BEN: I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that a lot of our regular readers are fans of the HBO show Sex and the City. I watch it too. Recently, one of the characters, Charlottethe one dying to get marriedfinally tied the knot. A bit of an idealist, she had been waiting for her dream man and refused to have sex until her wedding day. Predictably, when she did have sex with him, she found out that it wasn’t everything she’d hoped for. In fact, he was impotent.
The character on the show is no virgin, but a lot of people these days are indeed saving themselves for marriage. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the hypersexual nature of our times, but more people than ever seem to be waitingI’ve been privy to at least three virgin weddings in the past couple of years. Meanwhile, virgins have become tokens on the reality shows like MTV’s The Real World. You’ve got your black roommate, your homosexual roommate, and oh yeah, throw in a virgin for good measure.
What I’d like to know is this: What are you people thinking? First off, let me just say that if your sexual abstention is for religious reasons, then I’m going to leave that alone. Because otherwise I’d have to explain how religion has screwed up your brain as well as your sex life. But as far as I can tell, the only other reason people remain virgins is they’ve latched on to the embarrassingly romantic idea that the person to whom they lose their virginity is the person they’ll spend their life with. Such people seem to think that sex is the ultimate expression of love and should be saved for the right person.
Well, allow me to pop that bubble for you. This isn’t 90210, and you aren’t Donna Martin. There is no David Silver waiting for you down the line. You’re going to have the same humiliating “That was it?” experience as the rest of us. It will not be some galvanizing physical and spiritual moment that shows you the everlasting light of love. It will be confusing, sticky, awkward, and over in about 15 minutes. And after the initial shock has worn off, all you’ll want is to do it again.
My advice, contrary to common belief, is to make sure you lose your virginity to someone you don’t love. A lot of my friends had their first experience in high school with someone they cared about, and man alive did it screw them up. I think your first time is like having someone die in your armsyou’ll forever have an attachment to them you’ll never forget. Add to that a deep emotional connection and the predictably short life span of a young relationship, and you end up with a lot of confused and hurt people.
So that’s why I say people should lose their virginity to someone they don’t care that much about. That’s what I did. We were friends, but we had no pretense of feeling anything other than horniness for one another. With no relationship to maintain afterward, we didn’t have to suffer the crushing disappointment of naive ideals brought down to reality. To quote Bob Seger, “I used her, she used me, and neither one cared. We were gettin’ our share.”
Sex is a biological act, something as common to the human experience as walking and talking. It’s also something that has to be practiced and refined over years of practice. You don’t want to suffer that practice with someone you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with. I’m not saying that sex isn’t better with someone you love. As a matter of fact, it’s much, much better. That’s the result of an unselfconscious intimacy that comes from being an experienced couple in a long-term relationship. So before you decide to go professional, make sure you’ve honed your skills in the amateur leagues.
DANNY: I was all set to get up on my soapbox and start spouting my wisdom about how virginity is idealistic, but not realistic in today’s society. I was going to tell you how I would never, ever marry a man until I was sure we were sexually compatiblethat whole “gotta drive the car before you buy it” theory. As far as I could tell, virginity was for religious freaks, morals junkies, or nerds who just couldn’t get laid. And I pretty much believed thatuntil I met Matt.
Matt comes into my workplace two to three times a week. He’s quite good-lookingnice build, cargo jeans, cool T-shirts, and that sticky-uppy jelled hair that the kids are wearing these days. He’s very laid-back, he’s got a likable personality, and is one hell of a flirt. So in casual conversation it comes up the other day that he’s a virgin. It took me a week to believe him.
As it turns out, Matt’s decision to remain a virgin stems from his religious beliefs, but he doesn’t wear them on his sleeve or beat people over the head with them. “Supposedly, getting married is joining two people as one entity, right?” he says. “Why wouldn’t I save sex for then? It’s the ultimate expression of love and your faith in that union.” Call me cynical, but that just sounds way too naive. What if he wakes up one day at 45 and wonders what it would be like to be with another woman? Though Matt doesn’t disagree that might happen, he feels that if he was strong enough to wait for marriage, he’ll be strong enough to deal with those demons when the times comes.
In the meantime, what doesn’t Matt have to deal with? Sitting with his girlfriend in an abortion clinic, waiting for her name to be called, pretending to read People magazine. He also won’t have to wait four eternally long days to find out if he’s contracted AIDS. No herpes or crabs, rug burn, big long scratch marks down his back, or embarrassing trips to Kroger for condoms and a six-pack on a Saturday night. He points out that sex might actually hinder a budding relationship: “Most people, when they start dating someone, get focused on how long it will be until they have sex. And after they do have sex, they might stop trying to get to know each other because the big part is behind them. Sex can even become the reason two people stay together.” I think we’ve all been there.
But still I keep wondering. Doesn’t sex become this big thing in your mind, the older you get, the more you’re exposed to it? Matt replies, “Instead of sex being this huge thing, it’s really not a thing at all. I mean, whether you’re getting it or not, men think about sex all the time. It actually might be better for me because I don’t know what I’m missing.”
Just in the short time I talked with people about this column, I met no less than five who were saving themselves for marriage. And these are people you never would have guessed. And though I think the whole Cinderella notion of white dresses and wedding nights is a setup for a pretty certain letdown, people have got the rest of their lives together to figure it all out. What’s more, they’re not really missing anything if they never have to know what it’s like to put your panties in your purse and leave some random guy’s house at 4 in the morning after a one-night stand. The more I think about it, the more I’m moved by what one girl said: “I just think my virginity would be a great gift for the man I’m going to marry.” Maybe for herself too.
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