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Premarital Sex Is More Taboo for Today’s Devout Christians


Research suggests the current generation of religious young adults might value abstinence more than those in past decades.

Religious worldviews and attitudes may be a key motivation for abstaining from pornography, viewing premarital sex as wrong, and refraining from sex until marriage.

So does religious behavior correlate with sexual abstinence? The answer is yes.

While there has perhaps been a modest increase in sexual abstinence among religious nonattenders or occasional attenders, the lion’s share of the increase in sexlessness has been among the relatively religiously devout. Since 2008, among never-married individuals under age 35 who attend religious services more than monthly, the rate of sexlessness has risen from about 20% to nearly 60% in 2021. Among their less-religious peers, sexlessness has risen from around 10% in 2008 to 20% in 2021.

Since at the very least, most religious communities in America view premarital sex as a less preferred sexual arrangement than marriage, the increase in sexual abstinence among religious young adults could speak to an important change among religious communities.

It could be that Americans who deviate from religious sexual norms are finding it harder to stay attached to religious communities, as the cultural differences between religious and nonreligious worlds become larger. In this scenario, as nonreligious American culture becomes more sex-positive, the tension with religious norms becomes more intense, and people who deviate from those religious norms leave the church. This would imply that for many people, a key motivating factor in their religious behavior is sex.

But another explanation is that the behavior of religious people themselves is changing. Perhaps religious young adults are simply complying with the norms of their communities more determinedly than previous generations. In this …

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