Bad Preacher's Wife

home of Preachers' Wife Problems and the Gaming Christian

Let’s talk about… No more Virginity!

on June 7, 2013

I was 14 years old when I had my first had my innocent views about my youth group shattered. I was two states away from home, sleeping in a cabin with a very small group of High School girls. The talk was cute and revealing to begin with: who had dated whom and kissed whom when. Some talk about cheating- which I thought would be the most shocking part of the evening. And sneaking off during worship service! And then:

“Yeah, we did everything but have sex.”

Young me blinked. What? What did that mean?What else could there be between kissing and sex? I mean… after kissing you either stopped or had sex, right?

I didn’t know what it meant but it turned my stomach.

Something about it didn’t seem right, but I had no idea what that could be.

It was years later before I learned that among “Christian” young people there were all kinds of “alternatives” to sex. One- delivered with laughter at the notion- was a prophetic verse referring to something like a “back door”… which, of course! meant anal sex was completely on the menu for pre-marital “sexy fun-times”…. though the group I was with laughed and shook their heads at the ridiculousness…. that line was reputed to have worked! On actual Christian young people! How?!

How was it possible for Christian youth to engage one another sexually and believe they were still avoiding sin?

There are an awful lot of reasons for it, many of which I bought into myself when I was younger. Today the only reason I’m covering is this:

The Concept of Virginity

“But Bad Preacher’s Wife!” you say, “You can’t mean that! Virginity is wonderful! We need to teach our children about it! They are supposed to be virgins for their wedding nights!”

Erm- yes and no. Let me explain before you stone me.

1. What is “Sex”?

Laci Green, who runs a channel on YouTube called “Sex +” (which intentionally can be read as both “Sex Plus” and “Sex Positive”) says in her video, “What counts as sex?”:

“Some might argue that an objective way to look at virginity is whether or not you have a hymen. But a hymen can break from a lot of things and this doesn’t include men, either… I’m sure that many of you have heard of the notion of virginity as being penis-in-vagina- which is why I get so many lesbians emailing me asking me if they will ever loose their virginity!

As you can see, the common way we define sex is not very inclusive of gay people, of trans* people – of pretty much anyone is who is not a straight, cis-gendered person. Are all of these people incapable of having sex? Mmm… I don’t think so!”

Green may be approaching this definition from a completely secular worldview… but she is far from wrong on this. What my naive 14-year-old-self didn’t realize in that cabin was that while she was completely clueless, she was also a little bit right. Though I had no concept of the wide world of sex then, for years I lumped everything beyond kissing and “making out” as sex. My slightly-less-simplistic definition of “sex” is rather close to Green’s:

“[G]iving pleasure to someone’s body or receiving pleasure through the genitals.”

This definition far better fits the definition of sex than the idea of heterosexual intercourse that has been used for years by traditional Christian education. It is broad enough to cover not just heterosexual teenagers “fooling around” but to cover the variety of sexual opportunities (and pressures) teenagers are facing these days.*

The Word: Virginity

“Virginity” is a concept used to denote the state of someone who has yet to have sex and is a fine, functional word in that way. But… well, there are a few things I’d like to comment on:

If “Virgin” is what you are pre-sex… what are you after sex? This is a lacuna – word that doesn’t exist that probably should. See the notes at the bottom for more. I find this words’ lack of existence to be a very significant thing.

Virginity is… lost? Where does it go? You lose nothing during sex- you only gain things. True- these are not always positive gains. But the language that has always been used in association with Virginity implies it is something tangible that is somehow lost irrevocably after sex.

The Problem with Virginity

Is that it is wrongly taught. Like Modestyteaching virginity is teaching only one part of the whole. Virginity is not all that important. Not on its own. Relevant Magazine blogger Lisa Velthouse writes:

That is why the use of a phrase like “born-again virgin” is misleading. It suggests that virginity, not purity, is the point; that there is worth in going back to an earlier, cleaner version of ourselves.

… Making virginity the point results in various how-far-will-you-go scenarios with dozens of different people in which you may not be breaking your pledge of sexual abstinence, but you’re also not living under God’s larger call to something greater and sweeter.

We teach our children exactly this in several different forms.

“Save Yourself until you’re married!” (Or you’ll lose yourself?)

“Don’t have sex outside of marriage!” (Or maybe just “Don’t have sex! Which very often leaves the newlywed Christian at odds with themselves.)

This one’s just for the ladies:

“Your purity/ virginity is a gift from God for your future husband! Don’t let anyone else open it because there is no undoing that! Every person you’re with rips that wrapping paper!” (i.e. You’re just one step away from being irrevocably damaged goods. Your value lies in your virginity.)

A note about “Born Again Virgins” and how the term illustrate this problem (again, from Velthouse):

The real issue—the problem, too—is about why. Why do we have this term and justify using it? Why does the Church, which the Bible insists is made of all broken people, think that lost virginities need their own particular fix?

Of course, virginity is a big deal to Christians. And the heart of this is an entirely good thing—God has made His design for marriage clear, and Scripture shows us a beautiful picture of a man and a woman who are ‘one flesh’—exclusively and only with each other. This is to be celebrated, preserved and respected.

And yet, perhaps the fact that we put it linguistically on par with Gospel transformation—something lost, needing to be ‘born again’—indicates we have misunderstood something foundational about not just sex, but purity at large.

When we teach Virginity with this sort of obsessive quality we bring a host of problems along. In her article, “How Purity can become a Problem” Suzanne Hadley Gosselin brilliantly fleshes out a number of ways Christian educators should be cautious about the manner in which we approach the subject. I do not want to steal any of her thunder, but it is definitely rings true to those of us who were brought up in the church.

What can we change?

If this emphasis on Virginity is wrong – if it is what convinces young people that “everything but intercourse” is alright … how can we change our teachings to prevent that wrongful mindset?

I have a few, humble suggestions.

We TEACH. We don’t avoid. We use real terms and talk about sex as a wide, varied thing. We don’t avoid questions about it – with our children or when teaching our young people.

We SHOW Christ-shaped lives and relationships so that when they do look for a marriage partner they are looking in the right place and for the right things.

We are HONEST- about our own failings and tell youth the very real reasons abstinence before marriage is beneficial. And we tell them our own failings and how they’ve impacted us.

That’s not enough, I know. It’s not a final solution, just a few humble suggestions from someone else trying to figure these things out. But these- and, more importantly, thinking and teaching about sex – and virginity – differently is a start. It can be a huge advantage to correcting the gaps left in our own educations.

Resources:

Lacuna = A lexical gap… or the word for when there isn’t a proper word for something. Found through this vlogbrothers video. I also watched this video for the first time while doing some serious mulling on this entire topic.So… thanks Hank, you post-inspirer!

1 article by Lisa Velthouse on releventmagazine.com

2 article unquoted here, but very much worth reading by Suzanne Hadley Gosselin at boundless.org

* Not to say that these opportunities and pressures didn’t exist before- but a greater social consciousness of them is present and thus they are being treated as if they are- somehow- brand new.

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