Building the next generation of leaders for marriage, family, and sexual integrity

Frequently Asked Questions: Sexual Integrity

What does it mean to have sexual integrity?

Sexual integrity means living out one’s sexuality in a way consistent with the conjugal purpose and meaning of sex. This means the same thing for married and single people, albeit lived out in different ways – both are called to reserve sex for marriage and to be faithful in mind and body to one’s spouse.

Sexual integrity also refers to the attitudes and habits that make abstinence from extra-marital sex possible and that help reinforce marital fidelity.

If it’s safe sex between consenting adults, what’s the harm?

The term “safe sex” is misleading. Even contracepted sex produces hormones that result in feelings of connection and attachment. If the consenting adults are not in an exclusive, committed relationship, these feelings can result in confusion and emotional distress, among other harms. Even those who are in an exclusive and committed (albeit non-marital) relationship can still experience emotional confusion or distress since feelings of attachment exist without the assurance of complete commitment as one would find in marriage. In addition to the emotional factors, “safe sex” is misleading because there is no form of protection that can protect against all sexually transmitted infections.

Why can’t I decide the meaning of sex for myself?

Every action we make has two fundamental aspects. There is the intent behind the action, and there are the objective qualities of the action itself. We can intend whatever we want, but we cannot change the objective nature of sex. Sex has a meaning and purpose that is dependent on its physical reality, which we cannot change.

Aren’t concepts like purity and virginity just social constructs?

Although there have been more and less admirable customs surrounding purity and virginity throughout history, there is truth to the value of reserving sexual intimacy for marriage. Chastity is not about repression, fear, or power structures. Today, many of those who strive for purity of mind and body do so out of respect for themselves and their sexual dignity, and out of love and respect for their future spouse. Virginity before marriage and fidelity within marriage recognizes that the proper context for sexual intimacy and union is within a relationship of comparable intimacy and union of life – i.e. marriage. Only within marriage do two people pledge to unite their lives together permanently, living as one. Sex is the physical expression and sign of their marital union. In this light, it makes complete sense why many choose to reserve sex for marriage and cultivate habits of chastity that help them live out this commitment.

Won’t living together before marriage make our marriage stronger? Isn’t it smart to give our relationship a “trial run” before tying the knot?

Research shows that cohabitation increases, not decreases, the risk of divorce. One possible explanation for this is that cohabiting couples are more likely to slide into important relationship decisions rather than openly discuss and decide them. Another explanation is that it shifts the couple’s attention from a focus on questions that matter deeply in discerning the compatibility of potential marriage partners – like views about religion, education, and finances – to a focus on evaluating the day-to-day habits of a potential spouse. It also habituates couples in the attitude that they can pull the escape hatch on the relationship whenever they “need” to – and attitude that is hard to change even after marriage vows are exchanged.

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The Love and Fidelity Network is the principal program of the Collegiate Cultural Foundation