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Week Six: Sex Before Marriage

“Cut to the Chaste” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the sixth post of a blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

The Big Rule: no sex before marriage. It’s a concept that seems pretty simple when you forget that rules are often useless to the flawed human race without reasoning and understanding supporting them.

(I don’t own the rights)

My mom “conditioned” my sisters and me from the tender age of three to follow this big abstinence rule. As I mentioned in my review of Jason and Crystalina’s newest book, my mom sat her daughters in front of the 1954 musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and drove home the point that men and women sleep separately until they get married.

I intend to buy the Blu-ray version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and convert it to hologramray or whatever technology comes next until I have my own children. Learning that men and women sleep separately until marriage when I was still eating glue and drawing incomprehensible crayon artwork on the floor was immeasurably helpful in my life.

This is especially accurate considering life outside of my home tried to make fun of the values that my parents instilled. The TVs played music when the characters finally got together, suggesting there was actual magic shooting back and forth between those kisses. Now we harbor little doubt that the next step these characters take will lead to the bedroom.

The commercials started to use innuendo and now we have public displays of American embarrassment in shows like Teen Mom and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

My mother got to me early and drove home the Big Rule before the media had a chance to get me, but it was really my peers I had to worry about. The media plague got to many of my classmates before it affected me (thanks mom and dad, for banning shows like “The Simpsons”).  These peers’ influence, sarcasm, and general attitude about topics such as sex and romantic love started acting like a marinade on me.

Society’s lessons about how to be “normal” finally got to me and all of the champion avoidance efforts I could muster were no match for an attack from all sides.

Happily, my parents used anatomical names instead of cutesy names, they were always available to talk, unembarrassed, and transparent when we had questions. We had comfortable talks about sex instead of ones that made you want to crawl into a ball and be absorbed by the carpet.

The supposedly liberated media can’t claim to be unembarrassed like my parents. Movies or TV shows with any sexual innuendo carry a hint of embarrassment, wrongdoing, or “shoulda, woulda, coulda” when the sexual relationship doesn’t pan out as the characters anticipate.

You knew I had to add Grey’s Anatomy (I don’t own rights)

What is missing? Where is the freedom?

I was brought up to mutter commentary like, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have had sex,” whenever the characters broke down in tears after a break up. I followed the rule to a T. No sex until marriage, at all costs.

Then came high school where my friends and classmates started drinking and having sex, making me feel like I was far better than most and that I didn’t want to judge these people for their decisions.

My solution was to continue my non-drinking, non-sexual ways and decide that my decision was my decision alone. It mattered not what they did — sometimes this attitude led to my encouragement of behavior I would never consider, softening my perception of the wrongs I was opposed to my entire life.

Then came college and the “normal” college lifestyle I knew so well from the movies and TV shows. The fun happens at parties: the end. Therefore, go to parties and do fun things like drink, flirt with the opposite sex, and make-out with complete strangers while the smell of Natty Light and Axe hangs in the air.

Cut to the Chaste

The mantra went: I wasn’t having sex, my outfits were classier than those girls, I wasn’t getting wasted every weekend, and I only had the stranger encounters a few times.

But was I still the three-year-old sitting Indian style in front of the musicals and wholesome movies I would watch as a child? The “bloom” had been rubbed off because I was advancing away from that simple, innocent life, edging as close as possible to sin, and treading through Sin Candyland “for fun.”

I started dating and with that comes smooching.

It’s risky to think we can go at full speed in a passionate make out session with petting and expect to put on the breaks every time. In fact, it’s just plain mean to yourself and to your partner to get hot and heavy with the expectation that you’re going to stop before sex “happens.”

Sex doesn’t just happen, choices are made and then adults consent (except in the obvious cases of rape). One of these choice checkpoint is kissing and it’s up to the individual to know when we start to lie to our body saying, “Hey, we’re going to have sex with this person before we get off the couch,” when we have no intention to advance that far.

Sexuality isn’t one size fits all. Sex isn’t dirty or evil either. It’s supposed to be a beautiful foreshadowing of the union with God in heaven.

(I don’t own the rights)

God is supposed to be involved, much like He is supposed to be involved in relationships leading to marriage and involved in the marriage itself. Sacrament is the key word we’re searching for.

We can blame society until our faces turn blue because it pushes a subtle (and not-so-subtle) agenda on us. However, I don’t think we can be satisfied with this one Big Rule.

We need to understand why we’re choosing differently than the characters in Friends. We need to understand why making out with everything with a heartbeat devalues our perception of what should be a tender moment. We need to date with purpose instead of treating the people of the opposite sex as truck stops on the way to the destination.

Ladies, we need to know we’re dressing modestly so we know that the men in our lives are there because they see something revealed within us instead of something revealed by our blouses. Gentlemen, you need to know you’re half of the equation and your conviction needs to be steadfast and consistent, even if you’re dating someone with a less than pure past.

Chastity means learning and respecting all of the reasons we were created. Love your spouse before you meet them and prevent yourself from making the mistakes that don’t easily leave your memory.

I’ve written letters to my future husband at many points in my transition back to chastity. They explain that I already love him and that I’m excited to share the fruits of my chaste labors in our marriage. I think these fruits will show themselves in our relationship before marriage, on our wedding night, and in our public married life.

A fruit basket from Me, to Me, stocked by God. I bet it tastes like freedom.