In case you were wondering why I was so passionate on Saturday, it is because I got this letter on Friday.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I met a young man recently. He is [my age but] he is sexually experienced and I'm not. We went on two dates that went well, and on the third date, although he never pressured me into anything physical and we did hold hands and kiss, the sex discussion did come up.
He is from out of town, [though] planning to move closer, and was staying with a friend for the weekend. It was late at night and he said he didn't have a key to his friend's apartment, and asked if he could stay with me on my couch (I live alone).
I trusted that he wouldn't do anything inappropriate, but I still did not feel comfortable, and refused. I told him I'm old fashioned and I don't let someone stay overnight if I don't know them very well (side note - I later called his friend and apologized for waking him up and asked if my date could go to his place and everything turned out fine).
Anyway the discussion with my date kept going towards the sex topic and away from the staying-on-the-couch topic. And of course I eventually mentioned that I'm waiting for marriage.
This is a nice Jewish boy that I met in shul [Seraphic's note: her synagogue]. He seemed religiously observant, as he properly read the prayers in front of everyone, which normally takes a lot of practice. Even if a guy goes to shul it's very very rare that he shares my values. I'm talking about extremely religious guys as well.*
At first he kept saying things like "You don't belong in modern times, this is not how things work nowadays" and "You'll be single forever", and "I have friends who are waiting and waiting for their girlfriends, and I think these guys are total morons"
But then the questions went more towards "Why? If you've had sex before, why does another guy get the goods and I don't?" .. And then "The only logical explanation is that you're a virgin... Is this true?" well of course I had to tell the truth.
The next day he apologized for being a jerk, but he still told me I needed to learn to be more flexible and less stubborn, and that I need to meet him "in the middle" (He didn't specify - heavy petting? clothes on or off? it's something I've been wondering about).
He said if a woman makes a man wait for sex, then she has all the control over a relationship. And he doesn't want that, he wants an equal relationship with equal partners. [Seraphic's Note: I emphasized this part because this is the part where my head almost exploded.]
I asked him to give me a week to think about it. He agreed. But then we talked last night after the week was over, and he said it was inappropriate of me to make decisions like not talking to him for a week, that again I'm not being fair and an equal partner. [Seraphic's Note: Head exploding...] I tried to explain that I was upset and needed time to think. He said he was just honest with me and not saying things out of malice and I need to not get upset/defensive over him expressing his mind.
Since the first few meetings with him went so well, and this change so sudden, I'm trying to decide if he's just young and stupid, or if he's a manipulator, or... I don't know. We agreed to meet again tomorrow in daylight in a public place, but I still have time to refuse. My questions to you:
1) You mentioned before that virginity is only something discussed when you're engaged to someone, to let the person know he needs to be more gentle with you, etc. Well, clearly that didn't happen here.
I tried to answer his question with "Why does it matter if I'm a virgin or not, this is my life and my decision" but he would not let it drop. So, is it okay to mention virginity while still dating? How can I avoid these discussions? Clearly a guy who is dating me wants to sleep with me, it's going to come up sooner or later! And if I mention that I'm waiting for marriage within the first few dates while he still has no feelings for me, he won't call me again. However if I mention my virginity, then who knows, I might turn into another target for a conquest (which is a possible reason for why this guy still calls). [Seraphic: Indeed.]
I think the only way a guy would wait, is if he shares my values (I have not met ANYONE like that in the Jewish community) , or if he has feelings for me and is willing to be patient. I need to somehow make sure the feelings are there before I drop the bomb. But then I feel like I'm trapping the poor guy! Of course you can say that I need to find someone who shares my values, just like your husband shares yours. But your husband was well into his 30s when he became a Catholic, and while I'm willing to wait as long as it takes for the right man, guys in their 20s and even 30s are not willing to sacrifice something so important to them.
2) What should I do about this guy? I know I've mentioned mostly negative things, but I just don't know, he is nice in other ways. And through our conversations and spending time together I began to feel attached. He's a young horny guy and sexuality is a HUGE deal to him, as it should be, [Seraphic: I will return to this below] and now he finds out that a girl who seemed so much fun and he really liked is not what he expected. That's why I thought I'd give him another chance tomorrow. However when we talk on the phone he always turns it around to show that he's right and I'm the one that has something wrong with her. He also went as far as to mention that the only guys who would date me are either super religious (who likely sleep around anyway), losers who can't get anyone else, or guys who truly like me (I told him that's what I'm looking for but he focuses on the "loser" idea more).
By the way, I have another date tomorrow evening as well so it's not like I'm set on just this guy,but I know eventually it'll get to this with all other dates as it always has. I am not going to change my stance or values... but I just find it so hard. This whole thing is so upsetting to me... and I'm getting older (yes I know 2z is still okay, there's still time) and I try not to lose hope but every day I have less and less.
My parents, who are completely secular, say that there's nothing wrong with a woman waiting until marriage. They said a normal man should respect that. He should feel special and honoured that she has chosen him. So at least they're on my side :) They think it's okay for me to meet him again. I don't want to waste my time, but I also don't want to be a rigid unforgiving woman. I know I'm a warm, fun, loving person, and I think he saw that before the stubbornness of no sex came up.
So please, Auntie, let me know your thoughts... You can take your time to answer but if you could please give me a brief response asap regarding whether or not I should meet him tomorrow. Thanks.
A Nice Old-Fashioned Girl
*Long section specific to problems within the Jewish community with ritual purity vs sexual ethics excised. I found it very interesting, but not appropriate, perhaps, for non-Jews to comment on.
First, dear everybody, I know a lot of you had several heart-attacks while reading the above, so I want you to know that I wrote back to this girl right away, that she went on that date, and she was okay. Nothing bad happened, and the guy said he was tired of fighting. I think "fighting" was the wrong word. The word he was searching for was "bullying."
Dear Nice Old-Fashioned Girl,
Well, this is my fourth or fifth letter to you on the subject, so I'll just start from the beginning.
Thank you very much for allowing me to print your letter because it is a good reminder that Catholic and other Christian girls are not the only girls who value chastity and face such problems. In the part I left out, you refer to loopholes in Jewish sexual ethics of which some otherwise religious Jewish men take advantage. In orthodox Christianity, there are no such loopholes. This does not stop some Christian theologians from offering watered down sexual ethics, and many religious Christians from coming up with justifications for their own dodgy sexual behaviour.
Because I am, of course, not Jewish myself, I encourage you to discuss all the ethical problems you mentioned to me to a rabbi that you know and trust. I also recommend getting in contact with Wendy Shalit, the author of A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. Not many people know that she is Jewish, but she is. She is also religious, so she might be able to give a defense of religious Judaism that I cannot.
One rather radical question that I just thought of is, How important is it for you to marry a Jewish guy? I keep thinking that there must be Jewish guys who share your values. But if you cannot meet any, I know that there are men of other religions/ethnic groups who do. However, if your most important bedrock value is marrying a man from your own ethnic group, go ahead and ignore my veiled suggestion!
Now, back to Mr. Bully, as I think of him, when I am not thinking of him as The Jerk. First of all, I am very impressed and thankful that you stood your ground and did not let him stay overnight at your place after your Third Date. It was not lost on me that the Sex Talk and his sudden need to stay at your place, not his friend's place, happened on the Third Date. He had this planned, don't kid yourself.
The fact that he argued with you at all does indeed show that he is a jerk. And a bully. I notice that right after he apologized for being a jerk, he continued being a jerk. His argument that being chaste gives a woman all the power in a relationship and that he wants an "equal" partnership is the most horrible, cynical and disgusting attempt at a guilt trip I have seen in a very long time. The only "equal partnership" that involves a man and a woman having sex is marriage--and although I don't believe in it, for the sake of secular readers, I will include common law marriage here, but only when the man and the woman both have a philosophical problem with real marriage. Everything else is too open to exploitation.
Mr Bully bullied you into confessing something very, very private. This made me think a lot about why women think they HAVE to do or tell things. You did not HAVE to tell him, but you thought you did. Why? Is it because women think we must always answer direct questions? Is it because it is so embarrassing to say "That's none of your business, and the subject is closed?" Gentle women often have a hard time saying that.
Okay, now I will answer your questions.
1a. First of all, yes. Sadly, nowadays interested men are almost always going to bring up the Sex Topic sooner or later, and usually sooner, unless they themselves are chaste. However, a simple, "I don't believe in sleeping with men I barely know" should suffice. If the man pushes with "How well do you have to know them?", I recommend a firm "Very well." If he continues to push with, "Well, give me a timeframe here," you are free to say, "I don't feel comfortable discussing this. Let's change the topic." If he doesn't change the topic, tell him you are no longer comfortable speaking to him and LEAVE. You now deserve an apology and flowers.
1b. Proving yourself to be a chaste woman is not dropping the bomb. Men today have "No means no" drilled into their heads in high school and college--at least, they did when I was in college. It should not be the HUGE shock they pretend it is that women sometimes say NO. You are not trapping anyone by going to the movies or dinner with them without planning to pay for it, like a prostitute, with sex. It is not a universal that women have sex with any or every male friend who asks. Only very weak-willed girls and women do that, and as you may have noticed in high school, nobody rewards them for that. Sex is not a necessary component of every affectionate relationship between a man and a woman.
1c. Since you brought him up, I am happy to say that my husband, who was active in the Episcopalian/Anglican Church from the age of ten, shared my values long before he was received into the Catholic Church.
1 d. By the way, I think you are exaggerating the importance of sex to men.* Acting like it is as necessary to himself as food, water and sleep is one of the ways an immature man guilts a woman into giving him her body to use. It is NOT "as it should be" for a young man to be obsessed with getting sex. For at least three thousand years, men have considered disciplining and schooling their desires the mark of a civilized man. Again, this is something you might want to discuss with a rabbi you like or a wise Jewish woman like Wendy Shalit.
2a. I think this guy is a complete jerk and a bully and that you should keep him at a friendly distance from now on. When I asked my husband for a man's eye view, he said "Tell her to run!" You mentioned in another email that he has a high-status job, but I don't care. A bully is a bully, a jerk is a jerk, no matter how much money he earns. You also mentioned that you are worried that he will go around telling everyone at shul that you are a virgin. First of all, I think it is unlikely that he will want to go around telling people he tried to pressure you into sex and you turned him down. Second of all, at a shul I once visited, the rabbi preached about the Jewish value of modesty and I suspect he would have nothing but praise for a 20-something or 30-something Jewish woman who was a virgin.
2b. Yes, it is hard. It is so hard. But it is a million times better than being used sexually and thrown away like a kleenex. The one guarantee that this will never happen to you is to be very careful of the men you choose to associate with and to wait for a man who loves you enough to wait until you are married to him.
2c. I am very glad your parents are supportive of you and that you can talk about these things with them.
2d. I am not a rigid, unforgiving woman, and I think your date was a horrible bully. Did I mention this? I hope he removes himself from your life sooner rather than later.
I hope also that this is helpful.
Grace and peace,
P.S. I think this man was lucky to meet you and that you may have taught him a very important lesson about modesty. I hope he remembers it.
P.S.2 One ex-Catholic guy I once dated told me years later that he really respected me for turning him down.
*Update: Having just received a furious comment from an unhappy man on the topic, I should stress that although men will not die from abstaining from sex, many married men become very, very unhappy if they are forced to go without it. Obviously sex is important to men, as it probably is to most women. But it is not so important that women have to lie down prostrate before men's sexual desire. Spouses, of course, should work together on sexual needs and wants.
To the furious commentator I can only recommend--in charity--a professional marriage counsellor. Professional counselling helped me immeasurably after my divorce.