Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Does Virginity Work?

I just read an article by Mark Driscoll on Dating, Relating, and Fornicating. Because I don't always agree with his word choices and in my opinion, mishandling of some "hot button" issues, I was surprised to find some interesting study results within his post that, at least scientifically, solidified my opinions on dating and marriage (For said opinions, see posts "How To Land a Wife," "Head vs. Heart - Marriage and Cynicism," and maybe "Surprised by Love" for some background).

Mr. Driscoll can be blunt and offensive, sometimes lacking the grace required to deliver the type of loving correction that people are naturally more receptive to. I don't want to get into a debate about who's team I'm on, or whether I'm a Neo-Calvinist or a Neo-Puritan, because I think we're all on the same team. Mark means well and I have grace for him, because I too have the propensity to pop off at the mouth when I think I'm right. I just wanted to share some statistics from his post that may or may not guide your actions and better your life. Here is the excerpt I'm talking about:

Culture and Dating

Sex outside of marriage is now the norm, a huge change from just a century ago. Today, over 5 million couples cohabitate. This is up from 1 million in 1978. And this number doesn’t take into account the number of couples who don’t live together but who still stay over at each other’s places enough to be classified as cohabitators.
Here are some shocking statistics taken from my book, Religion Saves:
  • An estimated quarter of unmarried women between the ages of 25 and 39 currently live with a partner.
  • Half of unmarried women in the same age group have lived with a partner at some time.
  • Over half of all first marriages are now preceded by cohabitation.
  • The most likely people to cohabit are those aged 20 to 24.
This is problematic first because it is sin and against God’s design for sex, which is to be enjoyed in the context of marriage, but also for a number of practical reasons.
  • Studies almost always find that cohabitation is associated with a higher divorce risk, with estimates ranging from 33 percent to 151 percent increased risk of divorce.
  • Annual rates of depression among cohabitators are more than three times higher than married couples,
  • Women in cohabitating relationships are twice as likely as married women to suffer physical abuse.
  • Two studies found that women in cohabitating relationships are about nine times more likely to be killed by their partner than married women.
  • Couples who cohabitate before marriage report less marital happiness and more conflict when married.
This is in contrast to couples who marry as virgins:
  • Men who marry as virgins are 37 percent less likely to divorce.
  • Women who marry as virgins are 24 percent less likely to divorce,
  • Those who wait to have sex until marriage and remain faithful in marriage report higher levels of life satisfaction compared to adults who engage in premarital or adulterous sex.
  • Those who wait to have sex and are faithful to their spouse also report notably higher happiness scores.

What do you think of these statistics?


  1. Very fascinating stuff. I personally plan to wait until marriage, and share these statistics with my friends who think that waiting is dumb.

  2. I lost my virginity when I was 17 and cohabited with the same girl who I lost it to. The depression statistic is very real. It got pretty bad. Eventually she left me because I became a Christian. Seeing all the extra baggage you get by sleeping and cohabiting with someone you're not married to, it's not worth it. But saving yourself is. I regret that I can't give my virginity to my future wife.

    Is it possible that married couple who waited are happier and more successful because they hadn't brought a spirit of lust into their marriage?

  3. This data is a little skewed but it makes it no less correct. The happiness rating and divorce rating for those who wait till marriage are the way they are because these people are also Christians and are able to reconcile their marriage problems through their faith instead just giving up. Plus, the joy that comes through faith can account for happiness that those who wait feel.

  4. I find it curious that the statistics are mainly about women and next to nothing about men. But I have to agree with the basic premise, it doesn't usually make for a healthy marriage. Not all cohabiting couples end up getting married to each other, some people spend their whole lives cohabiting and never marry any of their previous cohabitors. Then there are some who try it a couple of times and decide that if they ever get involved again they will hold out for marriage. This is what happened to me, only I wasn't a believer at that time, I just felt I didn't want to waste my time anymore, perhaps God was trying to get my attention!

  5. I was not as chaste as I should have been. Now that I am marrying a woman who has no sexual experience, I feel a lot of regret for not holding out for her and her only. Sex is everywhere and hard to avoid, and even harder to resist. But I wish I had been stronger. Thanks be to God for His grace and the grace of my fiance.

  6. First of all I'd like to say that I think these statistics are pretty accurate. From people I know they all agreed that it would have been better if they waited till marriage. Second its good to see Mark is getting around. I agree with most of the stuff he says and yes, while he sometimes is a little blunt (which I personally think is needed at times) he still speaks truth from scripture and takes a stand for what's right.

  7. I am a virgin, and have been planning to save my virginity until marriage. But now I'm in college, and I can't see any real benefits to saving myself for a wife who may never appear. I am still a virgin, but I'm finding that I don't care about my virginity any more. I honestly don't know if there will be any negative repercussions to losing my virginity, and whether it is worth the wait.

  8. I honestly think it's unnatural to be a grown adult and not be having sex. You're pretty much infused with that desire around age 12 or so. Waiting until you're thirty when you're finally ready to get married seems...almost unhealthy.

    I think you can save yourself a lot of emotional distress if you never have a sexual relationship with someone that you might break up with. But, I'm not sure life is meant to be lived without emotional distress. Those are the periods when we grow, see ourselves in new ways, and develop our understanding of human nature.

    I don't think promiscuity is the answer, either. But sex in a committed relationship...I think it's an adult choice that adults should make. It seems to me that after centuries of focus on doctrine, the Christian church doesn't have that much new to offer--so obsessing over what goes on in the bedroom (whether hetero or homosexual premarital sex) is a convenient way to stay relevant. I don't have anything against the Church. I just think this whole issue is grossly overblown.

    Be smart. Wait until you love someone. Know that it can hurt. But don't spend life tied to rules or putting virginity on an alter where it doesn't belong. Don't get married just to have sex (seen that one more times than I can count). Get on with it--believe it or not, there are more important things in life than sex.

  9. I have to say, from a Christian perspective, that I agree with a lot of what the previous commenter had to say. I am an adamant believer that everything in the Bible, be it an explicit command from God or not, has to be considered in context, and the topic of sex is no exception. I don't know enough about Jewish history to really debate this, but I can guess that things like gender and the commitment of marriage carried enormously different cultural implications in Mose's time compared to in our postmodern Western society. I think what God's really asking for is sex within the context of a committed, intimate relationship founded on love and respect and a shared desire to grow in a deeper relationship with Him. Saving yourself until marriage is probably the safest and most certain way to avoid sin, but the black-and-whiteness of the issue is a little tired. I mean, if you were stuck on an island with someone who you loved very deeply and who shared your belief in the aforementioned principles but who you were not officially married to FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, would you really not have sex with them? And why is divorce and remarriage (under reasonable terms: because of abuse, etc.) not utterly condemned in the Bible? I think there's more controversy to the law than people realize.

    As for the statistics.. ...they strike me as more or less silly and irrelevant. As both a psychology student and someone who lost their virginity under the wrong conditions, I can say confidently that there is nothing concrete or quantifiable about human behavior or choices. Chances are that many of the people in these demographics have not accepted Jesus into their hearts or have skewed ideas about their own identity and values, maybe some endure severe self-esteem issues, mental illness, there are a myriad of variables. Correlation doesn't equal causation, and all that. Now, I understand as well as anyone could the potentially harmful effects of sexual sin, but I don't blame every instance of sadness or loneliness or relational dysfunction I experience on it.

  10. Bobby: "I think what God's really asking for is sex within the context of a committed, intimate relationship founded on love and respect and a shared desire to grow in a deeper relationship with Him"
    Very good and Truthfull rationalization. But I don't think you thought out your rationality completely before writing what you did. If you had, you would have realizes that what you said IS marriage. Can you think of a different definition?

    God didn't make a bunch of rules, he shared with us how things are supposed to work. Sex as an expression of love and total oneness in a binding and committed relationship. We just gave it a name: Marriage

    1. Relevant Merriam-Webster's definitions of marriage:

      1. the state of being united as husband or wife to a person of the opposite sex in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law; the institution whereby individuals are joined in marriage.

      2. an intimate or close union.

      The second definition is the marriage that you're referring to, which I totally endorse. The first one, in my opinion, is nothing more than a construct or a symbol. It's arbitrary, except when it is representing the union mentioned in the second definition. To some people the symbol is a necessary part of the relationship and I respect that; however, I don't believe that it's universally necessary. Jefferson Bethke (popular Youtube guy who did the "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" video) has a video about marriage, in which he states, "it's not the love sustains the promise, it's the promise that sustains the love." I wholeheartedly disagree. The promise only exists because there was love, and once there is no love, the promise hollow and pointless. I'm only speaking against the legalistic view of premarital sex, by which people are often condemned for sexual experiences with someone before the papers have been signed.

      Btw, this is Bobby, I just forgot my password and was too lazy to reset it just now. :P