You may not be dating long before you meet up with the question: Why not go all the; way? Premarital chastity used to be taken for granted. Today some people question it as a standard of behavior. Others openly brag of their own premarital experience and urge the uninitiated to do likewise. Now more than ever it is necessary for a young person to decide upon personal standards of sexual conduct.
GOING ALL THE WAY
Our society allows a great deal of freedom to young people. It says, in effect, to dating pairs, “Go on out and have yourselves a good time. Enjoy each other in a variety of situations. You have privacy, an automobile, and no chap-eronage. Get acquainted with each other. Become fond of one another, and make plans for the future, if you wish. But one thing is to be left for marriage—going all the way.”
Research studies indicate that the majority of young persons feel strongly that premarital chastity is important. Investigations on large coeducational campuses both before and after World War II indicated that two-thirds of both men and women students believed in no sexual relations for either sex before marriage.
The famous Kinsey reports are often misquoted to suggest that immorality is rampant among the younger generation. The fact is that more than half of the college men and women reported that they had no sexual relations before marriage. And, of the women who did, more than half had their experience only with the men they married. Concern for morality was given by nine out of ten of the women as the reason why they restrained from going all the way.
Many people recognize that the standards of society require premarital chastity. As Americans we pride ourselves on sportsmanship and playing according to the rules. Most of us agree that it’s not funny to cheat. We don’t apologize for straight dealing in sports or in business—why should we in our personal relations?
Who Goes All the Way?
The tendency is to divide people into two groups: those who have not, and those who have had premarital experience. Actually there are great differences among those who have had sexual relations before marriage. There is the boy or girl who once stepped over the line and ever since has refrained. There is the girl who has known many men intimately, and the one who gives herself fully only to the man she is about to marry. There are others who indulge promiscuously whenever and with whomever they can. There are those who are demanding, exploitive, and sexually aggressive, while others are tender, considerate, and mutual in their love-making. There are those whose mating is chiefly biological, and others who express in sexual union deep spiritual and emotional communication.
Clinical and statistical studies to date indicate at least five kinds of people who go all the way before marriage, as distinguished from those who do not:
First is the unconventional person with few or no religious roots. More devout young people tend to be faithful to the mores—and to one person, in marriage.
Second is the young person from the lower socioeconomic group. (Not all, of course—but those who were brought up without high moral standards.) In general, the middle-class boy or girl values chastity more highly, and more often refrains from going all the way before marriage. That is probably because the young person who has high aspirations for his future has more at stake and more worth waiting for than does the less privileged youngster.
Third is the person who has a need for love—at all costs. These are the emotionally hungry persons who will do anything to get attention and reassurance. They are usually not very happy people—desperately in need of something they cannot find, even by going all the way. Such people need professional help.
Fourth is the rebellious youngster who indulges sexually just to prove to someone that he or she can. This sort of individual breaks rules as a matter of policy; he gets pleasure from nonconformity rather than from the act itself. And he (or she) often runs headlong into trouble in impulsive efforts to “express” himself sexually or otherwise.
Lastly is the couple who are deeply in love but cannot marry for some reason. Such a couple may say, “We feel married; why shouldn’t we behave as though we were?” These people may be completely faithful to each other and committed to a policy of fidelity both before and after marriage.
Usual Arguments for Premarital Sex
Anyone who goes beyond what is generally considered right must give reasons for his or her behavior. So it’s not surprising to find several arguments given for premarital sex. Among these are:
“Sex is natural, so why not enjoy it?”
“If you love each other, it’s all right.”
“How else can you find out if you’re suited to each other?”
“The sexually experienced are better prepared for marriage.”
Now let’s see what evidence there is to support these arguments. True, sex is as natural as eating. But that doesn’t mean that a person in civilized society eats anywhere or in any way of anything he chooses. In the same way that persons learn how, where, and what to eat, they learn what is and what is not permissible sexual behavior in their society. A man doesn’t grab food from another’s plate or snatch a morsel from the table and run with it to a corner to gnaw upon, as a dog does. So, too, a man and woman are expected to observe the sexual restraints of their society.
“If you love each other, it’s all right,” is a dubious argument. It is true that sexual relationships based upon mutual affection are on a higher level than loveless unions. But a boy or girl, a man or a woman, loves many persons in many ways during a lifetime, and if love were the only basis for sexual relations, there would be little faithfulness either before or after marriage.
“How else can you discover your compatibility?” is also a spurious argument. A fellow and girl learn far more about each other and their suitability for a life together in marriage by becoming acquainted as two whole personalities than they ever can by sexual familiarity alone. Sexual relations after marriage can be established within the security of privacy, permanence, mutual devotion, and social approval—a combination lacking in the premarital union.
Re-analysis of the Kinsey studies fails to substantiate the claim that the premaritally experienced make better marriage adjustments over the years. Far more research than is now available is needed to find reliable bases for this or other “arguments” for premarital sex relations.
The real reasons for premarital sex relations lie within the persons themselves—their conceptions of themselves, of their sexual partners, and of the society of which they are a part. As in every other area of life there are those who conform and those who go beyond accepted standards to make their own rules. Those who conform don’t need to explain why. Those who break with custom must defend their position. This is one reason why the arguments for premarital sexual relations are heard so often and so loudly.
In Serious Trouble
A major concern for any girl contemplating premarital relations is that she might “get into trouble.” In spite of recent advances in population control, there is no completely sure protection against pregnancy. Even among married couples using accepted methods of birth control, many unplanned pregnancies occur. The problem is greater and has much more serious consequences for unmarried persons.
The unmarried mother faces a terrifying set of problems. Where can she go? What will she do with her baby? How will she protect her educational and vocational plans? How can she safeguard her reputation? Will the father of her child marry her? She fears the wrath of her parents, and oftentimes feels guilty that she has brought disgrace upon her family.
Even if the girl doesn’t become pregnant, her feelings of guilt and shame about premarital sex and her fear of detection may be intense. In her effort to right things after sexual relations have been established, she may beg her sweetheart to marry her, only to find that her urgency for marriage displeases him. Premarital affairs are known to break up because the girl’s insistence upon marriage is in opposition to the fellow’s reluctance to be pushed into it.
Girls usually feel that their chances for a future marriage are handicapped by having had premarital experience. They know how prevalent is the male “double standard.” He is willing to “play around” with any girl who will allow it, but he seeks out a girl he feels he can trust to be the mother of his children—a girl who has maintained her standards of chastity before marriage.
Since time immemorial the woman has been called on to be the one who maintains sexual standards in a relationship. So the burden of the situation rests primarily on her. If she allows premarital intercourse, it is she who is generally considered the fool. If a pregnancy ensues, it is the girl who is “in trouble.” Yet the fellow also has a stake in the situation.
His Future at Stake
One of the most difficult questions to answer is one that crops up in high schools, colleges, and youth groups, when a boy asks, “My girl is pregnant. Do I have to marry her?” He may feel that if he does not, he’s a cad. But if he does, he may be forfeiting all his plans for the future—his education, his vocational dreams, his place in his social set. Even the secure position he holds within his family and circle of friends may be at stake in an unfortunate, premature marriage. He may realize that he does not really love the girl. He may wonder if perhaps she has trapped him into this predicament. He may be haunted by the question, “If she went all the way with me, how can I be sure there have not been others?”
Few fellows want to get stuck with “a tramp.” The danger of venereal infection is real with a girl who tends to be promiscuous. And in spite of medical advances, venereal diseases are still widespread, especially among teen-agers. Even more important is a boy’s distaste for being tied to a woman he cannot respect. Yet if a girl allows him to go all the way, she frequently does lose his respect.
Such sobering questions discussed among young fellows bring many of them to the realization that maintaining standards of premarital chastity is a responsibility for the man as well as for the girl. Indeed, as men get to talking about it, they realize that in some ways they are in a better position to know what is happening in a sexually toned situation than an inexperienced girl is. The fellow usually is aware of sexual stimulation earlier than the female is. Therefore if he realizes that his welfare, as well as the girl’s, is involved, the outcome won’t rest entirely with her—he will assume some responsibility for restraint himself.
If a fellow really loves his girl, he feels protective and tender toward her. He wants to safeguard what is beautiful and sacred in his love. During the Korean War, one young man in service overseas wrote about these feelings in a letter to his sweetheart:
Three of us fellows here are engaged, and two are just dating heavily. The other night we got into a discussion of premarital intercourse that was very enlightening. You see, one of the engaged fellows had had intercourse with an ex-girl friend to whom he was once engaged. We found that he was rather sorry about the experience. He believed that intercourse was the direct cause of his breaking up with the girl. It seemed impossible to back out after it happened and so it was either “get married” or “break off.”
I sincerely think that our policy of no heavy petting and no lengthy French kissing will help us prevent any experience for which we might be sorry, especially in view of our long engagement.
You know, darling, we will have to be very careful when I get back next September, so that we may protect that which we would like to keep pure until we get married.
It’s my love and respect for you that makes me want to have our marriage just right.
Always remaining all yours,——
The boy and girl who want to maintain standards of premarital chastity are faced with the problem of keeping their relationship within bounds. This may be especially difficult if they are very much in love. When a girl loves her man, she wants to do anything that will bring him pleasure. So unless she has her own standards in mind, she may find it difficult to restrain him and herself from the full expression of their love for each other. This is even more of a conflict for the boy who loves his sweetheart so much that he can’t endure not having her completely, yet at the same time knows that he must control his feelings.
Standards from the Start
Long before the one great love appears, both boys and girls usually have other preliminary little love affairs with members of the other sex. If the individual has established a precedent for not overstepping the bounds in these previous relationships, it’s probably easier when the “true love” comes along.
This doesn’t mean that you have to remain aloof and coolly unavailable throughout your teen-years. Quite the contrary. The person who maintains high standards of personal conduct is often a popular, socially active individual with many interests, activities, and friendships. He enjoys the companionship of both sexes in a variety of situations. He learns in action the many pleasures to be found in socializing.
The maturing individual learns to give and to receive affection in a wide repertoire that offers expression to the many sides of love. He learns how to be tender, protective, comradely, romantic, dependent, nurturing, as well as passionate and erotic. Thus, by the time two people are ready to marry, they know how to love and to be loved in the many ways that it takes to make a union happy.
At the same time, the person who wants to maintain standards of premarital chastity must guard against those individuals and situations that make it difficult.
Choose Your Partner’
A person who wants to keep within bounds in premarital sex behavior must be careful in the choice of dating partners. Some girls are exploitive and demanding in their relationships with men. Some young people date with intercourse as an objective for the evening. To be safe, a girl must be pretty sure of the fellow she is dating.
A recent study of male sexual aggression on a university campus reports that more than half of the coeds, were offended by their dates’ behavior at least once during the school year. The offensive behavior on the part of the males included necking, petting, and attempted intercourse, sometimes with violence. The largest percentages of offensive situations occurred on first or occasional dates (48.5 per cent) in contrast to 8.2 per cent among pinned or engaged couples. This indicates that the male “on the prowl” doesn’t force himself upon a girl because he likes her. Quite the contrary, when he loves her he respects her and doesn’t offend her with aggressive sexual behavior.
Girls who have found a boy hard to handle on a date frequently warn other girls to steer clear of him. This seems to be girls’ chief protection from unscrupulous males. The girl who accepts a date with a man whose reputation she knows to be “fast” may be deliberately letting herself in for trouble.
Likewise, the boy who dates a girl labeled “easy” by other fellows may find himself sexually stimulated and tempted to the point where it’s hard to control the situation.
It may seem smart or exciting to date a person with a reputation for being sexually demanding or available. But what starts as exhilarating may end up being depressing and degrading, as many young people have learned to their sorrow.
Why Take Risks?
The young person who wants to maintain standards of premarital chastity avoids dating the chance acquaintance, the pickup, the proffered ride in an automobile with a stranger, and all other potentially risky situations. Unscrupulous persons of both sexes are hard to distinguish from responsible, respectable ones at first meeting. Therefore the only real protection you have is in steering clear of situations that may become dangerous.
Staying out of compromising positions includes turning down invitations to obviously unsavory roadhouses, to motels, hotel rooms, or even to the home of your date if no responsible adults are to be present. Young people sometimes think that such cautions are foolish. But experience proves that many a youngster has met degradation, disgrace, and even death in such a rendezvous.
Playing with Fire
In almost any dating situation, whether or not exploitation is the intent, there is the possible danger that necking and petting will get out of hand. When a boy and girl are alone together they must assume responsibility for keeping their love-making under control if they are to avoid going all the way. They must realize that sex is a mighty and insistent urge and that they should not provoke its power.
Just where to stop, and how, must be learned by any boy or girl old enough to date. Some expressions of affection are normal and desirable. But love-making must be carefully limited or, before they know it, they will have gone further than they intended.
Just when to stop differs among couples and individuals. In general, it’s just before the boy begins to be insistent and urgent in his caresses. Up to that point a couple are enjoying their closeness; then suddenly the boy begins to perspire, his heart quickens its beat, his breathing becomes more rapid, and his fondling gets rougher and more intimate. At that time, the responsible girl must push him away, reassuring him that she’s not rejecting him as a person but that she’s uncomfortable in his urgency.
Or the boy, recognizing that what started as an expression of fondness now has become heightened sexual stimulation, can break the spell of the moment by rising to his feet, getting them both a drink of water, and suggesting a less intimate activity.
Each person has a built-in gauge of just how far he should go. If a girl looks back over her date with feelings of guilt, she has gone beyond what she herself considers right. When a boy avoids a girl with whom he has been making love, it means he has overstepped his sense of propriety.
Keeping a dating relationship within comfortable, mutually acceptable bounds is no easy task. Many young people make mistakes while they are learning how far they should go and how to stop. There is no final tragedy in making mistakes. Everybody does—in every area of life. It is particularly important that young people know how to redeem themselves once they have made a mistake, gained a bad reputation, or shocked their own sense of what is right.
The first step in the process of righting things again is to face your mistake honestly and admit you were wrong. If you can take responsibility for what you did without blaming someone else, the battle is half won.
The second step is to try to make amends to the person whom you may have hurt or wronged. The boy who steps out of bounds on a date should apologize for his behavior as soon as possible. The girl in the case should admit that some of the responsibility was hers. And both should avoid further situations in which there may be a recurrence of the unfortunate behavior.
If the incident has been noised about, there may be the problem of erasing a bad reputation. This involves avoiding any repetition of the regrettable behavior and leaning over backward, if necessary, to regain the trust of your associates. It means throwing yourself into socially acceptable work and producing well enough so that others can respect you as a person again. This takes time but it can be done.
Andy is a case in point. When he was a sophomore in high school, his girl became pregnant, dropped out of school, and left the community. He was allowed to stay in school but he was forbidden all extracurricular privileges. He had to leave the ball team. He was not allowed to attend school dances. He was avoided by many of the fellows and most of the girls. He talked his unpleasant position over with his principal and his religious adviser, and they suggested that if he applied himself wholeheartedly to his work, his situation might improve in time. During his junior year, by dint of hard work and extra hours in the library, he made the best grades he’d ever had. He stayed out of mischief, got over his rebellious attitude toward his teachers, and began treating them with respect. He slowly regained the acceptance of both the adults and young people in his school. He never was elected the most popular boy in his class, but when he graduated he felt that he belonged. Most of the people who knew him looked upon the early unfortunate incident as something that was over and done with. It was a long hard pull, but Andy made it. He feels it was worth the effort now to be able to walk down Main Street and feel he belongs and is accepted.
The physical aspect of the attraction between boys and girls and men and women is very real, very powerful, and very important. It is made up of the creative energy that produces new human life. As such, it is not to be played with lightly or used for the thrill of a moment. Rather it is to be accepted with respect, appreciation, and a willingness to keep it in correct focus in one’s own life.
The boy and girl who learn to enjoy each other in a variety of activities learn to share much more than just the fact of their maleness and femaleness. They build a friendship and share intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, as well as sexually. If they let the erotic part of their relationship crowd out the other elements in their friendship they find themselves cut off from other activities and other friends, and soon are so involved with each other that firm steps have to be taken— often to end the relationship.
Even in marriage there is much more to the husband-wife relationship than just being sexual partners. Marriage is more than a bed for the night; it is a home for the years. A husband and wife must learn to share their interests, their hopes, and their values if they are to make their marriage truly happy and lasting. Similarly, if a dating pair keep their relationship in focus, without letting any one aspect crowd out the others, they build a many-faceted friendship that is deeply satisfying.
The belittling of premarital chastity and marital fidelity by certain groups of people need not sway the self-respecting young person from his standards. Within faithfulness a person can be true to his love and to himself, enjoying the sweet peace of emotional security that comes from doing what is right for him.