Once Upon a Cheap Hotel Room

Once Upon a Cheap Hotel Room October 5, 2013

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.

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  • pibaba

    awesome! your candidness is inspiring and encouraging. Write on! (pun intended.)

  • Andrea_Videographer

    This is GREAT. Thank you!

  • linda

    I understand you…, but I do not necessarily agree on your conclusion with sex. Which is okay. But I do resonate with you on rape experience… As if rape wasn’t enough… rapist has to add those comments like.. oh your body sucks.. you aren’t so attractive, etc. And.. yes.. the conservative christianity obsession of ‘purity’.. it’s described as purity is something “we” achieve “we human beings” can earn. so much pride into that…so much legalism.

    anyways though…, thanks for your thoughts on this.

    • I’m not sure how you can disagree with her conclusions about her own experience. You literally can’t tell someone that they feel differently when they tell you how they feel about something.

      • linda

        It was that I can see and understand how she came to her conclusion. I am not dismissing her experience or her conclusion. What I am saying is that I had similar experiences but I came to a different conclusions. That’s all.

        • This reply is an entirely different meaning from your original phrasing.

          • linda

            no. I just expanded and clarified what I meant, but it is not entirely different from my original post meaning. It was really how you took it.

  • Tamara

    This is awesome! I’ve been waiting for this post from someone in the Christian world for…. forever. I too had health consensual sex before marriage and don’t regret it one bit. Thank you so much for writing this!

  • I simply have no way to connect to the underlying issue. I regret many things in my relationships in my teen and early 20s years, but sex? No. If anything, sex became a part of my healing.

  • Rod

    My issue with is, what does God say. I’m a bit confused because to me it sounds like your saying committing a sin helped you get over or healed you from a sin that has been committed against you. That does not make any sense to me. I’m more than happy for you that you have found your self worth but do you really account that to having sex? I agree that it is a reality that there are some Christians who have had sex before marriage and don’t regret it but is right to knowingly go against God’s will or purpose just to make you feel better and don’t care that you did?

    • Sandrilene

      It makes sense to me.
      If you’ve had a terrible experience with sex then having a positive experience can override those painful traumatic associations.

      And comparing premaritial sex to rape because they’re both ‘sins’ is horrific. Can you honestly not see the difference? Rape is a cruel violation of someone’s body. Premarital sex, is possibly shallow. (I don’t think premarital sex is wrong but if it is, then shallow is the worst I can come up with).
      You might say all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
      But some things are worse than others.

    • Except that the Christian model for sex is antithetical to the way *a lot* survivors need to deal with some of the effects rape/sexual abuse. So yeah, when there is only one narrow road (no sex before marriage, marry, and then sex) and everything else is sin, then yes, probably a good chunk of survivors are going to find that they have to sin (and not just with sex either, since Christianity also impedes a lot of healthy recovery) to be able to deal with many of the aftereffects of rape/sexual abuse.

      If I had tried to follow the Christian model of sex…I would probably be dead right now. So if my only two options are sin or death? I’d rather not serve that monster of a God. I’d rather not serve a God who is apparently so incredibly dense and has such lack of understanding of people that he tries to fit a one-size-fits-all life choices regardless of who it hurts. That God is as stupid as he is evil.

    • sarahoverthemoon

      What DOES God say? Do you really claim to know that for sure? Even if we’re going to operate under the assumption that the Bible is the “word of God,” the Bible calls a woman who dresses as a sex worker so she can sleep with her father in law “righteous,” because she did what she needed to do in order to survive.

  • Having my first sexual experiences now, long after I was a Christian, I gotta say it’s *nothing* like Christianity taught me it would be. Maybe that’s because I’m a sinful terrible queer, but I think that is what amazes me the most. But then, no Christian talk about sex I ever heard involved consent, and I find being in a relationship with another survivor (where consent is a *big fucking deal* for the both of us) means that things are good the majority of the time.

    The thing with being sexually abused is, there are always triggers. Especially when all your previous sexual experience — hell, for me, almost all my previous physical experience (i.e. hugs, cuddling, etc.) — are all tied to abusive things and people. There was no way I could look at the Christian model of relationships and find how I was supposed to cope with those things as they arose. What Christian says, “hey, once your married your body belongs to your spouse but you can say no if you get so triggered you’ve lost your mind to a flashback”? What Christian relationship advice says, “No always, always, *always*, overrides a yes”? Hell, there are times when my partner has attempted to do something I thought would be nice, only for me to find it’s a trigger I can’t deal with. No Christian advice was going to tell me, “That’s okay, you can always take back a yes.”

    So yeah, the sexual things my partner and I have done together have been really good for me. Being able to explore pleasurable things with someone who is safe and that I love where there are no issues of power differences and where neither one of us are people who assume that because we’re dating this should last forever, has been really good for me. The Christian model of relationships would have killed me.

    • bbdoodles

      Your comment brings up something that’s really scary to me. I can’t recall either a single Christian-themed discussion in my life that mentioned consent. Or even acknowledged consent. In my whole life. I’m 25. I grew up in the church. I’ve heard a lot of shaming, a lot of guilt, I’ve even participated in some of it, but NEVER heard anything about consent. The concept of mutual attraction was never clear. I’m always kind of amazed that nothing truly bad has ever happened to me, because I was so staggeringly ignorant about everything involving sex in my teens it would have been SUPER easy for someone to take advantage of me. As I’m unlearning a lot of the fear that came along with my upbringing, consent is something that fascinates me… and kinda scares me. I had to learn about consent on my own and it’s been quite the ride.

      This blog post is important because even at age 24, an OB/GYN felt it necessary to pull the ‘you’ll regret losing your virginity one day’ card on me. Not only was it wrong on many levels to do that, but that person assumed the typical: no consent will be involved and you’ll be sorry. Whatever, dude. I’m glad to hear you found healing. I’m even happier to know losing it wasn’t a big deal. Gives me hope 🙂

  • My first sexual experience was immensely disappointing. But I wouldn’t go back and undo it.
    Because it took away all the stress I had built up around losing my virginity after those awful few years involved in churches that indirectly taught purity doctrine.
    And it meant that when my now-husband and I slept together, it was just a thing. Rather than a BIG thing. And I enjoyed it so much more, and was able to stay in the moment.

  • 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.

    Not for nothing, but maybe that’s because many Christians never talk to anyone outside of their bubble, where everyone is constantly reminded that they’re supposed to regret premarital sex and pressured to regret it (or at least say that they do).

    Personally, I’ve never regretted any of the sexual experiences I’ve had. Granted, there are a few experiences that I wouldn’t choose to repeat for various reasons (most of which have nothing to do with the sex itself). But that still doesn’t mean I regret those experiences.

  • I deeply, deeply regretted having sex before marriage…at the time. Because I was told that I had to or I wasn’t a good Christian. But now? Man. I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish I could tell past me that it’s okay to soak up the healing and dismiss the false fundamentalist-manufactured guilt.

  • Elisabeth Grunert

    I appreciate you telling this story. Here’s hoping people will listen. Occasionally paradigms can shift because honest, humble people find too much data that doesn’t fit the existing paradigm. The alternatives then are either to silence or discount the data (which honest, humble people will not do, anyway)… or find a new, more suitable paradigm.

  • Amy Mitchell

    I think the absolute best thing here (well, okay, this is just pretty awesome all around) is when you said it was “nice.” I was told that after marriage, it would be SUPER AWESOME and the best thing ever. Even had a well-meaning friend give me a Christian how-to book to read ahead of time. But honestly, it was pretty much just “okay.” Wedding night, exhaustion, 2am, and faulty expectations don’t combine well to make it even to “nice.” If someone had told me that it could be “nice” and then even “great” with practice, I might have felt less like a failure. Anyway, I hope you don’t mind that I’m going to use some of this over time as I talk with my kids about these things.

  • Wow- thanks for writing this- I too believed that everyone regretted sex… my mind is kind of blown.

  • Nikki Jones

    This has encouraged me greatly. I was sexually abused as a child, grew up in a conservative Christian church who shoved purity down my throat for years. At 25, I had not even dated. And when I finally started horrid flashbacks came pouring out that I didn’t even know existed. I saw the need to have sex with a sweet, kind, and loving man to rid all the sickening memories I had. He replaced them with wonderful images and we are still together about over a year later… loving every minute of it. And yes I still love God! But of course that’s too hard to believe since I am having sex outside marriage. I have struggled so much with not a single Christian friend understanding that not all of us fit into a perfect Christian box!

  • Christy

    I can so relate to this. thank you for saying it so well.