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Premarital Sex

1 May


Premarital Sex

Premarital Sex is a very relevant topic today. With many different opinions, thoughts and issues surrounding the concept of Premarital Sex, I dug deep into the different opinions and wanted to see the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. So below is a case study I have completed, along with my own personal response regarding this topic. It is a heavy read but one that is worth it if you’re interested in cementing your opinion regarding your approach to premarital sex or whether you are unsure of whether it is okay or not to indulge in premarital sex.

What are your thoughts, opinions and questions that arise from this topic? I am very intrigued to hear them.

Case Study: Premarital Sex

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • “Premarital Sex is Wrong” (Christian Perspective 1)
  • “Premarital Sex is Not Healthy” (Christian Perspective 2)
  • “Premarital Sex is Moral within the Right Context” (Christian Perspective 3)
  • “Premarital Sex is great, as long as it is safe and consensual” (Secular Perspective)
  • Personal Response
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Endnotes


Sex is a major theme in today’s society. Sex is saturated in our media, advertisements, and music. This creates a huge need to communicate the concept, value, and impact sex has; especially premarital sex. While there are many different ethical perceptions and approaches today; It has mostly been believed throughout Christian history that premarital sex is immoral; as God has created for marriage. This perspective has value as it teaches God’s ideal place for sex in black and white. The issue is it creates the disillusion that sex is wrong and dirty. It creates a lack of understanding. A common Christian perception is to teach that sex is best expressed within marriage and unhealthy outside marriage. This approach helps equip people, especially teenagers, with a strong understanding of why sex is best reserved for marriage. Christians need to combat the challenge that more people are getting married later, therefore, harder to abstain. As the secular culture preaches freedom of sexual expression, some Christians have accommodated this and opened the door for premarital sex as long as it is within the best circumstances. It is important to delve into this topic and the underlying issues because premarital sex is one of the biggest and most impacting choices that one can make in their lifetime.

“Premarital Sex is Wrong” (Christian Perspective 1)

The main Christian approach to premarital sex was one developed over the Early Church and throughout church history. The perspective was that premarital sex is wrong because God created sex for marriage only. It is good for it brings a black and white approach and builds the awareness that it is reserved for marriage only, as indicated by God and the Bible. However, it is not without its problems. Due to a restrictive approach, people can to go to the extreme and label sex as dirty,

“Through the Fall, human sexuality was marred. In this way the church fathers came to associate sexuality with the realm of sin. As a result, the sex act, theologians declared, was always tainted by lust and thereby sin, even when practiced within the marriage bond” (Grenz, p4).

It is this perspective that caused Christians, especially in history, to place a huge value on virginity[1]. It created a sense of identity tied to people (especially women’s) virginity. Even the perception that virgins were super-spiritual or of higher worth and value[2]. “The Middle Ages mark the climax of the development of an emphasis on celibacy…As a result, sexual relations were deemphasized or even disparaged as being potentially sinful, addictive, and distortive” (Grenz, p6).

This approach does not teach or empower people to deal with their sexual nature in a healthy way because all they hear is that it is wrong and shameful. It endorses shame for people who do commit sexual acts or have been a victim of sexual acts such as rape. This lack of understanding creates disillusionment in aspects of people’s identity, worth and value. More so, this approach does not work today because most of the sexually active population have had premarital sex![3] If people are having premarital sex, despite hearing that it is wrong, and we condemn people by promoting shame, we have an issue. “Being single [or abstinence] is not easy in today’s world…The cultural ethos, peer pressure, new temptations with the internet, and the delay of marriage all help create a situation in which waiting to have sex until marriage seems plain foolish” (Hollinger, p143). There needs to be more room for teaching, understanding and awareness about the impact sex has.

“Premarital Sex is not healthy” (Christian Perspective 2)

This Christian perspective states that premarital sex is not healthy, for it is best expressed within a context of marriage. This approach seeks to empower people to understand the choice they are making. It teaches people the bigger picture and the impact sex has in various aspects such as biologically, psychologically, and relationally. It enforces God’s ideal place for sex. The main idea is to teach people, and ultimately, leave the choice in their hands. “It is a situation that calls for the best we can offer as people of God by way of biblical teaching, counsel, and accountability groups as a preventative measure and as a restorative form of action” (Kaiser, p82). It is an influential approach as it informs what sex is, why is it best expressed in marriage and empowers the individual to make a far more educated decision.

“By its very nature, sex speaks of total giving, total trust, and total commitment…sharing in one’s soul. Thus, if real trust, commitment, permanency or unconditionality is not present within the wider relationship, sex is partly a lie. It pretends to give a gift that it does not really give and it asks for a gift that it cannot respectfully reciprocate” (Rolheiser, p199-200).

It seeks to convict people it is best to wait because there are higher rewards in permanence, over temporary highs. “Personal and marital happiness are not the reasons for keeping sex and marriage together. But keeping the two together will bring greater personal and marital rewards, for then our lives will fit with the way God intended us to be” (Hollinger, p143). It prevents unhealthy comparison, potential guilt and shame from previous encounters or relationships

Even though statistics may state that many people are having premarital sex, there are many teenagers out there that are not sexually active yet[4], compared to the number of 20 year olds[5]. This provides people an opportunity to teach, equip and empower teenagers to make a wise choice for themselves and others when it comes to sexual activity. “Not only are a majority of teenagers abstaining from sex; teens also want more help in staying sexually pure in a sex-saturated society” (Anderson, p92). The challenge this approach presents is many people are getting married later in today’s generation, which creates more tension and therefore, create more opportunities of premarital sex because they cannot express their sexual desires in the safeguards of marriage yet.

“Premarital Sex is moral within the right context” (Christian Perspective 3)

As people are saturated by a sex-crazed society, some churches and Christian have move towards the idea that premarital sex is good within the right circumstances. Margaret Farley, a Christian ethicist, displays this paradigm shift the best. Farley states that just sex is okay, as long as they follow a criterion of seven norms of just sex: 1. Do no unjust harm, free Consent, Mutuality, Equality, Commitment,  Fruitfulness, and Social Justice (Farley, pp216-232)[6]. Hollinger points out an issue, “Clearly, most casual sex among youth does not meet the principles outlined” (Hollinger, p36). Farley and others who open the door to premarital sex have good intentions to increase the standard for premarital sex[7]. “In place of the simple, but ineffective and widely disregarded standard of premarital virginity, we would prefer to hear our Church speak in favor of the more significant standard of responsibly appropriate behavior” (Kosnik, 1970). It focuses on increasing intimacy between two people, “From a justice perspective, it is entirely fitting not to grant special status or moral privilege to heterosexual marriage, but rather to celebrate all sexual relations of moral substance whenever they deepen human intimacy and love” (Ellison, p65). This approach creates complexities. We can encourage people to do it in the best context and situation, but there are always repercussions, despite the ideal there is a healthy way to have premarital sex. One of the biggest concerns is the high rate of couples having premarital sex and ending up not marrying.

“Many young persons (especially young women) who engage in sex prior to marriage truly believe that they will eventually marry the partner whom they are intimate…many men and women who engage in sex do not marry each other, even though they may be “deeply in love” at the time of intercourse” (Grenz, p208).

Another complexity is that men and women have different responses biologically when it comes to sexual activity. “The girl plays at sex, for which she is not ready, because fundamentally what she wants is love; and the boy plays at love, for which he is not ready, because what he wants is sex” (Calderone[8], quoted by Hettlinger, p119). Many statistics point out a very sad outcome of premarital sex. “Premarital sexual experiences raise the stakes exceedingly high for later unfaithfulness in marriage and increase the risk for divorce” (Kaiser, p81). Are Christians willing to risk more damage in their future marriages for the sake of awakening sexual desire earlier? This is a noble approach by Christians, however, it needs to be known that more risks are attached to premarital sex than assumed.


“Premarital Sex is great, as long as it is safe and consensual” (Secular Perspective)

Many secular people believe that there is no issue with premarital sex. The voice of The Guardian opinion writer, Jill Filipovic echoes the voices of many in society today. Sexual freedom is the norm and encouraged for it is healthy, good for you as long as it is expressed in an appropriate way, “when our collective cultural consciousness says that sex is shameful and dirty, we don’t have the incentive – or the tools– to plan for sex, to see it as a positive responsibility and to make healthy sexual choices” (Filipovic, 2012). Reasons to justify premarital sex include: to gain experience before marriage, enjoy sex before settling, check sexual compatibility, health benefits, and that it allows you to build love and intimacy with others. The world encourages people to have sex and seeks to empower people to be ethical in the way they express their sexual freedom[9]

Theoretically, this approach sounds great. It promotes ethical practices in sexual activity, encourages people to make good decisions for themselves and other parties involved. Realistically, not all sexual expressions are healthy beneath the surface. Not all who claim moral neutrality do not in fact have neutral motivations “The case for sexual freedom as it is commonly understood – where every male and every female is free to behave sexually as he or she sees fit, as long as no one is hurt – seems to be a dubious goal” (Packard, p434). For example, a female may feel pressured after being coerced by her boyfriend; afterwards, she may feel used and the boyfriend may never know. With all the promotion of great, healthy reasons why sexual freedom and premarital sex is great for you, there needs to be the teaching of what premarital sex can cost you. “Surveys of young adults show that those who engaged in sexual activity regret their earlier promiscuity and wish that they had been virgins on their wedding night” (Anderson, p95). Are we willing to encourage people sexual freedom at the expense of their future marriages and family life or even at the risk of pain, hurt, discomfort among other things due to sexual circumstances?

Personal Response

Exploring this ethical issue has challenged me due to discovering the data that more people are committing premarital sex than realized, especially the number of Christians. Furthermore, it has surprised me the fact that a growing number of Christians are believing that it is morally okay. It developed my perspective with the fact I need to understand the implications and repercussions that premarital sex holds. I will be approaching this ethical issue the second Christian perspective discussed; that Premarital sex is not healthy outside marriage, for it is best expressed within the safeguards of marriage. The reason is because there are too many negative ramifications at sake when it comes to premarital sex and its temporary pleasure; such as higher chances for divorce, extramarital sex, dissatisfaction in future marriage, STDs, unexpected pregnancy to name a few. I will seek to teach and equip people with the understanding of God’s beautiful design for sex. So I can empower people to make better educated decisions and understand the consequence of whichever choice they make. Ultimately, the choice is up to the individual whether to engage in premarital sex. In saying so, if someone has committed sexual sin and is seeking healing/restoration, I will journey with them in their quest in seeking reconciliation with God and healing for themselves.


There are incredible diverse opinions about whether premarital sex is immoral or not. The issue stems from history, as sex premarital was condemned and virginity was emphasized as the highest form of purity, leading to perception that sex is dirty. Due to this perception, disillusionment was created because sex is a rather strong desire and calling it dirty caused confusion. As premarital sex was taught as wrong, opportunities were missed to communicate the true place of sex. Lack of education and the push on the absolute that premarital sex is immoral caused people to commit sexual activity privately. Statistics arose that many, including Christians were having premarital sex. There was a realization that Christians needed to communicate the value and importance of sex within marriage to help empower people to make better decisions regarding premarital sex. As the world continues to preach sex is good, some Christians are now accommodating this by opening the door for premarital sex, as long as it is under the healthiest circumstances. It needs to be understood that premarital sex holds many risks that far outweigh the benefits shared. Christians need to continue to teach on God’s ideal place for sex, the joy of sex and teach why. So Christians can be equipped with a stronger foundation and understanding to help abstain until marriage, honouring God and others.



Anderson, K. (2005). Christian Ethics in Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic.

Farley, M. A. (2012). Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (Reprinted). London: Continuum.

Filipovic Jill. (2012, September 24). The Moral Case for Sex before Marriage. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/24/moral-case-for-sex-before-marriage

Finer, L. B. (2007). Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954–2003. Public Health Reports, 122(1), 73–78.

Grenz, S. J. (1997). Sexual Ethics: an Evangelical Perspective. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Hettlinger, R. (1966). Living with Sex. New York, NY: Seabury Press.

Hollinger, D. P. (2009). The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics and the Moral Life. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic.

Kaiser, J. W. C. (2009). What Does the Lord Require?: A Guide for Preaching and Teaching Biblical Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Kosnik, A. (1970). Study Document on Sexuality and the Human Community. Presbytarian Church USA. Retrieved from http://www.pcahistory.org/findingaids/concerned/Special-Nov1971.pdf

Packard, V. (1968). The sexual wilderness; the upheaval in male-female relationships: the breakup of traditional morality: new trends in sexual behavior among the young. London, UK: Longmans.

Rolheiser, R. (2014). The holy longing: the search for a Christian spirituality (1st pbk. ed). New York: Image.



[1] Especially in the biblical times as husband had to pay a price to the father to marry the father’s daughter. Virginity was expected and father’s gained a higher payment from the husband for this reason. Which is why when a man raped a woman, he was taking someone’s property and devaluing it. Therefore, he had to cover the cost and marry the woman. This brings a huge issue of tying women’s worth to their virginity and endorses shame on when one isn’t a virgin anymore.

[2] “The mood of the times was captured by the writings of Jerome, whose teaching can be summarized by this quip: Marriage populates the earth, virginity populates heaven” (Grenz, p4)

[3] Data from the 2002 survey indicate that by age 20, 77% of respondents had had sex, 75% had had premarital sex, and 12% had married; by age 44, 95% of respondents…had [sic] had premarital sex (Finer, 2007).

[4] “A Lou Harris poll commissioned by Planned Parenthood discovered that 46 percent of sixteen-year-olds and 57 percent of seventeen-year olds have had sexual intercourse” (Anderson, p84)

[5] 46 percent of sixteen year olds had sexual intercourse, increasing to 57 percent for seventeen year olds and further increasing to 77 percent for 20 year olds (75% premarital sex)

[6] Expanded by Hollinger – “1. Do No Unjust Harm – if sexual acts cause physical, psychological, spiritual, or relational harm, they are unjust. 2. Free Consent: Any harmful use of power, such as rape or coercion, can never be justified, 3. Mutuality: just sexual acts enhance a process of giving and receiving both partners and can encompass many forms of relationships 4. Equality: inequalities of social status, age or maturity, professional identity, and interpretations of gender roles can make sexual relations inappropriate 5. Commitment: some form of commitment such as a covenant or contract must be present for just sex for commitment allows for a shared life with enduring love. 6. Fruitfulness: although traditional procreative norms no longer hold absolute sway in ethical reflection, just sex must include fruitfulness in the sense of nourishing relationships that turn outward to others 7. Social Justice: this points beyond the relational dimension of sexual partners to justice for all members of society as sexual beings” (Hollinger, p37)

[7]So people who are already going to commit premarital sex can do so in a better context.

[8]Calderone, Mary. (1965) How Young Men Influence the Girls Who Love Them

[9] “Instead of fooling ourselves into thinking that waiting until marriage makes sex “good”, we should focus on how ethical, responsible sexual practices – taking precautions to protect the physical and mental health of yourself and your partner; having sex that is fully consensual and focused on mutual pleasure – are part of being an ethical, responsible human being” (Filipovic, 2012)