Evidence suggests that Christians are increasingly tolerant of casual sex, but what does the dating scene look like for those who are choosing not to engage in premarital sex?
A ChristianMingle poll released last month suggests that Christians are increasingly open to having sex outside of marriage. Sixty-one percent of the 716 Christians surveyed said they would be willing to have sex without any strings attached. Only 11 percent indicated they would be willing to wait until marriage.
To get a sense of what the dating landscape looks like for Christian women who are unwilling to treat sex casually, The Christian Post talked with three women who shared how they feel their moral convictions are treated by men and the culture at large.
Sexual ethics of Christian men
Several years ago Lisa Anderson signed up for online dating.
Anderson, 42, who heads Boundless, Focus on the Family's ministry to singles and young adults, and is single herself ("I am the true 40-year-old virgin" she laughs,) decided to be upfront with potential boyfriends about where her sexual ethics lay.
"As I got to know these guys, I think they sensed pretty early on that I was not going to go there, so I think that that probably ended it. It was never a situation where we're together and that's going to go too far so I stopped it," Anderson told CP.
Yet she was surprised that many of the Christian men on online dating sites openly admitted that they expected sex in a relationship.
"When I did some of the dating sites, one of the first questions I would throw out is, 'What is your view on premarital sex?' I would say of self-described Evangelical Christian guys, at least 75 percent of them would say that it was 'okay,' or if it was in a 'committed relationship' or 'once you're engaged,'" said Anderson. "I was shocked at the level of confession in that, and [that it was] not even sheepishly put forward. It was very much a matter of fact, 75 percent."
As someone waiting to save sex until marriage, Anderson declined pursuing relationships with any of the men.
"There cut 75 percent of the potential guys that I would meet online. … And I'm not just talking about, 'I'm a Christian because I was raised in Texas.' I'm talking about guys who actually wrote out Christian testimonies on the site in their profiles," said Anderson.
Two Millennial perspectives on sexual boundaries
Anderson's difficulty resonates with Belle Vierge, 26, a pseudonym for a Midwestern professional who blogs on her decision to save coitus until marriage.
Raised in the South, "where saving sex until marriage is totally normal," Vierge said her eyes were opened to how sexually active young people were after she moved to France post-college graduation.
"I was in France. I was meeting people from all over the world and guys were trying to sleep with me for the first time in my entire life, which was really weird. I was hearing people talk about sex, basically in a way that I had never heard before," Vierge told CP.
Although Vierge considers herself as "generally Protestant," she said that she does not believe the Bible forbids premarital sex, a perspective she gained after a "feminism biblical interpretation" course in college.
"The more I was read the Scripture, I was like, 'Wait a second, to say that premarital sex is a sin takes a lot of really interesting leaps and ignores a lot of the historical realities of when the Bible was written," said Vierge. "For example, in Deuteronomy, I can't really accept a Bible verse that says a rape victim should marry her rapist as textual evidence that you shouldn't have sex before marriage."
Instead, Vierge's convictions about sex are based on her desire to only have it "with one person."
Regardless of motive, Vierge still found it difficult finding someone who was on the same page as her, though her current boyfriend (who is an atheist), shares her convictions.
"For a lot of people [not being willing to have premarital sex] is a deal breaker," said Vierge. "For me, it means my current boyfriend is my first boyfriend."
Emily Maynard, 28, a writer from Portland, Ore., said she casually dated men willing to respect her sexual convictions, even if they did not agree.
"If that came up, It was made clear that I wasn't someone willing to have sex casually," Maynard told CP. "I found people really respected that, actually. Whether or not they held it as their own value, I found that people were very receptive of 'You know what you want, that's fine.'"
"Generally, I found that it wasn't something that came up unless it sort-of naturally came up. I didn't walk into a date and say, 'Just so you know, I'm not going to have sex with you.' But if that came up, I practiced saying where my boundaries were and found people pretty respectful of that," she added.
Maynard also never committed to anyone who did not share her sexual ethics.