The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
University's clause on pre-marital sex lacks facts, reason
By , Opinions Writer
Published: January 26 2011
Among the list of activities that could result in disciplinary action for all Seattle Pacific students is “cohabitation and related forms of premarital, extramarital or homosexual sexual activities.”
This rule is arguably guided and reinforced by the university’s Statement on Human Sexuality, which states, “We believe it is in the context of the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman that the full expression of sexuality is to be experienced and celebrated and that such a commitment is part of God’s plan for human flourishing.”
The trouble is, neither the sexual activity clause in the Student Life Handbook nor the Statement on Human Sexuality lists any legitimate reasons, other than social and theological assumptions about sexuality, as to why sex ought to be restricted to marriage.
My university restricts sexual activity for all non-married students. I would hope that more than mere beliefs could be provided for this restriction. If reasons can be provided, I would be happier for it. If not, then I propose that this rule be abolished.
Before I begin with that argument, though, I will clarify two issues: First, I do not condone adultery, not because sexual activity is wrong, but rather because most marriages are assumed to be monogamous; adultery is a violation of that particular agreement. Second, I will not be discussing homosexuality, as the main point of this argument is non-marital sex, meaning sexual practice outside of marriage.
To begin, the university prefaces its statement on human sexuality with the words, “We believe.” Speaking as a philosopher, belief does not make a fact, though we may sometimes wish it did.
Is it indeed a fact that the “full expression” of sex can only be found in marriage? No evidence is given in the statement to suggest this to be the case.
Why should it be the case? The activity of sex within marriage mirrors the activity of sex outside of marriage -- the difference is the level of commitment we ascribe to a marital relationship as opposed to other relationships. Still, considering the high divorce rate in the United States, even this level of commitment is flexible.
And, although I have heard it suggested that the Bible states we should not have sex outside of marriage because it is a sin, I cannot find the verse to which people are referring. In fact, I think the Bible has very little to say about non-marital sex.
We often tend to read verses, such as Hebrews 13:4, “God will judge as guilty those who take part in sexual sins,” as though they had the addendum, “and non-marital sex is a sin.” But the text of this particular verse does not have that addendum at all.
Sometimes the Greek word “porneia,” as found in 1 Corinthians 6:18, is translated as “fornication.” This is a splendid translation, since it relates the term to wrongful sexual activity, like adultery and prostitution.
The problem comes in deciding whether non-marital sex should be classified as “fornication.” If it is, then it is not Scripture that is doing the defining here, because “porneia” does not define what wrongful sexual activity includes.
Another common trope is anecdotal evidence of emotional pain and suffering caused by consensual sex. Although things like that happen, in some of these anecdotal cases, it seems the guilt about having had sex is the chief source of damage, not the sexual act itself.
The sense of guilt associated from having had sex before marriage can be especially tremendous for those raised in environments where sex was condemned. This guilt has as much, if not greater, potential to corrode relationships and one’s psychological well being in comparison to the mythologized pain and suffering rooted in sex.
For others, fear of pregnancy is one of the chief reasons to avoid non-marital sex, and for part of this approach to sexual activity, I agree. Pregnancy is a big deal, but I would also point out the tremendous options for birth control, whether condoms, pills, diaphragms, spermicides or emergency contraceptive options. I will not sugarcoat it: All of these options are largely effective options for avoiding pregnancy, even if some of them are controversial.
Additionally, fear of pregnancy does not constitute a sufficient reason to restrict others from partaking in sexual activity. I am afraid of heights, but those who want to hike mountains and skydive are welcome to do so.
Still, I make no claim that I have explored every argument against non-marital sex. I know there are theological and social arguments to be made, but I am convinced that those other reasons will be no more sufficient for making a case against non-marital sex than the ones above.
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