Ignore What the World Says About Virginity

I curled into a corner of the couch, pointed the remote toward the TV, and channel surfed to TV Land, where the woman in the sitcom on screen made a “shocking” discovery:

Her son had never had sex.

“Twenty-six years old and still a virgin,” she said. “The Elephant Man lost it before that.”

The actor’s line was a crass crack at comedy—a reference to a guy with severe deformities who lived in London in the 1800s. It was a promotion of the inaccurate notions that everybody’s doing it; that people who are virgins are virgins because there is something wrong with us (I’m 28 and I haven’t had sex, either.); and that virgins aren’t as good as people who have had sex. But I put the remote down, eager to see more of how cable TV treats people who are sexually inexperienced.

During the rest of the episode, the young adult’s mother referred to his virginity as “a problem.” After he finally slept with somebody, his mother declared what she long had hoped she could: “My little boy’s a man!”

The character’s voice is one of countless in our culture that says there is something bad about not having sex, something wrong with you for deciding not to. To all who have ever received that message, I offer this:

Ignore it.

Ignore it, because not everyone is doing it. People who are saving sex – or who are saving sex from now on – may be few and far between, but none are alone. Friends of mine and I are proof.

Ignore it, because somebody’s virginity isn’t a problem. Somebody else’s fear of it is. Our culture does not discourage virginity because virginity is bad. It discourages virginity because virginity is different. Because virginity is hard. Because we live in a culture that mistakenly values fitting in more than it values chastity, which requires abstinence from sex outside a marriage, and leads us toward authentic love.

Ignore it, because sexual experience is not what makes a boy a man, or a girl a woman. Sex isn’t a rite of passage; it’s the image and renewal of a bond built by matrimony, designed to unite spouses and create new life. “Our culture glorifies sexual prowess—many people simply assume that sexual experience and personal maturity go together, and that anyone who is virginal or otherwise inexperienced is for that reason a mere child,” wrote Margaret and Dwight Peterson in their book Are You Waiting for The One? “… In reality,” the authors continued, “experience and maturity are not the same thing.”

Ignore it, because we have been instructed not to conform to this world (Romans 12:2), and because what other people think of us is irrelevant to our value. The culture that surrounds us doesn’t get to decide how good we are; God does—and he showed us how good we are by creating us in his image.

____________________

arleen fall 2013Arleen Spenceley is author of forthcoming book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, to be released by Ave Maria Press in Fall 2014. She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com and tweets @ArleenSpenceley. Click here to like her on Facebook.

35 Comments

  1. Beautifully stated, Arleen.

    “Sexual experience is not what makes a boy a man, or a girl a woman. Sex isn’t a rite of passage.”

    Sadly, this is the primary message we receive from the culture. Added to that, the Sex Pushers never cease to tell us that unlimited sex is the one true measure of personal freedom. Is it any wonder why most kids have had sex before they can vote, and many before they can drive?

    You are a clear voice of reason in a culture full of nonsense. May God continue to bless what you do.

    By Scott Spinola | 3 years ago Reply
    • Thanks, Scott!

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
  2. Arleen, what a beautiful article. I can tell you from my own experience as a single man hard difficult a life of being a virgin is and yes everyone wants to be loved, (not just sex) but truly loved. Today’s culture equates sex with being loved, but all to often I see that just isn’t so. I teach confirmation class and it frustrates me to no end why most of the boys and the girls just don’t seem to understand what relationships are all about, because so often their parents have not showed them what that is, or maybe they’re from broken homes. Parents need to parent first and be buddies after that. It takes a man not to objectify a girl and it takes a woman to hold a boy accountable to being a man. Again thank you for your work.

    By Barry Bonnette | 3 years ago Reply
    • Thanks so much for sharing this!

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
  3. Keep it up Mr. Jason Evert! 🙂 If you remember us, we or I am from the live pure movement from the philippines :)) we are one with you in proclaiming the good news of chastity and true love to the young ones in a catholic way! 🙂 we are praying for you and hopefully you will also pray for us! 🙂 FOR ONE CAUSE and that is to glorify God 🙂

    By Fyron Umali | 3 years ago Reply
  4. Thank you for posting a good article such as this, and a thought-provoking one at that. We, especially young people of today, should not regard sex as something to be experience as part of taking the road to “maturity”, or as something to get you “in the trend”. Virginity is a gift from God that should be treasured until the right time comes that one is ready to fully share in God’s covenant of love in the sacrament of marriage. Keeping oneself pure comes with the value of self-control, trust and waiting… Keep it up! I am learning a lot from your website! God bless us all! Mabuhay!

    By jcloveslei | 3 years ago Reply
  5. I believe that everyone has a right to do what they choose with their sexuality, which also means that if it is premarital and consenting, then it is okay as well. I agree that many young people are engaging in sexual activities when they are too young to understand what they are doing, but I also believe that sex is important for a long term committed relationship. Engaging in sexual activities before marriage does not necessarily mean that the individuals involved are bowing down to societal pressure, although that is a possibility. It’s commendable that yourself and others have been and continue to be chaste, considering the amount of pressure society places on sex. However, being chaste does not mean that one will not acquire authentic love.

    By Jenn | 3 years ago Reply
    • Thanks so much for this feedback, Jenn!

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
  6. “what other people think of us is irrelevant to our value”

    That’s my favorite line in your post. I’m 32 years old, single, virgin and still haven’t met the man im going to marry. Idk what my classmates (which i have now connection on fb) think of me, but ever since I’ve proven to myself that God actually exists and learned lots of His teachings, I never cared for what other people think of me coz the approval im looking for is from God.

    The popular culture seems to be ignorant of moral values or maybe purposely ignoring values because it’s really difficult to keep them. I used to think highly of myself, and I know I can achieve anything, but I find myself asking for His help when it comes to keeping my values. The path is narrow and I hope that more people find that light on the narrow path and follow it towards eternal happiness.

    By cynch | 3 years ago Reply
    • Great points! Re: “the popular culture seems to be ignorant of moral values or maybe purposely ignoring values because it’s really difficult to keep them” — yes! This reminds me of the sin of sloth, as defined by St. Thomas: “a sadness arising from the fact that the good is difficult.”

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
  7. I loved this – thank you!! I am 27, and have never slept with anyone. I am so thankful to feel contentment (most days… 🙂 ) It seems like more and more of my friends that follow Jesus are giving up! I know that the purity-movement has cause quite a bit of damage, but I’m thankful for the good that it has also brought.

    By Catie W. | 3 years ago Reply
    • Thank YOU, for reading! 🙂

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
  8. I came across your blog via a friend’s post and I’m so glad I did. It’s a validation of what I hold dear and it feels good to be reminded that there are many others out there who are like me, both men and women, besides those within my circle of young adult friends, who share the same beliefs and value system. I have a coworker, whom I love dearly for her sense of humor and candor, who constantly asks me, “So, have you and (my boyfriend’s name) done it yet?” She makes it seem like sex is a necessary next step to take in a relationship. I just smile and I keep telling her that she’s going to get the same answer from me: I’m saving myself for marriage. In fact, so is my boyfriend. Her comeback, “Why?? Girl, you gotta test drive the car before you buy it!” Well girl, a car’s value depreciates and mine’s the opposite! It makes me sad that she doesn’t understand. And so many others too. Thank you for writing about this. Maybe I’ll forward it to her…

    By Katie | 3 years ago Reply
    • I always say “EXACTLY. We do have to test drive cars. Men and women aren’t cars.”

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
  9. I LOVE IT. You are absolutely correct. This is exactly right, “The culture that surrounds us doesn’t get to decide how good we are; God does—and he showed us how good we are by creating us in his image.” Keep it up.

    By Courtney McGee | 3 years ago Reply
    • Thanks, Courtney!

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
  10. I thank GOD I have like minds here.
    God Bless Ya All, and help Us to stay stronger…

    By James | 3 years ago Reply
    • Like minds are few and far between, but we are here! 🙂

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
  11. I find this article very uplifting and hopeful that I am not the only one who believes that sexual experiences isn’t the equivalent to reaching maturity. For males, in my personal view, I feel that it’s enforced to have sex as soon as possible, for it establishes your dominance and manhood. I can certainly tell you though, that at seventeen and still a virgin, I have accomplished much more in my life than any male who had sex before me at a younger age. I’ve never given much thought to what others think of me, but it can be difficult when both in a high school and predominately male environment at work, how much criticism and expectation they place upon me. The movie “40 Year Old Virgin” has been referenced several times, pointing out how much of an anomaly that is to our current society, and how I would fit that profile if I continue down this path. Well, after reading your article, it has encouraged me that I would rather live a moral and “abnormal” life, than an amoral and regular one. So thank you, Ms. Spenceley, for taking the time to create such a editorial and giving hope to those who need it.

    By Chase Pearce | 3 years ago Reply
    • Thanks for sharing this, Chase, and for living what you believe. You set a fabulous example.

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
    • Chase – On my 44th birthday, I treated myself to a dinner at Ryan’s Steak House. They had a TV on and I remember the news commentator mentioned a movie called “40 Year Old Virgin.” I thought it was interesting because I was a virgin too – and over 40. I didn’t feel odd or like a spectacle the news was making it out to be. Like Arleen said, I ignored it. I didn’t go see it and spent those saved dollars on things I really needed – like clothes. Today, I’m a 53 year old virgin and still ignoring it. I too have accomplished much more in my life than I would have had I made the wrong choices earlier in life. Yes, the world may look at this as “abnormal.” But I think it’s completely normal because I know I’m where God wants me to be, I don’t have any regrets, I’m not paying child support, I have 0% chance of having an STD, and my brain chemistry hasn’t been altered by premarital sex. Stay strong. You’re on the right road.

      By John H. Morgan III | 3 years ago Reply
  12. Well written, and refreshingly counter-cultural 🙂

    For me however, the temptation to lose my virginity is not the issue of a rite of passage. It’s more for the sake of the thing itself – sex is a good thing, and I’m tempted not to wait. Saying no to what culture is telling you is not hard if you are the kind of person that doesn’t care about what others think. I find having to say no when you are with a partner (unmarried) is much more difficult.

    It’s the physical temptation, not the social one, that is the hardest for me.

    By Jane | 3 years ago Reply
    • I’m in the same boat. I’m lucky to have a partner, while he doesn’t have the same value (he doesn’t have a personal preference to wait until marriage), he doesn’t want me to regret any actions I take, in the heat of the moment, later. We’ve have many talks about how important this is to me when we’re walking or out to dinner, so that when we begin to… erm… get a tad carried away, he calms me down 🙂 We’ve been dating for 4 years! He’s a keeper 😉

      By Bri | 3 years ago Reply
    • Great point, Jane — thank you for sharing that. I’m gonna add this to a list of topics I’d like to address in future posts. Stay tuned.

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
  13. To that add purity of heart. May the good Lord grant it to us.

    By Yosev u Cighan Yosev OCD | 3 years ago Reply
  14. This freaks me out. I realize what all of you are saying… not to worry. But I’ve still never been kissed? Well I don’t know. I wish someone would help me figure that out. He kissed me while I was talking and I continued to talk then tried figuring it our for a nano second then pushed him off. I don’t know if that’s my first kiss forever taken by someone I haven’t seen since.. or what. Virginity is one thing but trying to be comfortable in my skin as a woman is another thing.. I wish people in our faith would teach that along with abstinence and stuff. My parents are completely frugal. Sex is to make a child, which is why I’m here, their beliefs are fine by the way just NOT OF THE SOCIAL norm. lol. And much else they aren’t for affection so I’m just lost in general. I’m sure people are worried about keeping their virginity, and I want to keep mine till marriage, but I wish I could just learn how to love first and I can’t even get passed a kiss.

    By Mary | 3 years ago Reply
    • Mary,

      Thanks so much for sharing this. I think you’ve made a very important point — one I am saving and aim to address in a future post, either here or at my site (arleenspenceley.com). Stay tuned.

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 3 years ago Reply
  15. glade that you to are pure. GOD bless you.i saved my self hard to beleave .but i did

    By ted weaver | 3 years ago Reply
  16. God bless you infinitely for your wonderful work !!!

    By Marisa Madera | 3 years ago Reply
  17. The closer you are to Christ, the more alone you are in this world.

    By John Morgan | 3 years ago Reply
  18. Love the Article! I don’t know how to ask a question so I’ll just comment it.. can there possibly a blog on wearing a Mantilla? I would love to see read about it!

    By Hannah Pavalko | 3 years ago Reply
  19. Thank you sooo much for the article and for the whole webpage!! I am 29 and virgin. I was losing hope lately that there is anyone out there wiling to wait like me. I had a boyfriend and we were in love but eventually he broke up with me bc I am different …he didn’t belive very much in God and the chastity. I really liked him and it looked he liked me too so after the break up I made up my mind that “it’s too hard for guys to wait” and I need to chose between staying virgin for life or getting married… And this thouhgt is with me now but at least now, after reading this blog,I have hope.

    By Irka | 3 years ago Reply
  20. girls virginity health?

    By yashar | 3 years ago Reply
  21. Thanks for this! I know to ignore those who look down on virginity. It makes me sad, though, when it seems like I can hardly find a good love story on TV or elsewhere that doesn’t have sex before marriage, that is encouraged (Old Fashioned, was a great Christian romance, though).

    I’m 20 years old. I’m one of those “innocent” people, and even some of my well-meaning Catholic friends have acted like I’m a child who needs to cover her ears when they say certain things so as not to “lose my innocence,” as if innocence is something I could lose because of a word or phrase. It pains me that they don’t often think that they can choose their thoughts, words, and actions just as well as I can.

    I believe real purity/innocence is something you choose everyday, not just something you have. In other words, real purity/innocence is not something that is passive, but is very active and I find it is driven by knowledge, of theology of the body, and all other topics on this blog. I wish there was a way I could express this to everyone.

    By Chelsea D. | 3 years ago Reply
  22. I am a Muslim and I agree with this article.

    By Abdul | 3 years ago Reply

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