuation isn't part of the quote.

fondue with cheddar

@olivebee Yes, the purity ball was so patriarchal and creepy and sad! You could tell that half the girls there did NOT want to be there. I'm so glad my dad didn't claim to own my vagina until I got married.

It didn't help that the older of the two homeschooled sisters looked EXACTLY like my ex husband did in high school.

dj pomegranate

"It turns out that feminist values – not "traditional" ones – lead to the most stable marriages." THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS!


@dj pomegranate aaaah. dj pom. I just keep agreeing with you on everything today.

dj pomegranate

@theotherginger It is obviously because we are both right about everything! Or at least, about kissing and stuff!

hahahaha, ja.

@theotherginger: So "m" really looks like "rn," and "dj pom" really looks like "dj porn," and I was confused about the turn this conversation had taken ...


@hahahaha, ja. I was wondering where "DJ porn" came from (because that's exactly how I read it, too). So thank you for figuring it out, because I kept re-reading thinking, "Am I just that sex starved? Or did I really see 'dj porn'?"

dj pomegranate

@packedsuitcase Obviously the next thing to do now is for me to change my username to dj porn.


This was excellent. I love the idea that sex is like any other pleasurable thing - it can be delightful and it can be abused and the treatment of it as being the most important, sinful/desirable thing ever is only going to make it harder to have a healthy attitude.


@entangled Exactly. Unfortunately, it will take a loooooooooong time (if ever?) for the vast majority of people to see it this way.


Just as I was reading that sentence in the article I was likening it to food - food can be great/amazing/totally necessary and also it can be REALLY bad for you if you prepare it wrong.
No food until you're married, kiddies! You could give yourself salmonella if you eat raw food, but we're not going to tell you how to store/cook any of it properly - just abstain! It's easier! Figure it out after you get married and it will taste good first try, we promise!


@TARDIStime I am glad I am not the only one! I kept thinking about my attitude on intuitive eating and how I think it's so incredibly important to listen to your body and not get all geared up in false morals of what you "should" and "shouldn't" eat. Then I got distracted thinking about intuitive sex and what that even would be. I'm not sure, but it sounds intriguing.


There's this whole image of "married sex should be perfect and you should be absolutely in synch with each other" but... that's... just not true if you've never had sex before. Even if you have! Even if you have with the same partner many times! It's just so damaging and ugh >.<

baked bean

@Shayna Yeah I wonder that some of the reasons those marriages fail are because of the unrealistic expectations. At least advertise it honestly, Church! If they were like, "God wants you to do this, it's best for these reasons, etc. But-- realize that it takes time and a lot of work to build a good sexual relationship, but it's really worth it if you love each other, and it works so much better when it's someone you trust and that will stick around like your spouse."
See, I'm an atheist and I could so preach it better than them.
HONESTY PEOPLE. HONESTY IS ALWAYS THE BEST POLICY. Esp in convincing people to follow your beliefs, because then they'll start questioning things when they realized you lied to them.

fondue with cheddar

@baked bean You have to HAVE sex in order to become COMFORTABLE with sex. Therefore, the first time you have sex it will be UNcomfortable. If people want to save themselves for marriage that's their choice, but I agree that people should be educated more realistically about how to build a sexual relationship, both with your partner and yourself.


Related (?): I'm having kind of a blast reading John Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. Greeks and Romans: so like us in so many ways, yet soooo different in their views about sex!


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Boswell's thesis, while seriously groundbreaking at the time he wrote it, is pretty controversial. If you get a chance, take a look at The Boswell Thesis which is a bunch of other medievalists responding to Boswell's ideas, and talking about the research this book has engendered.

I edited my post, and the html tags went away, so here's the link to the amazon page for this book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Boswell-Thesis-Christianity-Homosexuality/dp/0226457419



For the moment, I'm mostly just amusing myself with his recounting of Rome and Greece, which is sort of setting the stage for his thesis. I will check out that other book, too.

Also, what a cutie!


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Sorry if that seemed snappy. I'm a historian of a related field, and boswell's original work is (still!) so controversial that it's almost a reflex to tell people to read the second book.

Boswell's book is really important. He was the first person to really explore the fact that people had same-sex relationships between the fall of the roman empire and the renaissance, and that there is evidence of these relationships. The problem is that in the past 30 years, the rosy picture he paints has been pretty much dismantled. Yes, there were gay people, yes medieval society as a whole was (to varying degrees) aware of them, but medieval attitudes were (I would say) mostly pretty negative.

Also, half an essay in "The Boswell Thesis" is dedicated to that cover photo, and the splash it caused.

His book The Kindness of Strangers, which is about foundlings/oblates/other abandoned children has direct bearing on my research, and is superb. Sadly, I can't recommend it for light reading as the subject is so depressing that it will make you hate people.


@bocadelperro Sadly, my library doesn't carry "the Kindness of Strangers." Must check academic library - sounds facinating.


@swirrlygrrl I got my copy for five cents plus shipping from Amazon, if you're into that...

A R 3287

Re. healthy attitudes toward sex. This is kind of a weird question and I’m not sure how to ask it. A friend of mine who had only slept with two people, both while dating, asked me if casual sex ever made me feel “dirty.” Honestly, I’ve had a couple experiences I don’t feel great about, but in general it doesn’t. But sometimes I worry that I am taking my body/person or whatever too lightly and objectifying myself. In reality, though, it doesn’t bother me very much. I love having sex and I still feel totally like myself and not diminished even after having some kind of trashy experiences. That’s not to say that the handful of times I have had sex with someone I knew decently well and genuinely liked as an entire person, or was dating, haven’t been more important to me as well as more fun. But I sometimes can’t tell if I really do feel bad about these ostensibly “trashy” experiences and am suppressing it or if I just don’t feel bad at all but some part of my brain is trying to convince myself that I do because of societal forces. If this makes any sense, does anyone have thoughts?

Great article, too.


@A R 3287 I am very pro casual sex but I don't think that means we can't have regrets or do things that make us feel a little :/ about ourselves afterwards. To me, it's not so much what I do physically or emotionally that determines how I feel about it. It's just that I really don't like spending time and energy on people who do not respect me as another person. So the idea of sexing it up with someone who is disrespectful of women feels dirty, but so does the idea of spending an afternoon playing nice with people who are continually and intentionally offending me.

I am pretty much the champion of casual sexual experiences with people I like as a person but where it's not Serious Romance. As far as I see it, if it's full of mutual respect, enjoyment and consent, there's nothing to feel dirty about. I think that we're conditioned to feel like being chaste is a sign that we value ourselves but that's a vestige of what Megano! brought up above about maintaining clear paternity. We are really lucky to live in a time as women where most of us acknowledge that we have a hell of a lot more to offer (and we have more options than most women in history to realize that). Bad sexual decisions are just like other kinds of bad decisions - having regrets doesn't make you some sort of terrible person. Sure, sometimes they are embarrassing or damaging to your health, but so is the fact that I walk into the wall all the time at my office.

Lisa Frank

@A R 3287 I think it goes the other way too. I tried to make a relationship work with the boy I lost my virginity to, despite the fact that he was not "boyfriend material" and a pretty messed up and disrespectful person. I just wanted to sleep with him, but I thought that was too "slutty." Looking back I realize how confusing and hurtful it was too both of us.

Springtime for Voldemort

@A R 3287 Outside of sex that was non-consensual or triggering, I've really only had one sexual encounter that left me feeling dirty. It was just a quick hookup with a random guy, and I didn't ask him to do anything that felt good to me, so then it ended up being more like he had used me for sex than we had had sex with each other, together. I felt really ashamed that I didn't vocalize my desires more, and just kinda let it happen.


@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) It's sort of like drinking. I am a very occasional drinker. Sometimes I'll drink a glass of wine with dinner, or share a bottle with a friend while shooting the shit. Sometimes I'll go out, get drunk, and dance my ass off. And there are a few times where the next morning I have been like "Girl, why didn't you leave earlier last night, because you are going to be SO TIRED for the rest of the day."
There is nothing wrong with drinking casually if you don't have preexisting issues with alcohol, but some nights you look back on it and decide it probably would have been more worthwhile to read at home with some hocho, you know?


@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) This is a really great point. I think that it can feel demeaning to have a sexual encounter that's all about pleasing the other person and not getting your own needs met if you're with someone whom you don't care enough about to derive some measure of happiness from doing nice things for them. It's a difference between casual and non-casual sex, sure, but it doesn't mean the former is automatically dirty. And, hell, if I sleep with someone who doesn't reciprocate or notice or care if I'm having a good time, then that is more his (or her) fault for being a selfish dickwad as it is mine for making the mistake of getting intimate.

Judith Slutler

@gobblegirl I was about to compare it to seeing a crappy movie, hah.


@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) I JUST watched the original of The Producers on the weekend and I had to tell you that I LOVE your new username!!!

fondue with cheddar

@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) Yeah, I've only had one encounter that made me feel dirty, too. I was seduced by a girlfriend (female friend, not a romantic partner) into a threesome with a guy who I did NOT like. He'd tried to hit on me many times in the past and I'd always snubbed him. He was very attractive and women fell all over him, and he thought he was all that. Plus he was a dealer who contributed to my ex boyfriend's drug problem (which led to the demise of our three-year relationship). So I hated him. I went to my friend's house and he was there, and I was not happy about that. But she got me stoned and started kissing me and he started massaging my neck and my defenses crumbled. I hated myself after that encounter.


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) omg your friend. I am getting the creeped out willies thinking about that. because, yeah, weed and girlykisses and neck massages... I am pretty sure my defenses would be pretty useless against that combination. I hope you didn't hate yourself for too long after that because honestly it sounds like she was the one being dirty and out of line.

fondue with cheddar

@entangled No, the hating myself turned to anger not long after because I did realize she was the dirty one. She KNEW how I felt about that guy, which is why she didn't tell me he was there when she invited me over. I was in a weird place in my life and had "friends" who really weren't. She was the first girl I ever kissed, so I was a little more attached to her than I should have been. I think she realized this, because one time she said that if she were a lesbian she would totally want me to be her girlfriend, which was undoubtedly an attempt to manipulate me. Ugh, you could not PAY me to relive my twenties.

Springtime for Voldemort

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) Wow, and understandably so! That sounds like some Fucked Up Shit and seriously unethical behavior. But I'm glad you've redirected the icky feelings!

fondue with cheddar

@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) Me, too! Let's all raise a glass to leaving Fucked Up Shit behind!


@A R 3287 I can only speak for myself, but I don't think my attitude towards casual sex is dirty and I definitely don't feel ashamed of my past. There are encounters that definitely weren't the smartest, or the best, but I am confident in my attitude about sex - it can be a wonderful, special thing between partners, it can be a fun thing to do with somebody sexy, it can be good fun when you're bored on a Tuesday night. Sex can be all kinds of things, but as long as it's consensual and both partners are excited about it (not just, "Oh, fine, you want it and I want you to stop pestering me") then I think sex is perfectly lovely and I would do it every day if my body let me.

I have friends that asked me similar questions, and at the end of the day, I think it's about how happy you are with the choices you've made (and I definitely fell for the pseudo-caring voices and felt like I should feel bad about my choices, but, ummm...nope, I checked, and I don't feel bad about them at all). People bring all kinds of assumptions to discussions about sex, and they always say more about the person spouting them off than they do about the person they're talking to.


“The instruction to wait forever to experience a fundamental human pleasure is pointless and cruel.” This one stuck out for me because a facebook friend - a very religious girl who I know only tangentially – has been posting things like, “The bible says a women should do only things that make her husband happy. What does that look like while she is single?” and a link to an article about how the Christian script of “waiting” is harmful, that you have to find peace with Jesus being enough for you et cetera and it has been BUMMING. ME. OUT. It honestly just makes me really sad for her at how hard that must be.

ALSO: apropos of another thing a coworker said about her dad commenting on her weight and acne, I want to give props to my parents for being not horrible and thus not giving me issues surrounding my appearance OR sex. Sometimes I underestimate the amount of ways there are for even normal, nice people, good parents, to be totally horrible, and my parents avoided almost all of that, so, just, I feel like today is a good day to be all: hey, parents, great job.


@Marzipan Just wait until she meets someone and then she is constantly linking to sites that are about how to be a godly wife


I loved the article, but she could have made the argument more convincing (becuase it IS a convincing argument) if her explanation of logic was a little sounder. She talks about conservative values, unequal marriages, and waiting 'til marriage as a cohesive group of traits. They do OFTEN go together, but they don't always, and are causes and effects of each other.
She didn't do a good enough job of explaining how they relate to each other, because as it is she doesn't show that it's act of waiting that leads to bad marriages. Which is part of what she's trying to show.
Great article, but it's written in a refutable way.


@gobblegirl I thought the same thing! I like everything she's saying, but I wanted more concrete references for some of the claims she made.


@gobblegirl I thought it was clear enough that she meant that early marriage and conservative values about sex before marriage are directly related and early marriage and marriage failure are directly related and thus that conservative sex values and bad marriages are correlated, not causally related. I'm not sure that she said directly that waiting leads to bad marriages, more that it is associated with other values and behaviors that suggest a marriage might fail.


@Ellie I know what she meant, but she didn't say it very well, that's all.

Springtime for Voldemort

@gobblegirl Jill is one of those people where I'm rather frequently like "yes, I agree with you - but could you say it more succinctly, with more nuance, and with more evidence?".


@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) yeah - I posted on this upthread - and I've seen it work super well in couples who wait but don't have other conservative sex values. Correlation often means causation, but not always!

Jill Filipovic

@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) Ha, yes, I think that exact same thing about my own writing with some regularity! Definitely three things I am working on.

Thanks for the great discussion, everyone.

Springtime for Voldemort

@Jill Filipovic Wow, that was really graceful! High-five on handling strangers on the internet saying less than complimentary things about your writing so well.


@Jill Filipovic Thanks for being so gracious as I anonymously criticized your work on the internet! I did enjoy reading it!

Regina Phalange

I should add: the article addresses the idea of responsibility, but I'm really curious about Ms. Filipovic's reasoning - people don't use condoms because they already feel guilty? I have to say, that doesn't ring true to me. I feel as though I've always heard this perpetual "fact" that "they don't use condoms premaritally because then it's like two sins for the price of one," but I have no idea whether this has any roots in reality.


@Regina Phalange I think you're misunderstanding it slightly. I don't think these kids are keeping a mental tally of sins. I think she's saying that people who feel guilty about their sexual urges don't prepare for sex mentally and practically.

It's my understanding that people who are taught abstinence-only or abstinence-emphasis education, especially when that is coupled with a sex-is-shameful-and-taboo attitude, don't know much about contraception (and often the information they have is very misleading). So they might use condoms, but not know how to use them correctly. Or they might be too ashamed to be seen buying them.

Judith Slutler

@Regina Phalange I don't think that's quite it... More that buying condoms is seen as "expecting sex" which would be a bad thing to do. Would you want to prepare to do something that you see as wrong or weak? Even in more mainstream circles I've heard guys seem disconcerted that they went home with a woman who had condoms and lube right there by the bed...! as if that is an unacceptable amount of initiative and preparation for a single woman to do. I can also remember one of my flatmates being totally frustrated with a friend of hers who didn't want to get on birth control because she was trying not to hook up with anyone, but semi-regularly ended up having unprotected sex "in the moment" and taking Plan B* afterwards. All of this without any influence from our more puritanical American culture and religious context, just standard early 20's confusion about sex and sexual morality.

An old friend of mine who was in Campus Crusade for Christ explained the whole abstinence education -> sex without condoms thing to me by saying that even though people were being taught to resist sexual impulses, most of the girls she knew had a kind of special exception for times when desire just overcame them and they ended up doing sexual things "without thinking about it". That was more forgivable than, say, deciding they were interested in sex with a new boyfriend, going to the clinic, getting tested, getting on birth control, etc.

Think of the first kind of sex as a "crime of passion" and the second kind as a premeditated crime... that is kind of the framework they're working with here.

*It's cheaper in Germany. And no people here usually don't use it as their primary form of BC, Cat Marnell style.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@gobblegirl The other issue with kids who have abstinence-only education is that the lessons are often based in creating a fear of all things sexual. I know, this is sort of a "no duh" thing, but here's the rub: many of these programs try to scare kids into thinking condoms don't work. They teach that, whether you use condoms or not, STI's/pregnancy still are very likely to happen. Like, that the failure rate is at least 25% or something. I mean, if I thought a condom only had a 2/3 or 3/4 chance of protecting me... OK, well, I would still use them. But I can see why plenty of people, especially teenagers, might think it didn't really make a difference whether or not they used them.


@Emmanuelle Cunt Man, that is depressing. But I totally agree with your explanation about how buying condoms is like "preparing" for sex and then there is reluctance to do that because it is undertaken during a calm moment, and you're more likely to be overcome by passion and have sex than to be overcome by passion and . . . make a trip to Planned Parenthood. (Exciting!)

I would be incredibly annoyed if someone were shocked that I, too, have condoms. I keep a couple in my purse when I go out and I feel like this has been regarded as useful and prepared? In a perverse double standard, I sometimes get a little icked out when some guy has brought them with HIM. I feel like it's the purview of whoever's house you are going to, and that even if you do have it with, which you should, you should pretend you don't, out of politeness to the host? This is now pretty far outside the scope of the article though.


@Regina Phalange I went through Catholic school sex-ed in the 90s, (abstinence only) and despite the fact that I never bought into any of it, my early sexual history was very. . . passive, and I think I was much more susceptible to pressure from my early partners (who were generally older and who I thought "knew better" than I did) to not use condoms. Gross, and I think if I'd had an actual education centered on a healthy, autonomous view of female sexuality, I would've been much more likely to insist on condoms.


@Ellie I'm pretty sure it was that exact mentality that led to my sister's friend getting pregnant at 17. I can't say for sure, but knowing her and her upbringing, she probably felt better saying it was just the heat of the moment than admitting she'd prepared for it.

I don't think she'd let that nonsense dictate her behavior again.


The author, somewhat sensationally in my opinion, says she's making a moral case for sex before marriage, but really she's making a case for right attitudes about sex. I'm frustrated because I agree with a lot of what she says, that the shame culture surrounding sex is harmful, that marriage doesn't protect against the possibility of abusive or dangerous sex, that "feminist values – not "traditional" ones – lead to the most stable marriages." (although I wish some sources were cited). I agree with all of that, but at the same time, I'm a female pastor in my thirties who is choosing not to have sex before I'm married. Maybe because I live on the East Coast, but the idea that culture views you as a moral failure if you have premarital sex has not been my experience AT ALL. If anything, in my personal experience, waiting is unusual, for people my age obviously, but also for teenagers and college students. The youth I work with tell me that if you're heading off to college as a virgin, you're not a moral king or queen, you're a loser.

I do think the author has a lot of valid points. In my church, my primary responsibility is youth, and in trying to teach them about sex, I've encountered many, many, MANY of the things that this author talks about -- curriculum that focuses on shame and guilt, that makes very unhelpful gender distinctions (like it's the girl's job to not tempt the boy), harmful metaphors (every time you have sex you're ripping the petal off your rose!)

That said, I and the majority of my youth pastor cronies want to emphasize many things the author says are important: egalitarianism in relationships, good communication, a positive attitude about sex. Whenever I teach about sex I start with the positive -- I don't want them to be scared or embarrassed about sex, I want them to honestly engage, ask questions, and wrestle with Scripture and with God's desires for their lives.

Anyway, that was super long, sorry. Someone above said "She talks about conservative values, unequal marriages, and waiting 'til marriage as a cohesive group of traits. They do OFTEN go together, but they don't always, and are causes and effects of each other." Mostly, I just totally agree with that.

dj pomegranate

@megmurray Thanks for sharing this. I kinda want to go to your church now.


@megmurray It is an interesting position you write from, and I am glad you shared it.


@megmurray This is really interesting.

I also have a very us-coastal experience on this, but it seems like my friends from other regions got very different messages than me growing up. I am pretty sure I don't know anybody who wanted to or is waiting until marriage, though almost everyone I know had some sort of "right first person" standard of making sure they felt really comfortable and secure in their first sexual relationship. This has led to a lot of my friends who got lucky in love early on having one or very few sexual partners and a couple of friends who are older than usual virgins just because it hasn't happened for them yet.

I'd love to see less shame on both sides. I'm glad you're setting an example for your youth groups of having a sex positive, non-shameful attitude towards sex but also without shaming people for not having sex. As much as I really, really hate the way our culture shames premarital sex and especially the women who have it, pressuring people to have it in situations where they don't feel comfortable just so they don't feel like losers or social failures is a very dangerous attitude.


My church uses the "Our Whole Lives" sex ed curriculum for youth, which I read out of curiosity and found to be awesome!

Springtime for Voldemort

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Do you go to a UU church? OWL is definitely awesome.


@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily)

Actually, I go to one of the craziest Mennonite churches ever!


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll
What's a Mennonite Church?

Springtime for Voldemort

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Oh, nice! I have a friend who goes to a crazy Mennonite church, and apparently, some pro-lifer decided to come one day and get all "but what about the beh-behz??" and pretty much the entire congregation turned on them and, you know, shut that whole thing down. Which may or may not be at all representative, but if it is even a bit, Mennonites seem badass.


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll I am totally going to look up that curriculum! When I was in seminary I went to a Mennonite church that was awesome. We would have congregational dances in the middle of service.

@dj pomegranate -- if you're ever in Boston, do it! :)


Was that in south Evanston? If so, I think I know the one you mean. I went there in 2006 and 2007 when I lived nearby.


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll That's the one! I think I was going there around the same time! So funny.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

I want to share this article with friends. But: which sound bite to pick? There are SO many good ones!

In terms of happiness, sex is better than money, and having sex once a week instead of once a month is the "happiness equivalent" of an extra $50,000 a year.

It turns out that feminist values – not "traditional" ones – lead to the most stable marriages.

[D]espite the rightwing emphasis on concepts like "purity", having sex does not actually make you a dirty or "impure" person. On the contrary, sex is like most other pleasurable things in life – you can have sex in ways that are fulfilling, fun, good and generous, or you can have sex in ways that are harmful, bad and dangerous.

[I]nstead of fooling ourselves into thinking that waiting until marriage makes sex "good", we should focus on how ethical, responsible sexual practices – taking precautions to protect the physical and mental health of yourself and your partner; having sex that is fully consensual and focused on mutual pleasure – are part of being an ethical, responsible human being. Sexual morality isn't about how long you wait. It's about how you treat yourself and the people you're with. (<---OK probably it is this one.)

[W]hen our collective cultural consciousness says that sex is shameful and dirty, we don't have the incentive – or the tools– to plan for sex, to see it as a positive responsibility and to make healthy sexual choices.

"[W]aiting until marriage" as a cultural phenomenon... has some nasty views about women and sex lurking behind it. Using "purity" as shorthand for "doesn't have sex" by definition means that people, and mostly women, who have sex before marriage are impure, dirty or tainted.

The instruction to wait forever to experience a fundamental human pleasure is pointless and cruel.

Purity peddlers construct a false universe where there are pure virgins who wait until marriage, and then there are slutty whores who are going home with different men every night of the week.

Despite the claims of the wait-till-marriage camp, waiting to have sex won't protect you from heartache, frustration or love lost. But a variety of fulfilling relationships, sexual and not, will make you a more well-rounded, compassionate and self-assured person.

Whenever you choose to have sex, the cultural message that waiting until marriage is the best choice is simply wrong. And it's wrong for almost everyone.

Dirty Hands

I submit for your perusal an article called "Let's Have More Teen Pregnancy," (link below) in which the author argues that instead of allowing themselves unmarried sex, or waiting with difficulty until a late-ish marriage, young adults these days should get married and feel okay about starting families. She does acknowledge the difficulties of making this particular decision in today's economy and culture. I think it's an interesting and appealing argument.



@Dirty Hands

'Most of us blanch at the thought of our children marrying under the age of 25, much less under 20. The immediate reaction is: "They’re too immature." We expect teenagers to be self-centered and impulsive, incapable of shouldering the responsibilities of adulthood. But it wasn’t always that way; through much of history, teen marriage and childbearing was the norm. Most of us would find our family trees dotted with many teen marriages.'

Also the norm through much of history: dubious methods and lack of information about protected sex, higher rates of arranged marriages, higher rates of female deaths during childbirth, higher rates of child deaths, higher rates of farming families(who needed children for work output), widespread economic- and church-sanctioned sexism, and an average lifespan roughly 20-30 years below where it is now.


@Dirty Hands It's hard for me to see how that's really that good for the mothers or the children. My mother was only 19 when she had me and a lot of things turned out right for me, but a lot of that was luck.


I really, really wish I hadn't been raised with that message. At age 25, those childhood messages are still poking me in the arm (the area near the top without any fat to cushion the blow.)

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account