UPDATE: You can click on this link to follow the guest posts as they are written this week.
This week The Giant is featuring several guest posts on a topic near and dear to me: sweet virginity.
Okay, well, maybe not sweet virginity. The posts are on male virginity until marriage.
There is an ocean of articles, stories, and opinions on American sexual behavior we could explore together. These works are largely untrustworthy, given the nature of the subject, the biases of sociologists, and the straight freakiness one would never be far from (Alfred Kinsey preferred to masturbate by inserting a toothbrush into his urethra; this was the least of his perversions, yet he was trusted as the defining word on American sexual behavior). Still, many trends and tendencies are obvious even to those of us who only use toothbrushes for toothbrushing.
Many many most Americans have sex before they marry (I’ve seen numbers as high as 95%), and most of them not with the person they end up marrying. I’m not going to link to any reports. As I said, I am very skeptical of such reports, but they’re very easy to find online, and even if they’re not factually accurate, they tell an accurate story.
So most people have sex before they marry, which we are told is natural and healthy. We hear of the existence of strange people who fall outside the pale of normal behavior, and we raise our eyebrows but affirm their right to healthy alternativity; strange creatures such as asexuals and nonsexuals who prefer not to have or never have had sex but are distinct from virgins. Strange, perhaps, not normal, but since they claim to lack the appetites the rest of us have, how can we expect them to need to satisfy them?
The true perversion is evident in people who claim to have sexual appetites, but wait an unhealthy amount of time, until they’re all grown up and married.
In a fun little twist on top of that little idea is a touch of misogyny. We say it’s unhealthy to suppress overmuch our sexual drive, and we include women in that statement. After all we, unlike those stupid Victorians, know that women have robust sexual appetites. Yet if we hear a woman claim that she was virgin until she married, we might feel a touch of condescension and pity, but we’ll believe her. We don’t believe men when they make the same claim.
I was a virgin when I married at twenty-two. When people hear this they are absolutely blown away. Seriously. They are blown away; they look as if they cannot believe it. Some have outright claimed to not believe me. The only way I can think to explain it is that I am a handsome healthy male free of any crippling social handicaps. Many people firmly believe that the only way a male would make it into early adulthood without having had sex would be if it had been against his will.
This is the dominant view of sexual development in the young American male: a single-minded obsession with mating grows with each passing post-pubescent moment until the subject is in agony, an agony which is only relieved when the male find a female to mate with. Countless stupid movies testify to this.
This has always offended me. It makes men seem like animals. Sadly, the longer we portray men as animals, the more they actually behave as if they were.
I don’t claim that I was absolutely “pure” before I married. I got involved in some situations that in a different cultural context would have placed me in serious trouble, regardless of whether I was “technically” a virgin or not. And I don’t get hung up on being a virgin. What I do get hung up on is the disbelief and condescension that accompanies claims by Christian males to be virgin. And this is because I was far from unique. My wife and I met at a Christian student union in college. I knew lots of guys who were virgins, I knew guys who weren’t virgins but were celibate, and I knew guys who were almost certainly not virgining, if you’ll allow the term.
The point is, I grew up in a milieu in which it was not crazy that a male might be a virgin by choice. And I didn’t grow up Prairie Muffin or King James-only fundamentalist. Nor did I grow up at 1st Mainstream Baptist or Megachurch 3000.
When I thought of doing this series of guest posts I thought I’d ask a few guys who met these criteria to contribute:
- cool guy (to be free of the dismissive “he couldn’t get laid if he tried” charge)
- had been a virgin until marriage (obviously)
- good writer
- different perspective from the other guest bloggers
Believe it or not, I don’t go around asking my friends and acquaintances whether they were virgins when they married. Now if a friend of mine spent time, say, as an actor and a drug fiend (I don’t know which is worse), I assume he wasn’t. So take that into account. But I just asked a half-dozen guys I knew who I thought were good writers, and only one responded back that he wasn’t “qualified”.
There’s nothing scientific about that. I’m just illustrating that there are entire communities out there where being a young male virgin is pretty normal. These are not freaky little cult communities, just Christian cultures full of people who study civil engineering or play football or listen to Neutral Milk Hotel or love history or watch too much TV. I’m not surprised to know lots of men who were virgins until they married.
Some of my Christian friends grew up in the church and couldn’t wait to get out from under. They hated the notion that as youngsters they couldn’t have sex, or that the price they’d have to pay was so high. But the truth is, at the time those young men hated Christ. They didn’t want anything to do with Jesus and his Church, but they were too scared to up and leave, so they were full of resentment. When I was in high school I knew plenty of guys like that. What was normal for me, however, was hanging with a bunch of virgins who expected to be virgins until they married, and while it might have been a struggle, it only made them look forward to marriage, not resent their situation.
Today I had a conversation with wifey that is tangentially connected to all this.
Me: “We’re pals.”
Wifey: “Don’t call me ‘pal’. We’re not pals. We’re…”
Me: “Lovers?” *suggestive eyebrow waggle*
Wifey: “No! ‘Lovers’ isn’t enough! We’re husband and wife.”
That is correct. You will notice, if you choose to read the guest posts throughout this week, that intimacy is a big part of what is being discussed. It’s not just popular Christian “mean girls” played by Mandy Moore who believe that premarital sex can make intimacy in a marriage more difficult. It’s also dudes with beards and plaid shirts.
I hope that no one will be offended for the wrong reasons during this series. That is to say, I don’t mind if you’re offended, but don’t be offended because you or someone you love isn’t a virgin. Love covers a multitude of sins. I don’t care if you’re not a virgin; I do care if you’re faithful to Christ. And I’m not going to write a million myriads of posts to preserve everyone’s feelings. We’re talking about this thing right here. Pose your what-ifs, but don’t get pissed about it.
Below are the questions I asked of these guys, and I hope you’ll find their responses interesting. Expect one or two a day for the rest of the week.
You were a virgin until you married. How old were you at that time?
If a [Christian] man is not a virgin when he marries, how big a deal is that?
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?
You must be some kind of wuss. So must other “wait ’til we’re married” guys. What do you say to that?
What good did staying a virgin until marriage do you?
If you haven’t already answered this question, how would you say it impacted your marriage? your sex life?
There it is. Hopefully this will be theologically, sociologically, and phenomenologically interesting. And yes, I know the preceding sentence sounded douchey. Enjoy the posts. If you want to send in feedback without using the comment form, email me here.