Note: this is part of an ongoing series on the extremely high rate of sex offenses in the U.S. This was triggered by several recently involving people close to me.
God grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can, and
wisdom to know the difference.
Our Christianity preaches complete 100% sexual abstinence until marriage. But, marriage today doesn’t come for most people until their mid to late twenties, and for some, never. Is this a realistic expectation or are these two somewhat mutually exclusive?
Any expectation that even half of guys, Christian or not, can remain celibate until their late twenties is misplaced. Aside from locking these guys in solitary confinement, it ain’t gonna happen.
And yes, I’m very aware of the rather obvious issue this raises for Christians who believe in abstinence until marriage. I’m not saying that this is right or wrong, just that it is what it is. It is reality. Most guys are going to have sex often with a variety of cute young girls, about seven of them, before marriage. The question is not will guys do this, but which cute young girls will they do it with.
There are a gob of people reading that and screaming. Scream all you want. Do all the Slutwalks you want. This isn’t something that’s protestable any more than we can protest if we don’t like it that the earth revolves around the sun. It is what it is and very likely always will be. We have no more chance of changing it than of stopping the earth.
Unfortunately we base our expectations on this current unrealistic view of things. Worse, we then base our decisions on these unrealistic expectations. Not a recipe for success, just a lot of disappointment, disillusionment, and head banging.
So, who will his first six sex partners be?
Your daughter? Coaxed in to it on a date with promises of love and affection? Prom night perhaps? Raped by her step-father? Taken advantage of by a friend after she had a bit too much to drink?
That’s today’s reality in the U.S. It’s reality for Christians as well as non-Christians. It’s the norm in university dorms from Penn State University to Bethel University. It’s the norm for the vast majority of twenty-something’s.
Some folks are fine with this. Certainly most guys are. But what about those who aren’t OK with it? Gals who don’t want to have sex until marriage? Guys who have an uncontrollable sex drive but don’t want to coax their virgin girlfriend in to bed?
There is only one alternative to our current system that I know of. And whether it’s better or worse is highly debated. We do say, in the U.S., that it is illegal though. Prostitution.
Is it better for a guy to use whoever his current girlfriend is to get his sexual needs met or to visit a consenting legal adult prostitute who agrees to have sex with him for $300? Many of us very strongly want to answer ‘neither’. We want total abstinence. Or at least for the guy to wait until she’s the one. But, ‘neither’ isn’t on the menu. It is not a realistic option for perhaps 70% to 80% of the guys out there.
This isn’t an easy question and most of us don’t like dealing with issues this tough. I don’t. Anyway, today’s reality doesn’t seem all that bad. At least compared to legal prostitution. Certainly we can avoid this difficult decision.
We start by saying that all we’ve got to do is keep guys from having sex with a variety of cute young girls.
When that doesn’t work we decide that we’re going to accept guys having sex with our daughters. After all, everyone is doing it. Seems a lot better than prostitution. What harm will it really do? And besides, regardless of the statistics, it won’t actually be our daughter, but someone else’s.
Perhaps the lesser problem with this approach is that guys who can’t get their sexual needs met via consensual relationships will, lacking an alternative, turn to non-consensual.
Countries with strongly enforced prohibitions against prostitution fairly consistently have about three times the incidences of rape as countries with legal prostitution. In the U.S., every year, we have about 63 rapes per 100k women. In Europe it’s about 18. A girl is three times more likely to be raped in the U.S. than she is in Amsterdam. She is four times more likely to be raped in the U.S. than in Copenhagen or Germany. Six times as likely as in Switzerland.
A worse problem though might be the impact this policy may have on marriage and families. Will a guy be as committed to his wife if she’s provided sex to two, or three, or six other guys before him? If he knows that a nude picture or video she sexted to some guy is now in the hands of tens of thousands of guys on the internet? Or even just that one other guy? Will he value her and care for her as much as he would if he’d been her only sex partner? If he himself had had to earn the right to have sex with her? What impact will having provided free sex to half a dozen guys who later broke up with her have had on her emotional health? What baggage does she then carry in to her new family from all of this? AND, do any of these even matter?
These are far from new issues. One of the earliest debates on this was Augustine in about the year 400. Thomas Aquinas followed up around 1270 in his Summa Theologica. These are perhaps the two greatest moralists in Christian church history and they both stated that prostitution should remain legal and normal. That it was better than rape, sexual assault, and girls coaxed in to the hay by their boyfriends.
Today we’re saying just the opposite, that rape, sexual assault, and young girls coaxed in to bed by their boyfriends is better than prostitution.
I can hear the screams of all of those disagreeing and saying “no, guys just have to stop having sex with a variety of cute young girls.”
Historically, guys have been expected to visit prostitutes to get their sexual needs met, rather than ‘soil the virtue of innocent girls’. Yet today in the U.S. there is no realistic legal alternative for guys. For many in the U.S. the risk of sexually assaulting or raping or date raping someone seems much less than the risk of getting busted visiting a prostitute. And, quicker, easier to arrange, and more of a sure thing than an illegal prostitute. The risk from coaxing some girl, willingly or semi-willingly, in to bed for his daily orgasm? Zero.
Some people will argue that the notion of an innocent girl’s virtue is antiquated. That it doesn’t really exist. And that’s fine. For them. But again, what about those who do believe in it? Those who believe that it’s best to enter marriage a virgin, at least for the woman?
Prostitution certainly isn’t any kind of panacea. Your daughter is free, sort of anyway, and that’s hard to compete with. But allowing for a legal alternative and maybe even encouraging it, will at least take some of the sexual pressure off. If guys have a viable legal and socially acceptable alternative to get their physical sexual needs met, which are the needs that drive rape, sexual assault, and even consensual sex, then young girls may feel less pressure from them for sex and safer from rape. Instead of gals offering sex to guys as a way to compete with other girls (and yes, even Evangelical Christian gals do this today), they may find that it is no longer enough of a competitive element to be worth the cost.
One of my first thoughts on this is that the last thing I’d want is my daughter marrying some guy who’d visited prostitutes. But is the alternative, that he’s had sex with six previous girlfriends, really any better? (Yes, some guys will have done neither, but we’re talking the majority, not the minority.)
Each of his girlfriend encounters likely took place in one of four scenarios; fully consensual within a relationship, mildly coerced, strongly coerced, date-rape.
In the latter two or three, consider what kind of person he is or that he has become because of these actions. I’m a strong believer in acclimatization – that someone who’s driven to some level will very likely live other areas of their lives at that new-found level. If a guy’s sex drive drives him to various actions and deceptions to get free sex from his girlfriends and others, how will he otherwise be impacted?
Is fully consensual a lot better? The prostitution guy comes in to his marriage having only experienced physical, non-emotional sex. The consensual girlfriend guy’s prior experience was somewhat more emotional, more like sex within a marriage. For the first guy, sex with his new wife is new and totally different from all of his previous experience. It’s levels above non-emotional sex in ways that physical-only can never match. But for the second guy she’s just number seven (or for a Christian guy, number five), not much different from the previous six.
In all four scenarios, what impact has it had on him that he got it so easily for free? Does he now place little to no value on sex at any level, physical or emotional? Does this matter?
A final very pragmatic note. He is much less likely to have acquired an STD from a legal prostitute than a girlfriend or friend with benefits.
It is critical here that we consider how varied these situations are in reality. There are many who get past their past. And their spouse’s. They are able to leave it behind and have a healthy relationship.
What of the prostitutes themselves? Do we really want to promote something so harmful?
If you rank all of these varied sexual encounters by emotional and physical harm to the gal, forced prostitution and rape clearly get the top spots. Prostitution isn’t next though. A gal who is coerced in to providing free sex to a boyfriend or six, who later break up with her, is more likely to contract an STD and to likely to suffer more short and long-term emotional harm than an off-street prostitute. A consenting adult prostitute has no unrealistic expectations, she chose to do this, she knows the endgame. Many say that the worst emotional issue they face is the social stigma if they are discovered.
Ranking these we’d likely have something like:
This is not to say that these prostitutes are not at all harmed, but only that the harm they might suffer is, relative to other sexual encounters, likely somewhat less.
What we are saying with today’s reality is that rather than have 220,000 gals (the estimated number of prostitutes in the U.S.) endure legal and fully consensual prostitution, we’d rather have 22 million endure coerced sex by guys who will leave them for someone else. And, unlike today’s reality where gals are discouraged from dealing with the emotional ramifications of coerced or consensual sex in a temporary relationship (for that would be a rather inconvenient admission of reality), prostitutes are encouraged to do so.
The goal here is to drive these encounters towards the lower end of the harm scale. From forced prostitution, rape, coerced sex, and street prostitution to legal consensual prostitution.
It’d be great if every incident of forced prostitution and rape could be converted to legal consensual prostitution. While this would result in about a 10% increase in consensual prostitution over today’s numbers, it would certainly be better than today’s reality. Realistically, we’d likely not achieve anywhere close to a 100% reduction in these most harmful activities, but a 75% reduction is certainly possible and would put us on par with countries that do have these much lower rates of rape and forced prostitution.
Prostitution isn’t very desirable compared to a world of perfect abstinence and never-any-harm-done consensual sex, but such a world has never existed and likely never will. On this earth anyway. Compared to our current reality though, legal prostitution may be very desirable. Especially for young girls who don’t want to be raped or coerced in to bed. And would very likely reduce our world high rates of rape, sexual assault, human trafficking for sex, STD’s, teen pregnancies, and abortions.
If we’re lucky, maybe we can achieve the same low rates of rape, sexual assault, abortion, STD’s, teen pregnancy, and human trafficking as Amsterdam. Our young girls would appreciate that.
Next: Faith, Hope, Love. … And Sex.
 I said use his girlfriend and visit a prostitute. In many of the former incidents he is indeed ‘using’ her, he’s deceiving her to get what he wants. In the latter incident, prostitution, he’s not deceiving her, she knows very well up front what the transaction is.
 World Bank, UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention – Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, US Dept of Justice Crime Statistics Survey. Note also that while the U.S. has about four times as many non-rape sexual assaults as Europe, this is believed to be partially because Europeans appear less likely to report minor sexual assaults.
 It is obviously critical that we recognize that every person and every sexual encounter is different. Some gals are harmed more from fully consensual sex by a boyfriend who breaks up with her than others are by rape. What we are discussing are gross generalizations.
 Estimated number of the 29 million sexually active unmarried gals aged 15 – 29 who’ve endured coerced sex. The actual number of the 29 million who’ve experienced coerced sex and how many instances of strongly coerced vs mildly coerced is difficult to ascertain as are the numbers for girls younger than 15.