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Saving Sex for Marriage, Real Life vs. the Movies

February 27, 2009

Alex Chediak was an apprentice at The Bethlehem Institute under the leadership of Pastors John Piper and Tom Steller of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis (2005-2007). He is the author of With One Voice: Singleness, Dating, and Marriage to the Glory of God (Christian Focus, 2006) and the general editor of Five Paths to the Love of Your Life (NavPress, 2005), for which he contributed two chapters. Previously working four years as a process development engineer for IBM and Cypress, he is now an Associate Professor of Engineering and Physics at California Baptist University. He and his wife Marni have two young children, Karis and Jonathan. Alex maintains a Web site and blog.

In the latest issue of World magazine, Megan Basham reviews romantic comedy He's Just Not That Into You (rated PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language).  I've not seen it, but I am not surprised to learn that the film is nothing other than the latest variation on the same, worn theme of aggressive, independent women chasing men into their late 20s and early 30s, hoping against hope that they will somehow earn the unwavering love, commitment and respect for which they so deeply (and painfully) long.  They are mainly unsuccessful, as the film's title suggests, as these men are "just not that into them."  Basham explains: 

"Behind the laughs, and, indeed, the film's popularity, is an unspoken question: What left women in such a precarious position? Why do we so rarely see romantic comedies that show men pursuing women anymore, as opposed to merely ‘realizing' they're in love two-thirds of the way through the film?" 

What's changed, Basham goes on to insightfully explain, is that women are now "liberated from the social norm of saving sex for marriage" which means that men are free to approach their pursuit of women as a quest for physical and relational intimacy apart from any long-term, binding commitment.  They can enjoy sexual intimacy without being "stuck" with a particular woman, so they in turn grow more "stuck" in passivity, unwilling to exert sacrificial energy for their woman, unable to savor the joy that only a lifelong, binding, monogamous relationship can cultivate.

Moreover, given the abundance of women willing to play by these rules, many men feel justified in scornfully regarding a woman for even wanting marriage and family.  In the film, the character Beth (Jennifer Aniston) is afraid to bring up marriage with her seven-year, live-in boyfriend because she doesn't want to seem "clingy or psycho."

The 80% female audience ought to be left with the inescapable conclusion: trading hearts and bodies for the temporary affection of men is a losing proposition. On the other hand, the confident, steadfast reservation of sex for marriage results in a woman attracting the right kind of man – a man who will lay down his life to earn her respect and win her love.  Sadly, the movie's ending suggests that the four love-hungry protagonists can have their cake and eat it too.  Only in the movies, folks.     

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