Pixabay Image

Father Knows Best: Two reasons to be sexually active before marriage

Share this story!
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

By Martin Elfert

Do you have a question about life, love, or faith? Submit it online, fill out the form below or email it to melfert@stjohns-cathedral.org.

Hey Rev!

Me and my girlfriend had sex a while back and continued to do so until recently when we decided to stop and go to confession. We have since stopped and are planning stopping until marriage. So, my question is, is it a sin to engage in other acts instead of actual sex, such as oral or hand wise? Also, masturbation: I’ve stopped since I went to confection but it’s really testing my fires.

LC

House-ad_SPO_FKB_new_0429139Dear LC:

Before I get to your question, I have to say thank you to the auto-correct feature on your phone. I can’t tell you how tickled I am by the idea that you’ve stopped masturbating since you went to a whipped chocolate and cream delicacy. I’ve been giggling in my office for the past 5 minutes.

My educated guess, LC, is that you are writing in the hopes that someone will give you and your girlfriend permission to have sex. If that guess is right then consider this column your official authorization to fornicate. Go forth with my blessing and hop into the bed or the back seat of the car of your choosing. I promise not to tell anyone.

The overwhelming majority of couples at whose marriages I officiate and/or for whom I perform premarital counseling are already sexually active and already living together. And for the life of me, LC, I can’t figure out why I need to be troubled about that. While I recognize that there was a time when the moral norm was to be — or at least was to be pretend to be — celibate up until your wedding day, I don’t find the arguments for preserving or restoring that norm persuasive. Indeed, I can think of at least two pretty solid reasons that being sexually active before a wedding is a good idea.

First, sex matters. If you and your girlfriend are planning on promising one another that you will stay together until you are parted by death — and if you plan to be monogamous until death comes — then the two of you have a right and a responsibility to find out that you are sexually compatible with one another and to do so in a shame-free context. I don’t remember who it was that said that sex is 10 percent of a marriage when it’s working and 90 percent of a marriage when it isn’t (God forbid that I’m accidentally quoting Dr. Phil), but he or she was sure right. I have witnessed more than one otherwise happy marriage fail over sexual misery. Go and make sure, LC, that sex with your girlfriend brings both of you delight and connection and comfort.

Second, it’s hard to think straight when you’re horny. If you and your girlfriend are going to enter into a sacrament as momentous as marriage, then you want to be confident that you are called to the 90 percent of marriage that isn’t sex. You want to be able to say with conviction that the two of you are best friends, that you are strong business partners, that you are sustained by conversation and by silence together, that you hope for a lot of the same things, that you are able to walk with one another in times of love and loss. Don’t go to the altar carrying even a nagging doubt that your real motivation in getting married is to get laid.

As to other kinds of sex, LC, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that, no, oral sex and mutual masturbation aren’t sins. The bad news is that they are both still sex. To refrain from putting Tab A into Slot B while you and your girlfriend roll around naked together and to argue that, somehow, this represents abstinence or virginity is to engage in an absurd exercise. Any kind of serious sexual contact is a profound act of intimacy and vulnerability and, as such, it carries real risks. To pretend otherwise is to be dishonest with yourself and to be careless with your partner.

I’ve written two columns on masturbation (find them in the archives on spokanefavs.com) and I think I’m ready to leave that subject alone for while.

Before I wrap up, LC, let me get all theological on you. The evidence of creation is that God really likes sex. And more than that, God hopes that sex will be a source of joy for you and for your girlfriend. It is my prayer that the two you will find a way to discover and to embrace that joy, to let go of all of the confections that you hold back.

About Martin Elfert

The Rev. Martin Elfert is an immigrant to the Christian faith. After the birth of his first child, he began to wonder about the ways in which God was at work in his life and in the world. In response to this wondering, he joined Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he and his new son were baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2005 and where the community encouraged him to seek ordination. Martin served on the staff of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane, Wash. from 2011-2015. He is now the rector of Grace Memorial Episcopal Church in Portland, Oreg.

View All Posts

Check Also

Scapegoating: Spokane’s Board of Health Sacrifices Its Leader

As often happens in times of social crisis, the desire and need for order and certainty cause people to look for someone they can blame for their suffering. In other words, they look for a scapegoat.

17 comments

  1. LC, please don’t ever take the sexuality advice of anyone who opens their conversation with: “consider this column your official authorization to fornicate.”.

    Instead, read the New Testament, the teachings of Jesus and maybe even go to your Priest and ask his advise.

    • “Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.” -2 Timothy 4:2-4

      I’d say it is already here.

    • Good Lord, I couldn’t agree more, Eric. This “advice” is absolutely appalling, and if followed is bound to cause a MOUNTAIN of problems with a person’s marriage later in life.

      “Sex matters.” — Yes, it definitely does, but it’s not the only thing that matters. When we get married, we don’t offer to each other just our ability to have sex — we offer our entire being, for better or for worse, and til death do us part. Give me a marriage that fell apart over “sexual misery” and I’ll show you a marriage that had TONS more problems than just sex.

      “It’s hard to think straight when you’re horny.” – Are you kidding me? Are you a slave to your passions? In sex and in marriage, we offer ourselves ENTIRELY for the good of the other. If you’re doing *any part* of sex OR marriage to fulfill yourself, you’re doing it wrong. We marry (hopefully) to eventually bring forth life into the world through that union. Sex is designed to have both unitive AND procreative capacities in every act and within the confines of the marital embrace — not for ourselves, but for the good of our spouse and for the *children* we may create.

      Sex before marriage is making a promise to the other person that, in its very nature, cannot be kept. We necessarily cannot give our whole selves to the other in the sexual embrace precisely because we have not offered our whole lives irrevocably to that person.

      Martin, in the words of a high schooler, “I can’t even.”

  2. Tab A is pretty much always going to be able to find its way into Slot B without needing any “rehearsal.” The argument that couples need to “practice” sex in order to see if they are “compatible” is a pathetic rationalization for tossing personal discipline out the window. How can it NOT be in a couple’s best interests to challenge themselves to a little delayed gratification prior to their wedding? That kind of discipline is a quality that will serve them well in most other aspects of the challenge that is contemporary marital success. If they choose to ignore that advice, then so be it. But, to not offer it in the first place? I’m really not impressed.

    • Some people are simply not sexually compatible. They may have extremely different tastes, or extremely different sex drives. If you’re going to choose one sexual partner for the rest of your life, shouldn’t you know that you’re going to enjoy it?

      • Is marriage just about having a sexual partner? Boy, I sure hope not.

        • No – which is why you should experience “married” life in every way before you make that leap. Live together for a year or two!

        • He wrote in the column that it certainly wasn’t. “If you and your girlfriend are going to enter into a sacrament as momentous as marriage, then you want to be confident that you are called to the 90 percent of marriage that isn’t sex. You want to be able to say with conviction that the two of you are best friends, that you are strong business partners, that you are sustained by conversation and by silence together, that you hope for a lot of the same things, that you are able to walk with one another in times of love and loss. Don’t go to the altar carrying even a nagging doubt that your real motivation in getting married is to get laid.”

  3. Agreeing to disagree with some people I greatly admire, in this thread, I feel compelled to say ‘good column as usual’, Martin. I think we Christians have earned a pretty grim reputation for trying to fit sexuality into an increasingly unrealistic, authoritarian mold, and I appreciate you offering a different answer.

  4. Disclaimer: So I read this in light of the fact that April 1 was near (the publication date) and thought, surely this is an attempt at satire in the way of The Onion. Please tell me that’s the case. If not, read on…

    While I appreciate and agree with the practice of fostering a shame free context for exploring matters of sexuality, and all of life for that matter, and the reality of the goodness and divine creation of sex (“God really likes sex” were your words), I’m not sure where to begin with the rest of this article.

    Father, if you had a daughter would your words of encouragement to her be, “Yeah, he does seem like a nice guy… Oh, you guys are thinking of moving towards marriage? Well have you guys had sex yet? I’d highly recommend that before choosing the venue, the photographer and all of that other stuff”? Would you really be pleased with her marrying a guy who’s taken your advice? A guy who’s made sure of his sexual compatibility by trying out the ladies like the sample booths at Costco?

    And then, what of God’s revelation to us in the scriptures? The God who really loves sex. What about his instructions for what sex is in all of its glory and mystery? What about his instructions regarding the handling and experiencing of that glory and mystery?

    • Couldn’t agree more Justin, thanks for responding.

    • “A guy who’s made sure of his sexual compatibility by trying out the ladies like the sample booths at Costco?”

      All-or-nothing thinking, eh? Any sex before marriage suddenly becomes callous promiscuity? Oof. When you built the straw man, he sure is easy to knock down.

      Also, I bet Martin WOULD appreciate a thoughtful man whose does not rule out sex before marriage. The idea that premarital sex is engaged in by people with no self-discipline is caricature verging on generalized slander. But hey.

  5. Thank you for writing an article which approaches sexuality from a healthy as well as an empathetic perspective. There are far too many people who get married who are religious who do so because they are concerned about sex and its ramifications and the guilt and not thinking through all of the other important things that come with choosing a life partner. There is a lot to learn about choosing a partner, and emotional as well as sexual intimacy and the foundation of trust from these forms the basis of their interactions and is therefore a complex part of that tapestry of partnership.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *