The prohibition against Pre-Marital Sex is a hallmark of Christianity, but it’s been problematic from the start. First of all, it’s not exactly Biblical – Paul warns against “sexuality immorality” but doesn’t give us the down and dirty on what he means by that. It’s also worth noting that Jesus doesn’t mention it. At all.
Sexuality is meant to be a healthy, beautiful, nourishing part of our relationships with our closest partners, and it’s unfair that Christianity’s squeamishness with all matters intimate has co-opted such a natural, albeit complicated, part of our lives. It’s time we look with fresh eyes at how we approach this important issue, setting aside the guilt and shame it is usually mired in.
So, gird up your loins or guard your heart or take a cold shower before we consider a few of our reasons to move Pre-Marital Sex with your college sweetheart from the “sexual immorality” column to “healthy Christian sexuality” (yes, that exists).
And a warning to virgins on the fence about waiting until marriage: Take this information to heart, but don’t take it to bed without giving it at least a week. We don’t want any tear filled emails telling us we ruined your life.
Reason #1: There was no Reliable Birth Control in the 1st Century
Whenever we read the writings of the Bible we have to ask if a biblical law or mandate fits into the category of “For the First Century” or “For Forever.”
Take female head coverings: the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor. 11 “Every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.”
Is this command for the 1st Century Church in the Greek city of Corinth…
If we have reconsidered this rule, can we reconsider others? If you’re still unconvinced, consider that the Bible does not argue against slavery. But modern society has clearly decided on that issue, and rightly so.
We would argue that the ban against Premarital Sex is NOT a forever command.
For starters 1st Century relationships didn’t look much like 21st century relationships. They didn’t date or have girlfriends and boyfriends. They tended to hang out in same gender social spaces and parents tended to arrange marriages for their teenagers.
But despite these cultural differences, growing up we heard church leaders (including a Freshman Orientation session at college) give hundreds of lectures about why one should wait for marriage to have sex. They can basically be boiled down to three general principles:
“You’ll be a dirty STI ridden person and no self-respecting Christian will want you.” – usually this one had health class style powerpoint photos.
“You will be emotionally fractured after becoming one with a bunch of people” – this was accompanied by lots of metaphors about white objects becoming stained and polluted, or duct tape that is no longer sticky. Bonus points for a mention of ‘cheating’ on your future spouse as well as your partner’s future spouse.
“You could have a kid.” This was where they’d remind you that you have to sew on a scarlet letter and be isolated from your friends for bearing your sin so publicly.
We will be the first to say that premarital sex is risky behavior and these risks can be really scary. But rather avoiding sex because you’re afraid, get educated!
Watch a video on STI prevention video and get your partner tested!
Take charge of your sex life. Take some time to think about the freedom and boundaries YOU want and how you are going to communicate those to your partner.
That leaves the question of having a child. Bringing a child into the world is a life altering choice that affects not just two consenting adults but an innocent child.
It is generally accepted that there is a 90% chance of couples getting pregnant without using modern birth control. So if two 1st Century people were getting busy, they were probably gonna get pregnant.
However, with the use of modern birth control like IUD, studies put the chances of getting pregnant around 2% when used correctly. Correctly is the key word there.
These differences mean we are banishing the ban on premarital sex to the theological history books.
The biggest thing this ‘ban’ is doing is making sure that people who engage in this behavior feel isolated, shamed, and helpless. Say something goes awry – you end up with an STI or a pregnancy. Can you go to your Christian college’s health service? Will you have a trusted adult who you can talk to about how you’re feeling? It’s time to put aside first-century thinking and stop demonizing young adults who are trying to figure out how they want to live their lives. Hester Prynn is SO last century.
Reason #2: College is for Figuring Things Out
See this guy?
One of the main downfalls among young Christian couples is that their partner REALLY changed after graduation.
Most people are fun in college. You take interesting classes with interesting people. Deadlines are turned into an excuse for all night pizza and ice-cream. Then you rally and go out on Friday night.
But give those people 40-50 hour work weeks and you see A LOT them slow way down. They stay in and watch TV. They complain about their boss.
And they don’t get a new boss next semester.
And while NO ONE we have EVER MET has confessed to us that they were getting married early JUST to have sex, it is undeniably a factor. (There was even a joke at one college about people getting engaged just so they could finally hold hands in public on campus.) Because waiting to have sex messes with your mind. Love and Sexuality are connected and they have a way of speeding things along.
Trust me and millions of others when we say, “If you have sex, you may be able to think a little clearer about whether or not you actually want to get married as an unemployed 21 year old two months after you graduate.”
Sexual intimacy is an important part of a balanced relationship, and it’s crucial to make sure that you and your partner learn how to discuss, explore, and share this part of your relationship. Just as sleeping with someone you just met can be unbalanced, so is marrying (and committing to a life-long sexually intimate relationship with) someone you’ve never been intimate with.
And for what it’s worth divorce rates are lowest among people who marry in the late twenties and early thirties.
College is a time when you are learning who you want to be and how you interact with the world – you’re starting to explore and take responsibility for your own perspective. An exploration of what Healthy Christian Sexuality means to you is an important piece of your life, and college should be a safe and supportive environment to begin to work that out.
Reason #3: Sex Isn’t Something You Have, It’s Something You Discover
The technical term for this is Neuroplasticity. It is the idea that your brain can be changed by the way we think and act.
Imagine your brain is a forest and your thoughts are paths weaving through the trees.
We make neuro-pathways in our brains by connecting thoughts. And the more you connect two thoughts the stronger and faster the neuro-pathway.
Similar to how walking the same way through the woods
creates a bigger,
and faster neuro pathway…
…until the connection is happening so fast you aren’t even connecting them. The two ideas become a single idea in your mind.
Now this is fine if you’re connecting 2+2 with = 4.
But it can be damaging in the context of a sexual relationship. Imagine you’re making out hot and heavy with your partner and then suddenly something in your brain “clicks” and you think. I better stop before we go too far.
Your brain makes a mental note. And a little neuro-pathway is created between: make-out, partner, STOP, awkward silence, and all too often, shame and guilt.
And the more times this situation plays out (and if you are a typical Christian College student – it plays out A LOT) the more the idea of sexuality with your partner becomes connected with guilt, shame, anxiety and a whole mess of negative emotions.
And this can have long term consquences. Because these neuro-pathways stay with you after you get married. And A LOT of Christian couples have trouble reprogramming their brains, which can (and does!) wreak havoc on their sex life.
There was a young woman, we met in college, who wept through her entire honeymoon with her Christian College Sweetie because, even though she was technically now ‘allowed’ to have sex with her new husband, she felt like a dirty whore.
Her whole life she had heard people say that women who want sex or enjoy sex or engage in sex are shameful, dirty, etc etc. And 20+ years of that deep messaging could not be changed with one white dress. We are innundated with NO NO NO messages, and the switch cannot simply be switched to YES YES YES overnight.
Say what you want about sex, but we’re fairly sure that God does not want you weeping through your honeymoon because you feel shameful for enjoying an intimate relationship with your new spouse.
There are ways to change these pathways, but sex is so complicated and a healthy sexuality takes work! You have to learn, together, what works for you and your relationship. This takes time and effort and it won’t always be easy, but it’s worth spending time on! Sex isn’t something you just take off a shelf and unwrap and enjoy, it’s something you discover and learn about yourself and your partner over time.
Which brings us to the final point.
Reason #4 to have Premarital Sex with your Christian College Sweetheart: It can be life-giving to the relationship!
Sex with someone you love is the best. We really don’t feel the need to say more than that.
That’s not to say that it is easy. Premarital sex comes with risks. And at first it will be awkward and bumbling, it may be uncomfortable to have important conversations, to connect with your partner at this level. It may be clunky, and hey, if you really aren’t compatible, isn’t that good to know?
You gotta be smart about it. Learn how to use birth-control, make sure you are in a loving consensual relationship, get tested…you know…be smart.
But as people who have seen so much pain caused by waiting, we’re telling you it’s worth it. Worth developing this part of your relationship and exploring what Healthy Christian Sexuality means to you.
So go ahead. Have some amazing premarital sex with your Christian College sweetheart.
But before a riot breaks out in the campus cafeteria… let us add one more mini list to this post:
3 Reasons Not To Have Pre-Marital Sex With Your Christian College Sweetheart
1. You’re not ready.
That’s totally legit. What we’re saying is that there are Christian reasons for premarital sex. But ultimately YOU GET TO DECIDE – not your pastor, not your discipleship small group, and not a bunch of theologians peddling a 2000 year old interpretation of the Bible.
You get to decide. It’s your choice. And you don’t have to defend or explain what you decide to anyone. But you do have to live with your choice. So make it for yourself.
2. If your partner is pressuring you for sex and you’re not comfortable, don’t do it!
If you do not feel comfortable talking about sexual health, protection, etc, then wait! It will never be easy, but you need to be able to take responsibility for this aspect of your life, and you need to be able to trust your partner as well. We are not advocating reckless sexual behavior, we are just pointing out that Healthy Christian Sexuality exists and is worth exploring for yourself.
3. Don’t have sex because we’re telling you to and don’t NOT have sex because the church is telling you not to.
Sexuality, like life, is a gift to us and for us to be used wisely, meant for our good and enjoyment. It is each of our responsibilities to use it in a way that does not harm ourselves or other people.
And, you can change your mind. Having sex with one partner doesn’t mean you have to with every partner after that. Deciding to wait for a while doesn’t mean that you have to wait forever. The choice is yours to make.
This isn’t easy. These conversations take practice and trust, and there are LOTS of steps before going ‘all the way’ that can help you take ownership of this aspect of yourself and your life.
Waiting until marriage to have sex isn’t a bad idea if it’s what YOU want to do.
But let’s stop pretending that it’s the only form of Healthy Christian Sexuality.
Special thanks to Sex Therapist Carise Rotach-Beard If you’d like to have more conversations about this, or need help navigating this aspect of your life, she’s a great resource. We’re grateful for her insights and support in putting this together.