Why purity culture needs to stop treating pre-marital sex as meaningless

Today I appear to have lost a small purse where I keep a few things I don’t want to lose, like a miraculous medal, my never used rosary beads and pills that I have to take…one of which is The Pill. It’s nowhere to be found in the room so I must have forgotten I put it in my bag and lost it outdoors. I’m amused by the thought of someone finding it, because of the contrast. As it happens, I’m on The Pill because I’m one of the many people that the NHS just prefers to put on false menopause instead of trying to figure out why our reproductive system seems intent on killing us. And while it is true I have Italian blood, I am not being melodramatic if I say I have been in enough pain that I have contemplated killing myself to just make it stop. That’s when I thought that I had no choice but just put up with the side effects, although it turns out I’m actually OK on this specific one. Anyway, I digress.

In the past few days I have been bombarded by blog posts on the topic of saving your first kiss (or future kisses) for marriage. There were many good ones, especially those warning you about not turning it into a rule geared towards your self-righteousness, but there has also been a worrying trend, which is common to all literature about pre-marital sex: the idea that all pre-marital sex is meaningless. And I have a problem with that.
Granted, there are people who just have just sex. For those people, sex is no more meaningful than eating a burrito. It’s something pleasurable, but there’s no emotional investment. However, if you are a person reading a Christian blog about purity chances are that you are not one of them, whether or not you have sex. Mind you, there may well be people who consider themselves Christians who have meaningless sex, I just find it weird that they would actively be reading something of the kind unless they want to criticise it or something.

No, I’m willing to bet the majority of people who have sex before marriage, or kissed someone before marriage, have meaningful sex (or kisses). And, I’m willing to put my money on the fact it’s precisely because it’s meaningful that we’re not supposed to do it. I don’t mean like they mean it, that it’s meaningful after marriage so you have to save it for it. No, I mean that it’s meaningful before marriage, and that comes with a lot of trouble in many cases. Having sex with your husband is sharing a most intimate and loving thing but hello, you’re marrying that man because you love him. You have started to love him before you’ve got engaged. You don’t start to love him at the altar. If you have sex with that man before you’re married it’s the same sex that you have after.

And that’s why you should wait. Guard your heart. What if you invest yourself in this total giving way and the person just won’t stick around? And what if that happens again, and again until the point you are bitter and resentful and nearing the great sin of despair? What if you, instead of aiming at the treasures of heaven, just invest yourself emotionally into finding your security in a man rather than in God? Even if the guy sticks around and you marry him, by not giving in to your immediate desires you leave space to grow and rest in Christ rather than seek fulfilment in something ephemeral. There are plenty of reasons why you should wait for marriage even if sex before it is as meaningful as after other than “God said so”. However, unlike what seems to be the message doing the rounds these days, I don’t think that if you don’t wait you make sex be any less meaningful by implication. You are not cheapening it. It is still the same great gift God gave us that you would have enjoyed on your wedding night, as long as you don’t cheapen it deliberately by not recognising it as a gift at all. Or by making it all about yourself, which could easily happen in a marriage where people don’t really understand what godly sex is about (mutual self-giving if you’re asking).

I don’t think treating pre-marital sex as meaningless is going to really make the case for chastity. It’s a way in which our society shows love and shares intimacy as much as it is one in which we have fun. People would feel either judged or like it doesn’t apply to them┬ábecause they’re doing it for love. We need a better conversation about sex, one that doesn’t diminish people’s experiences but shows how much more important it is to live in a way that honours God.

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  1. This is interesting and I would say that sometimes a purity culture mindset can do more harm than good. I remember Elizabeth Smart sharing an anology she heard before her kidnapping that sex before marriage is like someone throwing away a gum wrapper. After being brutally raped during her captivity, it created shame in her. Myself I’ve recently had to acknowledge I was sexually abused in HS and in my marriage, and I have wondered since then has a purity culture mindset I grew up in actually not done me or other women justice? Not that I’m advocating for casual sex or even sex outside marriage, but sometime I think messages with a good intention can do more harm…

    1. That’s very true. I focused on consensual sex but the ramifications of the mindset for victims of abuses are huge. I’m sorry to hear you know it first hand too. Lots of love your way, sister xx

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