Abstinence and Education
One of my biggest mistakes as young uber-Christian, although clearly not my only one, was in misunderstanding the role of sex in a happy romantic relationship. I don’t think it’s that unusual for this crowd: frankly the irony is that abstinence-based sex-ed seems to translate into “we never talk about sex except to say ‘don’t do it!’ Well, don’t do it until you’re married.”
My only parental guidance on this subject was Josh McDowell’s book from the “Why Wait” series. My youth pastor at church referred to losing one’s virginity as analogous to a baseball crashing through a plate-glass window: you were left to pick up the pieces and you could never reclaim what you once had.
The problem is, and I’m far from the first person to notice this, that it is then hard to turn overnight from an angel to a vixen. The whole thing is tainted–and I don’t buy the Born Agains who claim that they can get the guidance they need to make this transition through prayer and study of the gospels. Yes, you need to study. No, I don’t think the information you need is in the words of Paul. Nor is it in pornography, another Christian favorite (for reasons that boggle the mind).
I know this one far too well and from painful personal experience. I was the good girl who got married too young as a dressed-in-white virgin, in a wedding doomed for failure involving another (technical) virgin. I was then harshly mistreated by said husband, who seemed to think sexual intercourse was an inalienable right and my participation was optional. I blame him but I don’t–his problems were the result of his own Christian upbringing. Yes, he should have known better or learned better, but then again, I should have worked at this one too. I was frigid and scared and unwilling to do what is required in the context of really great sex: to get messy, to laugh together, to revel in sharing the things that you keep from other people.
When I finally escaped the marriage and began the slow recovery from Evangelical Christian-ness, I learned about sex the way normal (non-Evangelical) women do. I watched every episode of Sex and the City at least three times. I read “Glamour” and “Cosmo” every month to recalibrate my ideas about normal. I bought books–manuals, you could say–about how to please a man. I bought every chick-lit novel I could afford and re-read them until the pages were worn. What I did not do was become promiscuous: the legacy of being sexually mistreated by a spouse is that you have to work really hard on the trust issue. But at least now, in my middle thirties and continuing the long recovery from this particular brand of Christianity, I have learned how to have a normal adult relationship including intimacy of both the sexual and non-sexual sorts.
The thing that really confuses me is the group of “Born Again Virgins.” I truly don’t know what to make of it. Was the effort never made by these people to have truly great sex when it was on the “allowed” list? That’s the only logical explanation I can think of, that the people who advocate this movement never really enjoyed it in the first place. Or perhaps they were in unfulfilling relationships that otherwise lacked intimacy. Perhaps by very nature of their backgrounds, they too were wracked with guilt or other negative feelings. Surely not all BAVs had religious upbringings, but maybe the very nature of the personality type that joins this sort of ‘club’ predisposes them to have had unfulfilling sexual experiences and struggles with sexual guilt.
This seems to be a uniquely Evangelical thing. Although I try to stay away from anyone who professes a Born Again mentality, I do in fact still feel stirrings of Christian faith in my soul. Shockingly, I attend church on a regular basis, although it’s one of those churches where they chant things and follow a rigorous and long-established service order (no rock bands, choruses that don’t rhyme, or dramas). In other Christian crowds, while promiscuity is discouraged, there is no condemnation for thoughtful sexual relationships between consenting adults trying to establish the partnership.
From all I’ve seen, the bottom line is simple. The only cure for abstinence is education. And that means raunchy, explicit education, both of the book-learning variety and of the “laboratory experiment” type. With a lot of education, and a lot of effort, you too can recover from a puritanical upbringing and learn to have a healthy attitude towards lawful carnal knowledge.