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.



  • John

    You are so courageous! May God bless you and your family.

  • Nathaniel

    I liked quite a bit of this piece. And indeed, the guy in the article is a laughable asshat.

    But you should be careful yourself. Do you know, for a fact, that every single couple that has sex without marriage has a harder time or a poorer relationship? Every single one?

    If not, than frankly your making much of the same mistake the dude in the article did, minus the self congratulation.

    • Ted Seeber

      Yes, Nathaniel, I know that for a fact. Just like I know the difference between Storge and Eros. Sure wish you did, given the comments I’ve seen from you.

      • Nathaniel

        Really? Do you have any studies showing that on average couples who had sex before marrying had statistically significant lower marital satisfaction?

        I eagerly await your citations.

      • Nathaniel

        And of course you run away the moment I ask for evidence supporting your claims.

        Can’t say I’m surprised.

        • Ailina

          Nathaniel, I’ll bite. Common law relationships tend to break down more readily than marriages, according to stats in my country, Canada. Cornell U did a study recently that appeared to demonstrate that our North American hook up culture has had a negative impact on marriages, resulting in fewer people bothering to marry and fewer people bothering to have children at all. I don’t have the links but I’m sure you can check your library databases to find some scholarly info that supports the statements I have made.

          • Nathaniel

            A. Common law relationship /= pre-marital sex. There are even states such as the one I live in that don’t recognize common law relationships, but obviously still have married couples who had sex before the certificate.

            B. I’m not going to do your homework for you. If you are actually advancing an argument, its your job to advance it, not mine.

  • Gina

    Callah–I love this. Thank you for writing. My husband and I waited until our wedding night too, but more than 10 years later, all we can say is “there but for the grace of God,” and mean it with all our hearts.

    St. Therese, who always begged to love God with her whole heart, writes that she was dismayed to learn that “those who have been forgiven much, love much;” how could she, who had grown up in a sheltered, pious, household, ever hope to match the fervor of a Mary Magdalene? Then she says she realized that actually being preserved from sin by the sheer grace of God was something that demanded even greater humility, meekness and love… Such a different perspective from the article you linked!

  • Mamie

    Thank you for your description of marriage as a sacrament and what marriage can be as a partnership. After 42 years of marriage, we aren’t what we used to be physically, but my husband is my best friend and he completes me. I dread to think what life would be like if I lost him. It also makes me very sad that society has so cheapened marriage that many, many, young people will not know the great gift that marriage is–that by bouncing from one baby daddy/mommy to the next, they are getting the short end of the stick and missing out on something fine, decent and truly worth having. It is so sad. Thanks for your post.

  • Randy

    I wonder about saints. They are supposed to be holier than us and we are supposed to emulate them. We might feel judged. I guess because you can’t change your premarital behavior anymore you don’t see the value of holding up a good example. I think there is still value just like there is value in contemplating a virgin martyr. Not going to be in her situation but I can learn from her heroic virtue.

    Was the tone bad. Maybe. Was your tone bad with him? We all struggle to understand each other. Yes he focused on sex. That does not mean he always focuses on sex. I have not read anything else he has written so I don’t know.

    I wonder about forgiveness. If I lie and am forgiven I should not feel judged when somebody tells a story of heroic truth-telling. If I do feel guilty I would think I have not really accepted the grace of forgiveness in my heart. Know that you are forgiven truly and completely by God for your sins. If it is God who justifies, who is it that condemns you? Check out Rom 8:28-39. You likely have but we all need to get that truth deep into our soul.

    God bless you on your journey. God bless Steven Crowder too. I get encouragement from both your stories.

    • math_geek

      God lifts Saints up to heaven with him and also lifts them up by performing miracles through them.

      We lifts Saints up by praising their good works an their incredible faith.

      Steven Crowder lifts himself up by pointing out to the world how much better he and his wife are than “those other people.” Much like the Pharisee in the temple, “Thank God I’m not like that Tax Collector.” Except Crowder doesn’t even give thanks to God for his holiness, he asserts that he earned it himself.

      Calah is defending the Christian faith by calling him out on this crap.

      • Randy

        I agree he is patting himself on the back. We need to be careful when we do that. We certainly should not come before God and do that. But we can point out when we did the right thing and we were blessed as a result. That kind of story is not always going to be crap. It can actually encourage others who are trying to live that out.

        I am glad Calah expressed that she felt judged. Steven could have been more sensitive in the way he phrased things. He is a comedian and not a pastor so we should not expect a lot of sensitivity but that does not release him from being charitable.

        I do also feel people can be too sensitive. I don’t think God wants us to ever feel judged for sins that we have been forgiven for. That is easier said than done. But it is what we want to strive for. Don’t say, “You jerk Steven!” but rather say, “Praise God for I have been forgiven much!”

  • Bre

    The thing is, if you were one of my friends, part of my circle, no one would have judged you. Having sex before marriage, living together before marriage, and having a child without being married would not provoke judgement, shame, or scorn from us. We would’ve celebrated with you on the birth of your child and at your wedding, no matter the order. Almost all of my friends had sex before they were married, and almost all of them lived together. Only a couple had a child out of wedlock (we all knew it was an ‘oops’ but there was no shame, it was just life). My friends are atheists and for the most part quite socially liberal. We are not plagued by guilt or the idea of sin, and we do believe others should be, either. If you are happy in your faith, then good for you. But if you lived where I lived and were one of my friends or siblings, you would’ve had a different experience. Oh, I completely agree that whats-his-name is a complete and total asshat, which is somewhat ironic considering how different your beliefs are from mine!

  • Josh

    @ Bre – Calah may not have been judged by your circle, but neither would she have been encouraged in virtue, which is what she needed at the time more than non-judgement. (I’m guessing here, but my marriage started in almost identical circumstances to hers. The judgement was annoying and sometimes paralyzing, but the encouragement in virtue was salvific.) When you throw out the hobgoblins of guilt and sin, you also get rid of virtue. If you can’t be wrong, you can’t be right.

  • http://Enteryouremailhere gerry

    Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

  • Ailina

    I’m sure this fella who wrote the article had struggles waiting until the wedding day to have sex. What young red-blooded person wouldn’t? I’m sure he was mocked, albeit in a different way than you, and faced intense peer pressure and societal pressure not to wait. Kudos to him and his wife for being stubborn enough to overcome all that pressure and actually wait.

    So he has a reason to be happy and proud about accomplishing what he has. It is no small feat in this day and age.

    It doesn’t mean his marriage will be perfect and smooth sailing. Staying married is very hard indeed, and I can only wish both him and his wife, and you and your husband, the best in that regard.

  • Manny

    “Most of you know a bit about my history. Drug addiction, unwed pregnancy, conversion.”

    Did you see today’s (9/20/12)? Your conversion is exactly what Jesus was talking about.

    A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,
    and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
    Now there was a sinful woman in the city
    who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
    Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
    she stood behind him at his feet weeping
    and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
    Then she wiped them with her hair,
    kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
    When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
    “If this man were a prophet,
    he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
    that she is a sinner.”
    Jesus said to him in reply,
    “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
    “Tell me, teacher,” he said.
    “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
    one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.
    Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
    Which of them will love him more?”
    Simon said in reply,
    “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”
    He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
    (Luke chpt 7)

    God be with you. Of course He is.