I remained a virgin until I was 33 years old. I didn't kiss a girl until I was 18 years old and in college - and it was terrible; for purposes of anonymity I will refrain from going into detail. And it was mostly my fault.
Yes, the number of "sexual experiences" that I had until I was 33 were very few and far between. Actually, now that I think of it, they weren't, but still they could be counted on one hand...
I remember as a 15 or 16 year old flipping through the Sears catalogue, and for the first time being intrigued by the swimsuit and lingerie sections. Somehow I knew what I was doing was very wrong and dirty and something I was ashamed of, especially when I discovered, like Columbus or Al Gore, masturbation. Now, I had had "the talk" about the birds and bees by my mother earlier on in my adolescence, but not much was said about masturbation. And to her credit, she was approachable when I wanted to talk, but still I was ashamed. And you have to remember that she was going on what she knew and believed as well. In the evangelical denomination that she grew up in, it was a sin for a woman to enter a church service without a head-covering, and dancing and playing cards led to sinning, all of which led to Hell. I basically remember my Mom telling me that masturbation was normal (thanks, Mom!) but not to over-do it.
Oops, I forgot about that one.
So, instead of completely repressing my growing sexual feelings, and instead of going out and schlooping every girl that I knew, I became addicted to masturbation. It was swell. I soon discovered that certain channels that we got on TV played soft porn on Friday nights (bless you, CityTV), and then there were those suggestive ads where you could call the 1-800 number and listen to a provocative-but-probably-70-year-old-voice on the other end of the line until you had to enter a credit card number. So it continued that I was always the giver and never the..wait for it...receiver.
Things only got worse when I decided to go to Bible college. Now there were a lot of girls my age who were also Christians. We had a lot of similarities in wanting to serve God, worship, find our calling in life, etc. But they were completely unattainable sexually. Not that I would have made a move if the President of the college himself would have told me that God, in a dream, had given me permission to shag so-and-so. I absolutely knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that sex before marriage was a sin, and so I continued in my sexual repression. I began to sneak onto friend's computers (or my own when I had one) and surf pornography, and then when I was handed the keys to the kingdom (I became security guy who locked the buildings up at night), I simply used the library computers to have sex chats with strangers or to surf more porn. It really is amazing that I don't suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome today.
During this time in Bible college, we had chapel services 4 times a week, and there were many times when I responded to the altar call, to come forward and confess your sins and be "healed" or at least forgiven for your sins. But nothing ever worked. I'd find myself on a computer or lusting after the hot girl who sat in front of me in New Testament class. I did become part of an "accountability group" with two friends on dorm - basically we could be honest if we had "stumbled into sin," and I am still grateful for the friendships that formed there, but nothing really worked.
Near the end of my 3rd year of Bible college, I had worked myself up into such a frenzy about my "sin," that I convinced my OCD self that God had kicked me out of his kingdom, that I had committed the unpardonable sin, and I was going to Hell.
After a few weeks of living with this anguish, I decided to let this guilt go and see how it felt; it felt good. Subsequently, around the same time I began having major theological doubts about the Christian faith and I would fairly quickly leave fundamentalist evangelical Christianity.
I have since realized that not only do many Christian youth have damnation and judgment hanging over their heads - consciously or subconsciously - but they are told - to their great detriment - to repress a HUGE part of who they are - their sexuality. If "no sex before marriage" works out for some Christians - good for them. But I am unconvinced that this is the only way. A few suggestions:
- Parents need to be available as open, non-judgmental people to their adolescent children who may come up with all sorts of questions they never themselves raised during their youth. My mother listened to me and was willing to have the conversations, but had the same answers as her parents had given her, and her grandparents had given her, and which her church had given her. A new openness has to be achieved.
- Masturbation should be encouraged; we are sexual creatures. If someone were to say "I am physically hungry but it's a sin to eat," we'd find that to be incredulous. The same should be said for masturbation. (I love the saying "God kills a kitten every time someone masturbates." In that case, I need to find a much larger apartment and become known as the cat-man of Kitchener).
- Churches should offer up sensitive, discussion-provoking conversations with their youth (with parents approval and guidance of course), so they know that sex is not a dirty word before marriage. Contraception must be taught by both parents and the church.
This is a big one. Sex is not always about love. Ideally ever sexual experience would be on a bed of rose petals and in the bliss of a committed, long-term relationship. But realistically this is not always the case anymore. Sometimes sex is about love. Other times it is about two people who crave the company, or two people who are having consensual fun. It is unrealistic to think that every person on earth find that one true love in their mid to late 20's (or later) and finally start letting go of their repressions. In fact, this can be harmful. Two people can finally get married and find that - oops - they are completely unalike in the bedroom.
Repression will eventually come out. This could be in the form of extra-marital affairs, alienation between spouses, or overt sexual expression in a way that may emotionally hurt others. OR letting go could be liberating. I can't help but think of Beyoncé, who grew up singing in her church, or Katy Perry, who grew up as Katy Hudson, and was a contemporary Christian singer. Now she covers her breasts with whipped cream and does duets with Snoop Dog (no complaining). Rumour even says that she has kissed a girl and she liked it. :)
I'd say "Have a good day," but instead I bid you farewell saying, "May each of you receive your come-uppance."
Mark Andrew Alward lost his virginity at 33 outside of marriage and lived to tell about it.