Lolo Jones ... Olympian and 29-year-old virgin.

Lolo Jones ... Olympian and 29-year-old virgin. Photo: Getty Images

No sex before marriage, the new normal?

I won’t be a virgin if or when I get hitched. This isn’t a problem for me. But it’s a huge problem for some other people. But lately I’ve been wondering when ‘some’ may be ‘most’. It has been before – for most of Western history in fact – will it be again?

Yesterday, news of America’s latest celebrity virgin hit Australia. Hurdler Lolo Jones revealed keeping chaste had been harder than keeping on top of her Olympic training schedule. But her Christian belief demanded ‘no sex before marriage’, or ad undas.

And what of it, you may think. Think America, think freedom of choice and religion. Especially religion, for even a casual consumer of global news has observed theology in their politics. Keener readers, or Presidential pundits, will have noted the trends that result in headlines such as this: The Future Will Be More Religious and Conservative Than You Think (a good read).

But that is America. Those Americans are crazy. In Australia, we are secular, and smaller, and more sensible. We have a non-believer in the top job for chrissake. Not that it matters; the Roman Catholic waiting in the wings wouldn’t let religion interfere with policy...

Yet a string of academics disagree. Australian schools are being “Christianised”, or “desecularised” depending on whom you ask. The latter link points to an article published last year in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations through which feminist Sheila Jeffries runs with the current ‘ballooning religion’ theme and fears loudly for gender equality. In this new climate, she argues, old values are promoted - chastity, presumably, included.

How accurate is this? How true? Are we becoming more religious – more conservative – in Australia? It is true focused purpose makes religious voice more audible over the din of general apathy. The really religious are always characterised as the small group with big noise. Are they really that small? The wait is on for census revelation due later this year.

It is, of course, important to note not all religions are the same. Nor do all religions pose the kind of problems some scholars would have you worry about. Christianity, for example, is nothing if not diverse, and it is wrong to assume all who admitted membership in the church of the Messiah takes their spirituality seriously. Not every Christian would subscribe to these principles of chaste dating for example.

We do seem to be serious about values though. And we do seem to associate values with faith. And when it comes to relationships, I have long supported the notion two people will be most happy when they share beliefs about the most basic things in life – sex, very definitely, included.

That’s where things get interesting, because there’s a thread running through contemporary debate that balls into this big, finger-pointing conclusion - we don’t value sex enough. Physical intimacy has been debased, reduced, made common, less special, and ruined by a free-for-all society of characterised by permissiveness, indulgence and excess. Just like every other precious aspect of the human experience, like parenthood or death, sex has been devalued by the loss of what is ‘right’ and the rise of ‘whatever’. Is more religion the answer?

While I don’t think it’s as simple as that (what does religion mean anyway?), I don’t believe a world where sharp, non-negotiable lines are drawn around good and bad is the answer. I prefer spectrums and shades of grey. And I prefer to have sex with whom, and how, I please when and wherever is reasonable.

But how about you, when it comes to sex and values, where do you stand? Would you prefer things went back to a simpler time when sex was ‘special’ and reserved for marriage? Do you think the ‘sexualisation’ of our society should, and can, be fixed? And is more religion the right way to go about it?

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