So, I keep swearing to myself that I won’t keep writing reactionary posts. I do. I really do. I make all these beautiful promises about keeping my head down, not getting involved when someone says something unintelligent . . .
And then this happens.
And, after ranting about it a little bit, and stomping around on twitter (only two tweets for this one! two! I did so good), I decide that hey, this is an issue that actually needs addressing. Because, yes, I’m reacting to something that got published on the internet– but I’m also reacting to the place where these ideas come from. And these ideas come from a very scary, very dark place. A place I lived most of my life in.
So, to get us started, here’s the significant portions of the young man’s letter I’m going to address:
. . . I’ve been checking off the various boxes over the years to become a better mate, yet I cannot seem to find any girls of marriage potential.
I have not been able to find any Christian girls who are virgins. If I successfully get a date, as it moves along I am constantly disappointed to find out they have had sex with numerous men before. Each makes the typical statement that they were mistakes and they’ve asked God for forgiveness and moved on. Unfortunately, as a potential husband, there is no option for me to “move on” beyond the infidelity . . .
My female friends keep telling me, “It’s not that big of a deal, and no girls over 20 are virgins. The fact they’ve had sex doesn’t change much.” But not only do I not believe them, there’s lots of scientific as well as biblical evidence for it being a big deal! And that’s on top of the human feelings of betrayal, shame and dishonor of knowing your girl didn’t love you enough to not sleep with other men, as well as the mental images you’ll have for a lifetime of her being sexually active with her lovers.
Feel free to go vomit into a bucket, or go scream into a pillow. I had to go furiously clean my kitchen after I read this. I’ll wait for you.
Honestly, though, the first thing that clues me in to this young man’s attitude is in the words “checking off the boxes.” He talks about all the things he’s done to ready himself for marriage– getting a job, settling down, all that. Those are all fantastically good things. I encourage anyone who asks that waiting to seriously think about long-term relationships until you’re established can be a very good, healthy thing. Doesn’t make it the right circumstances for everyone, but it can help. So yay. He’s waited until he’s more established to start looking.
But, when I think back to all the men I knew growing up, men who declared they’d follow this same formula, men who ascribed to all those kissed-dating-goodbye ideas, I think I know where this man is coming from. And he’s coming from a place where men are The Supreme Commander over All Things– in the church, in the home, in the workplace. In a word, that’s called patriarchy, which will be important in just a sec.
So, his entire letter is dedicated to asking for some guy on Boundless.org to give him justification. He’s not really interested in advice– he’s interested in having Scott Croft affirm his belief that “finding a virgin” is some sort of biblical mandate, that he’s right in believing that he shouldn’t marry anything ‘less’ than a virgin. That, because he’s a virgin, and he’s “checked off all the right boxes,” that he deserves a virgin. That he deserves to feel “betrayed” and “sinned against” by any unmarried woman having sex with someone who isn’t him.
After he opens with not finding women who meet his standards as a “potential,” he then labels the act of a woman having pre-marital sex as infidelity.
Let’s let that sink in for a moment.
Because, ladies, having sex before you’ve even met your future husband is cheating. And, in this frame of reference, it’s cheating because, guess what– you belong to him already. You’ve belonged to him from the moment you were born (because, of course, any suitable husband will be older than you). Because God made you for each other. God knew who you were going to marry when he formed you in your mother’s womb. Behaving like you’re not already married? Not possible. Because you are, before you’ve even sworn that vow. Your body, your vagina, isn’t yours. It’s his, your future husband’s. Always.
And because your vagina belongs to him, if you let anyone else in there, he deserves to feel betrayed, and shamed, and dishonored by what you’ve done with your body.
I’d like to highlight the words he chose to use– betrayal, shame, and dishonor. That’s the language of patriarchy. He can be betrayed if you’ve broken a vow to him– a vow you’ve never even made. He can feel shamed by you, because he has the right to control what you do before you’ve met him. He can be dishonored by you, because you belong to him. Your honor, your choices, are his. You don’t get to make decisions based on what betrays and dishonors yourself.
And to top it all off, you just don’t love him enough. A man you’ve never met. And he’s going to continuously feel threatened by your previous sexual partners, because he has always owned your body. It’s his possession, and someone else dared to touch it. No, you dared to let someone else touch it.
That being said, I think that even with those who in general agree with the emotional and physical virginity idea thought this letter-writer was an unmitigated ass.
So, moving on to the response, where everyone shouted a great big cry of “here, here!” Because it has its own problems.
This is the second sentence of Scott Croft’s response:
To begin with — especially in light of what I am about to write below — I want to affirm you in your belief that premarital sex is everywhere and always a sin, and that it is a sin not only against God, but against one’s eventual spouse. I deeply wish that more single people — especially those who profess to be Christian — lived out that conviction.
And then he goes to the Bible to back up this point.
Matthew 15:19– doesn’t say that pre-marital sex is a sin against your spouse.
Mark 7:21– doesn’t say that pre-marital sex is a sin against your spouse.
I Corinithians 6:18– this explicitly states that sexual immorality is a “sin against your own body.”
1 Timothy 5:2– includes the word “purity” which means “clean,” but it’s a stretch to make that about sex.
Galations 5:19-21– doesn’t say that pre-marital sex is a sin against your spouse.
Song of Solomon 2:7– “don’t awaken love until it pleases.” Ok. Maybe that’s about sex. Maybe.
Hebrews 13:4– is specifically talking about already married people, so, no particular relevance here.
Interesting thing about all those passages– they are references to “sexual immorality,” which is a vague enough term, but we can assume (at least for the moment) that they’re not talking about prostitution or pedophilia, but pre-marital sex. Even if we accept that assumption, none of these passages say pre-marital sex is a sin against your future spouse. None. Not one. One of them even says, quite clearly, that “sexual immorality” (whatever it is) is a sin against your own body.
Scott does go on to say some things that I agree with– that all of these principles affect men and women equally, which doesn’t really get said very often in our patriarchal culture when men own a woman’s vagina. He also goes on to say that issues like pornography are more damaging than pre-marital sex, so kudos to Scott for that.
But then . . .
In other words . . . you are right to be frustrated at the sexual immorality you see, and it’s quite understandable for you to feel hurt at the notion of marrying a woman who has sinned against you by having sex before her marriage to you.
Heavens. I don’t know how to make this more clear, but there is no evidence, from the Bible, that pre-marital sex is a sin against anyone. If it is a sin, which is not what I’m addressing in this post, it’s only a sin for you, personally. It only becomes something that can be “against” someone when that someone is a man, and he owns your vagina, and because he owns it, deserves to be upset about what happens to it.
Going to use a ridiculous example here, but it’s like my car– if someone came along and took my car for a test drive without my permission, I’d have a right to be pretty dang upset. Because it’s my car. I paid for it so that I would have exclusive rights to it, and no one could use it but me.
But guess what? My vagina isn’t a car. It’s not anybody’s property– not even after I get married. If I decide to commit adultery, it’s not a betrayal because I’ve done something with my husband’s property that I didn’t have the right to do. It’s a betrayal because, as a human being who made a promise to stay faithful to my husband, I would have broken that promise by having an affair. Vow breaking, in my opinion, is a serious issue.
Back to the article– Scott does affirm that just because a man or a woman has pre-marital sex it doesn’t mean they can’t get married. Yay. But then he just goes back to the same tired line– that this man is justified in being upset that a woman who’s had sex has “betrayed him” and “sinned against him.” Scott tells the man to ponder grace and forgivness, after just making that task extraordinarily difficult by saying “y’know what, women who’ve had sex did betray you, and they did sin against you.” He’s said exactly what this man wanted him to say. This man wrote that letter asking for justification in believing that a woman having sex is a betrayal against his ownership– and he got it.
To round this out, I’d just like to remind everyone that Rahab was a זָנָה, which is usually translated as “prostitute.” And she is in the lineage of Jesus Christ.
Edit: I’d also like to note that Scott doesn’t say that it’s only a sin against a man when a woman has sex, and that it’s not equally as much as a sin against a woman when a man has sex. However, the idea in both the letter and the response is based on the patriarchal notion that a woman’s virginity belongs to a man. It’s an “update” to say that a man’s virginity also belongs to a woman, but it’s the same idea. This idea is wrong because it completely ignores concepts like individual autonomy and personal agency. No one’s decisions belongs to anyone else. Male or female.