Commonplace Links 1/31

And we’re baaaack. Commonplace links went away when I stopped reading blogs for a month or so.

This week there’s been a fantastic rash of posts on virginity and Christian culture, and I’m really excited that this is being discussed.

I have been hesitant to say so, but I have become increasingly convinced that the concept of virginity is a concept created for male power/social control and not a medical or spiritual reality (and for those suffering from homeschool sex-ed or abstinence-only sex-ed and don’t know what I mean by this, go watch Laci Green explain). I have also discovered that the Bible really isn’t clear on the question: is consensual premarital sex between two consenting, adult, and committed individuals sinful? Instead it seems to suggest that sexuality is wonderful and powerful and deeply intimate (and therefore either so very good or so very damaging), and that God’s best plan is for sex to be a safe place for mutual benefit and love and pleasure and possibly procreation. Marriage is logically the place where this can best happen, but there’s no indication that it’s the only place it can happen. 

[That is what I think. We can disagree.]

So, here’s the best posts on virginity that I’ve read this week. Go read and ponder and soak up the grace.

Virginity: New & Improved — Elizabeth Esther

Whenever we seek to improve upon virtue, we are actually creating an idol. Furthermore, by elevating virginity to the ethereal realms of unicorns and angels, we place an unfair burden upon the shoulders of real, human beings.

And that’s what concerns me the most. The New & Improved Virginity places a heavy weight of shame upon women—even those whoare virgins.

I was a virgin and I didn’t feel “pure enough”  because I’d kissed a couple boys before my husband. I was a virgin and I felt horribly defiled because I’d discovered this crazy, secret thing called masturbating. I was a virgin and I was disappointed to realize that my ‘sacrifice’ didn’t automatically result in a happily ever after marriage.

I was a virgin and I felt superior to “damaged” women. The purity culture showed no compassion for me so I had no compassion for myself or women who had “chosen” to “give away” their virtue.

I am damaged goods — Sarah Bessey at Deeper Story

And so here, now, I’ll stand up and say it, the way I wish someone had said it to me fifteen years ago when I was sitting in that packed auditorium with my heart racing, wrists aching, eyes stinging, drowning and silenced by the imposition of shame masquerading as ashes of repentance:

“So, you had sex before you were married.

It’s okay.

Really. It’s okay.

There is no shame in Christ’s love. Let him without sin cast the first stone. You are more than your virginity – or lack thereof – and more than your sexual past.

Your marriage is not doomed because you said yes to the boys you loved as a young woman. Your husband won’t hold it against you, he’s not that weak and ego-driven, choose a man marked by grace.

And the coup de grace, delivered by Emily Maynard at Prodigal — The day I turned in my v-card

I’m done blanketing all sexual experience outside of marriage as sin and never acknowledging that abuse can happen within a marriage. I’m done with Christians enforcing oppression in the name of purity.

I am not a virgin or a non-virgin.

I am a human. I am Emily.

8 thoughts on “Commonplace Links 1/31

  1. “I have become increasingly convinced that the concept of virginity is a
    concept created for male power/social control and not a medical or
    spiritual reality.” I couldn’t agree more; pretty much everything in my experience has spoken to this.

  2. I think I might have a couple disagreements here, specifically with the third paragraph.
    I agree that virginity is something that so much of the church has just blown out of proportion and puts way too much weight on. It’s simply a word that people came up with to refer to not having ever had sex. I think making virginity this big Thing that’s super important and that you’re really aware of is just as silly as making a big deal out of whether or not you’ve ever drunk coffee, owned a pair of uggs, or ridden a dirt bike. It’s a minor fact about your personal history, stating whether or not you’ve ever had a particular experience.

    It is merely an insignificant fact, and can describe *both* men and women, so I’m not sure why you’re saying it was *thought up* for the purpose of manipulating/controlling women.
    I am certainly aware that in some christian groups it *is* used, by men, for these purposes, and that is utterly reprehensible. However, I really don’t think you can jump from there to saying that it was created by men with evil motives, trying to cook up new way to control women – which is what this makes it sound like. Certainly, I’m sure there have been men who strove to make it a big deal because of those conscious motives, but I see no evidence to suggest that this was the primary, or even a significant, dynamic in why christians started making such a big deal out of the concept of virginity.
    Yes, some men use it for ill – but it’s a significant jump from there to say that they created it /for that purpose./

    Additionally, with regards to motive, I would not assume that the vast majority of the people who hurt themselves and others by making too big of a deal out of virginity are doing it maliciously or intentionally. I would rather assume that they are teaching/living what they have been taught, and that along the way they or their teachers have made assumptions, not analyzed things well enough, or perhaps just weren’t super smart, and in the process erred from what is good and true.

    I have some thought about the second half of that paragraph as well. The article you linked to was interesting. My thoughts about that issue are pretty muddy, just ’cause I’ve never seriously encountered that idea before. I’ll probably have clearer ideas once it’s settled a bit and I forget about it for a while. 🙂

    With regards to your comment on the article though –
    The article makes the argument that the Bible doesn’t make a clear black-and-white statement about that particular situation, which upon reading her logic, made some sense. However, she was not arguing /for/ the position that sex outside of marriage in that context is okay – she was simply arguing that the bible doesn’t *clearly, explicitly* say that it is wrong. Her argument is that we need to evaluate the issue not from the perspective of slapping down a verse or three and boom!, but rather from the perspective of analyzing bigger issues and themes and looking deeper and more carefully. She’s arguing *against* the people who say that “well, scripture clearly says ‘this,'” and she’s saying “No, it doesn’t explicitly say that. You need to look deeper for your answer.”

    It seems though as if you are jumping straight from that argument to saying that, because the bible doesn’t explicitly speak against it, it must be okay. I realize I’m probably missing a good bit of your train of thought here, but perhaps you could expound?

  3. I loved the perspectives presented in these links (can’t load the youtube video; internet is s-l-o-w). I do belong to school of thought that says, “This purity thing is still a virtue, but we’ve put it on a pedestal, even over grace, and it needs to be reexamined.” I love that you are doing that.

    Personal preferences aside, to address the Bible’s perspective on the issue, I’m thinking of Matthew 5:28 (lust in our hearts – what is lust? unmarried? uncommited? is this only for the married?), Hebrews 13:4 (again, adultery, so married?), and all those proverbs about the wayward woman and the good wife. I think that if we stay out of the Old Testament (and I’m still not reconciled with the genocides and the women as property and the stonings), the New Testament features a running theme of honoring marriage and having healthy relationships – with everyone.
    What persuades me to believe that God is still not an advocate of premarital sex is the image of the Church as a virgin, as a pure bride. Now, she’s only pure because she’s been washed, redeemed, and sanctified. She wasn’t faultless…but she’s faultless now. The love and grace of Christ’s blood have transformed her. There’s the excitement of the marriage supper of the Lamb and the image of being united with the Lord perfectly for the first time since Eden, and the urging to put aside idols (Old Testament: other lovers) and be set aside unto God is, I think, a big part of that.
    And that’s a deeper and more beautiful message than the gossipy churchy “Are you in or out?” virgin talk.
    We elevated it and therefore cheapened it. I don’t know how we managed that. I suppose that’s what idolatry is. (cue Lewis’s first and second things?)

  4. P.S. Growing pet peeve: “Your virginity is the best gift you can give to your future spouse.” (I.e. it’s a one time deal, so if you fail you fail, and love and grace and encouragement and sacrifice and understanding over the next 50 years of marriage aren’t as big of a “gift” as that one thing the one time.) But I shouldn’t get started.

  5. Call me old fashioned but I am certainly glad that Brian and I waited until our wedding.

    Sex is different between men and women. Research has shown that at the climax moment for a woman, the bonding hormone is released. This is the same hormone that is released when a mom is breastfeeding. For women there is an “emotional” bond created during sex.

    There are so many incurable diseases that you can get–herpes and chlamydia to name a couple. Some diseases that you get can reduce your chances to get pregnant. Also the more partners you have, your chances increase for cervical cancer. Why do you think there is such a push for the giardasil vaccine?

    when you have sex with one persona), you are not only have sex with that one person(a) but with every single person (a) has had sex with.

    The Bible is clear about honoring the marriage bed.

    1. I’m not saying you SHOULDN’T wait. I’m just saying: the consequences of not waiting have been inflated by fear-mongering purity culture.

      Waiting has a lot of benefits and I’m not putting them down at all.

      Oh, but regarding the gardasil (HPV) vaccine: you can contract that without direct sexual contact, and men can be carriers without having it show up on STD tests. As a result, I think everyone should get it for their own protection, regardless of their state as virgin or not. I know men who were technically virgins who passed it on to their virgin brides because they didn’t know they were carriers.

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