Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Salon and the Single Virgin

 

Why is virginity so hard for modern culture to understand? Even modern conservatives often struggle with the concept. A great many of us who remain virgins until marriage do it for religious reasons, and the religious — at least Christian — take on virginity is not always very practical. Sure, religious folks are keen to point out that abstinence provides 100% protection against unwanted consequences, like premarital pregnancy and STDs. But the Christian argument as to how virginity brings about the wanted consequence of harmonious mate selection typically neglects opportunity costs, to the detriment of us all.

Let me explain: a nice Lutheran virgin at Salon recently wrote about what happens when guys find out she’s a virgin and that she desires to stay one until marriage:

Every guy reacts differently to the No Sex bomb. Some play it cool while calculating how to coerce me into changing my mind. (This usually involves the showing off of foreplay moves, tales of the extreme pleasures I’ve been missing and/or purring that they don’t mind waiting — unless it’s going to be, like, two years, in which case they’re not so sure.) Some bail immediately. Some fake acceptance — and then bail a few dates later. And some truly give celibacy their best shot before breaking down and, yep, bailing.

Toward the end of the article, she asks:

So why do I do it? Why do I stick to my boundaries when it would feel so good to bust through them?…

I do it because after 26 years, I’ve come to realize that of all the experiences and opportunities offered in life, to love someone is the most precious. A long time ago I was taught — and chose to believe — that love and sex are intertwined in such a way that to separate them would be to lessen their value. When it comes to my decision to stay a virgin until marriage — to hold out for that one-time-only chance to fully connect with and know and love another person — I want to make sure it’s the right man.

Her answer is okay as far as it goes, but it misses an important point, one that many Christians miss because of their emphasis on spiritual love and self-giving: that a good reason to remain a virgin is because most men will bail on you in a reasonable amount of time. It’s a great screening mechanism.

Screening mechanism? What kind of entitled princess do you have to be to believe you deserve to screen potential mates by sexually frustrating them? Or as one commenter put it:

I believe the real problem here is this girl is suffering from LPS (little princess syndrome) which is caused by parents that instill in little girls that they are sooo special but we and they should get everything they want in life. It doesn’t work like that in real life. Ms. Burkhardt may think she has a golden vagina but I think we can pretty much bet she is no different than any other high maintenance,demanding gold digger that infest the western world… Just a message to Ms. Burkhardt you need to cash in your chips and marry before the age of 30 or your value will be that of spoiled milk. No man wants to marry a woman who doesn’t even know if she likes sex or not.

Do I sense several Ricochetians nodding along in agreement? After all, in a split mating market, men “can be picky and insist on extensive sexual experience before committing” to marriage, so why shouldn’t they? Though the commenter’s advice to this not-so-young Lutheran lady to marry sooner rather than later is sensible, his complaints nonetheless miss the bigger picture – and a major cause of delayed marriage – the dead-end sex cocoon of serial monogamy.

Single men typically want sex now and a wife someday. Since it’s pretty easy to confuse lust with love — indeed, one of the perks of marriage is no longer having to keep the two separate where your spouse is concerned — many men find that they can spend years happily and guilelessly having sex with a woman who’d ultimately make them a miserable wife. Because women’s fertility declines much faster than men’s, this is a bigger waste of the woman’s time than the man’s time.

Or, more accurately, a bigger cost to her opportunity: the time she spends in a serial-monogamy sex cocoon that doesn’t lead to marriage is time she could have spent searching for a more suitable match while she still was young and fertile. Moreover, since a suitable match isn’t just a one-way-street, a series of poorly-chosen, long-term relationship also wastes the time of the potential Mr. Right she could have met and made happy had she not been wasting her time on Mr. Wrongs.

A gal doesn’t have to believe she has a golden vagina — or that she is very special in any way at all — to believe that it’s in both her and her future husband’s best interest to withhold sex during courtship.

Withholding sex during courtship and accepting that most guys will bail on you for this frees you up to continue seeking one of the few (sometimes very few) guys out there who won’t bail on you. A guy who won’t bail on you because he’s inexplicably attracted to your rather unremarkable self. A guy who, instead of bailing, finds himself mysteriously overcome by the bizarre urge to propose to you in a timely manner. In short, a guy who is more likely to find putting up with you for years on end tolerable and even perhaps pleasurable.

Yes, even pleasurable. A man who agrees to forgo premarital sex in order to marry you affirms to himself that he’s winning a wife who’s worth that cost. Whatever other men might think of you, this man must think you’re worth the frustration; if he didn’t, he’d bail. And it’s no small thing for a man to find his wife worth the frustration. Marriage is frustrating, and men like to be winners. A man who successfully endures frustration in order to win his bride not only has a reason to feel like a winner, but also has a good reason to believe that he won’t regret his choice the instant his marriage hits a frustrating patch.

Then, if you’re not a fool and agree to a reasonably short engagement period — dragging out an engagement while withholding sex really is rather cruel — the two of you get married and learn how to have pleasurable sex together during the course of your marriage. Which, incidentally, gives you the opportunity to spend the first part of your marriage having sex that gets better and better rather than worse and worse, forestalling the modern lament, “The sex was so much better before we got married. Damn you, marriage!”

Image Credit: Shutterstock user BlueSkyImage.

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  1. iWe Reagan
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I really liked this. Thanks!

    • #1
    • October 26, 2014, at 5:44 PM PDT
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  2. iWe Reagan
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    BTW, I really hate when writers use crude anatomical descriptors. It reduces everything that can be beautiful and holy into something purely animalistic and crass.

    • #2
    • October 26, 2014, at 5:46 PM PDT
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  3. Al Sparks Thatcher

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:Why is virginity so hard for modern culture to understand?

    Easily accessible and convenient birth control. Before then, there were practical reasons for women to remain virgins. Now all that’s left are religious reasons. And that during a time when religion is declining.

    • #3
    • October 26, 2014, at 5:50 PM PDT
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  4. iWe Reagan
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Al Sparks: Now all that’s left are religious reasons.

    IMO, the biggest reason is that valuing oneself more highly means one fetches a higher price from others.

    In other words, a woman who is not a slut can land a better guy. Which is what Midge is saying.

    • #4
    • October 26, 2014, at 5:53 PM PDT
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  5. Mike H Coolidge

    This was a great read, Midge. I have thoughts, but relaying them would be… awkward.

    • #5
    • October 26, 2014, at 5:57 PM PDT
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  6. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHillJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    As Mama used to say, “Ain’t nobody gonna buy the cow if they’re giving the milk away for free!”

    • #6
    • October 26, 2014, at 6:03 PM PDT
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  7. Lucy Pevensie Inactive

    Midge, as you know, I’m a big believer in chastity. But one of the things that I miss in your writing is any discussion of male chastity. Among the kids at my church, the young men are as committed to abstinence outside of marriage as the young women. While I recognize that women are traditionally the “keepers of chastity,” it is worth noting that the Judeo-Christian distinctive, compared with other religions, is that the same requirements for chastity fall on men as on women.

    • #7
    • October 26, 2014, at 6:03 PM PDT
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  8. Merina Smith Inactive

    I think women are by far the losers in the modern dating scene. Men have little reason to commit when sex is freely given so that women who do enter sex cacoons (nice phrase) don’t have much leverage. If women withhold sex, men will just move on and find someone who will give them what they want without commitment. I believe it is absolutely right to wait until marriage for sex, but that does greatly reduce the number of available men, because many will bail and also, why would a virgin want a man with a long list of conquests? It’s an ugly, ugly scene. And I’ve read that women are more likely to divorce the more sexual partners they’ve had, something that is less true of men. Beyond all these reasons, since women have such a short fertility period, well, they are just all around more vulnerable. And this is the nirvana feminists battled for. Thanks a bunch.

    • #8
    • October 26, 2014, at 6:07 PM PDT
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  9. iWe Reagan
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Merina Smith: I think women are by far the losers in the modern dating scene.

    Today, women lose in dating. Men lose in marriage and divorce.

    • #9
    • October 26, 2014, at 6:17 PM PDT
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  10. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Mike H:This was a great read, Midge. I have thoughts, but relaying them would be… awkward.

    Understandably :-)

    Female chastity isn’t the only way to end up in a happy marriage – I know too many counterexamples to make that claim.

    But I do find it interesting that the biggest bug female virgins face – men bailing on them at an alarmingly high rate compared to their non-abstaining peers – can actually be considered a feature. And perhaps more importantly, pretty much must be looked at as a feature if a gal intends to remain a virgin before marriage without making herself miserable.

    • #10
    • October 26, 2014, at 6:21 PM PDT
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  11. Merina Smith Inactive

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Mike H:This was a great read, Midge. I have thoughts, but relaying them would be… awkward.

    Understandably :-)

    Female chastity isn’t the only way to end up in a happy marriage – I know too many counterexamples to make that claim.

    But I do find it interesting that the biggest “bug” female virgins face – men bailing on them at an alarmingly high rate compared to their non-abstaining peers – can actually be considered a feature. And perhaps more importantly, pretty much must be looked at as a feature if a gal intends to remain a virgin before marriage without making herself miserable.

    This is a good point, Midge. He must really love you if he’ll wait too. I think this situation is actually really bad for men who want to stay virgins too. They think that women expect them to want sex. It makes everything very, very awkward. I know a number of men who appear to be resigned to being bachelors because they don’t know how to negotiate this scene.

    • #11
    • October 26, 2014, at 6:31 PM PDT
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  12. Sabrdance Member

    Merina Smith:I think women are by far the losers in the modern dating scene. Men have little reason to commit when sex is freely given so that women who do enter sex cacoons (nice phrase) don’t have much leverage.

    It’s no picnic for the men, either. You get it from both sides. Everyone wonders what’s wrong with you. The men question your virility, the women think that you’re just shy and obviously they must drag you out of your shell. It’s insulting. “It’s not my way” is a convenient deflection.

    The actual answer is that I am an arrogant and prideful man, and I’ll not be judged this way -but that goes over less well. At this stage in my life it would be wrong to say I don’t care -but have decided I’d rather die alone, my pride intact, than submit to this infamous practice.

    I like to think of it as my personal version of faction competing against faction.

    • #12
    • October 26, 2014, at 6:32 PM PDT
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  13. Merina Smith Inactive

    iWc:

    Merina Smith: I think women are by far the losers in the modern dating scene.

    Today, women lose in dating. Men lose in marriage and divorce.

    Which means everybody loses.

    • #13
    • October 26, 2014, at 6:32 PM PDT
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  14. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Lucy Pevensie:Midge, as you know, I’m a big believer in chastity. But one of the things that I miss in your writing is any discussion of male chastity.

    Yes, well an article can’t include everything :-)

    What fascinated me about this Salon article was the author’s apparent inability to see that men bailing on her like this isn’t some mysterious mishaps plaguing her life, but rather an outcome which could be reasonably expected and even turned to her (and her future husband’s) advantage.

    I remember being that girl myself – committed to chastity for religious reasons, yet wondering with aching loneliness why I could never seem to get a guy to stick around the way most of my friends could. I was clueless because, while I had thought about the matter from a strictly spiritual angle, I had not thought about the matter at all from an economic angle. Thinking economically, being able to tell myself after being dumped once again, “OK, so most men will bail. That’s your cue to go out and meet more men,” prompted me to make more of an effort to meet a suitable mate rather than just aimlessly pining.

    • #14
    • October 26, 2014, at 6:34 PM PDT
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  15. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Lucy Pevensie:Among the kids at my church, the young men are as committed to abstinence outside of marriage as the young women.

    Also, since you’ve identified yourself before as being Episcopalian:

    What kind of wonderful Episcopalian congregation have you found where commitment to abstinence before marriage still carries so much weight, and how can I join?

    The Episcopalians I know have a reputation for sexual deviance. True, they accept a person’s commitment to wait till marriage as they accept all other deviance from modern sexual mores. Indeed, virginity is still considered the most exalted of deviances. But it’s nonetheless considered a deviance, not a norm.

    • #15
    • October 26, 2014, at 6:49 PM PDT
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  16. Merina Smith Inactive

    I have a smart, successful, attractive 31 year old daughter in this situation. She doesn’t play around and she doesn’t want a man who does. She’s had a hard time meeting appropriate men.

    • #16
    • October 26, 2014, at 7:00 PM PDT
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  17. Mike H Coolidge

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Mike H:This was a great read, Midge. I have thoughts, but relaying them would be… awkward.

    Understandably :-)

    Female chastity isn’t the only way to end up in a happy marriage – I know too many counterexamples to make that claim.

    But I do find it interesting that the biggest “bug” female virgins face – men bailing on them at an alarmingly high rate compared to their non-abstaining peers – can actually be considered a feature. And perhaps more importantly, pretty much must be looked at as a feature if a gal intends to remain a virgin before marriage without making herself miserable.

    The thing is, I’m always confused in these “virgin” discussions, because the emphasis seems to be on the procreative act, as some especially big deal, when it was never some overriding goal for me. It is an amazing card in a deck of amazing things to do with the one you love, but there are other things to do, if you’re as interested in avoiding curtain anatomical combinations, as these types of articles seem obsessed with.

    But “chastity” means different things to different people, and I don’t imagine it’s limited to the definition in popular culture to a lot of people on this thread. And these articles make it seems like what is being withheld is only a specific type of thing, and if that’s what’s making these guys hightail it, I have to wonder what’s wrong with them.

    • #17
    • October 26, 2014, at 7:09 PM PDT
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  18. iWe Reagan
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Merina Smith:I have a smart, successful, attractive 31 year old daughter in this situation. She doesn’t play around and she doesn’t want a man who does. She’s had a hard time meeting appropriate men.

    In all seriousness, this is actually an area where the internet can be quite helpful. People who are interesting can much more easily find each other online.

    That said, I’d bet your daughter has a harder time because she is smart and successful, than because she doesn’t fool around.

    • #18
    • October 26, 2014, at 7:23 PM PDT
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  19. Mike H Coolidge

    Merina Smith:I have a smart, successful, attractive 31 year old daughter in this situation. She doesn’t play around and she doesn’t want a man who does. She’s had a hard time meeting appropriate men.

    You have a child that hasn’t been on Ricochet? What’s her PhD in?

    • #19
    • October 26, 2014, at 7:27 PM PDT
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  20. Merina Smith Inactive

    Mike H:

    Merina Smith:I have a smart, successful, attractive 31 year old daughter in this situation. She doesn’t play around and she doesn’t want a man who does. She’s had a hard time meeting appropriate men.

    You have a child that hasn’t been on Ricochet? What’s her PhD in?

    She has a masters–decided against a PhD. Actually I have 3 children that haven’t been on Rico.

    Yes–I think she needs to try the internet. But I do think smart and successful women have a harder time finding appropriate men…

    • #20
    • October 26, 2014, at 7:30 PM PDT
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  21. Mike H Coolidge

    Merina Smith: She has a masters–decided against a PhD.

    It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

    Actually I have 3 children that haven’t been on Rico.

    What’s keeping them?

    • #21
    • October 26, 2014, at 7:34 PM PDT
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  22. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    First, I loved this piece immensely.

    Second, I had one (partial) counter-argument regarding this section:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Or, more accurately, a bigger cost to her opportunity: the time she spends in a serial-monogamy sex cocoon that doesn’t lead to marriage is time she could have spent searching for a more suitable match while she still was young and fertile. Moreover, since a suitable match isn’t just a one-way-street, a series of poorly-chosen, long-term relationship also wastes the time of the potential Mr. Right she could have met and made happy had she not been wasting her time on Mr. Wrongs.

    A gal doesn’t have to believe she has a golden vagina — or that she is very special in any way at all — to believe that it’s in both her and her future husband’s best interest to withhold sex during courtship.

    This is somewhat presupposing that there’s no difference between withholding sex fora handful of dates and withholding it until marriage. There are, presumably, some number of guys whose interest in her is keen enough to hold off on sex for quite a while, but not all the way up to an engagement. Depending on the specific dynamics and relative attractiveness of the people involved — not physically, but generally — that guy may or may not be worth putting out for.

    More simply, chastity may be a vastly superior strategy for women than other models, but it’s not necessarily the best. As someone — I believe Midge — said in other threads, this model works much better for the seriously attractive than for the merely average.

    • #22
    • October 26, 2014, at 7:45 PM PDT
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  23. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    That being said, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the typical “good girl” system of:

      1. Dating a few men casually for a few dates each before;
      2. Upgrading the first decent one of them to a committed boyfriend;
      3. Dating him for a few years before;
      4. Realizing he’s not the right guy; and
      5. Starting the process over.

      … is a terrible strategy for most women. If you want to get married — especially if you’re a gal — you shouldn’t allow any relationship to drag out more than two years at the absolute most. If the two of you haven’t figured out whether you want to marry by that point, best to end it. It stinks, but it’s for the best.

      • #23
      • October 26, 2014, at 7:54 PM PDT
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    1. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

      Tom Meyer, Ed.:First, I loved this piece immensely.

      Second, I had one (partial) counter-argument regarding this section:

      Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

      A gal doesn’t have to believe she has a golden vagina — or that she is very special in any way at all — to believe that it’s in both her and her future husband’s best interest to withhold sex during courtship.

      This is somewhat presupposing that there’s no difference between withholding sex fora handful of dates and withholding it until marriage. There are, presumably, some number of guys whose interest in her is keen enough to hold off on sex for quite a while, but not all the way up to an engagement. Depending on the specific dynamics and relative attractiveness of the people involved — not physically, but generally — that guy may or may not be worth putting out for.

      I agree this is a complication. I also suspect that it might be a complication that tends to care of itself even when virginity until marriage is the default assumption ;-)

      While men and women on average differ in their sex drive, women aren’t made of stone, and finding at long last a guy who’s serious husband material can be pretty arousing. It’s only to be expected, then, that a significant portion of girls whose default assumption is virginity until marriage won’t actually reach that goal. (And those who do achieve that goal may find their patience sorely tried!)

      But there is good even in failure here.

      Many young women end up feeling they started having sex too soon – that, if they had to do it again, they would have waited longer (even if they wouldn’t have waited till marriage). Attempting to postpone sex till marriage, then failing, is likely to result in more delay in sexual activity than not attempting in the first place.

      Moreover, simply being aware of the dangers of the dead-end sex cocoon can help a gal navigate a timely path to marriage even if she doesn’t remain abstinent. The Rules is much mocked, but the advice regarding premarital sex – that, if you have it (which you shouldn’t), you should take steps to keep yourself from the oblivion of the dead-end sex cocoon – is exactly what girls in the throes of love don’t want to hear: if there is sex, why shouldn’t there be a happy cocoon around it? But it’s probably sound advice if you can discipline yourself to stick to it. I suspect many gals couldn’t, though. I wouldn’t have been able to, I think. My sexually-active friends craved the cocoon (and I also craved it not even knowing what it was like), so I suspect it wouldn’t be easy for them to avoid the cocoon, either.

      • #24
      • October 26, 2014, at 8:11 PM PDT
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    2. Done Contributor

      EJHill:As Mama used to say, “Ain’t nobody gonna buy the cow if they’re giving the milk away for free!”

      Remember to bill them for it.

      • #25
      • October 26, 2014, at 8:22 PM PDT
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    3. Done Contributor

      Merina Smith:

      Yes–I think she needs to try the internet. But I do think smart and successful women have a harder time finding appropriate men…

      The definition of appropriate is what matters. In terms of career success, successful women are far less likely to marry down in terms of their mates career success.

      Men are, because a woman’s career success is usually not high on a man’s priority list.

      There is nothing wrong with waiting to your 30’s to start looking for a husband, but it should be done with eyes open to the fact that the pickings will be slimmer.

      • #26
      • October 26, 2014, at 8:34 PM PDT
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    4. Aaron Miller Member
      Aaron MillerJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

      Can I be the first to thank EJ for bypassing the golden V?

      It’s like the Golden Arches except the drive-thru is always closed.

      • #27
      • October 26, 2014, at 8:35 PM PDT
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    5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

      Tom Meyer, Ed.:More simply, chastity may be a vastly superior strategy for women than other models, but it’s not necessarily the best. As someone — I believe Midge — said in other threads, this model works much better for the seriously attractive than for the merely average.

      Yes. When you’re not a 10 and you’re committed to virginity, you end up having to put in a lot more work to find those few weirdos out there (if you find any) who’d put up with you. An attractive woman can expect to have a much easier time.

      That is, of course, a good reason to do what’s reasonably in your power to become more attractive. Reasonably in your power. To pray for miraculous bosoms if you’re flat-chested (or pay a surgeon bountiful bucks for them) or to attempt to become supermodel-thin when merely avoiding obesity is a struggle for you may not be reasonable.

      But becoming marginally fitter, taking marginally more of an interest in flattering clothing (which isn’t the same as fashionable clothing), making an attempt to be a marginally all-round more pleasant person… a marginal improvement (or serious, if you were like me and born with no innate sense of social cues) in your social skills… these improvements are within the reach of many young women, so much so that taking a proportionate interest in them is most likely rightfully part of traditional female coming-of-age.

      • #28
      • October 26, 2014, at 8:37 PM PDT
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    6. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

      Midget Faded Rattlesnake: That is, of course, a good reason to do what’s reasonably in your power to become more attractive. Reasonably in your power. To pray for miraculous bosoms if you’re flat-chested (or pay a surgeon bountiful bucks for them) or to attempt to become supermodel-thin when merely avoiding obesity is a struggle for you may not be reasonable. But becoming marginally fitter, taking marginally more of an interest in flattering clothing (which isn’t the same as fashionable clothing), making an attempt to be a marginally all-round more pleasant person… a marginal improvement (or serious, if you were like me and born with no innate sense of social cues) in your social skills… these improvements are within the reach of many young women, so much so that taking a proportionate interest in them is most likely rightfully part of traditional female coming-of-age.

      Wholly seconded.

      • #29
      • October 26, 2014, at 8:43 PM PDT
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    7. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

      Aaron Miller:Can I be the first to thank EJ for bypassing the golden V?

      Come to think of it, I have a funny story about that… Which I probably shouldn’t tell here. Let’s just say that a few of my youthful forays into abstract art had completely unintended consequences. The artist doesn’t see what she isn’t looking for.

      • #30
      • October 26, 2014, at 8:43 PM PDT
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