Like millions of other voyeuristic women, I, too, was sucked into Fifty Shades of Grey. The lure that kept me hooked throughout the trilogy on a San Diego beach this summer was definitely not the butt devices or riding crops, nor the quality of the writing.
I was captured by the notion of a virginal awakening that turned into committed love and marriage. In Fifty Shades, Anastasia was a virgin at 21, a rare and diminishing breed. She was also a creature of fiction. Olympic track athlete Lolo Jones is the real thing. When the stunning Lolo, age 29, revealed during an HBO interview that she remains a virgin because it's "a gift I want to give my husband" there was a buzz among my own girl circle of midlife wives. We traded war stories of our tortured college romances that were physically euphoric and emotionally debilitating. We were the generation that came of age in the 1970s, an era that unleashed free love and random sex.
I am a journalist, not a preacher, and I'm not about to tell everyone to hold off on sex until wedding vows are exchanged. It's important to know there is sexual chemistry in your relationship before you choose a person as a spouse. But I've come to believe as a longtime relationship writer that it's best to hold off on sex until it comes with love. Love and sex go great together!
Experimenting with lots of bedfellows can feel good in the moment but there likely will be lasting repercussions. Older women who were products of the Sexual Revolution often tell me that having too many partners caused an inability to feel love, receive love or to sustain a relationship. Sex is not insignificant; we realize this more and more as we age. Sex is a big thing; it's the ultimate act of intimacy. There is a lesson here for younger women: Hooking up for one night with many people over many years can cause lots of confusion and pain.
"Every time you have sex with someone it's like tearing off a little piece of your heart," says Texas photographer Ann Oettel, who was a virgin of 21 when she got married 13 years ago. Here is more from Ann, the daughter of a Lutheran minister and the mother of four children, ages 10 and under.
She follows to the letter the word of the Bible, and while these ancient rules seem ludicrous to many singles there are some shrewd takeaways in Ann's views on sex and love and spiritual health:
I dated a lot of people and there were pressures to be physical, but I always had that ancient rule from the Bible ingrained in me. I see the damage it has done to my girlfriends who have had multiple sex partners.
They go into sex, not understanding the bond that takes place when two people make love. It just affects so many different areas. It affects your body, your mind, your soul, your heart gets broken. As the Bible says, "when the two become one flesh that is not meant to be broken." And when you become one flesh with many people, of course you are going to have problems forming permanent unions.
Sex is a sacred expression of love. Why would you think of wasting it on just anybody? No wonder there are so many young people who feel so worthless and used up. No wonder there is so much depression among college students. When you become one flesh with a lot of people, it's like ripping off a little piece off your heart every time.
In college, my friends were sleeping with guys but it was not even an option for me. Did I kiss a lot of boys? Absolutely. My husband David did not even kiss a girl; he was very straight and narrow;, and very devoted to his Christian path. I honestly wished I had waited until I met David to kiss anyone, too. It doesn't do you any good to go around kissing a lot of people. Even that tears up your heart.
I remember during the days of Monica Lewinsky my college friends were saying things like maybe they would be tempted, too, to have sex with a handsome president. When I told them I would remain a virgin until marriage the look on their faces was aghast. That was a defining moment from me -- really significant. I confessed with my mouth what was true in my heart, and I didn't care what anyone thought of me.
And I stayed true to my words: I was that rare bride who had sex for the first time on her honeymoon. It was special because it was the first time, but frankly it wasn't great. Sex does get better with age - David knows me, I know him, and all we want to do is please each other. Our sex and our marriage has so much depth because we've been the only one for each other. We are truly making love and not just having sex.
To be a virgin at marriage is the way it should be. Like the Bible says, I do feel like we are one flesh, he is part of me and I am part of him and I can't even imagine being with anyone else. There is a confidence and comfort in sex for us. The thought of getting naked in front of another man is disgusting to me.
Sex is not meant to be a temporal thing; it's not meant to be a one-time thing. It's meant to be a coupling for life. You can't sleep with someone and not have a part of you attached to him. It is simply not possible.
You might be pleasuring your body temporarily but you are leaving permanent scars on your soul.
Right now I am watching track star Lolo Jones, strong and chaste, making some gracious comments on TV in the wake of her Olympic defeat. Eyes flashing, her smile riveting, she is talking about running and perseverance. I am imagining all the men who are watching along with me and thinking about sex and not sports. My wish for Lolo is that if she bears any permanent scars in her life it will be on her body from tough work-outs and not on her soul from ill-fated romance.