Content Note: Brief Mentions of Rape/Sexual Abuse
[Disclaimer: This is a story of my personal experience, not a universal prescription for how people should react to sex. Obviously others have different experiences and what not. Those other experiences are valid, but so is mine]
I didn’t wait until marriage to have sex.
If I’d heard someone admit that when I was younger, I might have gasped. I might have thought, “You didn’t wait until marriage? What’s wrong with you? How did you ever deal with the regret?” But I ended up in that same boat.
And you know what? I don’t regret it.
In fact, I think it might have been a healthy decision. I think it might have been the right decision.
My first relationship was so filled with abuse and coercion and fear that I can’t even count the times I said “yes” to sexual activity as truly consensual sex. That part of my life has no positive memories attached to it, but I’m not going to talk about that now.
I want to talk about the first time I had healthy, consensual, protected sex and why I’m glad I did it.
I’ve heard many Christians say, “I’ve never heard of anyone who had premarital sex and didn’t regret it!” Well, listen up Christians because that’s about to change.
I had been dating this guy for several years and we’d never so much as french-kissed. We were “good Christians,” don’t you know? That’s not to say we weren’t attracted to each other. We were “oh my god when can we get married so we can have SEX?! Now? Can we get married now? I don’t even care if that’s a terrible idea and we’ll be divorced in a year, because SEX” attracted to each other.
Hey, don’t judge. Many of you who grew up in purity culture know this feeling. Don’t lie.
Then, one day, really almost out of nowhere I decided I didn’t want to wait anymore so I was like, “Do you wanna just do this thing?” and he was like, “Hell yes.” So we went to this cheap hotel room because when you’re in your 20s and still not allowed to be alone in your room with a romantic partner that’s where you do it.
I definitely can’t say it was this mind-blowing, movie-worthy romantic experience. The heater was broken and blowing out cold air so it was freezing, and there were questionable stains on the mattress…and the floor…and the ceiling… It was awkward because neither of us really knew how to put on condoms so there was some trial and error involved in that. It was uncomfortable and not all that pleasurable because sex, like most things, gets better with practice which neither of us had much of.
But it was nice. I can say that much. It was nice, and after the hell of my experience with rape, nice was just fine with me.
That guy broke up with me a few weeks later. It turns out, the mindset of “Can we get married NOW because SEX?!” can hold together a dead relationship for years. Having sex cut the thread that was holding us together and that sucked for awhile.
Some people will tell me, “See? All he wanted was sex and you gave away your biggest bargaining chip for marriage! Don’t you regret that?” First of all, if ALL this guy wanted was sex then he was hella determined, since, like I said, we dated for almost three years before we even got to first base.
Secondly, why would I regret that? I mean, think about it? What would have happened if I held on to my “bargaining chip” (god just typing that makes me shudder) and traded it in for marriage? Would that have made our relationship magically healthy? Would it have magically changed our conflicting values and goals, leaving us compatible for marriage?
Would it have made him love me?
A lot of people tell me, “Sex won’t make him love you!” They’re right, of course. But neither will marriage. I’m glad I figured that out before I went and married someone who wasn’t right for me. I’m glad I gave up on using the promise of future sex to glue a broken relationship back together.
I’m also glad, because having sex helped me heal from abuse. It helped me value myself and believe in myself.
Again, a lot of people would shake their heads and look on me with pity for saying this. “Poor girl, trying to find her worth in sex.” But come on. Can we deny that life experiences help shape who we are and how we see ourselves? It’s certainly not the only experience that people can learn to value themselves from, but sometimes positive, healthy sexual experiences help us affirm our value and our humanity. Whats wrong with that?
I was a survivor of rape who’d been told by my rapist that I wasn’t really attractive and no one else would ever love me. I had told myself for years that I was too messed up to ever have a good sexual experience again. Even the mother of the boyfriend I first slept with him told him to watch out for me because I was a survivor of rape and therefore I’d never been good at sex.
But I proved them all wrong and had sex and it wasn’t great, but it was nice!
I can’t describe to you how affirmed and empowered I felt after that experience. I had nice sex! Nice sex! Take that abuser! Take that voices in my head. Take that Mrs. [Boyfriend-At-The-Time’s Mom]!
Those 20 minutes in that cheap hotel room probably don’t seem that special to anyone else. Even to me, they pale in comparison to the experiences I’ve had with my husband, since he’s kind of the love of my life and we’ve…well…had a bit more time to practice.
But I don’t regret them. I’m glad for the impact they had on my life and on my healing process. If I had to do it over again I wouldn’t change a thing (well, maybe I would have brought along a space heater or something).
If you ever hear a purity culture Christian saying, “I’ve never heard of anyone who had premarital sex and didn’t regret it!” you can send them this blog post. I had premarital sex. I don’t regret it. I’m not the only one, and I’m tired of our realities being ignored.