Premarital Sex The Issue of Premarital Sex Premarital sex seems to be a black and white issue. Someone either participates or they don’t, but when looking deeper into the ethical issues of premarital sex the issue becomes very gray. Some would say premarital sex is someone’s right to their personal sexual happiness, but others would say it is a byproduct of other factors in one life. Relationships and marriage should be based on a mutual love, but when premarital sex is involved there is the issue of lust.
Does this person someone is about to marry love them for who they are or love them for what they are? Some argue people who engage in premarital sexual activities turn their partner into a sex object meaning they treat their partner like an object (Long et al 302). There is also the issue that there is pressure to have premarital sex. Young people when surveyed all reported they have been pressured to participate in sexual behavior before marriage (Christopher 255). This behavior and pressure comes from the media, peers and through a sexual revolution our society has gone through (Larson and Holman 228).
The two main issues I am going to focus on pertaining to premarital sex are true love and people believing they have a right to sexual happiness because sex is natural. Ethical Theories of Premarital Sex True Love Immanuel Kant said, “Human love is good-will, affection, promoting the happiness of others and finding joy in their happiness. But it is clear, that when a person loves another purely for sexual desires, none of these factors enter into the love” (716). Some think, including Kant, that love becomes a different love when sexual desires is involved. Kant compares sex to a person appetite for food.
He says when someone is trying to feed their sexual desires they put aside the feelings of the person they are devouring. When someone’s sexual appetite is satisfied the person they used for personal sexual satisfaction is discarded. Sexual appetites are on-going meaning people will constantly be discarding people after sex. “Sexual love can, of course, be combined with concern for the other’s well-being and so carry with it the characteristics of this love, but taken by itself and for itself, it is nothing more than appetite” (Kant 716). Kant finds sexual desires outside of marriage immorally wrong mainly because it degrades human nature.
If then a man wishes to satisfy his desires. And a woman hers, they stimulate each other’s desires; their inclinations meet, but their object is not human natures, but sex, and each of them dishonors the human nature of the other. They make of humanity an instrument for the satisfaction of their lusts and inclinations and dishonor it by placing it on a level with animal nature (Kant 717). When two people have sex and the point of having sex is for one person to satisfy their sexual appetite according to Kant this makes the other participant in sex an object.
This is the only case in which a human being is designed by nature as the object of another’s enjoyment. Sexual desire is at the root of it; and that is why we are ashamed of it, and why all strict moralists, and those who had pretentions to be regarded as saints, sought to suppress and extirpate it… (717). Kant went on to explain that in premarital sexual relationships men desire women not because they are a woman, but because they can be used to satisfy the man’s sexual desires. Sex when meant to satisfy sexual desires Kant believes degrades the person who becomes the object the desire.
Kant makes it very clear he believe sex is only ethical when in the walls of marriage. “Matrimony is the only condition in which use can be made of one’s sexuality” (718). He goes on to explain when two people marry there is union made that cannot be broken. Within this union sex does take place, but it is on a different level in comparison to premarital indulgences. The happiness experienced in marriage through companionship and sex is above and more rewarding then the temporary happiness one feels in premarital sex.
Kant does not think it is ethical to have multiple sexual partners before because sex is not about appeasing your sexual desires it is about love and procreating. “The sole condition on which we are free to make use of our sexual desires depends on the right to dispose over the person as a whole. ” (Kant 717) What Kant means by this is marriage. If I have the right over the whole person, I have also right over the part, and so I have the right to use that person’s sexual organs for the satisfaction of sexual desire.
But how am I to obtain these rights over the whole person? Only by giving that person the same right over the whole of myself. This happens only in marriage” (717). Such love should only be expressed in monogamous relationships between man and wife. He argues this sex is more rewarding than any anyone had when trying to feed their sexual appetites. “Thus sexuality leads to a union of human beings, and in that union alone its exercise is permissible. ” (Kant 718). A Right to Sexual Happiness In society people are constantly seeking satisfaction with life.
Sometimes however what people think make them happy only make them happy because society says it should make them happy. People are taught they have a right to happiness; that is should simply occur in their life because they are alive. A right many people think they have is a right to sexual happiness. C. S. Lewis said, “A right to happiness doesn’t, for me, make much more sense than a right to be six feet tall, or to have a millionaire for your father, or to get good weather whenever you want to have a picnic” (752). Lewis went on to explain that he can see how people have rights to things like freedom, but not happiness.
Happiness is something that occurs because someone is a good person (755). Lewis’ thoughts on happiness were provoked by a story about a man leaving his wife for another woman (751). In theory this man left his wife for his mistress because of sexual happiness. Lewis argues we do not have a right to sexual happiness; not all “rights” people think they have are moral. “It is quite certain what [other philosopher] did not mean. They did not mean that man was entitled to pursue happiness by any and every mean-including, say, murder, rape, robbery, treason and fraud.
No society could be built on such a basis. ” (752). In theory people have a right to commit these crimes if they chose. If someone chooses to leave their wife for another lover that is their right and there is no law stopping him from doing so, but behind all laws and rights is the Natural Law (Lewis 752). The Natural Law would state a man should not leave his wife whom he loved for a woman he lusts after. Not only should people live by the law of the land, but they should live by the Natural Law. There is more to a successful marriage besides sex. When two people achieve lasting happiness, this is not solely because they are great lovers but because they are also- I must put it crudely- good people; controlled, loyal, fair minded, mutually adaptable people (Lewis 755). When it comes to people having sex outside of marriage many times it is because they feel like they have the right to their sexual happiness (Lewis 754). People who are married and are having sex are not happy because they are having sex, they are happy because their lives are in order with the Natural Law.
Many are deceived that sex is what makes these people happy; therefore they indulge in premarital sex. Lewis believes no one has a right to their own sexual happiness because that is something that occurs when people are living moral lives. True sexual happiness will not occur outside of marriage. Personal Perspective The ethical issues of premarital sex are very personal for people. Everyone has different views or their own exceptions based on religion, morals, family upbringing and so on. Just like everyone has their own definition of love, everyone has their own rules when it comes to premarital sex.
No matter what societal group someone associates with there is a new openness about sex. It is no longer looked down upon if people are openly discussing this. This is apparent through newsstands and the magazines that clutter them donning covers to come read and learn how to improve sex (Christopher 255). The entertainment society enjoys from books to movies is filled with premarital sex. Sex is no longer talked about behind closed doors in hushed voices. Premarital sex has become something very social and a topic of general conversation.
In a study done amongst college students the results showed 85 percent of college student participated in premarital sexual relations because they thought their five best friends were also engaging in such activity (Schulz et al 157). Though it was clear in this study that social pressure was a main factor in whether people were having premarital sex or not it went on to explain they determined the chances of someone having premarital sex increased or decreased depending on which social groups they associate themselves with.
For example if someone is in a fraternity the odds of them having premarital sex increases by 12 percent (Schulz et al159). This data is more current and one I can see happening in our society. Social pressures of society and not just with college aged students, has increased the acceptance of premarital sex in our society. Though the openness and acceptance of premarital sex has increased I still do not think it is the greatest practice among young people. Take away the ethical issues of premarital sex and there is the issue or disease and pregnancy.
Those are enough risks that should scare unmarried people into not having sex. However, in a society that is full of couple who cohabitate it brings up the issue: Do two people who love each other need to be married to have ethical sex? (Teachman 444). While our society has evolved so have the ethics of our society. When Kant was writing his strong ethical views against premarital sex it was a society who general thought in one direction. Today in society people think infinite ways.
There are more accepted religions, more accepted lifestyles and more definitions of love. However, something that is still not acceptable is sex for recreation or their right to happiness. Sex should occur when two people are in love. Many people in love no longer wait to be married though. There are the situations of two people living together, two people who have been dating for a long period of time, two people who are engaged to be married; many of these people engage in premarital sex, but I do not think anyone can tell them they are not in love.
If two people are engaged to be married or cohabitate it is hard to argue they have not surrendered their whole self to each other. Their lives are intertwined enough that sex may be for their sexual desires, but Kant said when two people have given themselves to each other in more than a sexual way that sex is acceptable if it is meant to fulfill sexual desires. The ethics of premarital sex have certainly changed in our society because of new trends we regularly see, but it is still important we root the ethics in such theories of people like Kant and Lewis.
The theories of Kant and Lewis promoted honesty, morality and true loves. If more people rooted their personal values in Kant and Lewis especially when it comes to premarital sex, our society would be happier and no longer need to demand their right to happiness. Christopher, F. Scott. “An Initial Investigation into a Continuum of Premarital Sexual Pressure. ” The Journal of Sex Research 25. 2(1998): 255-266. Print. Kant, Immanuel. “On the Place of Sex in Human Existence. ” The Moral Life: An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature 3rd ed.
Ed. Louis P. Pojman and Lewis Vaughn New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 716-718. Print. Larson, Jeffry H. and Thomas B. Holman. “Premarital Predictors of Marital Quality and Stability. ” Family Relations 43. 2(1994): 228-237. Print. Lewis, C. S. “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’. ” The Moral Life: An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature 3rd ed. Ed. Louis P. Pojman and Lewis Vaughn New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 751-756. Print. Long, Edgar C. J. and Rodney M. Cate, Del A. Fehsenfeld, Kimberly M.
Williams. “A Longitudinal Assessment of a Measure of Premarital Sexual Conflict. ” Family Relations 45. 3 (1996): 302-308. Print. Schulz, Barbara and George W. Bohrnstedt, Edgar F. Borgatta, Robert R. Evans. “Explaining Premarital Sexual Intercourse among College Students: A Causal Model. ” Social Forces 56. 1(1977): 148-165. Print. Teachman, Jay. “Premarital Sex, Premarital Cohabitation, and the Risk of Subsequent Marital Dissolution among Women. ” Journal of Marriage and Family 65. 2 (2003): 444-445. Print.