9 out of 10 Americans have had pre-marital sex


Ok, so my break was really short! I read this article today and thought it would be something that many of you would find interesting.

According to the Guttmacher Institute in a recent survey, close to 95% of Americans have had pre-marital sex. Beyond that, their survey claims that this number hasn’t changed much since the 1940’s. They also claim that women are almost equally as likely as men to engage in pre-marital sex and that these realities have remained this way for almost 50 years. Their research says that among women born between 1950-1978 aproximately 91% of them had engaged in pre-marital sex before they were age 30.

This study was extremely disturbing to me. If this is correct, and I’d like to see more research to substantiate their claim, but if it is true, it would behoove us to reconsider how we approach our teaching in this regard. If this is correct, than it is obvious that there is little success in our traditional methods. We must find new ways to communicate the biblical truth that abstinence is THE policy before marriage.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

13 thoughts on “9 out of 10 Americans have had pre-marital sex

  1. Want research? Sit down and have a candid conversation with your dad. Or your grandpa. Or anyone over the age of 60. You will be shocked, my friend.
    I realize that this flies in the face of traditional church teaching, but encouraging people NOT to have sex before marriage, especially once they reach the age of majority, is like trying to hold back the Niagra river once it reaches the falls. You’ve got a lot of natural forces working against you, and those forces are difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.

  2. There are so many messages in that, I don’t know where to start. So I won’t.

    One I will point out, though, is that it’s surprising that some find it surprising. Oh, we hope for better from and for the kids, but…..

    Could it be that most teachers are so afraid to get passionate about teaching the eternal value of purity, that the kids smell hypocrisy? I never, ever heard a teacher say “I had sex before I was married and it has haunted me ever since”. The kids sit there with hormones boiling and figure the teacher was really out of touch as a kid, or is now, or that something is really wrong with they, themselves.

    But then, I’m not sure I hear a whole lot of passion in any teaching any more.

  3. Sexual sin is not the unpardonable sin, but it’s more acceptable than gluttony at a church covered dish meal. However, I don’t agree with Jason that it’s impossible to overcome. If that is the case, the God expects us to do the imossible, and all things are possible with Him. And, if it’s impossible, then why try? That, I believe, is why we are in the shape we are in. We believe our flesh is stronger than His Spirit. We trust in what we can see and touch, rather in what we cannot.

  4. Along with communicating the abstinence until marriage message, I think that the church needs to find some way of supporting single adults. I teach a moral & sexual purity session for women serving overseas, and it is always interesting to hear the stories of singles above the age of 25. Few emotional resources are available for those women as the ones delivering the message usually assume marriage will happen. (I realize that this comment could lead into a tangential but related discussion on folks waiting until later in life for marriage. In my experience and observation, it is not the choice of most women to delay marriage.)

  5. I didn’t intend to leave the impression that it is impossible to overcome sexual sin. Of course, nothing is impossible with God.

    But consider the unique nature of sexual sin. If a person is a thief, for example, it is not that difficult to overcome thievery, because it is not a natural function of humanity to steal. It is a natural function of humanity to procreate. We were created to be sexual beings. We not only need sex to perpetuate the species, we WANT sex because it is pleasureable, and it is pleasureable because God designed it to be that way. That is unique to any other activity in the Bible. With a ring it is okay, without a ring it is a sin.

    Sexuality so permeates our society in every facet, some in a good way and some not, that it is extremely difficult for a person, once they have experience intercourse, to ever go back to abstaining. Its the way humans are wired up.

    Couple that with the perverted teachings on sexuality that are prevalent these days, even among Christians, and you have a problem. There are groups of so-called Christians that advocate any kind of sexual intercourse other than traditional, “normal” intercourse as okay for the believer. In the interest of good taste, I will leave it at that.

  6. Well,

    I was a virgin when I got married. I’m not saying this to be holier than thou. I’m saying it can be done.

    As pastors and Christians we shouldn’t say it is natural and all of the other cop-outs! We should strive to be Holy. This is one of my pet peaves. People saying we can’t, can’t, can’t. That is bunk. We can do all things through Christ. God called us to be holy so let’s be holy!

  7. The Guttmacher Institute didn’t conduct the study. They used data from a series of surveys sponsored by the CDC (conducted by the University of Michigan I believe). It did not include people who were teenagers or adults in the 1940’s so the news articles tend to be a little misleading there. The surveys really start with people who were coming of age in the 60’s.

    I don’t know the details behind the sampling mechanism used but certainly people did some self-selection based on willingness to talk about their sex lives for an hour to a complete stranger. I think the true percentage is higher than a lot of Christians want to admit but probably not 95%.

  8. Two things here that I want to point out. One, 95% is way too high. I graduated from high school in ’81 and the vast majority of my friends were sexually pure because we were all nerds and had no opportunity. And no, the situation did not change much in college. BUT-
    I never received any decent teaching on sexual purity as an active member in my church. My wife and I would have greatly benefited from Thom Wolf’s teaching of the Abimelech Principle.
    This principle is based on two scriptures.
    1 Tim 5:1-2 says to treat younger women as your sister. Genesis 26:8-9 tells the story of Isaac trying to tell Abimelech that Rebecca is his sister. In vs 9 after Abiimelech sees Isaac ‘fondling’ Rebecca he cries out, ‘That’s not your sister!’ So, here is a Biblical teaching that sets a practical standard to keep people away from the edge of Niagra falls. We must fight this battle and not call it lost. The pain and the brokeness are too great to be ignored. We owe good Biblical teaching to those we love.

  9. I don’t think it is impossible to prevent, but it is apparent that the church as a whole isn’t preventing it. I was in youth ministry for 13 years before spending 14 years in Christian day school education as a teacher and administrator. I wouldn’t dispute that 95% figure. It corresponds well with the percentage of church-active youth who drop out of church by the time they graduate from college.

    It’s not a matter of whether or how we teach abstinence. It is a matter of spiritual formation. People practice principles and convictions that are their own. The problem is that what we see as “faith” in a lot of kids and young adults isn’t their faith, it’s their parents’ faith and as the influence and authority of their parents begins to fade and they become more independent, if they don’t “catch” it on their own, they lose sight of it.

    The kids I’ve worked with who have come to faith on their own, either having been raised in a home where the parents were not believers, or where they managed to experience their own spiritual formation, were the ones least likely to engage in behavior that is contrary to their professed principles.

  10. The study is useful in that it forces us to recognize the severity of the problem. As a youth Sunday School teacher, what I’d like to know is what is it that is effective in training and keeping our kids pure and devoted to Christ. There are ideas given above, but it would be useful to know if there are studies on that topic. (Where’s Josh McDowell when you need him?)

  11. I believe CB Scott is referring to this article from Baptist Press. Unfortunately, Richard Ross (True Love Waits founder) either did not check his facts before making his statements or purposely left out information thus making his statements misleading. I hope it is the former.

    The surveys were federally funded. The Guttmacher Institute had nothing to do with the design of the surveys, sampling procedures or the collection of the data. Any one can order the data and analyze it. An earlier analysis of the same data found 85% of married individuals had sex (with someone) before their marriages. While I do have questions about the sampling procedure and analysis assumptions (and Finer’s conclusions!), the actual percentage is high.

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