The fluffy descriptions from the Church about “saving ourselves”, that we get too emotionally attached or “bite off more than we can chew” when we have sex before marriage are cringe-worthy sentiments that made most of the secular world, including myself, embarrassed about the Church’s reasons for chastity.
Yet, oddly enough, it was the science of sex that made me a believer in purity. Reputable scientists were beginning to see that neurons in the brain were rewired when we ‘made love’ to anyone. And I mean anyone. The chemicals involved — dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin — I was learning, were created for a specific reason. They were in every brain, in every human to bond a mother to her child, to bond a man to a woman. So when I found my faith in the essence, the designer of the earth once more, and after years of witnessing the insatiable tears of girls who couldn’t believe a boy didn’t call them the morning after, I slowly began to trust that abstinence was actually fatherly advice rather than religious nonsense.
If Christ told people that he came so that we could have joy and to its fullest, it was time for me to start listening to his advice on how to live. By embracing the concepts of faith, joy was exactly what I got in return, not a collection of miserable doctrines that made me more repressed.
But after that comes the number one question used to argue my abstinence, one I am so tired of hearing: “What if you wait until your wedding night, Carrie, and you two aren’t sexually compatible?” The desire for sexual compatibility had created a lie that sensual harmony was either evident or not. Like freckles, you either had them or you didn’t.
In the years I played it pure, my naiveté, I confess, invented some incredible methods to decipher whether a potential future husband was going to be physical dynamite with me, a fear so ridiculous in hindsight. It didn’t seem to matter if he had an addiction, or the personality of a doorstop, as long as he was great in the sack. My ridiculous assessments went something like this: could he dance like Patrick Swayze without overenthusiastic shoulders? How did he handle hardware tools? Was he nifty in a game of Twister? Was he blind? (Rumor had it that lack of eyesight meant he was pretty good with all other senses. I actually sought blind men out for a time. Ok, I didn’t…) The questions were endless, and pointless.
“What if you’re not sexually compatible?” should never be the question. Shouldn’t there be more to relationships than this, anyway? The real question should be: “Do you like who you are? Are you loving yourself enough to therefore give it out, rather than constantly seeking from a massive vat of lack?”
An emotional connection, an admiration for the other, teamwork, perhaps confrontation that doesn’t involve being left to cry on the stairs? If the need for sexual gratification was taking over a man’s love for me, then it was only a matter of time before one of us broke away, lied or found another person’s love, because we believed we had the right to be given whatever we wanted. When we don’t have a real urge to sacrifice for our beloved, then we’ll never want to work on the relationship, never mind chemistry.
As one married friend shared with me: “Sexual compatibility is only an issue if you have a self-centered view of sex, when you’re more focused on what satisfies you and end up grading people as to how well they do that. If you have a selfless, giving attitude to sex, compatibility issues dissipate as sex becomes a quest to discover and please your partner — with them hopefully doing likewise. This is the key to a loving and ever-improving sex life.”
For all the couples that weren’t making it: the ones who broke up or, worse yet, divorced, rarely did it come down to bedroom antics. More marriages were struggling with communication – followed by disconnection and dishonesty – than sexual incompatibility. Sex often stopped if spouses didn’t have an emotional reason to be vulnerable. If there were some couples that connected on all levels, but struggled in the compatibility department, then sex therapy was at hand — and it worked for my friends, as long as they wanted it to.
Which ties right back to habits formed during dating: being intensely intimate with everyone we might like wasn’t only disintegrating the exclusivity in every date we encountered, but it also began to build up more walls when it came to the ‘free for all’ perspective. As soon as we believed we didn’t have to work for something, that we didn’t have to be patient, to fight for, to focus, to communicate, to value, to honour, to cherish another human being, then we were able to place our own sexual desires first, to ‘get laid loads’, to fulfill physical urges while stamping on emotional requirements in another human being.
That’s not love. That’s greed.
Perhaps I was fortunate on some level because despite my faithless relationships, I was surrounded by people who had built a foundation of trust, emotional connection, teamwork and respect, with the addition of humor, on the topic of sex. I learned that for people who actually worked through this stuff, the foundation of their marriage was honesty and talking. Terrible sex, incompatible sex, could turn into something quite peachy, but the majority of relationships didn’t stay around to watch the change.
As for me, I was waiting because I didn’t need to stay in unhealthy relationships. I was waiting because I believed in what really bonded me to men outside of sex: communication, selflessness, a union of pleasure and fun outside of rubbing sexual parts together. Oh, I know how connected you can feel in sex; I know how vulnerable it can be, but sex isn’t really all that dynamite when you know the man can – and will – leave you when he’s done. It’s not so great when you know the man has placed his own gratification and desire in front of yours.
There is an intimacy that only really comes with lifelong vows and a “I’m doing this with you to the end” mentality, and that is what knocks sex right off its sub-pleasurable state and right into the stratosphere. It’s the kind of sex I’ve heard of, but yet to experience.
This is an excerpt from Prude: Misconceptions of a Neo-Virgin, publishing on 2nd February 2016. You can preorder your own copy here.