I’ve many times referred to monogamous marriage as a sexual strategy. Much of MMSL is essentially covering how to play that strategy effectively and giving reasons why that strategy should be considered as an option. If you want to live by yourself, never marry and just bang hookers, that’s a sexual strategy too. I don’t have any moral outrage about it, I’m just not choosing that strategy or advocating it.
Many religious people read MMSL and love that I advocate monogamy for non-religious reasons. This is because penises and vaginas do not know about God, and many of them have a hard time taking religious thinking seriously. So when I come along and offer up a bunch of non-religious reasons for monogamy, it gives religious people ammunition to use to convince their penises and vaginas to sit quietly in the back seat and keep their seat belts on. Which leads us to the most important question those penises and vaginas want to know… “Are we there yet?”
Obviously no we are not there yet.
The opening move to the monogamy strategy is frequently the virgin strategy. Roughly stated the virgin strategy goes something like this…
“If you both wait until you are married to have sex, there will be no negative events in your sexual history to deal with, and you will bond to each other better sexually. As a result, your married sex life will be awesome. Much better than others that couldn’t stay virgins before marriage.”
Or put another way, the virgin strategy is presented as a delayed gratification move. Give up something now and you will get rewarded in the future. Unfortunately that isn’t exactly true, because the element of risk that exists in the strategy isn’t fully expounded on. The true virgin strategy should be stated as something like…
“If you both wait until you are married to have sex, the only negative event in your sexual history will be the relationship stress cause by waiting until you are married to have sex. Once you become married though, you will probably be compatible sexually and with minimal negative history and probable sexual compatibility, you will probably have a very good married sex life together.”
You ah… probably noted the difference there.
Now to be completely fair to the strategy, both Jennifer and I are each others first sexual partner and it’s worked really really well for us both, apart from some occasional chafing. For many other people that go this route, it works really well for them too. However for some people what is supposed to happen, just doesn’t.
I’ve had quite a few emails from people over the last year where the virgin strategy has not been merely “disappointing”, but “catastrophic”. About half the time the fallout has been a marked difference in libido that has no clear solution. The other half of the time there have been serious sexual issues that went completely undetected because of the virgin strategy itself being used as a smokescreen. The sexual problems in and of themselves would have ruled them out as a partner if known in advance, let alone the lying about them by omission. Most of the time I simply have to advise divorce for such fraud.
So while I do believe the virgin strategy does have real positives, we should also admit that it has real potential negatives as well. The issue at the core of things is essentially the exposure to the risk that you may not be sexually compatible. So the solution to that question of compatibility is quite simple… you test it.
So my advice, my very strong advice, to couples playing the virgin and monogamy strategies, is to have sex with each other after the engagement but before the wedding. Penis meet vagina, vagina this is penis, you’ll be spending a lot of time together, so you might as well find out if you like each other now rather than later.
Jennifer and I were certainly sexually active with each other once the ring was on her finger, including full intercourse shortly before the wedding. Those times together make up some wonderful shared memories and I’m very glad for them. I also don’t think we could have survived all that time long distance together without those short oasis’s of sexual bonding either. I kind of like that she was into me enough to break the rules too.
The core of the virgin strategy is waiting until you meet your life partner and that’s where the positive effects come from. Compared to the effect of being each others first and getting married, the wedding date itself isn’t as critical as one might think.
Footnote: Check the CDC figures on page 40 and 41 for cohabitation affecting marriage success rates. It’s a trivial effect compared to age, education, and the timing of births. The key stat to read is “Engaged to first wife/husband when cohabitation began.” There is a mild benefit to not cohabiting before marriage, but once adjusted to being engaged when the cohabitation begins, there is minimal difference between that and having never cohabited. In actual fact for men, there is a slight advantage in outcomes at the ten year mark.