Sex is an interesting subject, and here's what I mean by that. Pornography is an industry that generates around 100 billion dollars per year, globally. That's a lot of money, coming from A LOT of people all over the world. It's not just men either. For example, Google Analytics stats in 2019 stated that Pornhub reported that 32% of its audience was women. They boast 30 billion views annually! Basic math tells us that almost 10 billion women are on Pornhub every month. It’s not just a guy problem. All kinds of people are interested in sex. Yet, it's a subject that people find hard to talk about. Single people and married couples alike, struggle communicating about sex and sexuality in truthfully candid ways. Parents still find talking to their kids about sex stuff, super awkward. Yet, at the end of the day, sex is one of the most basic human functions, at least from a scientific standpoint, concerning human reproduction. So, what’s the deal here?
In this article, we’re going to look at some of the things that the secular world says about sex, especially in the context of marriage, to see how it measures up to what the Bible says. In doing so, we might see that the difficulties surrounding sex, are likely rooted in spiritual factors. Hopefully, seeing this Biblical perspective can help you understand and address any struggles you might be having with sex, or sexuality, as an individual, married couple, or even in how to address this stuff with younger generations.
If we’re going to talk about sex in its proper application, we have to talk about marriage. If you’re older than 40, you know that marriages look a lot different these days than they used to. There are a lot of factors to consider as to why, but one of the major factors is the big push for more “independence” in marriages. For example, according to registered psychotherapist Denise Limongello, married couples can thrive more by pursuing various disciplines that enable independence in marriage. Here’s how she defined “independence” in the marriage context:
“The ability to be free from outside control, where you feel liberated and can explore your individuality; specifically in marriage, where you attain the ability to NOT depend on your partner for livelihood and subsistence.”
"Being independent while married means being who you are and not the version of you that your spouse wants. Love your partner's individuality for what they are and not despite it. Preserving your individuality gives a sense of strength and longevity to your relationship.”
At first glance, this makes some sense. We can look around and see that a lot of married couples are embracing this philosophy in marriage, whether they're consciously thinking about it or not. It's just how they function. How is that working out for marriages these days?
Well, a compilation of statistics from the CDC and US Census Bureau shows that the current divorce rate is still somewhere between 40%-50%. These stats show that the change in philosophy for marriage, trying to exercise more "independence," isn't producing the results that they hope. Now, when you look at just the number of marriages that ended in divorce, that percentage is going down. However, the report admits that the numbers seem favorable only because the number of people that are getting married, is far less. They reported that, in the 2000s, the national marriage rate in America was 8.2 people per 1,000. Currently, the national marriage rate is at 5.1 per 1,000. The statistics show that more couples are living together without formalizing and legalizing their union.
So, while newer philosophies to marriage encourage independence, it seems that people are already pretty comfortable living independently anyway. People seem to be comfortable with loose ties in their relationships, which is why they're not getting legally married. It's interesting to note also that, while the overall numbers for divorce are somewhat lower, the divorce rate for older couples is much higher. The national divorce rate has nearly doubled since 1990 for couples that are 50+. For those who are 65+, the rate has tripled in that same timeframe!
That brings up the issue of “co-habitation.” The Pew Research Group reports that, from 1990 to 2019, the number of “un-partnered” people between the ages 25-54, went up from 29% to 38%. In other words, there were a lot more “single” people in that age group. On the other side of things, married couples went down from 67% to 53% in that same age group, and in that same timeframe. Yet, the number of couples that were “cohabiting” during that same timeframe, and in that same age group, went up from 4% to 9%. That’s not a huge number, but it’s clear to see the trend.
Lack Of Commitment
The growing popularity of independence in marriage has affected marriage itself. An article published by Forbes said that "lack of commitment" was the most common reason for divorce in 2023. They reported that 75% of people surveyed, cited "lack of commitment" as the reason for their divorce, which was a higher percentage than infidelity! Only 60% of divorced people cited "cheating" as the reason for their divorce.
The question is then, how does “independence” translate into the sexual relationship? An article from “Psychology Today” argues that there is no difference between married or unmarried couples, in terms of "sexual satisfaction." They argue that sexual satisfaction has less to do with relationship status, and more to do with what two “lovers” create together within their sexual relationship. They cite 10 "common ingredients" that they say, are helpful to manufacturing a satisfying sexual relationship, whether the couple is married or not.
A study from the National Library of Medicine from the National Center For Biotechnology Information provided some insight into sexual satisfaction for couples that ARE married. They reported that married couples whose marriage relationship was satisfying were far more likely to have a satisfying sex life. That makes sense. If you're happier in the marriage relationship, the sex part is better. The findings in this study also showed that there wasn't any statistical significance associated with sexual satisfaction, length of marriage, number of children, level of education, or age difference between the couple. The better sex life was purely based on the quality of the marriage relationship, with those other factors playing a minimal role.
This shows that, marital satisfaction in how a man and woman function as husband and wife, plays a SUBSTANTIAL role in the sexual part of the marriage relationship.
So, if we look at the pure numbers, what do we learn about the relationship between sex and marriage?
Younger people aren't getting married as much as they used to. Instead, they're cohabiting to maintain a certain level of independence in their relationship. Older people who have been married are the ones getting divorced more and more. The reports cite a "lack of commitment" as the leading cause for these divorce rates. When it comes to sex, a person's satisfaction with their sex life isn't necessarily dependent on them being married. Data shows that unmarried people are just as, if not more satisfied than married people in their sex life. The data for married people though, shows that the quality of the marriage overall, weighs heavily on the quality of sex life within the marriage.
This presents a problem, especially with the Christian argument that a sexual relationship is reserved only for a husband and wife. The numbers make it look like sex is potentially better when you're not married. However, as Christians, we should know that’s a lie. What’s the problem then? How has the world been able to make their philosophies and statistics look more appealing than the truth of the scriptures?
Their numbers actually tell us the answer. The numbers don't show that single people or independent people have a higher potential for a satisfying sex life compared to married people. The numbers just show how disconnected marriages are, because of ignorance about what marriage is supposed to be! The fact that unmarried or independent people have more satisfying sex lives, is an indictment against current marriage relationships being unsatisfying. This means, either the Bible is wrong about marriage, or married people aren’t doing what the Bible says.
Think about how many divorces take place, especially in the older generations. Think about the "lack of commitment" that's cited as a leading issue within marriage. If there isn't commitment in marriage, there's going to be disconnection in marriage. If there's disconnection in marriage, the numbers show that the sex life is going to be lame, which in turn, causes flawed opinions and perspectives about sex as a whole. The world's solution to this issue is to stay unmarried and remain independent, so when sex becomes dissatisfying with one partner, you can find another. If so much of the United States has historically claimed to be Christian, why haven't Christian marriages proved the world's approach to be flawed? Is it possible that our understanding of marriage, as a whole, isn't as good as we think? If that's true, then it's no wonder that our perspective, opinions, and handling of marriage-centric issues like sex, have been so messed up!
Sex In The Bible
What does the Bible say about the relationship between sex and marriage? It doesn’t take long for the Bible to discuss the subject. In Genesis 1:28 the Bible says…
“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…’”
The Bible explains that the essence of God's blessing in the beginning, was based on the fundamental principle of "being fruitful and multiplying." Here, the obvious interpretation is the right one. Being fruitful and multiplying refers to human reproduction, involving sex. The context shows that it was intended to be part of God's blessing. Genesis Chapter 2 goes on to show that sex was not just a mechanical means for reproduction though, like a lot of Christian denominations have taught in the past. God created Adam and Eve for a purpose as husband and wife. Fulfilling that purpose would be a "blessing;" and the work required sex. That's a blessing too.
This means that to understand the "blessing" of sex, we have to understand God's purpose for a husband and wife since sex was part of the work required to obey His commands and fulfill His greater purpose. If we don't want to be confused, awkward, or shameful concerning how we deal with, and communicate about sex, we need to be more confident in God's purpose for marriage. Here's some more in-depth information from Genesis 2:21-24…
“And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This [is] now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
This testimony shows that there is a HUGE contrast between the way that the world considers the relationship between sex and marriage, compared to God’s perspective. Think about how the world tries to encourage independence in modern marriage. Think about the popular book, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," written by John Grey Ph.D. That book, as the title implies, argues that men and women are contrary and opposite one another, based on psychological differences between the two, often stimulated by culture. That book sold over 50 million copies in over 50 different languages since its original publication in 1992. That’s a lot of influence in the world. Still, does that measure up to what the Bible says about men and women, husbands and wives, and God’s purposes for married couples?
The Bible teaches that Adam was made first, but that Eve was taken “out of” Adam. The text says that she was taken from Adam’s “rib,” which in the original Hebrew language, simply refers to his side. That truth implies a position of equality. Adam and Eve were created uniquely by God in slightly different forms and with different functions, but with the intent to make them complimentary to one another, not contrary.
When Adam saw Eve for the first time he said, “This is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” Eve was made of the same substance and nature as Adam. They were the same from a spiritual and physical standpoint, in terms of their human function and God’s purpose for it. When God first commanded Adam to be fruitful and multiply, he couldn’t. There was no woman. He couldn’t physically do the job that God commanded, and fulfill the purpose God ordained, without woman. So, he couldn’t be spiritually fulfilled the way God intended.
When God created the woman and made her Adam's wife, He did so by making them equal and dependent on one another. Neither could "be fruitful and multiply" to fill the earth and subdue it according to God's command, without help from the other. God's purpose was for them to be together, not separate. Neither could obey God, fulfill God's purpose, or receive God's blessing unless they were united in purpose and function, even though the manner of their function was different. Again, they were complimentary, not contrary. Does this sound like God wanted them to be “independent” of one another?
The Bible teaches that, even though Adam and Eve were two different individuals, in marriage, God saw them as one unit. God set a clear standard when He said that a husband should separate from father and mother when married. This idea teaches that a husband needs to separate from the natural upbringing at "home," to start a new life with his wife and make himself "one" with her, not having any other factors causing divisions between them – even blood relationships. This shows how important the unity between husbands and wives is to God.
No Shame In Sex
When God made them this way, there wasn’t shame. God made Adam, and then He made Eve “out of” Adam, making them co-equal and complimentary to each other. Their purpose was to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Fulfilling that purpose would be God’s blessing. This blessing refers to procreation. The “oneness” that God described between a husband and wife, required the husband and wife to “come together” in a physical sense, but with a deeper understanding and purpose.
The Bible uses the English phrase “come together” often. It refers to individuals being unified in purpose. In the context of the first husband and wife, it describes how they were supposed to be unified in purpose to obey God’s command to complement each other as individuals, for a singular purpose. The singular purpose for Adam and Eve was to fulfill God's purpose by obeying His command. This required Adam and Eve to maintain the integrity of God's creation, using His resources that He provided, to obey His commands, trusting in the benefits that God promised He would provide as a result.
When a husband and wife “come together,” it deals with a lot more than just sex, even though it practically requires sex. If the sexual relationship isn’t first founded on two primary principles, there is a problem. What are those principles?
1) The sexual relationship requires husband and wife to be unified in their purpose to please God, by obeying the commands of His Word
2) The sexual relationship requires husband and wife to maintain the integrity of the possessions that God gives, to fulfill HIS purposes, and to live in the manner of stewards.
If a sexual relationship isn’t rooted in these two principles, then the sexual relationship is flawed and corrupted, regardless of opinion at any given time. This is even true for married Christians! Genesis 1:25 says that Adam and Eve were created naked, and were without shame. God created them in a physical condition that was practically helpful to the purpose and blessing that He gave. There wasn't shame. There wasn't embarrassment. There wasn't any awkwardness. There also wasn't any sin.
Now, do the math for a second. God told Adam and Eve to multiply to the point of "filling the earth." God wanted A LOT of people, which would have required A LOT of sex. God equipped Adam and Eve for that and left them naked to accomplish that task. While reading this might embarrass you, the Bible plainly states that there was no shame in the condition of the world or the relationship between Adam and Eve. The scriptures don’t seem embarrassed, which means that God isn’t embarrassed. As long as Adam and Eve were unified in their purpose, and had the right servant-attitude to fulfill that purpose, there was no shame, embarrassment, or awkwardness.
To answer that question, we need to understand the bigger picture that God is trying to teach us about, where He uses marriage as a core teaching illustration. Think about this. Does the Bible deal with sex this way, so early in the text, ONLY for practical matters dealing with procreation, or is it possible that God is trying to illustrate something more spiritually-rooted about Himself?
If we want to understand, properly apply, and enjoy the sexual relationship in the ways that God intended, we need to make sure we understand God's bigger spiritually-centered purposes. If we want to benefit from the relationship between marriage and sex, and be good witnesses in our handling of marriage and sex, we need to know the SPIRITUAL implications of both sex and marriage.