Friday, April 23, 2010

Premarital Sex and Life

I've always wondered about the logistics behind forbidding premarital sex.  On the face of one side, it seems stupid.  On the face of another, it seems holy.  What's your take?

As an atheist, I can't, obviously, believe that an all-knowing, all-loving god first created me so imperfectly and so sinfully that I am not allowed to procreate and further advance the human race until another human, who can be ordained for $10 on the Internet, can perform a five-minute ceremony.  It makes no sense to me.  Rather, if I believed that, it would really make me want to shake god until his teeth rattle for being so illogical.

So what's the big deal?

I don't want to get divorced.  I don't want to rip apart all our mutual belongings, pay a lawyer, deal with alimony, and mess around with child support and visitation rights.  I don't want to undergo the hurt of realizing that I married someone without really knowing him, and that we're better off divorcing than staying married.  I wouldn't want to do that to children.

I can understand that marriage was important in an age when women depended on men to support them--or were legally and socially forced to do so.  If you were married, you were generally safe--unless he engaged in horrific cruelty.  But most women had to marry for security, and it's different now.  We work.  A lot of us love to work, and a lot of us are very good at what we do.  We don't need financial security.  It might be nice, but we can get it for ourselves just as well as men can.

I don't believe that it's ethical to promise to stay with someone until death do you part unless you know that you will be able to keep that promise.  You don't know how much someone will stay in love with you over the years, how much he'll help keep the house in order, how much he'll help raise the children, how prone he is to cheating, how prone you are to cheating, how well your ways of life clash or meld together until you try it out first.  I should think it causes a lot more pain and sin to rip apart a family and break a solemn promise than to live together before marriage to make sure that you can, in fact, tolerate each other.

I live with my boyfriend.  I adore him.  However, if I'd married him, I'd feel a bit cheated, because I would have expected that he would be my helpmeet in every way of life.  He gets sick to his stomach when he has to clean out the catbox and cannot stand the noise of clipping the kitty's claws.  So, if I eventually decided to marry him and maybe have children with him, we'd have to seriously speak about the number of child responsibilities (specifically feeding, grooming, and diaper-changing) I'd be stuck with before I even considered a decision like that.  If we can't agree, maybe it won't work out.  It would hurt, but it would hurt far less than the end of a marriage and the divorce payments.  I see no problem with waiting a bit before doing something as important as getting married.

So why does it bother so many people that I feel this way?

Is it possible that ancient decrees on marriage and sin might be wrong?

Is it possible that, when those ancient decrees were written, we knew no more about the universal nature of right and wrong than we do now?


handan said...

I've chosen the route of abstinence on the basis that its safer and wiser (before I affirmed a belief in God, by the way). The same reasons you cite it would be unethical to promise forever are my reasons for waiting until marriage.
And though one can be ordained for $10, I'm pretty sure it was never the intention, God or no, to treat marriage so cheaply. Marriage, like murder, has too much involved and carries too steep a price to be treated lightly. (By the way, I am in NO way trying to put those two on the same level. The way my brain works, it recognized both are serious matters which are undervalued by and large in today's society.)
I don't want to get divorced either. I don't want to put children through the hell of an unhappy home.
I think marriage was and is important, more than just for financial dependence. Marriage's ultimate value lies in the statement it intended to make. Two individuals, alike or not, standing together saying that they committed to each other for the rest of their lives, to encourage the best in each other, admonish and endure the worst, for the purpose of enriching each other's lives. It is selfish to want to have someone around who will always make you happy or safe. Its selfless to want to be that person for someone else. So, marriage is both the most selfish and selfless thing I think any of us can do.
But that's just my two cents.

Andrew said...

As I see it, the ban on premarital sex is an artifact from a no longer mainstream sexual values system. In the modern world of contraceptives, delayed marriage, and interdependent rather than dependent relationships, it's not necessary to abstain. That's not to say that one should rush into these things blindly, either.

The idea that you can know for sure that you will be able to keep the 'until death do us part' promise 100% is absurd. It implies that you can fully know a relationship and it's future trajectory, which you can't. The best you can do is ask whether you believe your relation ship has the flexibility and cohesion to withstand challenges. Relationships are, after all, processes rather than discrete objects. They are in a constant state of flux, which is a good thing.

The best we can do is to evaluate whether or not a relationship has the flexibility and cohesion to adapt to future change. If it does, go for it. If the relationship relies on rigid patterns and expectations, it's unlikely to survive. That's not to say that we shouldn't have expectations and plans - we should - but that we need to be comfortable with making changes in them as life demands.