I’m not excited about writing this blog: I’m pretty sure it’ll be the blogging equivalent of ripping a plaster off of a particularly hairy body part. There will be blood. And probably some yelping. For a start, the term ‘heavy petting’ makes me itch. But here goes: this house believes that if you’re engaging in consensual heavy petting prior to marriage, you shouldn’t claim to be a virgin on your wedding day. Discuss.

In my last article, I raged against our ugly shades of grey. I wrote mainly about swearing, but the hypocrisy that piqued my interest the most was the obsession many young Christians have with claiming to be virgins ’til marriage. I know all about this obsession, because I was an ‘obsessee’: I had the purity ring, the little ‘teen creed’ poem stuck on my mirror and the stern looks from my youth workers at the mention of a boyfriend. I also later had a baby outside of marriage, which probably goes some (though definitely not all) of the way to speaking for itself.

You notice that once people get to their mid-twenties, everyone suddenly goes silent about still being virgins. The fact is that many aren’t, or at least, they wearily say they might as well not be. Quite honestly, out of all of those I know who claimed to be ‘waiting’ until marriage, only one of them actually did – by the skin of his teeth. We all knew the theory: marriage is the safe place that God designed for sex, and we run the risk of messing things up if we don’t keep our pants on. But what about if we kept our pants on and just… kinda… y’know…did other stuff?

Technically, yeah, we’d still be virgins. Hooray. It’d be a bit meaningless though, wouldn’t it? It would just yell loud and clear that what we call sacred is actually just an inconvenient ‘rule’ we have to shimmy around. And the problem with that is that we cheapen our own values and make God look like an outdated dictator. Our heart isn’t in it.

My heart wasn’t in it for ages; I wanted the prestige of virginity without doing any of the groundwork, and I didn’t start on the groundwork until I was ten wrong decisions into the journey.

It was time for some honesty. I needed to own my values and rediscover God’s heart on the matter, which meant asking myself a series of uncomfortable questions: ‘How much of my current belief about sex is just unhelpful indoctrination?’, ‘If there are no immediate negative consequences to dry-humping this guy I’m dating, will my values and beliefs still stand?’ and ‘Now that I’m not a virgin any more, have I blown it all? – and if so, do I have licence to go crazy?’

I didn’t give myself an easy time. I’ve arrived at this point though: I’m not a virgin, and there’s still redemption available for me. Duty, pride and fear – the big three that drove every act of abstinence previously – have been given the boot. ‘Waiting’ is wider than having a check-list of stuff I can’t do – it’s about respect and relationship. Is heavy petting sex? Yes. No. Maybe. Will I be wearing white on my wedding day? You bet, unless it clashes with my shoes.

  • http://www.sixtystadia.com/ Pete Jobes

    Well written blog, Alexandra. I think in the sex issue we come close to seeing the heart of grace in all it’s beauty. The purity God demands of us is far beyond what we demand of ourselves, and I think that is right there in the Sermon on the mount when Jesus says that not only is the physical act of adultery wrong but even thinking of the act it is just as bad. Jesus sets the bar on this, as with other subjects, fantastically high. He sets it at a place that demonstrates both what he wants and what we fail to achieve by works. At the same time He explains holiness as well as highlighting our need for a redeemer. The fact that He has demonstrable Grace for those in sexual sin and offers forgiveness shows that He forgives and restores those who fail to achieve them. And then we end up at the heart of the gospel, a place where our sin is forgiven yet we are continually transformed so that we change and we become sanctified. There is that tension between where we are, what He wants, what we will one day be, and the grace He gives to offer His righteousness in return for our crap.

  • Alexandra Khan

    Peter, you really ought to write for threads. Good points and beautifully put. Thank you.

  • James

    “Duty, pride and fear – the big three that drove every act of abstinence previously – have been given the boot. ‘Waiting’ is wider than having a check-list of stuff I can’t do – it’s about respect and relationship.” Spot on. And more.

    Having just read Chine’s editorial about ‘a better way’…

    I wonder if we need a higher view of sex than the one we currently hold. The limited youth work/preaching/teaching I’ve encountered on this seems to be saying, if not explicitly, then loudly and clearly in an implicit way, ‘it’s basically about keeping rules. God says no sex outside of marriage, and because he’s God, you’ve got to follow his rules (because what he wants from you is good behaviour – so keep his rules)’.

    In fact I have an inkling we’ve missed the point. It’s a much bigger point than just sex, since if we think of God first and foremost as lawgiver we’ve totally missed the point about who God is, but for the sake of brevity I’ll stick with sex. Jesus has a crazily high view of sex, it seems. Check this out: http://christthetruth.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/five-minutes-on-the-bibles-sexual-ethic/ and the crucial quotation if you want to stay with me and read it later:

    “You have humanity created as interlocking opposites who become “one flesh” when man and woman come together in an exclusive permanent marriage bond. That’s his [Jesus’s] teaching on sex and marriage. And to that He adds, in Matthew 5, that sex is not for any other context. Not even in your thought life. Don’t even think about sex outside marriage. That’s Jesus’ sexual ethic. It’s crazy, but it’s beautiful.”

    I wonder if a lot of our preaching and thinking about God and what it is to know him and be in relationship with him is just too small. We go to rules and conduct and debate ‘drawing lines’, and ‘grey areas’ ad infinitum, and talk about the bible as an instruction manual for life. But should we be teaching each other, not to keep the rules, but to change our vision? Let Jesus blow our petty, small-minded, nit-picking ideas completely out of the water. Then we might say, in answer to questions over why we have this antiquated idea about not having sex outside of marriage, ‘because God is so good and I love him. Because sex is way more important than our culture says it is, because so much more is at stake than people dare to imagine (I would say the same about marriage), or ever admit.’

    Have we reduced being children of the living God to a bit of rule-keeping? A ‘path’ to follow through life, a ‘way to live’, a ‘faith’? I think our vision needs addressing – we need to be bowled over by who God is and his dealings with us and the whole cosmos. Because then we might be in the right sort of shape to think differently.

  • http://steveedwardsthoughts.wordpress.com/ Steve Edwards

    Thanks, good article. IMO sex is between you, your partner and God.

  • http://twitter.com/Rach_Longbottom Rachel Longbottom

    Great discussion! Some say we don’t address the issue of sex enough, but maybe we do, just not it a way that lasts. When we’re presented with do’s and don’ts we start striving, and that’s hard work! If we discover a relationship, that’s where the grace is, it is beautiful, and we want to be in it! My story in short, goes like this…When my husband and I were dating there were times when I was haunted by my sexual past. I was distraught that, though I hadn’t officially had intercourse, there were things that wouldn’t be a first with my husband. But Jesus gave me total freedom, speaking over me ‘I make all things new!’ The past is gone, and if the enemy tried to tell me otherwise I knew what my Saviour had said.

    So when Holy Spirit took me on a journey that led to a personal commitment not to kiss another man until my wedding day, it wasn’t based on guilt or shame, but out of the love and grace my Father held me in. It was about learning to trust Him with everything. It brought me to reliance on God for my marital relationship, if and when that happened! In His amazing goodness the Spirit was speaking to my husband in a similar vein and brought us together soon after we made that individual decision.

    This journey was provoked by how we often ask, ‘how far’s too far? What’s allowed?’ As a teenager these questions lead me to push it to what I could get away with and still call myself a virgin, but what if we pushed it the other way? How pure is the purity Jesus speaks of? I was challenged by the 24/7 Prayer’s, The Vision http://www.24-7prayer.com/about/thevision-en “…holiness that hurts the eyes. It makes children laugh and adults angry.” We certainly experienced this, from the outside to some we looked legalistic and weird in this culture, even in Christians culture! But God’s grace made it so easy to avoid temptation and avoid legalism. Not kissing is a great tool to help one resist temptation, but of course you don’t need to kiss to have sex . This commitment was our physical expression of trusting our Father with our relationship, and kept us so safe. It was not about what we couldn’t have but what we could have! It showed us again that Jesus is the source of life! We make sacrifices to follow Him, then realise it’s not a sacrifice at all. I love sharing my story, but to encourage others about the grace and love that surrounds us, I would not share it to say they should do the same. We want to encourage one another into a more intimate relationship with the ultimate Lover, so we’re not bound by rules, but bound by love. The bar is high, and His grace will carry us there, if we would only let Him!

  • Red faced

    Ahh I didn’t mean to disagree I just thought you could press on the button to see others opinions, undo undo, doh! I’m new to this site…. Good honest article.

  • Chris Betton

    I heard a testimony some time within the last year of a former prostitute turned daughter of God.

    She prayed that God would make her a virgin after she repented of what she did. She got married and walked down the aisle in a white dress and then had sex on her wedding night with her new husband.

    She bled, because God had restored her virginity and actually given her a brand new hymen which had been broken on her wedding night.

    I strongly disagree with this post for the simple fact that, our God is not just someone who fixes something when it’s broken, He replaces it. The Bible says He gives new eyes to the blind, a new heart to the hard hearted, and even a new name to those He calls.

    If you’ve engaged in anything “grey” or “blurry” within the technicalities or loopholes of doctrine and God has forgiven you for it in a time of repentance, the clock stops and starts again from zero and His new mercies for us (which He says come EVERY day) say that we’re snow white and cleaner than clean. You are a virgin.

    So, I’m sorry, I’m not having that. It’s judgemental and it’s religious, two things Jesus told us to never be.