It may surprise you to know that yes, there really are people in the modern age—other than the infamous Duggars—who are saving their first kiss and, erm, everything “else” for marriage. It may be even more surprising to you that many of us actually aren’t fundamentalist Independent Baptists whose only views about premarital sex are that it’s dirty and immoral. The media’s take on extremist “purity culture” tends to provide a broad picture of what it means to be a part of this group. Unfortunately, this also means it provides an incomplete picture of what we look like. So, to help fill in some of the blanks, here’s a list of things people who are saving their first kiss (like me!) want the rest of the world to know about us:
“Waiting” until marriage can mean many different things.
As I previously stated, I am part of the fraction of people out there who has chosen to wait until I am married to kiss and engage in any sexual contact with my spouse. For me, that means hand-holding, kissing on the cheek and forehead, full-frontal hugs, and cuddling are all OK. This is not the norm, however, and that is because there is no norm for this kind of thing. Plenty of couples decide that it is okay if they engage in any kind of premarital physical act as long as they don’t have penetrative sex. Plenty of other couples draw the line at kissing on the lips, or decide to on special occasions, but limit those kisses to quick pecks lasting only a few seconds. For many other couples, it is preferable to refrain from any body contact other than what can be referred to as the “side-hug.” In certain cultures, significant others choose not to touch or even meet before their wedding day. Basically, there is a wide and complex spectrum of what is and isn’t OKto do before marriage, and everyone must decide what is right for them—so be careful about assuming certain things when someone says they’re “waiting!”
There are many reasons people choose not to engage in physical activity before marriage.
For many, the choice to abstain is largely because of religious doctrine. The most widely-known example of that is Christianity, but there are many religions that limit sexual contact before marriage, including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and the Bahá’í faith. It is important to note, however, that religion is not the only reason someone may choose to abstain from premarital physical contact of any kind. Many choose to do so as a way of honoring their culture or adhering to cultural norms, others because they have limited access to information about sex as well as contraception and STD/STI protection, and others because they simply have no interest in engaging in that kind of behavior (whether that be yet or ever). Some may have even experienced some level of sexual abuse that prevents them from safely engaging in sexual acts, even kissing, without feeling uncomfortable or anxious. Most people assume I’m waiting because of my Christian faith; in actuality, it’s more complicated than that and involves a lot of other personal issues I don’t really like to talk about. It is important to recognize that there are many reasons someone may choose to wait until marriage, and that each reason is important to the person making that decision.
Not everyone is vocal about their decision to wait.
For many, this is because they are afraid of being teased or rejected; for others, it’s because they just haven’t had the opportunity to go public. I personally have kept it a secret from most of my family because I am Christian and they are atheist, and I keep it under wraps in most social circles to prevent people from making unfair assumptions about me. I also do not want my choice to become a badge of pride, as it has for so many champions of purity culture. I don’t want my decision to save kissing for marriage to become more about being “better” or more pure than others, because then it would lose all of its meaning for me.
It’s not a smooth ride, but the bumps aren’t the worst either.
When people find out I don’t kiss before marriage, they usually ask me if it’s easy or hard for me to “resist temptation.” Truthfully, the answer to that question is yes and no. Sometimes, yes, I find it easy to stand my ground. In fact, there are many times in my life when I didn’t even have to think about it, and so many more when I actually felt lucky never having to worry about kissing a stranger at a party and then regretting it later! But, as with any choice, there are moments when I wonder if I’m making a big mistake. I remember one New Year’s Eve when the ball dropped, and my stomach dropped with it when I realized how left out I felt about not being able to kiss the guy I was seeing. I remember so many nights in college when I felt the urge to invite that dark-eyed junior who had been flirting with me all year into my bed, because all I wanted was someone to make me feel wanted and not alone. Lack of sexual contact doesn’t necessarily point to lack of sexual desire, although for some people, engaging in physical contact with another person isn’t something they want or need. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that everyone’s journey comes with struggles and rewards, and what exactly those are differs for each individual.
The hardest part of dating is the beginning.
Although it may seem like the worst part of dating someone who is saving themselves is having your desire for them build over time, it’s actually the very first date where things get really difficult. This is especially true for those of us who aren’t completely “out” yet, because there is no right time and definitely no right way to break it to someone who is interested in you that sorry, no romantic kiss on the front stoop awaits the end of this conversation. It’s especially hard when you face the inevitable moment when a potential significant other rejects you because of your boundaries. In that moment, you have to remind yourself that it isn’t fair to be mad or upset with them for making a different decision about their bodies than you did. It’s disappointing, of course, but it doesn’t make them a bad person. Which leads me to my next point:
We are not judging you if you choose differently than us.
This is the hardest message to get across and is often the reason why some people who are saving themselves try to hide it from their peers, especially people who are not waiting for religious or cultural reasons. As stated above, there are many reasons why someone may choose not to engage in certain activities before marriage; this means that because the reasons are so personal, we don’t think people who have chosen to do those things are wrong for doing so. Of course there are some people who are very vocal about judging people who partake in premarital sex, but I promise that is not the norm. Why is that? Because…
The details of other people’s sex lives—or lack thereof—are nobody’s business.
This may seem kind of weird, considering I just wrote a whole article about it, but it’s true. What someone does or doesn’t do in the privacy of their own home is nobody’s business but theirs. If someone invites you to ask questions or volunteers their personal reasons for why they choose not to do certain things, that’s great! But if not, keep in mind that just as it’s rude and unnecessary to ask someone who is sexually active about the intimate details about their sex lives, it is just as rude to pry into the sex lives of those of us who are choosing a different path. In the end, it doesn’t really matter anyway, right? There a billion other things we could be talking about—art, food, music, literature, politics, nature, psychology, social justice, science, the universe…
In conclusion, don’t let purity culture trick you into making assumptions about people who abstain from various sexual acts before marriage. It’s not that big of a deal, it’s certainly not the entirety of who we are as people, and yes, we really are just like you.
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