Ten myths about sex before marriage

Image: Ten myths about sex before marriage

Sean McDowell exposes some of the biggest lies you're being told about relationships.

I recently picked up a copy of Premarital Sex in America by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker and was pleasantly surprised at some of the insights. While I have been writing, teaching, and speaking for years to both teens and adults on the issue of premarital sex, this book opened my eyes to some of the more important trends among younger Millennials.

This blog is adapted from the last chapter in the book entitled, “The Power of Stories and Ten Myths about Sex in Emerging Adulthood.” The empirical data suggests that these myths are not true most of the time. There are exceptions, of course.

MYTH 1: Long-term relationships are a thing of the past

Many emerging adults (lower 20s) tend to hold two views in tension—that sexual experimentation is valuable and yet one should not cheat on a monogamous partner. Indeed, many consider it stupid and unhealthy not to be sexually active in various relational settings. And yet most desire a lasting exclusive relationship. According to the research of Regnerus and Uecker, at least 50 percent of marriages last a lifetime, despite what most emerging adults tend to think.

MYTH 2: Sex is necessary to maintain a struggling relationship

The reality is that most pre-marital relationships fail and the sooner one introduces sex into the relationship the greater chance it will fail.

MYTH 3: The sexual double standard between men and women is wrong and should be resisted

The authors of Premarital Sex in America argue that there are genuine differences in how men and women approach and experience sex that are deeply engrained. They conclude, “Unfortunately, many well-meaning adults and educators want so badly to dismantle the double standard that they work to normalize any and all consensual sexual relationships, rather than considering whether common experiences of sexual regret are in fact telling us something” (pg. 244).

MYTH 4: Boys are sexual beings and cannot be expected to follow sexual norms

This myth is both false and harmful. Young men can make wise sexual decisions if they are taught how to, and the standard is set high.

MYTH 5: You are entirely in charge of your own sexuality; others’ decisions don’t matter

Despite the individualistic mindset that dominates how emerging adults think about sexuality, our choices are deeply influenced by other people’s sexual decisions. The choices of other people affect us financially, emotionally, relationally, and in terms of our expectations of sexual behavior.

MYTH 6: Porn will not affect your relationships

The reality is that porn use has a significant negative impact on relationships. Check out this article about the harm porn can cause.

MYTH 7: Others are having more sex than you

Most emerging adults significantly overestimate how much sex is really going on around them. Most think that other people are having more sex than they actually are. As a result, emerging adults act on this false perception rather than reality.

MYTH 8: Sex doesn’t need to mean much

In reality, sex is a very significant matter. There is nothing humans do that involves more of our minds, hearts, emotions, memories, self-image and bodies. Sexual decisions stay with us for a lifetime. 

MYTH 9: Marriage can wait for later

Despite common perceptions, the majority of emerging adults want to get married. But most want to wait a while before doing so. The reality is that this is easier said than done. Life plans don’t always progress as young people hope they will.

MYTH 10: Living together is a positive step towards marriage

Between 50 and 70 percent of couples cohabit today. But only about 1 in 5 such relationships result in marriage. And the results are consistently pessimistic for those cohabiters who do marry (pg. 202).

I would highly recommend Premarital Sex in America for youth leaders and pastors. It provides a deeply researched and balanced insight into the sexual lives of younger Millennials.


Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University. He is a best-selling author of over 15 books, and is an internationally recognized speaker. He also teaches part-time high school classes on theology and worldview. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell. He blogs regularly at seanmcdowell.org.

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