The Virgin Sexual Strategy And Avoiding Disaster

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.


  1. Been lurking for months now and this is my first comment. Just a word of caution: there is no "guaranteed success" strategy.

    While my wife an I were each other's firsts (and sole) partners, we had intercourse for 5 years before getting engaged – 1.5 years before the wedding date… and we have sex issues (and have had them from before the wedding).

    On a brighter note, your CDC quote doesn't say whether the person they were engaged to ("first wife/husband") was the person they actually started cohabitation with :P

  2. If one got together before the wedding and had big problems, what are you suggesting? Cancelling the wedding? Then what is the difference in their lives compared to divorce [finding out after the wedding], outside of a heftier wallet?

    My recommendation would be for couples to discuss such personal things after engagement but before the wedding. Some of the better pre-marital counseling people will cover such things. Of course this won't help everyone, but I agree with Toote, there is no guaranteed success.

  3. "If one got together before the wedding and had big problems, what are you suggesting? Cancelling the wedding? Then what is the difference in their lives compared to divorce [finding out after the wedding], outside of a heftier wallet?"

    An engagement is not a marriage. It's a focused time of preparing for marriage. Lots of weird sh** to discuss can come up during that period, which is the whole point of having the engagement instead of just rushing to the courthouse – it brings major issues into focus in a timely manner.

    The difference in splitting up before marriage, should that be the best course of action, is that they haven't sullied their integrity by breaking solemn bonded promises they've made to one another. Considering that Marie Claire found 30% (!!) of divorced women "knew they were making a mistake before they got married," it sounds like a lot of people are over-valuing the "promise to marry" which is not a promise at all but a verbal agreement to prepare to marry.

  4. Another way of answering Anon's ?: if everything was great with me and the girl, except the sex was a bit lacking, I would have to think long and hard about whether I'd be strong enough to say "no thanks" to marriage. Very long and very hard.

    However, my reading at MMSL and other places has let me know that sexual dissatisfaction and incompatibility inside a marriage is incredibly painful, a solitary, empty pain – as Athol puts it, "feeling cheated out of the reason you got married." A lot more pain than, say, she doesn't want to watch Star Trek with you. If it's not good at the start, it's not something that can be fixed or smoothed over. Scary thought.

  5. Anon: "If one got together before the wedding and had big problems, what are you suggesting? Cancelling the wedding?"

    The short answer from the male POV is yes, if there is complete incompatibility. The stakes are too high and the costs to a man too exorbitant to say otherwise.

    Sex is extremely important to men. It's how we bond to our woman. If that's not working well for a man, he won't be happy in his marriage. But more often than not, if he's beta, he's going to suck it up and suffer in silence, and consign himself to a life of unhappiness.

    Better to find this out before, and call it quits. A canceled wedding is a lot cheaper and less painful than an ex-wife.


  6. ilikecheese says:

    i think its good to call of the wedding if someone is sexually incompatible, who wants to marry someone who doesn't want to work on it.THATS LAZY. I believe with hard work anything is possible, but im not going to marry someone who's not returning the effort. To many penises in the world to deal with that.

  7. Interesting angle, but still not the best advice. There are lots of things you don't know about the person until after you get married–sometimes not until several years after. Before marriage, both parties are intentionally putting their best foot forward in lots of ways. Sex is just one of them.

    The problem with this "try it out first" idea is that sex, like many other things, before marriage can be very different than sex after marriage. I've read from many couples express this frustration.

    Some peer-reviewed research studies have shown cohabitation before marriage leads to lower relationship quality and a much greater risk of divorce. Here's one study in Journal of Family Psychology from 2004, another met-analysis of 16 studies from 2010 in the Journal of Marriage and Family that showed "premarital cohabitees were significantly less likely to stay married compared with those who did not cohabit prior to marriage.", and also, cohabitation had a negative effect on subsequent marital quality.

    Your advice on waiting till engagement perhaps mitigates some of these problems, but I'm still convinced that two people who have strong convictions and commitment to their future spouse, as demonstrated by remaining virgins till marriage, will come out ahead in a variety of ways, including sex, because of this commitment.

    My wife and I were virgins before marriage, and this knowledge has been a tremendous comfort and blessing to both of us.

  8. Strong Man – I do get the benefits of waiting, but I've also had some astounding horror stories from those that waited and were unlucky.

  9. "Sex is extremely important to men. It's how we bond to our woman. If that's not working well for a man, he won't be happy in his marriage. But more often than not, if he's beta, he's going to suck it up and suffer in silence, and consign himself to a life of unhappiness. "

    A lot of the issue is that men have been shamed (I believe both before and after modernity) that their prioritization of sex is shallow and wrong, and that marriage is about "love and friendship" and sex is just a bonus if it works out.

    I'm glad we have Athol as a prime voice saying "I got married for the sex, and made that clear to my wife," and even advocating that sexually unsatisfied men take a long look at divorce as an option. Men just invest too damn much in marriage to not get the nookie.

    Even in an open-sex culture we have today, a _good_ monogamous sexual relationship is a huge improvement over having to play PUA week after week. Women and other men need to know how important and power this arrangement can be.

    Sure, there's more to life than sex, but there's more to life than bacon too – that doesn't mean I want to live in a world without bacon.

  10. I waited. My wife had not (2-3 partners).
    I could have not waited, I had several opportunities (5) that presented themselves to me w/o me even pursuing… but abstaining was the Christian thing to do. If I had made it a mission of mine I could have had at least a few more sexual partners (4-5) from the time I started dating to when I got engaged (8 years).

    If I could have it to do over again, I would do things very differently then I the way I did it. Or more correctly, did not do it.

    One problem that I have found, specifically, is when one spouse basically lies about their sexual drive. During the year we dated and were engaged I was continually asked to have sex. I refused on the ground of waiting until marriage (lame, I know now). But I was very much encouraged because I thought, "Wow, when we DO get married we will be having sex several times a week! Awesome our sex drive seems to match!" But once the marriage vows were said, the sex dropped off to once every 2-3 weeks and when we would have it, it always seemed like it was such a chore for her. Which did not help me to be more interested in it.

    Now that I have discovered game – over the last couple of years, it picked back up for awhile… although recently I am finding that I am just not really interested in having sex. Even though I have lost about 20 lbs – so I don't think my health is in question. She has gained quite a bit of weight but that was never a deterrent to me in the past, I have always loved her and her body no matter the state. In the past I would supplement with masturbation (sad, I know, I just didn't know how else to handle it – and this is the type of relationship where she would feel cheated on if she found out that I took care of myself). But now, I am not really even interested in that (masturbation).

    I find this all to be mostly just depressing and sad. This person who basically lied to me now gets offended and picks fights with me when I am not as excited as she thinks I should be when she asks me if I want to have sex.

    So I agree with you Athol… if one abstains until marriage, that is all fin and good. Just be absolutely sure you are getting someone else who has abstained. Or else you will most likely end up with doubts and issues that come up throughout the marriage that are / were caused by the one partner's sexual past and the other's doubts and/or unfulfilled expectations.

  11. I don't believe there are any sexual compatiablility issues which could not be solved by communication and honest dialogue. Don't get me w closer understanding between spouserong, it won't be easy, but it could lead to a much clearer understanding between spouses.

    I am unsure how chastity in a long-term relationship (I'm thinking between the start of the relationship and engagement in your case or until marriage for others) would be beneficial from an attractiveness point of view. Wouldn't it be too beta? Sorry, I mean not enough alpha? ;)

    Do you think the assertiveness and self-mastery of a husband/fiance who placed a value on chastity until a certain point would actually be an alpha trait?

  12. #sorry bout the typos.

  13. I will have to chime in and ask if there is any statistics of the level of sexual frustration experimented by people who waited and people who didn't?
    I mean the manosphere men more often than not are sexually deprived by women that were sexually compatible at one stage of the relationship so my guess is that there is lot more going on. No to mention that sexuality is a mutable thing what turns you at 20 can be boring at 30 and completely turn you off at 40. In the end I think attraction and commitment to keep the physical part of the relationship as something important for both partner works a lot better than waiting for marriage or not,YMMV.

  14. Being chaste does not mean being virginal nor being sexless. It means holding to sexual mores, 'playing by the rules', as Athol is wont to say. In a chaste marriage, husband and wife look to each other for sexual gratification. Therefore, one spouse cutting off the other sexually is actually unchaste, because that behavior makes it harder for the other spouse to behave chastely.

  15. Sam – I don't believe there are any sexual compatiablility issues which could not be solved by communication and honest dialogue.

    Homosexuality, hermaphrodite, two inch penis discovered on wedding night, wife having a psychotic PTSD reaction due to prior rape on wedding night requiring ER visit, total erectile dysfunction, obvious herpes outbreak on wedding night, huge difference in sex drive.

    Somethings just can't be talked around. Somethings really are just relationship breakers.

    Not all me reader email makes it into posts. Please believe me when I say some people have gotten seriously punked by waiting for the wedding day.

  16. It seems that each of the things on that list of horrors (except incompatible drives) would be grounds for a civil annulment. Maybe I am being a Pollyanna here, but I guess I am hoping that all those poor people did not have to go through divorce.

  17. Homosexuality, hermaphrodite, two inch penis discovered on wedding night, wife having a psychotic PTSD reaction due to prior rape on wedding night requiring ER visit, total erectile dysfunction, obvious herpes outbreak on wedding night, huge difference in sex drive.

    I'm even more of a Pollyanna than Polly who left the previous comment. I believe you, Athol, but I'm completely flummoxed that people would lie about things that are so easily proved untrue to a person they're committing to for life. You're right that these can't be talked around, but surely having a distraught spouse filing for divorce (or applying for a civil annulment) is a worse rejection than what would have happened if all had been told before the wedding. It's incredible to me that people would keep these things secret when they know what the risks to a relationship are–especially when they supposedly care for the person they're entering into the relationship with!

  18. Dave in the cave says:

    Strong man, right on.

    Isn't the problem of discovering a dealbreaker by waiting until the wedding night really caused by one partner lying? STDs are something you should talk about if you truly care about your partner's well being. What kind of jerk would hide that?

    And what's to keep a guy from rushing to get her the diamond just to get laid quicker? Penises don't have brains…

  19. But what if you go for it, and decide it's not good and break up? Then you lose completely on the virgin strategy, because you can only use it once.

  20. Athol Kay says:

    Keb – Avoiding a bad marriage is a win.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Athol, the problem with the CDC study is that correlation does not equal causation. Other studies, for instance, have shown that those who stay virgin are less likely to challenge social norms; and since nowadays those who stay virgin typically come from a social norm that frowns upon divorce, it means they are less likely to divorce. In America, the virgins consist of fundamentalists (Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other), those from immigrant families who still do not allow premarital sex (sometimes), and those who can't get laid for whatever reason. The first two groups are less likely to divorce anyway. For the rest of us, virginity does not equal a strategy for making partnerships last.

    As well, the hypocrisy involved in "I want you to wait for me… now I want to try you out… if it doesn't work out, I'm dumping you" means that the person now is treated as damaged goods. It simply doesn't work.

    You have to take things in their context.

    And btw where, where on your virgin scale do you put the woman who uses a virbrator or dildo? What if she masturbates? You know, lots of women buy those things for themselves.

  22. Athol Kay says:

    I'm quite familar with correlation and causation.

    My argument is that the virginity thing is important because people tend to bond with their sexual partners. With only a single bond created and maintained, marriage chances are increased. Whether that sexual contact happens before or after the wedding doesn't matter. This is a biologically based effect not a spiritual/religious one. We can actually measure the neurological effects as orgasm happens and can draw labs to measure the hormones involved as well.

    Having a sexual relationship is the entire point of being married to each other. It's crazy to not test that out beforehand. Should you prove to be sexually incompatible, you dodge the bullet of a lifetime of misery.

    There's really not much proof religious people have a better divorce rate than non-religious ones do. Some studies – Christian funded ones to boot – have shown non-religious people have a lower divorce rate even.

    And seriously… the CDC data is based off the census. This is the gold standard in social demographics.

Speak Your Mind