A reader writes:
I just wanted to push back a bit at what seems to be the prevailing attitude in your post and the reader emails you've published. While I know it's not the path for everyone, I waited to have sex until I was married and don't regret it a bit. Yes, I'm an evangelical Christian; no, I'm not a Christianist (according to the definitions you've given - for example, I think creationism is a ridiculous thing to teach in schools, and think abstinence-only sex "education" shouldn't be dignified with the term). I don't think waiting, or marrying your first sexual parter, is necessarily naive or foolish.
I thought (and prayed) long and hard about marrying my husband, and I did so knowing that we might not be perfectly matched sexually - although I knew I thought he was hot, and he clearly was of the same opinion about me. And, in fact, due to some medical trouble, our sex life has been a bit rocky at times. But we respect each other, and are committed to each other, and we work through it. And it's worth it! Even if I knew I was more sexually compatible with someone else (whatever that means), I love my husband and would never wish for a different partner.
I know it's not the prevailing paradigm, but those who travel this path shouldn't be dismissed as naive, or doomed to a subpar marriage, or what-have-you. Happy and satisfied women (and men) do exist who were virgins at marriage!
Amen and congrats. I certainly do not mean to dismiss this decision as "naive" - just not the best idea for everyone. Another writes:
OK, you think it's "rare in practice." But you're a gay man. I know a few gay male couples that seem to me completely monogamous - couples who have been married in all but the legal sense for decades. But you must admit that the gay male culture over your lifetime has not been much into monogamy. (Lesbians are a different story.)
I don't think faithful straight marriages are at all "rare in practice." Are they the majority in this country? I don't know. But they're certainly in the tens of millions. If that were a species, you would not call it "endangered."
There's a spectrum obviously. And the gay and lesbian contrasts are revealing. They are revealing because they show the gendered basis of much of this. Men are less likely to be monogamous in relationships (and marriage) than women, and the younger the man and the higher his testosterone, the less monogamous he is likely to be. I state this merely as an observation, but it buttresses Aristotle's view that men should marry younger women to better synchronize their mutual needs. Another:
"Rare in practice." According to whom? The studies I've seen in the US show a minority have engaged in extramarital affairs. And I don't see any sort of sophisticated "complexity" in countenancing adultery. No less than Christ himself (and Paul) condemned it. Are they too "simple" to understand the "complexities" of unfaithfulness? A lifelong commitment to a spouse is upheld by Christ and Paul because it is like unto our commitment to God. An open relationship necessarily undermines the trust necessary to uphold the commitment. And really, that's what Ross is talking about - that there is greater fulfillment in sexual fidelity.
Now, no one disputes that people fall short of the ideal, and they should be treated with mercy when they do (let he who has not sinned throw the first stone, etc), but to argue there are some sort of nuance here that should temper the upholding marital fidelity as a core social goal is just pure sophistry.
The trouble is we do not and almost certainly could never get reliable statistics on this. And of course there are countless cases of happy marriages along the lines Ross believes in. I'm glad a reader bore witness to that. I might add that Ross' original column relies on inherently subjective measurements like self-reported "happiness" that are just as hard to pin down exactly. And that measuring monogamy can be extremely difficult.
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