A week ago today, what I wrote about saving sex for marriage printed in the Perspective section of my paper, the Tampa Bay Times.
Readers called me unintelligent and unattractive (So that’s why I’m a virgin.).
A web editor had to shut down the comments online before the essay even appeared in print. “Too many personal attacks,” he said.
So I started getting emails and voicemails.
“That was a silly thing to go and write,” one said.
“In the end, you clearly made no point.”
“Who gives a damn why you’ve never been laid?”
“I read your article stating that you like to talk about sex. No offense, but talk about the voice of inexperience. How can you contribute on the very subject you have never participated in?”
“Why do you feel it’s necessary to write an article about your sexuality? That’s my question. I don’t understand it. Certainly you don’t think this will move another 20 year old or 25 year old to follow suit. People do it on impulse. It’s wonderful what you’re doing, (but) I can’t imagine what you hope to accomplish.” (From a voicemail. She didn’t leave a number.)
“Your argument seems to be based on the assumption that your husband and you will talk and work out all issues. Good luck. … The chance of finding a man who 1) knows himself well and 2) will talk out these issues, will be difficult. I wish you well.” (Written by a male, for the record.)
Other readers called me courageous and wise.
“Wish my son was old enough for you (he’s 12).” (Lol!)
“In a time of American and world decay, your story is refreshing, brave, and should give everyone a little more hope.”
“Although I am not a (Christian), I agree that adults (and younger people unfortunately) take sex very lightly. … Arleen, keep writing wonderful articles like this because we need people like you in this world. Badly.” (Insert me, placing my hand over my heart and saying, “Aww!”)
“My name is [insert name here], I just read your article. Good job, well written, well done. … I am a 55 year old mother of three. My oldest daughter is … also a virgin by choice. … We are Jewish, we are as liberal as liberal can be. … I, too, was a virgin when I got married. I can tell you my friends thought I was as crazy as crazy comes. And I sometimes thought I was crazy, too. But for me, it was the right decision. [Insert name here], our daughter, is young and cute and smart and sweet and in a graduate program, all that stuff. She is also waiting. To be blunt, she doesn’t give a shit about what other people think of that. And I commend her and applaud her for that, as I do you.” (From a voicemail.)
“It’s not only moral living, it’s common sense. You may be a 2 percenter, but believe me, the 98 percent have got it wrong.”
And couples who married as virgins, and have been (or were, if one spouse is deceased) married for 1, 3, 32, 33, 45, 52, 60 and 70 years wrote and called, too, to tell me what I wrote is true, and that they are happy.
It’s been a fun week, sincerely.
And when I rolled out of bed this morning, I found more feedback — a few letters to the editor in today’s Perspective section, regarding what I wrote:
If I could edit the second sentence of the third letter, I’d have it say this: “I hope and pray that all the parents, young women and young men who read her article listen to what she is saying …” Perhaps in a future post, I’ll delve deeper into why I’d add “young men,” but today I’ll sum it up this way: We are egregious when we say it is solely up to women to save sex for marriage. When we do, we uphold a double standard, we tell women that women (and not men) are responsible for men’s behavior, we enable men to relinquish responsibility and we permit them to believe they really can’t control themselves, which — frankly, and generally — is a lie.
And that isn’t a criticism of the letter writer (who emailed me, too, by the way, and is super kind). It’s a criticism of the culture in which he lives.
A culture (or at least a Tampa Bay area) with pretty mixed opinions about saving sex for marriage. I’m grateful for all the feedback about what I wrote, good and bad, and for the opportunity to have written it.