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Jan 14, 2010

Redheaded Skeptic is in the House!!!!

Welcome to the Redheaded Skeptic. I asked her to cover the "True love waits" movement in fundamentalist Christianity, as frankly, I have never been a full participant of it (I lost my virginity to my now husband around my 18th birthday). Yes, I dabbled in it in my teens, but it was never a serious part of my belief system. 


It's funny how things that make sense often don't work out. As humans, we tend to have ideas that, once put into practice, don't work the way we thought they would. Take any number of human caused disasters as examples. One of those failed ideas, though unacknowledged by most who espouse it, is abstinence.

For me, I grew up believing wholeheartedly in the concepts of True Love Waits. I was taught that staying abstinent would protect your marriage, give you a better sex life once married, enrich your relationship with God, etc, etc. No end to the benefits of starving yourself of close human companionship until you wore a white dress and had a piece of paper from the state legitimizing your relationship. I believed it because I never heard anything differently, and I certainly never experienced anything different. I read books on how wonderful marriages were after staying pure, and on marriages that failed after the couple had premarital sex or had to struggle because of it (of course, they overcame those difficulties with God's help!). So it's not too surprising that I managed to never so much as masturbate before my wedding night when I married a Baptist ministerial student. (I did not forgo all human contact. I did kiss! But I had never once had an orgasm, self-inflicted or partner inflicted.)  Things went well. We had a decent relationship, and the sex was often. Every day often. Everything they said about purity was true.

Except it wasn't. Things eventually got a bit tiring. After we took a job as youth ministers, my husband, Bob, seemed to stop caring about me as a person and more as a sex object as time went on. I wasn't in the mood? No problem! He would pout and sulk and try again. . . and again and again until he got his way or until he fell asleep. Usually the former scenario won out. It didn't bother me too much. After all, I didn't know any differently. Then I got pregnant. Things changed. One of his friends told me he said he didn't really want a kid, but I wasn't there so I can't vouch for the veracity of that statement. He became more unfeeling. It was like the more the baby claimed my body, the more he wanted it. After I gave birth, his sexual behavior grew worse. We didn't wait the six weeks recommended by the doctor to let the stitches heal. We waited about three, and it was incredibly painful. I began to feel as if my body weren't my own: I was my daughter's for food and my husband's for sex. We then moved across the state to a small town with very few people our own age. I grew very depressed. The pressure to do more, to be more in the bedroom increased. I finally told him to start looking at porn to take some of the pressure off of me (a very big deal to my conservative Baptist self). He happily obliged. I felt disappointed by his kid-in-the-candy-store mentality considering I gave him sex almost every night. It didn't get better, it got worse. He began wanting me to do what he saw. He took my willingness to be more open about porn to be more open to everything.

Finally, one night, we went out for drinks with his friend Mark. Afterward, we went back to Mark's apartment where he climbed off of me mid-sex and told Mark to take a turn. I felt betrayed after that and left him a month later.

Abstinence is such a gamble. I had heard people object "But what if you aren't sexually compatible?!" before, but being a virgin, I didn't even know what that meant. I learned the hard way. If I hadn't been so focused on purity, I would have known the kind of man I was committing to spend the rest of my life with. Break ups are hard, but divorces are worse. I have a child with him. I can never, ever just walk away and forget. I have to deal with him every week. It kills me to have to say nice things about him to our daughter (which he suddenly decided he couldn't live without during the divorce proceedings. Having no resources as a stay at home mother, I had to settle for joint custody. Also very agonizing to go from a sahm to a part time mother) because I do want them to have a good relationship if at all possible. I learned the hard way that abstinence doesn't have anything to do with a good relationship, and it doesn't really make any sense for it to, either. If there are fewer divorces among the abstinent, it doesn't mean they are happier marriages, just marriages that are afraid of divorce, too. Abstinence is good if you are a teen, but completely unnecessary as an adult. The philosophy brought me heartache that will last a lifetime. Though I am healing, the scars will never completely disappear.


Lorena said...

Great post RHS! I had read some of that on your blog and I thought it was horrible.

Not surprisingly, given my religious background, I felt for the purity crap, too. And if it wasn't because I know some potential blog readers in person, I would write my story as well.

I will say, though, that if I had test driven my husband, I probably wouldn't have married him. He has the opposite problem as RHS's ex: he doesn't need it often enough for my liking.

As for the Christian propaganda regarding had-pre-marital-sex failed marriages and abstinence-kept marriages I can now see that it was a bunch of B.S.

From 1000 people you can easily pick two bad marriages and two good ones and then generalize the findings. Funny how they always tell us anecdotes. They never heard of double-blind scientific studies, apparently.

Anyway, thank you for raising the issue, princess.

shadowspring said...

I am so sorry to hear about your crappy marriage, RHS! Really sorry.

I was extremely promiscuous during the whole of my teens, then became abstinent by my choice at nineteen.

I didn't marry until I was twenty-five, and I did not have sex with my Christian husband before marriage.

Well, we've been married twenty-three years and although we have had our share of problems, none of them were cause by the fact that I was not a virgin.

(Incidentally, my pk/mk husband had sex with a girlfriend in college, then recommitted to abstinence himself.)

None of the horrible things have happened that people claim. Our sex life has not suffered by my comparing him to old flames. He is not burdened by jealousy because other men "had me" first.

I think it is because we both agree in our understanding of Christianity- sin is sin and what's forgiven is forgiven.

Did my premarital escapades hurt me? Yes, at the time. I used my sexuality to get attention and love that proved false. That hurt. I devalued my self and my heart by believing the Hollywood fairytale that great sex equals great love.

But none of that damage was permanent. The Lord forgave me; I forgave myself. God healed my heart and gave me new understanding of my worth.

(My husband never forgave me because I had never harmed him, therefore there was nothing to forgive.)

So I personally think the purity stuff is highly overrated and sets men up to think that a virgin wife is somehow their "right". It also sets people up to hate themselves for being human, when they should just live and learn and move on.

But I don't see how sleeping around a bit before marriage would have kept you from marrying such a jerk. I think there is a lot more to people and attraction and why we do the things we do than can be explained away by inexperience/experience in the bedroom.

Rebecca said...

You know, I think the big connection between the "True Love Waits" business and choosing a poor mate. As the author of The Purity Myth points out, there's a big danger in teaching kids that their moral character is rooted in their sexuality. They come to believe that anyone who is abstinent is a good person, and that's simply not true.


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