Premarital Sex

We had several training sessions today that reminded me that I have a lot of thoughts on the topic of premarital sex, both as a guy named Travis and as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It is complicated and personal, I know, but I think it is worth talking about because it affects so many aspects of our lives. It is a relevant topic in America, even if it is uncomfortable to talk about, and it is especially relevant as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a foreign country. Dating someone in America can be very different from dating in Mongolia and having sex while in a relationship with someone in either country can have very different consequences.

Our Peace Corps Medical Officer mentioned to us in class today that based on the average from recent groups in Mongolia, 2 or more people in our group of 64 Volunteers will marry a Mongolian national. We all looked around at one another and wondered who it would be. It’s impossible to know right now, but I think it is very interesting to think about. Even more interesting to me is how many M19’s will date a Mongolian man or woman and what that will be like. What if they don’t get married after dating, how will other Mongolians see the host national after the Peace Corps Volunteer flies back to America? Whether or not they were ever intimate with the Peace Corps Volunteer, will other Mongolians now see the host national as tainted or less suitable for marrying a Mongolian? How will the Mongolian boyfriend or girlfriend feel?

One statement we were posited during a Life Skills game of “Devil’s Advocate” was “You should only have sex with someone that you love.” We stood on opposite sides of the room and tried to defend our agreement or disagreement with the statement, which modeled the kind of critical thinking that we would try to encourage during an actual Life Skills training game with older students. There are value judgments like “should” and emotional definitions like “love” built into the question which make it particularly difficult to answer, but I think it deserves a lot of responsible thought.

As far as the word “should” goes, I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do on this issue. What I think I “should” do represents my personal beliefs and I’m not interested in converting anyone to my beliefs. That said, I don’t mind sharing my thoughts in case they are helpful to anyone else. If they are helpful to you, fine. If they aren’t, don’t worry about it. As far as what I think “love” means, I would say it is the idea that we want happiness for others in the world around us. Here I mean happiness in its deepest sense, in the same way that some people say profound joy or peace. In this way, I think love is unconditional and does not depend on what someone else does. Whether you please me or displease me, that should not change whether I love you and wish happiness for you.

So then, do I think I should only have sex with someone that I love? Yes. I think it would be wrong for me to have sex with anyone who I did not want happiness for, in the deepest sense of the word. This would include thinking through all of the short-term and long-term consequences of having sex, including the pleasure involved, the possibility of pregnancy, the feeling of connection, the opinions of other people in the community, and many other factors, and then attempting to determine whether this would help the person be truly happy or not. In fact, I think this kind of thoughtfulness should be given to all kinds of interaction and intimacy in a relationship. The question is basically, is what I am doing helping the person I am interacting with to become a happier and more satisfied person or am I mostly just interested in satisfying myself? In most cases, it is a complex question which requires short-term and long-term answers.

After having said all of that, I think it is important to note that my personal belief is that a loving relationship without sex can be just as enjoyable as a loving relationship with sex. Figuring that the only absolutely sure way to not get pregnant is to not have sex, I also think not having sex can be a very smart decision. Having a child, or having an abortion, is a big life decision and those possibilities should be considered each time sex is considered. I know that’s kind of a bummer, but that’s the way I figure it. On the plus side, in my experience, physical connection is only one of the many rewarding aspects of a relationship. Hopefully those other aspects of your relationships, whether they be intellectual, emotional, spiritual or many others, are rewarding enough to make the relationship worthwhile.