When I was a teenager in the evangelical Christian world of the late 90s, it was pounded into my head that having sex outside of marriage was the worstest, most terriblest, sinnliest sin I could commit outside of murder.
I was given lessons at church camp about how once I had sex, I’d be a “chewed up piece of gum.” In another youth group lesson, we were all given a piece of tape. Some of us would stick ours on the back of other people’s hands, and some wouldn’t. The more people we stuck, the less sticky the tape got. Only the “pure” tape people stuck together in the end -- the lesson being that if you had sex before marriage, surely your union would fall apart, as you had used up all your “glue” on other people.
That was crap.
All of it. And you know what? A lot of that thinking actually led to a hell of a lot of pressure to get married before I was ready. In case you’ve been paying attention, I’m now getting divorced after almost eleven years of trying to make it work.
Ok, let’s work back a few years to my first very serious boyfriend. I was 17. I was in head-over-heels, infatuated teenager love this dude. I wanted to marry him someday. I’d had boyfriends before, but this was the first one I had ever really loved.
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After almost a year of dating, we did the deed. And just in case you’re wondering, yes, we used protection, because I was an idiot in love, not an idiot about pregnancy or STDs.
I thought it was all good, because even though he didn’t know it yet, we were totally going to get married someday. I was sure. Have I mentioned yet that I was an idiot teenager?
That guy ended up breaking my heart, and all of a sudden, I had this shameful, awful secret -- I wasn’t a virgin anymore. No one would ever want me. I carried it like a scarlet letter, invisible to the world, but ever-present to me.
I knew that someday I would risk rejection from another man for my atrocious sin of being an idiot teenager so in love that I committed the only act that was bad enough to destroy my life but not land me in jail.
Fast-forward a few months after the terrible breakup, and I started spending some time with a guy acquaintance. I even tried to hook him up with some of my girl friends! He was a bit awkward, but confessed to me that he wanted a wife. At his request, I taught him how to talk to girls, took him shopping for new clothes, and before I knew it, he was my closest confidante.
One night over Mexican food, I confessed to him that I wasn’t a virgin. He didn’t care. I’m skipping over a lot of the in-betweens here, but two months later we were engaged. I was a month shy of my 19th birthday. We were married seven months later.
I had wanted to wait another year before getting married, but I was so grateful that someone wanted to marry me that I didn’t insist.
He didn’t want to wait, you know because ZOMG SEX AND WE MUST BE MARRIED ASAP!
I’m not saying we did before marriage, and I’m not saying we didn’t, because that’s irrelevant. We were both just VERY EAGER have God-sanctioned marital sex.
So I got married when I was 19 years old, in large part because of the pressure from the purity culture I was enmeshed in.
Everything could have turned out fine. It often does. But because this whole sex-shaming culture I’d been part of caused me to overlook an awful lot of red flags -- because a whole lot can be forgiven if you’re just so freaking grateful that you’ve found a man willing to forgive you of the grievous sin of not being a virgin.
I still love Jesus, and I’m still a believer, and believe it or not, I still believe that extra-marital sex isn’t the best option.
But I no longer feel like a chewed up piece of gum. I don’t believe Jesus ever taught that. Aren't we supposed to be made new and whole in Him?
Did you feel ashamed when you lost your virginity?
Image via Tatiana P./Flickr