It’s Not Just About Sex

Well, well, well, yesterday was a fun experiment. I enjoyed writing that post, and I considered getting into the combox and trying to parse out what I feel was a lack of clarity on my part with the commenters (who basically all disagreed with me), but then I read an article this morning about something I actually have first-hand knowledge of, and I decided to get back on solid ground.

Sometimes blogging can be confusing. I read Max’s post yesterday and felt like I could have written it myself, albeit with a lot less charm. Sometimes I feel like I spend all my time writing stupid crap and then I think, “who really wants to read about this?” Sometimes I try to “blog like an adult”, like I did yesterday, and then I realize that while I certainly have the ability to write like that, it takes a lot more thinking than I generally like to do and most of my usual readers/commenters just kind of ignore the post. Then there are times, like today, when I read something and think, “I have to blog about that, because I have a unique perspective on this situation.” I have no idea which of these approaches generates the best blog posts, and at some point I’m going to re-vamp my approach to blogging and try to, like, have a plan. But not today. Today, I’m going to tell you why this article makes me want to stab someone with a rusty spork.

Scared? You should be.

I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s been floating around facebook and HotAir linked to it and everyone and their mothers are cheering for the giant asshat who wrote it. I, on the other hand, studiously ignored the link (because I was afraid it would say exactly what it does) until my homegirl Kassie threatened to rip her hair out over it on facebook. Then my curiosity was piqued, so I read it. Here’s an excerpt:

Let me preface this column by saying this: my wife (I have to get used to saying that) and I not only waited sexually in every way (no, we didn’t pull the Bill Clinton and technically avoid “sex” sex,) but we didn’t shack up as live-ins and most importantly, we courted each other in a way that was consistent with our publicly professed values.

We did it right.

Feeling judged? I couldn’t care less. You know why? Because my wife and I were judged all throughout our relationship. People laughed, scoffed and poked fun at the young, celibate, naive Christian couple
(Read more here)

I hope you can now understand why “asshat” is less an insult and more a clinically detached observation. This is the very beginning of the article, and as I read it I found myself ready to simultaneously scream, cry, throw something, hit someone, and go do penance for this guy’s soul. It took me about four tries to make myself go back and read the rest of what he had to say, so livid was I over the cocky self-righteousness on display in his opening paragraphs (and really all the way through the piece.)

Guess what, dude? Other people laughing at you and judging you doesn’t give you the freedom to do the same. If you’ve forgotten that whole “turn the other cheek” thing, how about trying to remember “if I have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal?” This article is so utterly devoid of love, from beginning to end, that if I weren’t a Christian it would serve as Exhibit A for why I don’t want to be one. As it is, it’s currently serving as Exhibit A for why my fellow-Christians make me want to vomit.

Most of you know a bit about my history. Drug addiction, unwed pregnancy, conversion. If EWTN made soap operas, mine would be the story to tell. But it wasn’t a soap opera. It was my life. It is my life. It is my past, who I was, what led me to who I am. It is the shifting, sandy ground that the Ogre and I built our future on. Over time we managed to shore it up and make it a solid foundation for our family, but that process was long and painful.

And you know what else? It was embarrassing. Humiliating, even. The author of this article has no idea what it’s like to be judged. Sure, he had people make fun of him for not having sex. That’s not being judged. That’s other people being stupid. I had people make legitimate judgments about the kind of person I was, judgments I had to swallow, because they were true. I had people make fun of me for being a pregnant, unwed drug addict. I had people refuse to baptize our daughter and try and keep the Ogre and I from getting married in the Church. I had people make fun of me for wanting to have a wedding when my daughter was a year and a half old, because “what’s the point?” I had members of my own family tell me they were embarrassed that I would wear a wedding dress when I didn’t deserve to wear one. Because I had already screwed up. Not, mind you, by having sex…but by having a child.

Here’s the thing about unwed pregnancies, or at least unwed pregnancies in the South: in the end, few people are interested in the details of what goes on in anyone’s bedroom before their wedding. Even couples who live together prior to marriage don’t really raise eyebrows anymore. But when you get knocked up and have the audacity to have the baby instead of getting rid of it or going into hiding for nine months until you can give it up for adoption, when you look the world in the eye and say, “I have done something wrong, and I will not hide the consequences of my actions,” people are horrified. It is shameful, I won’t deny that. The Ogre and I brought shame on both our families, and on ourselves. But we tried to make it right the best way we knew how…by owning up to it, privately and publicly. Anything less just seemed like more lying, more deception, piling sin upon sin. And most of the world, Christian or not, doesn’t like to see people own up to their mistakes, out loud, in broad daylight.

It makes people uncomfortable.

So, yeah, I felt “judged” by this guy’s opening paragraphs. Nothing he said made me feel guilty, because I’ve long known the truth about how my marriage began. He did do things right. I did things wrong. It made my life hell for many long years. It made the Ogre’s life hell for many long years. We had to fight tooth and nail to claw our way out of the sin that our relationship began in. And it makes me angry that someone would say, “I couldn’t care less” about that pain, that fight, that struggle. Because “people laughed, scoffed and poked fun at the young, celibate, naive Christian couple.” There is nothing Christian, compassionate, or even remotely human about that sentiment. It’s cold, unfeeling, resentful, and full of pride.

But that isn’t even the major issue I have with the article. The major issue I have with it is that it manages, in spite of the author’s insistence that he “did things right,” to still completely miss the point of what a marriage is because the author is entirely focused on sex.

Then I realized something. Our wedding was truly a once in a lifetime event. It was a God’s-honest celebration of two completely separate lives now becoming one. Physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually, everything that made us who we were individually was becoming what bonded us together. Our family traveled from far and wide to celebrate the decision of two young people to truly commit themselves to each other, and selflessly give themselves to one another in a way that they never had before that very night.

The people next to us that morning? Well, theirs was just one big party.  And the morning after? Just another hangover.

Our “weddings” were the same event in name only. They know it, and we know it.

Do yours the right way.  If you’re young and wondering whether you should wait, whether you should just give in, become a live-in harlot/mimbo and do it the world’s way.  If you’re wondering whether all of the mocking, the ridicule, the incredible difficulty of saving yourself for your spouse is worth it, let me tell you without a doubt that it is. Your wedding can be the most memorable day and night of your life… or just another party.

I’m sure the author would insist that our wedding was just “one big party” because we had already had sex, because we had a child together, because we lived together.

It wasn’t. Our wedding was a sacrament. It was the moment when the Ogre and I stood before God and man and swore to give our lives to one another, until death, come what may. It was the moment when God joined our eternal souls, when we became one instead of two, when all the grace of the sacrament of marriage was poured out upon us. It was the moment that truly began our lives together, the moment that we had worked toward, the moment that gave us a foundation for all the difficult years to come. Our wedding, the actual sacrament, is the most beautiful, most cherished memory of my life. The reception, on the other hand, was horrible. It was a mess, a blur, it was disorganized, people were fighting, people drank too much, the cake got cut at the wrong time, the music was awful, and I couldn’t wait for it to end. I can look back now and laugh about that, because the party wasn’t the point. The point was the sacrament, the union of our souls.

Guess what also wasn’t the point? The sex afterward. Sure, we went to a nice hotel afterward and had sex and it was great. It was also sad, becuase I knew that it wasn’t what it could have been if we had done things right. I’m not saying sex isn’t important. It is. But you don’t build your life together on sex. If you do, you’re in trouble. You build it on those vows you said, on the moment when you looked into your spouse’s eyes and swore to join your life to theirs. You build it on the moment when your life stopped revolving around “you” and started revolving around “us”. That’s what marriage is about. That’s what gets you through the tough times, when sex isn’t enough, or when sex isn’t even in the picture.

The saddest part about this article is that what he’s getting at needs to be said. I have first-hand knowledge of the damage having pre-marital sex does to a marriage. It can destroy a marriage. It can destroy a family. At the very least, it will make learning to love your spouse correctly immeasurably harder. But the way he’s saying it is so terribly wrong that it obscures the message. It’s no good claiming you’re speaking the truth when the truth gets hidden behind your own arrogance and pride. No one can see it then. All they see is you.

That woman sitting next to the author of the article on the morning after his perfect wedding wasn’t any less married than his wife. She and her husband didn’t do things right, it’s true. But that doesn’t mean their marriage isn’t valid, that it doesn’t matter, that they didn’t mean the vows they spoke. It does mean that their marriage will be twice as hard as they try and figure out how to love each other selflessly instead of using each other as a vehicle for pleasure. It does mean that their marriage will be an uphill battle, that they will fight demons that they might not even be aware of, that they might never even recognize, demons that they invited into their relationship when they chose a selfish, baser form of love before their marriage than they should have. And for that struggle that they face, they deserve compassion, pity, and gentle understanding. They don’t deserve to be a punchline in someone else’s blissful story of how he did everything right.

Because even if you do things “right”, you can still do them entirely wrong.



  • Katie

    Let me start by saying that I’m really sorry about what you had to endure at the hands of other Christians and Catholics. I really like your blog, your perspective, and your writing.
    I did find his article snarky when I read it, but if I’m being completely honest, I did identify just a bit with some of the things he was saying. Because if his journey was anything like mine and my husband’s, he got criticized anytime people even found out about his and his fiance’s intentions to remain celibate. I’m not talking about people telling him he was doing it wrong, I’m talking about people “feeling judged” just by the knowledge that others made a choice differently. In fact, my husband and I made the commitment to save our first kiss as a couple until the altar (we had both already had our “first kiss” with other people). It was a choice we had made, and we never once advocated that it was a choice others should make. You know what? Some people got really defensive about it. Some people got angry with us and argued about it. We tried to not talk about it with other people, but the story spread and we ended up having to defend ourselves. We took a lot of heat for something that wasn’t anyone else’s business. People telling us they couldn’t relate to us because we were “too perfect.” Certainly not the humiliation you endured. I’m not trying to excuse what he said or the tone with which he said it. I guess I’m just saying that just because people do things “the right way” doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost them.
    I understand your point that marriage isn’t just about sex, but the gift of sex from God is a pretty big one. The Church has quite a bit to say about its dignity. Maybe someone could step in and correct me, but isn’t the consummation of the marital act part of the sacrament? I can’t speak for this guy, but I really didn’t feel that the focus, in my own situation, was on the sex. My husband and I didn’t talk about sex at all while dating, and only to the extent that the FOCUS survey brought up in marriage prep. I didn’t feel like some sex-starved lunatic leading up to the wedding night, but it was pretty darn exciting. I don’t feel like it lessened the vows we made at the altar. It completed them.
    I realize this is a sensitive subject, and I hope I’ve handled it with care. You’re in my prayers

  • JB

    Love your blog, Callah, first time poster here :)

    I think your perspective is very interesting, I initially related to the author of the article as well, being someone who was ridiculed for waiting until marriage to have sex. But I appreciate your post for your perspective as well, and quite frankly it made me feel a little guilty for liking the original article so much.
    The thing I wanted to point out was that you said,

    “Guess what, dude? Other people laughing at you and judging you doesn’t give you the freedom to do the same.”

    Under the same logic, I think all of us (commenters included) need to be careful not to throw back the insults on him, by calling him an asshat or “cocky” and “self-righteous”. It becomes a vicious cycle of Christians nitpicking other Christians until no outsider wants to come close to us with a 10-foot pole. And who could blame them?

  • The Crescat

    I think this is one the most beautiful things I’ve read on the god forsaken internet. Politics and Patheos cat fights drove me away but stuff like this will ultimately bring me back. Kudos, m’am.

  • Amanda

    Totally agree with your criticism, hands down. Well said.

  • deltaflute

    Nobody is better than. Nobody. I didn’t read the article of the other dude, but I would hazard to guess that he thinks that his marriage is different. And it is. But there are no two marriages that are alike. His isn’t any better than mine or yours or anyone elses because it started differently.

    Everyone is on a different stage in the journey. We can’t make such horrible bitter judgement calls. Certainly we can judge another’s actions to be immoral, but we cannot judge another person. He has no right to say what he said about the other couple not knowing if they repented or were prideful.

    You screwed up; we all have. And so has he on some level (especially since I’m guessing his sin is one of pride.) We’re supposed to help each other through it. If one part of the body of Christ is diseased then all the member suffer. All. He must have forgotten that part.

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  • Lydia

    I skimmed through the article-not really interested in that particular subject, and frankly, I was also turned off by the whole “Look at MEE! I am an EXAMPLE!” tone. It reeked of the good old tax collector and the publican scenario. Yes, you didn’t have sex before you were married. Kudos! But, to steal an idea from Chris Rock, you’re not supposed to, and you don’t get a cookie for abstaining until you’re married. For people who have fallen or struggled in that way, the least a writer could do is express some charity without which all the well thought out arguments in favor of waiting, the statistics, the theology mean diddly. Clanging cymbals, people.

  • Jane Hartman

    I think you’re just too sensitised on the issue because of others judging you. He’s just darned happy and perhaps, proud that he waited and did it right. We need more Christians to say “good job” and join in his happiness rather than calling him names (not so christian, either) and scoffing at the celibate, naive Christian couple, as he said lots of people did. I have to congratulate both of them for their witness. And being focused on sex on the wedding night (and who wouldn’t be considering they waited) is probably what God had in mind, considering marriage is about becoming one. They have a lot to learn as you know. You already have learned some of these difficult lessons, but they’re at the very beginning. Give them a break.

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  • jose

    People have such a fixation with it. You can exchange email passwords but you can’t exchange fluids.