For many, a vow of celibacy—a promise not to enter into marriage or engage in sexual intercourse—is unfathomable.
During the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther in 1517, reformers argued that requiring a vow of celibacy from a priest was contrary to biblical teaching, a degradation of marriage and a reason for the widespread sexual misconduct within the clergy at the time.
Yet some would stand back today and suggest that all single people should vow chastity! Granted, that goes down easier if you hope to get married (despite the odds). But how realistic is it?
A public health report concludes (after a long list of statistics), “Almost all Americans have sex before marrying.” And lest you be intimidated by those with a holier than thou attitude, they were included in the study.
I am married now, but it would be dishonest and unkind to dismiss from my mind what it was like to be single. A whopping 40 percent of our adult population is single. On average, we now spend half of our adult lives outside of marriage. And some of us die single.
I am not suggesting that we promote casual sex or “friends with benefits.” Let’s not draw a line between single and married people, though. We have the same biological needs, the same yearning to be touched and loved.
In an ideal world, maybe we all get married at the age of 17, before our libido drives us to lose our virginity, and then live happily ever after. Some of you are cringing. So, instead, maybe we exercise enough willpower to abstain until we have a “proper” education, and career path, and a marriage certificate. Now, the rest of you are cringing.
How about: We remember to hold sex as sacred. We do our best to demonstrate love in sex. We know the person we have sex with; we care for them and respect them. We can see ourselves having babies with them — whether or not we can or want to have babies. And…let’s be honest, being married doesn’t mean we reverence sex.
Sex is what we do naturally, but it uses our most private physical parts and emotions to procreate (besides having the potential to pass on fatal disease). It also teaches us the importance of giving and receiving. It gives us a safe place to practice vulnerability, and intimacy, and oneness.
Clearly, I’m not talking about casual sex. That teaches us something else.
Ideally, sex flows from our innermost being and reaches somebody else’s. When it does, we experience a melding we might not experience by any other means.
Yes, sex meets a physical longing, but it also gives us a glimpse of life’s depth and meaning, of our importance to another human being, of our nature and our worth—often before we’re able to embrace them.
We could wait until we truly know who we are to have sex. Some of us would be past childbearing years, though! And while men, like the Energizer bunny, can keep going and going, in part because of that, they can be slow to find themselves.
In sex, we (men and women) can begin to know both our feminine and masculine energy. We can feel our emotions deeply, we can demonstrate our physical force, and we can commit to living the balance within.
Doing justice to sex is more about honoring the life force, or love, than honoring the institution of marriage.
All we can do is our best. Each one of us gets to decide what that looks like. And we’ll know we’re doing it when we’re at peace.
That’s what we want to pass on—should we decide to make babies.