Sex is one of the most enticing, exhausting and exhilarating of human beings’ animal instincts. People will line up in the freezing cold to get into packed bars; sprint to the drug store before it closes and endure painfully awkward dinners for the possibility of sex. For the most part, our society nods at the penchant for all things coital.
But even as sexual liberation marches on, some young people believe in waiting until the lifelong commitment of marriage is made before incorporating sex into their lives.
Dan Fiedler and Roisin Hartnett, both ConEd ’11, have been in a relationship for four and a half years. But they’re waiting until this summer, when they will be married, to have sex.
Fiedler and Hartnett got engaged last summer. Although they said many students respond to their engagement by assuming they’re only getting married to have sex, their reasons for waiting and deciding to get married run far deeper.
“It’s a lot of work to sustain a four and a half year relationship,” Fiedler said. “You don’t just do that to get married and have sex.” Hartnett said sex has a significant meaning that’s best suited for those who are thoroughly committed to one another.
“When people first start dating it’s good to wait until marriage because I believe sex is something that is really intimate and really spiritual,” Hartnett said. “When two people have sex and they hurt each other or leave each other or whatever, it’s very hurtful for people and it sort of damages your soul in a way.”
Hartnett identifies as a Christian and said her definition of sex comes partly from the idea that it’s a gift from God reserved for married individuals.
“I believe there are a few components to marriage and one part is commitment,” Hartnett said. “I think another component of marriage is sex and actually sex is like God’s marriage ceremony.”
Religion is often believed to portray sex as a negative thing, but Hartnett said putting commitment before sex makes it more valuable for her. It places less emphasis on the physical aspect of sex and more on the emotional and spiritual.
“Lots of people talk about religion as seeing sex as something dirty and we shouldn’t talk about. But I see waiting until marriage, or sex being a part of marriage, as actually highly valuing sex and not seeing it as just sort of a physical need that we need to satisfy with whoever,” she said. “[It’s] something that’s very intimate and that’s a very strong connection between two people.”
Fiedler said many people have sex before they’re fully committed to the other person and many even get married before they’re fully committed. By committing to each other first, he said his relationship with Hartnett has focused on establishing a deep connection and commitment rather than doing merely what feels best.
“It really de-emphasizes just the immediate desire to get satisfaction out of everything. It gives everything a greater significance within the relationship,” he said.
The idea of seeking sex for immediate pleasure is problematic for Fiedler because of the potential for people to get hurt more easily. With the risks of pregnancy and contracting Sexually-Transmitted Infections covered through various methods of protection that are widely available, the emotional risks of being in a sexual relationship often get overlooked. We’re fortunate to live in a permissive, free society, but that has its trade-offs, Fiedler said.
“It’s not that in this day and age we all want sex more than everyone else has in the past. I think humans are just wired to have sex,” he said. “Not only do we have a culture of immediacy that’s permissive, but we have fairly safe methods of having sex with low risk of contracting Sexually-Transmitted Infections.
“All these things are really wonderful on the surface and I don’t want to take away from that at all, but I think when you put that in combination with a mindset of instant gratification and powerful sex drives, you get a lot of damage that doesn’t seem like it would have any consequences because you’ve covered all your material bases.”
Melissa Lam, ConEd ’10, said society largely ignores the sex’s emotional side. As a Christian who believes sex is something that’s a part of marriage, Lam said she often feels uncomfortable when people talk about sex because she values it differently than most young people.
“We don’t talk about sex enough in a more pure way,” she said. “A lot of times we talk about sex in a very crude and in a very physical way.”
Lam said having sex without commitment from the other person can be devastating for someone, which to her indicates that there’s more to sex than just physical attraction.
“That’s why things like sexual crimes are such a terrible thing,” she said. “I think we see how sexual crimes hurt people so deeply; because it’s so much more than a physical thing.”
Lam said other students are generally accepting of her beliefs. She said she doesn’t feel the need to have sex even though it’s fairly common for most people her age to be sexually active.
With issues of sexuality and everyday conversations about sex figuring so prominently in student life, Lam said she often feels isolated and wishes people who believe in abstinence before marriage would have more of a voice in talking about sex.
“It’s assumed that everyone has sex and so because I don’t, I don’t get to add anything to that conversation,” she said.
Lam said adhering to her views has made her a stronger person and given her a greater awareness of what she believes in.
“I feel like a minority because I don’t choose to [have sex]. But I think that’s okay.”
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