Problems with “Abstinence is Unrealistic and Old Fashioned” by Matt Walsh

Recently this piece by Matt Walsh of was shared with me. Unsurprisingly I have a few issues with it, which I will discuss here.

For one, Jeremy’s story sounds unrealistic, especially the part about the teacher polling the class to see who is sexually active (I can’t imagine a teacher doing this and keeping her job very long), or her giving a blanket dismissal of abstinence as “old fashioned”.  While the story is certainly possible, the teacher just sounds too much like a stereotype for me to accept it, as accurate without further question.

Second, I question the author’s assertion that our society is decaying morally.  I can think of many areas to the contrary.  We are certainly less racist, and less sexist than we were a few years back, not to mention less tolerant of gay bashing, and aggressive, non-defensive, military interventions.  I suspect that some of the areas the author thinks are signs of moral decay I would find to be the opposite.

Next we have the statement “She seems to think there’s a “safe” way for emotionally immature juveniles to have casual sex.”  I assure it has been the norm for juveniles of high school age to have sex throughout human history.  In traditional societies males Jeremy’s age were consider grown men, and typically had their own homes and were starting their own families.  If they are fully educated on how to protect themselves from disease, and unwanted pregnancy, and the relationship is fully consensual, they should be free to make their own choices, which they will anyway.  The idea that two high school students having consensual sex, with all precautions, taken should be equated with drunk driving is absurd.  It is also an insulting.  Matt is essentially telling Jeremy, he is not mature enough to enjoy this thing that people only a few years older than him can.  Different individuals mature at different rates, and in different areas of their lives. I have met quite a few people’s Jeremy’s age that I found perfectly competent in making all sorts of life decisions.  Others not so much, but the point is that painting a very complicated age group with such a large brush is problematic and insulting.

My next problem is the way Matt seems to label all sex outside of marriage as “casual sex”.   He is essentially painting everything from a risky encounter with a back-street prostitute, working for drugs, to a monogamous experience with one’s significant other of several years and all precautions taken, with the same broad brush.  This strikes me as oversimplifying a lot of gray area.

Contrary to this author’s expectations, people I have talked to are happy about the fact, they had sex before getting married.  In some cases they did not get married until later in their lives and were happy not to have experienced the prolonged in between years of sexual starvation.  In other cases some were happy to have gotten the weird, awkward early sexual experiences past them, long before they met their current spouse.

There is also the issue of having sex before getting married, so that you know the person you are about marry is sexually compatible with you.  Pardon the crude analogy, but would you buy a car without taking it for a test drive? I personally see nothing wrong with trying a few makes and models of cars, to get a feel for what you like?  I have heard numerous stories of people who “waited until marriage” only to find the person they chose to spend their life with sexually unfulfilling or sexually incompatible with them.  Often this happens when the sexually pent-up couple in question rushes into a marriage they would have otherwise postponed, because of sexual pressures (not to mention pressure from their puritanical family members).  My understanding is that marriages that happen later in life tend to be more successful, but prolonged virginity is never associated with good mental health.  I find it ironic, that Matt accuses anyone who has had sex before getting married and not regretting it, of being in a dysfunctional marriage, when what he advocates has been known to lead to just that.

I also hate loaded questions like, Are you satisfied that what you give to your spouse is now secondhand?  It’s not like love or intimacy is a use pare of shoes, that get’s passed about.  Nor should it be viewed as some sort of zero sum gain.  Many of us have special places in our hearts for whoever gave us, that first kiss, or took us on that first date or who spent crucial times with us before we met the person we are with now.  We should not make our current lovers compete with those memories, but we should still recognize that these memories have value for us.  I think sexual experience can and do fall into this same category.  Many couples have also shared experiences with each other that are not sexual but are still of comparable emotional importance. Perhaps they climbed a big mountain together, or enjoy kayaking together.  It would be absurd for anyone to suggest that the people in these couples should want to take back any mountain climbing or kayaking experiences they had prior to meeting their spouse.

Then there is this statement:  “That means millions have had to look at their spouse and say — probably silently in their own heads, deep in their subconscious — “I have nothing new to give to you.”   I assure, you the newness of your partner’s experience will in no be impinged upon by your previous experiences.  In fact, you may use previous experiences to show your current partner something truly new to them (if that’s what you are into).  I’ll also say, that when talking about people who have been married for decades, there may not be much newness going on anyway.  A lot of this seems like projection to me. Matt sounds like a guy who would be uncontrollably jealous if he learned his wife, had some past romantic fling that she does not regret.

Matt goes on to say “Casual sex proponents are the ones who have turned sex into something trivial, banal, utilitarian, pointless, joyless, one-dimensional, lifeless, lonely, and disappointing.”  I have to wonder who died and made him the sole determiner of meaning in everyone else’s life. A one night stand can be as incredible and as meaningful  an experience as one spent with someone you have known for years.  To try to dismiss all sex outside of a monogamous marriage as trivial, pointless, joyless ect, is moronic in the highest degree.

Matt also states “We’re told that we are sexually “liberated” if we throw ourselves at strangers and give ourselves over to people who couldn’t possibly care less about us.”  This is a complete strawman.  It seems as Matt believes there is only sex between married couples and reckless sex between strangers and people who care less about us.  He completely dismisses, sex between unmarried friends, unmarried lovers and people, who may not wish to be romantically involved over the long term still have care for each other and have feelings for each other.  Sexual liberation is not about throwing ourselves at anyone, but is instead about being free to do what we want to do for our own sake.  There is major a major difference.

Matt does say one thing I agree with “So shouldn’t we, rather than encouraging sexual expression for the sake of it, encourage MEANINGFUL and POSITIVE sexual expression?”

Yes we should, but I see not believe Matt’s puritanical attitudes toward sex are positive and they definitely restrict us from having many of the meaningful sexual experiences we may have.  My overall attitude is this:  We should do what works for us!  For some like Matt that may mean life long monogamy, preceded by a prolonged virginity, for others it will consist of something different.  So long as we take proper precautions and treat the people we are with, ethically and honestly, we can maximize the positives and minimize the negatives.

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