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, 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 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.