What Progressive Christians, Conservative Christians, Non Christians, and Salon’s Amanda Marcotte Gets Wrong About Christian Views on Virginity
In her August 2014 post “The Christian right has been wrong on the question of virginity all along” (link to that editorial) Salon’s Amanda Marcotte (who I do agree with on occasion, at least partially on some issues some of the time, see this former post for a few examples), is wrong about “the religious right” supposedly “always having been wrong” about virginity. She doesn’t even properly or accurately understand their motivations.
As is usual, I am arguing this from how evangelicals, Baptist, and other mainstream conservative Christian groups usually teach about or view sexuality, sexual sin, and virginity. I am not addressing views held by groups such as “Quivering families” or Reconstructionists.
I see some of Marcotte’s views about virginity held by other groups, such as some ex Christians, or progressive Christians, which is why I have included them in this post’s heading.
One of the first things I noticed about Marcotte’s anti-virginity editorial – and that’s precisely what it is in the end scheme of things – notice how supporters of laissez-faire sexuality, or “no slut shaming,” are hostile towards virginity, celibacy, or adults who choose to remain virgins – is that her editorial focuses on women.
On this score, secularists and progressive Christians are just as bad. Neither side even considers that perhaps males should remain virgins until they marry. Only female sexuality, and specifically female virginity, is discussed. All they do is howl and protest that supposedly a woman is reduced to her virginity by others.
I do believe that some mainstream conservative Christian denominations or organizations do not discuss or promote male virginity nearly enough, and that they do mention female virginity quite a bit by comparison.
The solution, so far as I am concerned, and if one wants to remain faithful to biblical teachings on sexual mores, or to adhere to traditional morals, is to be equal in application: hold males up to the same standards, and just as often, vocally, and consistently; do not lower the standards for female sexuality because society, in years past, has given males a free pass on promiscuity.
Do not keep beating the drum on blogs, in sermons, or Christian youth rallies for the importance of female virginity only. Christian and conservative speakers and writers should be mentioning and promoting male virginity or celibacy just as often.
One of Marcotte’s main premises says that creating a sense of guilt in girls or women for having pre-marital sex (i.e., giving up one’s virginity) is a primary goal of the religious right. I disagree. I think she woefully misunderstands most Christians on this point.
I think the sincere motivation by most Christians who bother to advocate for virginity at all these days (they are becoming a rarity), for anyone, man or woman, are due to various factors that are not tied to making people feel guilty, which include but are not limited to:
Wanting to live by and respect biblical sexual ethics, and at that, to please God; not wanting anyone to contract sexually transmitted illnesses; not wanting unplanned pregnancies to occur; not wanting young people who engage in pre-marital sex… to feel guilt (ironic, no? I shall explain).
Yes, on that last point – even people who do not grow up in “religious right homes” might express or experience guilt, shame, or remorse after having pre-marital sex, or casual sex. I’ve seen this come up in magazines, blogs, or books about dating and relationships.
Despite our culture telling people they should not feel any guilt at all over any sexual activity, some still do and admit that they do when discussing the topic with friends or on blogs or in interviews.
Despite secular feminists and progressive Christians constantly telling women they should be able to have casual flings and not feel shame or regret over it, some women (and some men) still do.
Some women do have a difficult time divorcing sexual acts from emotional closeness.
Some women might experience feelings of regret, feelings of being used, or being hurt, if, after they have sex with a guy, that the guy never calls them back or continues a relationship.
Some women do connect sex to emotional intimacy (which does not excuse Christians who continue to uphold the stereotypes that women don’t like sex, don’t want it, and are only “emotionally” stimulated).
Over the past year, on blogs, and in one televised interview, I’ve seen grown men admit that when they had pre-marital sex as teens or college students (some of these men say as teens or pre teens, they were sexually molested prior to this by older teens or women which is what ushered them into having pre marital consensual sex with other women later), and that this later led them down a path of frequent pornography usage, and they had a more difficult time establishing or maintaining emotional closeness to women.
Some men said that they felt guilt, shame, or hurt over having been sexually active prior to marriage. Having pre-marital sex, they said, skewed their views about women, sex, marriage, dating, and relationships, and left them with negative emotional issues.
It’s simply a fact that different people react to sex differently.
I find it interesting that even in our very sexually permissive society, with all the bloggers, magazine writers, and talking heads on TV telling everyone else that any and all forms of sex at any time in one’s life should be pleasurable and one should not feel guilt over it, some still feel used, guilty, or shamed. This is even without messages from “the religious right” that Marcotte so dreads.
The sub-heading of Marcotte’s editorial is “A new study shows women don’t feel that bad about giving up their virginity.” She seems to feel this study is her ace in the hole to shoot down Christian views about sex (it isn’t the trump card she thinks it is).
Here is one excerpt by Marcotte from that page regarding the study:
- “Well, new evidence has emerged showing that this effort to turn virginity into the measure of a young woman’s worth has been a big, fat failure.
“New research published in the Journal of Sex Research shows that, for women over the past three decades, feelings of guilt over losing virginity have been in decline.”
“Women who lost their virginity in the years 1980-1991 rated their feelings of guilt as an average 4 on a scale from 1-7, but women who lost their virginity between 2002-2012 rated their feelings of guilt at 3.5.”
“More interestingly, taking pleasure in their first intercourse, which stayed at a steady 4.9 average rating for men over the decades, went up even more dramatically for women than feelings of guilt went down.”
Absence of guilt from participating in a particular act does not necessarily prove that the act is right, moral, wise, or proper for that individual or for one’s culture.
Several times in my life, I have watched sentencing carried out live on televised news shows, where a judge hands down a sentence of a man found guilty of murder.
In one of these cases I saw, after the judge said the man was found guilty and his punishment was life in prison, the cameraman focused the camera on the man’s face. The man was smirking. Smirking.
Not crying in shame over realization that he had taken a human life and was now paying a price for it, no. He seemed to be defiant, satisfied, or amused over the fact he had murdered a human being.
In another, similar case I saw televised, the other man, a convicted killed, showed no expression at all. He didn’t seem to care at all that he murdered someone or that he was going to spend 25 years in prison for it. No emotion registered on his face.
I’m not going to beat this point to death here, because I have blogged about this before, but sometimes, guilt and shame are good things, not things that should be avoided.
Here’s one post I did about this some time ago:
- (Link): Sometimes Shame Guilt and Hurt Feelings Over Sexual Sins Is a Good Thing – but – Emergents, Liberals Who Are Into Virgin and Celibate Shaming
I do think people experiencing guilt over some things for some time is not necessarily a bad thing, but, I’m not advocating an extreme where someone spends 10 or 20 years beating him or herself up over having had pre marital sex.
If, however, we live in a culture where nobody feels any guilt or regret at all at anytime for any improper behavior, that is a little frightening. Sexual behavior can and does result at times in negative consequences or feelings of regret for some individuals. Perhaps not all the time, but some times.
I’d also like to ask people who sneer at virginity and traditional sexual morals, such as Marcotte, does she consider the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to be slut shamers:
- (Link): Slut Shaming and Virgin Shaming and Secular and Christian Culture – Dirty Water / Used Chewing Gum and the CDC’s Warnings – I guess the CDC is a bunch of slut shamers?
I don’t think that the CDC is a bastion of social conservatives, Christians, or religious right advocates, or known as being such.
There are several claims that Marcotte make that are not true in this editorial. She mistakes her own perceptions of and prejudices against Republicans, or the religious right, views onto their values when she writes things such as,
- “This notion that non-virgins are tawdry and unworthy was pushed by the Bush administration, which manipulated federal funding to try to get “abstinence-only” programs teaching this view of sexuality into every public school in the country. It also surged within Christian right circles with the rise of virginity pledges, purity rings and even purity balls aimed mostly or exclusively at girls to send the message that you somehow become dirty or impure if you have sex without being married.”
I see this sort of thinking come up often by ex-Christians and progressive Christians who despise Christian sexual purity teachings, and it’s crept into some conservative Christian circles now.
When you were 12 years of age, and your Sunday School teacher compared losing one’s virginity prior to marriage as being like a wad of used chewing gum, while that analogy may not have been the most sensitive, I would think the goal was merely to get young people listening to seriously reconsider pre-marital boinking and its accompanying, possible ramifications.
The motive or goal in such purity teachings was not to instill deep feelings of guilt, unworthiness, or shame 20 years later in 35 year olds who say they were haunted forever, in light of hearing such teachings or analogies, after they consensually boinked their college boyfriend when they were 19 years old.
- “All of this increase in pleasure and decrease in guilt [in women having pre marital sex] has occured despite the dramatic uptick in Christian right guilt-tripping over sex and pushing the idea that virginity equals purity.”
Virginity does equal purity.
It seems the vast majority of people who did not wait until marriage to have sex get steamed over this fact and want to debate it, or the ones who did wait, but who are misled by the anti-sexual purity brigade, who want to argue the point. I wrote of this previously,
(Link): Long Editorial about Virginity at CT – ‘Don’t Blame Evangelicals for the Cult of the Virgin’ – I Notice It’s the Fornicators Who Want to Ignore or Downplay the Bible’s Teaching that People Are To Stay Virgins Until Marriage
When Marcotte writes,
- “All of this increase in pleasure and decrease in guilt [in women having pre marital sex] has occured despite the dramatic uptick in Christian right guilt-tripping over sex and pushing the idea that virginity equals purity.”
What “dramatic uptick” is Marcotte speaking about? Does she mean the “True Love Waits” campaign of the early or mid 1990s?
Surely Marcotte cannot be referring to Christian culture of the last several years, where we’ve seen conservative Christian bloggers such as Tim Challies making arguments on his widely-read blog that “all fornicators are virgins now”? Or is she not aware of ERLC Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, who has also been highly dismissive of virginity (if not out and out insulting towards it), as has widely-read Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans.
Even the “True Love Waits” organization has watered down the importance of virginity:
- “The Bush administration tied sex education funding from the federal government to the requirement that schools shun contraception education to push the silly idea that everyone should wait to have sex until marriage, but young women bucked that pressure by having better, less guilty first times at sexual intercourse.”
Marcotte is highly hypocritical on this point, as so many are these days.
I am expected to accept, support, and champion all sorts of sexual behavior or sexual orientations I do not agree with or that I consider immoral, but here I am, a woman past 40, who chose to stay a virgin this long (though I was engaged and had chances to have sex), and my sexual choice is being deemed as “silly” by Marcotte.
Where is that old post of mine again? Ah yes, here it is:
So, Marcotte would likely support a teen girl who says she wants to start having pre-marital sex with her boyfriend, but Marcotte would tell these teens below what? That their choice of what to do with their bodies and sexuality – by not having sex until they marry – is “silly”
- “That’s good, because it just so happens to be true: There’s nothing wrong with not being a virgin. After all, 95 percent of Americans have had premarital sex, and the world has not stopped spinning on its axis”
And there is nothing wrong with staying a virgin.
It does not matter if 95% of Americans are [__insert whatever activity here___], for it does not necessarily follow that because 95% of Americans are engaging in [__whatever activity___] make [__whatever activity___] morally acceptable, wise, or good, as I said above.
If a new study told me that 95% of Americans now torture puppies for fun, I would not deduce from this that puppy torture is kind, loving, or moral.
Maybe the 5% who are not pre-marital boinking are the ones who are right. Maybe the 95% who are pre-marital diddling should feel bad and guilty for it.
- “The myth that virgins are somehow “pure” and that a man takes something from a woman by having sex with her can do immense damage to women’s self-esteem, even if they do follow all the arbitrary rules and wait until marriage to have sex.”
It’s not a myth: virgins are in fact pure. Please explain to me how they are not, Marcotte.
By the way, notice here again that she only mentions women. The fact is, men who are virgins are also pure. Why are we leaving men out of this conversation?
If you claim you are ignoring men in this context because Christians often do (and I would agree that is pretty true), then you bring it up; remind Christians they need to be consistent and make male virginity as important as female virginity.
And what “arbitrary rules” is she referring to?
What is arbitrary about waiting until marriage to have sex? That “rule” seems very clear cut to me: don’t have intercourse prior to marriage. (For some Christians or conservatives, they may also believe in no oral sex, masturbation, kissing and/or hand holding prior to marriage.) But I don’t see anything especially vague or “arbitrary” about “do not have sexual intercourse prior to marriage.”
Marcotte mentions this:
- “Earlier this month, the writer Samantha Pugsley, writing for XO Jane, described the serious damage done to her life and her marriage by her “choice,” made when she was a mere 10 years old, to take a virginity pledge, a pledge she actually kept by waiting until her wedding night to have sex. Despite Christian propaganda pushing the idea that waiting until marriage leads to better sex, Pugsley found that her feelings of awkwardness and guilt about sex persisted even after the ring on her finger supposedly made sex okay. “Everyone knew my virginity was gone. My parents, my church, my friends, my co-workers,” she writes, adding that she felt “soiled.” “My virginity had become such an essential part of my personality that I didn’t know who I was without it.””
Many times before on this blog, I have been critical of a Christian community who push virginity until marriage by telling people things like “the sex will be mind-blowing if you wait.” One reason of several I disagree with this approach is that it can create marital problems down the road. However, this is not a reason to abandon the support of virginity.
Virginity being taught poorly by some groups or churches is not an excuse or strong enough rationale to stop supporting or teaching about the importance or value of virginity, or to refrain from teaching people of all ages that abstaining from sex is a perfectly good choice for people to make if they want to.
People should not be shamed or ridiculed for choosing to remain virgins.
Here are a few blog posts where I’ve discussed this situation, or related ones:
- (Link): Problems Created by Conservative Christian Teachings About Virginity, Sex, and Marriage: Christian Couple Who Were Virgins At Marriage Are Experiencing Sexual Problems – Re: UnVeiled Wife (Marriage does not guarantee great sex)
(Link): Horny Celibacy – Another Anti Virginity, Anti Sexual Purity Essay – Also discussed: Being Equally Yoked, Divorce, Remarriage
- “Eventually, her misery around sex caused Pugsley to get help and eventually come around to seeing that “the entire concept of virginity is used to control female sexuality.”
Whether the concept is or is not used to “control female sexuality” is beside the point, especially for Christians who take to heart the Bible’s teachings about sexuality purity.
- “But the concept of virginity and the idea that women who “lose” it are somehow spoiled and should be ashamed has ramifications beyond just the individual damage done to women’s psyches and relationships.”
There’s nothing wrong with someone feeling ashamed over committing a sexual trespass – I would hope that they do; this applies to male fornicators, as well. If these fornicators are Christians, they can seek God’s forgiveness for sexual sin and move on.
My ex fiance’ was a fornicator, but I stayed with him anyway, but I did not like the fact he had already had sex with another woman or two. It bothered me.
If you are a fornicator who gets engaged to, or who marries, a person with high sexual ethics such as myself, one who would prefer or expect to end up with another virgin, you are placing another hurdle for that person to overcome.
I had to do some work to process the fact that my ex was not a virgin when we met.
I did not hold his sexual past against him in the long run, but I had to work through that issue. I could not snap my fingers and be past it in a moment of time. It was painful for me to accept he had given himself away to another woman or two in the years before we met. There are, or can be, consequences to your fornication for your future partner.
- “It’s not a stretch to say that much of the Christian right’s current activism is built around the idea that women–at least single women–should remain virgins.”
Christians don’t expect married people to stay virgins – only in satire pieces, Marcotte (Maybe she’s confusing The Lark site with an actual news site):
If anything, married Christian women get guilt-tripped and lectured frequently by preachers to “put out” all the time.
Some, like preacher Mark Driscoll, even browbeat married Christian women into thinking that God demands that they perform blow jobs on their spouses vis a vis his spin on the Biblical book of Song of Songs. More on that topic here:
By the way, Christians, I think, do expect single Christian MEN to stay virgins until marriage they only neglect to discuss it as often as they do female sexuality, probably because men do not get pregnant. I would suspect that is one big reason. But Christians failing to be even handed on this issue is not a reason to drop support for virginity for men or women.
- “Even the right-wing obsession with women who have children “out of wedlock” goes back to the idea that a woman who has sex is used up and worth less than a woman who hasn’t had sex.”
While I have seen mountains of editorials by conservatives lamenting the rise of single mothers (ie pregnancy out of wedlock), Marcotte knows not what she speaks in regards to motherhood: if there is one thing of several that mainstream conservative Christians are prejudiced against, it’s a woman such as me who has never married, never had sex, never had children.
Christian women are told often that their most godly duty in life is to marry and make babies.
Women like me who to do not conform with these notions of wife and mother are either ignored or insulted – by the majority of Christians.
I’ve done many posts about those topics, such as:
- (Link): Are Marriage and Family A Woman’s Highest Calling? by Marcia Wolf – and other links that address the Christian fallacy that a woman’s most godly or only proper role is as wife and mother
I don’t think Marcotte digs deeply into Christian culture enough to pick up these nuances – she seems to only scrape the surface via the big headlines where the latest right wing Christian screams about the detriments of unplanned pregnancy and out of wedlock births.
If Marcotte actually familiarized herself with Reformed, fundamentalist, Baptist, and evangelical culture, she would see that un-married, adult virgins who are childless, such as myself, are not honored or placed on pedestals; far from it.
In most churches today, and in much Christian thinking, the marriage, natalism, and the nuclear family have been made into an idol, so that any adult who does not marry or have children is treated with suspicion or as a failure, or is ostracized.
Virginity and celibacy have been diminished among Christian these days: they actually respect single mothers for at least pro-creating. Christian women who remain virgins past 25, and who never procreate, are regarded by many Christians as freaks, losers, or as disobedient, as they did not follow God’s (supposed) highest calling for a woman: marry and have babies.
Post- Age- 25 virgin Christians receive scorn or insult from other Christians, not honor or respect. Marcotte and those like her are out to lunch and completely wrong when they keep arguing that Christians revere virginity for women.
One of the main take away points I get from Marcotte is she wants limitless, boundary-less sex for all, where nobody ever feels guilt over sex, or never seriously considers any possible negative consequences of pre-marital sex. That’s not exactly a winning side or noble concern in itself.
That more women are feeling less guilt over having pre marital sex does not prove much of anything, only that our society is more and more lax about sexual ethics, and that’s not necessarily something to cheer about.
Marcotte also remains under the illusion that Christians respect or uphold virginity and celibacy – they in fact do not.
Check this out:
Related posts this blog:
(Link): Gonorrhea Super Strain Becoming ‘Untreatable’ (in the UK; may be heading to the USA) – 2015 story
(Link): Pastors avoid ‘controversy’ to keep tithes up, author says – Confirms What I’ve Been Saying All Along, Re: Churches: Contrary to Progressive Christians, Churches / Christians Do Not Support or Idolize Sexual Purity, Virginity, or Celibacy – they attack these concepts when not ignoring them
(Link): Mother Entitlement – Selfish, Self-Centered Mothers Complain that They Are Not Getting ENOUGH Mother Worship from Culture, Church, or Family on Mother’s Day and Some Moms Complain About Churches Showing Compassion to Childless Women
(Link): After Pastor’s Son Comes Out as Homosexual, Southern Baptist Church Breaks With Denomination on Homosexuality – Once More Christians Allow Their Feelings To Cancel Out What God Says In The Bible on Sexual Morality – Christians worship feelings now, not God
(Link): Sexual Equality, Sexual Decadence: The Emerging Menace of Female Predators – from The Other McCain – Also quotes feminists as saying Virginity Invalidates Lesbianism and is Hence a Terrible Concept
This page also discusses preacher Driscoll’s unbiblical views about celibacy, singleness, etc:
(Link): Preacher Mark Driscoll Basically Says No, Single Christian Males Cannot or Should Not Serve as Preachers / in Leadership Positions – Attempts to Justify Unbiblical, Anti Singleness Christian Bias