Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Big Question About Sex, Marriage, and Morality

I now believe sex is for marriage. I have written about many of the instances and relationships of my years before marriage in which I fornicated – had sex outside of marriage. Although I do think that fornication is wrong, I generally don't look at is as the end of the world. Compromising relationships, bonding with the wrong person, catching/spreading sexually transmitted diseases, and making a baby out of wedlock who you're not prepared to raise – those are problems in increasingly serious order that result from fornication. The last one is especially bad if it results in a slaughtered baby. And guys – that is always a possibility with fornication... that your sex partner will kill your baby. Actually, it is a possibility with married sex, too, but not as likely. (Note: the most important reason a believer has to not fornicate is that the Bible and other authorities say sex is for marriage.)

So there are good reasons to avoid fornication, especially intercourse.

But we have to be honest – there are reasons to fornicate. It often feels good (for men, almost always), even in the instances that bring negative feelings later. The reasons seem good at the time. And I can't say I didn't enjoy my immoral behavior. But I also know that it was a tradeoff. There were things I lost as a result of my sin.

What brings all of this up again? Well, for the most part I find that my worldview clearly "works". But one of those tough areas I hadn't resolved is found in this problem:

How do you know you are marrying someone with whom you are sexually compatible unless you have some amount/level of sex with them before marrying them?

This isn't merely academic for me, since these are issues my children will be facing. There's just got to be good material out there that isn't written by wrinkly old people who’ve been married for 40 years and forget what it was like to be young, tempted, unsure, seeking, and hormonal – or by some beautiful, sexy couple who both enjoy sex and married at age 19. There's got to be some material that is helpful and realistic and not entirely hypothetical, but based on someone with real life experience in dealing with the issues. Someone with a sex drive who has dealt with today's culture and avoided fornication at least into his or her late twenties, and if married now, has a good lovemaking life.

Also, a reader of mine endured a marriage to a closeted homosexual man. I'm sure this happens in churches more that most people realize. Someone with homosexual feelings tries to follow the Biblical model for sex and marriage by marrying someone of the opposite sex, and that person and their intended don't have sex before marriage – they may even marry as virgins. And everyone in the church and their families applauds and says "Wow, they did things the right way." They may consummate their marriage that night or not. Troubles consummating the marriage or a lack of newlywed lovemaking frequency may be blamed on it all being so new to them or even having suppressed their libido for years. But then the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years. Frustration and feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and bitterness build, and one or both will likely engage in adultery. Sometimes, the homosexual person isn't aware when they agree to marry that they won't be able to carry on a normal, mutually satisfying lovemaking life with their intended spouse; other times, it is a matter of wishful thinking or something intentionally more selfish.

Other people have little or no sex drive and are unwilling to do anything to change that, or were abused and traumatized and are unwilling to get the help they need to overcome that to have a normal and mutually satisfying lovemaking life with a spouse.

Perhaps a smaller problem but still an issue is incompatibility between two normal, healthy spouses. Sure, a heterosexual man and a heterosexual woman are sexually compatible in the most basic physical sense, but if both spouses will only engage in intercourse if they are on top, that's going to be a problem. If a woman can't orgasm through intercourse but the husband refuses to pleasure her through oral sex or manual sex (with or without an aid) and won't let her masturbate (with or without an aid), then she's only going to be able to have an orgasm when she's hiding from him or he's not around. And that's a problem. There are many examples like this... men wanting fellatio and women who refuse to do it, so on and so forth.

As I think I've written before, one of my girlfriends told me her mother had told her to never marry someone without having taken the test drive. But neither of them had religious or moral beliefs that said such behavior was wrong.

I wrote to my reader:

I think purity is generally a good thing, but there is a lot of caution that should be heeded. If we’re trying to be "pure" in the sense our actions in dating/courting, we should not automatically assume that "restraint" or "purity" on the part of the other person is solely a result of them heroically overcoming their physical desires to make mad passionate love to us (or past dates). I thought it was commendable that my wife was a virgin, and I still do think it was commendable. However, the reality is, it was easier for her than it was for me not just because of her determination, but because she simply does not have as strong of a sex drive.

A while ago, I decided that if I could control it, and my choices were:

1. My child saves their virginity and marries the wrong person too early in life because they were horny

2. My child gives into their hormones somewhere along the way, but ends up marrying the right person when mature enough to be a spouse

...I would choose the second option. Yes, in reality, there are other possibilities, but if those were the only two choices I'd pick #2.

Likewise, or perhaps as a corollary, if my choices were:

1. My child and his or her intended do not have sex until marriage, but then discover they are sexually incompatible

2. My child and his or her intended have some level or amount of sex before getting married, and are sexually compatible

...I would choose #2. I think marrying the right person is even more important than saving sex for marriage. But I have to believe there are other options than just those two. Or do I need to change my thinking?

Are there good methods for determining sexual compatibility before marriage, without engaging in sexual behavior, especially if both people are virgins? Because for those of us who believe sex is for marriage and believe that married people should have an active and satisfying sex life, this is important.

Can a virgin really know what they want in the first place?

Someone who has stronger homosexual than heterosexual attraction should know they aren't prepared to marry, even without ever having sex.

Someone who has been abused or traumatized should explain that, and their potential spouse should take that into consideration.

But are there some other markers, some sort of formula or test for determining sexual compatibility? I did ask my wife, when we were dating, if she had a sex drive and if she was able to bring herself to orgasm. But we also ended up doing a lot of things religious leaders would not condone as the wedding got closer (stuff I don't condone). I married her having no doubt that we desired each other and could satisfy each other, but only because we did things we shouldn't have.

Some people would say you simply extrapolate your intended’s personality and behavior in other aspects of life into their sexuality - is the person generous, kind, attentive, etc.? But I don't think that is reliable enough. Sex is different. In bed, assertive people may become submissive, initiators might wait for direction, gentle people may get rough. An extreme example of this is a heterosexual, masculine man who is turned on by wearing women's clothing. (Same sort of thing goes for money - I know highly intelligent people who do stupid things with their money, and they can't afford to be so stupid.)

My belief that sex is for marriage is based on the Bible, but backed up by other considerations. If both people are truly committed to Biblical principles, perhaps the real answer is that they should not only save sex for marriage, but they should become sexually compatible by following other Biblical commands, teachings, and principles. This would include each spouse seeking to please the other. We can condition ourselves to not only do new things, but enjoy them. Biblically, our bodies belong to each other, per delegation from God. This is not an endorsement of marital rape. It is a call for the spouse who isn't feeling like it to go ahead and do it anyway. Marital lovemaking, like the rest of marriage, isn't about having our needs met. It is about seeking to meet the needs of our spouse, and in turn, if we chose wisely, our spouse will do the same. If we are truly willing to do anything it takes that is nondestructive to please our spouse, and our spouse is willing to do the same for us, then how can we not reach compatibility?

This is something that needs to be strongly stressed in our churches. We did have a lecture in our premarital class that expressed that there was a lot of variety to be enjoyed in marital lovemaking, and that it was within Biblical teaching to make love often and in many ways and in various locations. But it needs to be emphasized as much as we emphasize that fornication is a no-no. It is the other side of the same coin. Bride and groom are supposed to explore and learn together. They are supposed to become compatible with each other by frequent and determined practice. Most other areas of compatibility can be determined morally before marriage, but unless you explain to me otherwise, not this one. The trick for someone who is looking for a spouse is finding someone who is willing to be sexually generous enough to meet you in becoming compatible after the wedding. Is there a way to verify that an intended spouse is sincerely willing?

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