My Virginity Victory
Posted on September 20, 2013
Yesterday, Salon published a personal essay by Jessica Ciencin Henriquez, titled, “My Virginity Mistake.” My hat’s off to Henriquez as a writer. Her style and voice are provocative and engaging. She is a skillful writer and well spoken. But with that said, I spent most of yesterday at war with Henriquez in my head. I finally had to write out my argument with her advice that somehow we must have sex with our partners before getting married in order to know if the marriage will work.
In her essay, Henriquez writes about her choice as a teenager to remain a virgin until her wedding night. The hook of the article shares most succinctly the message of her piece: “I took an abstinence pledge hoping it would ensure a strong marriage. Instead, it led to a quick divorce.” The premise of Ms. Henriquez’s story is that unless you have sex before marriage, there is no way to see if you and your partner are sexually compatible.
She blames the dissolution of her first marriage on the fact that she and her husband had no more sexual chemistry than “second cousins.” A sad fact she says she didn’t discover until their wedding night. She goes onto write, “Had we had sex before our relationship transitioned into a contract, I would have known that there was no passion, no spark, nothing happening between our bodies.” In other words, Henriquez believes that a fundamental way to ensure a healthy marriage is to have sex before saying “I do.”
Throughout the entire article, I found myself having a nearly visceral reaction. no, No, NO! I wanted to yell at the computer screen. I could not sit comfortably with ANY part of her advice regarding sex and marriage. I reject Henriquez’s argument that until you actually have sex with a person you won’t know if the two of you have chemistry, and therefore, wont know if you have a healthy marriage.
Having strong marriages is about so much more than sexual compatibility, and sexual compatibility is about so much more than basic physical attraction. Her assertion that, “sex in a marriage can be beautiful. The key is to figure that out before you find yourself walking down an aisle in a dress,” reads to me as a gross oversimplification of the matter.
Sex, relationships, and marriage are so much more complicated and nuanced than simple animal magnetism. I don’t believe it’s possible to separate out sex from the other threads that make up a strong marriage or relationship: communication, emotional intimacy, money, family, domesticity, shared experiences, egalitarianism, and the list can go on and on.
Henriquez’s position precludes the existence of strong couples who may start off the marriage with rocky sex lives but through counseling and investment in all aspects of the relationship are able to go on to have healthy sexual chemistry.
Her theory is also completely oblivious to the existence of couples who don’t have sex with each other before getting married (whether they are virgins or not) and go on to have awesome chemistry and healthy marriages.
Dwayne and I were both virgins when we got married at the ages of 21 and 22. And from that first wedding night all the way until our 11th anniversary just last month, our sex life has been great, nay fantastic.
Now according to Henriquez’s theory about sex and marriage, the fact that Dwayne and I are sexually compatible is no more than dumb luck. We rolled the dice and won. We opened door number 3, sight-unseen, and hit the jackpot. Lucky us — that means our marriage will work. But, I just can’t agree with this interpretation of our story.
I guess it comes down to this for me: there are LOTS of ways to know if you are sexually compatible with someone before you ever take off your clothes.
When I met Dwayne, I found a man who made me laugh, a man who made me feel at ease, a man with the kind of character I could respect, a man who wasn’t afraid to say “I’m sorry”, and a man who treated me as an equal, and yes a man who made me feel that electric charge deep in my gut.
That man has turned into my life partner.
We kissed. We made out before we ever said, “I do.” But it wasn’t those activities alone that let me know this was a guy I could really love, not just with my heart, but with my body. It was all of the things above and more. It was communication and trust and respect and laughter and shared experiences and life goals and Faith and honesty and touch and smell and lips and skin. All these things make our marriage work – as well as a few good counseling sessions.
I say all this to say: don’t you believe for a minute, all you beautiful pre-married people out there, that you have to sleep with someone before you can know if your marriage will work. That’s, ehem, hogwash. You, your partner, and your one day marriage are much more nuanced than that, and so much more sophisticated.
Whether or not a marriage will work boils down to much, much more than any writer, myself included, can articulate in one personal essay. And it certainly boils down to more than simple physical attraction.