Wearing Your Virginity on Your Sleeve

A long time lurker on my blog just sent me a link to a Fox News opinion piece called Waiting Til the Wedding Night: Getting Married the Right Way. Here’s how it starts:

“As anyone who’s read my abstinence column here at Fox News Opinion could guess, my wedding is something that I’ve looked forward to for quite some time. After having tied the knot at the end of August, I can now say beyond all shadow of a doubt, that it was everything I’d hoped and prayed that it would be since childhood. …

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.”

In response to this article this article, my reader had a couple of questions. I’m going to address them one at a time, and then finish with some additional thoughts.

“How can people that there is only the One True Way (TM) to do things?”

Yes, evangelicals and fundamentalists do believe there is only one true way of doing things – God’s way. Of course, God’s way depends on how a given Christian interprets the Bible, but nevertheless, as the words of a song I learned as a child but can’t find online, “God’s way is the best way.” This is where you get titles like “Growing Kids God’s Way.” For evangelicals and fundamentalists, the goal is to do things God’s way. Always. Even little things. Everything.

A whole industry has grown up around figuring out and explaining just what “God’s way” is. Pastors help explain what “God’s way” is, Christian advice books and Bible study guides add their voice, and organizations like Focus on the Family or No Greater Joy ministries are eager to explain “God’s way” to devout and earnest evangelicals and fundamentalists.

Here’s another excerpt from the article:

I think it’s important to write this column not to gloat (though I’ll be glad to), but to speak up for all of the young couples that have also done things the right way. When people do marriage right, they don’t complain so much, and so their voices are silenced by the rabble of promiscuous charlatans, peddling their pathetic world view as “progressive.”

It just so happens that when it comes to marriage, dating, and courtship, the current evangelical and fundamentalist consensus on “God’s way” is that you must remain abstinent until marriage, and you certainly must not live together. Abstinence until marriage is God’s way, and therefore it is the only way. So to answer that first question, yes, evangelicals and fundamentalists do believe there is only one true way to do things. It’s very black and white, as is everything about evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

What I don’t think the author of that article realizes, though, is what is implicit in my reader’s question. See, most people don’t believe that there is only one way to do things right. Most people believe that couples should do what is right for them, not what someone else tells them to do. If a couple wants to wait for marriage, fine! I’m not going to tell them they can’t! I think, though, that because evangelicals and fundamentalists believe that there is only one right way of doing things and try to push that on everyone else, they project this on others and think that others must feel the same. But we don’t. We really, really don’t.

“Is the good and wholesomeness of a Christian truly based only on a person’s sexual inexperience?”

You know, it’s always interesting to note how people outside of evangelical and fundamentalist culture perceive those on the inside. Growing up, I was devoted to following God’s command to remain sexually pure until marriage. It was what God commanded, it was what was best for me (I was taught that if you have sex with a guy before he makes the commitment of marriage, he either leave you, having gotten what he had wanted, or if he stayed with you he would never respect you and you would never respect him, leading to a troubled marriage). What I didn’t realize is that many people saw my purity ring not as a sign of my devotion to God and his commands but rather as coming from a bizarre need to broadcast the state of my hymen. And what I didn’t realize is that people like the reader who sent me the link above would see my fascination with sexual purity and come to the conclusion that “the good and wholesomeness of a Christian” must be “based only on a person’s sexual inexperience.”

Short answer? Yes. Yes, the good and wholesomeness of a Christian, at least in the circles where I grew up, was based primarily on a person’s sexual inexperience.

I could have spent 60 hours a week working at a soup kitchen, or tutoring disadvantaged kids, or building homes for the homeless, and if I was sleeping with my boyfriend I would still be viewed as sullied and in rebellion against God. In contrast, I could do nothing for the poor or needy but maintain and broadcast my virginity and I would be viewed as pure and walking in God’s ways. Similarly, I could spend all of my free time in Bible study, prayer, and learning Greek and Hebrew to read the Bible in its original text and yet, if I was sleeping with my boyfriend, none of that would matter.

Whether or not someone is having sex should be irrelevant to their accomplishments, talents, and value. But that’s not how it works in fundamentalist and evangelical circles. For people who claim that the world is “sex obsessed,” evangelicals and fundamentalists are actually extremely obsessed with sex themselves.

“Do they all hold this attitude towards those who are different?”

In the article, the author exhibits an obvious condescension for those who don’t wait until their wedding days to have sex. There’s a whole lot of judging going on, and it’s not at all veiled:

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.

Oops. Did I just make a “judgment?”  You’re darn right I did.

I can’t speak for everyone, but as an evangelical I definitely felt this way about those who were living “the world’s way.” I knew that I had things right, I was following God, and I looked at those who were following “the lusts of their flesh” with a mixture of condescension and pity (more of the first than the latter). They were worldy. They were sinners. I mean my goodness! I even thought that people who weren’t Christians weren’t capable of truly loving another person, because they were so obsessed with themselves!

Of course, I believed that it was Jesus’ job to judge, not my job. I was just supposed to love others. Somehow that sounds good in theory but doesn’t work out well in practice. I suppose that in the moments when I was feeling more humble (reminding myself that all my accomplishments were God’s, not mine, and that on my own I was a worthless sinner) the emotion I felt was pity toward those “poor lost souls” who lived lives of utter debauchery because they didn’t know any better, and when I was feeling more proud (I was, after all, working hard to keep myself from sin and from sexual impurity, and it’s hard to put all the effort into that without sometimes feeling proud of it) the emotion I felt was condescension toward those “worldly sinners” who were rebelling against God and rejecting God’s commandments.

Conclusion

I want to take a moment to point out that in my experience evangelicals and fundamentalists are extremely bad at interpreting the actions of those “in the world.” This passage is an especially good example of that:

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.

We’d certainly never make it to the wedding without schtupping, and if we did, our “wedding night would be awkward and terrible,” they said.

The author obviously feels that he was persecuted. Judged. But I have to ask. How did people even know that he and his bride were waiting until marriage? One could only “poke fun” at this couple’s determination to save sex until marriage if one knew about it. So, clearly, this couple was broadcasting their celibacy. No wonder people poked fun at them! The couple could have kept their choices regarding sex private and simply waited until marriage before having sex. This wouldn’t have been that hard! But, of course, they didn’t.

Also, let’s get this whole “judging” thing clear. Is saying “you’ll never make it to your wedding night without having sex” judging? Um, no. Is someone saying with a smile that you’re “naive” judging? Again, I don’t think so. Is telling the couple that their wedding night is going to be awkward so they shouldn’t expect too much out of it judging? Nope. Let’s turn things around, then. I don’t think it’s a leap to think that in broadcasting their celibacy, this couple also spoke of how this was the only correct way to do things, and that the way everyone else did things was wrong. Now that is judging.

Looking back, I think that the women saying those things felt like the floozies they ultimately were, and the men, with their fickle manhood tied to their pathetic sexual conquests, felt threatened.

The author honestly thinks that the reason people laughed at him for waiting isn’t because they saw the idea of waiting to have sex until marriage as outdated, unnecessary, and potentially unhealthy but rather because they were feeling guilty that they hadn’t. And the author sees women who have had premarital sex as “floozies,” but he doesn’t call men who have had premarital sex that. Instead he says the men felt insecure because they had “their fickle manhood tied to their pathetic sexual conquests.” In other words, these men felt unmanly because the women they married were so “easy” that they put out before marriage, and that his own “conquest,” because she said “no” to sex until he married her, was somehow superior. This is so messed up I don’t even know where to start. And I’m out of time, so I’m not going to. Feel free to have at it!

I want to finish with an excerpt from an excellent blog article by a young woman who grew up in a fundamentalist family:

It’s not just purity that’s turned into a contest. It’s all of it. Who’s the purest, who has the most godly, most proverbs-31 house with the beautiful stuff in it, who has the best husband, who has most blessings from god.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Judy L.

    A marriage isn’t a success simply because the wedding happened.

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      That was my first thought too.

    • tum

      I read the article about doing marriage right when it came out. Amazing that someone who has been married for a few weeks thinks he can proclaim his marriage a success. Hopefully real life and the sickness and health, better or worse, richer or poorer part of marriage won’t be too devasting for him.

  • machintelligence

    I am a humble man. In fact, I am known far and wide for my humility! */snark*

  • Stony

    Be sure to check out the Jezebel.com takedown on this one, and check the comments. They did a beautiful job. They also caught what I caught: the glaring inconsistencies in his recounting of the breakfast conversation that was held the morning after. It appears to have been cobbled up out of whole cloth.

    Thanks, Libby Anne, for your review on this. You bring great insight to the world behind the words.

    • Stony
      • SophieUK

        Thanks Stony – interesting and hilarious discussion but is anyone else finding the format of the site impossible to use?! Not all the comments are in a nice straightforward, one “after the other” format and some comments aren’t there at all – is there any way of changing this?

      • Stony

        If you’re referring to the comments on that site, then no, you’re at the mercy of the Gawker/Jezebel comment format which may be my least favorite on the whole of the grand old internets. It has almost, but not quite, turned me off that site.

      • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

        The blog network Jezebel is part of completely broke their comment system and won’t listen to all the users who tell them they hate it. If you use Firefox there is an app that will make the comments behave normally https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/kotaku-fix-fox-edition/?src=search There is probably a similar one for Chrome.

    • Nicholas Kapur

      Oh man, I loved that whole story. I’ll just copy what I wrote about it on my own Facebook wall:

      ————————————-

      My favorite part is the huge dramatic anecdote in the middle, in which he encounters a newlywed woman (and some other people from their wedding?) who is incredibly happy with her relationship, had a blast the previous night at her wedding, and has an utterly rocking sex life.

      His response, of course, is to jump straight to heartrending pity for this poor creature and her empty, meaningless facsimile of being; a woman whose mere presence could cause one to forget the existence of anything but bleak despair, were it not for the inspiration to be drawn from her nigh-miraculous ability to get herself out of bed in the morning, and — much, much more importantly — the stark contrast by which her ontological void of a “life” highlights the truly staggering superiority of the author’s own marriage (and, indeed, his very person).

      Frankly, I suspect he gives her too much credit when he states: ‘Our “weddings” were the same event in name only. They know it, and we know it.’ I simply cannot imagine that such a pitiful thing can have a consciousness capable of grasping the futility of its own existence without having ended it by now. Perhaps she can be said to be “self-aware,” in a technical sense, but I maintain that she is in fact *legitimately ignorant* of the degree to which the author’s wedding was both better and more important than her own in every significant way.

  • dj pomegranate

    “…because evangelicals and fundamentalists believe that there is only one right way of doing things and try to push that on everyone else, they project this on others and think that others must feel the same. But we don’t. We really, really don’t.”

    THIS.

  • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

    All I can think is, “Glad you’re happy. So am I, so stop saying I did things wrong.”

    One thing that stuck out at me was this–”When people do marriage right, they don’t complain so much, and so their voices are silenced .” But if people think they’re doing stuff ‘right’ and trying to convince others to do as they did, would they complain even if they weren’t happy? (Plus I really wonder how much ‘happiness’ in these situations comes from lack of experience–you’re less likely to be discontent with something if you don’t realise things could be better than they are. I sometimes think that fundies are trying to prevent divorce by convincing people things are as good as they’re gonna get). By the same token, he’s not hearing from us ‘worldly’ couples who are happy because frankly, we’ve got better things to do than to tell everyone how happy we are. Like “schtupping”–who the hell says that?

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      “Like “schtupping”–who the hell says that?”

      Um, Jews. It’s Yiddish. lol. I don’t know if he’s trying to sound cool or what…

      And that line stuck out at me too. “When people do marriage right, they don’t complain so much.” How about, if people think there’s only one way to do marriage right and they do it, and it doesn’t result in happiness, they’re not GOING to complain because they’re not going to feel they have the right–after all, they did it the “right way.” Therefore, if it doesn’t result in perfection, it can only mean there’s something wrong with them. And why would they broadcast that to the world?

      Honestly, this guy sounds like a dumb kid more than anything else. The idea that I or anyone should accept anything he has to say about marriage as wisdom is just laughable.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        Ah, thanks for the info. I’ve never heard it before.

      • LPBB

        Heh. I’m replying to this because I can’t seem to reply later in the thread. The Scrabble dictionary accepts *so many* Yiddish words. I am just waiting for the day that I can whip out “schmuck” or “schtup” or “schmutz” on a triple word score or just any word score. Sadly I never seem to have S C and H and the right vowels in my rack at the same time.

    • Attackfish

      Like “schtupping”–who the hell says that?

      Me and my Ashkenazi Jewish family. He needs to get his grubby hands off.

      • Judy L.

        That was my thought too.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Me too, honestly. Normally I feel proud of the fact that we have contributed to the American lexicon but when people like this use Yiddish it just feels like appropriation. Rational? Probably not. lol

      • Carol

        Hear hear. Please. what gives this goniff the right.

      • smrnda

        And if you’re going to use Yiddish, please use it correctly. There are plenty of handy little Yiddish phrase guides to help you.

  • smrnda

    I don’t think waiting until you’re married is necessary, but I haven’t noticed anybody being mocked or judged for choosing to wait at all . Given what a bubble most evangelical and fundamentalist Christians live in, I doubt they have enough contact with the outside world (except mediated through television) to have been mocked or ridiculed or criticized. They *feel* criticized because, as I’ve said before, they don’t understand the concept of neutrality. To them, if you live together, you’re saying EVERYBODY should do what you’re doing, and if you do things “God’s way” you’re saying that EVERYBODY should do things God’s way – the idea that people can just live with the idea that not everyone does things the same way is alien to them.

    The other thing is that it’s clear that this is a pissing contest about who is the most pure. I mean, isn’t Christianity about humility, and about God’s grace? Isn’t a person who is making a big point that they waited until marriage to have sex like the Pharisee in the temple? I mean, what about all the atheists who didn’t have sex until they were married – there are some. I mean, within the Christian worldview itself it makes no sense to put this much value on sexual purity. It also seems designed to create a status hierarchy – the Christians who ‘weren’t pure’ when they were married are always going to be viewed as second-class, regardless of the teachings on forgiveness.

    Also, the whole ‘feeling judged, I don’t care since other people made me feel judged” totally goes against the whole ‘turn the other cheek’ and is more the eye for an eye kind of deal.

    The other problem is when people say “it’s worth it,” I could find an equal number of people who did things otherwise who would say their way was best because of the results. I’ve been told by lots of people that they were happy they had sex before they were married or with multiple partners. I think the big difference in terms of who I would listen to is who is willing to admit that what worked for them might not work for others.

    I also don’t get the emphasis on this ‘incredible wedding night.’ It seems really backwards of me to focus on this ‘wedding experience’ and not the marriage. The wedding is one f-ing day. ONE DAY. A marriage lasts a long time. Seriously, why is an amazing one day (or more properly, a part of a day) worth so much? Some of the happiest couples I know never had a wedding. They filled out the form at the courthouse and that was that.

    • plutosdad

      “but I haven’t noticed anybody being mocked or judged for choosing to wait at all . ”

      I’ve experienced it, if you go to a normal college (I went to Illinois). I was not like this guy looking down on people, I didn’t even talk about it, but people asked me “why don’t you have sex more” and i said “because of my religion, I want to wait” which was apparently not a good enough answer. Some people even got angry with me, I’m not sure why. I know vegetarians tell me the same thing. When someone asks them why they are a vegetarian, and they explain it, the other person almost always gets mad and says “you think you’re better than me?” And they say “well you asked me why”

      Of course, looking back, i think the whole idea of sex being evil outside of a marriage, and waiting, was awful, and really harmed my ability to have normal, healthy relationships, and to grow and mature as a person.

      • smrnda

        I might be an oddity then, but I was also female which could have had a lot to do with it, and I *think* that a lot of the people who have said they felt judged on this were male, so my experiences can hardly be comparable.

      • Aurora

        I’ve definitely seen this, especially at college. I think part of it is a reaction to having people judge you for doing the opposite (for example, I have to be careful not to judge vegans because every single one I’ve ever met has lambasted me for not thinking, for example, that giving a kid a hamburger is child abuse, so I tend to get defensive even though I know there must be plenty of vegans who won’t try to guilt me into giving up ice cream). I think it’s also partly that it’s become rather uncommon in our culture (I have no idea what percentage of people set out intending to wait, but some 90% of Americans have sex before marriage), so people see it as sort of strange.

        But I think the biggest part (and one that doesn’t apply so much to other issues) is that sex in general is viewed as a bit of a contest. Like Libby Anne was saying about the purity culture being about who can be the most pure, there is also a contest among many people as to who can have the most sex. Someone deeply entrenched in either one of these contests would find the other extreme absolutely absurd. Think about it, if you and your friends are trying to one up each other on who can sleep with the most people in the shortest amount of time (it’s usually not quite so literal, but it can be), what do you make of someone who doesn’t want to have sex? It’s just unfathomable. So even outside of that extreme, if you’re used to the world of virgin=loser, lots of sex=cool, elective abstinence is an alien concept. And we tend to view people who opt out of social norms as thinking they’re better than everyone else, even though that’s *usually* not true. You’re too cool to care that people think not having sex makes you a loser? Well aren’t you a goody-two-shoes.

        That’s just my two cents. I hadn’t really articulated that before, so I apologize if it’s unclear. Mostly now I’m just baffled as to what it is about sex that makes us view it so competitively.

  • math_geek

    I understand the frustration with this excruciatingly poorly written article, even if I agree (sort of) with the principle of abstinence outside of marriage. However, when you say “How did people even know that he and his bride were waiting until marriage? One could only “poke fun” at this couple’s determination to save sex until marriage if one knew about it. So, clearly, this couple was broadcasting their celibacy.” I think you are drawing a very unfounded conclusion.

    In my secular circles of friends, we talk about sex all the time, meaning that eventually the fact that I haven’t had sex will either come up in conversation or be revealed from other statements. I’ve absolutely been mocked for my chastity without having done anything to “broadcast it.” I’ve taken crap for not escorting a woman back to my hotel room. I’ve interacted in social circles where “virgin” and “can’t get a woman” are go-to insults, and I don’t really have a good set of responses that doesn’t “broadcast” my chastity. This doesn’t bother me that much. When my friends are teasing me, it’s honestly pretty funny and I can tell that A) It’s all in good fun and B) They honestly think I’d be better off if I did have sex. When strangers are doing it, I generally don’t care.

    I recognize that the author comes from a version of Christianity that I would find completely alien and so her experiences are quite different, but I do think there is kind of a double standard being implied in this post and other places. I can’t communicate with people without being open about my life. I go to Mass and Confession, I practice chastity, I was in a religious service organization. These things are part of my life and if we share our lives with each other over the course of a friendship these things will come up. I’m not judging anyone by saying that I was late for lunch because Church ran over or by telling someone that I won’t go to a strip club with them. Furthermore, the fact that I think that going to Church is “right” and not going is “wrong” is simply my part of the same moral calculus that everyone makes. No-one wants a truly “judgement free” society where no-one holds anyone accountable for their actions and their lifestyle. As long as that is the case, arguing about the proper set of moral standards is fair game and in fact necessary.

    • Nicholas Kapur

      However, when you say “How did people even know that he and his bride were waiting until marriage? One could only “poke fun” at this couple’s determination to save sex until marriage if one knew about it. So, clearly, this couple was broadcasting their celibacy.” I think you are drawing a very unfounded conclusion.

      You make a good point, in general — but in this particular case, a quick look at the author’s other posts reveals that his favorite things to talk about (for the last few months, anyway) have been (A) how totally abstinent he is/was, and (B) how much better that makes him and his wife than all of the “floozies” (he really loves that word) around him.

      Even this very article gives a few hints that people might not be reacting to his mere decision to remain abstinent:

      “Looking back, I think that the women saying those things felt like the floozies they ultimately were, and the men, with their fickle manhood tied to their pathetic sexual conquests, felt threatened.”

      “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. Your wedding can be the most memorable day and night of your life… or just another party. [...] Oops. Did I just make a ‘judgment?’ You’re darn right I did.”

      • math_geek

        Fair enough, both to you and to the other comment. His writing really is abysmal, so I was mostly reading Libby’s response to it. It’s negative, boastful and basically sells Christianity with the promise that you too can be a douchebag like him.

        I stand by my perception that all too often “broadcasting” Christianity means living like a Christian in secular circles despite the fact that those differences mean standing out. However, that really doesn’t seem to be the case here as his own writing evidences.

      • RowanVT

        Please tell me, Math Geek, how one living like a christian in secular circles can cause you to stand out? My mother is Christian, my elder brother is agnostic and I’m an atheist. When we’re out and about as a family, there’s no way to tell that Mom is christian. She is kind, loving, accepting, promotes peace and harmony, volunteers, and goes to church.

        Unless your definition of Christian is someone who wears gaudy crosses, or takes their bible everywhere, or prays loudly before meals, or quotes scripture constantly, or otherwise vocally declares their christianity. In which case, yes. They do stand out quite a bit. Maybe if they stopped trying to show everyone else what an amazing christian they are, they wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, hmn?

      • Christine

        @RowanVT I don’t know why Math Geek stands out, but around here I certainly do. I don’t know if you have street fundraisers where you are, but around here you see lots of people paid to get people to sign up to donate to various charities. However, if you tell the the Red Cross ones that you already support an international development agency the answer is normally “ok, thank you” and they look for someone else. And yet I see many many people talking to them. I’m not saying that everyone who donates is a Christian, or that all the Christians are donating, but that’s a lot of people not living like Christians. (And for the record, I told them that it’s MCC, Development and Peace and the Foodgrains bank that I donate to, so it’s not as if I was being misleading).

        I’m fairly sure people noticed that my only contributions to stories about taking hot guys home from the bar were based in psychology, not experience. On a similar note, most of my housemates would have noticed that my door stayed open when my boyfriend was over, and that I was home every weekday night, and he wasn’t at our place.

        Speaking of roommates, most of them woke up early enough to be aware that I was out on Sunday mornings in my nice clothing.

        Unless I was to let how other people see me colour how I practice my religion (sneaking off to church, never wearing a cross, trying hard to hide the fact that I’m praying – if you only notice when people pray loudly it’s because you’re not paying attention), I’m going to be visible. I have always had to fight against a need to hide the fact that I go to church*, etc. because of the social pressure against doing so. And yet it didn’t take long for most of the people I knew (some of this was through the grapevine of course) to know that I was a person to ask if they needed to know mass times, or for a different cultural perspective.

        *If all the people I know from church are only described as “someone I know”, then clearly I have a mental block against mentioning church in normal circumstances. Same for saying where a story took place – if it happened at church, it’s generally just set “the other day” .

      • RowanVT

        Everything you just described, Christine, does not cause one to ‘stand out’. The vast majority of people in the United States are christian, or at least religious. If you live with secular housemates, then over time they’re going to know you are religious. But that’s not “standing out”. And of course I know not all people pray loudly. I was making a point.

        One can be christian, can live in a christian way, without declaring it to all and sundry all the time. Christians stand out when they do things in an obnoxious and pointlessly grand fashion. Street Preachers stand out. The woman who proselytized me via answering machine probably stands out. (“Hi, sorry I’m not home right now. I just want to let you know that Jesus loves you! Please leave a message and God bless you!”) My fundamental evangelical relatives stand out. (“Oh, no! You can’t do it like that, that’s not how God wants you to do it! Let me show you the correct and holy way to accomplish that task.”) The christians who picket Planned Parenthood stand out.

      • Christine

        I think we might be going from a difference of definition in “standing out”. I’m just describing it as stuff that you can do that is different from the normal, that people will notice. By that definition, I don’t see how all the differences I listed above aren’t standing out. I’m sure that there are subcultures, and probably more in the United States, where this isn’t unusual, but in the aforementioned “secular circles” – such as a fairly big, but not very visibly ethnically diverse city, one really does. If we’re saying that standing out is drawing attention to the fact that you’re different for the sake of drawing attention, I quite agree, one can, and from a Christian perspective should, live in a Christian way without doing so.

        The quiet vs noisy prayer distinction was made only so that I could point out that people around me notice when I say grace, or pray at other times during the day, as another area where I “stood out” while still being clear it it was under normal practice rather than ostentaious. I was fairly sure that you knew that one.

    • alfaretta

      The author himself says:

      As anyone who’s read my abstinence column here at Fox News Opinion could guess, my wedding is something that I’ve looked forward to for quite some time.

      If that’s not “broadcasting,” I don’t know what is.

    • Christine

      Even without specific comments made to the author, there is a very definite “it’s a bad idea to wait until you’re married” trend, largely in the 20-something crowd. I think it’s because saying “I would find it too difficult to wait” is a negative thing, where as “it’s too difficult to expect people to wait” is a general one, and a lot easier to jump to, instead of finding a argument that doesn’t simply go “I’m not wrong, you’re wrong”.

      There seems to be a very clear cultural trend that it’s not enough to defend your choices, you have to say that they’re better, and that because they’re better, everyone should make the same choices you did.

      Oh, and for the record: the awkwardness was part of the fun.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        I advocate for the freedom for everyone to do whatever they want as it should be but I, personally, don’t see any good secular reason to wait (I’m leaving out religious reasons since they don’t apply to me since I don’t believe in any gods). Stuff like getting STDs or getting pregnant aren’t reasons per se not to wait but to have sex responsibly and use protection. Fidelity or respect don’t have anything to do with you having sex or not but with communication, limits and good partnership. I haven’t been married but I’ve been living with my boyfriend for 7 of the 10 years we’ve been together, imagine waiting that long sharing the same bed XP If you are wondering why we ren’t married, that is because I proposed that we waited until we were both finished with university and with jobs before it so as I’m taking forever to finish Medicine…

      • Anat

        Christine, both “I would find it too difficult to wait” and “it’s too difficult to expect people to wait” make the assumptions that waiting is desirable, and some people forgo it because of claimed hardship (or perhaps some character deficiency of theirs). Some people do not wait because they don’t consider waiting desirable (for them). I fully expected to go through several relationships of several months or years each until I decided to marry the man of my choosing, and it was obvious to me those relationships were going to be sexual. It so happened that once I got into the whole relationship thing (I was a bit of a late bloomer, skipped teenage dating altogether) I met someone very compatible early on.

      • Christine

        I wasn’t trying to say that all the arguments are stupid, just that there are a lot of people making stupid arguments. You’ve put your finger on exactly the problem that I was trying to highlight. If you don’t change the assumptions, any attempt to say that what you’re doing isn’t wrong is saying that the other side is wrong. Instead of saying “you shouldn’t expect people to wait” you need to say that you don’t see any benefit to it. You have managed to avoid saying “you’re wrong” while still getting to say “I’m right”. I don’t know whether it’s lazy argument that causes those problems, or people aren’t being internally consistent with what they believe, but it’s really bad for the argument they’re attempting to make, because it reinforces arguments against it.

      • Rosa

        At least part of that is because the big public abstinence movement is old enough, we now have a fairly significant sample of people who did wait and found that it was a bad idea. And an even bigger sample of people who said they were waiting but totally weren’t. Those stories trickle out. And of course gossip about divorces goes through communities in various directions (turned out he was gay! …you know they just got married because they had the hots for each other, that never works…if they’d lived together first they would have broken up before they had kids, it’s so sad now…) It’s especially cruel, delicious and ironic gossip if the couple in question were the youth discussion leaders of your I Kissed Dating Goodbye or True Love Waits group back in the day.

    • ar

      Excellent points, math__geek. My husband and I were mocked for choosing not to live together prior to marriage. Openly by many people including his sister and my then 14 year old nephew. Without broadcasting that we were not having sex, people inferred it from our waiting to live together and informed us that our marriage was doomed. I agree that the public declarations of virginity in many fundamentalist and evangelical circles are absurd and inappropriate. They are nothing more than an exhibit of misplaced pride. But critiquing that does not negate that we are at a point where just not cohabiting prior to marriage is counter cultural and does truly result in unfair and sometimes hostile judgment from others.

      Incidentally, more and more studies of cohabitation and marriage are showing that it has a negative impact. Some research now suggests that living together prior to engagement often leads to a lack of commitment to any eventual marriage as males in particular report marrying their partner because their lives were intertwined rather than because they desired a true or deep commitment.

      • smrnda

        A problem with ‘our lives are intertwined’ as opposed to ‘we have a true deep commitment’ is that both of these don’t seem to be clearly distinct reasons to me. I used to do psychology research and I found that many of these ‘fill in the bubble’ type answers don’t provide adequate cues to personal feelings and motivations. People’s lives don’t become intertwined without some commitment, and people don’t form commitments unless they’re becoming a significant part of other people’s lives.

        All said, people who editorialize on other people’s relationships unless they’re asked an opinion are grade A a-holes in my book, whether they’re telling you your permanently tainted from premarital sex or that there’s something wrong with not having it. Plus, people aren’t all the same, and we all have very different standards and expectations for what relationships and marriage ought to be.

        It kind of reminds me of how irritated I get when someone picks out one detail of a marriage – like the husband and wife have different last names, they never lived together before marriage, they don’t hold hands in public, got married at the courthouse – you know something that alone says nothing about the quality of marriage but which someone who knows nothing is going to decide it’s proof they have a terrible marriage.

      • Noelle

        The “studies” are correlational, and correlation does not imply causation. They are also not new. We reviewed them when I took a sociology course back in 1997. Sociology is interesting, but doesn’t give exact answers. There are too many conflicting factors in correlational studies. Give me a randomized double-blind control study any day.

        Now then, if you want to randomly assign couples for cohabitation prior to marriage vs non-cohabitating groups, and then follow them serially throughout the course of their lives to determine success, then I’ll be impressed. I wonder how we’d measure success? Longetivity? Happiness scores?

      • Ashton

        Actually these studies are rather old and newer studies are not finding this correlation. This could mean that that trend existed when the original studies were done but society has changed or it could mean that the earlier studies were flawed. Even in the earlier studies, couples who moved in together while engaged did not have higher rates of divorce or other negative outcomes. This was thought to be because they had already made a commitment to spend their lives together.

      • Christine

        I thought it was broader than just “moved in together after they got engaged” – that any case where it was the first live-in relationship had better odds. Or was that only in one study?

        I’ve always found those studies interesting, because if living together to see if a relationship will work was as effective as the proponents of it argue, the stats would be much more strongly in favour of cohabitating, and the trend of cases where there was commitment prior to the couple living together being less likely to divorce (and I’m aware that this is relative to the population as a whole, not just to cohabitating couples) would be reversed.

      • Anat

        Without broadcasting that we were not having sex, people inferred it from our waiting to live together and informed us that our marriage was doomed.

        Err, it is possible to have a very active sex life without cohabiting, you know. My then boyfriend and I didn’t cohabit because we didn’t see the point – why bother paying rent when I could always visit him in his dorm room or at his parents’ home? Eventually we got married when I was in grad school and we decided to buy a home (a married couple had access to better mortgages in Israel of the 1990s). Our relationship is 24 years old, of which we were married for 20. We had sex pretty much from the start, well before we decided the relationship was going to be a long-term one. I see no point to waiting to have sex, but to each their own, they know their lives better than anyone else. Nor would I be recommending my daughter to wait for marriage. Wait till she feels ready, yes. But it is up to her to decide what readiness consists of.

      • Christine

        You would stand out a fair bit in university now. Most of the people in my class who weren’t living with their SO by fourth year were either in a long distance relationship or doing so for religious reasons. Granted, if you’re at a university where it’s socially acceptable to still be in residence in fourth year (aside from the married-to-their-work students who just don’t have the time to find a normal place to live) it’s going to be a bit different, but around here most students living in residence past second year weren’t the ones with significant others. Even a lot of the crazy dedicated students found regular housing.

    • Chris Algoo

      I would say that anyone who uses “virgin” or “can’t-get-a-woman” are just as bad as people who use “harlot/mimbo” to attack people who have sex. It is none of anybody’s fucking (pun unintended) business what people do in their bedrooms and with whom.

    • plutosdad

      But it’s not about sharing your life. Reading his post, what do we see?
      He calls women who have sex outside of marriage names, slut, floozy.
      He makes assumptions:
      that if you have sex outside of marriage, you must have no self control.
      you automatically can trust someone more who has never had sex
      other relationships must be full of distrust, unhappiness

      The truth is no statistics bear out what he is saying. He is not arguing “this works better because of x,y,z” he’s saying “I’m better than you because of my month of marriage makes me so smart”

      • Christine

        I think he’s arguing that he’s better than us because we’re all ignoring the oh-so-obvious truth that his way of reading the Bible has revealed to him, his month of marriage is just a reward for him listening to what we have apparently all actively rejected out of a desire to be evil. (I’m not quite sure what the rationale he assigns to us is. Maybe it’s stupidity?)

    • Aurora

      True, and it’s kind of the same as when anti-gay people complain about gays “broadcasting” their lifestyle. But if a woman simply mentions that she has a girlfriend, or a man walks down the street holding hands with his boyfriend, it’s obvious that they’re gay (or bi). They don’t have to wear a shirt that says “we’re here, we’re queer, get over it” and hand out rainbow pins to every person they see, they “broadcast” their identity simply by existing. Straight people tend not to notice how often they “flaunt” their straightness–”My boyfriend bought me this necklace,” “I’m meeting my wife for dinner,” “I’d like you to meet my fiance.” So what people are really asking, when they tell gay people not to “shove it in their face” is to never talk about their significant other in any way, never act like a couple in public (no holding hands, no hugging, no quick kiss goodbye), never introduce them to anyone (at least, not honestly), and basically treat their partner as though they don’t matter. Sounds fair.

      People should be allowed to be who they are–Christian, atheist, Muslim, gay, straight, bi, who cares. If you can’t be open–not obnoxious, but honest–about it, that’s just not fair to you. People (basically all people) really need to learn to respect other’s no matter what their differences.

  • Ray

    The writer didnt really consider those that can’t get marry (same sex couples for instance) and those who don’t want to get married or have a wedding at all. I predict the writer would say something to the tune of “no you can’t have sex ever cause you didn’t put a ring on it”, but they might surprise me.
    It’s a bit frustrating with these types of messages because while Fox news targets a very select audience, it is still there and it’s telling me that if I had feelings of someone who is of the same sex as me I would have to remain celibate. Regardless of my partner and I’s sex drive and regardless on if we were married in a state that accepted same sex marriage and live in a state that disregards thar marriage.
    I understand the whole STD problem, but this is why I believe schools and parents need to cover and demonstrate (using a banana to put on a condom, etc) safe sex and consent. Plus mentioning there is more than penetrative sex in the world.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      I doubt he gives much of a shit about the first group, and probably considers the second group to be immoral and unwilling to commit (because being married and being in a committed relationship are totally the same thing). So of course he didn’t consider them–they’re obviously ‘doing it wrong’.

    • JenV

      “my partner’s and my sex drive…” Sorry. Couldn’t let that one slip by.

  • smrnda

    A friend of mine in college went on a date with a guy she met online. Afterwards she asked him if he wanted to go up to her apartment to have coffee. He went on about how improper that would be since it might look like they were having sex. When she told him she was definitely not having sex with him, he made a remark that ‘you never know what can happen’ and her last words to the guy were ‘so you’re a rapist? glad to know that now.’ I’m sure the guy was doing what he felt was the right and decent thing, but to someone on the outside like my friend, it looked like he was putting on a performance that nobody would actually see, that would impress an internalized audience. Her other thought was that if the people he knows are going to be wondering if they had sex if they happened to spend 15 minutes in an apartment together, she doesn’t want to be part of a social circle that’s that nosy and judgmental. Part of this I think was just a culture clash, where ‘polite’ can be read as ‘obnoxious’ in the wrong culture.

    Something that prompts this type of behavior (the guy in the anecdote I supplied and the article) the level of openness towards ‘the group’ or ‘the church’ that religions demand. I went to a few church services and the extent to which individuals were expected to divulge highly personal information to near total strangers was frightening. It was like there was no privacy at all. I’m not the type of person to just drop a lot of personal info to someone I’ve just met, and it was kind of scary. It also made me think that any attempt to have any sort of privacy is seen as almost immoral – if a guy and a girl spent some time together in an apartment someone would ask them about it, and I’m sure ‘not your business’ isn’t a correct answer. I mean, I knew lots of my friends had or have sex, but I don’t speculate and I don’t ask.

    • Anonymous Atheist

      That’s why at some ultra-Christian colleges, dates are only allowed with good ol’-fashioned chaperones.

      • smrnda

        Wow, these conservative Christians – did they study how they do things in North Korea or what?

  • Emma

    They’ve been happily married for almost 27 years, and have been together for over 35. Despite having done things “the wrong way.” Congratulations to the author on getting married, but it’s a bit early to gloat that his marriage will automatically be better than people like my parents.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Ditto with mine! My parents will have been married for 29 happy years this December. They lived together first and they had had relationships (with sex and everything) with others before meeting. The idea that this self-congratulating little putz who’s been married a month would tell them that they’ve done their marriage wrong and they secretly envy his life in their deepest hearts makes me laugh.

    • Discordia

      Yes, this. My parents have been happily married almost 33 years, they lived together before marriage and had been together about 8 years before getting married. They didn’t even have a wedding, they just got married with two close friends present, and they told their parents and other relatives about getting married a day after getting married. Who is this guy to tell that my parents can’t have a happy marriage because they “did their marriage wrong way”?

    • Rosa

      My parents waited (and I know this because MY DAD TOLD ME, ew.) and they were happy for something less than 10 years, then unhappy for another 12, and then in the middle of a bitter and terrible divorce for 4 more.

      And they think my brother and I are skeptical of the institution because they did eventually divorce, as if the marriage itself had no impact on us as we grew up in it.

  • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

    Once again, as with purity rings, I’m struck by the indelicacy of the whole thing. I’m obviously not saying that people shouldn’t talk about sex, but I find it really baffling that people with such conservative viewpoints feel the need to broadcast their sexual status. It seems rather contradictory. I have a theory that my home state of Massachusetts is so liberal in part because of older ingrained cultural conservatism that mandates sex is a private topic. Someone’s sex life is not anyone else’s business, therefore people don’t try to restrict or dictate the sex lives of other people. Does this make sense to anyone else?

    Also, what is ‘worth it’ exactly? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this fully articulated. What precisely are they hoping for?

    • Karen

      “Also, what is ‘worth it’ exactly? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this fully articulated. What precisely are they hoping for?”

      I’ve never understood that either.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Yeah, I can’t get over that either, Bix. It just seems so crude and unseemly. I don’t want to hear about mindblowing your wedding night (har har, nudge nuge, wink wink) was, random dude. I don’t need to know that you and your wife didn’t perform ANY sex acts at all before your wedding (are you sure you don’t want to enumerate all of them so we get a more vivid picture of what you waited to do?) Shut the fuck up.

      I am happy with my sexual choices too but I don’t write articles about them for everyone to read. Maybe I should? Also, I have decided that I want an Impurity ring. Why should announcing your sexual history with jewelry just be something for sexually inexperienced Christians? Why should there only be a “I’ve never had a penis in my vagina!” ring. There can be lots of other kinds. Like “I’ve totally had a penis in my vagina lots of times!” and “I’ve never had penetrative vaginal intercourse but I’ve given lots of blowjobs!” Seriously, let’s all join the fun. Taste and dignity are so overrated.

      • Christine

        I know I’m hijacking somewhat, but if you’re into Science Fiction you should check out Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga. Specifically the bits about the earrings that Betans wear. (It gets more interesting in the later books). Basically they’re intended to save people the embarrassment of propositioning someone who isn’t interested in what is being propositioned.

      • Rae

        Back in middle school there were rumors that the color and number of jelly bracelets (I think in this middle school generation, it’s silly bands, but it’s always some silly fad accessory or whatever) that you wore indicated what kind of and how many sex acts you did/were willing to perform. Of course, everyone I knew was just like “I don’t care, I just think the bracelets are cool”, so I never knew anyone who used them or seriously thought that they were used for that purpose. (Aside from a few alarmist parents who never go on snopes.com)

        And some parts of the asexual community have taken to wearing black rings on their left hands (ie, where a wedding band might go) to denote their orientation, which actually doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on their sexual history.

  • Niemand

    Waiting until marriage is not a bad thing but, like anything else, it has its own risks. You may not be sexually compatible with your partner. You may find yourself in 20 years feeling unhappy about never being able to explore your sexuality fully and want to divorce, even though you’re still in love, happy, and even sexually attracted to your partner. You may be left by your partner when s/he feels that you are incompatible or s/he wants to explore his/her sexuality outside the context of your relationship. Willing to accept those risks and think them worth the benefits? Go for it and best of luck! I have no negative judgement to make of that decision. Unless, that is, you try to force it on me. My decisions and risk/benefit analysis are different and I chose a different path. Not one I’ll claim is better for all, just more right for me. If we’re all happy with our choices, why should one party be said to be doing it “right”, the other “wrong”?

    • lucrezaborgia

      Lots of swingers are married couples with 10+ years under their belts

  • Chris Algoo

    It gets harder and harder to not see Christians as sneering, judgmental jerks.

  • smrnda

    I’m kind of surprised by how many people got negative feedback for not having sex or living together before marriage – all the friends I ever had were pretty much ‘not my business’ regarding anybody’s sex life and outside of cases where people were in really bad relationships, almost nobody ever offered an unsolicited opinion. Either way you’re going it strikes me as seriously rude. Even if you *think* you know better, are you really telling anyone a perspective they haven’t heard a million times before?

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      Yes, this is what I was driving at in my earlier comment. I’m really taken aback when people ask unsolicited questions about someone’s sex life, because I’ve always considered that really private. I’m very open to talking about sex in general, but pressuring someone to talk about their personal experiences is, in my opinion, really adolescent. So is holding up your own experiences as some paragon for everyone to emulate.

      • LPBB

        I’m coming in a couple of days late on this one, but I’m with you guys.

        I guess part of the issue is that as a secular, sexually active woman who was raised in a secular home and never grew up with these hang-ups, I just assume that all the couples I know are having sex. I just don’t ask for details because I DON’T CARE! Honestly, I really don’t even care if a couple isn’t doing it. It doesn’t matter to me and doesn’t affect me. The only sexual relationship that I care about is my own relationship with my partner and the only people that I am going to discuss that with, other than my partner, are very very very close friends.

        In my heart of hearts I might think that a couple that is “saving” themselves for marriage is naive and courting trouble down the line, but why would I tell them that? It’s none of my business!! Just like it’s none of my business how much monkey hot sex you have and in which positions. And, quite frankly, I really don’t need to hear about it either way.

        For all the talk about how worldly culture puts so much emphasis on sex, fundagelical culture seems to put even more emphasis on sex by trumpeting how they’re not having sex, thank you very much, and calling folks outside of their belief system “floozies” and “mimbos” for behaving in a manner that they personally disapprove of.

  • Karen

    As a lapsing Catholic, I didn’t feel particularly guilty about having sex with my fiance. He married me anyhow, and we’ve had a generally good marriage for 32 years. We’ve gone through parallel transitions in our spiritual lives and have come out of them as atheists, so I’m no longer required to believe that sex before marriage ought to even be bad. But to each their own. Someone else’s sex life is none of my business!

    I will assert that spending some “living” time with one’s Best Beloved, whether or not you live together or have sex together, is very helpful in determining day-to-day compatibility. Whether that’s studying together, grocery shopping together, being lab partners in a class, doing laundry together… these things tell you if this person is going to drive you crazy when you’re married. For example, as a result of “living time”, Best Beloved and I learned that we’re incompatible at close collaboration, and so we divvy up projects into His and Her jobs, and don’t step in to “help” the other unless asked. We had to solve that problem before either of us were willing to commit to marriage.

    • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

      I will assert that spending some “living” time with one’s Best Beloved, whether or not you live together or have sex together, is very helpful in determining day-to-day compatibility.

      Indeed. My wife and I didn’t have sex before marriage, due to having a bad case of religion at the time (though we did go a good bit further than we were “supposed” to, by the standards of that culture). But we did have a good deal of “domestic” time owing to the fact that we went to universities in different cities (neither one of which being where our parents lived) — so when we visited each other, it was generally for a week at a time, during which we were effectively living together. Also, we managed to go camping together during the summers.

      And like you, we’re at 32 years and counting….

      • Rovin’ Rockhound

        I agree, but I would add that there is a significant benefit to actually living together for some time before marriage. I lived with my boyfriend for 4 years out of a 6 year relationship. If we had just dated, or just had “domestic” time together, even having sex, I would never have learned just how selfish and condescending he really is. Those things showed up on the day-to-day living, when people were stressed about work, when the dog was sick in the middle of the night, when the dishes piled up in the sink, the trash had to be remembered to be taken out, and the grass needed mowing. The incompatibility would have become an issue after the honeymoon period was over and the responsibilities started piling up, and we either would have divorced (probably with a kid), or lived unhappily ever after. You don’t find out about those things when you are just occasionally seeing each other.

  • wanderer

    My first thought was surprise that the author said the wedding was all they dreamed it would be (didn’t really talk about whether the wedding night was very fun – but it was implied to be great). Then I realized it was a man writing and I thought. Oh…of course. He got some (finally). How does SHE feel?

    • Stony

      He did not “get some”, as you so crudely put it. He made sweet, perfect love to his sweet perfect wife with Jesus there in the room with them. There was no pain or mess or awkwardness. Cherubs flew about the perfectly decorated boudoir (strewn with rose petals) and when they farted, little hearts blew out their asses. He knew exactly what she needed to feel comfortable and aroused and what he needed and he delivered. They both had mind-blowing, earth shattering orgasms, probably MANY of them, vaginally, with no clitoral stimulation or foreplay required. Y’all are just jealous!!

      Oh wait, no, he’s totally full of crap. Carry on.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        And they had those orgasms simultaneously every time. Don’t forget that!

      • A Reader

        Bahahaha I wish this site had a like button for comments!

  • http://omorka.blogspot.com/ Omorka

    “Your wedding can be the most memorable day and night of your life… or just another party,” he said.

    My immediate and emphatic vote’s for “Just another party.” I mean, my gods, can you imagine spending the next 50 or 60 years of your life knowing that “the most memorable day and night of your life” is irrevocably *behind* you? How awful!

    My wedding was a lot of fun. I learned a lot from it, and I’ve thrown several better parties since then. I dearly hope that they will only get better and better with time and age. (I’ll leave the corollary argument, as an exercise for the reader, there.)

    • Christine

      The problem with your wedding being just another party is that everyone gets upset with you if you try to actually do that.

      • Anat

        Since ‘everyone’ (OK, our respective parents and grandparents) were more invested in our wedding going one way or another we let them do most of the planning. I didn’t shop around for wedding halls/restaurants/caterers etc. I didn’t even try out dresses (my mother and I wore the same sizes back then so …). I was a grad student – too busy for that stuff. So we let those who cared work it out and chose to be more guests than hosts at our own wedding.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        We’ve already told our families we are going to get married by ourselves (and if we cna in Japan or the Spanish embassy in Japan if we have money to go, it would double as honeymoon) and then phone them to tell them and when we can back, we’ll invite our parents and afterwards our closest friends to eat out at our favourite place, a Mexican restaurant. We’ll lose presents and money but also stress and problems and do it our way, weird like us.

      • Anonymouse

        Even though the soon-to-be-spouse and I were funding our own wedding 100%, all the relatives felt entitled to start demanding things (you MUST do this, you MUST NOT invite so-and-so) so we went to the Justice of the Peace, married, then threw our own surprise reception at our favorite Chinese restaurant. It was a dream come true for us. Took a week’s notice to the restaurant, in the form of, “We’d like to have about 100 people show up for dinner, can you handle it?” Our guests arrived to a sumptuous feast and the news that we were married. I didn’t have to deal with all the stupid “must-haves” stress-inducers.

      • Christine

        Well for the reception we weren’t hosting, because the relatives, while pushy, would have thrown a fit about that sort of ignoring of the ettiquette. My husband didn’t want to elope because there was a significant risk that the relatives (including the ones we like) would be really annoyed at missing the chance for a party. Having a surprise reception and the like wasn’t an option – it’s a nice bit of flexibility that having a civil ceremony instead gives you. (You also don’t feel as out of place in modern wedding dresses). There’s also the issue that getting everyone in town would have been difficult without them knowing why.

        I let other people do all the work, but the bridesmaids insisted on being told what dress to wear (and then my sister never wore hers again…). I was told to carry flowers (I have Asperger’s, and I’m rather clumsy, so that was a very bad thing). And people constantly want your opinion! The florist kept expecting me to care what the bouquets looked like. My pastor did up an incredibly over-the-top choreography at the rehearsal, and then asked us if we were ok with it (he made sure to kick all the other people out, but given that all my hints earlier about “um, why don’t we do this more normally” were ignored, it’s not like I could say “no, you’re being stupid with how fancy this is”).

        As much as I liked having a church wedding (because it made the wedding meaningful to me, instead of being “what happens before the reception”), something where I could have had a more ethical celebration, and not had to put up with so many modern traditions (we had something fairly close to a white wedding) would have been nice. As much as an idiot as the columnist is, I will give him credit for having a wedding where no one cared about all the stupid bells and whistles, only if they’d had sex beforehand. Of course, it sounds like he didn’t have the sense to capitalize on this.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        Anonymouse, I think that was one advantage to doing a long-distance wedding–my mother did most of the planning so if anyone was making any demands I didn’t hear anything (and since stubbornness runs in the family she’s well equipped to deal with it).

        I also have to go with the ‘big party’ thought as well. In our case the religious ceremony happened well after the civil marriage, so it wasn’t the ‘union of two lives’ he thinks a wedding should be regardless, but both events were fairly arbitrary points in the relationship. A wedding is as significant as you make it out to be. For us, it was just an outward symbol of what we already had. Our relationship is defined by us, not a ceremony or a piece of paper.

      • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

        Heh, long distance weddings. We were married in City A. One week before the wedding I was three hours drive away in City B, writing the final exam of my Bachelors degree. My fiancee was living and working in City C, a further two hours down the road. Several of her family were coming from the opposite side of the continent. I had that week to go to A, borrow my parents’ van, move my stuff from B to C, buy a small sailboat and boat trailer, have a job interview, and get both of us back to A. Also a bunch of stupid money things that had to be done NOW, or my MIL threatened to stop the ceremony when the minister got to the “any objections” part (I *think* she was joking). Fiancee did most/all the planning. Slight hitch when we read the fine print on the license and discovered it should have been filed with city hall the previous day — called minister in a panic, who said not to worry, it just meant a little extra paperwork for him.

        The Big Day actually went off OK: small service with family and friends, standup reception with sandwiches, maybe 40 people tops. My Dad was the photog. Only regret: being infected with the Christian virus, we included that bullshit about obedience in the words.

        True test of a relationship: have the bride spend the honeymoon teaching the groom to sail a Laser. If you can get past that neither drowned nor divorced, you’re good for the duration ;-).

      • plutosdad

        From what I hear (and my own wedding), people – especially the parents – are going to get mad at you no matter what. I am pretty sure my dad tried to ruin my wedding when he toasted me and not “the couple” or my bride at all. We tried to have it as small as possible, but my mother even told me “weddings aren’t just for you they are for the family”. My mother is Italian catholic and can really lay on the drama and guilt and scream about how horrible you are. My poor wife is from a small WASP family, very reserved and mannerly, she had no idea what she was getting into. We almost eloped the night before, we were so sick of our family (well my family specifically).

  • Karen

    I couldn’t wait to get my wedding over. I’m not that great at logistics. We had a small wedding with just immediate family and a few close friends; a morning wedding followed by cake and punch on the church lawn for a grand total of 15 people, not including the cat who wandered into the sanctuary during the ceremony. Still, I was in charge of everything except cleanup, and I worried incessantly. Would X happen? Had I dealt with Y? I was a nervous wreck. I was sure the church was going to fall down around me. It was a non-eventful wedding, everyone seemed to leave happy, and I swore if I ever got married again it would be in a Justice’s/Judge’s chambers with the minimum number of required witnesses. The marriage has been much, MUCH, better than the wedding!

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      couldn’t wait to get my wedding over. I’m not that great at logistics.

      THIS. This a thousand times. I was SO GLAD when it was over! And you know what? What with pictures and worrying about everyone being in the right place at the right time and hoping all the out of town relatives had a good time, well, I didn’t have any time to enjoy it myself!

      But you know what else? I’m guessing that this guy’s bride was the wedding planner – that’s how it is traditionally – while he sat back and watched it happen. Of COURSE he could enjoy it and talk yards about it – but I’d bet that his wife had a similar experience to the one we and, well, most brides, I would imagine, had.

  • Rae

    “All of the young couples that have also done things the right way”.

    Abstinence before marriage is something that I think it widely overrepresented in Christian culture. Do some people do it? Sure. But the number of girls who are in relationships where both parties have said that they’re being abstinent until marriage that I’ve ended up giving a crash course on contraception to while I’m driving them to the pharmacy for the morning-after pill? Yeah, it was kind of uncomfortable the first few times, but… it’s more like if they can make it to their wedding date without getting caught or getting pregnant, then they’re home free, and the illusion of a perfect virginal wedding is upheld.

    • smrnda

      I think the % of people, regardless of religious beliefs who actually don’t have sex until marriage is in the single digits, meaning that I don’t think that’s a statistically significant population to generalize from.

    • Rosa

      Yeah.

      The number of people I’ve known who did live together before marriage, but totally on the downlow (at least from their parents) is sort of astonishing. And the amount of straight-up bribery/blackmail involved has always shocked me “My mom can’t know he lives here because they’ll only pay for the wedding if we don’t live together” is a nice way to get the appearance of compliance and a load of lies.

      These are all quite devout people, too, who have since become long-term married pillars of their respective churches.

  • BabyRaptor

    I love how this guy spends all this time taking pot shots, throwing insults and judging, and…Turns comments off, so nobody can say anything to him about his BS. Of course you’re “right” when you completely cut off all other opinions from the word go.

    Complete asshat.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    When I first read that article, I thought maybe the author didn’t know how it would come across, and how a lot of people would disagree with him and feel judged. It reminded me of other things I’ve read in the past, and I never realized there was a whole different side to the story. I wrote about this over on my blog: “How NOT to Write About Abstinence” http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/2012/09/how-not-to-write-about-abstinence.html

  • Carol

    My dear husband of 18 years and I did everything “wrong”. Did we ever.

    Yet, we had a beautiful wedding. It wasn’t something I dreamed about since I was a girl, I really never gave it much thought. Mostly I didn’t want it to be a big deal because I had just participated in probably the world’s most obnoxious wedding with the world’s most obnoxious bride and smuggest groom.

    My mother planned the whole thing, as we had just come out of a terrible time in my family and she needed to do this and she’s good at it and all I cared about was that everyone enjoy the party. The maid of honor picked out her own dress, I wasn’t even there. My mother did the flowers and the food and everything else and it was just lovely and everyone did have fun.

    After what my family had been through, and my then fiance, now husband, firmly by my side, sticking it out in the tough times with love and grace, I feel I earn the right to tell the author of this stupid article to just go right head and fuck off.

  • Christine

    Since it seems like a lot of people had the planning problems I did, I’d like to share a tip for anyone who’s unmarried: if people are going to want you to have a fancy reception, let someone else plan it. If it’s just going to be a party to celebrate, go for it, dinner and a dance is easy (especially if you think you can get away with potluck). But as soon as you need to have a caterer beyond a local community or church group* (either because someone wants you to, or because the local restaurants are flakey), or speeches, or a DJ, let someone else do it. Enjoy planning the wedding, nothing else is your problem.

    *You don’t have to go to a church to know about these, especially if you mention to friends and family that you’re debating what to do about food.

  • Niemand

    I give this couple about 3 months. They seem to have married in the “s/he’s the most wonderful person ever!” phase of the relationship, before the hormone storm calms down enough for you to see the person as they really are. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they’ll get lucky. But my suspicion is that if you google the author in 6 months you’ll find a column talking about his divorce.

    • Rosa

      I’d bet against that. They seem to be the kind of people who judge a marriage’s success by it’s longevity, not by how happy the people in it are.

      • Niemand

        It’s a reasonable point and you may be right. But I’m sure the author can come up with some reason why his divorce was entirely different. Sort of the like the women who get their abortion and go back out to protest abortion as soon as the anesthesia wears off. Also, anecdotally, my five times divorced cousin rants about the sanctity of marriage and immorality of divorce. Some people do cognitive dissonance extremely well.

        As far as how to judge a marriage, I’d rather live in a society where the average person went through a marriage every 6 months but enjoyed the marriage than one where everyone stayed in for life, no matter how miserable they were. But apparently I’m a weirdo that way.

  • Steve

    I love this bit:
    “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.”

    So their whole wedding was only about celebrating and telling everyone that they are finally sleeping with each other. In that case they should have invited everyone into the bed chamber to watch and hung out the bloody sheets afterwards.

  • http://www.christylambertson.com Christy

    I was struck by his recounting of the conversation with the (most likely fictional) other bride at breakfast who said, “The thing is, nothing’s really changed,” the bride said.

    I got married a few months ago, and when people have asked me how married life is, I’ve said that same exact thing. Our relationship is about like it was before – and that’s not a bad thing. Getting married is a very different experience for people who are already living together than it is for people who aren’t. Obviously, one situation means a lot more changes in your daily life than the other. (Given how much wedding planning stressed me out, I am so glad that I did not also have to deal with the stress of moving in together at the same time. ) We were already living together, already committed to each other, and because we both bring some complicated life histories to the table, we’ve already had to navigate some pretty difficult things together. The wedding was important, because I think ritual is important, and it was very meaningful to have friend and family gather together to celebrate our relationship, but it’s not like that one day magically transformed our relationship.

    And I was also 4 months pregnant at our wedding, so I can only imagine what Mr. Abstinence Man would say about that. (Note to the many people I barely know who have felt it was appropriate to ask me if said pregnancy was planned: Yes, it was and why is it any of your business?)

    I grew up evangelical and did not bail on that until my early 30′s, so I still have some close friends who are evangelical Christians – several of whom were virgins on their wedding nights – and they have all been delighted to see me happy, loved our wedding – even though our ceremony was not a Christian one, love my husband (who does not believe in God), and respect that fact that even though we don’t all have exactly the same values and viewpoints, the love and commitment that my partner and I share is still real. So it is completely possible to choose abstinence for yourself and not be an asshole about it.

    • Christine

      Despite the whole ‘moving in together’ aspect (forget the “having sex”) part, I didn’t feel that things changed a lot after getting married. It was just such a natural progression. It must be because we were depraved enough to kiss before getting married.

      • Rosa

        it might depend on what you thought about marriage, too – when I was younger i watched a lot of my friends ruin perfectly good relationships with marriage. All these crazy ideas about roles and responsibilities and the magic of the wedding (“he’ll stop drinking so much! She’ll want a baby!”) seemed to overrule whatever amount of pre-marriage classes and discussions and real-world experience people had. So I saw several couples, who’d lived together for at least 2 or 3 years, suddenly start fighting about things like “if we’re going to be married and have a family you have to make more money!” or all the sudden “Your cooking is terrible! I can’t make dinner because I’m the man but you should learn to cook!”

        My partner has very egalitarian marriage ideals & examples from his family, and I think that’s why it hasn’t happened to us. Of course we’ve been together 13 years but only married for 8 months, so maybe it will still hit us.

      • Christine

        I doubt that they ruined good relationships with marriage. They probably just failed to fix already troubled ones. That’s long been one of the theories for why cohabitation before marriage led to bad results – people would live together, and then get married when they started to have problems, thinking that it would fix them.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        I don’t think many people who has problems in their relationship decides that getting married would solve them but I’ve heard of people having a kid as a means of staying together/not getting a divorce. Both things are equally stupid since if you are already troubled, adding more responsibility is only going to make things worse and specially having a kid is not only taking a risk for yourself but for the kid too. Solve your problems if you can first.

      • Rosa

        Actually, Christine, since these were my actual friends and we talked through most of these divorces and then I got to spend the next 10 years listening to them sort through the aftermath and get remarried or not – all sorts of weird ideas about how people were supposed to behave once they got married popped up and ruined their relationships. One of them being “be on your best behavior when you’re just dating but once you’re married you can tell the truth.” and another being “it’s okay to be all equal as a girlfriend but once you’re a wife you better do what i say.” And of course, like I mentioned before: you say you don’t want babies but once you’re married you’ll change your mind.

        I know sociologists have theories about, in general, why couples so often divorce after a very short time even if they lived together for a long time, but for specific couples there are specific reasons.

        Most of us had been raised with pretty patriarchal ideas about marriage, even in mainstream churches, and that will mess with your head pretty bad.

      • Christine

        I’d heard about the phenomenon of couples being on their best behaviour when they were living together (I’m really hoping that those aren’t the same ones who moved in together to test and see if it would work), but I hadn’t realised it could be that drastic. The only couples I know who were living together & then divorced shortly after getting married had been having some trouble beforehand. It wasn’t really blatent, more that there were subtle things, which could be interpreted as getting uncomfortable with lack of commitment (not just “oh, we need to stay together, so let’s get married). However, I’m coming from a background where most of my friends were from families with two university-educated parents. Even in that case, some of them were dual-income. So there clearly wasn’t a lot of patriarchy going around, which would really change the dynamic.

    • Rosie

      The only reason I agreed to get married at all was I was convinced that nothing would be changed by it. If I’d still thought “marriage” meant all that cultural baggage this kid is promoting, we’d still be “living in sin” 12 years later.

    • A Reader

      Congrats on your marriage & baby!

  • A Reader

    I saw a response to this Fox article on another site I read (Jezebel, if anyone’s interested–it was even illustrated with reactions gifs). The author (I didn’t bother to find his name) seems immature and arrogant to me, like a little kid bragging about his Lego tower to a bunch of adults at an architecture firm. Sure, you built a relationship, and sure, it looks all cool and colorful, but compared to the complex, hard-won, reinforced, practical ones everyone else has built…it’s just not that impressive.
    I also wanted to point out something I read in Jezebel’s comment section (and maybe another reader here has already noticed it), but the author talks about sitting next to another couple discussing their wedding night, and then a few lines later says that the groom was still upstairs asleep. So um…inconsistent to say the least!
    And okay, since I’m already typing, I kind of want to say something about evangelical culture in general. Today my mom’s pastor was giving a sermon on legalism and how he believes it can hinder relationships with God–which is all well and good, until you ask him anything related to premarital sex, gay marriage, abortion…or pretty much any other issue! Then he’s all about The Rules. There’s so much inconsistency in the message that’s sent there, and it’s the same way with almost everything the church says.

    • Rosie

      I also experienced that in evangelical culture, but I didn’t notice the dissonance for a very long time because I’d been raised in it. I heard sermon after sermon against legalism, and also sermon after sermon about obeying “God’s laws”…which were certainly interpreted as a simple list of rules! And those who were strictest with the rules were the same people as those who talked the most against legalism. I suppose we were all trying to convince ourselves that there really was something spiritual in what we were doing, that it would lead to a knowledge of God in some meaningful way, but so far as I know it didn’t really work out for any of us.

  • http://shapingpromises.wordpress.com RowenaFW

    Hi – just wanted to let you know that I’ve nicked plutosdad’s comment for my blog: http://potatoskinbelt.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/sex-and-meat/

    Also, totally with everyone’s THANK GOD THE WEDDING IS OVER enthusiasm. Nearly finished my wedding blog about it – want that to be over too! I might write a “best days of my life” post at some point and talk about the problem of “it’s all behind you” theories!

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