Dear Auntie Seraphic,
Recently my sister and I debated about an issue concerning sex and dating. (She's spiritual and tends to be on the liberal side on everything from sex, drugs, values, economics, etc.)
After not having been to church since my early teens, I have recently returned. My past is far from pristine. However, I am trying to be a Nice Catholic Girl. Even if at times I'm more of a Confused Catholic Girl, with all the things that I'm learning and trying to figure about Catholicism in general.
To cut to the chase, I told my sister that my plan would be to date a Nice Catholic Boy and stay chaste. Her reply was that once you lose your virginity Nice Catholic Boys or Nice Protestant Boys or Nice Religious Boys in general will look the other way. Secondly, Nice Catholic Boys would only respect those wishes from a Nice Virginal Catholic Girl. To insist at my age that I wish to abstain from sexual relations ensures that I will not find any relationship and I will ultimately end up alone. Thirdly, I was told that by insisting we stay chaste at my age I am not only being naive, but I am setting myself up for failure since most older adults do engage in sexual relationships, with the exception of virginal adults or those who were married and later saw their marriages dissolve in divorce or annulment.
What I want to know is if that is true among Nice Catholic Boys. Am I wasting my time wanting to one day date a Nice Catholic Boy if my past is far from perfect? Should I just search for a Nice Boy minus the religious affiliation? I guess the real question is if I can be accepted into a Catholic community, not being perfect. I know we're suppose to be charitable and forgiving, but I'm wondering if my sister is right. The US for all its perks can at times be very unforgiving, especially within certain Christian denominations, and it would pain me to make this attempt to start new if really in the end I'll be rejected.
Former Naughty Catholic Girl
Dear Formerly Naughty,
Yours is an incredibly important and sensitive letter, and I've taken some time to think before posting. Be warned: this is going to be a long and nuanced post.
First, it is only perpetual virginity that is important in itself. If someone plans on staying a virgin all their life, that is the highest calling in the Christian tradition after martyrdom--and martyrdom is not a gift we can give ourselves. (St. Francis tried to be martyred and failed.) Rape cannot take true virginity away: loss of virginity requires an act of will.
The reason why those who wish to be married stay virgins should be obedience to God. However, there are host of secondary and tertiary reasons to stay chaste before marriage, which I will not ennumerate because this is not a chastity blog, although of course I advocate chastity to everyone according to their state in life.
Second, loss of virginity is NOT a deal-breaker to Nice Catholic Boys, so you are not wasting your time. Many NCBs are not virgins themselves. Many have had their period of rebellion, have drunk from the world's poisoned cup and are sorry now. Fairminded, they know they have no right to judge women who have had similar experiences. However, they may avoid women who have the appearance of inchastity. Men are very visual, and I will return to this point below.
About 99% of men are given to what the chastity books call "self-abuse", so I have no patience with the few immature NCBs who are obsessed with marrying virgins. Even if they have never experienced normal sex-with-a-woman, they have committed sexual sins, and they should remember that and be humble.
Third, refusing to put out weeds out a lot of men. But not the right man. Definitely not the right man. He will always respect your decision, and frankly, I think it would just hurry up his proposal. Men tend to want to sleep with the women they passionately love. If they can't until marriage, okay, they'll just get married.
Fourth, I and my NCG friends have managed to have great adult relationships--even romantic relationships--with NCBs without having sex with them. We have dated NCBs we didn't sleep with or marry, and we have managed to be engaged to NCBs without consummating the marriage until after the wedding. NCBs are just as interested in NCGs in not having to make highly embarrassing confessions at their pre-wedding shriving.
Fifth, yes, some NCBs are obsessed with marrying virgins. This is more of a patriarchal-control thing than a Catholic thing. Guys like that often have ISSUES. Guys like that wouldn't even marry a young WIDOW. And guys like that can make lousy husbands.
Therefore, I always advise virgin NCGs not to talk about their virginity . Don't discuss it. Don't brag about it. It's nobody's business except her fiance's, and that only so they can talk about how to commence their married life without trauma. If virgins boast around, virgin-hunters of all levels of neurosis (or evil) might come out of the woodwork. Incidentally, purity rings are stupid.
Sixth, some "N"CBs (often the guys above) are afraid of sex and of women more than they are afraid of sin. Being immature, they slap labels on women, left and right. It never occurs to them that their evil slander is worse than some premarital sex is. Speaking as a former divorcee, I can tell you that this SUCKS. And therefore, NEVER tell anyone--except a therapist and/or trusted priest in the confessional--about your sexual past. Immature, gossipy "N"CBs and bitchy "N"CGs can do a girl's reputation a lot of damage. Also:
Seventh, men-in-general have very vivid sexual imaginations, and so if you tell a suitor about you and some guy, he might imagine you with that guy and get humph-y and jealous. Again, my advice is to not tell until your fiance starts to tell you about HIS sexual past, and then be as vague as possible.
Our North American cultures--American and Canadian--put too much emphasis on what we call "honesty" at the expense of privacy and prudence.
Eighth, if you are dating a Catholic man, even a lapsed one, he knows what the rules are. You tell him you are a practising Catholic, and he should know that this means no sex. If he doesn't, remind him. If he is incredulous, dump him. Walking away from his car, you will feel worse than you ever have in your life, but you'll be in good company. You don't have to admit to being a virgin or non-virgin. IT IS SO NOBODY'S BUSINESS.
1. Almost all NCBs have themselves sinned sexually.
2. A good, mature NCB does not think non-virginity a deal-breaker.
3. Some NCBs are obsessed with virginity, however, and need to grow up.
4. What is important NOW is your current chastity, and therefore do not let your past distract or detract from that. The question is not, "What did you do?" but "Who are you becoming?"
5. A man who really likes you respects you and will wait. If he can't wait, He Is Just Not That Into You. Ditch him.
Finally, there is a long essay in my book called "Pure" which sums all this up. Dawn Eden writes passionately on "secondary virginity": you could google her.
I hope this is helpful. I believe your sister is right that NCBs (being men) prefer the APPEARANCE of lifelong chastity in the women they admire, but wrong that non-virginity is dealbreaker for (good, mature) NCBs.
Meanwhile, you are not the first woman to write to me about this. And the Gospels are very clear that there is more joy in heaven over the reclaimed runaway sheep than the 99 who stuck around. And, you know, nowadays, there are probably more reclaimed runaway sheep than homebody sheep. Like, 80 sheep ran away, and 20 stayed. The 20 sheep are to be envied, but the 80 sheep are to be welcomed home with joy.
Welcome home, my dear.
Grace and peace,
Update: I will allow anonymous comments today if they are civil.