Here is the first of five shared stories as part of impromptu British/Irish sex week – unpacking some sexual experiences, talking about our sex and relationships education and values. I’m hoping these stories share the journeying some of us have gone on and are now prepared to share. This week will present a variety of perspectives, intentionally to highlight the diversity of our sexual expression and encounter within the Christian church/faith. You may have noticed already – but I really like sharing stories on this blog…
“I didn’t have sexual intercourse until my wedding night and took pride in my decision making and self control for a few years after being married. I am really glad that I saved such intimacy for our relationship and that together we have been able to go on a journey with our sex life, learning together and not having insecurities about performance, other people and comparisons.
I did have a relationship previous to being married where I experienced some sexual intimacy and other intimacies such as sharing a bed. When this relationship broke down, I had a lot of regrets about being so close to someone I wasn’t going to be with forever, the level of regret was definitely influenced by my faith as a Christian. I felt guilty about the grey area of sexual intimacy but I was relieved that we hadn’t had intercourse and I am still glad about that. However as the years have gone by I don’t feel as guilty and see that relationship as formative in my learning about relationships, love and sexuality. I still remember the heartache that it caused and wondered if that was greater because of the intimacy and whether it would have been worse if we were having more sex?
This all impacted my next relationship with my now husband and there were certain things I didn’t want to do until married as I didn’t want to risk being that close to someone and it not being forever again. This meant that when things got too heated we would always put the brakes on. This did mean oppressing really natural feelings and attributing them to something not permitted and naughty. Looking back I think this did impact our sex life once we were married because we had tried hard to keep a lid on our passion for each other. We had to work a bit at relaxing and letting ourselves go with the flow once we were ‘allowed’.
Still now, for me personally I wouldn’t want it any other way but I do think a lot about what I would want for my children and what I think about people who weren’t as lucky as me to meet their forever person at such a young age.. The decision to stay a ‘virgin’ until I was married would definitely have got more difficult the longer I was single. I was feeling less cool about being a virgin even at 22 compared to 18/19/20yrs! I also feel really lucky/blessed that the person I chose to marry in my early 20’s is still the person I choose and would choose in my early thirties. Friends of mine haven’t been so lucky and I really admire my sister and other friends who haven’t got married to the first person they’ve been intimate with despite their Christian friends and even their big sister looking on with disapproval at times.
I have the priviledge of teaching sex and relationship education in both ‘secular’ and ‘Christian’ contexts. In both arenas I talk about being ready for sex and looking at how you might know you are ready and why it’s good to wait for the right person or relationship.
In Christian settings I really stress that only if they have decided for themselves that they want to wait until married is this the best thing for them but that it doesn’t mean they will be able to wait and they mustn’t feel condemned if they do have sex. I talk a lot about God’s grace and forgiveness. Some of the young people are so sure they will be virgins until they get married that they don’t want to hear the sexual health side of what I’m talking about or think it applies to them. My concern is that they are at greater risk of poor sexual health and pregnancy if they do ‘slip up’.
They talked a lot to us about sex in my church when I was young but no one ever said you could get sexually transmitted infections from oral sex and from other bodily contact even though some people were doing these things and thinking they were protecting their virginity. I have also heard about young people having anal sex to protect their virginity too!
For my children my hope is that they have really healthy and happy relationships. I hope they make informed decisions and that they avoid too much heart ache. If this means they have sex before they are married while they are making the hard decision of who to marry then I think I’m ok with that.”