Two reasons to avoid premarital sex: trust issues and contact with exes

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

This is from Family Studies blog.  (H/T Brad Wilcox)


My own research with working-class young adults leads me to believe that they have basically made peace with sexual permissiveness—at least outside of marriage—even as they retain some ambivalence about it. They tend to move in quickly with new romantic partners, even as they worry that people rush too quickly into relationships. From survey data, we know that people without a college education have more lifetime sexual partners than those with a college education, and that most of them see no problem with premarital sex.

But there is one problem: easy access to sex with multiple partners can make for complicated relationships. As sexual partners accumulate, so does the potential for distrust. As one man whose ex-girlfriend had cheated on him explained, “It’s gonna take a lot more time for me to ever trust somebody again like that. I let her in quick, and now it’s never gonna happen again.” One divorced man said simply, “Everyone has to watch their ass all the time.” There is the feeling that no one is safe—even in marriage. As another young man claimed, “Nowadays, even though you got a ring on your finger, people tend to look past that.”

So people describe keeping vigilant watch over their partners’ cell phones, policing for messages from exes. They live an all but married lifestyle, yet they say that they are hesitant to make the commitment of marriage. Why? Part of the reason is that they don’t trust their partner, or themselves, to remain in the marriage. In one survey, 42.5 percent of low-income, unmarried respondents cited “worry that the marriage would end in divorce” as a reason they might not be pursuing marriage, and 23.5 percent cited “questions about whether your partner is trustworthy.” As one young man that I interviewed said after learning that his fiancée was cheating on him, “I don’t trust nobody.”

That distrust is at least partly the legacy of the libertarian sexual ethic, which assumes that sexual activity outside of marriage is typically okay so long as people are mutually consenting to the acts. And that distrust is why I have a hard time believing—as Noah Smith does—that sexual permissiveness will somehow evolve into more stable marriages for the working class. (Indeed, having more sexual partners prior to marriage is linked to greater odds of divorce, as Nicholas Wolfinger and W. Bradford Wilcox recently documented.) There is no invisible hand that will transform James and Jessica’s distrust and cynicism, which stems in part from their multiple past sexual relationships, into trust and an enduring marriage. What the working class needs—what we all need—to achieve our shared aspirations for lifelong love and a stable family is social permission to date without immediately having sex.

That’s important because today young people often assume that withholding sex is a sign of distrust. As James said, if you begin a relationship and don’t have sex, “they automatically assume that you’re cheating.”  But sliding into sex often translates into sliding into a relationship—and children—without first building trust and discerning for character and compatibility. And that slide often contributes to the erosion of trust in the opposite sex and in lifelong love. We must confront that reality if we’re serious about empowering working young adults to achieve trusting relationships.

“Withholding sex” makes it sound bad. You don’t have sex or even do sexual things before marriage because you are trying to prove to your partner that you have self-control enough that when you are married, he/she need not be concerned that you are OK with sex outside of a lifelong commitment. You restrain yourself in order to prove to the other person that you have what it takes in order to be trusted, and the other person does the same to you. It’s not that you are trying to reduce the amount of “fun” you are having, it’s that you are auditioning for a role, and this is what the other person needs to see from you during the courtship – chastity. Chastity demonstrates to them that the commitment you are offering is not based on things that fade, like beauty or youth.

11 thoughts on “Two reasons to avoid premarital sex: trust issues and contact with exes”

  1. This is a great post on premarital sex. Thank you for posting it.
    I really like this quote:
    “sliding into sex often translates into sliding into a relationship—and children—without first building trust and discerning for character and compatibility.”
    I wrote a short essay called “Two Reasons Why Premarital Sex Increases the Risk of Divorce.” If you would like to read it, I am open to any feedback:


    1. I was just listening to a Stefan Molyneux conversation with a guy who moved in with a single mother 6 weeks after meeting her. What sort of evaluation can happen in 6 weeks? Especially since they were having sex before that? The child is 3 and is now bonding with a man who has NO commitment to be there and has not been properly vetted.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. many dont see chastity as a commitment. Many of them see chastity as a waste and unesscary, you believe how many times i heard the phrases ‘ how do you know if you are gonna be sexually compatible’ -do you know how frustrating that is as a female? it annoys me and feels like im never gonna find a husband goes many bounce once you say you’re waiting till marriage; its discouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Men lie. They tell women anything for sex and dump them 5 minutes after getting sex. The only way to prove them out is time and demonstrated ability at husband and father skills.


      1. Very true and many men if it was socially permissible would have sex with almost anything female. To many people it is essentially mastication with any available body. No real connection or anything is needed


  3. On all issues people assume today that they can magically learn to act right when it is necessary.
    Commit to one person lay off the drugs and alcohol, fix all your mental inadequacy. It is a tall order for the emotion of love, even if it had it’s mystical power, to fulfil.
    The bible is seen as bad, I assume, because it teaches you a path to better life for all. But at moments you sacrifice for a greater gain in the end. It goes against our immediate gratification society

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve talked to many young people and asked them what they hoped to achieve by breaking the rules, and the most common response is that they thought that they were not closing off outcomes tomorrow by breaking the rules today. Every promiscuous person thinks that they can cheat the system and get a lifelong marriage and a faithful partner tomorrow, but still get drunk and hook up with hot guys an gals right now.


      1. Sadly few think of consequences to anything. The thought level that goes into buying a new shirt or phone is about the same as they use to evaluate partners or decisions with lasting consequence


        1. Yep. I am horrified at how people make decisions about purchases based on appearance and feelings. I (and my male friends) never do that. For us, it’s all about the numbers and the value.


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