Just Do It? Christian and Jewish beliefs on Premarital Sex

Something not very often spoken about, as it seems a bit taboo, is premarital sex. Today it is quite the norm, but is usually kept to oneself and rarely openly talked about. But when did something that is so natural and is human nature become off-limits to talk about? This got me thinking: what does each religion think about this supposedly-risqué topic? And that, my friends, is what I’ll be talking about today.

One of my best friends, who is Christian, wears a purity ring, symbolizing a pledge she made to herself to stay abstinent until marriage. The outside has an inscription that reads, “love waits.” I find this to be quite a beautiful concept, and was curious to find out if all Christians thought this way.

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An example of a Christian purity ring. My friend has this exact one in gold.

Stemming all the way back to the Hebrew Bible, sex is considered the greatest part of God’s creation of man. Adam and Eve’s first “knowing” of one another is described as “unashamed nakedness” (Genesis 2:25). How did something so pure turn offensive? Well, that would be once Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit, and became aware of their sin and nakedness. “Lusts of the flesh” are what one would call sexual desires that God created for us, but when they are dominated by sin (Romans 13:14). God condemns all sex outside of marriage, and makes this point clear in two separate instances: Leviticus 20:10 and I Corinthians 6:9. Sex should only be a part of a couple’s relationship once they have been formally joined together, never before.

God wants to show that virginity is the most precious gift given to us. If a woman loses hers before marriage, rather than proclaiming it as lost, God would see it as giving it away cheaply. It can only be given away once, and if that is improperly lost, you can never get it back. The same goes for boys; their loss of innocence is just as real for boys than it is for girls.

In order to protect this sacred gift that God has given us, boys and girls wear purity rings, like my friend, to ensure that their sexual innocence will not be given away to anyone until the day they say “I do.”

Judaism has a somewhat similar take, in the sense that sex is a gift from God to us. Jewish Law makes it a point to mention that sex should not be considered shameful, sinful or obscene, but rather that it is a necessary evil intended solely for procreation. Every person is born with a “Yetzer Tov,” meaning “good inclination,” and a “Yetzer Ra,” meaning “bad inclination”; while sexual desires stem from the Yetzer Ra, so do other impulses and desires, such as hunger or thirst, which can hardly be considered evil. As long as the sex is done in the right manner, time, place, etc. and between a man and a wife out of love, sex is considered a “mitzvah,” which literally means “commandment.” While this take is similar to the Christian point of view, it does not condemn premarital sex as much as Christianity. It isn’t recommended, but it is not explicitly prohibited.

A very loose interpretation of the “Yetzer Ra,” depicted as the devil, and the “Yetzer Tov,” depicted as the angel.

As I read on to learn more about the Jewish views on sex, I found a few interesting things I was not aware of before doing research (this makes sense, as even though I grew up in a Jewish household, this wasn’t very dinner-table-appropriate conversation for my family and I to discuss). Some things that I found were:

  • Sex should not only be for the purpose of pleasure; it should have significant meaning to both the man and the wife. By being married before having sex, the couple has made a bond of commitment and responsibility to one another.
  • It should only be experienced during happy times: it can never be forced, occur during inebriation or fighting, and never as a weapon against the spouse.
  • While the primary goal for intercourse is to procreate, that is not the only reason. In fact, at certain points it is encouraged for a man and wife to have sex when conception isn’t possible (i.e. during pregnancy, menopause or birth control).
  • This was definitely the most fascinating one I found: sex is the WOMAN’S right, not the man’s. It is a man’s responsibility to make sure that the sex is pleasurable for his wife. This doesn’t mean she can withhold sex from him, as it is one of a wife’s duties, but it does mean that the man should be aware of his wife’s desires and perform accordingly.

While this is definitely my most awkward blog post that I’ve written, it was the most interesting to research. I feel that most people are too afraid to write on a topic that has been so publicly judged. As far as in the context of religion, God has created his beings to procreate (at appropriate times). It is basic human extinct, and most people have just shunned the topic. While it’s not something I would openly discuss with strangers, now that I’m more informed on the religious views, I feel I will be less ashamed to speak about sex in public.

Sources:

Sex and Dating in the Christian Life

Kosher Sex

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