Yesterday, I made a stupid promise. I said I’d explain why I’m saving sex for marriage… and then instantly regretted it. (The saying it, not the saving it, just to clarify!)
Because honestly, I’ve never found this much of a big deal. Sex is for marriage so don’t have sex with someone you’re not married to. Simple! But a promise is a promise and just like marriage, if you make a commitment, you gotta stick to it.
So let me start by explaining why I’m not saving sex for marriage.
Not Because Sex is Bad
Many assume Christians save sex for marriage because we believe sex is inherently dirty and degrading and therefore it needs a sacrament to make it okay — just don’t do it on Wednesdays or Fridays, don’t do it naked or anywhere but a bed, and for heaven sake’s do not enjoy it.
This doesn’t even make sense. There’s this really “bad” and “unspiritual” thing so only do it with the one person you vowed to love, honour and cherish all the days of your life? Sure…
In a way, this is kind of our own fault. I looked up “virgin” in the dictionary as research for this post. (Because my research skills apparently haven’t evolved beyond primary school) and it was scary. Linguistically, the associations between physical harm and having sex for the first time or “losing” one’s virginity are terrifying. The more technical term is “defloration” (oh I wish I was joking!) which refers to:
- an act which deprives a woman of virginity.
- an act which spoils beauty, freshness or sanctity.
- an act which strips flowers from a plant.
Yeah, because that’s not super creepy or smothered in innuendo. (Also, apparently it doesn’t apply to men. What’s with that!?)
Sigh. So first up, I’m not saving sex for marriage because sex is bad. As Jackie Francois recently explained on her blog,
On my wedding night, I didn’t “lose” my virginity. I freely chose to give myself—body, mind, heart, and soul—to my husband who promised to love me ‘til death do us part.
Not Because Sex is Better Married
The other mistake we can fall into though is that we should save sex for marriage because it will make it better.
This is something you will hear Christians talk about. The implicit message is that if you wait to have sex until marriage, your marriage (and the sex you have) will be so much better and it will be totally worth the wait.
Very often, this is true and praise God for it!
It’s also a massive improvement on the fear-mongering approach above but it still has it’s problems. It treats sex like a reward in the marshmallow test. If you don’t eat the marshmallow now, you get two marshmallows later.
But life (and sex) doesn’t work like that.
If we think that we’re saving sex for marriage so that our marriage and married sex will be SOFREAKINGAMAZING, what happens when marriage doesn’t appear to be on the horizon? When you feel so very single and lonely and that guy is just really, really attractive? When you’re watching friends who didn’t “keep the rules” get exactly what you want? Or when you do get married, and find that sex is awkward, messy, or just plain confusing?
If I was saving sex for marriage because I thought it would make married sex better, I might have given up long ago. I simply don’t have that sort of patience. (I’m not 100% convinced I could pass the Marshmallow Test now…) Self-control, particularly when combined with self-pity, is a hard act to pull off.
Because Sex is For Marriage
The real reason I am saving sex for marriage is because sex is for marriage. The sexual union between a man and a woman is an expression of their deeper, spiritual union as husband and wife.
In marriage, husband and wife become one flesh. They give themselves to each other and receive each other in love. Their lives mingling together create a new life together. That new life is both the life they share together as husband and wife and the new life of children. It’s what the Church calls the unitive and procreative dimensions of nuptial intercourse.
For me, the beauty and dignity of sex is so wrapped up in the Sacrament of Marriage that having sex with someone who is not my husband doesn’t seem like “a bit of fun” or even just “something I’m not supposed to do.”
It seems like telling a lie.
We speak with our bodies, expressing who we are and how we live by what we do with our bodies.
Sex is the most intimate union of two bodies, expressing the most intimate union of two souls, the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. It’s body-language for “WE’RE MARRIED!!!” (And yes, it definitely has three exclamation marks.)
The real reason I’m saving sex for marriage isn’t because sex is bad or even because I think it will make sex better. It’s because sex is how a husband and wife express their love for each other.
And I don’t want to be telling someone-who-isn’t-my-husband that “I love you as my husband” because that’s just messed up.
As Ursula from the Little Mermaid would tell us,
Never underestimate the importance of body language.
So if you’re tempted to have sex with someone you’re not married to, remember what you’re actually saying with your body.
You’re saying, I give myself completely and unreservedly to you to share our lives together, to create new life in the gift of a child, and to signify by our union the love between Christ and His Holy Church.
If you thought getting married was a big commitment, well, sex is too.
If that doesn’t give you pause… then think of Ursula.
That should do the trick. ;)