My most life changing realizations happen in weird locations.
I’ve now had dramatic and lasting plot twists on an airplane, in my car, in a taco shop, and now, at a gluten free bakery. I can’t decide if it’s more exciting or terrifying that redirection can happen to me at any time, in any average place, but here it goes!
On a lovely fall day I was sitting in that bakery, snipping at a gluten free ginger scone, and all of a sudden I realized:
I’m not a virgin anymore.
I’m not saying I had sex in a gluten-free bakery, you guys. Please. The scones are very good, but not that good.
I am saying that in that bright little place, I broke a barrier and gave up an idea I’d held onto as a “Good Christian Girl” for a long, long time. If you grew up in American Christian culture, you know that a statement like mine is one of the most life changing, socially desolating, parentally disappointing pronouncements you can make. Especially if you’re a girl.
But I don’t care anymore; I’m done with virginity.
I’m done with that word and that idea. I’m done defining myself, my past and my future, in terms of who’s what has been where, or hasn’t. I’m done with stories for virgins and non-virgins, promises and praises, and sentiments of “restoration” that just push forward bulldozer loads of this horrible twisted shame.
I’m done splitting my sexuality into pieces, tying my identity to a word that has no medical definition but devastating social implications. I’m done with conversations about “technical virginity” and couples who “win the race to the altar.” Virginity is just another way that people in power talk about who’s in and who’s out of favor with Church, that we set up winners and losers in a Kingdom supposedly of equals.
It’s just another way we try to make God like us more than other people.
I’m done with the factions setting up beds in the streets and yelling at me to jump on in with them and live my life their way because it is best.
I’m done standing apart from my brothers and sisters who have been abused or manipulated or coerced or had their ability to choose taken away from them. I’m done adding to a culture that humiliates victims who are walking out healing in their own way. We’re quick to offer platitudes of grace, but oh so slow to engage the individuals or social structures that perpetuate abuse.
I’m done blanketing all sexual experience outside of marriage as sin and never acknowledging that abuse can happen within a marriage. I’m done with Christians enforcing oppression in the name of purity.
I am not a virgin or a non-virgin.
I am a human. I am Emily.
Whew. I am not kidding about the kick in those ginger scones, you guys.
After I had that strange, intense shift in my thinking, I took some time to sort it out.
I thought, prayed, read, discussed this issue with safe friends, listened, and tried to step away from the assumptions I was raised with and discover what I wanted to trust. I will be the first to tell you I don’t have it all figured out and I can think of a number of people who would agree.
I have not always handled my sexuality well, in the same way that I have not always handled my words, my appetites, my privilege or my finances well.
But instead of an all or nothing approach, instead of reducing the scope of human sexuality to one specific act and stamping that act with a no until marriage makes it a magical yes, I’m building a holistic sexual ethic. I’m learning to be aware of the difference between healthy interactions and harmful behavior patterns.
I’m discovering and setting my boundaries based on my present self, not a 3×5 card pledge I signed when I was 14.
I’m taking responsibility for my actions without being defined by them.
I am carefully drawing in all the pieces of my formerly fragmented self: my body, soul, mind, personality, and sexuality, into one revived human person, made alive in Christ.
I’m in process, and I trust that you are too.
And please, whether you waited or you didn’t, stop telling me that it will be “worth the wait.”
That phrase denies that intimacy between two humans will always require effort. Relationship exists in continual practice and communion, it doesn’t simply happen without effort because of choices you’ve made long ago. Whether or not you’re a virgin at your wedding, you will still have unique sexual baggage to navigate, because you are a sexual being and you exist before marriage.
Instead of offering some twisted hope to try to manipulate my actions, offer me friendship.
Tell me you trust me, that you respect my ability to make decisions, even if they are different from yours, that your love for me is not dependent on one moment, and you will walk with me through every bit as we learn and recover and celebrate life together.
Let’s talk about commitment, balance, love, consent, wisdom, grace, and the markers of personal, emotional, spiritual and relational health. Let’s open wide the discussions on equality and power structures and work to end abuse in all contexts.
Come, sit in that bakery with me and eat a scone and let’s work on a theology that has integrity all around it, not just in saying no.
Because I’m not just a virgin or a non-virgin. And neither are you.
Speak up! What did you learn about virginity growing up? Do you think it’s a concept that still holds value for you? How can we celebrate our lives without shaming others who have had different experiences?
[photo:Tokinu_Unikot, Creative Commons]