Life is More than Sex and Marriage: Thoughts from a 31-Year-Old Virgin
I get asked all kinds of questions about sex, singleness, marriage, shame, hope, dating… you name it.
Do I think I’m still single because I watched porn?
Do I think I’ll never be able to get married because I watched porn?
How do I acknowledge my sex drive without letting it ruin my life?
Do I have hope for a future as a wife and mom?
What are my thoughts on dating and courtship?
…and the list goes on.
Growing up, I admired single women. I remember looking up to Heather Payne, from Point of Grace, and Rebecca St. James. I would write them and ask, “How do you do it?” It felt like it had to be some sort of super power.
I was a teenager completely obsessed with porn and sex. Any time a couple in church got married, my first thought was, “Now they get to have sex.” I wrote letters to my future husband (like good Christian girls do) but they were all about how I couldn’t wait to sleep with him.
I wasn’t sexually active, but life revolved around sex. Obviously, I needed to get married… now.
When I was 18, a friend looked at me and said, “I can see you being single forever.” It made me angry. The idea of being single for any extended length of time was laughable, really. I was one of the most sexual women I knew. There was no way.
I was wrong.
Grant you, I’m not single “forever” at this point. But to some, I’m sure 31 looks like “forever.” I used to think it looked like “forever” but I’ve decided to bump that up to 70. So, now I’m not even half way there.
Here’s the thing, since starting Beggar’s Daughter (at the age of 23), I’ve found my life taking an interesting little twist.
Now I’m the person getting the e-mails from sex-crazed teenagers asking how I do it.
For all those women, young and old(er), asking questions just like these, here is my letter to you.
I get it. I understand the near panic that sets in when you even think about the idea of not getting married any time soon. I know the feelings of inadequacy and even shame when you still haven’t been asked on a date but all your friends are getting engaged/married/having babies. I have been in that place of saying, “Um, excuse me, God? Have you forgotten about me over here? Because I feel pretty forgotten right now.”
When I graduated high school, my five year plan included getting married by 21. As much as I had told people that it wasn’t “set it stone and I wouldn’t be running to Vegas to get married”, I still panicked when I turned 21 and realized it wasn’t going to happen.
Here we are ten years later…
Now, I’m 31, still single, writing this blog, and… still a virgin.
I’ll tell you it isn’t easy and some days are far worse than others. Weddings can be hard. Watching all my friends stop having kids has been hard. Coming home to no one can be hard.
But you know what? Age has taught me that life can be hard for anyone- married or not, sexually active or not, single or not, struggling with porn or not. It’s not like marriage or kids would make my life easier. What makes single life so hard is the cultural expectations, the desire for that intimacy, cooking for one, and frankly, the desire for sex.
There’s one thing, though. One truth that makes it all work. When I grasped this, it made life easier.
Life isn’t about sex.
Perhaps that seems like a given, but we’re surrounded by sex. The culture we live in gorges on it. It’s in our advertising, our TV shows, our music, our entertainment. Our culture, in essence, worships sex… and, more often than not, so do we.
Christians can run the risk of being equally as obsessed with sex. When we talk about modesty, it’s about sex. When we talk about courting, it’s about sex. Being a good Christian becomes all about the sex you shouldn’t be having. We can develop a sex-obsessed approach to faith.
And you know what?
Idolizing sex messes everything up.
It cripples your ability to have healthy friendships, to function in community, and, ultimately, to love others well.
Sex is a desire. Regardless of how strong that desire is, it is never a need. You need air and food; you don’t need sex. You desire sex. You want it and that want is hardwired into your body. There’s nothing wrong with the fact that you desire sex, even as a woman.
Some of us want it more than others. In my experience, there are times the desire is more intense, but it has been and always will be only a desire.
As long as you can understand it is a desire, you can treat it like one of many desires you will have in your life. You can control it, not in a repressive way, but in a healthy way.
Think of it like traveling. Who wouldn’t love to travel? It’s fun! Lots of people do it and highly recommend it. Your newsfeed and advertisements are filled with it. You may want to travel and there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you make it your life goal to travel, when you aren’t traveling, you will be jealous, frustrated, and miserable. But you can’t always travel. You might need to save up more money. You might need to finish school, or wait to accrue more vacation time at work. You might get in a wreck and break your leg, so you can’t go. Is your life over?
If you recognize travel as a desire, it stays in its appropriate place on your priority list.
Then, when the desire to travel creeps into your mind, you can control it. You don’t repress it and say, “No, that’s bad! Travel is evil!” You say, “Well, I’d love to visit Hawaii, but now is not the best time, so I’m going to wait.”
That’s how you deal with a sex drive as a woman waiting for marriage.
It’s not about repressing it, labeling it as dirty and pretending like it doesn’t exist. That’s not healthy. It’s simply about acknowledging that now is not the right time, place, or situation. As a Christian, I believe that right time and place happens within the confines of a marriage. So, someday, I hope I get married, and, in turn, get to have sex, but if I don’t, it’s not going to be the death of me. Just like that trip to Hawaii. My life doesn’t revolve around sex and neither does my identity.
You are more than your sexual or marital status.
A byproduct of our culture is that we craft sex into our identities. I am not “Jessica, the virgin.” I don’t idolize that part of my life, and it’s not because of my past with pornography. It’s because sex and marriage do not form my identity. My identity is found in Christ completely apart from any relationship, romantic or otherwise.
This is an immensely healing truth for my own past when it comes to romantic relationships.
I didn’t start dating until I was 27. My first date ever I tried to look like Kim Kardashian. As much as I spoke out about the sexualized culture even then, I didn’t realize how much I was still influenced by it.
I thought that’s what men were expecting. Men wanted sexual women- so I needed to learn how to express the fact that I was one. I spent way too long on my hair and makeup, strategically picked out my clothes to be flattering but not revealing. Then we sat in a coffee shop in Old Town Alexandria for two hours talking about the chemical composition of plastic wrap.
My first date ever I tried to look like Kim Kardashian. As much as I spoke out about the sexualized culture even then, I didn’t realize how much I was still influenced by it.
I’m not kidding.
Oh, I have stories.
It took a few first dates and some crazy second ones, but I learned the importance of just being me, having good communication, and not worrying about my ‘sex appeal.’ The men who had good character were the men who knew all about my past and decided to see past that to our potential as friends. Marriage isn’t all about sex. It’s a relationship of which sex is a part. If you don’t know how to do relationships well, marriage will be challenging.
I know this might all seem cliche. I’ve been there before, reading books on singleness… written by people who were married at 21. You know nothing. But I hope you’ll hear my heart in this. Just because you’re single doesn’t mean you are less than or forgotten. You can still know people and be known. You can still love people and be loved by them. Instead of spending your time fantasizing about sex, focus on building strong relationships. Learn to love God and people well.
Love and sex are not synonymous.
You can live without sex. You can love without it too. Love fully, deeply and unafraid. You will find a fulfillment that doesn’t kill desire but far surpasses it. Above sex, make it a priority to love well. When all is said and done, that’s the greatest that remains:
But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13)