Rape is illegal in most countries but, in the West, people's fathers and brothers don't usually go after seducers with a baseball bat. That is why thousands of young men think nothing of sweet-talking, tricking or bullying young women into having sex with them.
These are not necessarily scary looking men, unshaven and dressed like Keanu Reeves in that serial killer movie. These are nice-looking young men. They smile. Their clothes are clean. They go to or went to university or have a good trade. They are actually marriage material. But they don't want to get married yet. Instead they furl their brows and look genuinely astonished that, in this day and age, a woman does not want to have sex before marriage.
This kind of man will very logically, and possibly citing modern thinkers, explain to you how wrong you are and how unfair you are, and what a terrible position you are putting him in. He will point to the many, many women your age or of your religious or ethnic group who have premarital sex all the time. He will ask you why you think you are better than these women. He will shake his head at your wickedness. He will predict that you will never get married.
And unless you are have a strong, bullish personality, you will feel terrible. The thing to remember is that everything he is saying is complete garbage, and every syllable of it has but one object: to brainwash you into admitting he is right and that you should surrender your body to him.
Me, I live a life of extraordinary peace and gentleness. I live and work in a gently kept house in a gently kept landscape, and go for pleasant walks along a gentle shore to the grocery store, where I listen to the gentle accent of my favourite cashier. I go to the butcher's shop or the fishmonger's, where gentle, cheerful men and women address me with "Yes, my dear?"
My husband is a gentle, kindly man. His friends are all gentle, kindly men. I walk along a tarmac ribbon between two fields to see my gentle neighbours, but my social life more or less revolves around my gentle Catholic church community. There are no seducers, no porn, no talk of sex, no third dates. It's easy to forget the moral hell of Edinburgh life as depicted by Irvine Welsh.
Back in my town in Canada, most of my Catholic friends live equally gentle lives. There is a big enough practising Catholic community that my young female friends need never leave it. You can work for it, go to Mass in it, socialize in it. You never have to converse with a man who isn't a practising Catholic, and you can ruin a man's reputation if he pressures you for sex. It's easy to forget that outside the Catholic ghetto, there are legions of pleasant-looking men working their connections day and night to get laid.
But Single girls are often lonely, and the religious ghetto does not immediately produce the husbands that they long for--or it produces semi-imposters, men interested in religion but not in keeping their trousers on.
A NCG friend of mine made a date with a guy she met over a dating site. I can't remember if it was a Catholic dating site, but that hardly matters, as this guy belonged to a famously macho profession.
"Watch out for the third date," I said.
The third date, in case you haven't made this unpleasant discovery, is when contemporary men with no interest in chastity begin to pressure women for sex.
My friend went out on the first date. It was to a salsa night, and she had lots of fun. The man was very handsome and personable. He called and they made a second date. It was for dinner at a fine restaurant. Again my friend had a lot of fun. And then the man called to make a third date. I believe he left a message.
"Well," he said. "We can't go out to salsa or restaurants every night, so why don't you come on over to my place for dinner?"
My NCG friend was floored. When a guy asks you to come over to his place on the third date, sex is on the menu. It's, like, practically a law in the secular world, the world that claims to respect women's autonomy so much.
Not knowing what to do, she did nothing. And the guy called her up and left an angry message. So--if I remember this correctly--she didn't call him back. And the wonderful thing about this, from my point of view, is that she never had to make The Speech or put up with the bullying who-do-you-think-you-are routine so popular with men today.*
I first made The Speech when I was 17. In hindsight, I was really lucky. My boyfriend was a refugee from the Middle East, and he had no clue how to browbeat women into sex. Perhaps he was just too astonished by my explanation that I was a Catholic, since his first Canadian refuge had been in Montreal and he had slept with lots of Catholics. This news annoyed me very much because in my innocence I thought the entire world knew that Catholic girls didn't have pre-marital sex, and that the two or three that did were making things needlessly difficult for the rest of us.
His next argument was that you couldn't get pregnant the first time. Having learned from seventeen magazine that you can, I laughed this to scorn. Then he informed me that his friends were accusing him of being gay. I rolled my eyes at his friends. Then he accused me of having slept with someone else. I slapped him.
I suppose a lot of Canadian men would have slapped me right back or worse, but instead he seemed very pleased. And, later being treated to my very over-the-top and positively mediaeval harangue on the beauty of virginity, he was very impressed. And eventually he asked me if I would marry him once I graduated from university. Reader, I wouldn't.
But I will say this for him. Although he so badly scared seventeen year old me with what I thought was an outrageous, unthinkable demand that I barely talked to a man who wasn't a Catholic for years afterwards, he did not try to make me feel guilty or wicked or naive or ahistorical. Possibly he wasn't very smart. Possibly he had lost his skills in the smorgasbrod of female flesh on offer in Montreal. But possibly he was a fundamentally decent Muslim chap who actually respected women who respected themselves. I used the word "honour" a lot, assuming it would mean something. It did.
A lot of men have no honour. They just want to get laid. They're too venal to get married, and they're too cheap to use prostitutes. So they'll go after you. "No means no?" Don't make me laugh. They won't let a little slogan get in their way. If they are intrigued enough not to go after easier meat, they'll start a brainwashing project called "Get Her to Yes." They'll try everything short of rape.
Sometimes the most beautiful words in the English language are "I can wait." A decent man--from any culture or religion--either gives up at once or says "I can wait."
*For a brilliant description of a man who was a genius at getting good, moral women to surrender their bodies to him, read A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book. Byatt was fascinated with H.G. Wells, and wondered why such a horrible man had so much success in seducing and exploiting wonderful, intelligent women. The character she came up with is based on both Wells and D.H. Lawrence.
Update: "Tell them you don't hate men," said B.A. I don't hate men. Men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life. But I hate bullies. And I hate hearing seduced women cry.
Update 2: I want to acknowledge that there are women who do believe pre-marital sex is okay for them and do not think having it shows that they disrespect themselves. However, these women do not necessarily hand themselves over to proven jerks. In fact, they might be a little more confident than religious women in telling sexual bullies to take a leap off a pier. They wait until their suitor/boyfriend has proven himself decent and trustworthy. I know non-religious women who slept with their husbands before they married them, but I simply can't imagine them having being suckered or browbeaten into it by some jerk.