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Evangelical Millennials Agree Sex Outside Marriage Is Wrong

The majority (77 percent) of evangelical Millennials disagree with the statement “Having sex outside of marriage is morally acceptable for an unmarried person,” with 61 percent disagreeing strongly. Yet 44 percent of unmarried evangelicals ages 18-29 have had sex, including 25 percent who have had sex in the last three months, according to a new report by the National Association of Evangelicals.

The report, “Sex and Unexpected Pregnancies: What Evangelical Millennials Think and Practice,”* found that a majority (55 percent) who were unmarried but have been sexually active in the past three months still believed that sex outside marriage is not morally acceptable, including 29 percent who felt strongly about this. Just 19 percent felt strongly that their behavior was morally acceptable.

Sixty-seven percent of all evangelical Millennials consider abstinence to be a realistic option. Only 11 percent agreed strongly with the statement “Abstinence is just not realistic in today’s world.” Twenty-two percent agreed somewhat. Of those who were unmarried and recently sexually active, only a slight majority (55 percent) believed that abstinence was unrealistic. 

Additional findings include:

  • Respondents said that the sexualized society is the top reason why some young, unmarried Christian adults have sex even though they believe it is morally wrong. Lacking a strong foundation in the Bible and “living for the moment” closely followed.
  • Three in four unmarried evangelical Millennials said they are committed to not having sex until they are married. This was true for 63 percent of those who had been sexually active, but who had been abstinent for at least the last three months.
  • For unmarried evangelical Millennials who have been sexually active, 42 percent expressed strong regret about that activity. Another 28 percent somewhat regretted their activity, while 15 percent somewhat did not regret it, and 15 percent strongly did not regret it. 
  • One out of 10 unmarried evangelical Millennials agreed strongly that “I would like to remain abstinent, but I just can’t seem to do it.” Fifty-three percent of those who had been sexually active in the last three months agreed with the statement.
  • Most respondents (87 percent) agreed strongly that the church they attend teaches that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and most of the rest (10 percent) agreed somewhat.

This is the second in a planned series of five releases on the Sex and Unexpected Pregnancies study. The report — including a FAQ section with comparisons to previous surveys of evangelicals on these issues — is available on the NAE’s website along with more information about the polling methodology and graphs of the study’s findings.