"Why do you want to wait?" "Is it hard?" "But sex is FUN!" "You can't pay the mortgage off all at once, Katie." These are just a few of the myriad statements I hear when others learn of my decision to wait till marriage. As a twenty-one year old student (at a liberal university, in one of the most liberal cities), a self-proclaimed feminist, someone who's questioned her own sexuality, and someone who seems to have a crush a day (hey, I meet a lot of wonderful, beautiful, attractive people!), it seems shocking. Combined with my Catholicism, I seem an anamoly, especially given my previous statement. Yet I find this decision to be one of the most liberating ones of my life. To me, abstinence is empowerment.
First, I don't have to deal with some life-changing complications. I carry a ton of stress in my life. I go to school full-time, work nearly the same amount, carry some extracurriculars, plus I make time for things I deem important (music, connecting with friends and family, writing, reading for fun, church). What would I do if I got pregnant? Abortion repulses me and I tend to be a maternal person.....yet I know I could not be the mother I should be, should I be blessed enough with a child. At the same time, I know I'd grieve a baby I placed for adoption. I'd rather not have to make that choice, given the tensions I already face. I also do not wish to put my physical health at risk for STI's (even with protection....I don't trust it with my city's AIDS rate) or cervical cancer (NIH says that risk is greater with greater numbers of sexual partners).
"But there's protection!" Except, what are my options? I don't like the idea of putting (potentially carcinogenic, see WHO and NIH) hormones into my body unless I had serious medical conditions that required it (side effects also have me worried). In addition, with concerns rising about hormones in the water, I feel these would have social and environmental costs attached (not to mention, the cost out of my pocket!). For barrier methods, I'm not so sure how much I like the idea of synthetic materials entering my orifices, not to mention some also require leaking chemicals through my body (and again, going back into the water, reiterating my point on the environment). Furthermore, most options are only for the prevention of pregnancy. For STI protection, we only have condoms. What if it breaks, despite best efforts? Are a few moments of fun worth the rest of your life? I'd rather say I waited till marriage and have my friends laugh at me, rather than say I have AIDS and see tears on their faces.
Also, protection only works for the body (and again, not 100% of the time). What about the heart? Yes, I know, some people will have encounters and not regret an adventure. I am not one of those people. For those who know me, I get very attached to other people, especially people who are affectionate with me. I receive love through hugs, kisses, and other forms of physical touch. If I were to engage in sex with someone, I know that it would have to be within the context of a lifelong relationship because, for me, it would be a bonding experience. Further, I would not want its power clouding my judgment if someone were truly not right for me. When I date, I'm looking at the person as a potential life partner (which is why it remains an infrequent part of my life). I don't want their ability to romance and seduce me (in ways sexual or not) to get in the way of my judgment of their character and our compatibility.
This brings me to my final point. I've found that our over-consumerism has spilled into our romantic lives. Dating is no longer about who would make a suitable spouse. It's about who's the best at flirting, the most attractive, the most sexual, the most lavish and extravagant, and maybe we'll get married at some point. Our society has discouraged us from looking for commitment, encouraged us to focus on the superficial, and forgot one of our main institutions. Even if someone is amazing, we're expected to look for someone "better" because we're "young". When it comes to sex, they must please us from the beginning or they're out the door. If they lose their physical appearance, they are also eliminated. What a sad outlook!
No thanks. For me, I'd rather focus on becoming a more complete person, rooted in her values and embracing the crazy directions life takes me, while still maintaining a level of sanity and practicality. I'll look carefully for a spouse when I'm ready to look. When we've found each other, we'll embark on adventures together, sexual and non-sexual alike. We'll learn how to make a relationship withstand every fire, build a life through good and bad, storm and sun. We'll learn this particular dance in the same way a band learns to play together (after all, the guys in U2 were complete novices. Yet they've become a piece of magnificence) and appreciate its power and beauty, even if it's not always earth-shattering. We will embrace joy, sorrow, children, careers, age, economic booms and bust, war and peace together, until one of us dies. That's what I want and that's worth more than a thousand lovers.
Now, THAT'S sexy ;-)