Heather Little-White, PhD, Contributor
June is known as the wedding month and couples have so many decisions to make before 'tying the knot' - from deciding whether to live together, engage in sex before marriage, keep the maiden name and having different bank accounts. It is common for couples to have sex before getting married.
Sex before marriage or premarital sex is usually controversial to the partners involved and the public in general. Many question just how realistic it is to expect couples to wait until marriage to have sexual intercourse. It is generally viewed that one cannot 'buy puss in a bag' meaning that you need to know the sexual prowess of your partner before making that lifelong commitment of marriage.
According to the popular cultural belief, it is foolish to get married without knowledge of how vibrant sexual intimacy will be after the wedding.
Outlook asked eight readers who are in committed relationships about their feelings regarding having sex before marriage (names have been changed for privacy).
Linda: We decided to have sex before getting married and that is what cemented our relationship, so we decided to get married.
Phillip: Man, I could never get married to a woman without 'testing the waters'. After all, sex is life and if it is not good or show potential to be good, then that spells disaster for life … . I worked with my fiancée to bring her to where she is now and we are happy and looking forward to a great marriage.
Jeanne: I am a virgin at 25 and as a Christian, I believe in getting married as a virgin. My partner is in the church and he is willing to wait until we can afford to get married. In the meantime, we fool around a little and then pray to resist the temptation for intercourse.
Ashton: I am a baptised member of my church and I have a lovely woman I will be marrying in December. I would not lie about having sex with her as she is hard to resist and I am from the school where I want to know if my sex life will be good during marriage, so I won't be tempted to look outside the marriage for good sex.
Marilyn: As I wait on my fiancé to come back from working overseas, we have had sex several times after we became serious and one time we did not use a condom. I got pregnant and we have a son. We know that our sex lives will be good, especially with his loving and caring attitude.
Rose: My mother told me to wait, but the men nowadays do not want to wait until marriage. However, I am pleased with the man I now have as he treats me well and is prepared to wait until we get married … . I have learnt how to control my feelings.
Jackie: I am a long-standing member in my church and my fiancé convinced me to have sex with him some time ago. I guess that is why I got the engagement ring. I feel guilty to have sex the night before Sabbath if he comes by to see me. I am planning our wedding for December so next year I will be free of the guilt of fornicating.
Junior: I love my girl so much but the only way I was able to do that completely was to make love to her and out of the beautiful experience, I will make her my wife soon.
The above views expressed on premarital sex reflect what prevails in society. As society becomes more liberalised, persons are engaging in sexual intercourse at an earlier age and with more frequency compared to 50 years ago. Of course, the risk of pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted infections are reduced as condom use is encouraged and condoms are readily available. However, early sexual intercourse may create problems for which young people are unable to cope. Usually with religious upbringing, there will be feelings of guilt for which children distant themselves from their parents, colleagues and even church activities.
While committed couples may agree to premarital intercourse, there may be some discord after sex due to differing sexual interests between males and females. It is not uncommon for females to experience guilt, anxiety and fear of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections even though there is a commitment to marriage. Negative feelings to premarital sex may more often result among partners whose family backgrounds are highly religious, steeped in conservative values backed up with regular church attendance.
The type of sex and religious information parents impart to their children is critical to the guilt persons feel about engaging in premarital sex. Religious teachings about fornication as a sin will also create feelings of guilt and negative emotions. Among religious persons, those who attend church regularly will be exposed to heavy teachings on sex and sexual customs in the context of marriage.
The Sex Guilt Scale is a widely used psychological test to measure positive and negative attitudes to sex. Sample questions include:
1. If in the future, I commit adultery
a. I won't feel badly about it
b. It would be sinful.
2. Unusual sex practices
a. Might be interesting
b. Don't interest me
3. Sex relations before marriage
a. Are practised too much to be wrong
b. Should not be permitted in my opinion
Marianne Williamson, writing in Illuminata, posits that in today's world, sex is overvalued and the spiritual meaning is underappreciated. As such, sex is idolised and cheapened and the pride of place it should be given is often lost. She adds that sex, when it is a vehicle for love, is holy and that when sex takes place without love and commitment, it sets the stage for pain and some levels of emotional destruction. Williamson believes that sex that is sacred is a marriage of hearts and that achieving good sex requires prayer before, during and after.