I was a virgin when I got married at the ripe old age (back then) of 28. I’ve kissed fewer men than the fingers on one hand. I didn’t have a “serious” boyfriend until graduate school. And for all those sexless, boyfriend-less, not being the sought-after-object-of-mens’ desires years, I felt pitiable, like a loser. Even though Jesus was my boyfriend and I staunchly wanted to be a woman whose self-esteem didn’t rest on how men regarded me, it was hard.
Now my personal history feels even more foolish in light of Hanna Rosin’s Atlantic article Boys on the Side about how the practice of hooking up, rather than something to be derided, actually empowers women. As Rosin writes:
The most patient and thorough research about the hookup culture shows that over the long run, women benefit greatly from living in a world where they can have sexual adventure without commitment or all that much shame, and where they can enter into temporary relationships that don’t get in the way of future success.
I’m not going to argue with her assumptions (read Amy Julia Becker) or her use of studies (even though my inner sociologist cringes). Instead, let’s talk about emotional and spiritual damage, not to mention risk of pregnancy, disease and abuse.
Rosin seems to believe, as does our larger culture, that sex is a purely biological act with no emotional or spiritual overtones, a biological and necessary need. She justifies that hooking up doesn’t seem to get in the way of intimacy, citing
one study of college seniors where 75% of students hooked up an average of 7.9 times, but 74% also reported having a relationship in college that lasted at least six months.
Can I say that measuring capacity for intimacy by how long a relationship lasts lacks nuance?
My pastor Dave Schmelzer gives the best analogy I’ve heard for the power of sex—one I use with my kids often—so often they can almost chant it each time the topic of sex comes up.
Imagine that you’re a sheet of cardboard. Sex is like superglue that glues 2 pieces of cardboard together—very helpful if your hope and goal is to be bonded to one person in marriage for the rest of your life.
Now imagine what happens when you rip 2 super-glued sheets apart. Chunks of my cardboard are stuck on the other sheet, leaving holes, wrinkles, and tears, while chunks of the other person’s cardboard are now permanently stuck on me. Then imagine super-gluing your wrinkled sheet of cardboard repeatedly with various other pieces of cardboard. After 7.9 of those sticks and rips, how’s your cardboard going to look?
I firmly believe that Jesus can and does heal the worst of emotional and spiritual damage–that even if your cardboard has been through 79 sticks and rips, God can heal and make whole what’s been broken.
But I’d rather my kids not have to go through the pain of being ripped apart. I’d rather them go through as much of life as possible whole. Even if it means they spend young adulthood feeling like losers.
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