April 13, 2024
Growing up in the Christian church, we talked a lot about how virginity was the greatest gift you could give to your husband. In our culture, not having sex before marriage was just a rule you didn’t break (even though no one had never really explained why this gift was so great). The importance of virginity was ingrained in my head, and I assumed I’d wait for that special person—no problem.Then I turned 16 and met a guy I liked. We were in math class together, and he was a musician, which was totally appealing to me. It sounds weird, but even though I liked him, I was surprised I wanted to be intimate with him. I never thought I’d want to have sex because my friends and I, in our early teenage naiveté, found the idea of sex to be so unappealing. The stuff we learned in school probably didn’t help. We’d actually been taught that women don’t enjoy sex. (I know…what?!) We assumed we wouldn’t like it either.

Turns out, I did want it. We made out before we started dating, so once we made our relationship official, the physical part moved pretty fast. Thinking back on it now, no one told me how strong your sexual drive is, so I guess I wasn’t prepared to deal with that urge.

Probably a month or so after we began dating, we started touching each other. Five to six months in, we had oral sex. I justified it by telling myself that it wasn’t really sex. But man, that’s pretty damn intimate. I felt guilty for crossing the line, but not enough to stop, which was totally confusing and upsetting for me.

“We’d actually been taught that women don’t enjoy sex.”

The details are fuzzy about the night I actually lost my virginity because it wasn’t a great memory. We were hanging out at his house the summer before I went to college (this was a year after we started dating, and I was 18). We were making out, and finally I was just like, “What the hell, let’s do it.” He and I were fighting a lot around that time and so I think my resolve to stay virgin was just wearing out. I asked him to put on a condom, and we started having sex. About two minutes into it, I freaked out, we stopped, and I went to the bathroom.

When I came back, he told me it didn’t count since it was so short. I know he said that to make me feel better. Anyway, I believed him for a long time, but now I am able to accept that we actually had sex and it definitely wasn’t great.

We broke up when I headed off to college not long after that. I wasn’t praying anymore, and I stopped taking communion because I thought, “Well, shit, I’m not a Christian at all now that I’m having sex, and God doesn’t love me.”

After starting school, I felt a sense of freedom. For the first time I was out on my own, making my own decisions. College gave me a healthy distance and perspective from the conservative school and culture I grew up in. I started to heal from my bad sexual experience and got to know God outside of the religion I was raised in. When I read the Bible for myself (for fun), I saw God from a different perspective.

“I asked him to put on a condom and we started having sex.”

Warning—God-heavy thoughts ahead: After reading the Bible, I realized he had forgiven me for the mistakes I made (sexual and non-sexual), and that I was worth more to him than my virginity. Learning that my sexuality wasn’t a separate or evil part of myself helped my attitude change a lot. My sexuality is a healthy, integral part of what makes me a whole person, and my desires for intimacy are totally normal. I felt a lot more at home and at peace with my body.

As I met more people who were open and honest about the real difficulties of living a Christian life and the happiness of following Jesus, I wanted to start abstaining from sex again to honor God’s wishes for me, even though I knew he loved me either way.

During the second semester of my freshman year, I became a “born-again” virgin by vowing to forgo sex until marriage, but it wasn’t a success right away. It was a messy process. I hooked up with more guys, sometimes while I was drunk. I started dating a super-hot guy who I had crazy chemistry with. I knew I couldn’t take him back to my apartment because the temptation would be too much. After a few months, it was pretty clear we needed to end things for unrelated reasons. But I think abstaining from being physically intimate with him gave me the emotional clarity to evaluate our relationship.

After a year of completely swearing off men, I hooked up with two more guys. We didn’t have sex, but it was still upsetting because I thought I could resist temptation, but I couldn’t. That summer, going into junior year of college, I traveled abroad with a group of Christians, which was an amazing experience. I felt completely overwhelmed with God’s love and freedom. When I came back to school that fall, I don’t know what exactly changed, but I didn’t do more than kiss any guys after that. I was 21. That’s where I draw the line today.

“It was a messy process.”

Three years later, I think about what led up to my becoming a virgin again, and I realize I was just being human.

My friends who are attempting to save sex for marriage are actually a pretty wild bunch. We’re people of faith, for sure, but we also have a great sense of humor. We laugh at how odd it is to not have sex, and we definitely don’t avoid talking about our virginity. It might sound weird, but it’s helpful to feel part of a community when you’re trying to abstain. Our biggest complaints are that we sometimes feel like we’re missing out on a lot of fun and that staying a virgin is just plain inconvenient. Who wants to pay for two hotel rooms on a trip when you could just have one?

Sometimes I feel bad for some of my older, unmarried friends in their thirties that are still waiting. But I admire them for honoring God even though they’re not sure how long they’ll have to wait.

I’m also not naïve anymore. I get why people want to make sure they’re compatible in the bedroom before committing to someone, and I know that there’s a chance that my future husband and I might not have the best sex of my life. But marriage still seems like the ideal context for sex to me: two people who are completely comfortable with each other, completely committed to each other, and unconditionally in love with each other. It makes sense to me that deep trust and faithfulness can lead to passionate, uninhibited sex. That’s what I’m waiting for.

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