There was an excellent article in the Guardian on Monday making a positive case for premarital sex and rebutting the myriad silly arguments against it. I don’t have anything to add to the article – the author hits all of the relevant points. Just give it a look.
Category Archives: Marriage
Here’s something I’ve been meaning to share for a while – an article on non-monogamous relationships. I don’t want to add a whole lot of commentary on the subject right now; I’ll just point out a few of my favorite points, and then leave it to those interested to read the article.
I agree that it’s better for everyone to recognize monogamy as something to be consented to, not coerced into. I think for many people monogamy is the only relationship structure they’ve considered accepting, so they haven’t really chosen it. They’ve been “forced” into it, and this isn’t good because 1) some of these people may actually be happier in non-monogamous relationships, and 2) people who have been coerced into monogamy will never be very accepting of those (other couples) who want to choose something else.
The author makes a point about marriage that I heartily agree with, even in the context of monogamous relationships. “When we commit ourselves to someone for life, we often fail to fully take into account the degree to which we grow and change over periods of ten, twenty, or thirty years.” Yes, people change, sometimes in ways that render them incompatible. The universe does not guarantee that two humans who love each other deeply will continue loving each other for the decades of time that our now-long life spans afford us. That is why I do not think marriage as a promise of lifelong committment is a tenable concept.
The author makes another point about marriage – we have a cultural expectation that one person should be able to “fulfill us in all ways—romantically, sexually, intellectually, and otherwise—for the rest of our lives.” What reason is there to expect this, other than the fact that we’ve always been told to? It’s quite a tall order, and, empirically speaking, it’s false. Many “monogamous” people go outside their relationships/marriages to obtain fulfillment that they aren’t obtaining within. Wouldn’t we be better off considering that, for at least some couples, non-monogamy works better? It’s a valid point. I’m not saying that non-monogamy is for me, but it’s clear that it works for some, and I think such a choice should be respected.
The rest of the article is worth reading.
UPDATE: Do not fill out the survey yourself. It appears that the actual questions don’t matter, and signing the survey adds one’s name to an anti-gay petition.
I took part in a survey the other day, at the suggestion of PZ Myers. An anti-gay organization called Public Advocate of the United States is asking for people to take their survey and let their views be heard on the “radical homosexual agenda.” Of course, the only views they want to be heard are their own, so as a group of people who really don’t support anti-gay views, PZ’s readers decided to skew the survey a bit in our favor.
The amusing part was what happened after I filled it out. Just this morning, Public Advocate sent me an email, thanking me for my support! Even though all of my responses disagreed with their views! Apparently, Public Advocate didn’t intend for their survey to reach anyone outside their own narrow-minded audience. The only answers they expected to get to their survey were the “right” answers, according to them. What a wonderful way to highlight the self-serving nature of what they’re doing.
And the email they sent really is a doozy. I’ve copied it below, and added in my own comments [gratuitous emphasis theirs].
Thank you for your recently signed petition. I am excited to know you are an American who is willing to take a stand for pro-family values.
Pro-family values? I love family! Who wouldn’t take a stand for that?
Here at Public Advocate, fighting for and defending the family values our nation was founded on is what we are all about.
If you are looking for a hard-hitting pro-family organization with a history of victories against the growing radical Homosexual Lobby, look no further than Public Advocate of the United States.
Say what now?
So… “pro-family” is just a nice-sounding word you use to describe bigotry? Ok, got it.
Founded in 1981, Public Advocate quickly took center stage as the nation’s leading family advocate with over 400,000 united pro-family activists.
Time after time, Public Advocate has beaten back the attempts of the Homosexual Lobby to pass legislation aimed at making homosexuals a special class of citizens.
You mean legislation aimed at giving them the same rights as everyone.
But, victories these days have been harder and harder to come by.
Which is why I so excited to have your signed petition!
It was a survey. And I disagreed with everything on your agenda.
With it, I will prove to Congress that the American people still hold traditional family values dear.
Yes, like the right to persecute those who are different than you. It’s what America was founded on.
And if you believe the threat of the Homosexual Lobby is being blown out of proportion, think again.
At this very moment, individuals and organizations with hundreds of millions of dollars that comprise the Homosexual Lobby are working to pass their radical agenda.
Here are just a few names and organizations you may recognize: Tim Gill, Barney Frank, Pat Stryker, Jared Polis, Cindy and Meghan McCain, The Advocate, GLAAD, and the Human Rights Campaign.
All of these people are working towards what they call “equal rights” for homosexuals, when in reality, the rights they are trying to acquire would be unique to homosexuals only.
Oh, really? I’d like some evidence for that.
A Thought Control bill was just recently passed. This bill puts into law regulations that deem so-called “hate speech” as illegal.
Uh… no. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act (which is attached to a defense authorization bill) makes it a federal hate crime to assault someone because of their sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. It was already a hate crime to assault someone based on race, religion, or national origin. This bill just adds protection for more marginalized groups.
The only thing the bill says about speech is that it is protected:
Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed or applied in a manner that infringes any rights under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Nor shall anything in this division, or an amendment made by this division, be construed or applied in a manner that substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), speech, expression, or association, unless the Government demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest, if such exercise of religion, speech, expression, or association was not intended to—
(A) plan or prepare for an act of physical violence; or
(B) incite an imminent act of physical violence against another.
Now back to our friends at Public Advocate…
This has me worried, and I hope you are too. Because who is to say what language will be considered hate speech?
Don’t believe me? In Canada and Europe pastors have been thrown in jail for preaching Biblical teachings against homosexuality.
That’s awful. Good thing the aforementioned US bill protects speech, and outlaws assault.
This very well may be the reality of Thought Control in the United States.
I’m betting a lot of you guys are Christian. Have you read your Bible?
“Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
That’s thoughtcrime, buddy.
I hope you know how serious this issue really is.
Which is why, as President of Public Advocate, I have devoted my life to protecting family values and defending our freedoms.
You mean playing the victim card to justify continued persecution of people you don’t like?
I want to leave a legacy I am proud of, knowing the United States is still the nation I grew up in.
But without your support, this year alone we could see Barney Frank’s so-called “Employment Non-Discrimination Act” put into law.
We call this the “Gay Bill of Special Rights” because it doesn’t eliminate discrimination, it destroys workplace protection from radical homosexuals whose only mission is to spread their agenda.
If passed, the Gay Bill of Special Rights would require workplaces to meet a quota of homosexual employees, forcing employers to choose a radical homosexual over a potentially more qualified candidate.
Actually the bill explicitly bans preferential treatment or quotas. But hey – why tell the truth when lies are so much easier?
And no workplace will be exempt. Churches, daycares, nursing homes, private schools, you name it, all will have to adhere to these regulations.
And Obama is even looking to push for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year, which would remove the protection our soldiers have from the Homosexual Lobby.
Um, that’s already happened. Our military is being overrun by gays at this very moment. Pretty soon our military power will be in shambles, just like Canada, Germany, England, Australia, Israel, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and thirty-three other countries that allow homosexuals to serve.
And even the Healthcare bill is filled with numerous paybacks to homosexuals, giving lower healthcare premiums to “unmarried” homosexuals than married couples, all paid for at taxpayer expense.
Why is “unmarried” in quotes? Domestic partners aren’t married. We don’t allow them to marry. That’s wrong, but at least we try to address the inequality by giving them some of the same benefits as married couples.
I hope you understand this threat is real. . . and imminent.
And I also hope you will consider making a donation to Public Advocate to help protect our family values.
Public Advocate will never waver from the firm conviction that political decisions should begin and end with the best interests of American families and communities in mind, and that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman.
Public Advocate has been 100% dependent on the financial support of contributors, we do not receive any government or taxpayer money, nor do we want it.
I would appreciate it if you could help support Public Advocate by making a charitable contribution, please click here.
No matter the amount, be it $5 or $50 or more, every dollar you give is greatly appreciated and will go a long way towards defending our pro-family values.
It is my hope to keep you up-to-date on the fight for pro-family values through email alerts.
There are some tough battles coming up very soon and I am going to need your help if we are to win.
Thank you for your support.
Public Advocate of the U.S.
There you have it – the sad tale of an oppressed minority in the United States, who want only to enjoy the same inequalities of freedom that they always have.
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.
Annie Thomas is a science teacher (and, I’m guessing, an atheist) who has recently written about her trip to an evangelical Christian “marriage-strengthening event.”
The event, hosted by Kirk Cameron (yes, the kid from the Growing Pains), promised Bible-based instruction for how couples could strengthen and protect their marriage. Apparently, what this entails is the wives submitting to their husbands, and the husbands embracing their role as the leader, or “Jesus,” of the marriage. Some words from Cameron:
If something is wrong with a company, go to the CEO. If something is wrong with a team, go to the coach. Us men have been given by God the role of leadership.
Also (to the men):
When you married, you signed up to play the role of Jesus Christ to your wife. To the point of warring against sin. To treasure her, so she will be spotless and blameless.
Cameron is correct in saying that this view is Bible-based. He cites 1 Peter 3:7.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
I would add that the Bible has plenty of similar things to say about the place of women in society and marriage.
There are more interesting details on the event in Thomas’ report (such as how the men received secret MANCARDS(™) which they were instructed not to show their wives.) Here I will just note that the teaching that women were created by God to be submissive to the greater authority of men is by no means a fringe view in Christianity. This teaching can be found in Catholicism and many Evangelical groups (as well as in Islam and some branches of Judaism).
More importantly, these ideas aren’t just academic, but we can see through events such as Cameron’s that this misogyny is accepted and practiced by large numbers of people. How many men and women are living worse lives because of their religion? The seriousness of the problem, at least in the United States, is brought home to me by a quote from someone running for the highest office in the land. Here is Michele Bachmann, a female leader who stands as a potential role model for young women around the country, declaring:
The Lord says: Be submissive, wives. You are to be submissive to your husbands.
Yes, this is a problem.
Just look at what you have wrought! It’s awful – look at these sinners, these reprobates. Sixty examples of what is wrong with society.
Again I say, way to go New York!
It’s time we stopped tolerating the idea that people like the above are deserving of condemnation.
As I was doing research for my Sex is great, sex is good series, which defends premarital sex from slander by the religious, I came across a couple of arguments that demonstrated the immature, undeveloped relationship many Christians (and sexually restrictive religious people in general) have with sex.
One argument that I found in lots of different places is that it’s better to save sex for marriage so you don’t have to worry about comparisons with past partners. To quote from the first source above:
Premarital sex with other partners creates a variety of sexual experience. Some may see this as a plus but in real life it’s not. Your spouse may not do things the way a past lover did and then you have frustration and dissatisfaction. You have sexual memories that pop up at inopportune times. There can be jealousy over past relationships or fears over comparisons to past lovers.
Where to begin? First, if my partner is not satisfied by the sex we have, we have the kind of relationship where she will tell me, and I her. If one of us isn’t getting what we need sexually, we will talk about it and work on it just like we would any non-sexual problem that we have. “Frustration and dissatisfaction” in this scenario aren’t a result of having had past sexual partners; they’re a result of not being open and honest with the one you currently have.
The “jealousy” issue I’ll come back to in just a minute.
Do you want your future spouse to wait for you? Then you should wait for your future spouse. Do you want the person who is currently dating your future spouse to take what rightfully belongs to you? Then you shouldn’t take what rightfully belongs to someone else.
And another relevant quote:
For many reasons, one of the greatest gifts a husband can ever give his wife, and a wife can ever give her husband, is his or her virgin body on their wedding night.
I imagine a lifetime of building sex up as this magical thing that must take place with only one person ever (nevermind the fact that people can get married multiple times) would cause a person to take this view. But when analyzed, this view begins to take on a sinister tone. Your virgin body is a gift, it belongs to me. It’s not enough that you’re giving yourself and your love to me now; true love requires you to never have given it to anyone else.
And thus we return to the subject of jealousy.
I have had the experience of being jealous of a girlfriend’s previous sexual partners. It’s one thing to rationally acknowledge that she has dated other people, but it becomes a much more visceral experience when you’ve actually met one of those people. For me it was a very unpleasant, disturbing feeling. “This guy has had sex with the girl I love!?”
It’s ironic that such a sentence has almost nothing to do with love.
I imagined what it must have been like for my girlfriend in her previous relationships. She’s dated other people, kissed other people, been in love with other people (as have I). The thrill and excitement of being with me is something she used to feel for other people. I do not expect her not to have had these experiences – these experiences of happiness, love, and yes… sexual pleasure with other people. I’m happy that she was happy then, and I’m glad that we’re happy with each other now.
It would be further unjustifiable to say, if my girlfriend and I were married, that she had given something away that should have been mine. What, exactly, have I lost? I’ve written before about some of the things that, to me, make sex wonderful: the love, the caring, the physical pleasure and the joy of giving that pleasure to someone else, the ability to bring one’s full mind and personality into the act.
We have all of that. We’ve loved others in the past, but that doesn’t change our ability to love each other now. If anything, we bring what we’ve learned in previous relationships into this one to make it better. That’s the kind of gift that really matters to me.
So all this pleasant-sounding language that Christians use to describe sex is really hiding an unpleasant and unrespectable philosophy. Honestly, it’s sad. It’s sad when social pressures force a person to impose this stupid, inhumane requirement on themselves, and they must later face the reality that other people are having sex before marriage and they’re not ashamed of it or harmed by it. It’s no wonder that Christians invent reasons to find harm in premarital sex, find ways to boost themselves up (“I’m saving myself for marriage!”), and find ways to describe their partners’ virginity in terms of something that is owed to them.
But we need to acknowledge this dissonance reduction for what it is – a way to feel better about a view of sex that makes people feel worse. And we need to be as outspoken as we can so that people know that it doesn’t have to be this way.