Virginity: Is It Really Worth Saving?

Is the idea of saving one's virginity for marriage too old-fashioned?When you’re sweet-16-and-never-been-kissed, people write songs about it, but when that status hasn’t changed by your mid-twenties, people begin to look a little askance at you.

That isn’t the way it should be — isn’t the way it’s been for thousands of years — but, unfortunately, that’s the culture our children are growing up in, where virginity is regarded by many as more of a curse than a prize.

What follows is an essay written by my daughter Bethany. She is smart, sweet, beautiful, talented … and single. She is also a member of that seemingly shrinking population of young people determined to save sex for marriage. (Stay tuned for another post next week on why I believe that’s still the best choice.)

Please don’t misconstrue the intent of what she has written here. As she assured her friends when she originally posted this essay on Facebook, she does NOT regret her choices, nor does she think she’d be happier had she chosen a promiscuous lifestyle:

“What I’m saying,” she writes, “is that I don’t know what ‘waiting for marriage’ is supposed to look like if marriage never comes. And I’m not just talking about sex. I’m talking about everything — so much of our identity and purpose in Christian culture is wrapped up in the idea of being a wife and mother.

“I know all about ‘Love & Respect,’ about honoring God by honoring your husband, about following him as he follows the Lord, about being a ‘help-meet.’ All of that was beautifully modeled for me.

“But seeking holiness and meaning as a single woman? Even when that singleness is indefinite? That I am having to learn vastly on my own and without an example. This essay wasn’t intended to condemn abstinence as antiquated and obsolete; it was intended to shed light on the loneliness that often accompanies choosing a path that most others have long-since abandoned.

“And hopefully, by reading this post, others who are in a similar situation will feel a little less alone.”

Mint Condition

I was raised in the age of beanie babies and purity rings. Everyone I knew bought into the hype, with sterling silver rings on their left index fingers and rows and rows of beady-eyed bears lining their shelves. The rings invariably read “True Love Waits” and the pristine, heart-shaped tags on the bears invariably read “ty.”

Labels, you see, are of the utmost importance when you are 12 years old and still discovering what in this world – what in your own self – is of any worth.

I never bought a purity ring. I often wondered if maybe I should get one – you know, so that people would know what a good girl I was. So that people would know how seriously I took my faith (or my virginity, really, since at the time the two seemed interchangeable.)

But I never got one.

Purity rings [in my mind] were for the pretty girls, the ones with the boyfriends, the ones with the opportunities.

I had never been given that sort of offer, so I had no need for a ring to remind me to reject it.

And so I managed to escape puberty with naked fingers and not-naked everything else.

I did not, however, escape the beanie baby hype.

To be fair, I didn’t buy it myself. It was a gift. Brand new with tags and in a box that had never been opened, it came accompanied by a promise and a warning:

A promise that if I left it in the box, left it unopened and un-tampered with, that one day it would be worth a fortune.

And a warning that if I took it out – even for a moment – if I risked getting it dirty or losing those precious tags, it would be utterly worthless.

All my friends had beanie babies, and those beanie babies stayed in their boxes for days, weeks, months, even years. But eventually they all came out of their clear cubic prisons. The beanie babies were played with and shared, just like toys are meant to be. Their tags came off, as had been warned, and the fortune my friends might have had was forever lost.

Oh, but not mine. I heeded those warnings and hid my beanie baby away, safe from all the perils a carefree and careless childhood might bring. And as I watched my friends laughing and sharing and playing, I reminded myself over and over again of the fortune that awaited me if I just waited.

A lifetime has passed since then, a lifetime so very different from what my 12-year-old self imagined it would be. The purity rings and stuffed animals have long since passed out of fashion, ending up in garbage bins and garage sales and goodwill piles. But she is still here: my little brown bear with her heart-shaped tag, hidden safely in her box on my shelf – in perfect mint condition.

When people see her sitting there, their reactions are varied. Some are impressed that I’ve managed to keep her for so long. Some are nostalgic for the time when they, too, believed that a little stuffed animal carried with it all the hopes and dreams and promises of a prosperous future. But more often than not, it’s viewed as strange.

To be a quarter of a century old and in possession of such a novelty is an oddity, to say the least.

But despite all that, I’ve grown sentimental. I’ve had her for so long now that I could never just throw her out or give her away to a stranger like so many others before me have done. And in all honesty, I’m beginning to think that – despite all those pretty promises I was given at 12 – she isn’t worth anything at all anymore. She’s become nothing more than an odd remnant of a lost time that no one really wants to re-visit.

And somehow, by association, so have I.

But a part of me still secretly hopes that some day a collector will show up on my doorstep – an oddity, like me, who clung to those same childhood promises that I did. I imagine him falling to his knees and joyously proclaiming that she’s the one, the rare and unique treasure he’s been searching for his entire life. Then, at long last, she could come off her shelf and be exchanged for the fortune I was promised so long ago.

I wouldn’t mind parting with her then, because I’d know that she was valued. That she’d be cared for and treated with gentleness and respect.

It’s such a silly, pretty dream. With each passing year it becomes a little less realistic, a little more ridiculous.

But the hopeless romantic in me still clings to it, just the same.

So she sits there with me to this day.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

A symbol of the innocence and hopeful naïvety of a childhood past.

Priceless? Worthless? I suppose that distinction is in the eye of the beholder.

We are both untouched.

Unblemished.

In Mint Condition.


4 thoughts on “Virginity: Is It Really Worth Saving?

  1. A Fellow Homeschooler

    What Cheryl Parrott said spoke to me and I would like to add something from the flip-side, if that’s ok; As she pointed out, so many women (and men, for that matter) feel “sullied” or “worthless” because they messed up or gave their virginity to someone at the wrong time.
    I was one of those people.
    My longtime boyfriend and I slipped up in a moment of emotional and physical weakness one day and became each other’s firsts, and it felt like the world had ended. Not because of the experience itself which as you know is beautiful and unlike anything else, but because of the fear of others finding out and thinking that we were Godless sinners because of our mistake.

    We sought council from people who told us that essentially we had to get married right then or else God would never bless us again and our future would be dark, probably ending in divorce.
    We’ve since stopped all physical contact that would lead to another mess-up and are seeking God’s will for our future together, but have disregarded the harmful words from those people. It took us a long time to bounce back from what they told us, but the truth is God still loves us, and we’re not worthless. We’ve grown exponentially from this experience, and believe wholeheartedly that our future together (and the marriage that is planned) will be God-honoring and blessed regardless of our mess-up.

    God wants us all to be close to Him and obey His commands by waiting for marriage, but what we as Christians need to be telling people is that if you slip up, you’re not “used-up duct tape.” You’re not worthless, you’re not unlovable. Like any sin, you need to repent and turn away from/stop engaging in it, but God won’t love you any less because you sinned. He doesn’t want you to beat yourself up (or Heaven forbid, have other do it for you) over a mess-up.

    You’re not the sum of your sins, you’re not useless because you gave up “the v-card.”

    God loves you, no matter what.

    Reply
    1. Bethany

      I am so glad you wrote this response – I don’t know if this was your experience or not, but I remember as a young teenager hearing all kinds of youth sermons that focused SO much on not having sex that I began to believe in my own mind that it was its own special category of sin that was infinitely and unforgivably worse than any other thing I could do. I remember hearing sermons about “Ladies you’re a toothbrush and you better not let too many boys use you because nobody wants a used toothbrush because that’s just ICKY.” And while I understand that the aim there was to protect us and challenge us to live a holy life, the subconscious takeaway message was (a) girls are items to be used (just like toothbrushes!) and (b) once they’ve been used, they’re worthless and even God thinks they’re disgusting. Let me be clear this is NOT the message I was taught at home at ALL, but it is the message that I and many others received through all the imperfect metaphors of youth group purity culture. And since the boys were never told that they were toothbrushes, it was almost exclusively the women who believed their entire worth and value as Christians and as human being was in their purity or lack thereof. I don’t think that’s healthy or Biblical. There are many, many good reasons to wait, both emotionally and biologically, but even more important than our ability to avoid stumbling is the understanding that even when we stumble (as humans inevitably do), CHRIST LOVES US. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. No height nor depth can separate us from His great love. Though purity in all its forms is something we as believers should strive for, I hope that in our attempts to “be holy as He is holy,” we do not lose sight of the beauty and power of the Gospel and of a God who loves us in spite and in the midst of our brokenness. So thank you for sharing your story and please know that as I shared my own it was not with the intent to elevate myself or my choices, but to say that even when you “do everything right” according to that youth culture we know so well, it doesn’t mean that God will instantly reward you with a superstar husband and phenomenal sex life as soon as you turn 20. Sometimes it means you just feel extra lonely for an extra long time, and even in the midst of that we can still say “I trust that He has a purpose and I trust that He is good.”

      Reply
  2. cheryl parrott

    Beautiful, as a counsellor who ministers to many many women who “opened the box of their beanie bear”and now feel sullied, it’s heart breaking.

    Reply
  3. Débora

    Bethany, I could not agree more with every word written by you here!! I am also waiting for the man I KNOW God has separated for me. You’re not alone, and I believe there are more girls who think like us out there! It is always worth waiting on God!! 🙂 Jennifer, I believe you did a great job raising a virtuous woman, and I am going to take every tip I can from you so I can do the same one day! 🙂

    Reply

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