Future Husbands: Your Future Wife Does Not Belong to You

by Samantha cross posted from her blog Defeating the Dragons

So, I keep swearing to myself that I won’t keep writing reactionary posts. I do. I really do. I make all these beautiful promises about keeping my head down, not getting involved when someone says something unintelligent . . .

And then this happens.

And, after ranting about it a little bit, and stomping around on twitter (only two tweets for this one! two! I did so good), I decide that hey, this is an issue that actually needs addressing. Because, yes, I’m reacting to something that got published on the internet– but I’m also reacting to the place where these ideas come from. And these ideas come from a very scary, very dark place. A place I lived most of my life in.

So, to get us started, here’s the significant portions of the young man’s letter I’m going to address:

. . . I’ve been checking off the various boxes over the years to become a better mate, yet I cannot seem to find any girls of marriage potential.

I have not been able to find any Christian girls who are virgins. If I successfully get a date, as it moves along I am constantly disappointed to find out they have had sex with numerous men before. Each makes the typical statement that they were mistakes and they’ve asked God for forgiveness and moved on. Unfortunately, as a potential husband, there is no option for me to “move on” beyond the infidelity . . .

My female friends keep telling me, “It’s not that big of a deal, and no girls over 20 are virgins. The fact they’ve had sex doesn’t change much.” But not only do I not believe them, there’s lots of scientific as well as biblical evidence for it being a big deal! And that’s on top of the human feelings of betrayal, shame and dishonor of knowing your girl didn’t love you enough to not sleep with other men, as well as the mental images you’ll have for a lifetime of her being sexually active with her lovers.

Feel free to go vomit into a bucket, or go scream into a pillow. I had to go furiously clean my kitchen after I read this. I’ll wait for you.

Ready? Ok.

Honestly, though, the first thing that clues me in to this young man’s attitude is in the words “checking off the boxes.” He talks about all the things he’s done to ready himself for marriage– getting a job, settling down, all that. Those are all fantastically good things. I encourage anyone who asks that waiting to seriously think about long-term relationships until you’re established can be a very good, healthy thing. Doesn’t make it the right circumstances for everyone, but it can help. So yay. He’s waited until he’s more established to start looking.

But, when I think back to all the men I knew growing up, men who declared they’d follow this same formula, men who ascribed to all those kissed-dating-goodbye ideas, I think I know where this man is coming from. And he’s coming from a place where men are The Supreme Commander over All Things– in the church, in the home, in the workplace. In a word, that’s called patriarchy, which will be important in just a sec.

So, his entire letter is dedicated to asking for some guy on Boundless.org to give him justification. He’s not really interested in advice– he’s interested in having Scott Croft affirm his belief that “finding a virgin” is some sort of biblical mandate, that he’s right in believing that he shouldn’t marry anything ‘less’ than a virgin. That, because he’s a virgin, and he’s “checked off all the right boxes,” that he deserves a virgin. That he deserves to feel “betrayed” and “sinned against” by any unmarried woman having sex with someone who isn’t him.

After he opens with not finding women who meet his standards as a “potential,” he then labels the act of a woman having pre-marital sex as infidelity.

Infidelity.

Let’s let that sink in for a moment.

Because, ladies, having sex before you’ve even met your future husband is cheating. And, in this frame of reference, it’s cheating because, guess what– you belong to him already. You’ve belonged to him from the moment you were born (because, of course, any suitable husband will be older than you). Because God made you for each other. God knew who you were going to marry when he formed you in your mother’s womb. Behaving like you’re not already married? Not possible. Because you are, before you’ve even sworn that vow. Your body, your vagina, isn’t yours. It’s his, your future husband’s. Always.

And because your vagina belongs to him, if you let anyone else in there, he deserves to feel betrayed, and shamed, and dishonored by what you’ve done with your body.

I’d like to highlight the words he chose to use– betrayal, shame, and dishonor. That’s the language of patriarchy. He can be betrayed if you’ve broken a vow to him– a vow you’ve never even made. He can feel shamed by you, because he has the right to control what you do before you’ve met him. He can be dishonored by you, because you belong to him. Your honor, your choices, are his. You don’t get to make decisions based on what betrays and dishonors yourself.

And to top it all off, you just don’t love him enough. A man you’ve never met. And he’s going to continuously feel threatened by your previous sexual partners, because he has always owned your body. It’s his possession, and someone else dared to touch it. No, you dared to let someone else touch it.

That being said, I think that even with those who in general agree with the emotional and physical virginity idea thought this letter-writer was an unmitigated ass.

So, moving on to the response, where everyone shouted a great big cry of “here, here!” Because it has its own problems.

This is the second sentence of Scott Croft’s response:

To begin with — especially in light of what I am about to write below — I want to affirm you in your belief that premarital sex is everywhere and always a sin, and that it is a sin not only against God, but against one’s eventual spouse. I deeply wish that more single people — especially those who profess to be Christian — lived out that conviction.

And then he goes to the Bible to back up this point.

Matthew 15:19– doesn’t say that pre-marital sex is a sin against your spouse.
Mark 7:21– doesn’t say that pre-marital sex is a sin against your spouse.
I Corinithians 6:18– this explicitly states that sexual immorality is a “sin against your own body.”
1 Timothy 5:2– includes the word “purity” which means “clean,” but it’s a stretch to make that about sex.
Galations 5:19-21– doesn’t say that pre-marital sex is a sin against your spouse.
Song of Solomon 2:7– “don’t awaken love until it pleases.” Ok. Maybe that’s about sex. Maybe.
Hebrews 13:4– is specifically talking about already married people, so, no particular relevance here.

Interesting thing about all those passages– they are references to “sexual immorality,” which is a vague enough term, but we can assume (at least for the moment) that they’re not talking about prostitution or pedophilia, but pre-marital sex. Even if we accept that assumption, none of these passages say pre-marital sex is a sin against your future spouse. None. Not one. One of them even says, quite clearly, that “sexual immorality” (whatever it is) is a sin against your own body.

Scott does go on to say some things that I agree with– that all of these principles affect men and women equally, which doesn’t really get said very often in our patriarchal culture when men own a woman’s vagina. He also goes on to say that issues like pornography are more damaging than pre-marital sex, so kudos to Scott for that.

But then . . .

In other words . . .  you are right to be frustrated at the sexual immorality you see, and it’s quite understandable for you to feel hurt at the notion of marrying a woman who has sinned against you by having sex before her marriage to you.

Heavens. I don’t know how to make this more clear, but there is no evidence, from the Bible, that pre-marital sex is a sin against anyone. If it is a sin, which is not what I’m addressing in this post, it’s only a sin for you, personally. It only becomes something that can be “against” someone when that someone is a man, and he owns your vagina, and because he owns it, deserves to be upset about what happens to it.

Going to use a ridiculous example here, but it’s like my car– if someone came along and took my car for a test drive without my permission, I’d have a right to be pretty dang upset. Because it’s my car. I paid for it so that I would have exclusive rights to it, and no one could use it but me.

But guess what? My vagina isn’t a car. It’s not anybody’s property– not even after I get married. If I decide to commit adultery, it’s not a betrayal because I’ve done something with my husband’s property that I didn’t have the right to do. It’s a betrayal because, as a human being who made a promise to stay faithful to my husband, I would have broken that promise by having an affair. Vow breaking, in my opinion, is a serious issue.

Back to the article– Scott does affirm that just because a man or a woman has pre-marital sex it doesn’t mean they can’t get married. Yay. But then he just goes back to the same tired line– that this man is justified in being upset that a woman who’s had sex has “betrayed him” and “sinned against him.” Scott tells the man to ponder grace and forgivness, after just making that task extraordinarily difficult by saying “y’know what, women who’ve had sex did betray you, and they did sin against you.” He’s said exactly what this man wanted him to say. This man wrote that letter asking for justification in believing that a woman having sex is a betrayal against his ownership– and he got it.

To round this out, I’d just like to remind everyone that Rahab was a זָנָה, which is usually translated as “prostitute.” And she is in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Edit: I’d also like to note that Scott doesn’t say that it’s only a sin against a man when a woman has sex, and that it’s not equally as much as a sin against a woman when a man has sex. However, the idea in both the letter and the response is based on the patriarchal notion that a woman’s virginity belongs to a man. It’s an “update” to say that a man’s virginity also belongs to a woman, but it’s the same idea. This idea is wrong because it completely ignores concepts like individual autonomy and personal agency. No one’s decisions belongs to anyone else. Male or female.

Comments open below

Read everything by Samantha!

Samantha grew up in the homeschool, patriarchy, quiverful, and fundamentalist movements, and experienced first-hand the terror and manipulation of spiritual abuse. She is now married to an amazing, gentle man who doesn’t really get what happened to her but loves her anyway. With him by her side and the strength of God’s promises, she is slowly healing.Samantha blogs at Defeating The Dragons and is a member of The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

About Suzanne Calulu
  • itsdanilove

    I think the best response on Twitter I saw to this article was “Where can I find a virgin woman to marry? Sounds like a Lovecraftian sex cult”

    The actual subject matter reminds me of Joshua Harris CRYING over the fact that his wife-to-be told him that she’d had sex before. Which, if I’m remembering properly, was before she was even a Christian. Even as a then-super-conservative-fundamentalist teen, I remember reading that passage left a really bad taste in my mouth.

    • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

      Mark Driscoll also freaked out when he found out his wife slept with someone – before meeting him.

      • Madame

        Mark Driscoll was upset when he found out his wife had been sexually assaulted and never told him about it. Both were sexually active in their teens.

        • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

          That is horrible. Because he did not freak out in an outburst of caring about her pain.

  • a-mckeown

    The funny thing is Bible does not say anywhere that single sex is wrong.

    • Madame

      very true.

  • Jayn

    I can’t help but wonder what these guys would think of someone who had pre-marital sex with their eventual spouse…

    And yeah, if you’re going to insist that your spouse be someone perfect who has never erred, for whatever definition of perfect you use, you’re going to die alone. And it’s only going to get worse with time, as your peers have had more opportunities to screw up. You’re probably not worth marrying anyways, if you’re going to be that anal and controlling.

    • The_L1985

      If I started dating somebody, and later discovered that he felt that I had betrayed him through any action, sexual or otherwise, that happened before he and I ever met for the first time, I would laugh in his face.

      You cannot betray a person you do not even know. Betrayal implies trust, which in turn implies prior knowledge of each other.

  • Cathy W

    if someone came along and took my car for a test drive without my permission, I’d have a right to be pretty dang upset. Because it’s my car. I paid for it so that I would have exclusive rights to it, and no one could use it but me.
    …and if someone took the car you hadn’t bought yet, and for that matter hadn’t even looked at yet, for a test drive, and you freaked out about it when you did become interested in purchasing it, the auto dealer would probably be right to have security show you out. The whole idea of “sinning against” your future husband – personally! that exact guy, not the hypothetical idea of your future husband! – before you’ve even met him is just mindboggling.

  • Futuralon Futuralon

    I hope all this makes young ladies who date such men lie about their sexual history.

    • Madame

      Mrs. Driscoll kept that to herself (it was not exactly consensual sex, either), and when Mark had a dream that she had slept with someone else and confronted her about it, she admitted it had happened, and Mark went on to blame her “keeping secrets” for their marital crisis. Sick.

      • gimpi1

        So she was the victim of a forced act, and he blamed her for being victimized, and not telling him. I would bet she chose not to tell him because of how he carried on about the importance of purity. How loving of him.

        I would wonder about his previous-to-marriage sex life. Somehow this is always a bigger deal for the woman. Why on earth would any woman with an ounce of self-respect stay one minute with a fellow who couldn’t “forgive” you for being raped and being shamed into keeping quiet. Oh, wait, that’s right. You aren’t a virgin. No self-respect for you.

        I knew I didn’t care for Mr. Driscoll. Now I know why.

        • Madame

          I think his issue was with her hiding the fact that she had been sexually assaulted. Both of them had sexual partners before meeting each other, and it didn’t seem to be an issue.

          • gimpi1

            She had no obligation to disclose an assault. Being assaulted is traumatic, painful and leaves the survivor shaken. Sexual assault can be especially damaging. Then there is the way people who have been sexually assaulted are sometimes blamed for the attack. Many people don’t want to relive such an experience.There is nothing wrong with that.

            What he should have done was love her, reassure her, and try to understand the pain and fear that made her want to keep this event private. What he did was to concentrate on his feelings, his needs, and his doubts. Kind of the opposite of the “sacrificial love” he preaches about, isn’t it?

            I still don’t care for Mr. Driscoll.

          • Madame

            I totally agree with you, Gimpy!
            There are things that happen that we don’t want to disclose. Love should create an environment where these experiences can be shared, if, and only if the victim wants to.

            Mark goes on and on about his need for frequent (daily) sex with his wife. It wasn’t happening, so he had to find a way to make this happen. He says sex is “god” for some people. I wonder how he knows that so well?

            I’m no Driscoll fan.

    • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

      Lying may be a solution for one women, but it creates a vicious cycle: Skewed statistics suggest that women who had no sex partners before their spouse has a greater chance of divorce than men who had none; women who had one sex partners before their spouse has a greater chance of divorce than men who had one; women who had 2 sex partners before their spouse has a greater chance of divorce than men who had 2; etc.

      The problem with those statistics is that women lie downwards (pretend to have had less partners), men upwards. A divorced woman who report 1 pre-marital partner may have had 4, and a still married man who reported 5 previous partners may have had only 2.

      From those skewed statistics (they look like the woman’s sexual history is more likely to harm a marriage), people like this letter-writer believe they are justified in looking for virgins.

      And why do women lie about their sexual history, thereby creating skewed statistics that confirm male suspicions? You know why.

  • Dana

    By this logic….if my husband dies, and I marry someone else a couple years later, I’ve sinned against that second husband by having sex with my current one. If an unmarried girl is cheating on her future husband, then I too am cheating on my hypothetical future husband RIGHT NOW!!! I’m gonna have to tell my husband that I can’t have sex with him anymore, out of my respect for the sanctity of the marriage bed.

    There’s really no way to make sense of this guy’s ideology about virginity which doesn’t also render widows/widowers damaged goods and sinners too–but any attitude which stigmatized the status of a widow or discouraged marriage to a widow would be very explicitly contrary to the message of the Bible in several places.

  • Trollface McGee

    Guys with virgin fetishes creep me out. You have to really objectify a woman to insist that she come “unused” with her freshness seal intact in order to be worthy of you. Or the fact that you’ve de-constructed an entire person’s worth and character down to her vagina. Or how much of an egomaniac you have to be to insist that everything she does in her life, every mistake or decision she makes is about you. And yet what makes them worthy of any woman? Certainly not their attitude.
    If they want a fresh, unused virgin that will tolerate them, they should buy a Real Doll and stay away from women until they learn to behave like adults.

  • The_L1985

    To return to the car analogy, this idiot’s whining is like somebody who goes to a car dealership, sees a really nice new car, then while he’s admiring it, hears that someone else saw that car yesterday and took it for a test-drive.

    And now, he doesn’t want the car–which is still exactly the same as it was yesterday when nobody had driven it yet–because of something that happened before he even knew that that particular car existed.

    Furthermore, it’s like he thinks that there is exactly one female human being in the entire world who is Right For Him, and that he has to get to her “in time” or he’ll never be able to marry anyone. Compatibility does not work that way!

  • Madame
  • Saraquill

    Since this man is complaining about multiple women “betraying” him, does this mean he’s a bigamist?

  • MamaMay

    Ok I have just read the car analogy and I have to say I don’t agree with how you said it.

    It is more like someone test driving your car before you ever even saw the car or had driven it yourself. Of course someone else would have test driven it before you but you still buy it because well, you want that car.

    Ok I am going to finish reading now.

  • aim2misbehave

    It never fails to amaze me how far men can twist logic in order to argue that everything that women do is ~all about their dicks~

    Also, if having premarital sex is “sinning against” one’s future husband, then the solution seems to be to simply not get married, so there is no future husband to sin against.

  • Evelyn

    Unfortunately, the corollary to this idea of owning his future wife’s body is the belief that once they are married, she has given consent for all time and cannot withdraw it. Marital rape exists, and it doesn’t have to be physically violent. A man who pressures and coerces his wife into nonconsensual sex as her “God-ordained head” is raping her. I knew my marriage was over when my husband screamed at me, “You are my wife! Your body belongs to me!” Um, no.

  • abc

    Hebrews 13:4 does have relevance here. It is said in that verse that the ‘marriage bed remain pure’ (or undefiled, ESV). Marriage bed symbolizes the literal bed of the married couple. If you look at the definition of the word ‘pure’, it means “not mixed or adulterated with any other substance or material.” Sure, that’s talking about ‘things’ and people are not merely ‘objects.’ But essentially, the verse is saying that the ‘marriage bed’ is where the married couple finally become “one flesh” (Mark 10:8). So, according to scripture, pre-martial sex is a sin. Especially in the sense that the individual has given into that sexual temptation – moreover for the wrong reasons (wrong because they wanted that pleasure [1 Thessalonians 4:3-5]). But that also isn’t always the case. There are cases where unmarried people have sex because they do feel tremendous love and admiration for one another. Great. That is what sex should be an extension of. Except it’s going against what God wanted between a man and a woman – to wait until marriage (refer back to the ‘undefiled marriage bed’ verse). And really, pre-marital sex isn’t a sin towards any person here on earth. It’s a sin toward God (1 Thessalonians 4:8). And of course, it would pain someone who has kept themselves pure for their future spouse and their partner has not done the same. It would pain them because they held that belief so highly and they discover that the other person didn’t. And referring to your point that your vagina isn’t anybody’s property, even after marriage, I somewhat disagree. When you’re married, you two belong to each other. Not in the sense that you possess each other as you would possess an inanimate object (which is what that man and Scott seem to be implying and is what you’re arguing against), but that you two are exclusive and bound together by God under his marriage covenant. I agree with you that no one should be so hard-headed on this issue. If the no-longer-a-virgin woman (or man) has asked forgiveness from the Lord, then that man (or woman) should be just as willing as God to forgive. Thank you for the read and for a different perspective. God bless.


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