The Day I Turned in My V-Card

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]

  • Ruthie Dean

    Great post, Emily! Interestingly, I think most cultures define women in these terms (in China it was the same but much more intense if you were a non-married, non-virgin). I love this shift you present, because I think it represents something the church desperately needs more of: people who will come and sit in the bakeries and offer friendship. And less of: cute phrases, verses, and slogans that we just rapid fire at people, i.e. “It’s worth the wait.”.

    Beautiful vulnerability here, sister.

    • Emily_Maynard

      More scones, fewer slogans. I am all for this.

    • Kalyn Baur

      Why would you give people less verses? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God. More important than anyone feeling bad about what they’ve done or not done is if they hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I agree we need to love people but at the end of the day if we just offer them our ear and never profess the Gospel of Jesus Christ we will have to answer for that. If the light of Jesus is bright for you, why hide it? Sensitivities to earthly problems like guilt and shame should never come before the profession of the Word of God. The Lord God in his grace will heal them far better than our sensitivities or nice words would ever heal. So I had to ask why you want less verses.

      • RC

        She said less slogans, not less verses. “True love waits” and “It’s worth the wait” are not verses!

  • Tom

    Thanks for the great article, Emily. For every Christian parent, we pray that our children continue to identify themselves as “pure”, whatever that means, but the reality of that statement is a heart issue, not a physical one.
    As a young man, I wanted to have every girl I ever laid eyes on. And I got them, but I realized many years later, I my view of women was connected to MY sexual desire, not theirs. I used women and its something I’m ashamed of now. All those girls identified themselves by their relationship with me.
    If the purity revelation tells us anything, it should be that women, no matter whether they “wait” or not, should never be identified by what they do externally, but who they are internally.

    • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

      Unless I’m misunderstanding here, you’re saying that it doesn’t matter what we do, just who we are? I’ve got to disagree with that. Male or female doesn’t matter. If our internal convictions don’t have an impact on our actions, then they don’t make a lick of difference at all. God sees the heart, yes. But this line of thinking would suggest that it’s perfectly acceptable be the world’s worst sinner as long as we somehow stay Christian in our hearts, which I think is plainly, obviously wrong. The two are linked; internal character leads to external action.

      • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

        John, I think that last sentence of yours actually drives home the very point Tom was trying to make and answers your own question. I think Tom’s point is meant to touch on the idea of purity as it relates to our identity as virgins or non-virgins. Are we “pure” because we haven’t had sex, or are we “pure” because we know Christ?

        Our culture, and the Church in particular, place enormous significance on women’s sexual purity as virgins – think of the white dresses we wear on our wedding day. But if we’re Christians, isn’t our relationship to Christ and not our choices, that “wash us white as snow”?

        What Tom and Emily are trying to get at is that our sexual decisions should never be the sole source of our identity. God says that when people have Christ in their hearts, the “virgin” status no longer matters (I’m thinking of Galatians 3:28 here.)

        Yes, hopefully, our internal faith will lead to external action, but even if we sin, our sin will NOT be the source of our identity. Our identity in Christ doesn’t give us permission to sin; our identity in Christ gives us permission to come running back to him when we have sinned. And just like our loving father, the Church should be standing there, ready to welcome people with open arms regardless of what they have done. (A little Prodigal reference for ya there. ;) )

        • enness

          It’s true that there is no prize just for not having sex — say, if one has done everything else under the sun except for that, and/or feeds a very lustful mind. It’s also true that our identity is actually Sons and Daughters of God. I got a little worried when I thought you were implying that our choices don’t matter, so I’m glad you elaborated further.

      • Sara Jenivieve

        “The two are linked; internal character leads to external action.” lets not forget the topic of this article, virginity. your consensual sex life(external actions) have nothing to do with what kind of person you are (character.) if you sleep with 20, 2 or 0 people it doesnt matter

        • Arthur Kirkland

          I disagree. Totally. It really makes no sense at all. But that is your choice.

        • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

          Sorry, I have to disagree completely with this. If a moral code says not to do something, and you do it anyway, then clearly your character is one that disregards that code. Action and character are absolutely linked.

          • Sara Jenivieve

            consensual adult sex with relationships aside havenothing to do with morals. by which i mean having sex with whoever or however many people you want is neither good nor bad as an act unto itself

        • enness

          I don’t know if character is the right word, but what message does it communicate when a person a) gives him or herself away bit by bit in the hope of finding true love, but is really being used recreationally, or b) is using another person recreationally? What does it say when they tell falsehoods in the language of their body? Because making love says “I give myself completely.” If you’re not married (sometimes even if you are, but abusing the gift in one way or another), there’s something held back, it’s not true.

        • Ifmybodyisatemple

          Seeing all the disagreement below, I needed to say that I, for one, do agree.

          For my relationship, maybe sex is the right thing for me. Maybe the people in disagreement never had a time in which sex was right, when it was mutually desired, there was no outside connection that would cause others pain, both participants trusted the other, both took the necessary precautions (getting tested beforehand, buying condoms and lube together, discussing ramifications and coming to agreement on consent as well as how to say no), and both had fun and strengthened their relationship from it. As a Christian who experienced the above with another Christian, the acts did not make me morally corrupt, they brought me closer to God and gave me a better understanding of the complexities of his creation.

          I gather hope from reading the Bible in context of the time, understanding what other (Christian) texts were out there and why certain ones were chosen over others when a small group decided upon the canon a very long time ago. I gather hope learning what other people in the world believe, learning what other Christian sects believe, finding that not all sects believe that sex is a sin, just as not all sects believe that contraceptives are sinful.

          It really all comes down to who your Jesus is. My Jesus ate with society’s shamed. My Jesus said that only the completely blameless should throw stones or judge. My Jesus takes me as I am and guides my path in bringing the Kingdom of God to Earth, not as a checklist on how to get to “Heaven” (a concept that was not from Jewish tradition but is Hellenistic in origin). Maybe Jesus judges us ladies of the 20th century for not letting the patriarchy sell us off for a few cattle, but from what I have seen and experienced, I think he understands my modern choice to how I take care of my body and my freedom and my dignity. I am not defined by my sexuality, and my natural, God-given sexuality is a wonderful part of me to explore and cherish.

          As Christians, we need to spend less time judging people for making decisions that don’t concern us or anyone but that person and more time letting people know that they have worth as people. That is love.

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    i like you so much. i was just thinking about retiring the phrase “sexual purity” altogether, because what’s the opposite? no wonder christians have such a hard time embracing any kind of healthy sexuality or incarnational theology when our language about sex and bodies is cloaked in images of purity, filth, and dirt.

    let our hearts be pure first. let’s honor Christ–and one another–with all that we are. let’s navigate embodied faith together and love well. i’m in.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you for modeling this navigating so well, Suzannah. Love to you.

    • http://www.fromtwotoone.com/ Danielle | from two to one

      Do you think “sexual immorality” is more appropriate than “sexual purity”? At least that way, immorality could include nonconsensual vs. consensual before delving into what TYPES of activities they are.

      • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

        that comes from scriptural translations–and does allow room for consent to be a (much needed!) part of the conversation–but it still frames the conversation in the negative. with my kids, i want to frame it positively–how might it look to honor God, ourselves, and one another with our bodies? what does it mean to live out one’s sexuality in whole and holy ways even when we aren’t having sex–because married, single, or celibate, our sexuality is an important part of of who we are. i’m encouraged to be having these conversations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tannerJolson Tanner Olson

    Emily! You nailed it. Great post. Great thoughts. If I come to Portland I will buy you a ginger scone and talk life. Thanks for another wonderful article. Stay rad.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Do it!

  • http://twitter.com/ChristieEsau Christie Esau

    Emily, this is a wonderful, honest post. Thanks for your willingness to move out of (often unhelpful) binary/black and white categories into a more holistic understanding of what it means to be human.

    To be honest, the concept of virginity isn’t all too valuable to me at this stage of my (married) life. I mean, considering I’m in the category of ‘didn’t have sex until married’, I suppose the idea of virginity was a little bit helpful… but it certainly didn’t do any good in regards to my conversations, or my understanding of a healthy sexual relationship.

    I was always quietly whispering “but what happens in between?”, because no one in my network of Christian friends was willing to discuss what post-dating, pre-marriage relationships look like.

    I am very thankful that the vast majority of my relationship/sexual experience was with my husband, but that certainly doesn’t make me The Most Pure. God, and his unending grace… THAT is what makes me pure.

    • Emily_Maynard

      “It certainly didn’t do any good in regards to my conversations, or my understanding of a healthy sexual relationship.” Thank you, Christie. This is so true. Naiveté doesn’t make a good marriage in itself. I’m so glad you’re willing to share here.

  • http://www.transparencymag.com/ Kevin Howell

    Great thoughts as usual. I always felt in church we did a disservice to people (particularly youth) by harping on virginity, and no matter how you spun it, non-virgins were saddled with guilt. I never thought of this “non-label” thing but it’s awesome. Like the way you think. It opens my mind every time I read.

  • Logan81

    Very well-written, I love it! My friends and I were actually having this exact conversation a couple of weeks ago. Like so many other things in the church, “True love waits” is a good idea in theory. In practice, though, it really is just another way to make one group of people feel superior to another. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Christ has in mind for us….

    • Emily_Maynard

      Love these conversation revivals! I don’t think that’s what Christ had in mind for us, either! Thanks for reading and sharing, Logan.

  • http://www.wineandmarble.com/ Hännah

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

  • http://twitter.com/Douglas_AmongUs Douglas H.

    ” 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.” Wow. I have never heard it phrased that way, but so so true. Thanks so much for this post. As corny as it is, we really do need to stop dealing with labels and start dealing with people. To say that there are only two boxes that people can be categorized in is ludicrous at best. Thanks for writing this.

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    Love your writing. Thanks for being so bold.

  • http://twitter.com/voluntaryaaron Aaron

    ‘I’m building a holistic sexual ethic. I’m learning to be aware of the difference between healthy interactions and harmful behavior patterns.’ Yes! Because the reality is total abstinence from sex, or having sex, are not what comprises a christian or holistic sexual ethic, there is more to it than that and ‘we’ have failed by not trying to deal with this. I’m learning this and still very much trying to figure it out. It’s not that I want excuses to have sex or that sex isn’t at all important, it’s that I realize sex is bigger than whether someone is a virgin or not when it really comes down to what matters in our human relationships and our relationship to God, which is reflected in all things. Thanks for pointing the conversation in this direction.

  • Heather Burris

    Emily, I so appreciate your honesty! Great thoughts in this post. I agree that the whole virginity thing is way too black and white in the church. However, I don’t think we need to stop telling teens and singles that it’s worth it to wait. My husband and I were both taught that, and even though it was probably over emphasized and taught in the wrong way, I’m glad we both listened.

    Yes, we need to stop hitting people over the head with it. Yes, we need to stop shaming people. Our sexual pasts should never be status symbols. But we shouldn’t forget that sex IS a big deal. And for my husband and I, it was worth waiting for.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hi Heather, thank you for sharing! I’m really glad that you and your husband are both glad you waited to have sex until you were married. I’m certainly not discouraging that choice or arguing that sexual activity is meaningless. I think I have a lot of questions about what people say when they mean it’ll be “worth the wait.” It seems to promise something that a. is impossible to know, and b. bases my life choices on YOURS instead of MINE and my relationship with God, partners, etc. It encourages me to remove myself from the equation and listen to you, rather than finding my own convictions and boundaries and sticking to them. I’m not sure if I articulate this idea well yet, but I’m going to keep trying. Thanks again for reading!

      • Heather Burris

        Yeah, I totally agree with that. It’s harmful to suggest that if you just wait, married sex with rock your socks off. And, yes, it is definitely a personal thing–not something that can be fixed with one simple phrase or idea. Thanks so much for this, you’ve really made me think! I’m actually a youth pastor’s wife and we are doing a dating/purity series this month–ha! Trying to glean from your wisdom and present the idea in the most honest, non-judgmental, non-cliched way possible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauryn.marton Lauryn Elizabeth Marton

    Thank you for this. Just thank you.
    So many women right now are speaking out about this, and I’m so glad.
    I just wish that I could bake us scones and talk over all of this together :)

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you back, Lauryn. This new wave is a collective effort; we’re all pushing each other onward.

  • http://twitter.com/TinyandFierce__ Cassie Chang

    Happy to sit in a bakery with you, and try my hand at making gluten-free scones.

  • Tom

    I think John Paull II’s “Theology of the Body” does much to deepen an broaden this topic in an awesome way. My wife and I read “love and responsibility” before we got married and found a wonderful, holistic, incarnation all view of sex and its role in a Christian’s life. I highly recommend it!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Tom, thank you for the suggestions! I’ll have to check those out.

  • rayzgirl

    Sometimes I wish I could just pre-record your posts into my head and then reproduce them like a robot when people ask me questions about these topics =) You put into words everything I think and feel but can’t always put into language or am too afraid to say.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Me too, Rayzgirl! I have a hard enough time saying these things in writing, let alone verbalizing them. But writing is such a valuable practice for sorting out thoughts and refining ideas. Aaaaand I’m getting off topic. So, thank you for thinking and reading and working on the courage to say these things.

  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net/ Dianna

    I just have two words: “HELL YEAH.”

    Probably not the most appropriate two words, but as someone who has been basically alone in this discussion for YEARS, I’m really, really happy and grateful to see other people carry the banner with me.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you, Diana! I have learned much from you and your bravery.

      Also, I really wanted to call this post “STFU About Virginity” and tried to put as many innuendos in as I thought I could get away with so….yeah.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ed-Hooper/620094826 Ed Hooper

      Agreed Dianna, agreed!!

  • Meredith Rachel

    Boldly written, indeed. I’m going to be the fly in the honey, though. Not being a virgin myself, and being a professed Christian, I’ve had this similar discussion with myself, and with others. I am human: truth. I sin: truth. It is not our place to judge: truth. The guilt is not there because anyone foisted it upon me, “shame on you, little girl,” but mostly because upon re-evaluation of my actions between the bedsheets with various individuals, no one came out being a better person for them, and my witness was tarnished, and there was NO glory given to God. Ideally, a union between two people should glorify God, and it functions as a metaphor for the Church and Christ. My little relationships did none of those things, and they looked like every other non-believing relationship out there, and did nothing to further the truth. And then they ended, leaving two really hurt people on the roadside. My partner didn’t know better, but I did, and my actions were in direct opposition to my verbal witness. What a mess. No, we should not be prideful in virginity, nor should we be crippled by shame if we are not virgins. But to say it’s not a sin to participate in extramarital sexual activity? First let’s define this based on willful sexual activity: two consenting partners. Let’s start with scripture, going from Hebrews 3:14, and 1 Cor 7:2 (just to start) which defines “sexual immorality” as those sexual acts which are done outside the marriage bed, and continuing through a grand total of 25 passages dealing with “sexual immorality” as sin (Mark, Romans, Matthew, the epistles, et al). We can even go to the Greek, and define the word used, “porneia” – illicit sexual intercourse, extramarital sexual activity [nota bene: I'm consolidating a 4 page didactic into three sentences...which is a hard thing to do]. So is extramarital sexuality a sin? Probably. Is there boundless grace, redemption, and freedom in Christ from sin? Absolutely, and that is what we ALL need to remember. Romans 6:21.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Meredith, thank you for being so honest and vulnerable with your story here. I’m really proud of you for the way you’re willing to examine your past, your motivations, and the results. That’s a really scary thing to do and not many people are as brave as you.

      Just to clarify, I’m in no way saying that extramarital sexual activity isn’t a big deal, especially for someone who identifies as a Christian. My hope isn’t that people see sex as something that doesn’t matter, but that we stop speaking of it in binary terms that limit this whole discussion to heterosexual intercourse and stops the conversation there with a “No.” We need to talk about healthy behavior, how to recognize a good relationship, how to listen to the Holy Spirit (for Christians), how to listen to ourselves, how to set our own boundaries, how to recover when we don’t hold to them, etc. Does that make more sense?

      I love your attention to scripture and to setting important boundaries for yourself and I’m again, so grateful that you shared here.

      • Meredith Rachel

        I’m wary of the whole “your own boundaries” term – it smacks of relativism (oops, it’s out now…) and I believe the scriptures are fairly clear on the issue – refrain, and wait. No matter which way you cut it, contextually, critically, it’s really hard to weasel out of the conclusion that sex out of marriage is a bad idea, and looked down upon. If one is a christian, then we are to live according to the word, no?

        BUT WE HAVE GRACE!! Because we make mistakes, and God loves us.

        Regarding stopping the conversation with a “no” – I TOTALLY get why that answer is so prevalent, especially now. The heartache, physical and emotional scars resulting from intimacy in a relationship not bound by marriage vows are really not worth it. Not at all. Not saying hurt can’t happen in marriage, but I’m speaking more to the idea of monogamous unions as being public professions of fidelity, supported by the church community as a whole, and by the actual promises made between the two spouses, who love each other, not just in the bed, but all the time. When you haven’t made a promise to someone, it’s really easy to just leave them. Physical intimacy is supposed to be a physical manifestation of that promise, and when it’s isolated, it’s hurtful.

        But rephrasing the conversation in terms of positive reinforcement, diligence, patience, faith in the Lord to provide one’s helpmeet, and trusting in His timing, grace and absolution from sins we do and will commit – those things are missing in the conversation, absolutely. When people choose to use these experiences as measurements of faith, worthiness, or holiness, that’s where-in the wrong lies, and I think we agree on that component.

        • Jessica

          I agree with what you’ve stated here. While I can understand the sentiment behind wanting to talk more about what is healthy in terms of our sexuality as Christians, it can become tricky and somewhat dangerous when we start thinking that the boundaries we create ourselves are more relevant than the boundaries as outlined by the Bible…

          • ally

            I would agree completely with what you’re saying except that, because the Bible’s boundaries were all that was ever propounded to me, I walked into my first serious relationship totally blind. I’m now on the other side of it, thinking of all “firsts” I let that guy have, that the guy who will really love me will never get to share with me. Yet, I am still a “Virgin.” Personal boundaries, in terms of Christian sexuality, is really important, and should absolutely be discussed. If I had had a space and people to talk about that safely, I wouldn’t have nearly as many regrets and pangs of guilt.

        • mmm

          Re: “Not saying hurt can’t happen in marriage”. Of course it most definitely does, especially when someone’s “purity”, held onto throughout his twenties, comes partly from admirable principle, but largely from contortions of repression, formed into deep ruts… which then form the basis for the “worth it” sexuality within marriage which leaves his wife’s self worth in shambles. And there’s no glossy campaign for healthy sexuality AFTER marriage. (Bet you can guess how I know about that one.)

          But, what I really wanted to say is re: “… monogamous unions as being public professions of fidelity, supported by the church community as a whole, and by the actual promises made between the two spouses, who love each other, not just in the bed, but all the time. When you haven’t made a promise to someone, it’s really easy to just leave them.”

          Hmmm… but then there is the reality that these public monogamous unions are broken at an extremely high rate equal to that outside the church, and it is indeed, “really easy” to just leave them. (Why, one can just leave a marriage of 18 years with 4 children without even committing to sincerely try counseling). And, here’s the thing, how much are they truly, “supported by the church community”?? When they are broken by divorce, the church overall does not bat an eyelash or stand much in the way of the one breaking the union, let alone state in an individual case that divorce without effort to save the marriage is, well, WRONG, but instead quickly moves to “just loving” and “divorce care”, because, well, both parties are “hurting”. Of course such Grace is perfectly in order in healthy balance with Truth (the two always, always go together!), but without the Truth that easy divorce is wrong, the Grace becomes a nullification of any pretense of solid “support” for marriage; the structure of “support” is revealed to be weak at best. It causes huge disillusionment int those who followed the “right” path that they thought was church-supported, only to be abandoned. I am one; there are many others.

    • Lauren

      I really appreciate your perspective – you put into words much more eloquently what I wanted to express.

    • Natalie

      So well put, Meredith, and exactly where my thoughts were going after
      reading this. I share a similar story with you in regards to sexual past
      and my feelings on how we could be talking about it. For me,
      encouraging “virginity” or “purity” does not need to mean speaking on
      what we SHOULDN’T be doing, but what we SHOULD be doing in our walk with
      Christ. The negative extreme seems to be the church going too far in
      what we should stay away from in the all mighty name of Virginity At All
      Costs versus what the design is for sex within marriage and why, why we
      should bother waiting and what that means. God didn’t intend for it to
      punish or trick us, so what did He mean for? Because that message is so
      important and doesn’t have to make for shame or judgement, but it’s
      truth for us to have in our hearts as we seek relationship, especially
      physical.

      “No, we should not be prideful in virginity, nor should
      we be crippled by shame if we are not virgins. But to say it’s not a
      sin to participate in extramarital sexual activity?”—>Exactly,
      Meredith, and I think it’s possible to call it like it is with grace. I
      seek to offer “worth the wait hope” to the others because, I can
      personally say that it IS! Which is a blessing, not a condemnation. And
      it wasn’t without heartbreak, mistakes, and lessons along the way that I
      think are invaluable to others. I say we share that! Why can’t we talk
      about that it DOES work out the way the Lord intended it to and let that
      be hopeful? Can’t we encourage others in that? Not that anyone who
      waited “got it right,” but like any other element of faith that we each
      struggle through, live through, and bought the t-shirt, can we share it
      with others in loving, humble, and heartfelt discussion? “This is my
      story,” we should be able to say in the HOPE that others can glean from
      it. Just like I assume you are intending, Emily, yes? And that can mean
      sharing the message of “why wait.”

    • http://twitter.com/mattschaar m@

      “So is extramarital sexuality a sin? Probably.”

      In the spirit of full openness, Meredith, this singular phrase angers me.

      Why? Because you’ve given no other premise upon which to describe what you consider “sexuality.” For one, sin is not an easily tossed-about word, because it describes the very thing which isolates us from God. It’s not an end-all word that means “bad things”: it’s something that acutely poisons our relationship with our Creator.

      Moreover, though, it appears that you’re assigning “action only” to a concept that encapsulates the conscious, subconscious, sub-sub-subconscious, and inaction alongside action itself. Sexuality is an absolutely inherent, core element of our biological makeup. To say we are not sexual is to say we are not human.

      And that, unfortunately, is how the Church has simplified sexuality in order to construct a barrier of shame separating us from the gloriously challenging journey of what it means to have healthy sexuality. We’ve been raised to believe that even discussing sexuality is taboo, which means when the time comes to take off our “True Love Waits” promise rings, we don’t have a damn clue what to do next.

      I’m going to attempt to rephrase what you’re saying: sexual activity that violates the covenant we are to establish with another person in the sight of God is considered sinful. I align with that, if that’s what you’re indicating.

      But do we want to extend that and say that desiring, thinking about, and perhaps even discussing sexuality so we have a deeper awareness and connection with our own understanding of it….is sin?

    • http://twitter.com/marilyngard Marilyn Gardner

      I want to stand up and clap for this comment. “And then they ended, leaving two really hurt people by the roadside” Yes. What you write is what has been missing from the whole discussion all week through any of the posts written. So many are left by the roadside, and yes there is Grace. And Grace picks up the one left by the road side and cares for them and speaks truth into lies, lets the one by the roadside know they are not defined by their past. But the one left by the roadside speaks out to the truth of their experience and doesn’t want others to go through the same pain. And that’s why I as a parent want to convey healthy sexuality – because I know what unhealthy is. And I know the physical consequences that can last late into life, Do I want to shield my kids from that? You better believe it. It’s not about a stupid purity ring, or elevating premarital sex as a sin above all others, or giving a warped definition of sex – it’s about longing for my kids to know they are worth so much more than what our hook up culture would tell them, does tell them. Are we not far more complex than that as people made in the image of God? This world is not all we have and we are created for so much more. More than anything I want them to do what I didn’t – And that is to trust carefully and ultimately know God holds their hearts and he is faithful.

  • JennyDykstra

    To me it seems like a better way for the church to handle the whole sex issue is to actually talk about it and stop putting out huge statements about waiting til marriage. I have been married for three years now but this issue still ruffles my feathers. Conversation and dialogue can be helpful. Telling people they have no hope if they don’t wait for marriage is ridiculous.

  • Lauren

    This is an interesting idea that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. I grew up in the same type of Christian culture that you did…you know…the one where you sign the purity card when you’re 14? And while I completely disagree with just making this commitment just because “you should” or without a heart that is in the right place, I do think that God’s word is clear about sexual sin and the effects it can have on us. Obviously what is sexual sin for one person may be completely different for another and I do not believe in drawing arbitrary lines in the sand, but I do think that it is important to guard your sexual purity (you can use whatever language you prefer) – whatever that may mean to you. My husband and I waited to have sex until our wedding day and never had sex with anyone else and I am so grateful for it. I don’t think that entering marriage as a virgin makes me any better than any other person, because I definitely have other things and sin and crap I struggle with. BUT, I am thankful because I truly believe that it has made our marriage better. We didn’t come into our marriage with a bunch of sexual baggage and neither of us has anyone else to compare the other to, which I am so thankful for – especially during times when I have struggled with confidence and body image issues. I don’t think that a person’s life will be ruined if they have sex before marriage and I don’t think that a couple who had sex before marriage can’t still have a wonderful relationship. I also won’t tell you a bunch of cliches about it being “worth the wait”, but I do truly believe that there is blessing to be found in honoring your relationship in this way and I have experienced it first hand. Maybe it seems archaic, but I’m ok with that. I don’t judge anyone else’s choices surrounding their sexuality, but I just wanted to share my experience.

  • Bethany Van Camp

    First off — I love reading your articles! They are interesting, well-written, and get at issues that are really important. So thanks! I just got married, and the process of dating and then marrying my now-husband have been really interesting in terms of working out what being sexual beings means, both before and after the wedding. We decided to wait to have sex, and were both virgins, and as virginity being a concept that holds value, I feel like it was in two ways — first, I really appreciate the opportunity to figure out sex as just between the two of us. It’s been awkward and odd and wonderful, and getting to have experience of working through those things for the first time has, in its self, been really bonding for us. Also, in pursing chastity, I found that maintaining virginity made it easier to not have sex — that was a line that was clearly in place. So in that way, it was valuable. I agree with you that obsessing over virginity is hurtful — why should we want to be better than other people and want to find ways of excluding people? My main thought about the whole subject is that you are right on track with wanting to think holistically about sexuality, and that generally, more open discussion about sex and how it looks at different stages of our lives, and what our experiences and expectations have been and are, will help to create a culture where people are able to talk about what they’ve been through, clear up expectations, and have richer, more in-depth ways of thinking about chastity (in or out of marriage) beyond “don’t have sex till you’re married,” and “then do.”

    • Bethany Van Camp

      Also, probably the strangest message (as it got through to me) as a teen in the church what a) that sex happens “accidentally” (like if you two hang out alone, basically you’re toast) and b) that it was bad but somehow very likely to happen — so I went to high school thinking that it would be highly unlikely that I would not have sex before I graduated. This kind of talking about sex kind of robs it of choice and agency (and is kind of funny in retrospect).

      • Emily_Maynard

        YES. Bethany, this is such good insight. All over the place. Thank you!

  • Laura Gregory

    Emily, you inspire me so so much. Every post you write resonates with me, and I thank you for expressing yourself on behalf of all those who either can’t, or are too fearful to. I’m struggling with having left an abusive church, and since I am a virgin, this idea had never even occurred to me; yet looking back, I can see so so clearly what an issue was made of it.

    If you were to date, then you should be engaged within three months, and married six months later (at most!). If you did have sex with your fiance, you were not to tell a soul or else you would be judged and taken to all sorts of accountability groups. You would be expected to take a marriage course, where you’d be told what sex practices were healthy and which ones weren’t. If you were single like me? You’d have the occasional NO SEX EVER talk but the rest of the time it would be ‘well until you’re married…’

    What if I never marry? Why should being a virgin be such a huge deal? Why should it be a dealbreaker when dating someone?

    So thank you for this and all your posts! I’m redefining myself as a Christian now; I’m feeling less labelled now I’m unchurched, less judged and no longer referred to as ‘rebellious’, ‘Jezebel’, or even ‘demon-oppressed’ for having mental health problems. I hope to find a new church in the near future that inspires me, doesn’t go on and on about virginity, along with several other issues ;)

  • http://twitter.com/voluntaryaaron Aaron

    Also, your use of language was very helpful. You said you gave up using virginity or the lack thereof as the defining metric of a healthy sexual ethic/identity. Our individual responses to that reveal that often outside of the framework of virgin or not we have a hard time defining what sex and sexuality really mean to us.

    • Emily_Maynard

      THIS. THIS. Thank you, Aaron.

    • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

      Do we all really need to define what sex and sexuality mean to us though? If I’m not participating, it doesn’t matter, right? Once I decide to start having sex, then it’ll matter, but I don’t see the relevance beforehand.

      • http://twitter.com/voluntaryaaron Aaron

        Yes, I most certainly do. Sex and sexuality are not relegated only to those having sex. I am not asexual and even if I were that is still sexuality. How I relate to women, and how I understand myself as a man, is most definitely influenced by sex and sexuality. Even in present celibacy I need to have a well thought out sexual ethic, it’s an important part of who I am and most definitely impacts myself and those around me.

        • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

          This seems to suggest that you only have to consider these things in defining oneself in relation to others though. I struggle enough with defining myself all on my own, apart from others. Maybe I’m just slow and will get to that eventually, but trying to define myself in relation to others as well as apart seems like too much to do all at the same time. And I feel like who I am alone should be the same person in relation to others anyway, or I’m not being the “real” me.

          Maybe this is a sign I should be a hermit.

          • http://twitter.com/voluntaryaaron Aaron

            But how we live is ourselves in relationship to others. I have a very high view of sex, I have a very high view of the potential of relationships between men and women, I have a very high view of God as God empowers all these areas for the Kingdom. I fear that we have relegated sex, our soteriology, our lives, into a merely individual undertaking, understanding it as a far off event or something in the past, rather than unique situations which with to say how does this reflect God in this moment, in this issue.

      • http://twitter.com/NatalieTrust Natalie Trust

        I think that this mindset is limiting sexuality to engaging in sex acts. Sexuality is part of our humanity.

        • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

          Is it? The world is convinced of this, which is enough to give me pause. Gender, yes, but I don’t know about sexuality, which is more.

          But I’m a contrarian and soon-to-be hermit. So you can probably disregard my opinion.

          • http://twitter.com/voluntaryaaron Aaron

            Can a hermit, a monk, a celibate priest exist in healthy relationship to fellow monks, to God, without a healthy and proper understanding that in their decision they have given their sexual life over to God in their particular commitment. They have to direct sexuality then toward service to others or as a form of fasting in commitment to God. We all have decisions to make about sex, usually lots of small decisions all the time.

          • Emily_Maynard

            If you are a person in reasonable health, you have sex hormones (some of them have other functions as well, but they are most certainly a part of the chemical make up of sexuality in your brain and body. So yes, you have a sexuality, even if you are not using it in any specific sexual act.

            A basic understanding of biology, let alone a holistic theology, would say that sexuality is always in play in your body, much like the digestion, nervous system, immune system, etc, is always in play.

            The idea that sexuality was the realm of married people or even “sinful” people intimiate out of wedlock has been extremely damaging to me, both physically and psychologically. It is devastating to try to detach from one’s own biology constantly rather than working to integrate all parts of the self. I’ll write more on this in the future, I’m sure. :)

            Good discussion, John, Aaron, and Natalie! Thank you!

  • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

    I grew up in a faith community that emphasized sexual purity, with the whole “true love waits” bit. As an adult, I’ve realized that I was in the minority among my peers who stuck with my decision to wait, even though we all heard the same message in youth group. It hurt to realize that my peers were going through so much with the decisions they made, but they couldn’t tell anybody. That to me is the worst part – not the choices they made, but that they felt their church community wasn’t a safe place to discuss their choices.

    I’ve felt compelled to go back and reexamine what influenced my decisions – I waited until I was married to have sex, but I didn’t wait to experiment sexually.

    I realized that it wasn’t the church that helped me understand the implications of sexual decisions. It was my relationship with my parents, my mom in particular, who helped me understand what healthy sexuality was. She was willing to talk about the choices she made as a young woman and how they affected her sexuality, in and outside of marriage. She helped me understand that if I didn’t wait, it was still possible to have a healthy sexuality and a healthy marriage. In doing that, she took away the pressure to be perfect, helped me see the possible consequences for what they were, and help me set the boundaries I felt comfortable with.

    • Liz Beadle

      I appreciate your perspective, Bethany. It’s not just lonely being someone who doesn’t wait within the Church. It’s just as lonely, at times, being someone who waits. Strangely enough, when I think about it, I’ve never had much issue with people giving me crap about my virginity, though. Even when members of my own family have called my boyfriend & I prudes for maintaining premarital sexual boundaries, I haven’t really been moved. Maybe it’s because, similarly to your parents, my parents were always very outspoken in our household on the topic of sex, both before and after they became Christians.

      Sometimes I wonder, as do many others in the single-Christian-dating position “how far is too far?” which definitely feels awkward and embarrassing to bring up to your spiritual leaders/mentors generally. I kind of expect “stay on opposite ends of the couch and only touch for brief hugs goodbye”… which isn’t gonna happen. I definitely see the benefit of removing the taboo around discussion of our sexuality within the Church, so long as we still treasure self-control, the consensual marital act, and the symbolism it all carries.

      • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

        “removing the taboo around discussion of our sexuality within the Church, so long as we still treasure self-control”

        YES, Liz. Think this is where the church is losing its balance on the issue – they want to emphasize self-control, which is a good thing, but they push the point so hard that even talking about the logistics is taboo. It’s like they believe that if you talk about it with teenagers, they’ll be tempted to DO it. Which is a big frustration with sex education, too. Kids need to be educated on things, but we’re so afraid of taking away their innocence that we put them at a disadvantage.

        The details of sexuality were so taboo that my peers had no one they could trust, no one to confide in. And I also feel like the emphasis on purity made students like myself complicit in the silence-keeping; my friends felt like they couldn’t tell me because I couldn’t relate. They feared my judgment, and I fully admit, they were right to fear it back then. I bought the lie that I somehow had authority on the issue because I had never “gone there.”

        • Emily_Maynard

          “I bought the lie that I somehow had authority on the issue because I had never ‘gone there.’” <——- This is so true for me. This is part of what I want to keep exploring and writing about in the power plays that I see in this issue and so many others in the church.

        • http://twitter.com/kate_schell Kate Schell

          “Kids need to be educated on things, but we’re so afraid of taking away their innocence that we put them at a disadvantage.” Thank you for saying this. The Church too often confuses innocence with naivety, and that is dangerous. Not only because young people won’t be prepared when they make sexual decisions (whether inside or outside marriage), but because they may not understand when someone is violating boundaries.

          Children especially need to have information beyond “don’t let someone touch you there.” I’ve seen kids preyed on because their well-meaning parents’ attempt to protect them from the impurity of the “secular world” just ended up sheltering them from basic medical and sexual knowledge. I’ve seen young women enter marriage not understanding the mechanics of sex or even knowing their body parts. I get that parents want to keep their children, especially their daughters, safe and untainted, but when it’s this extreme, who is really benefiting — the uneducated child or the parent who can pat themselves on the back for their child’s unspotted “purity”?

    • http://www.gabbingwithgrace.com/ Grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

      this is good reminder for me as a Mom! I had no one talking to me about it at all, and once I started having sex -so young at just 14- I definitely felt extrememly isolated and hated by God, and thrown out & all that jazz. that is the sad part. but, I do think there’s redemption in all this, both valuing those who are virgins and those who are not. That is what I want to figure out how to do.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ed-Hooper/620094826 Ed Hooper

        Grace, for someone who was/is in the same boat as you I hope you’ll find His redeeming love and grace to meet you where you are. The thing that helped me is knowing God is big enough to handle me in all my phases of life. He’s never pushed away from me and will always be there to help me through the rough times. Sex is something he created in us to have and enjoy; do you think God is turned off when we’re engaged in it or in the early throes of it? He’s there on all aspects and willing to guide us through to understand just who we are as believers.

  • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

    I’ll be honest, my initial gut reaction is that this line of reasoning can lead to really dangerous territory, and feels like it’s discarding wisdom. Just like legalism doesn’t work because it applies blanket judgement regardless of circumstances, broadly disregarding the teachings we grew up with because they don’t work for everyone -or have been poorly applied by some – is also not good.

    But.

    My second reaction is that you’re an intelligent, thoughtful woman who’s not interested in revolution as much as finding the heart of God on these things. I trust that He’ll lead you where you need to be, and if the rest of us need to join you, He’ll get us there eventually as well. I’m interested to see where this all leads.

    • Emily_Maynard

      John, I sort of teared up when I read this. This right here is the picture of community, the Prodigal story for me. Disagreements and questions and differences that we hold to, yet this overwhelming trust of each other.

      We trust that God is working, we trust each other to listen to the Holy Spirit first, and we trust our words to celebrate grace even if we don’t understand it in someone else right now.

      I am certainly not interested in discarding wisdom or reactionary thinking. I want to explore deeper, to see more revelations, to grow, and that’s why I care so much about examining my background, identifying truth, and moving forward.

      Thanks for being such a huge part of this and modeling grace for me in a vibrant way.

  • http://twitter.com/NatalieTrust Natalie Trust

    Emily, thank you for sharing your ginger scone epiphany! Thanks for bringing an air of freedom to this discussion.

    I’ve seen a certain term used in some comments and it bothers me. The term “baggage”, in reference to past sexual experiences, is a loaded one. We all have baggage! Waiting until you are married to have sex doesn’t mean you’re traveling without checked bags or a carry-on.

  • Stacey

    I LOVE your writing, Emily. You have such a way of saying what my heart feels. :) Thank you for writing this. I’m working through a lot of shame vs. conscious things this year, and I’ve often found myself confused and even angry with Christianity in the process. It reminds me how important it will be for me as a mother to explain things to my children rather than try to base their worth on a “because I said so” notion.
    Jesus is love, and we are called to be the same. That includes love of ourselves.

  • Kevin

    Emily, it’s like you knew exactly what I’ve been thinking. My church has a creed: we are a body of believers that dances and does not march. It’s the basic concept that we are saved by grace and don’t need to march through life, afraid to step out of line. It’s a wonderful thought and is a complete 180-degree turn from how it once was. Unfortunately, bad habits die hard and my past (which I rarely hide) becomes a focal point of many judgmental discussions. But your article reminds me, there are many strong Christians with history, waiting to be more than past decisions. I think I may just need to share your article with many of my friends — those who aren’t virgins, but aren’t non-virgins either.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    Amen, amen, amen. You absolutely nailed it, Emily. Let this be the start of something new, let this be a call for the Church to develop a better, stronger sexual ethic, and let us never be defined by what we have or haven’t done.

    I applaud you and I stand with you.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you, Leigh. I’m grateful to stand with you!

  • Kelly

    Thanks for this. I’ve hated identifying myself as a virgin. Just because I haven’t slept with a man doesn’t necessarily make me any more “pure” than someone who has. One look at my thoughts would show that is so, so far from the truth. It’s not even that I have such a problem with the word or concept, but that there is such emphasis placed on it within the Church and such stigma placed on it outside. I’m not pure, nor am I repressed. I’m just me.

  • http://www.fromtwotoone.com/ Danielle | from two to one

    So many facets of the human condition — beginning/end of life issues, sexuality, etc. — are so complicated and paradoxical, but also so fundamental to our existence as human beings made in the image of God. I think part of the reason that there is rampant legalism on these issues is precisely because they are so complicated. We want to feel in control, to have black and white answers, to set up an “us vs. them” mentality to make sense of the “chaos” of diversity in the human experience. It’s not a justification for this legalism, but perhaps an indication of how we need to dig deeper into the underlying issues — control, power, self-righteousness, etc. — that tempt us to simplify what God intentionally created as complex.

  • http://www.findingfruit.blogspot.com/ Jen

    My husband and I waited. Technically. :) And then suddenly I was no longer a virgin. But I had not changed. Not really. At least not because I had sex. Being a wife was so much more and so much harder a transition than having sex. And I will say that while sex is fun and a great way to connect, it is not the end all be all that we were lead to believe.

  • Coovara

    I take issue with only one sentence in this article.

    “Especially if you’re a girl.”

    I say no. Not especially if you are a girl. The complexity surrounding the differences in this issue are indeed different deepening on your gender and how you grew up in this society. The reality is that there are different drivers, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

    Pseudo psychology teaches us that men ‘want it’ more than women. But real research teaches us that this just isn’t true. Virtuous pop culture teaches us that a woman’s body is a prize for men to win. Not true. Machismo culture teaches us that a man is less than a man if he is not at least as experienced, as his partner. Not true. Pop culture teaches us that the measure of a man is in his sexual prowess, like the role model of James Bond. Not true. Pop culture teaches us that the suitability of a woman for a relationship is based in her sexual purity. Also not true. Twisted Christianity tells us that sex is sinful. In the most devout regions of some denominations, sex is not to be enjoyed, and is only to provide a means of procreation. Enjoying sex is considered lustful and sinful. In most christian circles sex is to be withheld By Both Men and Women, until the permanent lifelong bond of marriage. How crude, and how unfair to both men and women is all of this hogwash!

    The reality though, is that our environment is filled with those who believe these fallacies, who act according to them, and the reality is a set of pressures on both men and women which drive their behavior to the detriment of both.

    Lets take a simple mental experiment, to understand, not the christian ideal, but the social reality of the dichotomy of sex for the genders. Maybe we can understand the reason for the christian ideal, maybe we can understand where it comes from. Let’s imagine that both Bob and Brenda are relatively attractive health outgoing individuals, and that they are both interested in going out on a Saturday night to find sex. Never mind what Bob and Brenda tell themselves about their intentions for the night, never mind how right or wrong it is, just that the reality of their true desire is to ‘get laid’. Given the reality of our society, who is most likely to be successful? That’s right, Brenda. Nearly every woman has the ability to exert sexual prowess and be the ‘James Bond’. It’s a given. But our society tells us that Bob is not as worthy of a man if he can not do the same. (Remember we are looking at society without the confines of christian virtue.) So with our given societal norms, and the lack of christian virtue, most men are not going to achieve the same worthiness as most women. Only a few men will ‘level up’ to be sexually worthy, and sensually suitable. But most women will! Most men will feel unworthy and less of a man than the few men, that the majority of women are selecting to be sexually worthy, and sharing the experience necessary for those men to achieve that worthiness. In short, most men will end up feeling at least somewhat ‘left out’. Of course, most men would never admit to this. So the driver for the view of a woman as virtuous, is the willingness of women to put themselves on the same level as most men.

    The Christian philosophical answer to this to tell both genders to obtain from their biological, instinctual, and yes, evolutionary need and desire. If both are to obtain, then it can be fair. In reality though, this Christian ideal is seldom realized. It is filtered through the hogwash described earlier. The result is something completely unfair to women, wether they try follow this ideal or not, but especially when they do not! And it is completely unfair to men whether they follow the Christian ideal or not, but especially when they do!

    It has emotional and intimacy repercussions as well. It causes men to experience performance anxiety, erectile dysfunction, and feelings of social inadequacy outside the bedroom when they are in love with a woman who is more experienced than they are. It causes women to be non orgasmic when they are truly in love, but sexually free when they are being sinful. It causes women to have self loathing, or to feel socially inadequate when they are ( or even have ever ) had their true biological needs met. It causes men to represent themselves falsely to women to active a mark on their ‘worthy to be a real man’ score card. And it causes women to represent themselves falsely so as not to feel like a slut. It causes everyone to be full of angst and embarrassment. And anxiety so strong that they can’t even be honest with themselves. It causes judgment and anger by men who feel inadequate. And it causes resentment and self loathing in women. It causes men and women to compartmentalize and segment their own personalities to the point they have no idea how to connect their cognitive understandings, and their emotional state.

    It’s time to put all of this behind us and have the real open discussions that are needed for us to be spiritual beings. It is time to to call it for what it is, and stop pretending that our experiences don’t include these very uncomfortable and embarrassing realities.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hey Coovara, thank you for your time and commitment to reading and your response.

      My “especially if you’re a girl” comment was intended to state a fact about the culture I grew up in and point it out as a flaw of that culture, not a promotion of it.

      It was my intention to point out that virginity as a social construct is sexist in that it is more devastating for girls. In reality, men and women both have a complex sexuality. But in Christian culture men are often given a pass where women aren’t.

      The response to this isn’t of course to try to make virginity “a bigger deal for guys too,” which is typically how Christians deal with this issue when it’s brought up. The correct response is to step back and say “hey, maybe this whole system is flawed.” That’s what I’m attempting to do.

      • Coovara

        Hi Emily,

        I think you are focusing on how the system is flawed for women, as you should. And I think if you read what I have said you will see that I am agreeing with you wholeheartedly. What you might not see is how the system is also terribly flawed for men. I think a lot of men don’t even see that, or they are too embarrassed to say anything about it. It is a shame to not acknowledge how it is flawed for everyone.

        Truth be told, men have just as much a vested interest in changing ‘the system’ as women. The sooner they realize that, and come to terms with it, the sooner that change will happen!

        • Emily_Maynard

          Yes, I agree! I am excited for men and women together to change the system.

  • http://twitter.com/MAGuyton Morgan Guyton

    “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.” I like this way of redefining things. The point is to live in such a way so that no idolatry or fetish can interfere with our ability to worship and enjoy God in all things. That’s what holiness is about, not correctness in rule-following. There are many idols and fetishes that can enslave us. They are serious, but sexuality is not the only one.

  • http://www.storywrought.wordpress.com/ Elizabeth Hudson

    Amen, amen, amen. I am so sick of purity talks, and frankly, I’ve never cared for the word “purity.” Church and youth group talks about abstinence vs. sin always made me want to have more sex. We need to stop worrying about what happens behind others’ bedroom doors and start searching our own hearts. Sex has become a god in the church, and the real God never intended it as such. Lovely, lovely article, Emily. I’m a fan :)

  • http://www.gabbingwithgrace.com/ Grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    I too, hate the phrase “worth the wait, ” primarily b/c um, sex can be great when you don’t wait, when you aren’t married or when you are married to someone else. Sex can be fun in many’o’ contexts (regardless of it’s right or not), so that phrase just irks me. Besides the fact that often when one gets married after having waited a long time in between partners, or one is a virgin, it hurts like a mother bleeper for several months. And that to me, is just redonkulous advice to wait for some grand night. boo. Anyway, I like the distinction you made…I think it’s healthy to not define one self by one’s sexuality in general. Personally, I think that is why our culture is in such chaos right now b/c of how hard we are trying to grasp at straws to do this. I also think there is something to be said about honoring people who have good decisions to live a healthy sexual life. For example, my husband made early choices not to engage with porn and while he had his mistakes along the way, he was a virgin when we got married. Since then he’s went out of his way to protect our marital health by not engaing with porn, practially walking out of films with nudity/sex & working hard to keep his eyes and focus on me. my point is: until we got married, he was a virgin. I think there’s alot about his choices BEFORE marriage that prepared him for marriage and our currently joyfully, 12 yr. healthy sexual relationship. So, in some ways I don’t want to take that away from him or anyone else who chooses to engage their sexuality in a healthy way whether they are a virgin or not. I’m not going to stone him, you or anyone else who is living a fully healthy sexual life (in mind, body & spirit) b/c they happen to be virgins. There is a time and a place to honor that, and it’s still meaningful to me. Probably especially b/c I was NOT a virgin. I wonder if the rub here is that the culture puts so much emphasis on being a virgin rather than submitting EVERYTHING & your all to the Lord including every little teensy aspect of our lives surrounding sexuality? It’s a complex issue. But, I can say this, as a married chick having a lot of fun married sex, I *still* struggle with being completely & wholly submitted to the Lord in every area of my sexuality and that is what I work on. When I’m getting that right -fully in the Lord’s strength- I want to be able to rejoice & celebrate in that the same way I would with ANYONE who’s pushing through & making good choices…whether they are a virgin or not.

    Sorry I’m a major external processor. Forgive me if none of this made a helluva lot of sense!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Grace, I love you! This is amazing.

  • Mer

    In the past 2 years I’ve been a part of a community in New Orleans, LA that keeps things super real. So much of everyone’s business is just out there and people are struggling openly with issues of addiction, sex, struggling in marriage, struggling with weight, struggling with singleness, not having enough money to make the bills, etc. It’s changed the way I think about everything. Sex included. I remember having a conversation with some girls from my hometown in Pennsylvania centered around the question, “Would you marry a guy who wasn’t a virgin?” I was such a staunch “NO” at the time. My thought process was, “If I waited that long, he should have waited that long, too.” I saw it that way because, sex before marriage, for whatever reason, has become this weird hard and fast rule in the Christian community. It does sort of make you a misfit fi you’ve had sex before marriage. There’s definitely a feeling of being “cast out.” I’ve struggled with sisters who’ve shared with me that they were having sex with their boyfriends or one time a friend told me she decided to have a one-night stand with a guy after a wedding. I was so forlorn at this news. Being a virgin had become more important than knowing Jesus. I didn’t know that’s what was going on until recently as I’ve looked back at my old philosophies on the subject. But being a virgin and holding someone to that standard had become an idol. I don’t know why it’s like that kind of across the board with Christians, but it is.

    I appreciate this post and, Emily, your exploration of a new way of thinking and talking about sex. Because there’s a reality to it. I think waiting to have sex with your husband is a Biblical thing. I believe God’s designed physical intimacy to be within a marriage context. But just like the world doesn’t fall to pieces and Jesus’ grace doesn’t all-of-a-sudden become obsolete because I lied to my parents about how much I spent on my new car, Jesus’ grace is still applied to the person who’s had sex or intimate sexual relations with someone who’s not their spouse. We have put virginity and “not having sex” on a purity pedestal.

    But I do think it’s a nasty line to toe. In fact, right now, within our community we’re struggling with a situation that’s become extremely sticky because repeated sexual activity has been involved between two people who are not married. When you enter into “gray” with this, you do put your testimony and your leadership at risk.

    I don’t think anyone should be labeled by their sin or their struggle. Jesus just doesn’t do that to anyone. But I think we need to be SUPER careful that if we’re exploring and trying to figure out sexuality that we’re doing it with the Bible and Jesus as our guide. Our identities exist at their TRUEST in Christ. So if we’re trying to find answers to things outside of that, it’s going to lead us down a very slippery path. But I’ve asked Jesus hard questions about sex and my sexuality that would have been embarrassing to ask anyone else. And, really, who knows me better than Jesus? So I totally identify with the journey of sexuality and asking questions without feeling shame – I think God is big enough for that. Totally. And I think if we’re afraid to delve into struggles or potentially intense spiritual journeys alongside of God, then we’re doubting His ability to handle everything. Which, He can. And I have to be careful of that mentality myself. God isn’t freaked out when one of His kids has sex outside of marriage or “comes out” as gay. He’s just not trippin’. So, what does that mean for us, His kids? How should be we reacting? Jesus is our model, you know? For everything. As long as our lives are pointing back to Him, I think we’re gonna be fine, not matter what. Because in the end, it’s not about me or you or someone else, it is about Him. Is God getting the glory? Maybe that’s the real question to ask ourselves, as I think I saw someone write in one of the comments. Whether we’re the ones about to engage in a sexual activity or we’re the one hearing the news from a friend – how do I best honor God in this?

    Just some thoughts… :)

  • John

    Interesting thoughts there. Seems you are trapped between the culture that says have sex with the one you love(think you do anyway) because you will love it and the culture of religiosity that tells you to fill out a card saying you will wait until marriage because God ordained it that way, etc, etc, I took the middle ground in my life. I Stayed away from cultural thinking and this way I knew I wouldn’t get std’s and girls pregnant and take advantage of them by being promiscous. It becomes or can become a character and trust issue down the road. Then when God entered the picture it took on a bigger picture but I didn’t do any religious thing of signing some dumb card or making a pledge. My decision was my conscious. I never had any major sex education and maybe that helped me to not be promiscuous? I don’t know but does it really matter? I just know and knew that sex is the deepest intimacy of love between 2 people and it shouldn’t be sold so quickly, if you know what I mean?

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hi John, lots of stuff to think about in your comment. But I just wanted to say that good sex education has no link to promiscuity, and in fact, there is a good case that abstinence only or limited or fear-based sex ed leads to far more unhealthy behavior, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.

      Sex ed is important and should not be feared.

  • Becca Ann

    this is so good, really refreshing. thank you.

  • ChristianChick

    Ok, I have a rather off-the-wall question. I have multiple single, Christian girl-friends, one who had to call off an engagement after realizing that the fiancé was abusive. I discovered masturbation at a rather young age and would occasionally blow off steam. Is it possible to masturbate without ‘lust’, not in a ‘I’m thinking of this person and it’s getting me off’ kind of way, but just the physical let off (personally I believe it is but would like to hear what others think). And if so, is there any reason for that to be unhealthy?

    • Jenny E

      I would think that if you refrain from objectifying others, then how could it be a problem? Even James Dobson espouses this view for young men and he’s far from progressive!

    • Brian

      Hi ChristianChick. I do think its a matter of the heart. And as long as its not addictive and doesn’t get in the way of who God has designed us to be I think its OK. We can certainly enjoy and be grateful for what we do have as single followers of Christ and our sexuality is a part of our singleness. I myself still think about this very question often. Its one of those gray areas. I like that you have this question showing that you have great concern for what God wants in your life. Sometimes I carry shame after I “let off some steam”and I am looking to find the root of that shame, because I don’t necessarily think its from our loving God. For me it is possible to let off some steam and not lust but merely enjoy it as a gift from God.

  • Lindsay

    “I am not a virgin or a non-virgin. I am a human.” YES! THIS!

    I remember the first time someone told me that virginity was a social construct and my head almost exploded. Now I’m cheering you on from the other side of the computer screen :)

  • Secret Disciple

    I am almost jumping up and down Emily! Thanks you so much for saying this!

    I have believed for a long time that Christianity’s focus on virginity does far more harm than good. I think you have stated the situation very well. I especially like this part:

    “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 have been talking about this with friends for years now. I want to write a book about a sexual ethic that is actually useful and life-giving, I just haven’t really figured out what it is yet. It is so encouraging to hear someone else say these things.

    I can call myself a virgin, but this label doesn’t sit well with me. I do have regrets, and I do know people that are not virgins, even people who had sex when they weren’t married, who have probably had

  • Emily Wierenga

    i love that the online world is really grappling with this topic this week, and i find your perspective refreshing as always em. e.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you so much Dearest Em. I’m amazed at all of the clear voices speaking of different facets with the same hope. This has been long in the making and it’s so freaking beautiful!

  • Kaitlin (kaitlinmcduffie)

    Tried to find you on Twitter, Emily, to personally thank you for writing this provocative piece. The thing is, it shouldn’t be provocative to ask people to view one another holistically & to talk about going through life as people living for Christ & not the accomplishment of “holiness” or “waiting.” I love what you said & shared it with my friends. Thank you.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you Kaitlin! I’m on Twitter: @emelina

  • Sister Suzy Q

    You were a virgin by sermonizing your critique of your siblings in Christ. You came off like a neo self-righteous twit. Just go bang him you want to soooooo bad. But please save your liberal steam of idiocy to yourself. Maaaaybe Jesus finds glory and receives worship from your abstinence. Ever ask Him? Of course you didn’t or you would have mentioned it and with more a more enlightened response. Screw everyone else…New World Order is coming. If this sermonette is your maidenhood farewell, than you better hurry! God saves sluts to be sure. Join the ranks or die in your set apart sanctity….yes, a virgin! Clearly something you want to avoid.

  • I’m right.

    You could have entitled this swan song. The makings of a Christian whore. Fornication is a demonic act. Glory to Satan. Have fun with that!

  • Alex K.

    First off, we have a God who looks at us through Christ, and sees perfection through Christ in us. That being said, at our best, our works are but filthy rags in need of washing through Christ.
    We serve a Scandulous God.
    I think when our starting talking points on virginity exclude the broken and those who have no choice in weather they are virgins, we already are missing the boat. When a hormone driven 13 yearold can take the virginity of a 4 yearold and for the rest of her life she doesn’t have this virtue to hold on too, we are making a already bad situation worse. The fact is we never know when this might be the case. Being a virgin was stressed so much growing up it was made to be this overly defining thing we could use to separate us from the “Bad Kids”.
    Also, to stay away from sex because you are afraid of it is not living in a grace filled life.
    Purity is a grace given attribute, not a act we refrane from. If we don’t teach this point we miss the broken. We can’t back petal into grace for the abused and victimized. We can’t extol something some may never had the choice in being.
    If we frame sex as Emily is trying to do, there is redemption for all, the individual who knowingly is sexually active to the abused who have no choice, and all of us in between.
    It is scary to move from our black and white thinking and into the waters of redemptive grace filled whole-being thought. Thanks Emily.

    • Emily_Maynard

      It is kind of scary to move away from this all or nothing dichotomy, Alex. But I’m finding real growth and trust there. It’s amazing. Glad you are too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ed-Hooper/620094826 Ed Hooper

    Emily,
    Of all the books I’ve read…of all of the talks, sermons, tapes, messages, and interactions with believers and non-believers about this subject yours is one of the best I’ve ever read. I’m long in the tooth (a kind way of saying young enough to bounce, but old enough to know better) to remember how the statements in your article was “verboten” in many houses of worship. But you lay it out there bare for the world to see.

    I can’t tell you how my walk with Jesus was dictated by how low I felt for being a sexual being. I didn’t get the best foundation about sexuality except the screaming of my mom shouting “I’m too young to have any grand babies!” I felt from the start I was behind the 8 ball because I had sexual thoughts and felt like I had to beg God for mercy before he tore me asunder for a sexual thought or act.

    It wasn’t until later that I found God’s grace for me. I found He was with me, walked with me, and lived in me through all the crazy times. The best thing was Jesus was’t repulsed by me or my ways but He was lovingly caring for me wanting the best for my life. Since then my views on sexuality has changed and I realize my girls won’t be in active sexually as much as I want them to.

    The legacy I can give them (one is almost 18, the other 11) is that sexuality is one of the greatest gifts God could give us. With every gift we can use it or abuse it. I want them to know I won’t think less of them if they get involved with someone; I won’t look down on them as a disappointment if they do find someone they want to share an intimate moment with. Whatever moment they go through, whatever stumbling block that comes there way, I want them to know we’ll work through it together on the platform of love and grace. I think this is the legacy we must leave to future generations so that God’s love can work with our sexuality, not against it.

    I know of hundreds on line who struggle in the silence trying to figure out if their sexual lives can ever be “acceptable” in God’s eyes. I think the advice I’m going to give (other than sharing this article) is saying “work it out with Him”.

    A thousand thank you’s for such brilliant observation and for honest assessment of such a tricky topic.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Ed, thank you so much for your kind words to me and for adding your thoughts and stories here. I’m impressed that this is a revolutionary Kingdom conversation that is taking place all over.

      “I want them to know I won’t think less of them if they get involved with someone; I won’t look down on them as a disappointment if they do find someone they want to share an intimate moment with.” I think this is such a beautiful sentiment. It’s empowering in the sense that it offers relationship and trust, which are two things that add to self-worth. Thank you for adding your voice.

  • kellyasummers

    “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.”
    so true! i wish i had spent less time shaming myself for my sexual mistakes and more time actually receiving grace and striving to grow in God’s forgiveness and love.

  • http://twitter.com/KVCShutterbug Katelyn Collison

    I loved this from the depths of my heart.

    I’m a devoted follower of Christ, and I’ve fought hard to keep my purity – down to not having my first kiss. Because I’ve been the victim of too many men thinking they can make that decision for me. So I’ve fought for it. If there’s on thing I could change, it would be how the Church looks at holiness, purity, grace, and all of that with sex. I’m pursuing a degree in Christian sex therapy and trauma therapy mission work or girls rescued from sex slavery because of that. We HAVE to change how we see it.

  • Kristin

    wow…I’m so sad to read this. I understand what you are saying and can honestly say that I turned in my “virginity card” before I was married but regret it. Mostly because I disobeyed God. What is so bad about waiting until marriage? Oh…that means that we have to deny ourselves that instant gratification. GOD CREATED US TO HAVE SEXUAL DESIRES…so they are not wrong to have. BUT He also placed parameters on it. I do respect your opinion, but need want to obey God and His clear word on it more. I think that unfortunately our Christian culture just says “no” to this topic but doesn’t explain WHY. The why brings peace and beauty to the waiting…and I DO believe it would have been worth the wait for ONLY my husband to know me in that way.

    • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

      I don’t think Emily is saying she intends to have sex outside of marriage. She’s turning in the card that tries to identify her based on a small fraction of who she is.

      It is a very good thing to only know your spouse intimately. I don’t think that is being questioned here, either. Her issue with “worth the wait” is spoken (so, so well) here –
      “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.”

      • Emily_Maynard

        Thank you for adding this in, Erin. I think part of what I am trying to say is that my sexuality, my choices, my history and my future, aren’t up for grabs anymore. They’re not communal property, whether they’re the “Christian” choices or not.

  • dj_pomegranate

    Lovvve this–especially this line: “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.” When I was in the purity culture in my teens, I really prided myself on the fact that I was not going to have any baggage when I entered marriage–I was convinced that this made me a more eligible bachelorette and would ensure me an awesome, husband who loved me more because he did not have to deal with any baggage. Now that I’m married, it frustrates me no end the way people talk about baggage as if the more sex you have had, the more baggage you get. It doesn’t work that way.

    I had baggage when I was a virgin, and when I started having sex I didn’t increase my luggage load, it simply changed shape–some baggage I dumped, some I took on. My husband and I technically do have other people to compare each other to sexually…but we don’t. Because we love each other, we understand that the commitment we have made to each other — a commitment we have made with our whole lives! — surpasses any comparisons we may make to long-ago trysts. Sex with my husband is so much more satisfying, so different, so much richer and deeper and more unifying–a tryst 5 years ago (good as it may have been) cannot even compare. I don’t even think about it–to me, it’s not baggage.

    Some people would look at my past and think I have a lot–if they had the same, it may be a lot to them! I might feel that I have more baggage if my husband were jealous of former lovers…but he’s not, so I don’t.

    My point is that the more we allow people to share their experiences and convictions, the better we will be equipped for a holistic way of speaking about sexuality, and the better prepared we will ALL be to make honorable sexual decisions.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you. I love this perspective!

  • the Blah Blah Blahger

    PREACH!

  • http://annogus.tumblr.com/ Anna Gustafson

    This was supremely well written. Bravo! Funny, eloquent, profound. Bam.

  • Secret Disciple

    Thank you again Emily. This has sparked a great discussion. I am trying to follow a bit of your lead and my thoughts are over at http://disciplineofthesecret.blogspot.com/

    More scandalous ideas on sex will be discussed there in the future as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=159101445 Joey Cottle

    I came to a similar realization the other night.

    I’ve been “without” for a while now, not because of some moral platitude, but because I lost my wife to tragedy. It’s going on two years. I haven’t so much as held a girl’s hand.

    I’m not that guy. I’ve never been single since I turned thirteen. I thought this would get easier, that I’d find going “without” easier as the days wore on. I’d get used to it, at least. Hardly so. The desire never leaves us. God made us this way.

    A few nights ago, I wanted to quit. Call up a girl I know and just, well… quit. This sentiment felt strange, because it wasn’t the norm for me. I’ve been pretty gung-ho about remaining celibate until I get married again, but these last few weeks I find I’m just tired of waiting.

    My heart was giving out.

    I realized, then, my heart was never in the right place to begin with. I had been holding my celibacy as a trophy: “Look at me! Single Dad staying single! I’m so cool.” But after a while, that isn’t enough to not “grow weary in well doing.”

    I repented of my pride and told God I just want to be pleasing to Him. I don’t want to separate myself from Him. That’s all the reason I needed. And then I let Him carry me. I gave him my broken, bleeding heart and let Him lend me the strength I didn’t have.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Joey, thank you so much for sharing here. I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish I could put more weight into those words, but truly, I’m sorry.

      Thank you for reminding us that this discussion isn’t just about 17 year olds who have never been married, it’s about people of all ages in all sorts of different life and relational situations, who are trying to follow God the best they can with the life they have right now. You are welcome and you are loved.

  • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

    I LOVE part, Emily – “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.”

    I was raised very conservative. And I am still very conservative. My parents never were into the true love waits or the shame object lessons and all, though. They pretty much tried to avoid that stuff for us. I remember one year at a pro-life walk, the abstinence teacher from the Pregnancy Resource Center gave the brief talk, when we all were gathered after the walk. He gave some purity speech and then ended it by shouting at the top of his lungs that it was worth waiting, because MARRIED SEX IS THE BEST SEX EVER!!!

    On the way home, my mom told me who she thought that was so wrong and it made her kinda mad that he said that. I was like, gee Mom, why? Because, she said, it is just not true. Being married doesn’t mean you will have great sex. Huh. I guess not.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Erin Erin Friend! Thank you so much for commenting here. I love this story about your mom giving you some honest advice after a scare-tactic abstinence speech! She seems really cool, as are you. :)

  • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com/ Lara

    I just found you through Libby Anne’s blog. I love this whole post SO much. Especially this part, “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.” Yes, Yes, Yes!! Thank you so much for being willing to have this conversation. Because waiting to have sex until marriage doesn’t fix everything. For many people waiting could be the wisest decision, but….well let’s talk about all the things that could go after that “but”. Thank you!!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you, Lara! I didn’t realize that Libby Anne had included me in her post, so I’m so glad you mentioned this. I so appreciate her generosity and willingness to support positive change in Christianity even though she is no longer a Christian. She’s a great example of the power of honest analysis and kindness. I agree that this is the start of a larger conversation and I’m ready for it. Let’s go, friends!

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.duley.54 Dan Duley

    I think I have talked more about sex in church and with other Christians than any where else. God created us as sexual beings, expects us to live pure lives, and gives us grace when we fail. God seeks to protect us. Sex outside of marriage is destructive, as is stealing, idolatry and many other deviations from God’s word. Yes , we all have sexual baggage, even when we wait til marriage to have sex. That is all the more reason to wait. The less baggage i have to carry the better.

  • disqus_Syyg39gCo7

    thank you for this article its great and really helpful, becky x

  • emma

    have you read the purity myth by jessica valenti? you would love it, she is saying the same thing as you but it book form with lots of interesting research. http://jessicavalenti.com/books/the-purity-myth/

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hi Emma, yes, I read Valenti’s book last year and follow much of her research and writing online. I love her perspective. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Matthew

    Well now the whole virginity thing is over with, you might want to try smoking some weed so you can chill. It’s all going to be fine. Relax and think about other people.

  • Luther Flagstad

    There are several different issues you present here, and they’re getting a bit mixed up.

    Sex is not ok outside of marriage because God created sex for the marriage relationship. Above all other reasons, we are to honor God. God has given us ways to live because he is a good father and he has our joy in mind. This is why men and women should remain virgins until they are married. That is what must be decided first: Do we believe God’s Word and do we believe that His ways are best for us? If not, then the discussion can end here – whatever seems to be good to you is the right decision for you. However, if we decide that God’s ways are the best, then we can move on to other questions.

    The second discussion would be about why God’s word might be good for us. Why do you think God wants us to wait to be sexually involved until we’re married?

    The third discussion would be, where have some Christians gone wrong in preaching and holding to God’s word? There are all kinds of self-righteous, religious, strict, unloving and unbending “Christians” who demand that people remain virgins for the wrong reasons. How can we present God’s truths in a correct, God-honoring and people-loving way?

    But it still comes back to what God thinks and what His Word says. That’s the standard that a Christian is to live by. Now let’s discuss why.

  • chica101

    I had made my promise as a 14-year-old girl that I was going to wait to have sex until marriage. Well, I waited until I was 22 years old. Of course I had wanted to go “all the way” with boyfriends before, but I was scared about what would happen to me. I didn’t want to be a sinner and I was afraid of what my family would think. I lost my v-card (or gained an experience, as I’d like to say) to one of my best friends– and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I knew I could trust him and it took our relationship to a whole new level. Afterwards though, I felt ashamed of the fact that I broke a promise to God. My purity ring teased me and I felt like everyone was judging me– the problem was, I didn’t regret my decision. I have really struggled with my Christian background and my current life-choices. Sure, we can all pull out scripture about premarital sex, but… there are SO many pieces of the Bible that point out all sorts of problems… it’s just complicated.

    Thank you for this post– I’m sure I will still have questions about my choices, but it’s nice to know that I wasn’t alone with a personal battle.

  • Jessica

    Emily…

    Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I grew up as a Pastor’s daughter in a small conservative town, and was homeschooled. Men didn’t know I existed. Quite literally. I had MY crushes, sure, but I was given a purity necklace at 13, to guard my ‘emotions’, not physical, because, well, you’re not near enough any guys for that to be an issue. Fast-forward to an uber-conservative Christian college (big surprise, right?) and I learned what ‘sexy’ actually was. But forget ME ever fitting in. Forget ME ever being the girl anyone paid attention to. I didn’t have the least idea how to even LET myself be ‘sexy’. While still figuring out what it meant to be a sexual being, I watched my brother go through a divorce that came on the heels of a “better be married before you have sex” model, and a house mate who just came through the same kind of marriage. I started despairing of hope for humanity. Really, you save yourself, save yourself, until you can’t stand it and then…what? Your dreams are shattered. You have to move on…the person you agonized over saving yourself for no longer is in your life. What is that??? I DON’T want that for myself…there has to be another way….

    Fast forward about a year…and I had a boyfriend! All of a sudden, there was a boy, who liked me, there was boy who found my body attractive, and there was a boy who said he loved me. Away it went. We were the couple that got kicked out for making out in bookstores, had cops kick us into rooms instead of making out in the back of his car, etc, etc. Because while I’d let him get all over me, sex wasn’t okay yet. I was more and more torn by it, “What would my Christian friends say?” I’d have to wear a huge A on my chest the rest of my life, my Christian friends would call me a heathen, I’d broken a covenant, I’d…etc, etc. Finally, (and ironically) one of my atheist friends asked me…”Why can’t you have sex with your boyfriend, and love Jesus too?” Her question shocked me. Only people who didn’t love Jesus betrayed him like that…didn’t they? Or did they? The ‘sexually immoral’ Jesus referred to were people who treated sex casually, people who took other people’s spouses, etc…I coudln’t find anything where two people in a committed relationship got stoned for making love/sleeping together/having sex…. So, two days before Christmas that year, I became a sexually active adult. I’ve had NO regrets since. No, I didn’t marry that boyfriend. We broke up. I’m single again…and guess what? Still as sexual as ever.

    Do I see myself as someone who loves Jesus and tries to see the world the way He sees it, and tries to deal with life around me like He did? YES. But I also see myself as someone THANKFUL for the amazing gift of sex He gave humanity, and thankful I can enjoy it.

    Your article, confirmed this thinking. Yes, yes, yes! Amen, amen, amen! I applaud your bravery for writing it. On first impulse I wanted to share it on facebook, but I’m mortally afraid I’d get chewed out and called something nasty by my conservative friends, as is. I even tend to avoid commenting on stuff like this, because I’m afraid of how they might respond…because they don’t know my little secret…and I think they’d believe me going to hell if they did. But, your article gives me courage…not just to keep asking myself these questions, but starting to voice them…voice them to those who’s understanding of ‘purity’ and what ‘virginity’ is, and helping them be freed from guilt. Not to be “someone who’s done it”, or “someone who wishes I hadn’t”, or even someone who doesn’t consider herself a proper sexual being because her reformed-boyfriend won’t have sex with her, but rather, as a person, who’s identity IS such. A person, created in the image of God–fearfully, wonderfully, and sexually made!

  • Susan

    Emily, I don’t know how old you are but you are wise beyond your years at any age.

    I’m 63. At 16 when I lost my virginity, my mother scolded that my life was ruined, and that no decent man would ever have me. I carried that shame with me for many years.

    I ended up marrying a wonderful man who is a pastor. We just celebrated 37 years together!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you, Susan. I’m so sorry that you were shamed as a teenager. That is such a powerful weight to have to carry. And congratulations on your 37 years! That is an incredible feat! :)

  • Imogen Minnesota

    This is such a good article! Growing up in a Christian family I found myself being torn in half when thinking about sleeping with my non-christian boyfriend. We waited for 2 years before doing it, and were both 18, but I still had to think long and hard about it. I think that the amount of pressure not to, only makes you feel like you’re the worst person in the world, like you’re a dirty slut. When in fact, I’ve only slept with one person and we’ve been together for nearly 5 years now!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you for sharing your story of decisions and faithfulness, Imogen.

  • banat masr

    The book of Joel has been oddly comforting to me in times when all is not right in my world. The shocking calamity and oppressiveness of the beginning of the book and stark contrast of the beauty of the promise of repayment “for the years the locusts have eaten.” Thank you for sharing your journey honestly — I pray that you begin to see and feel the promised restoration and faithfulness.

    http://www.chatalex.com/

  • jack

    “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.”

    Do you apply that in every area of church life? Do you allow yourself to separate into other groups to the exclusion of others? Do you regard quiet, or shy men with the same Godly regard as you do the men you are more likely to pursue? Or do you pound the gavel on this issue so strongly because it is an area where you now find yourself on a side of the dividing line that you don’t like?

    I’ll bet a discerning person could find plenty of ways in which you permit and even foment division, but according to criteria that you would somehow justify as appropriate.

    So, you fell off the virgin truck, happens to a lot of people. But now you are trying to widen the good-girl path so that you are not required to come to terms with what you have done.

    Sad to see those in the church who race to dilute holiness and scripture so that they can continue to massage their egos.

    The way back to God is through repentance, not faux “empowerment”.

    • Emily_Maynard

      There’s no virgin truck.

      • jack

        No? Das VirginWagen, perhaps?

        Well, there is not much of a supply of chaste women anymore, so I’ll agree so far.

        I like the cheeky aspect of your post, though. Through bravado and defiance, you are attempting an admirable act of social and psychological alchemy.

        I’ve always seen writings such as your to be the exact opposite of what they appear. On the surface, it appears to be a bold declaration of freedom from oppression. I see it for what it is – a hail-mary of rationalization and defiance, in the belief that if you can bully your conscience into silence, then you will not have to hear that small, nagging thought in the back of your mind that is patiently waiting for the day when you will engage it honestly.

        It really does not matter that you go on in your path of error. But by taking your sin and trying to polish it into something to put on display, you risk leading other who are weak further into sin.

        Once the church is full of proud sinners, it is all over.

        How much longer until they stop saying “I lost my v-card” and start boldly proclaiming that “today I got my fornicard”.

        • Shems

          ‘A supply of chaste women’?! ‘Supply’?!! We are human beings not cattle or products provided for male consumption. Have some respect.

          • jack

            I expect you to say the same to women next time they say there are “no good men left” as well.

            And chaste women are in very short supply these days, seeing as how most of them are very anxious to destroy their innocence and youth by sleeping around in the name of “empowerment”.

            I’m smart enough never to tell this to the women I date, though. They just wonder why I avoid the topic of long-term commitment.

            Only women who have moved far from chastity get angry about a man’s stated desire for a chaste woman, though.

  • K

    This post says that I do not have to be accountable for my own actions, and others should depend on me to make choices wisely according to my personal convictions (you said, “Tell me you trust me, that you respect my ability to make decisions, even if they are different from yours…”). If everyone today actually lived by this attractive news, I would be scared to even go into a store! Not one person, even a Christian, has the same idea of how a moral life should look, and yet you’re encouraging each individual to follow his or her own directing. Think about it: no Government vetoes its laws and lets each citizen choose whether or not they think they should steal. It’s the same with Christians. That’s the very reason why God gave us the Bible! Even though sometimes it’s not always the most “fun”, we are called as Christians to do the harder, godly thing: what God wants us to do. Second Timothy 3:12 advises us on this: “Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” If we aren’t willing to suffer for what is right and to stay pure by the Bible’s standards, which are higher than people standards, why, then, do we call ourselves Christians? What sets us apart from non-Christians? Is it merely the fact that we donate a few minutes to reading our Bible every day, or that we dutifully commute to Church maybe three or four times a month? What your post is preaching is that we shouldn’t have to follow and obey Jesus in actions as well as thoughts. It says we can just be Christians, not having to live the life of a true Christian.

    You said, “… Stop telling me that it will be ‘worth the wait’”. It might not be an awesome experience to wait for someone to come along. It can be terribly discouraging and awful. But God is the perfect
    Creator of the WORLD and the Creator of every marriage, and He sees every person without a partner as significant. No matter how long it takes for Him to place them with someone, or leave them single, it doesn’t mean we should just settle for less while we’re “waiting” for Him to act! First Thessalonians 4:3-4 says: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable”.
    I know so many women who thought they’d never find their match. A few years ago, God started bringing young men into each of their lives. Each wedding was positively beautiful… not because of the decorations, photographers, or dresses, but because all of their guests knew of the divine purity still between the couple. Two of the brides are now expecting babies, and I look at all of them as honorable ladies of God. They obeyed first Thessalonians, and now are blessed by having preserved their hearts and bodies as God intended them to. It was worth the wait, because they honored God and were in every area of their life, living according to God’s commands. Their wait paid off in the form of the soul-mate of God’s design, not a mate of their own fleshly decision.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Actually, K, this post says that each person should be very much responsible for their actions.

  • Wendy Wolf

    Brilliant, Emily. Thank you!!

    I shared on FB:
    Wonderful article on self-identity and honoring each person’s spiritual choice.

    “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.”

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you for reading and sharing this article, Wendy! I’m so grateful my story impacted you and I hope it offered love and new understanding to others.

  • WOB

    As a born again believer, our bodies are no longer ours. They belong to Christ. We have become one with Him. We have no right to sex outside of marriage – that God created/ordained act that grants us the privilege (and permission) to engage in sex with ONE person, our spouse.

    • Emily_Maynard

      This view of bodies and ownership and “rights” leads directly to so much physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse. It’s dangerous.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EF5UF6A7DKDRLEOUHW56IV7WXU SarahC

    Deep thinking. For a whole variety of reasons, I believe it’s best to be celibate before marriage and faithful in it. I believe that sexual relationships create bonds that one or both participants may come to regret and that churches should uphold these as the desired standards for Christians.

    That said, another United Methodist Woman almost swallowed her tongue when I said, “I don’t think God is nearly as interested in our sex lives as most people think.” Based on space given in the Bible, God is much more concerned with the purity of worship (not sacrifices but contrite hearts, and justice for the oppressed) than with the worship of purity.

    • Emily_Maynard

      “Based on space given in the Bible, God is much more concerned with the purity of worship (not sacrifices but contrite hearts, and justice for the oppressed) than with the worship of purity.”

      Wow, Sarah, this is an AWESOME insight. Seriously, thank you so much. I hadn’t looked at this this way before and I’m so grateful you shared.

  • John Morgan

    I didn’t read all of the comments, but I’m assuming you recently had sex for the first time. And now you feel “shamed,” guilty, embarrassed, rejected, etc. And your answer is one big holistic, free for all, open minded, guilt free, shameless orge in a taco shop on a lovely fall day. If all of your friends joinced you, would that make the guilt go away? As you realize now, sexual immorality does have devastating social implications. That’s why premarital sex (fornication) is listed as a sin in the Ten Commandments. Yes, there is God’s grace. But forgiveness and grace cannot undo consequences. You can try to rationalize your choice all you want. You can try to polish it up, repackage it, take God out of the equation, and sell it to all of your friends as ” I’m in process, and I trust that you are too.” You can even fool yourself into believing that: “Virginity is just another way that people in power talk about who’s in and who’s out of favor with Church.” The harsh truth is there are single men and women who do uphold the standard of virginity before marriage. There are still people “blanketing all sexual experience outside of marriage as sin.” There are still virgins and nonvirgins. There are still guys who dream of “good Christian girls.” Since you have such a low opinion of Christian guys, I just hope not too many of them read what you wrote. My advice would be — Since you turned in your “V card,” I would write about another subject. I do believe in grace and forgiveness – A lot more needs to be written on that. But virginity is already under enough attack. We don’t need any more ginger scones thrown in our face. John, Christian virgin, fifty one.

    • Shems

      You appear to have completely missed the entire point of this article (and made a huge assumption about the writer). By all means make a case for sex being for marriage but fornication/premarital sex is not mentioned in the ten commandments. At all. Adultery is but that is not the same thing. Also a bit confused by your statement that you believe in grace but at the same time ‘dream of good Christian girls’ – somewhat contradictory.

    • http://emilyisspeakingup.com/ Emily Maynard

      There’s no such thing as a “good Christian girl.” There are women who are Christians. But whether or not they meet YOUR standards for their behavior does not make them good or bad.

  • Jasmyn Elliott

    “I’m done blanketing all sexual experience outside of marriage as sin and never acknowledging that abuse can happen within a marriage.”

    YES! YES YES YES YES YES!

    This one sentence here made me applaud in front of my computer screen. I currently work as a peer educator for the victim services office on my campus, and part of that job includes discussing the definition of sexual assault with students. Whenever the topic of marital sexual assault/rape comes up, it’s frustrating to break students out of the line of thinking that marriage means an automatic denouncement of someone’s right to say ‘no’ to sex. I truly enjoyed your whole article, but I am very glad that you addressed the topic of spousal sexual abuse, even if it was only a single sentence.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you, Jasmyn. I’ve learned so much recently from a variety of people, and I think marital abuse is an important topic to cover. Thank you for the work you do on your campus!

  • Ellie

    Emily – Thank-you. For while I believe it is so much better to wait, I know that around me in the world are people who didn’t. And they are no less valuable, forgiven, or worthy than anyone else.

    So I teach my kids to wait. And how good sex is. And I teach them that if they fail there, it is not the end for them. I teach them that they may very likely find out the woman they want to marry didn’t, and that is not the end of the world.

    But thank-you for another reason. You are one of the first Christians that has mentioned what needs to be shouted from the roof-tops. All this talk about “sexual purity” is hurting the sexually abused among us. I am one of them. We are kicking the victims in the teeth and telling them that they are not “clean”. Nothing about my abuse as a child made me “dirty” or “impure”. But the church said it did. If you weren’t a virgin, you were not pure. We need to shout this truth out, we need to speak it clearly. We, as a church, need to publicly apologize to our victims. We’re sorry we said that untruth. We’re sorry that we added pain to your pain. We’re sorry we silenced you with shame. We’re sorry we made you feel less worthy. We’re sorry we stood in the way of Christ’s love to you and looked down at you.

    The church NEEDS to hear this. So thank-you.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Ellie, I’m so sorry you were abused and I’m so proud of you for speaking up about it here. I’m sorry that the church wasn’t a safe place for you and your healing because of the way we talked about “sexual purity.” I’m grateful for many people changing the conversation and I’m glad you’re one of them!

  • Hmmm…

    To be honest, this post sounded like it was written in bitterness to me. Not that it didn’t have good points. It just seemed… angry.

    • http://emilyisspeakingup.com/ Emily Maynard

      Which part seemed angry to you? Do you think anger is a legitimate emotion to have? If not, why not?

  • Sarah

    So I guess my question for you Emily, is – is there a such thing as holy, healthy premarital sex? If not, changing the dialogue is important but the lesson will still end up being the same.

    I also think its so important to think about how much more purity rhetoric affects women than men. How is it that women can be considered damaged and unclean by the church after engaging in premarital sex, but men are much more easily forgiven? That the assumption is that young men have sexual instincts and urges (and that sometimes they fall prey to those temptations), but that purity should be the basic state of women, not even necessarily something to strive for? Men are praised for resisting sexual temptation, but women are scorned for even admitting to the same. It makes it a difficult narrative.

    Inspired by your words and your bravery to speak out on this important issue!

  • Amy

    I grew up in a similar home and I rejected this idea a few years back (at age 19). My dad had me sign a purity pledge at age 8. I could hardly write cursive and I was making decisions about my future sex life or lack there of—completely nuts to me now. If you haven’t already, read “the purity myth” by Jessica Valenti There’s a documentary of it too but the book is better and would go well with a scone. :) It makes the argument that the purity movement is actually hyper-sexualizing young women because it places SUCH an importance on our sexual decisions and how they correlate to our morality. I remember being with my high school boyfriend and feeling so guilty for crossing lines. The shame and guilt has got to be flushed down the toilet. This shame makes women feel worthless for having sex before marriage and creates a hierarchy leaving rape victims feeling the worst. My virginity was always described as a “gift” I have to give to my future husband. What if that gift is ripped from me by someone else? Where has that gift gone? Women have a lot more to offer than just what’s between our legs and putting such emphasis on our sex life supposes that we don’t.

    I stopped using the V-word a while back. No one took anything away from me when I had sex. I was simply expressing myself sexually with someone I cared about. And unlike what my parents always said, I didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty about it—maybe because I won’t allow myself to be shamed by something as natural as sex.

    Long story short, you’re awesome. If I’m ever in Portland, we should grab some scones and chat.

  • Kevin Freeman

    A tale of a ginger scone…

    I’m not gluten free anymore. I’m not saying I glutenized in a gluten-free bakery, you guys. Please. Wheat flour is 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 Gluten-Free Scone” for a long, long time. If you grew up in American Gluten-free bakery culture, you know that a statement like mine is one of the most life changing, socially desolating, baker-ally disappointing pronouncements you can make. Especially if you’re ginger.

    But I don’t care anymore; I’m done with glutenity.

    I’m done with that word and that idea. I’m done defining myself, my past and my future, in terms of who’s barley has been where, or hasn’t. I’m done with stories for glutens and non-glutens, promises and praises, and sentiments of “restoration” that just push forward bulldozer loads of this horrible twisted shame.

    …I’m done standing apart from my biscuits and muffins who have been glutenized or cross-contaminated or mislabeled or had their ability to choose taken away from them. I’m done adding to a culture that humiliates victims who are baking out healing in their own way. We’re quick to offer platitudes of grace, but oh so slow to engage the bakers or pastry structures that perpetuate abuse.

    I’m done blanketing all glutenous experience outside of bakeries as sin…
    ———————
    Is it a bit silly to rewrite your article in gluten free terms? Maybe so, and where you stress the need for Christians to show grace to repentant brothers and sisters who have traded their purity for something inferior, I couldn’t agree more. But just as gluten free scones matter to you, purity matters to God. Those aren’t accidental passages there. True, they need to be tempered with love and grace and other parts of the whole counsel of God, but God values purity, and Christians are right to teach it. Thank you for an article that gets people thinking.

    • http://barretta.tumblr.com/ Barretta

      I think you’re confusing your particular church body’s version of purity for God’s view of purity. But the important thing to remember here is that after the Fall, there is no purity for any of us, here, anymore. A man or woman who’s had sex, premarital or not, is no more pure before God than any other fallen person—because they are still steeped in sin of one kind or another.

      When you say that someone has “traded” their existing purity for “something inferior,” you’re not only implying that one person can be more sinful than another—from God’s perspective, not only irrelevant but impossible, as the slightest sin of omission makes us equally fallen before Him—but you’re encouraging the belief that Christians within the body of the church should unequally value their brethren based on whether they have committed a particular sin. And neither of these are right.

      I think Miss Maynard is quite right in rejecting the entire concept of virginity as a public item to be bandied about and held over others as a mark of what they believe to be God’s disparate approval of base sinners. Brava.

  • Tim M

    Emily, your article seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I agree that the whole cultural baggage associated with being a virgin/not virgin needs to be reconsidered and adjusted. Yes, our sexuality is much broader than our virginity (which is, like you said, cultural rather than medical). What you say in your article is true. But, however, on the other hand, nevertheless…….sex–which I will leave purposefully undefined–is best practiced between a married couple and should not be practiced during dating relationships. The “bathwater” is not sex after marriage, but all of the cultural baggage and unhelpful social pressures. I agree with all of your article, but I will still hold on to sex after marriage, which I think fits well within your reasoning.

  • hoppytoad79

    Thank you! I’m a fellow Christian and so much of what you’ve said needs to be shouted from the rooftops and heard in conservative Christian churches across America. Being a woman, I can’t speak for what boys/men are taught, but I know what’s pounded into girls and women and I am SO SICK of it all. I’m so sick of how our virginity it put up on a pedestal and how it gets to the point where you can find yourself thinking it’s okay if you do X, Y, and Z, as long as you do have penetrative sex, because then you’ll still be a virgin–and then you realize one day that’s complete BS because it’s just technical virginity and God can totally see your heart so, seriously, what’s the point of avoiding penetration? So you don’t cross That Line into Total Slut Territory that your Sunday School teachers warned about in dark, dire tones? If you continue down the road into self-awareness, you realize just how much slut-shaming is involved in the Purity Movement, and just how much They rely on stereotypes, misogyny, sexism, and enforcing ignorance and a view of the human body and sex as dirty and wrong.

    My decision to wait until I’m married to have sex is based on that I believe that’s what the Bible teaches, as well as wanting to keep my risk of getting STDs and becoming pregnant at zero. I’m also a magnet for men who have Major Issues (like an attraction to middle school girls, and one who didn’t understand what ‘no’ and ‘stop’ meant), and I’d rather not have ‘oh, God, why did I sleep with HIM?’ on the list of things I regret about the time I wasted on a guy, know what I mean?

  • vicksome

    I’m glad someone understands oppression and wants the power to define themselves outside of whether or not they had the choice to wait-I think knowing it that doesn’t make you pure to happen to have the lucky circumstances to choose is the most decent thing I’ve heard in a long time. I’m so glad you get it. I’m getting a degree in the social justice field and there are so few conscious people of faith, I was really losing hope there were ANY that respected a woman’s right to define herself outside of if she possessed a hymen or not.

  • katy

    Thank you!!!! <3

  • Andrew

    I love this. I grew up in IFB churches and between modesty and “virginity” witnessed the objectifying of the girls I grew up with. These two things were driven home to girls more than anything else. And when you elevate something to be more important than more important things, then it starts going wrong.
    Modesty goes from being a personal choice to an external measure and suddenly women carry the heavy burden of trying to prevent men from lusting (don’t be a stumbling block!).
    And the obsession on purity sends the message loud and clear, “You exist for nothing else than a man. Forget about any personal destiny you may have as a daughter of God.”
    “You are saying it’s OK to fornicate?!?” No. But the bible makes an even bigger deal over things like, say, lying. Have you ever lied? And it says that if you look at someone and lust then you are guilty of having committed adultery. Have you ever looked at someone and lusted?
    The reality is, we are all in the same boat here. We should be able to wrap our arms around each other and totally understand our mutual need for what the gospel is _really_ about rather than crushing each other with overblown burdens and then teaching people to find their identity in how well they carry those burdens.

  • Peter

    Thank you.

  • Anthony

    Although I agree with the notion that no one should be treated poorly because they are a virgin or a non-virgin, I completely disagree with the idea that having sex outside of marriage is somehow OK according to Christian beliefs. The Bible explicitly states that it is a sinful act…and you can’t pick and choose from the what is supposedly the Christian God’s word if you consider yourself a Christian. If you think something in the Bible doesn’t apply, it’s probably time to update your view of the Bible and look at as merely a compilation of parables largely designed to teach moral lessons (just like any other mythology) and not necessarily any kind of holy truth.

  • enness

    I am sorry that so many people get a message that says there is something inherently bad about the body, and that chastity is constituted of a laundry list of “don’t”s. The good news — pun totally intended — is that it is a big positive “yes” to God’s desire for us to love truly and be truly loved. It is a refining fire that, for me, has cut a great deal of the drama, heartache, and jadedness that tend to accompany or follow intense physical relationships that lack the complete self-giving commitment of marriage (which I am watching someone I care about suffer from now, partly thanks to what I suspect has been decades of spiritual neglect from people who were supposed to teach and protect), and helps me to focus on what is important in a future husband. It is realizing that I am not a soul that happens to reside in this shell called my body, but that body and soul are very much enmeshed. It is realizing that what I do today affects not just myself now, but my future self, my future husband, our future children, and so on. It’s not something that quits after marriage, either; it continues with fidelity. The challenge doesn’t end there. Yes, I did say challenge — but the things that are most challenging are often the most worth doing.

    You speak of reuniting the fragments of yourself, and I think that’s precisely what it’s about: not repressing one’s sexuality, but integrating it and mastering it as part of the whole Christian life.

    May I suggest the writing of Jason and Crystalina Evert? In general I think they are a pretty good antidote to the awful metaphors describing people as “chewed-up food” and such. We really do need a positive message. There is one, but I think it is a minority one. Thank you for bringing necessary attention to that.

  • http://notquitearunner.blogspot.com/ Amy

    While I didn’t wait for marriage, I did wait for the man I plan to marry and that took 28 years. And to say I underwent a crapstorm of emotions after I lost my virginity to him is an understatement. I was one of the “True Love Waits” kids. I didn’t date in high school or college or after college, though I began to feel weird when all of my friends were married or at least hooking up and I was instead trying to build a life for myself on my own. My boyfriend was worth the wait. But not just for sex. Because I had learned to take care of myself and overcame a lot of the dysfunction that existed in my family growing up, I was the right person to be in a serious committed relationship with a man like him. The whole relationship was worth the wait, not just the sex, but I am glad that I waited for that with him. In an ideal world, we would’ve waited until we got married, but it’s not and we didn’t, but I feel okay about it.

  • RC

    Thanks for this. The dialogue on virginity for many of us has certainly been devastating and I’m finding it quite interesting being introduced to new ideas about it. Healing.

    Here is another article I found helpful http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/christians-idolize-virginity

  • KFriday

    Emily, I cannot tell you how much I “get” this post. I’m honestly not even sure how I found it, but I’m sure glad I did. I have been struggling with this issue immensely this past year. And just recently I came to a point where I realized I was tired of defining myself as a virgin like it describes the entirety of me. Like it is all that I am and the questions, stares, comments, and labels that come along with it. I’m over it. Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability. I would love to share a scone with you and talk about life and faith and the beautiful messiness of it all. Keep on writing, sister! <3

  • Molly A. Phipps

    It is so tough for me to comment right now. I grew up, and still live in, a fundamental Baptist community. There are so many things I could talk about, but I’ll try to stay on point with your questions.

    I learned, growing up, that virginity is important, that girls should be pure, etc. The part I have trouble with now is that, the whole culture surrounding it creates a fear in girls that if they EVER lose their virginity, they won’t be blessed and the right guy will certainly not marry them. And God won’t be happy with them. I think that’s the biggest problem with the whole virginity culture. It creates fear. When the conversation SHOULD be on purity and on our desire to live life a certain way because we love God, not because we’re deathly afraid it’ll ruin the rest of our lives.

    It’s a concept that holds value, in the sense that I try to live my life in purity. So for me, the value is more centered on a whole lifestyle of purity than it is on one specific aspect of that.

    I think we can absolutely celebrate our lives, as forgiven children of God, without shaming others, by showing love and thinking no less of others or ourselves just because our past experiences with sex are different.

    Would love to hear your thoughts back!

  • Laceymoak
  • John Morgan

    If you deny the significance of virginity, you deny the existence of Christ. And the significance you place on it shouldn’t be dictated by society and business cards.

  • http://www.justinmayfield.org/ J_May

    I appreciate the general thrust of this post. I also think it’s incomplete :( Let us not define ourselves by our actions, but lets please have good actions – even if we don’t understand the greater purpose for them. I’m not someone who loves people, I’m a beloved child of God. But, please, encourage me to love people even if my self-centered brain has yet to be enlightened to the greater truth of selflessness. And then share more than a scone with me. Share your life and show me the wisdom God has taught you about loving people, or caring for the oppressed, or why he created sex and why it’s important.

  • Sophia

    I realize that this is a year old, but I’ve enjoyed these discussions thoroughly and I just wanted to know what your views on “soul ties” are. I, for one, have gone back and forth about the idea of sex and waiting and maintaining my “good Christian” image. I gave up my v-card a long time ago, and I would love to express that I was disappointed. Yes, disappointed. I remember thinking, “This is what I’ve been waiting for?” It was not good. It wasn’t painful, but it wasn’t driving me wild. I know at this point a lot of Christians will say that it’s because it wasn’t with my husband and therefore it wasn’t holy. But, I will argue that being in a 4-year long relationship, with the intent to marry, comes pretty darn close. I’ll also say that the circumstance of the said act was less than ideal: combine alcohol and the lack of giving-a-what about me, and you get a petty man who, ultimately, took the opportunity and ran with it. I enjoyed it for a hot second, before I got bored and realized I’ve been saving myself for something that is nothing like what Hollywood and friends have illustrated. So, I scrapped the idea altogether, decided I didn’t know what I thought or believed in anymore and moved on. Recently, I’ve been exploring the topic more and more and yes, like most, I’ve heard success and stories of dismay both ways: couples having sex before marriage, getting married, and living happily ever after; couples having premarital sex, followed by an accidental baby, resulting in marriage and then divorce; couples abstaining, getting married, living happily ever after; couples abstaining, getting married (sometimes for the purpose of satisfying their hormonal instincts), and divorcing 3 years later. And I’m still just as confused. I feel like I am my own devil’s advocate. I can counter-argue my own arguments but what I still am unsure of are soul ties. My girlfriend and I were discussing this and it brought me back to the stories I’ve heard many years ago about people being connected to others after sex and then starting relationships with new people, all the while still connected to the previous ones. In other words, I think I’ve grown scared of sex (because of all these stories and “rules” and teachings, which have been engraved into me since I was 13) and I’ve come to conclude that I’m saying “no” because I’m more scared of all the possible repercussions, than of me standing up for what I believe in. Because the truth is, I don’t know what I believe in. All I know is that a woman in her mid-twenties is supposed to be having sex. It’s healthy and apparently enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about going on a whoring spree (pardon the language), but if you’re in a loving relationship, why not?