One of the greatest issues that people struggle with is the morality of sex in different situations. Perhaps we worry about it so much because it is such an intimate and significant event. From a purely biological standpoint, sexual intercourse is the means for what might be considered the most important biological function of humans – reproduction, the continuation of our species. But, as beings concerned with not only the biological aspects of life but also with morality, we must ask the question: when is it morally appropriate to engage in sex?
Let us throw religion to the wind, for the time being. Obviously, different religions (and even different sects of a single religion) have wildly varying opinions on when, where, and how sex is appropriate. However, if one simply looks at sex from the view of a general human being, who is not affiliated with any religion but strives to be moral, can one find a general rule for when sexual intercourse is suitable? The first and most obvious question is, should sex – and here we will assume heterosexual, vaginal intercourse, for simplicity’s sake – be reserved especially for marriage?
Obviously many religions, including Christianity, would say that sex should definitely be reserved for marriage and marriage only. But from a general human being’s standpoint, it is arguable that sex need not be set aside for marriage. Perhaps this seems a shocking claim, not because people rarely engage in sexual intercourse before marriage, for we know the opposite is true; but because premarital sex seems somehow wrong to many people, even to those who practice it.
Within certain religions, sex only within marriage is often taken as an absolute, but even Lauren Winner, in her Christian-oriented book Real Sex, implies that this does not apply to those who are not followers of the religion: “within a Christian moral vocabulary, it is impossible to defend sex outside of marriage.” This suggests that outside of the Christian vocabulary, it is possible to defend that position. Therefore, let us investigate several logical reasons that suggest sex may be appropriate outside of marriage for a moral human being (Winner 29).
Firstly, what is marriage? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines traditional marriage as, “the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.” It seems that the main difference between a marital relationship and any other (boyfriend/girlfriend) relationship is the addition of a contract under the law. Everything else is the same – a united state where the two persons have defined roles; where the relationship has been consensually agreed upon. If the law is the only thing separating marriage from any other relationship, it follows that the law should be the deciding factor as to whether sex should be specifically reserved for marriage – and the law has nothing to say on that matter. Sex outside of marriage is...