How can my girlfriend and I stay..."pure" until marriage ?
April 23, 2011 10:43 PM   Subscribe

How can my girlfriend and I stay..."pure" until marriage ?

I am a 20 year old guy dating a extremely ... sexually 'desperate' girl ... we both want to save our virginity until marriage due to religious/family reasons (also we are both in college so a baby would be a major wrench in the works)
the thing is we don't have to ability to get married until at least next year. (she finishes her major)
and we both have gone ... too far with each other... been too physical (1st through 3rd base not to be crude...)

help? ... has anybody here been through this ? ...I feel kind of helpless
we both *really* want it ... but at the same time we regret it after all is said and done ... if it wasn't for her strong desire for sex we probably wouldn't have such a problem... ( I feel like such a jerk for complaining about this but it really complicates my job keeping the relationship pure)
any tips? hints? snide remarks ?
posted by 70klicks to Human Relations (53 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
is it just vaginal intercourse that you consider a problem, does yr ethic allow for other kinds of sexual touching?
posted by PinkMoose at 10:44 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll chime in on the snide remarks bit...

I used to be raised in a church that preached that "premarital sex" was an evil sin. A few things shifted my thinking on that:

1) The idea that a piece of paper would somehow codify the way I felt "in the eyes of the Lord" was just stupid. Really stupid.

2) Everyone does it. Okay, I suppose plenty of people don't do it, but shaming and self-imposed guilt and awful feelings are not a natural part of the process. They're elements built in by people who, for some reason, care what you and your girlfriend do in private.

3) You can have sex with a wildly reduced chance of having children. Wildly reduced. Nearly no chance, even! And it's affordable and accessible!

4) Sex is fun! That's why you're having first-through-third base. You know what isn't fun? Waiting. It's a drag. And the payoff isn't going to be that much better for waiting. It's fun now!

Tons and tons of people go through these struggles. It's a lot easier when you realize that if you love the other person, holding each other to some artificially imposed limitation based on some interpretation of "what's right" is totally ridiculous. If you can free yourself from those ideals and just have (safe) fun, you'll probably be able to work through whatever guilt you have pretty quickly. You love her, right? She loves you? In all seriousness, that's probably good enough for god.

In deference to the fact that you're already up to third base, I think you should both just go for it. It's clear you enjoy it and that she enjoys it and it sounds like you love each other... a piece of paper certifying that according to the state doesn't suddenly make it "right", despite what some people say or think about it.

And it's a wonderful thing, that's fun, and free, and can be safe and free of guilt, if you just let it be.

Stop regretting anything. What you're doing is not a crime. It's natural and fun and awesome. And it's not made inherently better once you're married. That's just something people say to get you to conform to their own way of thinking and to keep you from doing stupid things that expose you to disease and childbirth. (Mostly unprotected sex.)

But that's other people. You and your girlfriend are your own people. And you're both adults and should start making decisions and acting like it. I'd hate to still be in a position where someone else's unwanted pressures caused me to act a different way when the way I wanted to act was legal, fun, encouraged by many, and a growing experience (pun only partially intended). Live your life according to what makes sense for you.

It's not even really a sin. (Seriously, look at the Bible. They were doing all kinds of crazy stuff in there, and I hardly think anyone had a marriage certificate in hand.)

Have fun. Be safe. And enjoy yourselves. You're only young once and wasting the time for puritanical imposed morality that you don't fully subscribe to just isn't worth it.
posted by disillusioned at 10:55 PM on April 23, 2011 [60 favorites]

It's not your job to keep the relationship 'pure' - it's -both- of your jobs to determine what your limits are in terms of sex and the relationship. You are as - not more, not less - responsible for "purity"

There isn't anything IMPURE about sex. You've already basically gotten 3/4ths of the way there.

If you think you'll end up having sex, be prepared. Get some condoms, get some alternate birth control, look at the pill or diaphrams or spermicidal inserts or whatever works for you. That means whatever works for your bodies - both yours AND your girlfriends. Get educated - go to the library and read up, and have your girlfriend talk to her gyn. If she doesn't have a gyn, she needs one. Even women who are not having penetrative vaginal sex need to see a gyn once a year. Even if you are committed to not having sex, being prepared just in case is a good idea and the responsible thing to do.

Your girlfriend is NORMAL. Women -want- to have sex as much as men do. Sex is loads of fun for us too. We masturbate, we have orgasms, we get off, however you like to call it. If she wants to have sex it's because she wants to have sex, not because she's 'sexually desperate'. And if she doesn't want to have sex but likes orgasms, okay, that's fine too!

You've already hit third base (assuming by this you mean touching/seeing each other's genitals)- there's nothing wrong with that. Maybe that's your limit. Mutual masturbation is way fun and it'll teach you both valuable things for when you -do- have sex. Sex is not just about penis-into-vagina. You can have a blast without ever penetrating. (however, make sure it's about both of you. You should BOTH be enjoying yourself, otherwise one of you will be miserable and could end up resenting the other person)

Get her off. Have her get you off. Orgasms do not need to be at the same time. If she gives you a handjob, and then you give her one, woohoo, you both had fun! Or vice versa.
posted by FritoKAL at 10:55 PM on April 23, 2011 [13 favorites]

if it wasn't for her strong desire for sex we probably wouldn't have such a problem...

it really complicates my job keeping the relationship pure

A good start would be to get on the same page about boundaries, and make sure that you both are working to respect those boundaries. It's not solely your job to keep your relationship the way you want it, and it doesn't help you guys to be assigning roles where one of you is pushing boundaries and the other is fighting to keep them.

You guys are in this together and you're on the same team. Don't make sex some kind of win-lose scenario where you're on opposite sides.
posted by pluot at 11:00 PM on April 23, 2011 [12 favorites]

Hygenic and functional chastity devices for women don't really exist, but the certainly do for men. (NSFW like whoa!)

Use a padlock, and put the key in a safety deposit box.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:01 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Uh, that remark about the baby putting a wrench in the works: better be prepared and avoid that, no matter what else happens. It seems like you're so much bent on avoiding sex (and not really succeeding) that you're not taking actual precautions. Don't let that happen.

Just to give a perspective, it will upset your lives (and the baby's) substantially more if you produce some unwanted offspring in this situation, than if you, say, re-consider your idea about religion/family/sex a little, but act safe and well informed around it. Yeah, and don't complain about your girlfriend, she's good and so are you.
posted by Namlit at 11:01 PM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Use a padlock, and put the key in a safety deposit box.

Do not do that.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:04 PM on April 23, 2011 [14 favorites]

You've already had sex. You just haven't had one particular kind of sex. The good news is you both clearly want and enjoy it, save for concerns that you describe as coming entirely from outside institutions, not from the two of you.

So, if you'd like to continue having sex, adding additional activities to your repertoire, communicate honestly and openly with one another about a way to do that responsibly. Pretending you don't want it and then being unprepared for activities that can lead to pregnancy is a much riskier plan than (say) having some condoms handy if you two decide to go that path.

No matter what actions you do with someone you love, if they are consensual and enjoyable, then you are "pure". You're old enough to decide that for yourselves.
posted by anildash at 11:05 PM on April 23, 2011 [16 favorites]

And don't call your girlfriend "sexually desperate." You might not mean it to sound judgmental and condescending, but it really does. Anything that you guys do should be because you're both consenting. So whatever bases you've covered, keep in mind that you're equally responsible.
posted by pluot at 11:07 PM on April 23, 2011 [90 favorites]

Well, I doubt that your religion condones what you've done already as "pure" it's impure in the eyes of what you've been wanting to follow. Don't lie to yourself.

But if you are willing to see that as a loophole, there are non-PIV ways to have fun. Keep doing that. Use hands. Use tongues. Go crazy. Respect each other while you do it and you'll be fine.
posted by inturnaround at 11:12 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to chime in to say that reading up on birth control and preparing for it is an incredibly important thing. Maybe you're not on quite the same page about waiting, maybe you'll drink a bit too much one night, maybe you'll just decide that it's not worth the struggle, but if you "give in" (not how I would suggest thinking about sex, but...) you should be prepared to do it safely. There's a subconscious belief among some more traditional, religious folks that educating yourself about safe sex and preparing for the possible case is somehow wrong, which means that they're far more likely to have unprotected sex when they do, in the heat of the moment, decide to do so. Don't be those people. If you're dealing with guilt and it makes you feel better, think of it as doing your homework for your married future together - you want to be ready for the honeymoon, right? (P.S. please, seriously, buy lube. Especially if you'll be using condoms).

Also, your attitude towards your girlfriend's sex drive comes off as really unhealthy and sexist. She has a sex drive, so do you, and they're not always going to be at the same level. It sounds like right now either hers is higher - which is totally normal and healthy - or she's just less committed to this whole chastity thing than you are. It's not, not, somehow only your responsibility to maintain the boundaries that the two of you have set together.

What you two really need to do is do a bit of preliminary reading about safe sex on your own, then sit down together (clothed! In a non-sexy setting!) and talk about your feelings about this and your future together. If you're serious about getting married, there's a whole lifetime of sex ahead of you, and you're not always going to see eye-to-eye. You absolutely need to learn to communicate about it now, and not be shamed by those conversations. And you need to learn to accept her sex drive, and if you can't, she absolutely has a right to know that before she locks herself into a lifetime of (I assume) monogamy with someone who judges her for having one.
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:15 PM on April 23, 2011 [32 favorites]

First of all, stop calling yourself a "jerk" for "complaining" about this. You sound like a good, honest, considerate guy who just doesn't quite know how to navigate an extremely loaded situation. You don't want to throw away all the tradition that you and/or your GF (both, I think?) have grown to respect, but at the same time, you're like THIS PAIN CAN'T BE REAL WHAAAAAAT THE FFFFF....

I, for one, don't find you to be a jerk. I find you to be a young person who now needs to navigate the weird, DO IT OR YOU'RE WEIRD, DO IT AND YOU'RE DAMNED landscape of 21st century American sex. Congrats! You've already respected your GF's desire to not have a child at this point in time, and while other posters are correct that the chance is minute, it still exists.

So what should you do? I can't answer that, because you and GF need to figure that out for yourselves. I can tell you, though, the following:

A) NO ONE is to be looked down upon, called a "jerk," "repressed," or "controlled by religion" for making the choice to not have sex when they "could."

B) The respect that you show for your girlfriend's body by refusing to have sex when you know it *could* result in a pregnancy is truly admirable. We need more men like you.

C) Religious beliefs aside, you are doing a difficult, painful thing here with NO GUARANTEE of future rewards or benefits or whatever. You are doing these things (or NOT doing these things) because you think there is something greater than these things. What are they?

D) How "desperate" is your GF? And for what? Maybe you just...I'll memail you the rest of this.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 11:15 PM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Even if you try to remain virgins (or, more accurately, even if you try to refrain from "penis in vagina" intercourse, because I agree with other posters that you have already had sex), please just buy and keep some condoms nearby. Learn & practice how to put them on properly by yourself (instructions in the package & online - here's a SFW example).

That said, no one ever said you have to use everything you own, right? Well, that goes for condoms as well. Buying condoms in no way means you're preparing to have sex. It just means, when you have sex, you'll be prepared.

Finally, I don't know what religion you & your girlfriend are, but even the pope is starting to slowly come around on condom use. Many abstinence-promoting preachers and priests privately condone birth control. It's preferable to an abortion or parents who can't take care of their kids, after all. It might be worth it to speak to a religious counselor, mentor or guide about your struggles. I bet they deal with this issue all the time.
posted by lesli212 at 11:53 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I think that you are being kind of a jerk--not for wanting to "stay pure" (though in the interest of full disclosure, I'm going to admit that I think that's bullshit, but in the assumption that staying "pure" until marriage is a good thing and in the idea that you are, in fact, still sexually pure)--but for putting the majority of the blame on your partner here.

Unless she's forcing you to do these things, you're just as culpable as she is. She may be the one who's bringing it up or suggesting things, but you're both the ones doing them. The problem isn't her sex drive--which, btw, is a normal, healthy thing to have. The problem is the actions that the two of you are taking. Her sex drive or lack thereof doesn't change what you have or haven't done.

With that said, are you sure that she's as keen on waiting until marriage as you are? Because it sounds to me like you two haven't done a very good job of negotiating boundaries and expectations. You're treating her like she's someone to be managed, not an equal partner, and that's not the foundation of a healthy relationship, let alone a healthy marriage. You need to sit down with her and hash that out before you consider getting married.

Also, at the risk of sounding condescending, I'd point out that you--and presumably she--are very young, and from the sounds of it, you're rather sheltered, as well. "Third base" is so far from crude that I've heard grammar school students use it. Sex (and having a sex drive) is normal and healthy. Birth control is easily accessible and inexpensive--there's a Planned Parenthood in Athens, one in Circleville, and several in Columbus. Before you get married, before you have any further sexual contact, please educate yourself. Talk to your girlfriend about going to a clinic--if not for birth control, than for a yearly checkup. Read up on the internet about anatomy, pregnancy, and birth control. You've said that you've already done things you regret--don't make your sexual education the thing that you regret not doing.
posted by MeghanC at 12:20 AM on April 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

You could get married now, if you know for sure you want to spend your lives together and aren't just getting married for the sake of being able to have sex. A bit of money and a judge will marry you. Or there might be some pastors/ordained people nearby that don't require the whole pre-marital counseling, etc, if you want to be married "in the eyes of the Lord." You can have a big church wedding later.

Please, please, no matter how hard you are trying not to have sex, pick up some condoms and/or get her on the Pill. That way if you give in*, you're prepared to be safe.

Some church people refer to this as having an accident. But really, you can't have sex by accident. Sex is not wrong, it's normal and healthy, and you don't have to be ashamed.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:21 AM on April 24, 2011

I think it depends on what you're OK with doing. If you can do things together which involve you both reaching orgasm but which aren't what you consider sex, then, well… do those things and be happy. If not, then I think you're just torturing yourself going any further than about first base. If you're truly committed to keeping your virginity, then draw that line, meet only in public if you have to, don't fool yourself into thinking you can just fool around a little more.

Whatever you do, I Nth the advice to read up a little about contraception and perhaps buy some condoms. Probably best not to do so in secret from your girlfriend. You could buy some and give them to her for safekeeping, if that wouldn't freak her out. If all goes according to plan, you won't use them until you're married. (Well, they do have an expiration date, so maybe get new ones when you're married.)

we both *really* want it ... but at the same time we regret it after all is said and done

You should think about this a little. On the one hand, maybe you just feel bad because you've made a promise to yourself, and you're pushing its boundaries and you're badly tempted to break it. That's reasonable. On the other hand, the regret may be the realization that your relationship is based more on lust than love at this point. That's not a horrible thing: I think lust is an important part of a healthy relationship, but you may want to mull the idea over a bit. Lust really truly does cloud your mind, especially at your age.

And finally… I respect you wanting to keep your virginity, but my advice is, go ahead and have sex. (Admittedly I am a godless heathen.) Before you do, learn about what makes good sex, what makes contraception work and how it fails, then have sex on purpose, at a good time, not as a result of a failure of will. Your post-marital sex will not be made any less good for having had sex before marriage, really. Or do what IndigoRain says and get married now, if you do believe that she's the one. Children can come later, whenever you want them to— birth control really does work (the vast majority of the time).
posted by hattifattener at 12:41 AM on April 24, 2011

metafilter isn't the most receptive community to your plight. this is more left leaning, less save yourself until marriage sort of place. everyone has said great things about being prepared and challenging your notions about all this. you should read them all carefully and not dismiss them out of hand.

having said that, you know what you need to do to stop and stay chaste- you need to stay out of situations where temptation arises. group date, shorter dates, less cuddling, less kissing. yyou need to enlist the help of your pastor/bishop/priest.

now, i think that all damages a relationship heading towards marriage, to constantly put up road blocks to intimacy. to cut off physical intimacy is to stifle emotional closeness to a degree. but that is for you to work out with her.
posted by nadawi at 1:37 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You say she has "a strong desire for sex", are you saying you don't? If you don't have such a strong desire, especially at your age, you might want to get a physical.

Meanwhile, as is evident from the answers above, you have chosen the wrong forum in which to ask your question. Doesn't your particular religious group have some forum full of young people like you who have similar commitments to avoiding sex before marriage?
posted by mareli at 1:46 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're just avoiding PIV, use toys. Check 'em first to make sure they're safe-- look up brands and their reputations online. I like rabbit vibrators, so do a lot of girls. Don't use silicone lube with silicone toys, don't ever use a lube that contains any sugar products on anything vaginal. Either of you have any fetishes? If so, play with those. Bondage is pretty easy to start with; do your research before you do anything that could be dangerous. That's assuming it interests you. If it doesn't, that's cool too.

All of this can be "practice" for PIV intercourse if you change your mind or get married. You're both healthy sexually; that's good.

Get some condoms and keep 'em around anyway. Get a packet of emergency contraceptive, too. Maybe you'll change your mind and you'll want to make sure you're prepared for that to happen in the moment, but even if you don't ever use them yourself, you never know when it's gonna be a good idea to have them around. A less prepared friend might need one; you might be able to save someone's ass by giving them ECP when a pharmacy closes. You don't have to think of it as being for you. Remember, having a baby would throw a wrench in the works for everyone around you too-- being prepared and trustworthy might save them an unplanned pregnancy.

Maybe spend some time reading up on sexual health topics too, and learning to talk about these sorts of issues. They'll be important when/if you're married/more sexually involved with someone. It's not crude to ask questions about sex in a community like this; it's expected. It's okay to not know what you're doing; it's also okay to know what you're doing though! You don't have to be embarrassed or euphemistic about it.

And whether you're having PIV intercourse on your wedding night or if you change your mind about it soon, keep in mind that it takes a while to get good at it. It's not usually mind-blowing or magical the first time. That's fine. Have a sense of humor about it, play around with different positions, use lots of lube, and realize that sometimes intimacy isn't about that mind-blowing, semi-spiritual connection you can get with people-- sometimes it's about loving someone enough that you're willing to look a little foolish and do something a little silly in front of them in order to bring them pleasure.
posted by NoraReed at 2:47 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're not absolutely set on staying pure, memail me and I'll tell you what made me realise sex before marriage could easily be reconciled with my religion (before I became agnostic and less certain about the whole thing)
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:08 AM on April 24, 2011

I've been a Christian in a similar sort of position. I'm going to assume you're Christians based on your location (in the USA, rather than in a country where most people are Muslims, say).

1. I certainly found that penis-in-vagina sex was psychologically a line which we didn't want to cross, but if you think about it, it doesn't make much sense as a stopping point "for religious reasons". If you're already doing everything but (I take "third base" to mean oral sex or mutual masturbation), you're either having sex, or you accept that some proportion of lesbians (say) never have sex.

Your church (if you're a Christian) probably doesn't officially go along with the position that "it's all good as long as you don't stick it in her", either. That said, I think there's a fair bit of hypocrisy in churches about this. Adult believers in relationships are probably doing something more than holding hands, but generally there's a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude to what that might be, except on the odd occasions where someone in the 20s and 30s group gives an excruciatingly embarrassing talk about where the line should be drawn, everyone feels guilty and abstains for a bit, and then goes back to the arbitrary penis-in-vagina line. Or maybe that was just me... :-)

2. You seem to have some weird attitudes to women. Is your church into complementarianism, by any chance? It is normal for women to want and enjoy sex. It is not "your job" to keep the relationship pure, it's up to both of you (not your church or your families) to talk about what you're happy with.

3. Sex does not necessarily lead to pregnancy. For example, the sex you're already having is pretty risk free in that regard, and you can make contraception pretty reliable too. If you're Catholic, again, be aware that what the church says and what people do are two different things.

4. You're too young to be burdened with all this guilt, and hearing about this stuff makes me angry that I wasted so much time worrying about what I thought God/the church wanted. The best remedy is to give up Christianity, to be honest: there's scant evidence for it, and as a bonus, the lack of guilt about a harmless and fun activity was a relief :-)

OK, so you're probably not going to follow that particular piece of advice, but at the very least it's worth reflecting on how important what you guys get up to in bed really is, in the grand
scheme of things. Attempting abstinence gives sex an exaggerated, cosmic importance that it doesn't really have (which isn't to say that it isn't pretty great, and important on a personal level).
posted by pw201 at 4:24 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Perhaps talking to a religious leader - priest or other - would be helpful. You're not the first person to experience this and if the person you talk to is a reasonable person and not too hellfire and brimstone, they may be able to counsel you in techniques to keep you from having sex.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:48 AM on April 24, 2011

For historical perspective 'marriage in the eyes of God' in the medieval and early modern periods just needed a pledge between two people and the consummation of the relationship. The necessity of a church ceremony was a relatively late feature; and this does really make sense from the point of view of an omnipotent God - He knows that you're committed to each other, that you've made this sort of promise to each other. When you stand up in church and make the statement, you're making the statement to the community, not to God, since He already knows.

Contraception is your friend. You should know that while unlikely she can get pregnant from 'third base' activities - if there is sperm in the vicinity of the vagina there is the possibility of conception. You're already taking risks over conception. I'd suggest long-acting hormonal contraception on her part, because this really sounds like the sort of situation where you might 'accidentally' penetrate in your heavy petting.

I really pity all US young people who have to deal with this sort of situation (note that I say 'US' - even among the religious I couldn't imagine this question being asked by a European young person). Sex isn't dirty, or wrong; a normal sex drive in a woman isn't 'desperate'; there is nothing magical about a penis going into a vagina that makes this 'sex' and all other sexual contact not 'sex'.
posted by Coobeastie at 4:58 AM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

My wife had very similar convictions, and insisted on remaining a virgin until we married. She grew-up in a semi-evangelical environment, and this was extremely important to her.

She was, however, able to reconcile oral sex as not counting as "sex". I highly recommend you make a similar decision.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:13 AM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

pw201 who says give up Christianity may not know that there are plenty of large Christian sects that do not view pre-marital sex as evil. If you are a Christian of some sort, and are committed to remaining a Christian, find another sort.
posted by mareli at 5:15 AM on April 24, 2011

I'm a former Evangelical. I don't share your beliefs about sex anymore but I used to. A few thoughts:

It's a good thing that you and your girlfriend want to have sex. And it's a good thing you want to do it with each other. This suggests that the two of you have healthy, probably compatible sexual appetites--and, you know, that you're truly and passionately attracted to each other. If you were able to be together and not want to have sex, I'd say you shouldn't get married.

A lot of abstinence-only sex ed (I assume this is what you got in school and in church) talks about birth control failure rates in a way that is, frankly, not true. You and your girlfriend should educate yourselves, if only so that when you are married, you can make the best choices for yourselves. If your not comfortable using sources like Planned Parenthood (whose contraception-related information and resources are excellent, by the way), talk to your primary care doc.

Metafilter is not the best place for this question. Try the Marriage Bed forums. The posters there are more likely to share your core beliefs while providing a range of possible solutions. I think the community there is a really interesting resource for conservative Christians in your situation because participation is anonymous and so people who wouldn't be comfortable honestly talking about their sex lives in public or in church feel comfortable participating online.

Finally, don't call your girlfriend desperate. There's an idea that permeates the "purity" concept that says, basically, that men have naturally strong sexual urges, and it's the woman's job to keep the relationship "pure"--and that there's something wrong with a woman who has a strong sex drive. This idea is harmful and false. Your girlfriend is not desperate. Her sex drive is not unusually high. You are not facing a special challenge in this relationship because your girlfriend wants to have sex.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:57 AM on April 24, 2011 [23 favorites]

In Christianity, virginity is an intimate marriage to God himself. It's a marriage because it is an intimate, exclusive relationship. In the case of people who will marry, it is a temporary "vow" and that is ok. But it's still something that should be regarded with respect. I am guessing you are an American Protestant, and unfortunately virginity is just not respected at all in this way, even though a big deal is made about abstinence, because abstinence is just an absence of sex, not actively doing something good. It's too Catholic or something. So, if you do some research and meditation about that, you might benefit. And I mean you, at least first. Expecting women to be the primary virgins is one of the problems. Talk to your clergy for denomination-specific information.

It's hard to abstain when a dating couple is expected to behave intimately in every other way. In Christianity, there is the concept of "leave and cleave" in which the man and woman are wholly members of their parents' families until marriage, after which they are wholly members of their own new family. But you two are acting as if you are already family together, missing only one piece. It feels incomplete.

So, my advice is to spend more time with your respective families and in practicing your faith, joyfully (and with desire) anticipating the day you join together to create your new family.
posted by michaelh at 6:21 AM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

How come you both "really want it" but she's the one who's "desperate?"
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:34 AM on April 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Why not just get married now? Pooling resources could actually make it easier for her to finish school. Plenty of people get married while they are young and poor. I did.
posted by brownrd at 6:46 AM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sex is great. Love is great. Commitment is great. Finding someone to commit to whom you love and are sexually compatible with? Super greatest ever.

Here is what is not great: feeling guilt or shame about sex, especially to the degree where you're reluctant to ask about your sexual health, getting legally married to someone only to find out you are not sexually compatible or that you're not really compatible at all but were too distracted by horniness to realize it.

Take some time to teach yourselves about sex, get some effective birth control (yes it works), and then go get freaky. God will forgive you. If God wanted you to be perfect, he wouldn't have made you human.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:49 AM on April 24, 2011

Don't get married just for the sake of having sex.
posted by elpea at 6:54 AM on April 24, 2011 [21 favorites]

Don't get married just for the sake of having sex. Times 1000!

My concerns with the "no sex until marriage" thing: the possibility of marrying too soon (before your character and career are really formed) and thus marrying someone you won't be happy with in the long term, which is a real problem if you don't use birth control and have kids right away; the risk that withholding and boundary-pushing are what get eroticized in your relationship rather than actual sex things. What if you get married and find out that it was way more exciting to have this big forbidden "can't have sex yet!" thing going on than to actually be married and having sex? Tension and abstinence and transgression are pretty erotic and compelling, and if you get them all wound up with "we're not actually having sex but we really want to!" then there could be a big let-down once you're actually having sex.

I think--having been raised in an extremely "sex is a tempting transgression!" sort of household--that the whole contemporary culture of purity and abstinence is actually about eroticizing some unhealthy and unsustainable stuff. It's not really about staying away from sex or about reserving sexual desire for a healthy marriage; it's about getting all hot and bothered precisely about delay and denial and sin. That's fun, don't get me wrong, and you can certainly build delay, denial and transgression into a long-term relationship as a kink. It's just not intended the way the abstinence movement pretends that it's intended.

So anyway, I think it's good that you're having some sexual encounters!

I suppose my only advice (other than "totally change your outlook on sex before marriage", which is a little bit unfair as advice) is to be very, very aware of what you're getting into. This is a terrible economy, especially for new graduates. If you get married right away and are opposed to birth control (which your post suggests), you're likely to have plenty of kids fairly quickly. This is not inevitable or common in contemporary western culture. You're going to have a lot of expenses--far more than perhaps you realize now--and both you and your wife will be child-wrangling at a time when you'll be expected to hustle to start your careers. This isn't a joke. It will mean less money down the road, more stress, more responsibility and probably ability to compete with your peers. Marrying early and having a lot of kids will put some strain on your marriage, too. And if you're in a very religious subculture where your family and friends expect you to stay married no matter what and have plenty of kids, you'll be under a lot of other pressure as well. I strongly suggest talking this through with a therapist/counselor/religious-person-not-from-your-religion for a little outside perspective before you jump on in.

Also, would you characterize both your and your girlfriend's parent's marriages as happy? Are they similar to what you want for yourself? Because those are the models you grew up with, and they're very powerful. Do your parents really like each other? Do they have fun together? Do they resolve their fights successfully? Do they have stuff in common? If they don't, I doubly emphasize the need for some outside advice, because it takes effort to buck those patterns.
posted by Frowner at 7:37 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you can do things together which involve you both reaching orgasm but which aren't what you consider sex, then, well… do those things and be happy.

I personally can see a hugely POSITIVE aspect to your religious conviction that dictates to wait till marriage for penis-vagina intercourse: you are learning how to please each other sexually in non-intercourse ways!! There are so many sexually unhappy marriages out there, in which one or both partners is unsatisfied, because all the emphasis is on INTERCOURSE. Even if there is foreplay, it is assumed to be a mere trifling thing, that MUST lead up to "sex" (which is erroneously assumed to mean PIV intercourse only).

Intercourse can be wonderful. But SEX -- tender, fulfilling, loving lovemaking -- need not include that or be restricted to that.

You and your girlfriend are very lucky to have the chance to become experienced at, and comfortable with, non-intercourse ways of arousing/exciting/fulfilling each other. (I hope you are both allowing orgasm to happen and are not fighting that or thinking it's wrong.)

Please do not ever lose these skills, or take on the belief that these activities are mere "lead-ins" for "the real thing", if you do get married and start having PIV intercourse. SOME (maybe even most) sexual encounters between husband and wife can involve PIV, but marrieds can and should make love in no-intercourse times as well.
posted by RRgal at 7:38 AM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

All who are advocating just doing it ( with birth control) may be crating a bigger problem. in certain Religions any sex combined with birth control other than natural cycles is just as prohibited as pre-marital sex. Positing that their desire to remain pure for religious reasons is pure fluff is doing nothing to relieve them of the guilt that will follow. Many a marriage has broken up over religion, and not just sexual rules. Suggesting that just because sex is awesome that they can break this one rule plants the seeds of doubt about every other aspect of their religion. Your messing with powerful juju here.
posted by Gungho at 7:38 AM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't get married. Getting married just to have sex means you'll be getting a divorce once she realizes that sex isn't "impure". You're incompatible; she wants sex and you don't.
posted by spaltavian at 8:02 AM on April 24, 2011

If you want to remain pure, you don't see each other alone without other people around.

That's the only way it's going to work at this point. And honestly with your beliefs it should have been that way from the beginning.

Assuming you are Christian, even inflaming those desires in one another before you get married is considered sinful. That means no deep kissing, no putting hands on certain body parts whether clothed or get my drift.

Honestly my best recommendation is you figure out how to get married as soon as possible while understanding that if you really love one another you need to respect one another physically during this time.

(For those advocating they go ahead and have sex, please understand this will have emotional ramifications for them after marriage...I know too many couples in this belief system who have done that then afterward the wife was bitter toward the don't have to agree with our religious beliefs re sexuality to understand that those beliefs affect behavior whether or not they are lived up to.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:04 AM on April 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

PS-to the OP-you also need someone outside your relationship to be accountable to. If you REALLY want to remain pure you will talk this over to a pastor or other appropriate authority figure (an older mature believer would work as well.) If you are serious about your purity you will follow these steps.

If you choose not to follow these steps please quit blaming your girlfriend for being sexually desperate. Because she ain't the only one. (Or really, quit blaming her to start with. Remaining pure is YOUR responsibility not just hers.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:09 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

The thing is, it is really really hard to be in a long term, committed (you already plan to be together forever,) affectionate relationship with another human being and also refrain from sexual activity for a year.

Abstinence before marriage usually goes hand in hand with short engagements. Most kids I know of who stuck around in my church as adults got married within a year of meeting their current husbands; for some it was a lot sooner. It's not impossible, what you are planning, it's just hard.

Anyway, from a practical point of view: don't be alone together. Don't keep your struggle a secret from supportive community members. Have a calm, open discussion about where the boundaries are and why (and do it in a public-enough place, because the conversation can be tempting.)

And, I guarantee you that if you take this question to a religious authority, they will have stuff for you to read and think about, and strategies and suggestions, and everything else you could want.
posted by SMPA at 8:31 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Looking back most of my regrets are things I didn't do, rather than things I did. Sex is great and should be lots of fun for both parties, but losing my virginity didn't change me as a person to anything like the extent I thought it would. Frankly I was left wondering why I'd made such a big deal out of it.

Just go for it!
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 9:07 AM on April 24, 2011

Assuming that you are Christian, and it might help to clarify,

God inspired The Law found in the Old Testament so as to help his people live healthy, fulfilled, and easy lives in communion with him; and then sent his Son to help move us yet closer to that right? I recommend you ask yourself why it is that you, as a result of your faith, instead feel unhealthy, unfulfilled, frustrated and out of communion with God. My helpful hint, it is not because of you. Sex, life, marriage, children and their purpose in society, and ideas about consent have all changed since the Bible was written. I think for the better.

Paul's advice might seem relevant to you, Corinthians 7: "36 If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better."


Were either of you to have sex after marriage you would not become less pure in the eyes of God, if you have sex before marriage you will not become less pure in the eyes of God. What is important is that neither of you take advantage of each other, that you love each other, and that you stay true to yourselves and to God. If not having sexual contact of any kind is something that is true to either you or your girlfriend, St. Alia's advice is good. If y'all feel like where you are now is something you can celebrate and be whole in, don't worry about anyone else's preaching, be whole in it. If penetrative sex is something that you both truly want with your whole heart but the legal and familial ramifications of marriage are not sensible for you right now, then do that.

Just whatever you do, make especially sure that you are both on the same page as to what you want.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:37 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

OP, regardless of your religious beliefs, it would trouble me deeply if I were your girlfriend and you were laying the blame for this whole "problem" at my feet like this. Why is she the only one who has a "strong desire for sex"? You are a twenty year old male. Regardless of your belief system, you still have hormones, and they should be making you still WANT to have sex, even if you've decided it's not in your best interests to have it yet. Wanting to have sex is not bad. Your girlfriend wanting to have sex does not make her "sexually desperate", or a slut, or anything negative at all. It makes her a healthy, typically-functioning young woman.
posted by palomar at 10:01 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is not answer to your question, but I am concerned about something that you said. The way you worded your post made it sound like you want to get married so that you can have sex. Please talk to someone about this - a counselor, someone at your church, whatever, because this is how divorces and extremely unhappy marriages happen. I hate the idea of equating marriage with sex. Marriage is about partnership, commitment, love, and yes sex is a fun part of all of that, but marriage is not about sex. If you choose to wait to have sex, please make sure you are ready for marriage and all that comes with it before you make that commitment (because I'm thinking that based on your views about sex before marriage, divorce may also be out of the question).
posted by echo0720 at 10:07 AM on April 24, 2011

I'm with St. Alia of the bunnies on this. Don't want to have sex, don't give yourselves the opportunity to have sex. Hang out in public places.

Is your girlfriend on birth control? A lot of women (but not all) actually have less of a sex drive when they're on the pill.

The disparity of sex drive and you laying the guilt on her being "desperate" is rather troubling. I'd highly recommend speaking about this with a responsible adult.
posted by Neekee at 11:39 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and keep in mind that it was God who gave you your hormones and sex drive. There's absolutely nothing wrong with or sinful about it. You'd be unhealthy without it. Humans would have gone extinct.
posted by Neekee at 11:41 AM on April 24, 2011

One of the least romantic things I've done was get married (not the lovely ceremony, with our family and friends, but the legal half of it). It was along the lines of renewing my license plates. We went to City Hall and stood in line and had to have two forms of ID, and the lady was crabby. She didn't ask us if we loved each other, if we respected each other, if we were willing to put in work a relationship requires. That's the stuff that counts, and that counted long before we signed on the forms. (Also, to my way of thinking, my heart and soul are way more special than my other 'special' parts. Marriage is a way bigger commitment than sleeping together. Therefore marriage is the thing that should 'wait'.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:56 AM on April 24, 2011

I always found it odd that god cares if you stick a dick in a lady, but all sorts of oral sex is a-ok. Anyway, just get married now. There is in fact nothing stopping you. Then you can have sex, which is awesome. You can go to city hall or do something equally small.
posted by chunking express at 11:58 AM on April 24, 2011

Been there, done that. Or should I say "been there, didn't do that". There are definitely choices we made that made things way harder for us. And I'm going to give you an evangelical-ly answer because you brought up that some of this is because of religious reasons.

I think the first thing you've got to do is consider your definition of pure. Talk about it together. Once you decide where the pure/impure line is, make yourselves a new line. It might actually help to write it all down--with a scale of intimate acts, starting with hand-holding and ending with PIV. Since you've messed around together in the past, you want to make your new line a little closer to the hand-holding end than you may want to at first. Do your best to not cross this line. You've got to retrain yourselves (and your bodies). It's like when you start a diet like South Beach or Atkins and you have a couple of weeks at the beginning when food is pretty restricted. You're depriving your body of what it's used to so you can learn to use your body a different way.

Next, if staying true is truly a priority for you guys, organize your lives in a way to reflect that. Don't put yourselves in difficult situations. Group dates, public dates: good. Camping trips, sitting in the car at night to talk: probably not a good idea.

Finally, talk about it. Talk with each other about it. Be open about what makes you struggle; saying things like, "No, I don't think it's a good idea for us to go to X this weekend." (even having a code phrase). Things like, "Oh man, do I really want to have sex with you right now," are a little less helpful, especially when you're alone together.

But don't just talk about it with each other. Each of you needs to find someone to help stick to it. A good friend, a spiritual mentor, anyone you trust to hold your secrets and encourage you to keep it up. Their job isn't to hunt you down and question you, but to be someone to whom you go to talk about how you're doing.

TL;DR--Yes, you can not have sex. But if it's really what you want to do, decide what you mean by sex and work your butt off not to do it.
posted by wallaby at 1:07 PM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

My aunt is very religious. One of her sons was married a few years ago, and one of the recurring problems of their marriage is that they are very incompatible sexually - they remained virgins until marriage.

One of her younger sons has been seeing a girl recently, and she pulled him aside one day to say that she's reflected upon the issue and encouraged them to sleep with each other, if they were comfortable, because it's important to really know a person before you commit to marriage with them. This was a huge thing for my cousin to hear, as his mum (and all their family) are very religious - church several times a week, prayer throughout the day... she once walked out of a scrabble game because my sister used the word 'penis'.

I'm not saying your girlfriend and yourself are necessarily incompatible, but that it's quite possible for very religious people to recognise that it's more important for a marriage to be good than it is for it to fit some ancient model of 'purity'.
posted by twirlypen at 4:09 PM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

"It might actually help to write it all down--with a scale of intimate acts, starting with hand-holding and ending with PIV."

I know the ol' penis in the vagina act is one thing that everyone can agree is sex between men and women, but if you're writing a scale of intimate acts, there's no reason to end there — it's not necessarily the most intimate act.

And it's important to realize that, just as far as "purity" goes, you can fairly balance that against all sorts of "impure" fetishes.

By the time 70klicks writes down mud play and fur suits, genital castings or incest roleplay, they'll recognize that there are more bases than Calvinball and that it's possible to be a good, moral and even religious person while engaging in every single one of them.

Further, that'll help the "technical virgin" self-abnegation. If it's a rule that can be set by man, it can be defined by man — might as well say that it's not sex unless it happens in a roller-rink to Rose Royce. If it's defined by Biblical authority, well, that depends on the gloss — some sects don't condemn mature and committed couples for having intercourse, whereas others believe men and women have to live apart prior to matrimony, lest there be any shenanigans. I'm willing to be that even within 70Klicks' own creed, there are those that'd excuse most anything he'd get up to and those who'd already want it to cease and desist.

I can't speak for any organized religion, but it'd seem to me that God'd want sex to happen in a healthy relationship with a loving context, and that'd be a lot more important than whether or not any given act constituted sex.

Another point: I realize that a lot of these sort of values are socially-defined. It's entirely possible that 70Klicks' family and religious community would make different decisions. But part of having a mature relationship is realizing that the rules are defined through communication with your partner — to a large extent, it's no one else's business what decisions are made regarding waiting for marriage or where the sex line is.
posted by klangklangston at 4:20 PM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Let me point out here that the question asked was how to stay pure sexually, not whether abstaining from sexual intercourse is/is not a good/bad idea.

It always amazes me, btw that people of faith ask this question of this particular community. This is not the first question of the sort here iirc. But in one sense this community does have something important to say in that yes, the body was created to have sex and that certain actions make up want it. Because that is the biological design of the human body. For those of us who have spiritual and or cultural reasons to choose abstaining from sex before marriage, we have to fully understand what it means to be truly abstinent and we need to fully understand that in order to successfully be chaste that one has to also respect the biology of our physical selves-and that biologic reality is that if we are in close proximity to an attractive person, particularly one that we love, that biologic urges WILL kick in. It is stupid not to face that fact and it is even more stupid to do things that will only strengthen the urges if our intention is not to fulfill them.

My advice to people in this position is-you probably do not want to date until you are reasonably ready to be married, and you want to intentionally date people who are equally ready to be married-putting this in plain English, if you need to finish college before marriage would be an option, you probably need to not date till you are almost finished with school. In other words, do not shop till you are ready to buy. In general relationships that are too long will NOT be chaste, because, biology is what it is.

When you do date you want to focus on the person's mind and personality. Find out what they are like OUTSIDE of a bedroom. Spend time with them doing projects, working with other people, stuff like that. Get to know THEM not their bodies. And as I said above, don't get into situations where sex would be possible-don't be alone!

Now for those folks who aren't planning or wishing for chastity, things like this sound stupid. Well, these things aren't addressed to YOU.

At the risk of TMI I was not a choir girl when I was in college. But later when I met the man I am now married to, we followed the rules above and were not intimate till our honeymoon. No regrets on that whatsoever! The sad thing is if I had followed these rules earlier I would have kept the purity that had been important to me as my first boyfriend would not have been able to date rape me. If someone then had told me before then what I needed to do I would have listened....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:29 PM on April 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

If you're not already, you both should be masturbating. (As you can tell, I'm skilled with pleasant entrees into conversation.)

I realize that's more likely than not a spiritually fraught activity as well, but look - complete abstinence does not work for you guys. You've tried it and it hasn't gone like you planned! And as everyone else has said, that's totally normal and healthy. So there's nothing wrong with you for finding it difficult to abstain from touching each other. But if abstinence is what you want, empirical evidence shows that you two trying to keep your hands off each other entirely just ain't gonna happen. And as you know, what you don't want to have happen here is a situation where you're so carried away you end up having sex without being prepared or protected.

What you need is to release some of that physical tension so that your conscious brains don't get totally overpowered by your lizard brain when you're together. You may also find it helps you both figure out what works with your own bodies, which will make sex all the better when you actually get around to it. In terms of squaring it with your beliefs, I don't have a religious background to give you actual doctrinal advice, besides to perhaps think of intercourse as a big bugaboo and masturbation as the lesser transgression you commit in order to avoid the big one? Like stealing food for someone who's starving, to use a comically overwrought comparison.

Also definitely, definitely try to forgive yourself for what's happened so far. Fooling around is an expression of love for each other and one of the wonderful things about being human is finding another human you want to get all squished up against. Try as hard as you can to recognize that the guilt you're feeling now is not a referendum on sex as an expression of love, once you're in a context where you're both comfortable with intercourse.

Oh, and up there where everyone said to stop blaming this on your girlfriend's sex drive? Read every one of those comments very, very carefully. Then read them again. Then consider printing them out and reading them once an hour. Because y'all are in this together, and you don't get to eat half the cake and then blame her for having the idea to bake it in the first place.
posted by superfluousm at 9:15 PM on April 24, 2011

When you do date you want to focus on the person's mind and personality. Find out what they are like OUTSIDE of a bedroom. Spend time with them doing projects, working with other people, stuff like that. Get to know THEM not their bodies.

Quoted for truth. A good deal of hindsight tells me that hanging out in a dorm room with one's SO, ruminating about sexual urges, probably isn't the best way to go in regard to your particular goals. Broaden and expand the scope of your relationship in creative ways. Take day trips, interact with new people together, take in cultural events, and generally hang out in (public or public-ish) places that allow you guys to nurture the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual parts of your relationship. If you expand your non-physical relationship, concerns about whether or not you're having sex might not be the first thing on your mind. There will be other territories to explore.

I'm right there with you, OP, so feel free to MeMail me if you want to hash things out further, brainstorm, etc. It's not easy to wait, but it's certainly not impossible, either.
posted by delight at 11:49 PM on April 24, 2011

Here's a new suggestion: Try exercising more. Working up a sweat will reduce some of your sexual desires. Also, stop doing things (masturbating, watching porn) that make you have sexual/lustful thoughts.

Boundless is the website you're looking for. I think it was created exactly for young people in your situation. It's helped me immensely.
posted by jayne at 11:12 PM on May 4, 2011

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