The 10 Phases of Dating, my debut book, goes on sale in 35 days! In the past couple of years, I’ve fallen out of habit with writing on my blog, but I’m planning to change that from now through the launch of the book.
I lost my virginity when I was 26 years old. (Usually after I share that information, I let it hang out there in dumbfounded silence for a few seconds. One. Two. Three…Time’s up.)
In fact, I was almost 27. Only 3-4% of the population waited as long as I did, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When I tell people this piece of information, they almost always go through a three-step process in digesting it.
- The Look of Total Shock: As if I could’ve just as easily said “My sister Sarah is actually a pet velociraptor” and gotten the same reaction.
- The “No, but Seriously?” Question: Yes, seriously.
- Then the “But You Chose to Wait, Right?” Yes, I did.
And of course, after they’re done looking at me like a unicorn – the final question is “why?”
My closest friends have known this information about me for a long time; they’ve also known the answer to “why?” I’ve chosen to share this information now, weeks before turning 32, for two reasons.
- My Book Comes Out in 35 Days and I Want to Make People Read It: Sue me, I need to be a shameless self-promoter right now. You can RSVP to the book signing and debut party here.
- I Read This Article Yesterday and I Felt Compelled to Share My Own Experience: It’s a piece about the generational backlash that has hit the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” which came out in 1997 at the height of the mostly-Evangelical Christian “purity movement” and sold 1.2 million copies. It cemented the “true love waits” slogan.
I wasn’t raised in the church, but I became involved in 8th grade when I was about 13 years old, when boys get unexplained boners 20 times a day and are like heroin addicts for anything sex related – conversations, old porno mags or even the act itself.
The teens and pre-teens at church were taking purity vows at that time. Most of us hadn’t had many chances to have sex – or even wanted to – but we were signing documents in the presence of our parents that essentially said “I will flee sexual temptations and I will save myself for marriage.”
There were 20-30 teenagers signing the purity vow in our church alone. One of my close friends recalls only one teenager not signing it. I was the other, partly because I was brand new to the church. But on that day, when the church held a ceremony to honor these peers of mine, I silently took the same vow they did. At 13 years old, I was going to be a virgin until I was married.
By the time I was 16, I had all of the wants and desires that you would expect a 16 year old to have. At the same time, our ongoing sex education in youth group encouraged us to stay on the path of purity. The rationale for doing so was biblically principled at times, but in hindsight, much of it was mnemonics that would (intentionally or not) hit us with guilt for deviating from that path.
Teenaged boys were taught to flee temptation, that teenaged girls in short skirts could be “stumbling blocks” on our path to purity. Teenaged girls were taught that they were essentially walking vaginas with arms, legs and a brain attached, and that the greatest gift they could give to their future husband was an uncompromised vulva.
Other illustrations were given to help us explain why this purity was so critical. If you take two pieces of tape and stick them together, for example, it’s very difficult to separate them. But each time you do separate them, and attach them to other pieces of tape, they lose their stickiness. The same could be said for us if we used our bodies for physical gratification with anyone other than our future husband or wife.
So my friends and I all stayed on the path. Having a teenage sex drive in the purity scenario is like being handed millions of dollars in cash with more pouring in each day, but being told you could only spend it once you get married.
When I was 16, I felt my girlfriend’s breasts for the first time. Two things happened. One, I learned that breasts are one of my favorite things on planet earth. And two, I was overcome with suffocating guilt the following day. It lasted weeks before my mother, unsure of what had suddenly overtaken her son with melancholy, took me to see a counselor.
I was almost 17. I explained to my counselor that I’d crossed a line with my girlfriend. He thought I was confessing to a sex crime, but I saw the look on his face that said “this kid is seriously freaking out over a pair of tits?”as I continued to cry and explain myself. The sadness over what I’d done lasted all winter. After high school, I had two serious relationships between college and after college and I didn’t have sex with either of those women. I got a freaking MBA and graduated a virgin. (I should check the Guinness Book of World Records for that one; I’m probably in it.)
Do you know why I ultimately lost my virginity, besides the obvious? Because I was tired of being looked at like an obstacle course with a penis. Once I told women that I was a virgin, there were one of two reactions. One half of women thought it was too great a risk to stick around and potentially “take my innocence.” And the other half now saw me as a penis puzzle that they could solve through seduction. I was no longer an eligible bachelor, I was the only guy in their entire life who had said no to them. I was a challenge, not a man.
Now nearly 32 years old, I’m embarrassed. Not that I waited so long, but that after all of the waiting, I lost my virginity to a girl I was friends with. I’m embarrassed not because I waited as long as I did, but that I lost my virginity because I allowed it to become an obstacle in the first place. I lost my virginity because I didn’t want it to be the only thing I had to offer; I wanted women to see me for me.
18 years after that purity vow ceremony, I believe – I want to believe – that the youth leaders who coached us through this phase in our life had our best intentions at heart. But I know that many of them were steering us toward a “do as I say, not as I did” type of education.
Here’s what I know now. That sex isn’t a transaction of body parts. A woman doesn’t need to be ‘pure’ to give pure love, nor should a man ever think that to be so (and vice versa). That sex does have serious implications for both sexes, but that those implications are just as real before or after a wedding night.
If you choose to wait because it’s right for you, awesome. But if you choose to wait because you think your worth is in between your legs, then you’ve been lied to. True love has very little to do with your crotch, and everything to do with true love; of celebrating the person you love, honoring them, cherishing them and being true to them. The person who gets those things from you will have known that regardless of who you had sex with, you were worth waiting for.
Interested in being among the first to read The 10 Phases of Dating when it comes out? Send your email address and name to firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can add you to the list of pre-orders.