Fifty Shades of Virginity

(c) Leif Brandt Photography

[Guest post by Arleen Spenceley] – In the twenty miles between my house and my office, there are at least six strip clubs.

As I write this, ‘Magic Mike’ – a movie about a male stripper – has been in theaters a week and has grossed an estimated $63,322,000.

Fifty Shades of Grey is novel about a woman who gives her virginity to a guy whose version of sex is violent and demeaning. It is now a New York Times bestseller.

All this is to say I was not surprised that when my own grandmother learned that I am a virgin, her eyes were wide and her surprise obvious when she fumbled for the words:

“You are?”

It’s true. I am a 26-year-old virgin by choice.

A study published in 2011 by the National Center for Health Statistics says about 97 percent of men and 98 percent of women ages 25 to 44 aren’t virgins. I am what I call a two-percenter. One of few who hasn’t “done it,” in a world where “everyone’s doing it,” where the primary purpose of sex is pleasure, sexual compatibility is paramount, where people are surrounded by exploitative sexual images, are taught that infatuation is love and, so, are confused by it when somebody wants to save sex for marriage.

This is a world where people say stuff like this to me:

“Don’t you want to learn what you like in sex, and whether you’ll get that from a guy, before you agree to marry?”
“If it turns out the sex isn’t good, it’ll be really difficult to stay loyal.”
“Do you really want to ruin your wedding night that way?”

True story.

I understand the concern, because we live in a world where the quest in relationships–clearly–is primarily for intuitive sexual compatibility, underlain by our culture’s first loves: uninterrupted satisfaction and effortless gratification. This is a world that says sex is recreational, and a bodily function like eating or breathing, and that it’s only good when it doesn’t require patience, practice or communication. Sex, the world says, is for pleasure.

And so I understand why my fifty shades of virginity strikes the world as absurd. It is absurd to wait, if the purpose of sex is pleasure.

But I have news for the world.

We who save sex for marriage aren’t waiting to have the same kind of sex the world is having. We will never have that kind of sex.

For us, the purpose of sex is procreation and unity. We believe we are not designed to decide to unite with someone because the sex is “good.” We are designed to create a unique, pleasurable sexual relationship with the person with whom we are already united in marriage.

The person about whom we asked (and got good answers to) questions like these:

“Is this person spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, socially and financially prepared to be a spouse?”
“Does my relationship with this person draw me closer into Christ or drag me farther from Him?”
“Does the world need a future kid who grows up and turns into this person?”

Instead of asking questions like these:

“Am I initially and consistently gratified by sex with this person?”
“Do this person’s body parts meet my standards?”
“What do I get out of agreeing to be with this person?”

This is not because we don’t think sex should be pleasurable (we do, and it should). It is not because we don’t think sex is important (we do, and it is). It is because a culture that deplores sex if it requires patience, practice and communication – a culture more concerned with being prepared for a wedding night than with being prepared for a marriage -has gravely missed the point.

The world says “marriage is just a sheet of paper” and it “never lasts.” But the world doesn’t see this:

That marriage requires a definitive love and a rejection of the use of a person. It is designed to result in the epic, beautiful, necessary and mutual destruction of self absorption. It is intended to be a reflection of Christ’s covenant with the church.

That if you are unwilling to be patient, to practice and to communicate in sex, odds are good you are unwilling to be patient, to practice and to communicate in other parts of your relationship (or will be after awhile).

That for people who reject definitive love, resist the eradication of self absorption and are unwilling to be patient, to practice and to communicate in relationships, the world is right:

A marriage is just a sheet of paper. And when it is, it will not last.

Arleen Spenceley is a Roman Catholic Christian, a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times and a grad student studying rehabilitation and mental health counseling at the University of South Florida. She can think, write and talk about sex, relationships, social media, communication and the impacts of American culture on Christianity for hours. Click here to read her blog.