Girly Thoughts

October 12, 2008


Filed under: Christianity,sexuality — judgesnineteen @ 9:46 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve thought about that topic, because I’m so happily secure in my current beliefs on sex.  But I started talking to some Christian friends about how I don’t think premarital sex is immoral lately and it’s been…interesting.  So far, we have arguments that

1. Promiscuity = low self-esteem.  Girls only engage in this behavior when they are agreeing to let someone use them for sex. (notice that even after I showed a link to Jessica Valenti talking about how conservative Christians assume promiscuity whenever they hear about any sex at all, furthering the virgin/whore dichotomy, the first guy who took on my assertions spoke immediately and only about promiscuity)

2. Fathers (not mothers) should teach girls not to let themselves be used for sex and should teach boys…the same thing? No, they should teach boys not to use girls for sex.  It’s the failure of fathers to do this that’s causing all the problems I’m complaining about.

3. The fact that disparaging sexually active women as sluts and whores and generally hating them is bad is just as obvious as the fact that AIDS is bad rather than good, so it needn’t be expressed.  (He seemed to be suggesting that I was oversimplifying the situation by denouncing all the “slut”-slinging when, I think he assumed, I really would agree with the underlying sentiment if it were presented in a less judgy way.)

4. Humans get oxytocin in their brains when they have sex, and

5. The person doesn’t personally know anyone who has sex without bonding, so

6. Humans are very unlikely to ever successfully engage in no-strings-attached sex.

7.  It was implied that if you have sex out of low self-esteem or that if you have sex and end up getting hurt from it, that must mean that sex is immoral.  Somehow I doubt they would consider other consequences of low self-esteem or other failed experiments equally immoral, and I see a difference between “sinful” and “ill-advised.”

8. Sex is powerful and important, so how could it not have a moral value?

So that was interesting.  Anyway, in preparation for the possibility that they ask me to really explain why I think sex itself is an amoral act, I started trying to formulate the reasons why I decided the no sex till marriage idea is sexist.  It’s pretty hard, not because I don’t have any reasons, but because all of the reasons are so intertwined and related to so many other things besides strictly premarital sex; it’s a whole worldview, informed by a lot of information on the history of sexism cross-culturally and a lot of Bible reading and a little bit of anatomy and physiology and feminist theory.  It’s not an argument I can put very well into a step-by-step form; I’d rather paint the story as I see it having unfolded, which would be simplified and would unfortunately assign motivation where motivation was proably much more subconscious and nuanced than it would sound, and I’m afraid if I told this story to someone who wasn’t sympathetic to my view, they would just see it as a conspiracy theory.  Which is not to say it only works in groupthink situations, because it did convert me, after all.  Premarital sex was the last issue I worked out, it was hard for me even after I had abandoned Christianity and embraced feminism.  Well, I guess it was probably tied with abortion.  Anyway, it’s crystal clear to me, but it’s hard for me to verbalize, at least without writing a dissertation.  Anyone want to take a stab at it?

Here are some issues that I would include in my weird story version of an argument:

1. Virginity is a construct.

2. Male fear of being cuckolded.

3. Marriage as transaction between father and husband.

4. Sex as transaction; marriage as prostitution limited to one client and stripped of independence.  Women don’t want sex, men don’t want marriage, each has to be persuaded out of desire for the other thing.  (see my post Do you have to be a virgin to be loved?)

5. Sexual women are tarnished, worthless, have forfeited their rights, should be punished, evil, dangerous, witches; sexual men are either A-OK, kinda bad because they’re tarnishing women, or in grave danger of being consumed by the fire of female sexuality.

6. Sex is the only power left for some women, and they are encouraged to forfeit it in exchange for respectability.  Getting power through sex is the ultimate female sin.  Women can increase their ability to hold power as they increasingly abandon their sexuality.

7. Marriageability as the ultimate goal of fathers for their daughters and of women for themselves. leading to horrible extreme measures to ensure marriageability.  Marriageability is defined as virginity and modesty.

Of course that ignores some of the arguments people THINK are the reasons for saying no sex till marriage (I’m arguing that sometimes the above are reasons we have but are less aware of, and sometimes we really do only believe in the reasons to come but that this moral system was constructed for the above reasons, not the below.)

1. Premarital sex = heartbreak.  (In fact, not a one to one correspondance, but a many to many.)

2. Premarital sex = STDs and unwanted pregnancy.  (Exaggerated, but worth each person taking into account; still, not enough to prove that we’re not supposed to.  Also, this doesn’t separate premarital sex from marital sex in any way.)

3. Oxytocin! (We’re more complex than rats.  I’m sure it has an effect on us, but it won’t be the single determining factor of our feelings.)

4. Marriage = forever.  (Ha.)  And if you have sex but don’t stay together forever, you’ll lose part of yourself.  (Baseless generalization.)

5. Marriage = God’s blessing.  (Then why do atheists get married?  And what if you marry someone God doesn’t want you to marry?  And why is God’s blessing necessary for sex?)

6. Marriage = love.  (HA.)  Premarital sex = lust.  (I’m beginning to tire of baseless generalizations.)

7. Sex requires procreation to justify it.  (Guess we should break the news to the sterile people.)

8. Men don’t marry women they have premarital sex with. (Blatantly false, based on stereotypes, and assumes that marriage is every woman’s ultimate goal.)

9. People get jealous, which must show that we’re not supposed to have sex with more than one person.  (Is that how you handle all of your negative emotions?  And marriage does not ensure not having sex with more than one person.  Where’s all the concern about widows and widowers who remarry after already losing a chunk of themselves, stirring up jealousy, tarnishing themselves, and not sticking with only one person forever?)

Ah, you know me and my obsession with lists.



  1. Their list:

    1. Do they ever actually define promiscuity? Do they realize only a small percentage of people are what the average more objective person would define as promiscuous? Really, most teens and adults are having sex with long-term parters according to stats I’ve read. But have they ever thought that girls just might like sex? That a girl with low-self esteem might be more interested in a relationship than simply sex?

    4. Oxytocin is also released during childbirth and breastfeeding. As for during sexual activity, men have oxytocin too. Oxytocin isn’t simple.

    6. Not sure what this has to do with most pre-marital sex. Many people become bonded before they have sex. Are they not going to be strongly bonded to their partner until they’re married?

    8. Some people need to be introduced to anthropology. The powerfulness and importance of sex IS influenced by culture and upbringing. If they can’t realize that…I mean if you’ve been brought up to believe sex is very powerful and important, I can see how there’d be a moral aspect to it but not everyone thinks that way. That’s not to say sex isn’t a big thing. But my first kiss was a pretty big thing in my life too.

    I think it’s kind of hard to argue that no sex before marriage is sexist if you’re talking to someone who has a hard time objectively considering the messages our culture sends us and accepts all the messages they’ve been told. If men and women were looked down upon the same amount if they have pre-marital sex etc, would it be sexist? Perhaps they don’t feel their personal reasons for waiting are sexist so therefore it’s not sexist.

    As far as “explain why I think sex itself is an amoral act” it seems as simple as sex is a moral act because major religions say so and can they see that our society was formed based on Christian values and those values still greatly influence us today. If they are Christian, they can believe sex is a moral act but they have to realize that not everyone in the U.S. of A is Christian. Those people might be avoiding sex for various reasons (not ready, fear of STIs or pregnancy) but there is really no reason for them to wait until marriage. What reason other than religion is there that would say that every single act of sex before marriage is “bad”?

    Comment by Lyndsay — October 13, 2008 @ 12:17 am | Reply

  2. Not sure if your Christian friends got into this, but here goes: In the Judaic tradition on which Christianity had its beginnings, there were certain covenants and then there were certain “signs” of the covenant being made. With sex before marriage, you are putting the sign of the covenant ahead of the covenant itself, and it’s from that reverse ordering of things that a number of great complexities spring.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 13, 2008 @ 3:12 am | Reply

  3. Lyndsay, I love your question about them not being strongly bonded to their partner before marriage. I’m with you on everything you said.

    paulthinkingoutloud, that’s an interesting point. I can see how, if sex is supposed to be a sign of marriage, having it before marriage would be a problem. There’s the issue, though, of men in the Old Testament having sex before and outside of marriage without anyone caring, unless they were tarnishing someone else’s virgin. So I’m not convinced that sex was always considered a sign of a covenant. But even if it were, that’s entirely dependent on religion, while the self-esteem/bonding arguments aren’t, even though it tends to be Christians who believe them. It wouldn’t make much sense to get mad at someone for not making a covenant properly if they aren’t making a covenant at all because they’re don’t believe in covenants and aren’t in a relationship with God and so on.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — October 13, 2008 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

  4. Oh, it occurred to me last night, in some of what I said, you could replace “pre-marital sex” with “homosexuality” or “gay marriage”? Why are most Americans against it? I’d say either religion (even if they aren’t religious) or an underlying belief that homosexual love is in some way inferior to heterosexual love. They try to talk about naturalness but do they know how many animals have been found to have bisexual tendencies? That some cultures like the Greeks had no problem with homosexuality? Anyway, with that too, religion has had a stronger influence than most will admit.

    Comment by Lyndsay — October 14, 2008 @ 6:24 am | Reply

  5. Oh, definitely. I see the gay marriage issue in the US as totally about religion – or at least, about something correlated with religion, because I don’t think they actually get a lot of this stuff from the Bible so much as from a worldview that seems to coincide with certain religions. They’re losing the argument about it being unnatural, but then they replace it with the argument that some people have a natural tendency towards certain sins, but they have to fight it anyway. But if they’ve already conceded that it does occur naturally, then their appeal to nature argument is gone, so pretty much all they have to stand on for positing that it’s a sin in the first place is that God said so. My favorite is when they try to argue that even though lots of other married couples don’t have or can’t have kids, only gay couples should be kept from marrying (even if they want to adopt or have artificial insemination!) on the grounds that they can’t procreate.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — October 14, 2008 @ 7:57 pm | Reply

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