“You are a present for your husband to unwrap on your wedding night.”
This was the extent of the sex talk I received from my mother as a teenager. A sweet image, yes, but not super helpful in the practical sense.
I knew from going to youth group that premarital sex was wrong. I was taught (and still believe) that God designed sex for marriage and that is where it will be blessed.
There was really no further discussion about it – not at home and not at church. Being naturally extreme in my personality, that was all I needed to know. Premarital sex was wrong, so there would be no sex for me until my wedding night.
That leaves a GIANT elephant in the room: What about everything else? Is kissing okay? Touching? Heavy petting? Do other forms of sex count?
How far is too far?
I grew up in a pretty traditional home. My parents were fairly old-fashioned, especially my Dad. He didn’t believe in dating. He thought it best to proceed like they did in the old country (in his case, Syria): hang out in groups and get to know “friends” that way. If you came across a boy who seemed to be a good match and who came from a good family, then you would get engaged. The engagement protected the girl’s reputation and implied intent to get serious; it wasn’t wise for girls to date around. That ring on the finger showed the girl’s family that the guy wasn’t there to mess with their daughter, but that he was intentional and future-minded. It was during the engagement period that the couple would then date and get to know each other.
This seemed backwards to me. What if it didn’t work out, I asked. My Dad told me that if it didn’t work out, they would call off the engagement. Apparently broken engagements did not have the same stigma as they do in the United States.
I wasn’t buying it. When I was 15 years old I told both of my parents that if I ever came home to find them having coffee with some random guy and his parents, I would turn around and walk out. This didn’t deter my father from trying to set me up. He once tried to convince me to meet a man of his choosing. I hadn’t heard of the guy, so I asked around. A friend told me that this guy had beaten his ex-fiancée. When I shared this with my father, he replied with, “But he’s a doctor!”
I realized I needed to navigate this path on my own.
I dated a little bit during the later years of high school; I had my first boyfriend at 16. I knew I didn’t want anything serious, which resulted in breaking some hearts through college. Why get serious if I wasn’t going to settle down? But dating was beneficial in several ways. I learned what types of guys I was and wasn’t compatible with; I learned what behavior was acceptable and what I wouldn’t tolerate; I learned to let a guy be chivalrous; I learned that being my dominant self didn’t always work in my favor; I learned that I wouldn’t cross my boundaries of no sex before marriage no matter how intense the situation.
This resulted in many years of willful repression. I’m not bitter or angry about that. It built the anticipation for my wedding night, when I knew my patience would pay off in a way that would be pleasing to the Lord. Secretly I thought that “I do” would be the magic switch that would release my inner sex kitten.
Things didn’t quite work out that way.
For several reasons, I didn’t have anyone I felt comfortable with speaking about first-time sex. I really didn’t know what to expect. The pressure was really high. It didn’t turn out like it was supposed to – at least in my own mind.
It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t the mind-shattering, fireworks-inducing, nirvana-approaching experience I had made it out to be in my imagination. Damn.
I don’t regret waiting. Not one bit. And I promise you that it got better (a lot better).
[Girls, if you want some real talk on real sex, please contact me. I have no filter. I love Jesus. I love you.]
OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.