I am a daily reader of The Friendly Atheist, as well as a number of other blogs, and I usually agree with Hemant on a number of topics. Today, I don’t agree with his (probably tentative) reaction to this post on his blog today. Here’s his (again, probably tentative) conclusion:
There’s nothing wrong with waiting.
But there’s nothing wrong with having safe sex before marriage, either.
Why do I disagree with this? Because I think there may be something very harmful about waiting. Further, having sex before marriage may be the only way to have a fully satisfying sex life after marriage. That is, one might be satisfied, but perhaps not as happy as they could be sexually, without having tested the various grounds out there.
Experience and Communication
Sexuality is complicated. When we are young and inexperienced, we not only don’t know what to do, we really don’t know what we want. And even if we know what we want, that does not imply that we can know what others want, especially if those things are not the same (or incompatible). The ability to give to others what they need sexually to some degree depends on sufficient experience with different types of sexuality and our experience with how to respond to those needs. I doubt that anyone can be prepared for this with only one partner for whom they wait until marriage.
And, perhaps most importantly, when we are inexperienced we rarely communicate about sex, especially during the act itself. Does that feel good? Do you want me to do that harder, softer, or not at all? Would you like to be spanked, or to spank me? All legitimate questions. And there are many more questions in addition to these, of course. Without prior experience to feed off of, how would people know to ask such questions?
It takes more than two, baby!
Perhaps the greatest tragedy is to have two inexperienced people trying to figure sexuality out together. This is not to say that two people with no experience cannot figure it out, but it will take time, patience, and possibly some research. Most importantly, it takes honesty and a willingness to push ourselves. We cannot find what lies deep inside if we are afraid to look there.
But let’s be honest here; most people who decide to wait until marriage are coming from religious backgrounds with conservative views about sexuality. There will be exceptions, of course, but this phenomenon of waiting is primarily religion-driven, I’d be willing to bet. People who were brought up to believe that sex is sinful, except in marriage (and possibly even within marriage, if it gets kinky), are the ones doing the waiting.
These are not people to likely discuss their sexuality in the open, even with their new spouse. They have become so used to repressing the topic, that in order to then suddenly be sex-positive will be a rare exception and not the rule by any measure of the term. Further, because of their lack of experience with other lovers, they will not even know what it is they are lacking. This is why people need to find themselves a more experienced ethical slut to help them along before they move onto marriage. Hell, they may need that before they are ready for a serious relationship.
Finding it too late?
And what happens in situations like this, where young people wait until marriage, is that perhaps they get married too soon, or to the wrong person, because they don’t know better. How could they know? They have little experience to draw from, remember? And then they find themselves married, perhaps enjoying the sex, but after some time they feel as if something is missing.
With a likely inexperienced lover, they may have desires that they don’t know how to express. In this situation, most people will not explore their sexuality until after years of pushing back desires that will seem abnormal, wrong, or perhaps sinful. This is probably why so many people get married only to come out years later as homosexual. But in many other cases people have a vanilla (that is, “normal”) sex life until they discover their inner kinks later on, and then you see them as they should have found themselves while much younger.
I cannot tell you how many people I have met that say that they wish they knew what they did now, about themselves sexually specifically, 20 or 30 years before. I meet people in the polyamory communities who only opened up to their kinky side when they were in their 40s, 50s, or later. Imagine all the years they could have been enjoying sexuality more passionately, ecstatically, and with more people if they just didn’t hold back. And no, not all these people did wait until marriage, but how could a person who does so avoid this fate? Again, some will avoid it even if they do wait, but most will not.
Everyone should have been exploring their sexuality as teenagers, young adults, and ideally exposed to sex-positive environments as children. If children grow up knowing that sex is a healthy thing, they will be able to find what they are into easier as they grow up. And if they get a chance to be sexual as they grow up, of course progressing on their own terms and as they grow comfortable, then they will be able to know that a person is sexually compatible with them.
I mean, how awful would it be to make a commitment to someone who you are not sexually compatible with? Granted, they don’t have to be monogamous with them (although those that save themselves are more likely to attempt monogamy, I’d bet…at least in the short-term), but to be married to someone who you can’t be your sexual-self with? How many people are trapped in loveless and/or sexless (or, with unsatisfiable sex) marriages. And of course they can just get a divorce, right?
Because people with conservative sexual ideas tend to be OK with that too….
No, do not save yourself for marriage. Marry someone (if you marry at all) who fits your sexuality. If you want orgies every weekend, marry someone who is into that. If you want plain old missionary position for 50 years, then by all means at least test out the product before you buy it. Hell, even vanilla sex can be better or worse with the right or wrong person.
You don’t have to be a slut. But find a way to explore your sexuality, and to teach your children to explore their sexuality, in healthy ways. Don’t let them repress their sexuality in the name of some absurd sacredness to sex that is somehow ruined by having it. For Dionysus’ sake, have some sex, and enjoy it!