Prior to getting married, I was an overzealous advocate of abstinence. This did not mean that I organized True Love Waits rallies, attended purity balls or brandished a purity ring (mine was placed in a "safe" location in my room never to be seen again after my 13th birthday). But it did mean that I took the decision to save sex for marriage very seriously.
For one, I was determined to heed my mother's early admonishments not to "make the same mistakes she did." I would learn from the heartache of her unwanted pregnancy at 19. I would protect my heart and my body.
My commitment to chastity also became entrenched due to the highly sexualized nature of North American youth culture. It disturbed me to my deepest core that remaining a virgin past the age of 16 was deemed an unrealistic goal. So I took it upon myself to be the exception. I would show that it was possible to remain "pure." It is here that the seeds of pride were sown in the fertile ground of good intentions.
I embraced the image of myself as the radical abstinence practitioner until I became engaged at the age of 24. Up to this point, my pride had deluded me into thinking that I had a balanced, Godly view of sexuality. I assumed that because I had "fought the good fight" to remain chaste, I would be able to seamlessly transition into a healthy sexual relationship with my husband.
However, as the wedding night approached, I found myself reluctant to have sex and growing ever resentful at the idea that I had to surrender 24 years of hard-won virginity. I did not see sexual intercourse as a gift from God or a wonderful way to gain intimacy with my husband. Instead, sex signified a loss. To me, it meant nothing more than deflowerment. The fact that I would even view my husband as a "deflowerer" should have been the sign that something was seriously wrong about my attitude toward sex. But my pride did not allow me to challenge this viewpoint.
And so I spent a very disappointing honeymoon trying to have awesome sex but just feeling empty. I tried to be sexy (wear lingerie, etc.) but it felt extremely hollow. I was going through the motions but not owning my sexuality. I knew that I was blocked inside somehow. I couldn't recognize that it was my own pride that had twisted my commitment to chastity into chains that confined my married sexuality.
You see rather than let God shape my sexuality; I made it all about me. My dedication to chastity was egocentric -- it centered on the steeling of my will, and the impressiveness of my ability to have a serious relationship without physical intercourse.
I loved the respect I got from being a virgin and I did not see how being a wife gave me any honor. As often goes with pride, the more I made my commitment to abstinence about me, the more I became distanced from the real me -- a sexual being God created for pleasure. I did not want to be sexual and I divorced myself from that identity. I refused to make peace with my vagina (you just stay down there and do your thing -- I'll do mine), and I viewed biblical examples of sexual pleasure as embarrassingly crass ("Breasts like ripe melons"?! Keep your mind out of the gutter, Solomon!).
Ultimately, the squelching of my sexuality only led to heartache and frustration for me and my husband.
It can be very hard for a dedicated virgin to "switch gears" into passionate married sexuality. If the transition is difficult for you, you are not alone. But God can heal you and help you realize that your chaste self is not that far removed from your sexual self. After all, chastity is meant to prepare you for intimacy, be it with God through bodily purity or with your husband through the physical act of sex.
I would like to encourage others to embrace chastity but not to do so at the expense of their own God given sexuality.
It is possible to turn chastity -- one's virginity -- into an idol. By prizing our own purity too highly, it is possible to hurt married sexuality.
Do not let abstinence become an idol in your life, like I did.
Written by Prisca Bird for GoodWomenProject.com