I am not one to be placated to or one that easily accepts simple answers for challenging problems. I suspect that is what brought me to consider this topic a bit….well and that abstinence creates misery and I am in a bit of misery right now. In order to endure self-inflicted misery, in which sexual abstinence most assuredly is, there must be some future gain that can justify our current deprivation. I have given this topic a bit of thought and I think I have reached a justification that is a bit more than what we have heretofore heard. I will try to express this here. This is a thought, and while the premise can be fairly simple it is the journey to that premise that is of value to me. There is always a bit of a challenge for me in translating thought into words, so please excuse any confusion that I may cause, however rest assured I will do my best.
I find it somewhat miraculous that still today, despite societal pressures, the predominant message from most religious corners is abstinence from sex between a man and a woman outside of the bonds of matrimony. Unfortunately we have also heard the same justifications for abstinence as our ancestors have for as long as scriptures were recorded; God commands us to be chaste, we don’t want to get diseases (though this reason may be a bit more modern), and of course we certainly want to avoid having children before we are in a position to be responsible for them. Unlike those of much earlier generations we have the ability to curtail many of these ills and still enjoy an occasional frolic in the hay. Science has done wonders with contraception and the almighty condom is a barrier to the most nasty of bugs, provided we use them. Since I am a religious man the only case for abstinence that I struggle with is that God commands us to be chaste. Unfortunately many religions don’t enforce a chastity doctrine and therefore they deprive their members of the blessings that come with abstinence.
I know that God operates on a set of rules. There has not been one rule that God has commanded us that has not been for our benefit. What then is the benefit? For this post I do not plan to use the traditional justifications for abstinence, but instead focus on our human nature. Writing this is also for my benefit since I am no expert in abstinence…though I am making a good go of it.
Let me begin by stressing that God didn’t make a commandment not to fornicate. Yes, there are a great many religious leaders who try to claim that it is rolled into one of the 10 commandment, specifically the one about adultery, but that is a bit of a stretch. Yes, God wants us to be chaste and that is clearly written in the bible, but that requirement didn’t make it into the 10 commandments. Consider this fact for a moment and I ask you to do so only so that you may not judge others or yourselves too harshly. I suspect that the reason God left that out of those stone tables was because at many points in history those who were in violation of that text have been exposed to heinous punishments by the zealots who found themselves in power. For these zealots it is much easier to rule on the adherence to the law instead of exercising mercy. If God wanted the human race to prevail there would have to be some leniency on the topic.
Why then this law? The reasons thus far have focused on all on the physical self; diseases and pregnancy, but have thus far failed to examine the psychological and spiritual justifications for abstinence. I believe that it is here where our answer lies and it is here where we will derive the most benefit, especially from those who are predisposed to seeking intimacy.
In our examination let us start with the man. I am a man and so I tend to have a little bit more experience in this area than with the female side. I will begin by stating that most men want sex, it is part of us. We are programmed that way to one degree or another. We wanted sex from puberty until whenever we have erectile dysfunctional issues…and even then Viagra has allowed us to keep the love in our relationship so to speak. If you do not believe me, consider that billions of dollars in our society are focused on men having sex and feeding that innate carnal desire. Movies are geard toward this, magazines at the checkout counter, drugs, and all the various forms of pornography. Keep in mind that there is a spectrum here; some men have a high sex drive, while others are a bit more moderate to perhaps not even wanting it at all. By and large, however, the man’s desire for sex drives much of what we think of normal in our society. In our younger years it motivates us to look better, to be smarter, to achieve more so that we can eventually impress the opposite sex. The only reason to get the hot car is to get the hot babe! Some men have this motivation built in, and that is fine, but others need a motivator…and that motivator is the beautiful girl sitting in front of you in 5th period Social Studies. We treat our spouses to a nice evening so that we can have sex. In the extremes, especially in deprivation through normal social avenues, it causes us to engage in less savory endeavors such as prostitution or pornography. Kingdoms have fallen because of a man’s desire to have sex with a particular women.
I will take the societal dependency on the man’s libido a step further by stating that if it were not for the hope of readily available sex after matrimony many of us men would curtail the ritual altogether. Marriage is a contract that generally benefits the woman. What is the payoff of agreeing to take care of another person for the rest of your life? To take on the responsibility of children? Of course any woman reading this will immediately exclaim that men get married because they want to be with the person you love. Yes, many men (including myself) are also interested in sharing my life with someone who has a similar mental aptitude, having someone to do things with, and someone who can make me a better person…a companion. But consider that all of those functions work well outside of matrimony and without the responsibility that are incurred with marriage. I would dare say that for most men sharing the mind and spirit is not enough of a motivator for matrimony. It is only the intimacy which must be curtailed outside of marriage, and thus it is the promise of intimacy which tips the cards in favor of the man wanting to spend his life with a woman, to take on the burdens of matrimony. Thus the very institution of marriage is dependent upon the man or woman receiving sex guilt free after matrimony so that they can share their lives together.
Today I see many people who have found a certain happiness in being in a relationship for long periods of time outside of marriage. They exist in a “friends with benefits” arrangement or live together for many years as a couple without any desire for matrimony. Marriage to them is an outdated construct that bears significant risk to either party in the event of a divorce. While religious leaders would decry such action, there is a certain benefit to this arrangement; without any exit barriers to the relationship both parties must continuously put effort into the relationship in order to keep it alive. If one becomes lazy in the relationship then it is quite easy for them to be replaced. Oh if only people who were married felt the same way in their relationship, but all too often people tend to get lazy and rely on the contract to keep their marriage together instead of working to please each other in the relationship.
In summary, in order for the practice of marriage to exist there must be a motivator. That motivator is to allow men and women to exercise their carnal desires only within the constructs of a matrimonial contract. I know that this didn’t sound much like an argument for abstinence in this post, but I felt that understanding this groundwork is necessary. I will elaborate more in my next.