When should you start having sex? I was reading through a question posed by a 16-year-old young lady. Here is what she asked this online community of relative strangers, “My friend is wondering what other people think. She is 16 and so am I. I think that its fine around the age of 16 if you use protection. She thinks that its fine when ever.”
She titled her post “What age should you start having sex?”
I have a 16-year-old daughter myself and imagined that these people were responding to my daughter. That was pretty disturbing to me from the young lady who says she started at 13 and has loved it ever since to another 16 year old who confirmed that yes 16 is indeed the perfect age.
While there were a few cautionary responses to this young lady, I began to wonder to myself what would I tell this young lady myself. In fact, I personalized it more. What would I tell both my 16-year-old daughter and my 22-year-old son?
Rather than giving them a specific age or situation (e.g., “when you find the right person”), I would tell them why I remained a virgin until I got married. Yes, despite biological urges, social pressures, and even some “close calls” on my wedding night at the age of 22 I had my first sexual experience. I’m proud of that.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I mentioned some “close calls.” I wasn’t an angel. Honestly, there were some heavy petting episodes that I am not particularly proud of. But, there was something in my mind that would not allow me to “go all the way” to consummate the deal. Based on my religious convictions, I just didn’t think I could live with myself if I just let go.
Why did I wait? Some might call it fear. Others might say avoiding shame or guilt. I’m sure all of these are true at some level. But, looking back, I really do think God was protecting me in some ways. I didn’t want God or my family to be disappointed in me. I didn’t want to give away something that I could never undo. That is about as sophisticated as my thinking was during those years.
Now with many more years of experiences and knowledge, I can better articulate (even making a Top 10 list) why I am so glad that I was a virgin when I married. And, most of these same reasons explain why I have stayed and expect to remain faithful to my wife alone.
This article isn’t intended to call out or guilt anyone who chose to be sexual before marriage. Whether you are glad you did or regret it, it is done. You aren’t defined by it either way.
But, I do hope this is a salute and source of encouragement to others like me who choose to wait. I also pray that it will encourage those like my children and others like the 16 year old posing the question when to start having sex to think carefully.
Top 10 Reasons I’m Glad that I was a Virgin When I Married
Reason #10: I can write this blog post
Well, its true. I could never write this blog post if I wasn’t a virgin when I married. But, there is a bigger point about the ability to be a living example of what is possible even when culture runs counter to it.
I want to be able to deliver my message without any sense of hypocrisy. I want to be a model for like-minded others. Sometimes, people just need to know what’s possible. How many times have you seen someone achieve some milestone and said to yourself “If they can do it, I can do it.”
If you desire to save your full physical, emotional, and psychological expression to share in a covenantal relationship then my message to you is that it can be done. If you’re a teen with high school pressures, I remember those days of feeling left out and lonely. If you’re a single adult, I remember the awkwardness of some dating relationships during my college years.
I’m proud to represent and give voice to my value of premarital abstinence.
Reason #9: I know exactly how many kids I’ve fathered
There has been much attention, especially in urban centers, about the issue of fatherlessness. There are far too many socioeconomic variables impacting this highly publicized area for me to address here.
Suffice it to say that every man involved in creating a child is responsible for being a father to that child. Being a father is more than some vain conquest or bragging rights. Fatherhood is a lifetime commitment to sacrifice and develop your young. If you are not consistently engaged, you’re not a father. You’re a sperm donor.
The reality, however, is that many men don’t even know kids that they have fathered. Granted, there are clearly situations where this is intentionally withheld from him. But, there are far too many situations where either the mom isn’t sure of paternity herself because of being involved with multiple partners or the man has literally or figuratively disappeared without a trace.
Personally, I know that I have fathered two children. I have and will continue to sacrifice for my kids. They and their mother know my lifetime commitment to them.
Reason #8: Never worry about sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs)
Given that neither I nor my wife had any sexual partners outside of our marriage, I have literally never in my life worried for one second about contracting a sexually-transmitted disease.
While some suggest that “safe sex” is the answer, most objective people acknowledge that the only safe sex is no sex if you are thinking of STDs and pregnancy. I just think in my own marriage of those times when we were using condoms in our own family planning efforts. We had so many mishaps even in our carefully “controlled” setting. When these mishaps occur, think of the psychological angst and physical exposure you feel until a test validates that everything is fine.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports nearly 1.5 million cases of chlamydia, nearly 335,000 cases of gonorrhea, and more than 15,000 cases of syphilis (each representing an increase over 2011 figures). And, this isn’t even dealing with chronic diseases like HIV. You can access the report here. And, as you might guess the CDC confirms that the greatest increase in these diseases is among young people ages 15-24—with young women facing the greatest long-term health risk.
I am so grateful that I never have to carry this psychological burden.
Reason #7: I have never coerced or encouraged a woman to have sex for which she wasn’t ready
Physical intimacy is done best among mature people. But, so often it isn’t—resulting in many (especially women) with regrets about giving themselves sexually when they really weren’t ready to do so.
I suspect I would have felt guilty for a long time if I ever fostered such regret.
Reason #6: Proof that it can be done
Nobody can tell me that it can’t be done. I’ve spoken with quite a few males over the years trying to convince me that it is not realistic to expect a guy to remain celibate for so many years.
That’s bull. I’ve done it. And, so can you.
And, if you’re a parent wondering if it is realistic to have this expectation for your child. Yes, have the expectation. And, voice that expectation to them. They can do it with the right encouragement. But, if they choose not to, you have done your part to offer guidance. But, be sure to continue your efforts to engage and guide them even if they don’t make the choices that you prefer.
Reason #5: Sense of pride in being obedient to my religious convictions
Much of my thinking about premarital sex are rooted in my Christian faith tradition. These convictions have been instilled in me since I was a young boy. Granted, I wasn’t given any tools or systematic education to help me live out these convictions. But, clearly, I believed that God desired me to wait until I was married to have sex.
Now, I realize that there are many Christians who choose sexuality outside of the marital context. And, that is between you and God.
But, I also know many Christians who carry around a sense of guilt that their behavior is not aligned with their convictions. They feel like hypocrites. Many of them decide to leave the faith to avoid the cognitive dissonance that they experience. Others just live with a residual sense of guilt.
At least in this area, I feel a sense of pride that there is an alignment between my faith and my behavior. I talk boldly because I don’t worry about any hypocrisy. There is no guilt or proverbial “skeletons in my closet” that I worry about.
Reason #4: Give the gift of celibacy to my wife
Though I can’t say I was mature enough to appreciate this when I got married, in retrospect I am grateful I could give this gift of celibacy to my wife—especially because she was a virgin herself.
Though possibly less than in the past, there continues to be a double standard for men and women. Men are not typically stigmatized by their sexual conquests while promiscuous women are often cast in a negative light.
It means a lot to me that my wife was a virgin when we married. She saved herself as a gift to the man she would marry. And, I am honored that I could give the same thing back to her.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that your marriage is any less special if you came into the relationship with sexual experience. For you, the key is to give the gift of monogamy to one another. That too is something to be quite proud about.
Reason #3: Debunk the notion that guys only want “one thing”
Men have a reputation (often justifiably so) that when we are in a relationship that we ultimately only have one thing on our mind. All of the flowers, the candy, the dinners, and the engaging conversation are ultimately about coaxing the young lady to the bedroom.
Given that I did not pursue sexual intercourse in any of my dating relationships, I am proof that not all guys are only interested in sex. I wanted companionship. I wanted to have fun together. I wanted intellectual stimulation. I wanted closeness. But, I expected sex to only happen after matrimony.
Yes, there are some guys who are focused on sexual conquest or self-centered to getting their own biological urges satisfied. But, there are many guys like I was with a much broader view.
By the way, this is a big issue even after you get married. We husbands have to avoid the trap of coming across as only wanting sex from our wives. We need to give spiritual, emotional, and physical intimacy to have a thriving marriage.
Reason #2: My wife is my only frame of reference
I have had sex with one woman in my life. And, I enjoy it.
Because I’ve never had any better or worse partner, I have no point of comparison. There are no memories of prior enjoyable experiences that might leave me disappointed in any aspect of our physical intimacy.
Sure, we have our sexual miscues as does every long-term relationship. And, yes, I’m sure even after more than 25 years that we still have plenty to learn about maximizing our physical intimacy.
But, I am so grateful that I can never compare my current experience with anything I’ve ever experienced before.
Reason #1: I can encourage my kids to do as I did
And, my number one reason that I’m glad that I waited is what I want to express to my kids.
I will never have to say “do as I say, not as I do”. My wife and I have had the conversations with them over the years about our expectation that they commit themselves to waiting until marriage to have sex. We can speak with authority.
Of course, I have no idea if they will heed our advice and prayer. But, they will always know in spite of what the culture presents to them that their parents did it. In this area as in many others, we want to model our values and our faith to our children and future generations of the Arnold family.
As I said at the outset, my intent is not to judge anyone else’s sexual behavior. It is simply to reflect on my own gratitude and model for those with like values.
I’d love to hear your thoughts for and against what I’ve suggested here.