This post is part of a week-long series of first-person guest posts on male virginity amongst Christians. I know I said we were done, but this one was handed in a little late…but with an excellent perspective, particularly because this is the first post to directly address pornography.
There will be another post in this series from a young man who is still unmarried, and a final closing post from me. So our chaste voyage is not quite over yet.
Mike Wilson is a seminarian in New Zealand. He loves cricket and his woman, to whom he is newly married.
You were a virgin until you married. How old were you at that time?
I was 25 when I married my wife.
If a [Christian] man is not a virgin when he marries, how big a deal is that?
It is serious in a very real sense. Sin is perceived in popular culture as simply a breaking of mostly arbitrary rules – however the Christian understanding of sin is as a force unleashed upon the world that divides and destroys. Sin tarnishes our person, it wounds us and affects our ability to reflect the glory and grace of God, but more than that it affects our relationships with others and with God. Sexual sin is especially damaging in this sense as it directly harms our relationships with others.
I’ve noticed that people have a hard time believing a young man could stay a virgin by choice. That is, that sex is impossible to resist for any length of time. I’m sure that it was difficult, but how difficult was it, really? What kind of struggle was it?
I’ve found that this was more of an issue at high school than later in life. And, really, it only seemed to be an issue for certain groups – the popular kids. I skirted around the edges of most groups and never really belonged to any, although I had friends in most. I can’t remember ever experiencing ridicule for my celibacy, but I think that, in hindsight, the popular kids were probably all busy patting each other on the back for being awesome.
As an adult I’ve found the reaction to be a mix of embarrassment and disbelief. But, because my passions lie in the realm of church leadership and teaching theology, a Christian sexual ethic has largely been the norm for those around me (and certainly for those whose voices I trust enough to speak into my life). However, I also work as a support worker for people with intellectual disabilities and so a large portion of my week is spent with co-workers who have different opinions on pretty much everything. In this setting the most common reaction upon learning I was waiting until marriage was that I had made a great mistake as after marriage the sex stops. As an advertisement for casual sex I think it’s a pretty shitty one.
As far as the kind of struggle remaining celibate was, well I struggled with the allure of pornography as a young man. Pornography lies to you and says it’s harmless, it doesn’t hurt anyone. But perhaps the biggest lie is one we tell ourselves: that we aren’t what we do. We have a picture in our heads of who we are and that is us, the things we do will sometimes reflect that picture and sometimes not but the picture itself is the important thing. When we confront that lie and realize the things we do flow from ourselves and form who we are, its a terrifying moment and we have no place to hide. When I realised this I realised that there’s only one woman that I want to have sex with: my wife.
What good did staying a virgin until marriage do you?
We are not born as fully formed persons. We develop in our early years and begin to etch out for ourselves a picture of the people we might become. If we attach ourselves too closely with one or more people as we grow (in relationships that are sexual or even just overly intimate), it is my experience, that we begin to form our identity as a person-in-relationship. Of course, as creatures who should reflect the social trinity we are born to crave union with others and that is well and good, but if we have developed our identity in relationship with others we don’t learn how to be alone. Our identity, then, exists outside ourselves – tied up in another person, or in the idea of couple-ness – we never have to grapple with who we are because we are always grappling with who they are and who we are with them. By staying a virgin until marriage I believe I have entered this union with my wife as a more fully whole and self-aware person than I could have been had I had the help of others in forming who I am.
If you haven’t already answered this question, how would you say it impacted your marriage? your sex life?
Casual sex is a “forbidden fruit” – it is desirable (and maybe more so because we are told it is untouchable), it promises a lot but delivers far less. Sex within the bounds of a marriage, free of past tainted experiences, is a chance to explore yourself and another in trust and intimacy – and my experience is that this only grows with time! That this journey will begin and end for me with my wife alone means I am not scared of being vulnerable – I don’t need to pretend that I have all the answers. It means that it’s all exploration – this is not ground I have trekked before – and I know that I will never exhaust her mysteries.