A lot of my friends thought I was kidding — or crazy –when they heard that my fiancé and I were not having sex until we got married.
It was a decision we had made separately before we even started dating. The response I got from people who knew of our decision confirmed my suspicion that sex is no longer widely viewed as an option in dating relationships, but a requirement and is actually considered by most as a prerequisite to marriage. This is why celebrity couples like Meagan Good and Devon Franklin made headlines when they announced they were engaged and celibate. We already knew that Meagan had committed to abstain until marriage, but for some odd reason that commitment was expected to be disregarded when in a serious relationship. We believe that celibate women can’t possibly get engaged and when they are, it’s shocking.
In fact, for some odd reason, many believe that celibate women — especially the Christian ones — are sitting in convents, wrapped in nun outfits, proudly announcing they’re married to Jesus.
I first noticed this in my own life when people would ask me if my fiance and I kiss. They figured if we weren’t fornicating then we weren’t kissing either. Granted, there are some people who do wait until their wedding day to have their first kiss and five million people watch them eat each other’s faces. These couples fit squarely into the fallacious stereotype that people who wait until marriage to have sex are young, naive, and childlike.
We’re comfortable with those stereotypes because we’ve been brainwashed to believe that having indiscriminate sex is normal and adults who are celibate are not normal.
Personally, I was faced with my own erroneous beliefs when I learned that my then-boyfriend (now husband) was a virgin. Though I met him at church, I was still thoroughly shocked. I was celibate, but I didn’t think I knew any men who were real-life virgins. “But…you’re handsome, you have a great personality, you’re educated, you have a solid career, you have your own house, you’re over 30…” my list of reasons why he couldn’t possibly be a virgin went on and on. Unbeknownst to me, I had internalized the propaganda that no man hits 25 without dropping trou unless he looks and acts like Steve Carell in “40-Year-Old Virgin”.
Sadly, many people in the nation share this flawed thinking. We are taught that abstaining from sex means abstaining from living. Celibate people — especially virgins — are expected to be prude, unattractive, homely, recluses who are probably asexual. When celebrities like Tim Tebow and Lolo Jones come along with their “I’m a virgin” confession thus publicly catapulting all negative stereotypes into oblivion, the press doesn’t know how to react.
Do you remember when Tim Tebow was chosen by Jockey for an endorsement contract and he was dubbed “the unlikeliest underwear model ever”? Though, many athletes endorse undergarments, apparently, the fact that this athlete wasn’t tossing off his briefs in the presence of groupies made him an odd choice.
In a borderline bitter and excessively harsh piece on Lolo in the New York Times published recently, author Jere Longman said:
Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses.
In 2009, Jones posed nude for ESPN the Magazine. This year, she appeared on the cover of Outside magazine seeming to wear a bathing suit made of nothing but strategically placed ribbon. At the same time, she has proclaimed herself to be a 30-year-old virgin and a Christian.
In that last line, you can practically see the sarcasm dripping off the page as though virginity means anything other than “never had sex”. As far as her Christianity, that’s for another article, but I will say that most of the beef with Lolo on the “virgin and Christian” front isn’t coming from Christians or virgins. The loudest criticism is from those who wish to portray Christians and virgins in a particular fashion and are outright pissed that Lolo Jones isn’t the embarrassing caricature often portrayed on television and instead is actually a normal athlete who happens to refrain from sex. Furthermore, just because she is a virgin doesn’t mean she isn’t a vixen. The term simply means “sexually attractive” and, like we try to explain to rapists, finding a woman Hot doesn’t mean she owes you sex.
It’s not just Lolo Jones either who is criticized for not fitting some arbitrary definition. When Meagan Good announced she was celibate, the tongue-wagging reached epic proportion. One publication asked:
“How exactly do you balance that with being a self-proclaimed party animal and being slizzed on the club scene in [skimpy] outfits all the time?”
Balance what? Not having sex with still having typical Hollywood rich-chicks fun? What activity automatically means sex…except sex? Partying doesn’t. Modeling for an underwear company doesn’t. Even posing nude in ESPN’s famous “Body Issue” doesn’t. Just because someone does these things yet refrains from sex doesn’t make him or her a fraud. It just make the naysayers look like imbeciles.
In my opinion, the instances when someone’s sex life or chastity makes news simply serves to expose the ridiculous and sad ideas that prevail in this nation. When Jada Pinkett and Will Smith talk about enjoying sex with each other, that makes headlines (and draws ire) because we believe that marriage is the end of sex. And when someone who isn’t married isn’t having sex, that makes news (and also draws criticism) because apparently we’re all animals running around foaming at the mouth for our next hump. It’s so backward and bizarre.
Celibacy is not a way of dress or a way of speaking or a description reserved for a man or woman that nobody wants to sleep with. Being celibate simply means abstaining from sex — and there’s absolutely nothing abnormal about that.
Do you think people have preconceived notions about what celibacy looks like?
Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink
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