Globe Syndicate

for release July 19, 2002

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

Sex Is More Than Just Satisfying Animal Hunger

In an article "Adulthood Without Sex," (Washington Post, May 12, 2002)  Phillip D. Harvey says that in today's society, it is too much to ask adults to abstain from sex until marriage. He maintains that the pro-abstinence crowd, which encourages teens to abstain until marriage, would get more support if they changed their message from "no sex until you're married" to "no sex until you're an adult." He noted that longer ago, when the common age for marriage was 18 or even younger, it wasn't such a hardship to wait for sex, but with the age for marriage rising (which is generally seen as a good thing-lowering divorce rates) to today's average age of 27 for men and 26 for women, how can we expect people to go 5 or 6 years of their adult lives without sex?

I can appreciate trying to get more support for abstinence among teenagers. But I would like to tackle (putting religious convictions aside for the moment) is it unrealistic, unhealthy or unwise to encourage sexual abstinence until marriage?

Is abstinence unrealistic? If sex is nothing more than a basic human need or animalistic activity, then, sure, get that need satisfied. Feed the hunger. Why wait six years when I'm hungry now? Or, if you don't quite reduce sex to that level, and you think of sex as just an enjoyable activity between two adults who care about each other, then what is the harm?

But isn't sex meant to be something much more? Sex is communication and love expressed at the deepest levels. Sex can be just a physical activity between bodies creating pleasurable sensations, or it can be a deep bonding of mind, body and soul. Which do you want? If you want the second kind, then it means waiting for a committed love relationship as in marriage. Do you want a "here today maybe gone tomorrow" kind of relationship, or a "I love you warts, cellulite and all, and I'll be here for you through sickness and health, holding you and caring for you" relationship? If that is what you want, then waiting for lifelong marriage is the way to go. If that sounds too old and too mature and that no way are you ready for that kind of relationship, that's fine. I think that would also suggest you're not ready either for mature sex, no matter what your age. Please note that mature sex is not a synonym for boring. It can be exciting, erotic and extremely pleasurable, too.

Sex as a recreational activity is just that: recreation. But sex has a way of hooking up the other parts of your psyche so that unless you've so desensitized your senses to be dull to them, most human beings want something more out of a relationship. You want unconditional love, acceptance, camaraderie, joy. Maybe that can happen in a casual relationship, but I doubt those emotions are long lasting if a person is inclined to go from one six-month relationship to the next. Someone usually gets hurt. And the problem with once you start having sex in a very special, six-month relationship, the next time it is easier to naturally include sex as part of ever shorter relationships, till it seems like it is just a customary part of a big date as seen on TV and the movies.

Is abstinence unhealthy? It should go without saying that having sex anytime it feels right can either be pretty complicated (getting out condoms or whatever) or dangerous: not only do you have to worry about pregnancy and the sexually transmitted diseases people have always worried about, of course, now there's AIDS. Bringing a clean body that is free of all sexual diseases into marriage with a partner who has also reserved himself for you is liberation and delicious freedom.

Finally, is abstinence unwise or not smart? What happens to future marriage plans and happiness when one has been accustomed to casual sexual relationships with multiple partners? Well, maybe some think it is easy to leave the idea of having multiple consecutive partners behind you when you finally get married, but I seriously doubt it. It seems like it would be all too easy to rationalize enjoying a variety of partners.

Obviously I've constructed my arguments to support my thesis and someone who disagrees could probably find holes in my arguments, just as I felt there were holes in Mr. Harvey's arguments. I'm old and out of date, but I'm encouraged when I hear of younger people who live healthy fulfilled lives, even for many years, without sex.

Love, not sex, makes the world go 'round.

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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.

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