I saved myself for marriage and wish I hadn’t
06 March 2015, 14:39
This article originally appeared on XOJane and has been republished with permission from the author.
"Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship. As well as abstaining from sexual thoughts, sexual touching, pornography, and actions that are known to lead to sexual arousal."
At the age of 10, I took a pledge at my church alongside a group of other girls to remain a virgin until marriage.
Yes, you read that right -- I was 10 years old.
Let's take a look at who I was as a 10-year-old: I was in fourth grade. I played with Barbie dolls and had tea parties with imaginary friends. I pretended I was a mermaid every time I took a bath. I still thought boys were icky and I had no idea I liked girls, too. I wouldn't get my period for another four years.
And most importantly, I didn't have a clue about sex.
The church taught me that sex was for married people. Extramarital sex was sinful and dirty and I would go to Hell if I did it.
I learned that as a girl, I had a responsibility to my future husband to remain pure for him. It was entirely possible that my future husband wouldn't remain pure for me, because he didn't have that same responsibility, according to the Bible.
And of course, because I was a Christian, I would forgive him for his past transgressions and fully give myself to him, body and soul. Once I got married, it would be my duty to fulfill my husband's sexual needs.
I was told over and over again, so many times I lost count, that if I remained pure, my marriage would be blessed by God and if I didn't that it would fall apart and end in tragic divorce.
I believed it. Why wouldn't I? I was young and these were people I trusted.
Everyone knew I'd taken the virginity vow, of course. Gossip is the lifeblood of the Baptist Church. My parents were so proud of me for making such a spiritual decision. The church congregation applauded my righteousness.
For more than a decade, I wore my virginity like a badge of honour.
My church encouraged me to do so, saying my testimony would inspire other young girls to follow suit. If the topic ever came up in conversation, I was happy to let people know that I had taken a pledge of purity.
It became my entire identity by the time I hit my teen years.
When I met my then boyfriend-now husband, I told him right away that I was saving myself for marriage and he was fine with that because it was my body, my choice and he loved me.
We were together for six years before we got married.
Any time we did anything remotely sexual, guilt overwhelmed me. I wondered where the line was because I was terrified to cross it. Was he allowed to touch my breasts? Could we look at each other naked?
I didn't know what was considered sexual enough to condemn my future marriage and send me straight to Hell.
An unhealthy mixture of pride, fear, and guilt helped me keep my pledge until we got married.
In the weeks before our wedding, I often got congratulated on keeping my virginity for so long. The comments ranged from curious (how in the world did you manage?) to downright disgusting (I bet you're going to have one busy wedding night!).
I let them place me on the pedestal as their virginal, perfect-Christian-girl mascot.
I lost my virginity on my wedding night, with my husband, just as I had promised that day when I was 10 years old.
I stood in the hotel bathroom beforehand, wearing my white lingerie, thinking, "I made it. I'm a good Christian."
There was no chorus of angels, no shining light from Heaven. It was just me and my husband in a dark room, fumbling with a condom and a bottle of lube for the first time.
Ten-year-old girls want to believe in fairy tales. Take this pledge and God will love you so much and be so proud of you, they told me.
If you wait to have sex until marriage, God will bring you a wonderful Christian husband and you'll get married and live happily ever after, they said.
Waiting didn't give me a happily ever after.
Instead, it controlled my identity for over a decade, landed me in therapy, and left me a stranger in my own skin. I was so completely ashamed of my body and my sexuality that it made having sex a demoralizing experience.
I don't go to church anymore, nor am I religious.
As I started to heal, I realized that I couldn't figure out how to be both religious and sexual at the same time. I chose sex. Every single day is a battle to remember that my body belongs to me and not to the church of my childhood.
I have to constantly remind myself that a pledge I took when I was only 10 doesn't define who I am today. When I have sex with my husband, I make sure it's because I have a sexual need and not because I feel I'm required to fulfill his desires.
I'm now thoroughly convinced that the entire concept of virginity is used to control female sexuality.
If I could go back, I would not wait. I would have sex with my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I wouldn't go to hell for it. We would have gotten married at a more appropriate age and I would have kept my sexuality to myself.
Unfortunately, I can't go back but I can give you this message as a culmination of my experiences: If you want to wait to have sex until marriage make sure it's because you want to.
It's your body; it belongs to you, not your church.
Your sexuality is nobody's business but yours.
Samantha Pugsley is an English Studies graduate, freelance writer, and photographer. She's a married, bisexual, artsy super nerd who loves Marvel, fantasy/science fiction novels, video games and writing fanfiction. She's incredibly passionate about gender equality, female sexuality and reproductive rights as well as mental health reform.
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