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Confessions of a 25-year-old Christian virgin

Culture | It’s hard being one of the few not ‘doing it’

When I was in eighth grade, “girl talk” meant blushing cheeks and coy smiles over the latest crush. We passed heart-filled notes marked in glittery pens, agonized over whether the boy returned our affections, and strategized plans to sit next to him. “Being in a relationship” meant linking hands whenever the couple thought nobody was watching.

I’m now a senior at a secular university in Los Angeles, and “girl talk” has grown up. We’ve traded giggles for X-rated foreign words about bedroom activities that leave me feeling like a naïve schoolgirl gawking among adults.

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I’m a 25-year-old Christian virgin squirming in a secular world where sex is both ordinary and essential. Even though asking about virginity is considered intrusive, the unspoken understanding is that everybody has already “done it.” Even Christians.

I recently sipped a mint julep at a new bar in Hollywood, during a meet-up with close girlfriends. One of them brought her new boyfriend along. They’d been “dating” unofficially for a couple of months. She huddled us together and declared, “Oh my God, gals, I lost my virginity!”

Cue giddy screams and squeals of excitement, squeezed hands of congratulations, and tight hugs of celebration. At 23, she was the last one in our group to lose it—besides me, of course.

Meanwhile, I had to turn away to shield my expression of worry and disappointment––worry for my friend who used to talk about the virtue of chastity. And disappointment, colored with just a tinge of loneliness, that I was now the oldest virgin in the gang.

At that moment, I realized with shame that the culture I so self-righteously tried to buffer had already infiltrated my heart—today’s accepted “hookup culture,” which trivializes sex and dating.

I’m not the only Christian young woman living in a hypersexualized culture. And it’s not just non-Christians who “hook up” regularly. It’s the Christians too—even those we would deem “strong believers.”

According to a December 2009 study conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults between ages 18 and 29 admitted to having had sex. Compare that to 88 percent of all unmarried young adults who said they have had sex, and consider this dismal question: What’s the difference between Christians and non-Christians?

Well, for one, Christians typically have to deal with the aftermath of guilt and shame.

One of my friends, Christine, revealed to me recently that she lost her virginity to her college sweetheart––a student fellowship leader with whom she served in ministry. They broke up countless times, but always ended back together, in part because she couldn’t let him go after giving him something so precious.

“Sleeping with someone leaves an emotional scar and attachment in you,” she said, adding seriously, “Don’t ever do it before marriage, Sophia.”

Yet others, while struggling with initial guilt, eventually learn to desensitize themselves from it. Mary, 23, told me she lost her virginity when she was 18 to her first boyfriend. The first time left her “crying a lot” because of the guilt. But that didn’t stop her from continuing to have sex, and “the crying and the guilt has slowly vanished over the years,” she said. She doesn’t “lose sleep over it” anymore. In fact, given today’s sexual landscape, she’s pretty sure her future husband will have been even more promiscuous than her––so who is he to judge? He must accept her wholly, hookup record and all. 

Another Christian friend, Kim, told me she doesn’t think premarital sex is any graver than other sins because we are all sinners: “People make it a bigger deal than it really is,” she said. She then leafed through Bible verses, pointing out that the Scriptures never clearly define a stance on premarital sex. Yes, the Apostle Paul urged the faithful to flee “fornication” and “sexual immorality,” but what does that mean, exactly? And what gives Christians the right to condemn other people? 

“To focus so much on the behavior and using that to define somebody’s relationship with God is legalism,” Kim said. “I think the heart is most important. Who of us doesn’t sin? It doesn’t help anybody to dwell in guilt over something that is already lost.”

And then there are Christians who wear their pledge of chastity with pride. Another Christian friend of mine, Jane, recently flashed me her chastity ring, but told me she’s willing to do “other bedroom activities” that don’t involve going “all the way.” To her, there’s nothing wrong with testing the waters with a serious boyfriend before they get married. In fact, it’s the prudent thing to do––after all, how else would she know if he can sexually satisfy her after marriage?

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