Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Uncle Sam Wants You...to Abstain

So, let's say you are 25 years old, finished with graduate school, with your own apartment, making a living, and unmarried like most 25 year olds. You're seeing a new person and it's date # 3, or 4, or 5. Should you have sex?

Not according to the federal government. The nearly ten year old abstinence-only-until-marriage program has a new target -- 19 to 29 year olds. (I'm not sure what happens at 29 that makes them comfortable with you having sex, but at least if you are unmarried, you can have sex before you turn thirty.)

According to the news report, "the revisedguidelines for 2007 are aimed at people ages 19 to 29 because recent data show that more unmarried women in that age group are having children. "We wanted to remind states they could use these funds not only to target adolescents," Horn said. Therevised guidelines stipulate that states applying for the grantsare "to identify groups ... most likely to bear children out ofwedlock, targeting adolescents and/or adults within the 12-through 29-year-old age range." ...According to ACF, grants for 2006 amounted to $50million, and a similar amount for 2007 is expected.

No matter that 90% of young adults have had sexual intercourse. No matter that they are financially independent, contributing members of society. No matter that many of them are in long term relationships and many are cohabitating with their partners.

This isn't public health; it's hard to even believe it's morality. I made the decision not to marry couples who are virgins -- marriage is way too important to do only because you want to have sex with the person, and sex, although not in the top five criteria for a good marriage, is way too important to not know if it can be satisfying. To be honest though, I've never had a couple come to me for premarital counseling who isn't already sharing sexual intimacy.

Aiming federally sponsored programs at keeping adults abstinent is just silly. Let's hope the states choose to abstain.

11 comments:

CK said...

I made the decision not to marry couples who are virgins -- marriage is way too important to do only because you want to have sex with the person/

Do you think the latter follows from the former? My sister and brother in law, who are Christians, abstained from sexual activity (even from kissing before engagement) and are still married with a beautiful daughter (turning 2).

I don't think abstinence is for everyone, but I don't think that just because two people are virgins means they are motivated purely by sex. That seems as flattening a stereotype as others I've heard directed at gay people (who must also be motivated by sex.)

Sparki said...

I'm rather appalled that you won't marry virgins.

I wasn't a virgin when I married because my parents raised me to believe I should have sex whenever I wanted to. I waited until I was 18, but I suffered a LOT of heartache when my sexually active romances ended, to the point that when I was 24, I finally decided I wasn't having sex before marriage ever again.

When my husband and I married, he was a virgin, and he had made that commitment because the marital vows are SO important to him, he didn't want to cheat on them by having sex with any woman who was not his wife. And even after we were in love and engaged, that included me.

It was difficult for us to resist each other in those months of engagement, because we were powerfully attracted to one another. However, watching him resist this intense temptation taught me that my husband will be ever-faithful to our marital vows. He had pretty much all of society telling him to go ahead -- even among Christians who would say that our engagement was enough of a commitment. But still he steeled himself so he would NOT cheat against our vows.

We have been blissfully married for 12.5 years. We've been through the wringer in our marriage with financial difficulty, infertility and other very hard issues, but our marriage is strong and getting stronger every day. I have SO much respect for him and I trust him completely because of his sacrifice of NOT having sex outside our marriage.

And the sex is fantastic, always has been. It's a lie -- a misguided, short-sighted, uninformed lie -- to say that couples who don't have sex before marriage are not prepared for marriage. How is CHEATING on your vows a good way to prove you are ready for them?!?!!?!?!? How can subjecting yourself to sex with somebody you can't trust to be there tomorrow make you more prepared for marriage?!?!?!?!?

I pity people with the attitude you have. They are missing out big time, denying themselves the golden gift of fidelity, faithfulness, self-control and mutual respect that I have been blessed with in my marriage.

Cassandra said...

Yikes! Isn't it a gross assumption that virgins want to get married just to have sex? It seems like rather an extreme position. I would think it would be only fair to at least interview the couple first to ascertain their motivation.

Rev. Debra W. Haffner said...

I didn't say it was wrong for people to wait for marriage to have sexual intercourse; I said that I wouldn't perform the marriage ceremony. Of course, Cassendra, I do premarital counseling with all of the couples who are interested in me marrying them, and we talk about everything from love to anger to money to inlaws to children and yes, sex. So far though it hasn't come up -- maybe it's because I've mostly done marriages for older couples, but they've all been intimate before marriage. CK, I wish your sister well and Sparki, I'm guessing that your marraige is good because you have shared values about many things, not just sex.

Cassandra said...

That begs the question why won't you perform the marriage ceremony of virgins?

Sparki said...

Yes, Rev. Deb, our marriage is good and strong because we share many values. But premarital sex is a distraction that prevents couples from really getting to know one another's true values.

Have sex before marriage, and pretty much the only "value" you can count on is that your partner doesn't need marital vows as a prerequisite for sex. Which means you can't really trust that person to stay faithful to you, because he/she has only proved UNfaithfulness.

And I'm with Cassandra -- if you're okay with virgins marrying in theory, why do you refuse to marry them?

I'm not surprised you've never had a truly chaste couple present themselves to you for premarital counselling -- if a couple's clergy is telling them premarital sex is okay and they can't even be married by their own clergy if they're virgins, of course you're only going to get the sexually active couples!

And pray, how do you counsel them to look upon their marital vows as something to uphold when the vows are already broken?

(Basically, this is the point where I expect Rev. Deb to stop responding to the thread. Every time I ask her a pointed question like that, she moves on...)

Rev. Debra W. Haffner said...

The basic answer to Sparki and Cassandra's question is that as a sexologist I believe that the sexual relationship is too important to marriage to wait until AFTER the marriage to find out about it. The facts are that only about one in 10 people do wait until marriage to have sex, and the two of you know that there are plenty of ministers who would be happy to do their ceremonies. Now, let's be clear; I'm not talking about a specific act; there may be both religious and health reasons that people wait to have sexual intercourse until marriage. It's whether the couple that is asking me to sanctify their relationship has a sexual relationship that is consensual, non-exploitative, honest, and mutual pleasurable that I am trying to ascertain.

But, you all missed the point of the story...can you possibly agree that our federal tax dollars should be going to promote abstinence among adults?!

Now, to MR, who's comment's I rejected on this blog...I will not post hateful messages on my blog, your's or anyone elses. I will also not let my blog be used to play proof texting with bible text. My reading of the Bible says that "love your neighbor" is the second great commandment; threatening hell just isn't part of my religion. You can write whatever you want on YOUR blog, but I will always reject hate.

Josh said...

Interesting discussion. I laud your refusal to marry couples who have yet to have sex; I didn't gather this from your description, but I assume that you will only marry those that have had sex with each other and not just sex in general; this way, compatability is more of a certainty. Is that your stance?

Cassandra said...

But tangents are so much fun! ;)

In all honesty, Rev. Debra, I didn't miss the point of your post. I was just much more intrigued by your refusal to marry virgins and the assertion that virgins marry just because they want to have sex. The government misappropriates funds all the time and in ways I find much more troublesome. Besides, it's entirely at the discretion of the states how they choose to use the funds. A person of the cloth refusing to marry virgins is much more interesting.

I find several things troublesome about your position. I'm concerned that you stereotype virgins as sex-starved persons who get married in order to have sex. I'd argue that sex before marriage isn't telling of sex after marriage especially after children get involved or if there is illness or other serious reasons for abstinence. Divorce rates certainly haven't gone down as cohabitation before marriage has increased. Virginity also requires shared values, open communication, charity, and sacrifice which are all great preparations for marriage. Marriage is a leap of faith. You don't know how becoming a parent will affect your marriage, but, with charity for one's spouse, issues and obstacles can be overcome. I don't see how this is any different from sex.

Sparki said...

The basic answer to Sparki and Cassandra's question is that as a sexologist I believe that the sexual relationship is too important to marriage to wait until AFTER the marriage to find out about it.

So you think that having sexual experience is MORE important than being faithful to your marital vows?

Because I have to tell you, any man who will put aside his sexual desires and practice self control in the face of incredible temptation and arousal is automatically a FANTASTIC lover. The guy who willingly keeps his pants zipped to protect his marriage is always going to seek his partner's pleasure first. And vice versa for the woman. Two virgins with that attitude are pretty much guaranteed to have a wonderful, healthy sex life when they marry.

The facts are that only about one in 10 people do wait until marriage to have sex, and the two of you know that there are plenty of ministers who would be happy to do their ceremonies.

So what? I want better for those 9 out of 10 people who aren't faithful to their wedding vows. I want them to believe that their spouses will never cheat on them. I don't want them to bring a sexual history with 4-5 other partners to "compare" what their spouse does: "Gee, honey, that's NICE and all, but Lover #2 used to do it THIS way and I'd like you so much better if you switched to that method..." How could that possibly be good for their marriage?

Now, let's be clear; I'm not talking about a specific act; there may be both religious and health reasons that people wait to have sexual intercourse until marriage.

But regardless of what their reasons are, you won't marry them, right?

It's whether the couple that is asking me to sanctify their relationship has a sexual relationship that is consensual, non-exploitative, honest, and mutual pleasurable that I am trying to ascertain.

How is "I'm cheating on my vows already by having sex outside of marriage" a GOOD indicator that the marriage will be non-exploitative? Seems to me that the couple is already exploiting each other for illicit sex.

But, you all missed the point of the story...can you possibly agree that our federal tax dollars should be going to promote abstinence among adults?!

I think it's a waste of tax money, but the only reason it's proposed is because of the cultural breakdown of our society. Where clergy refuse to step up and do their jobs, sometimes the government thinks they have to. Likewise with charity. If the churches were really doing their job when it comes to feeding the poor, housing the homeless, clothing the naked, etc., then we wouldn't need social welfare programs.

Phil said...

So, let's say you are 25 years old, finished with graduate school, with your own apartment, making a living, and unmarried like most 25 year olds. You're seeing a new person and it's date # 3, or 4, or 5. Should you have sex?

And get the STDs like AIDS, HPV, Syphilises, warts, and a life of remorse which you can get from just ONE encounter?