The Wrong Way to Talk about Abstinence and Marriage
Wednesday, September 26, 2012Tweet
I'm a little bit late to the party on this one, but a friend asked me to comment on this "Waiting till the wedding night -- getting married the right way" article, so I'll share my thoughts.
This will be coming from the perspective of someone who did wait until I was married to have sex with (or kiss) my husband. I also invite you to check out perfectnumber628's response as someone who isn't married but plans not to have sex until she's married.
A lot of what I find problematic about this article are things I've discussed in previous posts, but I'll go through and break it down with links.
The basic message and tone of the article, and the reason people are reacting so strongly to it, is "My wife and I waited to have sex, so we did everything right and perfectly, and I judge and pity all of you who didn't wait, who did it wrong, and have a meaningless and unsatisfying marriage because of it."
The writer, Steven Crowder, apparently believes that he has every right to judge other people's relationships because so many people judged him and his wife and believed they'd never make it to their wedding day without having sex. You know what? People judged us too. I wrote a post about why waiting until marriage isn't as stupid as it sounds. And the very first thing I said was that I wanted to respond to the people who criticized us without judging those who didn't make the same decision that we did.
If you want to tell people they were wrong for judging you, then by all means talk about how fantastically happy you are that you waited. Talk about how all of the accusations thrown at you were false, and that everything worked out exactly how you hoped. But there is no reason that this has to include a sweeping indictment of everyone who made a different decision than you. Talking about the benefits of abstinence you experienced does not in any way necessitate slamming on people who are not abstinent.
The second issue I have is that Crowder boxes everyone into two cartoonishly simplistic groups: those who wait, who have a perfect, amazing, beautiful experience of getting married and having sex, and those who don't, who are promiscuous whores doomed to a life of sexual disappointment.
Seriously. This is how he characterizes those who said he'd never succeed in being abstinent until marriage: "I think that the women saying those things felt like the floozies they ultimately were, and the men, with their fickle manhood tied to their pathetic sexual conquests, felt threatened."
He addresses those who are wondering whether to "become a live-in harlot/mimbo and do it the world's way" by telling them they'd be happier doing it the right way, like he did.
As I've said before, by all means shout it from the rooftops if you're happy about your decision, but don't assume everyone who makes a different decision is automatically ruining their life.
He compares his and his wife's experience to another couple they met the morning after their wedding to illustrate how terrible it is not to do things the way he and his wife did. (As my friend pointed out, this story is possibly made up, as it starts out with "we overheard the table next to us discussing their very own wedding from the night prior" and then the punchline is that the groom's not even there because he's sleeping off a hangover.) It's completely ridiculous to try to say "Everyone who waits will have an experience just like ours, and everyone who doesn't will have an experience like this couple's."
Guess what? There are lots of people who have sex before marriage and have really happy, healthy marriages and satisfying sex lives. Even though I didn't have sex before marriage and am happy with that decision, it would be completely stupid of me to lie and try to deny other people's experiences and feelings simply because they don't fit with my personal narrative. And also, there are people who do wait until they're married and have horrible, horrible sexual experiences because of an abusive spouse. The "waiting = good, not waiting = bad" narrative is WAY too simplistic to be taken seriously.
Another issue I have is that this article perpetuates the myth of amazing honeymoon sex. Crowder explicitly says, "Our wedding night was nothing short of amazing." I sincerely doubt that these two virgins had truly amazing, mind-blowing sex on their wedding night, but it's written as if to imply that: i.e., we did things right, and our reward was fantastic wedding night sex.
By contrast, I've tried to be upfront about the fact that sex is kind of difficult when you're just starting out. We certainly had a lot more to learn in the first weeks, months, year of our marriage than couples who had regularly had sex prior to getting married, but for me the tradeoff was more than worth it, to do that learning with someone I trusted completely who had made a lifelong commitment to me. However, this kind of nuanced message wouldn't have fit with Crowder's narrative of "If you do it the right way, like us, your reward is that everything is perfect and amazing."
If you truly believe that waiting until you're married to have sex was a great choice for you, then I see nothing wrong with telling the world that. But casting sweeping judgment on people not like you, calling others names, lumping everyone into simplistic categories, and vastly exaggerating yours and others' experiences is NOT the way to go about it.
What are your thoughts on this article? How can we encourage better conversations around sex, abstinence, and marriage?