BY BRITTANY BROLLEY
Waiting until marriage to have sex may sound like an antiquated custom, but you may be surprised to learn that abstinence is still practiced today. According to Waiting Till Marriage, an organization that supports abstinence before marriage, around three percent of the United States population waits until they are married to have sex. While it’s true that this percentage is small compared to those who don’t wait, there’s still around ten million “waiters” right here in America.
As they’re often viewed as anomalies by the other 97 percent, there are tons and tons of misconceptions about ones who’ve chosen temporary, voluntary celibacy. Some of the biggest myths, as pointed out by Waiting Till Marriage, is the thinking that “normal” and “attractive” people don’t wait to have sex, or that those who are abstinent are asexual or have a “lower-than-normal sex drive.” Do you want to know the real, unspoken truth about waiting until marriage? Keep on reading.
The case for waiting
Jett V., a 31-year-old woman, told Self that she and her husband waited to have sex all throughout their six year relationship and until their wedding because of their Christian faith. Krista M., who is 37 and not currently married, told the publication that she, too, has made the decision to wait until marriage. “I come from a home where sex was spoken of as natural, exciting, and totally important,” she said before adding the important caveat: “within marriage.”
When speaking to Cosmopolitan, 22-year-old Margaret said that although her husband was not a virgin when they met, she had made up her mind to wait for both “religious reasons” and because she’d “been raised to do so.” Her husband’s non-virgin status made the decision difficult at times, she admitted.
Whether personally religious or because they come from a religious background, the majority of those who’ve decided to wait to have sex until marriage have some sort of religious affiliation.
It’s not always about religion
Let’s not assume that just because most people who abstain are religious that all people who wait are. Clementine, a 21-year-old woman, said that, for her, it was more about her desire to wait for the right person. This meant she wasn’t necessarily planning to wait all the way until her wedding day. “Who would’ve thought I’d save it until marriage!” she admitted to Cosmopolitan.
“Before I met my now-husband, I had never really met someone who I wanted to be with,” Erica, 30, explained, “I’ve had my fair share of chances of course, but it never felt right.” Like Clementine, Erica said she hadn’t planned on waiting until she was married to have sex, but said “it was never a big part” of her and her partner’s relationship and she knew she wanted her “first time to be special.”
One atheist by the name of Leo has completely taken the matter of religion out of the equation, and instead said he’s waiting is to have a “better chance at a successful marriage” and to form a “healthy self image” — among other reasons.
Most make this decision at a young age
Since most young men and women become sexually active at about 17 years old, according to Planned Parenthood, then the decision not to become sexually active would have to happen at a fairly young age as well.
Popular YouTuber Milena Ciciotti said she personally made the decision to abstain from sex while still in middle school. “I think I was 12 or 13 years old,” she recalled in one of her vlogs. She made the decision after attending a church concert that highlighted “staying pure” and “gave out purity rings,” Ciciotti said. According to the Christian jewelry site Purity Rings Online, these rings serve as an outward symbol of a person’s vow of abstinence, and are generally worn on the left ring finger, as would a wedding ring, until marriage.
Another YouTuber, Emily Wilson, also admitted that she made her decision to remain a virgin until marriage while she was still a teen. “I’m not ashamed to say it,” she said before dubbing abstinence as the second-best decision of her life.
Some experience regret, while others never do
Some people who’ve waited until marriage to lose their virginity feel similar to Wilson in that it worked out well for them. One person posted the Whisper confession: “I waited until marriage, so did my husband. Wasn’t a religious choice. And yes, it was totally worth it.” Others, though, wished they’d made a different decision. “Waiting until marriage is the biggest regret I have in life,” Natasha said in an interview with Cosmopolitan. She went on to concede that some four years later, she and her husband have grown apart. “I wish I hadn’t put so much pressure on myself to be a virgin. If I could go back and change it, I would,” she added.
Still, many of those who have waited say the pros outweigh the cons. “Yes, I waited until marriage. Yes, it was very hard. Yes, it was worth it,” another person admitted on Whisper.
Not every person who tries waiting makes it until marriage
Not everyone who sets the intention of waiting to have sex until marriage makes it to the proverbial finish line. And for those who don’t, the regret can be very, very real. YouTuber Emily Wilson relayed the experience of one of her friends who succumbed to peer pressure from her college roommates and boyfriend. “After I gave up my virginity, I felt the emptiest I have ever felt in my entire life,” Wilson quoted her friend as saying. “And I have never felt that empty ever again — ever again in my life,” she added.
Of course, these feelings don’t just affect those who originally committed themselves to abstinence. A national poll conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy in 2000 (via Palo Alto Medical Foundation) showed that the majority of teenagers wish they’d have waited longer to have sex, which goes to show that these regretful feelings don’t discriminate — they can affect anyone.
There are different “levels” of waiting
While abstinence as it applies to sex can be quite literally defined as the absence of sex, this word has been interpreted into three different levels, according to Waiting Till Marriage.
For some, abstinence would entail no dating until you’ve found the person you feel is fit to marry. Others may be comfortable with the idea of dating, but they draw the line at holding hands and kissing. Lastly, there’s the group that practices the “everything but” method. Aptly named, this means they are saving vaginal sex for marriage, but “everything but” is considered acceptable.
“When people are asked to say what ‘having sex’ means to them they’ll tell you a range of activities,” Petra Boynton, a social psychologist and sex researcher who works in International Health Care and studies sex and relationships, wrote in an article for The Telegraph. Despite the stark differences between the three categories, they all make up the three percent of those who wait.
It might make eventual sex “more awkward and less enjoyable” — or it might not
“Everything was off,” 29-year-old Heather M. said to Self of her first time having sex with her husband. “[Our] rhythms were not in sync, things didn’t fit, and my nervousness made it more awkward and less enjoyable than I expected.” Similarly, 39-year-old Rebecca K. said first-time sex with her hubby was “pretty underwhelming.” She admitted it took about a month before she was able to enjoy it.
Even though the experience may be pretty awkward for the newlyweds, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “The learning process is the beauty of it,” Jett V. told the publication, “Because we waited, we had this full security of knowing that we had our entire lives to learn how to be intimate and that the other person wasn’t going anywhere.”
Jett added that she thinks Hollywood’s depictions of sex as “this unbelievably pleasurable act where you both experience ecstasy at once” is part of what makes the awkwardness seem abnormal. No matter your stance on waiting until marriage, you can likely agree with her on that.
There are definite perks
There are unmistakable benefits that come with waiting. YouTuber and influencer India Batson explained in one of her vlogs: “Besides the religious aspects of being abstinent, my favorite thing about not having sex is I never have to worry about if I’m pregnant, I never have to worry if I’m getting an STD… and it’s a joy.” While her friends have called her up fretting about their missed periods, that’s one problem she hasn’t had to deal with in her life.
Whether you went to school in a state that teaches abstinence-only education or comprehensive sex ed, you learned that abstinence is the only fail-proof, 100 percent effective way to prevent pregnancy. While certain birth control methods only have a fraction of a percent chance of failure, no pregnancies are going to be conceived out of abstinence unless, of course, you’re Jane from Jane the Virgin.
Although not completely foolproof, abstinence — when it includes “all types of intimate genital contact” as outlined by KidsHealth — may also protect you against sexually transmitted diseases.
Many of those who wait won’t judge you for not
You may think those who’ve made the decision to remain a virgin until marriage will look down on you if you’ve made a different choice. While that could be true in some instances, it seems many who’ve decided to remain celibate until marriage don’t think that way at all.
YouTube personality Summer Mckeen said although she’s made the decision to remain abstinent until marriage because of her Mormon faith, she “genuinely couldn’t care less” if others choose a different life course. “I don’t judge you. I don’t not like you. I’m fine with anyone and everyone doing and believing whatever they want,” added Mckeen.
When discussing her personal view on abstinence, Milena Ciciotti, too, added a disclaimer, saying, “I’m not making this video to look down at people who have had sex.” Instead, she said she wanted to represent the small number of people who do wait because, as she explained, “in our society, a lot of people don’t wait until marriage.”
They are a misrepresented and underrepresented group
It wouldn’t take long to tally all of the major pop culture portrayals of people who’ve waited a long time, or until marriage, to have sex. The most notable depictions include the blockbuster film The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the aforementioned American telenovela Jane the Virgin — but are these accurate examples of virgins?
In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Steve Carrell plays an unattractive nerd without much, if any, game and just can’t seem to get laid. According to Waiting Till Marriage, this is one of the biggest stereotypes about people who have chosen not to have premarital sex, arguing that it is a choice that “has little to do with physical appearance.” Jane the Virgin’s depiction of waiting until marriage paints a much clearer picture — especially of those waiting for religious reasons — and is one of the few times a celibate character has not been made into the butt of a joke.
In 2017, India Batson said she wished there’d been more celebrities or “roles on television shows” depiciting people who’ve made this choice willingly. After all, Jane is but one, semi-accurate portrayal.