It seems historically in almost all societies and cultures, premarital sex for women of high standing has been frowned upon. Only in Western societies after the 1960s did it become acceptable and the norm.

Is this statement historically accurate and if so what was the reason for it?

Was it that people married earlier those days or that contraceptives were not available or effective so there was the fear of children being born out of wedlock? Any other reasons why it was looked upon with such evil?

EDIT : It has been stated that this question is too broad, so let me make it more specific in that I am asking only about Western/European society. Why did the taboo exist all the way to the 1960s and then disappear almost completely at that point?

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    It incentives couples to form relatively permanent bonds before having children, which is an important advantage in bi-parental societies. This encourages earlier marriage, not vice versa.
    – Semaphore
    Mar 21, 2016 at 14:35
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    Because the consequences of premarital sex are more evident for women than men. It is far easier to detect motherhood than fatherhood. Extramarital motherhood complicates inheritance law in patrimonial societies. The question as stated is too broad; it includes hundreds of thousands of years of history and tens of thousands of nations/cultures/tribes. The question relies on an assertion that is presented without any evidence or research.
    – MCW
    Mar 21, 2016 at 14:49
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    Western European society still covers 400,000 years; during much of that time there is no evidence of the taboo you mention. If you're interested in the Christian era, the answer may be theological rather than historical.
    – MCW
    Mar 21, 2016 at 15:48
  • In that case, that is the answer to my question in that the taboo first appeared in the Christian era and its source seems to be theological rather than anything inherently societal or cultural.
    – AbuMariam
    Mar 21, 2016 at 16:19
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    @AbuMariam It certainly isn't a purely Christian development! I think the well-worn Greek or Roman girl who got pregnant when unmarried would have got very short shrift from Daddy!
    – TheHonRose
    Mar 21, 2016 at 22:57

3 Answers 3


Several societal changes in connection with the Sexual Revolution removed the taboos against American women for premarital sex around 1960. (Women in other countries followed the American lead with a time lag.) This coincided with an economic boom that led to the rise of the so-called Great Society. They include:

1) The availability of "oral" contraception (the "Pill") for women. Although condoms had been around for some decades, women could use birth control on their own instead of getting their men to use condoms.

2)The rise of "career" women. Prior to the 1960s, most married women were housewives who could not support a child on their own. (See TV shows of the 1950s such as "Leave It to Beaver" or "Ozzie and Harriet.") Until then, women worked only in the brief interval between school and marriage, and mostly in "low level" jobs such as secretaries or clerks. When women started pursuing careers in large numbers, they found that they could be single mothers, as divorcees, (and of children born before marriage). The 1960s was a time when divorce became far more acceptable, making never-married "unwed" mothers less unacceptable as well.

3) The rise of welfare payments. Poor, badly educated women who couldn't find jobs could go on "public assistance" in large numbers, and raise children that way. (They didn't have to give up their children for adoption.)


Yes, this is correct. The taboo existed and since 1960th gradually goes away. The reasons are a) equal rights for women, b) spread of contraceptives, and c) general decline of religion. For some people in the West who take religion seriously it is still a taboo.

Another question is where did this taboo come from. It begins with the practice of marriage, at the time when people realized what is the role of a father in making children. The simple desire to know who is the father of which child led to the establishment of marriage and to this taboo. One of the main functions of any religion is to enforce it.

  • Thank you, I wish otherwise would have been as generous as you and just answered the question without hating and down voting.
    – AbuMariam
    Mar 21, 2016 at 17:37
  • @AbuMariam: I did not downvote, why do you think I did?
    – Alex
    Mar 21, 2016 at 19:11
  • I was referring to others who commented above.
    – AbuMariam
    Mar 21, 2016 at 19:46

Your claim that the practice of premarital sex became a norm is wrong.

Actually a different thing happened: the marriage became forced, mandatory for men. A DNA test can easily show who is the father of the child and the woman can apply for child support. The man is forced in this kind of forced marriage.

Since the primary function of official marriage was to ensure the children would be fed by the father, now this function is void: the woman does not need to sign any contract to force men to feed their children without their consent. As such the official marriage became unneeded.

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