Recently I read an article entitled “I Waited Until My Wedding Night To Lose My Virginity And Wish I Didn’t,” written by a young woman called Samantha who was led to believe that sex—in all contexts—is “dirty and wrong and sinful,” and who ultimately lost her faith as she struggled to rebuke that lie. As I read it, I wanted to cry, then hug her, then hug all of the other young women who identify with the article or have been influenced by it.
Samantha talks about the purity pledge she made aged 10, which for years formed such an integral part of her identity as a woman and a Christian that even in marriage she couldn’t break free from the taboo it placed on sex.
I never made a pledge as a teenager. At my traditional, Catholic school we rarely talked about sex, and when we did there was no effort made to defend or even explain the Church’s teaching. I knew I was “supposed” to wait until marriage, but was never told why. Because I never heard about the true beauty of God’s original plan for sex, the conviction that I should wait never made it from my head to my heart, and so was easily destroyed by the message that sex was fine as long as I was “in love.”
Samantha’s story broke my heart because, whilst I was won over by the world’s lies with nothing to challenge them, she was fed even more dangerous lies in response. For her sake, and for the sake of every other person who has been fed the same lies, I want to challenge some of those revealed in her article…
“If I remained pure, my marriage would be blessed by God and if I didn’t it would fall apart and end in tragic divorce.”
The success of a marriage doesn’t depend on the past. It depends on the choice made every day to renew your commitment to your spouse. If my past determined my future, then I’d give up on marriage now to avoid heartache. But I believe that my future husband will love me for the person I am rather than the things I’ve done or will do. True love is a reflection of Christ’s love for the Church, which means it’s unconditional and selfless.
“Once I got married, it would be my duty to fulfil my husband’s sexual needs.”
Chastity is not, as Samantha feared, a concept “used to control female sexuality.” It’s a way of life which both men and women, married and unmarried, are called to. If sex is a tainted word before marriage, that won’t change on the wedding night. In a relationship that’s built on mutual respect and honor, both the man and the woman can see each other with the dignity they’re entitled to as human beings, rather than as tools for self-satisfaction.
“I couldn’t figure out how to be both religious and sexual at the same time.”
Sex isn’t a game invented by people on a whim centuries ago. It was designed by God at Creation. The Church isn’t saying “NO” to sex, it’s proclaiming a resounding “YES!” In its intended context, to be sexual is to be religious, because it’s the embodiment of God’s original plan for the self-giving love between a man and a woman.
“It’s your body; it belongs to you, not your church.”
My body belongs to neither me nor my Church. It was created by God, in the image of God, for the purpose of glorifying God. It’s a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19), and I’m its steward. If you possessed a jewel of infinite value, would you not go to great lengths to protect and honor it? Your body is more valuable than any jewel. It’s precious and beautiful, not an object whose ownership can be fought for.
Samantha ends by saying if she could go back she would “have sex with (her) then-boyfriend-now-husband,” implying she sees that as the solution to the problems raised since. From experience, I know that that mindset doesn’t end as blissfully as it sounds, but instead can lead to heartache and regret—particularly if the then-boyfriend doesn’t turn out to be the now-husband. My own choice to pursue purity was made a decade later in life than Samantha’s, after living the life she says she wishes she had lived and realising the flaws in it. It wasn’t a submission to the pressure to be a “perfect-Christian-girl”—as Samantha felt—but rather a humble response to the realisation of the mistakes I’d made, and the overwhelming steadfastness of God’s love and forgiveness through it all.
So, to Samantha and all the other girls I cried for and wanted to hug, I want to apologise for the lies that you’ve been told, the guilt you’ve been made to feel over “sins” that haven’t even been committed, and the ways God’s great plan for your sexuality has been hidden from you. I want you to know that the decision to remain chaste is not an enforced one, nor does it stem from guilt and shame. It’s a reflection of your dignity as a human being and your respect for the person God created you to be.
Whether you waited for marriage, are waiting, or haven’t waited, there is both strength and redemption in Christ.
Esther Rich has a bachelor degree in Psychology from Oxford University, UK, and is currently completing the Sion Community Foundation Year, working on their youth ministry team. She loves Theology of the Body, Papa Francesco and a good worship band. She is passionate about empowering women to be who they were created to be, and blogs at “For Such A Time As This.”