I stumbled upon your blog today, by total accident and I found it to be really intriguing, to say the least I am no your target audience. Here is a little back ground: I am a sex-positive woman who was never raised with the expectation of chastity from my parents nor religion. My mom always told me I should wait till I felt the time was right for me; that sex is more about love than marriage (and she waited). Even with no parental nor religious expectation of abstinence only until marriage, a rather secular and liberal upbringing I still suffered from really severe sexual dysfunctions. I was diagnosed with the triple threat of vulvodynia, vulvar vestibulitis, and vaginismus. I figured out that something was amiss during sexual experiences that I had in my late teens and early 20s (which were all in the confines of monogamous relationships that lasted anywhere from 3 to 6 mo
nths) not really going the way I thought they should. I finally went to see a nurse at my university's health center and we went over my symptoms, with a quickly and excruciating examination, she diagnosed me.
I struggled enough in a rather awful relationship, within it I was diagnosed, being berated for being unable to have intercourse. Probably the lowest blows were when he told that no one would ever love me because I couldn't have sex with them and that he had a hard time loving me because of it. Luckily, I found my way out of that awful relationship. I found myself with a new guy, who was just coming out of a 5 year long monogamous relationship where sex was a constan
t, but he was ready and willing to (in my eyes) settle for me and my broken vagina. And would you believe it, almost all my problems vanished and we were able to reach a full level of intimacy just a few months into our relationship. It was a huge deal, of course, bu it really didn't feel like it. I don't know how to describe it. It just sort of happened. There was no planning, no candles, no music, no ceremony, no real romance, no fancy lingerie. But I wouldn't trade it for the world because it was perfect, and it was right for me.
Reading the letter of the woman with FSD really struck me, I cannot even fathom what it would have been like to find out, on my wedding night, that I was unable to have sex. I think that is what bothers me about the perpetuation of concept of the wedding night being a person, particularly a woman's, first time. I feel like a wedding makes you not only exhausted but also pressured to go through with it. What if you're not ready on your wedding night? I feel like you're not given a choice to say 'no' because it is a cultural and religious expectation to consummate the marriage as soon as you find yourself alone in a room, with a bed, with your partner. I think the emphasis on virginity is damaging because it tells girls that all they have to offer their husbands is their purity; when she cannot fully 'give' herself to him she may feel she is useless. Not only that, sometimes a woman's virginity/purity is sometimes held against her in such severe ways she can be murdered or jailed for any suspicion impurity, but I am sure you know this.
I find it really hard to swallow when people just assume that if you're having sex outside of marriage that you're automatically promiscuous. I have no urge nor desire to sleep around; I honestly don't think I could bring myself to do so. I also don't like it when people belittle the intimacy I share with partner, which apparently, is only amazing and meaningful and beautiful if we have rings on our fingers.
Thank you very much for this well thought out email. I am happy to address your thoughts and concerns. While I cannot speak for all Christians and all old-fashioned girls, I would imagine that many of them share my view points.
First let me express sympathy for your difficulties with sexual dysfunction. It is a very difficult thing to deal with especially as a teenager/young adult. This can be a formative time in a woman's life and experiencing a crisis with your sexuality during this time is unfortunate.
You had commented, "Even with no parental nor religious expectation of abstinence until marriage, [and] a rather secular and liberal upbringing, I still suffered from really severe sexual dysfunctions."
It concerns me that you are indirectly attributing these very serious sexual dysfunctions, vulvodynia, vulvar vestibulitis, and vaginismus, to a religious, conservative upbringing. These are medical, not social, diagnoses. Possible causes of vulvodynia include, genetic predisposition to inflammation, allergy or other sensitivity (for example: oxalates in the urine), an autoimmune disorder similar to lupus erythematosus or to eczema or to lichen sclerosus, infection (e.g., yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, HPV), injury, and neuropathy--including an increased number of nerve endings in the vaginal area.
You had expressed that "sex is more about love than marriage," and with this I agree. I believe this statement to be very true. For a Christian (and many non-Christians) love is about commitment. I believe Jesus Christ loves me and you, and that he will continue to love me unfailing. Christ is the perfect example to me of love and I know that will never change or waiver. He is committed. This is the kind of love I am committing to my husband when I say "I do." Before I committed to giving my husband my body, we wanted to both commit to giving our heart and soul. Unfortunately, there is divorce and there is heartache. You experienced that heartache when your boyfriend left you because you were unable to have sex. The hope would be that a man and woman be so devoted after making a marital commitment that learning of sexual dysfunction after marriage, for him or her, would be an obstacle that could be lovingly worked through as a team.
You make an interesting point about the pressure a woman (or man) may feel on their wedding night. While most couples feel excitement and anticipation regarding their first sexual encounter, many feel nervousness, shyness, or even fear. I strongly encourage all couples, old-fashioned Christian couples or "secular liberal" couples alike, to discuss at length their feelings and expectations about sex and their first time. Premarital counseling is a great way to open dialog about these topics.
You wrote, "I think the emphasis on virginity is damaging because it tells girls that all they have to offer their husbands is their purity; when she cannot fully 'give' herself to him she may feel she is useless. Not only that, sometimes a woman's virginity/purity is sometimes held against her in such severe ways she can be murdered or jailed for any suspicion impurity, but I am sure you know this."
Fortunately, the emphasis on virginity applies to men as well. A Christian man is taught the principle of purity the same as a Christian woman. I know many, many men who believe and live this principle. It seems to me, your fears may be based upon pairing yourself up with a man who will let you down. If that is the case, find a new man. Of course, we all make mistakes. But luckily, most Christians believe in the concept of repentance. Both men and women can be forgiven of choices they've made in the past.
I am so grateful to live in a country where such severe consequences for expressing ones sexuality do not exist. However, women everywhere still seem to be the party to blame in instances of promiscuity. It is an unfortunate cultural response for women to be labeled and called names while men are congratulated and given a pat on the back. Unfortunately, for this, there is no quick fix.
You said, "I also don't like it when people belittle the intimacy I share with my partner, which apparently, is only amazing and meaningful and beautiful if we have rings on our fingers." My intent is never to belittle the beliefs of others that don't happen to align with mine. I'm confident sex outside of marriage can be amazing and meaningful and beautiful. But I also believe that intimacy is improved when a couple is willing to be more vulnerable with one another. A public, formal, legal commitment like marriage can instill greater confidence in the longevity and stability of the relationship, which enables the couple to be more vulnerable with one another.
There has been much research done for and against waiting to have sex until after marriage. But I hope some of these points could serve as a starting point to understanding why many of my readers and I have chosen to work towards a long-lasting, monogomous relationship that is formalized by the commitment of marriage.
Readers, your kind, well-intended thoughts are welcome.