If you haven’t read good christian sex part 1: theologically solid + enjoyable and/or good christian sex part 2: integrating postmodern sexual ethics + empowering beyond the “one”, I would highly recommend reading those first to provide a context for this post.
I used to wear a purity ring, but first things first: I’m not a virgin. I’ve never been married, but I have loved deeply and it ended. I have had nights of fun, had strings of short-term relationships, and no longer feel the shame I long associated with premarital sex. This is where I am going to remind you that I am no longer seeking ordination in The United Methodist Church (save some time and don’t bother filing charges) and being able to frankly talk about this topic is one of the reasons I left the said process. I refuse to silence my voice. Now that we have all that out of the way, judge me if you will, but there are girls and women in your life, regardless of what end of the theological and political spectrum, that have been like me or are like me.
Back to my ring that actually said: true love waits. I picked it out. It was my decision. I wore it proudly for a few years. I continued to wear it in college and after a few Busch Lights or a Boone’s Farm, when asked about it I would lift my hand to the sky and proclaim no sex until marriage. This lasted for a few months, but after my first kiss and realization I didn’t have to wait if I didn’t want, I took it off.
Eventually I was no longer a virgin; the world did not shatter, the devil didn’t pop up and do an evil laugh, God did not smite me. My views on sex before marriage started to shift and continue to shift. In the back of my head for a long time, I still had a glimmer of doubt about toeing the line of Christianity and being not celibate. I am not the only one: “That we are children of God, living in a broken world, usually at odds with ourselves and others, but nonetheless, all at once, also loved beyond measure and being drawn into reconciliation and holiness” (Good Christian Sex, 172).
I bought into “the One,” that I was looking for my other half, that I wasn’t enough and because of that, I sinned. My sin was that I wasn’t living up to my full potential. It wasn’t because I was sexual active at the time, it was because I forgot my God-given gift of freedom and action. What I have learned is something that the Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan said so well: “There is a distinct difference between actually losing the boundaries of one’s self and the ecstatic joining of hearts and bodies that sometimes happens in the best sex” (139). I would argue that losing yourself into another person is worse than joining another person between the sheets.
I don’t think I actually failed purity; I think purity failed me. Because it led me to relationships, attitudes, and choices that I do not regret but the impacts of which have been hard to shake.
The thing is, I am pure. That’s my theology, right? I’m Wesleyan and have a theology rooted in God’s abundant grace. I have had my moment of justification and my sins have been forgiven. Even if I thought sex before marriage was always a sin (I’d argue some sex in marriage is a sin as well), God’s grace grants us love and forgiveness. Relationships are not easy and can be work, a friend and I once decided: “The joy must outweigh the work.”
I want to live into mutuality in all my relationships, sexual or not. I do not subscribe to celibacy in singleness, and I believe it’s high time we started having real conversations about sex. It’s time to talk about it beyond abstinence, beyond fear based comprehensive sex education, and to realize that as a church we are failing our singles by limited their, my, sexuality. I want to create that conversation, this is my ultimate goal; it’s not about the shock value, it’s about fidelity in relationships and journeying in grace. I’m not done speaking and will continue to post about sex, gender, birth control, inclusivity, society, and my beloved church. I will be authentic and stand my ground theologically. I’m ready to challenge celibacy. I hope you are too.