Remember when I got into a bit of a debate with UMC minister Gregory Neal? He was making the argument that there is something harmful about premarital sex (in order to justify his disapproval of it). He had nothing but anecdotal evidence to support his claims.
I feel like I should have harped on this more at the time, but anecdotal evidence is bad. Really bad. Everybody has anecdotal evidence to support their personal biases. Anti-gay pastors will share with you anecdotal evidence for why gay people are immoral or harmful to themselves and society. Misogynistic preachers will share with you experience that has taught them not to listen to women. Take one man, who believes in a God who cares who you have sex with, who believes in a long tradition of condemning those who have sex outside of marriage, and who has been taught that marital sex is better than non… and what are the chances that he isn’t going to “see” support for his preconceptions in his experience?
The chances are bad. That’s why our personal experiences may be convincing to us, but they shouldn’t therefore be convincing to everyone else. And that’s also why it’s incredibly irresponsible, and unethical, to make people feel guilty and bad about what they consensually do for pleasure when all you have to support your claim is your own biases and preconceptions.
At the time I was debating Reverend Neal, I made an attempt to find scientific studies that bore on the issue of premarital sex and risk. I found some correlational studies, but nothing from which causation could be inferred. In short, there was no evidence that Neal was right, and that premarital sex was in any way harmful to a person or a relationship.
Of course, everyone except certain religious people already knew this. When was the last time you heard an atheist find fault with someone for having sex without a contract? The fact is – and we have scientific evidence to back this up – there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Sex is good, and pleasurable, and people enjoy having it. What you should do is be safe about it, be responsible, and be honest with your partner(s). What you shouldn’t do is listen to people who get their information from a 2,000 year old book.