Questions From Readers
● Is it right for engaged couples to have sexual relations?—M. A., Norway.
In Scandinavia and elsewhere this indulgence in sex relations may be the practice, especially during long engagements, sometimes a number of years long, and that with public approval. But that it should be allowed with public approval does not make it right. The purpose of sex relations could not be for the purpose of true marriage, namely, to bring forth children, for otherwise we should witness children’s being born to such couples during their engagement, especially in the case of long engagements, and before the legal act takes place. Evidently, then, the effort must be made somehow to avoid having children result to such sex relations, and for this reason it could not be viewed even as a common-law marriage. Common-law marriages are undertaken by couples without the thought of having them legalized, but still to have children.
When an engagement to marry is entered into, it is understood by the couple and their parents or caretakers that one day the wedding of the two will be consummated. It is not the engagement, but it is the actual marriage, that bestows upon the two the right to have sex relations. If sex relations are prematurely indulged in during the period of the engagement and the man should die or through some other circumstance he should not marry her, then the woman of his engagement is no longer a virgin and she could never be offered to another man as a virgin even though she was never married legally or in common law. This in itself condemns the practice as wrong.
And where is there anything theocratic about it? In the typical theocracy of Israel the engaged virgin was obligated to keep her virginity until her promised husband took her from her parents’ home to his. If a man assaulted a virgin who was not engaged, then he was obliged to hand over dowry money to her father and take her immediately as his wife, without the usual betrothal period. In such case, too, he was not allowed to divorce her all the days of his life, because he had violated and humiliated her.—Ex. 22:16, 17; Deut. 22:28, 29.
Concerning the Christian congregation, which was pictured by an engaged virgin in Israel, the apostle Paul wrote: “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:2, NW) In harmony with this picture, the engaged girl should be a virgin at the time she is legally married, or if she is a widow she should have had no sex relations with her new husband during the period of her engagement to him prior to the actual wedding.
The practice of sex relations during the engagement period of a couple is the committing of fornication or immoral relations. An informed Christian who strives for life in the new world will not indulge in such, for to do so means conforming himself to this world and its way of thinking and not to the righteous, clean standards of Jehovah’s new world. The Christian parents of a daughter will not consent to or allow for a young man, whether professed Christian or of this old world, to have sex relations with her prior to the formal marriage.
Christian congregations will not subscribe to this practice even in lands where it is the publicly recognized custom. They will require that those whom they admit to their fellowship refrain from or discontinue such practice, if they do not marry immediately. If the engagement period is too long for the couple to endure it without cohabitation, then they should bring the engagement to a consummation as soon as possible and enter the legal marriage with its honorable rights. “It is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion.”—1 Cor. 7:9, NW.