It’s Not About the Wait

A lot of us have heard about it by now – a girl posted a blog about regretting that she waited until her wedding night to lose her virginity. Links to response blogs that proclaim the glory of waiting have been popping up all over my Facebook feed from my many conservative evangelical friends that I have acquired across a childhood spent playing music on church worship teams, teenaged years attending a Christian High School and Baptist University (by choice), and my adult years in vocational ministry. 

A few things before I begin my main point: 

1) I am all for waiting until marriage, and thus far have been successful 26 years strong at not jumping in to bed with, well, anyone.  
2) I never took a purity pledge. I never had parents breathing down my neck monitoring my state-of-virginity. I grew up in public school*, come from a broken family, and didn’t necessarily have a good example given by a lot of the people around me. Despite this, I chose to go to church, made a personal choice to maintain the sacredness of my own sexuality, made a choice towards chastity. 
3) I am a Christian, in vocational ministry (my organization uses the term “intercessory missionary,” but that’s kind of hard to explain and isn’t the point of this post).
4) I also hold a B.S.E. in Pre-Medical Health Science Studies from Baylor University, where on top of your standard MCAT sciences my course load included multiple semesters studying psychology and human sexuality, as well as a few theology courses. A weird combo, I know. 

I am not going to link to the article that started the controversy, and I am not going to link to the responses. You won’t have to look too hard to find someone posting an opinion piece on whether or not to wait until marriage. Let me begin by assuring you that this is not one of those. As you have probably guessed from point 1, I have an opinion, but I also believe that if I write a blog post selling that opinion, I will only mostly end up preaching to the choir of those trying to endure the waiting, or I will be heaping more shame on those who couldn’t or who, worse yet, were robbed of that.  

Oh, did I just say that? 

Shame. That’s what this post is about. That’s what the controversial post in question screamed to me when I read it, too. That’s what the response posts seemed to have missed. The circulating article about a girl who took a purity vow at age 10 (seriously?!) and who regrets waiting until her wedding night to have sex is not an article about whether or not to wait until marriage. It’s an article about how traumatizing it is to guilt and scare people in to behaving a certain way. 

It’s not about the wait. Do I think waiting is important? Hell yeah I do! I am a sentimental sap and love the idea of sharing my most intimate self with one person for life – that’s just it, though. I’m not doing it for someone else, I’m not doing it because of some weird ceremony I did in church as a kid, I’m not doing it because someone made me. I am doing it because it made sense to me and because as a pre-teen, I saw the pain of promiscuity, infidelity, jealousy, and sexual shame in the lives of some people close to me. We live in a culture that makes that all but impossible, though, and guilting people into making counter-cultural behavioral choices by making something beautiful into something that needs feared is not helping. 

Most of all, it’s really not helping the people who already punched their V-cards.  

In the Sermon on the Mount, really during His whole earthly ministry, I see a whole lot of examples of Jesus taking the hall-monitors and telling them to stop being so cruel as behavioral enforcers. In Matthew 5 He explains that it starts in the heart, and that hearts can’t be changed by forcing behavior, and behavioral changes don’t really matter if the heart isn’t in it. It’s a scary approach because it requires honoring peoples’ free wills, and letting them make the choices that are in their hearts. It doesn’t require a whole bunch of outward show, like creepy purity ceremonies where fathers and daughters exchange vows and rings. It requires an environment where a person is made to feel so loved, cherished, valued, and free that they don’t need to feel like their value hinges on whether they give or withhold themselves sexually. 

That’s just it – at the end of the day, putting such strong value on a girl’s virginity objectifies her as much as using her sexually. That’s what happened to the girl in the article. It’s what we’re doing when we tell a girl that she is causing a boy to stumble when she wears shorts and a fitted shirt. We aren’t going to help anyone by using shame tactics to manipulate behavior. 

Here’s the other thing: there’s grace in the process. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t arrive where I am at now without making mistakes, and there will be plenty more before I’m in the ground. Dragging on this conversation about waiting or not waiting isn’t helping the scores of people for whom it’s not even a possibility anymore. Not just horny teenagers – rape victims, people whose spouses have died or left them, people who found the Lord later in life – the reasons are many, but our hyperbolic emphasis on the value of virginity is not worth it if it’s stigmatizes people who have, for whatever reason, found themselves no longer able to wear their promise ring. If it were me in their shoes, I would feel like I was being told I am damaged goods. I don’t know if you’ve caught this from me yet, but I’m not a big fan of anything that heaps shame on people. 

It’s not about the wait. All of the articles talking about waiting, while well intentioned, are missing the point. The trauma and pain is real. It’s not ok. If the current tactics are causing even one woman to feel shame about something that was made to be deeply enjoyed, it’s not ok. 

I just had to say that. Thank you for listening. 

*I realize that I mentioned attending a Christian high school, and then said I grew up in public school. I went to public school through 9th grade and then voluntarily attended a Christian school. Let me say that everything that went on in the public schools and then some went on in the Christian school… Which is another reason why I wrote this article.

Published in: on August 20, 2014 at 12:59 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Well said. Well said indeed.

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