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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.