And why I really hope you don’t
Growing up Mormon, I was taught early and often, that my virginity (or purity as it was called) was my most important possession. I needed to guard it fervently and was to repent vigorously if it was compromised. I took this as seriously as a young teenaged girl could. I had several boyfriends and we never got close to having sex, but I still found myself feeling shame and sorrow anytime I wanted to. I made lots of trips to the Bishop’s office (a Mormon’s version of confession) and tried my hardest to keep myself morally clean.
I made it through High School with my virginity intact, and headed to college with one goal in mind: stay pure and find a husband.
When you can’t have sex until you're married, marriage all of the sudden becomes something you obsess about. When you’re dating someone and things are getting serious, you are automatically thinking about if he’s the one. If things are getting physical, you've got to decide if you’re going to get married.
This seems completely normal to me because this is how I was raised and how all of my peers were taught too. But now that I’ve been married and divorced, I realize this over preoccupation with sex (and not having it) is really messed up. It completely stunts the natural progression of a healthy relationship.
By prohibiting (and attaching shame to) natural physical intimacy during a relationship, you also prohibit emotional connection. You miss the entire stage where you’re open, vulnerable, and raw. You don’t see what it’s like there. And you don’t see if you like it there.
I went into my marriage not knowing if my husband and I were physically compatible. I didn’t know what he was like when the lights and clothes were off. I had faith that it would all work out. And I was wrong.
When I met my now ex-husband, I was eager to get married and get the show on the road. We of course wanted to be physical and felt deep shame and regret anytime things went too far. And by too far I mean like a boob grab or some grinding with clothes on. This type of physical affection would send us both into an emotional tailspin. We had been taught that if you really loved and respected someone, you wouldn’t do those things with them.
When you can’t have something, you want it even more. We became obsessed with wanting to be physical. We couldn’t take it… we had to decide. Get married or break up. Those were the choices. We loved each other, we wanted to be together. We didn’t want to have sex before we got married and damn each other’s souls. So, marriage it was.
One thing I was taught about saving myself for marriage was, it’s worth the wait. If you wait to have sex until you’re married, God will bless you with a beautiful intimate relationship and all the waiting and wondering will pay off.
We decided to get married, and I was eagerly awaiting the magical sexual experience I was promised by my Mormon upbringing. I had, after all, saved myself for marriage (and it wasn’t a walk in the park). Now, I was expecting my reward.
My wedding night came, and there was no magic. I had never even seen a man naked. The night was full of all sorts of emotions. Shock, nervousness, excitement and ultimately settling on disappointment. I had waited what seemed like forever… for that.
His body was heavy and felt more to me like a straight jacket than a warm blanket. I tried to move and wiggle to make things more comfortable and less like I was just laying there. I didn’t know what I was doing, what I wanted, or what felt good. I stared at the ceiling until it was over.
The sex was bad, it was awkward, clumsy, and ummm didn’t finish for either one of us. But more than that, the emotional part of it was nonexistent. We had been so bent on suppressing our physical urges, that the emotional growth that would have come along with the physical progression was stunted. There was no joy, no vulnerability, no connection, nothing.
Now, I understand that the first time isn’t always magic. I get that. I was ready for it to get better and easier with time and love. But what I didn’t know, was that the education my husband had gotten about sex as a Mormon boy messed him up even more than me.
Thinking sexual thoughts about a woman was a sin. As hard as I had worked to keep my purity intact, my husband had worked just as hard to keep his mind in check. He felt dirty and unworthy any time he lusted over a woman. Now, he could have one. He could think about her naked and even touch her. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was doing something wrong anytime we got undressed.
So here I was, ready to finally have hot, passionate, movie sex that makes you cry when you orgasm (which I expected because I waited), and my husband still felt like he had to go repent anytime our bodies touched.
As you can imagine, it was a recipe for disaster.
Our sex life didn’t get better. We went weeks and often months without having sex. I felt rejected, ugly, and unlovable. Other times I felt cheated, lied to, and misled by the things I had been taught about sex.
I would lie in bed at night and cry softly, trying not to wake him. Why didn’t we just have sex before we got married? Why didn’t we just see if we liked it? Why didn’t we follow our emotional and physical urges to love each other then? Why can’t we seem to find those urges now?
Fourteen years. We were married for fourteen years. We never figured the sex thing out. We had sex sometimes. It was physical and not emotional. It was always me begging for affection, most of the time getting rejected, and sometimes not. It sometimes ended in an orgasm for him, and mostly ended in me finishing myself off while he went to the bathroom to clean up. (Since masturbation is prohibited in the Mormon religion, this also caused me great distress. But I finally settled it with God because what else was I supposed to do?) One thing it always did was leave me feeling empty.
Sex before marriage is not to be feared. It is a natural part of a loving relationship. Not only is it okay to have sex with someone you love but it’s important. It helps you grow incrementally with that other person instead of going from first base to home (physically and emotionally) all in one night.
The wait is not worth it. Faith won’t fix your sex life. The magic doesn’t just happen because you stayed a virgin. Take it from me and please, go have some sex.