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Nigerians love to underestimate the value of waiting until marriage to have sex. We teach abstinence in schools across the country, and even comprehensive sex programs often point out that “abstinence is best”.
Pop Stars from Tiwa Savage to Annabella Zwyndila, Chidinma, Adokiye, Damilola Agbajor and Toolz, all claimed waiting till marriage, putting them into the good ‘Role Model’ category (at least, until someone leaks a sex tape).
There’s a booming “purity industry”, books, T-shirts, DVDs, etc have all been made to champion the cause.
State and Federal tax payers money have long been spent promoting “chastity”. White conservative commentators are happy to assert that waiting until marriage is the last choice for every one and people who don’t wait aren’t doing marriage “The Right Way”.
Sex-positive liberals hesitate to say that having sex before marriage is an equally valid- if not better-choice for nearly everyone.
So here it goes: having sex before marriage is the choice for nearly everyone!
How do I know? Well, first of all, nearly everyone has sex before marriage. 95% of Nigerians don’t wait until their wedding night. And that’s a longstanding Nigeria value.
Even among folks in my grandparent’s generation, nine out of ten of them had sex before they wed.
Of course, just because lots of people do a thing doesn’t mean it right.
But sex is in terms of happiness, sex is better than money and having sex once a week instead of once a month is the “happiness equivalent” of an extra #500,000 a year. People with active sex lives life longer, sex release stress, boosts immunities, helps you sleep and is heat-healthy.
Sex is good whether you’re married or not, and certainly folks who wait until marriage often means both early marriage and gender tend to have higher divorce rate and unhappier marriage.
We know that, on the other hand, there are lots of benefits to marrying later and to gender equalitarian marriage.
Couples who both work outside the home and also share house duties have more sex..
It turns out that feminist values-not “traditional” ones-lead to the most stable marriage typically equals premarital sex.
Most adults naturally desire sex. And despite the rightwing emphasis on concepts like “purity”, having sex does not actually make you a dirty or an “impure” person.
Sexual morality isn’t all ponies and rainbows. Nigeria has one of the highest unwanted pregnancy rate in the world. We have one of the highest abortion rates as well as one of the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases.
But our problem with sex isn’t that we’re having it before marriage, it’s that we’ve cast it as shameful and dirty.
And when our collective cultural consciousness says that, sex is shameful and dirty, we don’t have the incentive or the tools-to plan for sex, to see it as a positive responsibility and to make healthy sexual choices.
From a more practical standpoint, not everyone is going to be married, or even legally can get married.
The notion of waiting forever to experience a fundamental human pleasure is pointless and cruel.
And while the old adage tells a woman that men won’t buy the cow if they can get the milk for free, if I’m to buy a cow, I’m sure going to ensure the milk is to my liking.
But our cultural view of premarital sex as morally tainted which makes it harder for couples to engage in real talks about their religious values, how many kids they want or whether the wedding cake will be chocolate or vanilla, etc.
Purity peddlers construct a false universe where there are pure Nigerians wait until marriage, whole there are slutty whores who go home with different men every night of the week.
Our relationships with others people, sexual or not, are how we grow, evolve and learn about ourselves.
They’re how we figure out what love is, what we like physically and emotionally, and how to negotiate our own needs with someone else’s.
Despite the wait till-marriage claim, waiting to have sex won’t protect you from heartache, frustration or love lost.
But a variety of fulfilling relationships, sexual and not, will make you a more well-rounded, compassionate and self-assured person.
My point isn’t that everyone should have sex before marriage-people but rather people should determine for themselves when they are ready to have sex.
For the vast majority of people, that’s going to be before they’re married, making that choice isn’t a moral failing.
On the contrary, it’s often a great healthy, overwhelmingly positive choice. Whenever you choose to have sex, the cultural message that waiting until marriage is the best choice is simply wrong.
Jinadu Oluwaseun is currently a student of Mass Communication at Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Ondo State.