Tuesday, August 20, 2013


"You know what’s the sexiest thing of all? A little mystery."
-James Coburn

There used to be a pretty basic shared agreement in western culture that you're better off waiting to have sex until marriage, for girls at least.  On a practical level, it meant that if you became pregnant the child was deemed legitimate and there would be a father around to help raise the child and pay for its needs.  On a moral level, it was thought sinful to engage in sexual activity before the covenant of marriage, and people believed that sex was so powerful and life transforming that young people ought not engage in it until they were ready mentally and in terms of their maturity.
That's changed.  So much so that now its not only considered weird to not have sex as a kid, but perhaps even wrong and damaging.  There's an article in Salon which is from this perspective, and while Salon is a pretty leftist site (they have articles by Noam Chomsky on America and lots of bits on drugs, for example), this is hardly a voice without popular support.  Jessica Ciencin Henriquez writes:
I don’t know many people these days who married still a virgin. But going to high school in the furniture capital of North Carolina, it didn’t seem so strange that I wore an engagement ring at the age of 19. People admired my decision to marry my college sweetheart and were enthusiastic about my goal of waiting until marriage to have sex. (He actually wasn’t a virgin, but he was willing to wait for me.)
The morning of my wedding day, I threw up. Everyone assumed that I was nervous about having sex. I wasn’t. But it dawned on me how much we hadn’t learned yet about one another. We had known each other for three years by this point, but there was so much unexplored territory. So what was I supposed to do when my “aha moment” came as a dress was heaved over my head by seven bridesmaids?
When I look back on my wedding day, I remember a passionate kiss at the altar. But after rewatching video footage, I see it was little more than a peck on the corner of my mouth and a long hug. Two years of halting wandering hands as they grazed under blue jeans, and the second we have the permission from God, we hug. These are what red flags look like; my rearview mirror is lined with them.
As he began to kiss me, my mind shut off. I felt his movements and I heard heavy breathing but I thought nothing, it was as if it was something that was happening next to me, or to someone else entirely. It didn’t hurt, I remember that much. Three minutes later when he finished he appeared pleased with himself and I was glad that it was out of the way.

Had we had sex before our relationship transitioned into a contract, I would have known that there was no passion, no spark, nothing happening between our bodies. I would never have agreed to marry him because sex is a significant part of a relationship and therefore a significant part of our relationship was failing. With the failure of our sex life, I felt like less of a woman, no longer a sexual creature but more of a plant. Sitting there, day in, day out, wilting while I waited for someone to take care of me.
How terrible, this woman unfulfilled and mistreated by uncaring Christians denying her the right to bump uglies as a trial run.
Reading this I encounter a lot of questionable logic and unwarranted conclusions.  The biggest problem I see with her argument is that nothing in her description of the wedding night shows the slightest lack of physical "compatibility" whatsoever, only her nerves and being worn out.  She seems to have realized that getting married was a mistake - too late to back out - she's exhausted and her nerves are on end, but then she blames everything on not having sex before marriage.
Seriously?  She recognizes that she didn't really know the guy well enough yet, but seems to think that this would have all been made right if they'd just had a little on the side, somehow.  Is that truly what she means to write?  Because its ridiculous on the surface.  Her entire argument boils down to this:
  • I didn't know the guy and found I didn't care for him
  • Having sex earlier would have told me that
Except she figured out she didn't know the guy enough before the wedding started.  She admits even the kisses seemed lame after that, which is an indication not that they were physically incompatible (their kisses were great before marriage), but that she didn't like him, probably didn't even love him.  And that's the bulk of what makes kissing and all the rest of physical love making have its real zing.
But she blames it all on not having sex earlier.  Which would have told her what, exactly?  Before she realized she didn't really know the guy she loved his kisses and petting, how would having sex change that?  Her distaste with this guy's physical advances had nothing to do with physical incompatibility which is a pretty silly concept to begin with.
Putting aside the passion and love angle, which enhances everything, and putting aside the Tab A fits into Slot B mechanical compatibility, the entire principle of "physical compatibility" is selfish in its focus.  Its all about what makes me happy, when I want it to, what accommodates me and makes me comfortable.
Let's say she's a total nympho and wants sex several times a day.  Lets say the guy is indifferent and is fine with once a week or two.  That's going to be rough, right?  Sure it is - unless the two love each other enough to put aside their personal preferences and focus on the needs and desires of the other person.  That's the entire point of love, to care more about the other person than yourself and to sacrifice yourself for their benefit.
Compatibility is what you make of it, and while that can be a struggle or annoyance, so is devoting your life to someone else until death parts you.  Yes I agree this relationship is hard enough without adding this kind of strain to it, but your entire attitude about marriage is supposed to be about making it work, seeing problems as opportunities, and focusing on the other person, not yourself.
As several commenters at the Salon site noted, this woman had known this fellow over a year; how on earth did she not learn enough about him in that time to realize problems or recognize she didn't know him enough?  I can guess, but that would lead into a post about dating which is another topic entirely.  But that's why you have an engagement and that time before you wed rather than rushing to the altar with the first boy that makes your heart throb.
So this woman's entire article is based on a series of logical errors, and her arguments are without any rational support.  Maybe she would have been better off sleeping with the guy before marriage, but there's no reason to believe it, and this article does not in any way argue that you're better off not waiting.  It seems to argue more that this woman wasn't being a very loving wife and ran away when she could.
There's good evidence out there that waiting to get married is not only good for you but your relationship.  It takes sexual activity out of the "forbidden and frowned on" range for some people who still live in that kind of community for one thing.  And while that can make sex exciting and spicy, it makes sex when its permissible in that community seem too tame and lose its interest.
It seems to me that if you love someone and they are a good person you have shared interests with, their being not your ideal in bed should hardly be a point that kills a relationship.  But maybe I'm just too ignorant of the subject to understand.  It just seems to me that ultimately every argument for not waiting is selfish and self-centered.
I'll close here with a portion of an interview with Raquel Welch about America in Men's Health magazine:
MH: You once said that you think sex is overrated. Could you elaborate?

Raquel Welch: I mean just the sex act itself.

MH: Really? Are you sure you’ve been doing it right?

Raquel Welch: I think we’ve gotten to the point in our culture where we’re all sex addicts, literally. We have equated happiness in life with as many orgasms as you can possibly pack in, regardless of where it is that you deposit your love interest.

MH: Okay, admittedly that doesn’t make sex sound very appealing at all.

Raquel Welch: It’s just dehumanizing. And I have to honestly say, I think this era of porn is at least partially responsible for it. Where is the anticipation and the personalization? It’s all pre-fab now. You have these images coming at you unannounced and unsolicited. It just gets to be so plastic and phony to me. Maybe men respond to that. But is it really better than an experience with a real life girl that he cares about? It’s an exploitation of the poor male’s libidos. Poor babies, they can’t control themselves.

MH: I cannot dispute any of what you’re saying.

Raquel Welch: I just imagine them sitting in front of their computers, completely annihilated. They haven’t done anything, they don’t have a job, they barely have ambition anymore. And it makes for laziness and a not very good sex partner. Do they know how to negotiate something that isn’t pre-fab and injected directly into their brain?
And yes, Ms Welch comes across as very intelligent and informed in the interview.


Eric said...

Setting aside for a moment the argument about waiting until marriage or not, the idea of sexual compatibility is something I think warrants more discussion. Of course everybody is compatible from an engineering standpoint, but are you saying physical attraction just shouldn't matter very much?

I think it matters a great deal. In my experience, lack of physical attraction is one of the greatest sources of misery in a marriage. A person's intelligence, basic personality, common sense, etc... those things rarely change after marriage, but physical attractiveness is one of the easiest things to let go, and it causes so many problems in so many marriages.

I've spent a lot of time over the last year or so over at the Married Man Sex Life forums, and it is just full of story after story of couples who have lost their way because they didn't take care of that one vitally important aspect of their marriage: being somebody worthy of having sex with.

The selfishness I see isn't on the side of the people who want to have a healthy and satisfying sex life with the ONLY PERSON they are allowed to have sex with, it's on the many people who falsely believe, "You should love me just like I am, however I am, so there is no need for me to attempt to make myself attractive to you."

Go over there and read some of the stories for a week or two. I think it will change your mind about how important raw physical attraction is in creating a successful marriage.


Eric said...

Also, there are a surprising number (to me) of couples on that forum who did wait until marriage to have sex. They seem to run into the same problem, over and over, as the one's who didn't: over time, the men get too domesticate and lose the edge that attracted their wives to them in the first place... then the wives don't want to have sex anymore, or start doing the thing where "I'll just lay here and let you do what you want until we get this over with." thing, and things just go downhill from there until these couples no longer have a functional marriage.

That forum has more or less convinced me that there is not much two married people can do that is better for their marriage than trying hard to remain sexually attractive to the other.

Eric said...

In fact, here's one from today w/ a couple who were both virgins at marriage:


Married 9 years with a 2 year old daughter, and failure to keep eachother sexually engaged led to a porn addiction on his part and just caught his wife cheating on him.

Christopher R Taylor said...

I don't doubt that sexual attraction is very critical to maintaining the relationship, but that seems a matter of love and determination rather than some concept of being physically matched

Eric said...

"... that seems a matter of love and determination rather than some concept of being physically matched."

I love my mother and my daughter and I am determined to look after them both as long as I live... but physical attraction is a whole different ballgame. The sexual component of my marriage is what makes it qualitatively different from the other loving and committed relationships I have. And that's why raw, lusty, physical pull is such an important thing. Without it, I may as well be married to my best guy friend.

Christopher R Taylor said...

I would think that your relationship with your wife differs from other relationships more than just sexually, doesn't it?

Eric said...

Sure it does. My wife is my closest confidante. But if I had a business partner or a friend or a lawyer or a minister who I also confided in a lot, I wouldn't be breaking any vows. My wife is my partner in raising our child, but to some degree so are our parents, and our friends, and school teachers... none of that negates our marriage. My wife is my financial partner, but so are many of my business associates, and the guy we go to for financial advice, and our banker. And that's fine for our marriage.

But we are each other's ONLY outlets for sexual release. Nobody else gets to be a part of that. There is no relief valve if one of us isn't holding up their end of things sexually (which includes trying to be attractive to the other). Nobody else can fill that role, even momentarily, without it dissolving our marriage. That's why sex is the most unique, defining aspect of the married relationship.