Saturday, January 09, 2016

Waiting For Marriage is Good But Not Risk Free

[This post is from December 12, 2012. I'm bumping it up because it is still relevant.]

When I last updated here, I wrote this. I'll probably explain things more later, but for now, things are OK. I'm alive, she's alive, the kids are alive.

On yesterday's Dr. Laura Schlessinger program (which I listen to every minute of, because she's great), she opened by talking about the risks of fornication (without using that word) and why, statistically, saving sex for marriage (marrying as a virgin) is good. On her Facebook page, a question was asked of readers (even though she regularly says people should not have personal Facebook pages... they have to be on Facebook to respond on Facebook... but I digress.) Her opening commentary said sexual bonding short-circuits decision-making. But if that's true before marriage, it has to be true after marriage, too.

Then, appealing to data, she said

Compared to the early sex group* those who waited for marriage:
Rated relationship stability higher
Rated relationship satisfaction higher
Rated sexual quality higher
Rated communication higher
*A month of less after meeting/dating. There is a sizable gap between those couples and couples who waited for marriage. I wonder how couples who waited, say, three months or six months would compare?

How was this data collected? How were the questions asked? Were they asked as a couple, face to face with the person collecting the data? Was the "less than a month" or "married" question asked before the others? I suspect couples who waited for marriage, especially if they realize what is being studied, and even more so if done face-to-face and in front of each other, will overstate positives because they are financially, legally, socially, and often religiously invested and don't want to admit to others and especially themselves if they are unhappy with their marriages or something in their marriages. Some of these people may be of the mindset that "speaking it makes it so" and if they believe, as Dennis Prager does, that happiness is a choice and a moral obligation, they have even more incentive to claim things are great. Wouldn't they sound selfish and ungrateful to their spouse and God if they said things weren't going well?

What does it mean when people who've never had sex with anyone else rate the sexual quality of their relationship higher? They have nothing with which to compare it! Now, ignorance may be bliss if they want to stay married for life, but that's hardly an effective statistic to cite to any rational unmarried person about why saving sex for marriage is better: "If your married sex life ends up dull, you'll have no idea how much better it could be!!! Isn't that great?!?"

As with all sociology, correlation does not prove causation, nor the direction of causation, and we can't compare the same people to both circumstances, because they are only in one. For all we know, these same "saved it for marriage" couples would say the same things about their relationships if they had, instead, started having sex with each other right away and got married the same time along in the relationship, especially if they did not buy into a belief that sex is for marriage.

Dr. Laura ended the commentary by saying  "there are a lot of benefits, and no downs".


I wrote the letter below to her, and I doubt it is going to show up on her website, so here goes...

I now believe sex is for marriage and that the world would be a better place if everyone reserved sex for their one and only spouse, and if widowed, again reserved sex for their next spouse.

But we who believe this should NOT:

1. Overpromise. Just about anyone who believes what we do is very religious or at least socially conservative, and the message we send is that if someone just saves sex for marriage and marries within the same faith, things will generally be great and the sex life will be great. The statistics often cited (including by you) are usually based on self-reporting, which I find dubious. The married-as-virgin people have nothing to compare their relationship to and no idea how things would be for them if they hadn’t married, or married as virgins. Even if accurate, as you recognize, statistics are generalizations. There are many unmarried people having lot of sex and are happy with their sex lives and lives in general, and many married people who are getting little or no sex and are unhappy.

2. Deny there are tradeoffs. Yes, there are. Every day we save sex for marriage is another day we don't enjoy sex, for example, and plenty of people, including women, do find sex outside of marriage enjoyable and it has many of the same benefits married sex does. It is very easy for those of us who are married and having sex to tell those who aren't "You should wait." Many of them see it like we're enjoying a nice meal while they are standing around with growling stomachs and we're telling them "Don't eat that junk food! Wait and MAYBE you'll be seated at that gourmet restaurant." They're hungry NOW, and while they might sit alone listening to good reasons to save sex for marriage, things look very different while sharing a passionate moment with someone they love.

3. Deny or ignore the risks. a) Almost anyone who believes sex is only for marriage also believes divorce is only permissible (and even then, still to be avoided if possible) if there is abandonment or abuse (including adultery and addictions). They may think they are marrying a virtuous, strong person because they are marrying a virgin, only to find they've married someone who has a low sex drive or other physiological problem, a psychological aversion to sex, or is homosexual. b) While people often stay in bad or mismatched relationships too long because they are having sex, there are also people who marry too young, too quickly, or the wrong person because they have a natural yearning for sex and want to be able to say they saved sex for marriage. [After I wrote this and sent this, I got to the 40-minute mark in the 2nd hour of the podcast and she got a call from a woman whose son was marrying too quickly/young/to the wrong person precisely because they were saving sex for marriage, illustrating my point.] c) Sexual incompatibility, especially when these incompatibilities can't be reconciled[1] or one spouse refuses to try to reconcile them. Although YOU wouldn't tell them to, they then think they are compelled by the same religious community and beliefs (including that divorce is shameful) to suffer and struggle through such a marriage.

4. Ignore that we've created a culture in which it takes longer to become established, independent adults and for men to earn enough to provide for a family, while at the same time making it easier to have unmarried sex without unwanted physical or social consequences. In Jewish culture 2,000 years ago, people married a lot younger, usually to someone they'd known all their lives and were pledged to marry, and unmarried sex, casual or otherwise, wasn't so easy to have and keep private as it is now.

Personal disclosure: I married a virgin, even though I did not require that in a wife. I now believe she was able to maintain her commitment to save sex for marriage due to the many medications she takes, as I discovered after we'd married, despite (or perhaps because of) making it clear I didn't want to marry someone who was chronically ill or constantly treating illness. After marrying, there was one situation after another that could be cited as interfering with our love life, and by the time I realized this was the way things were always going to be, we had children. I have crunched the numbers and even with rounding off to the benefit of marriage, I am one of those people who had a more active sex life (as wrong as it was) when I was unmarried, with no pregnancies that I'm aware of, and no STDs, confident I do not have any children from those relationships. If I hadn't had those relationships, I would be more anxious/bitter in my marriage because I would have to live with knowing that I'd never know what it is like to have an enthusiastic lover who wants sex enough to initiate and what it was like to do some rather common things my wife won't do with me. Thanks to you, I at least get some "mercy action" between the times she is willing to actually get naked , let me make love to HER, and have intercourse, but it emotionally feels like me masturbating, only while adding a chore to her day, which makes it less enjoyable to me than masturbation.

I appreciate all you do to encourage everyone to lead better lives. If we're honest about saving sex for marriage, we'll maintain credibility and avoid prompting general disillusionment with people who do not share so many of the positive results of saving sex for marriage.

***** [End of letter]
[1]Off the top of my head, some basic sexual incompatibilities married couples may experience include: 1) Who "may" initiate and how. 2) Who takes the lead 3) Positions for intercourse 4) Whether or not sexy talk is allowed, and just how explicit/which words to use. 5) Use of sex toys or common items household items (whipped cream?) 6) Lights on vs lights off. 7) Role playing
8) Who climaxes when
9) General limitations (examples: Once something has her natural lubrication on it, her mouth will not touch it, or he will refuse to kiss her on the lips if she has gone down on him.)
10) Cunnilingus? Fellatio?
11) Very soft and gentle and slow, or rougher?
12) Frequency
13) Morning, afternoon, or night?
Now, I know there are people reading this who are saying to themselves "They should just talk it over." That only works with someone who is willing to try, or willing to do it to please their spouse (without indicating to their spouse they find it a chore, thereby ruining it for their spouse). I've made it clear on this blog that I love cunnilingus. But what if a woman who more or less needed either that or a vibrator to orgasm married a man who said both of those things were "of the devil"? How likely is he to be talked into providing those things to her?   In my case, my wife has never ever suggested something I've turned down, while she has turned down several things, or has volunteered after the fact, even though she should have been able to tell I enjoyed it, that it, at best, does nothing for her.

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