Why I’m a virgin: the feedback.

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:

Letters-to-the-Editor-7-1-12

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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Meant to tell you when it was published that it was a great column, Arleen. My question back to the commenters is why do so many of them seem threatened by your personal choice?

    You did a good job in your essay of avoiding any sort of judgmental tone, at least I thought. But most of your critics were over the top judgmental.

    In the column you presented cogent arguments as to why you have made your choices. Other than ad hominem attacks, nobody really presented a persuasive counter argument. Not to say that there isn’t an argument to be made that is 180 degrees opposite of yours, but nobody reacted with a well-reasoned position, just insults.

    Doesn’t really put them and their camp in a good light.

  • @Robert: Thanks so much! I appreciate that.

    And I’m totally with you. Lots of insults, lots of “There might be something wrong with you…” and lots of “This isn’t news!” (to which I said “I know! Which is why it was in an opinion section of the paper.”). I’m not surprised by it, but fascinated. I wanna know what nerve it is in people who aren’t proponents of my lifestyle that is so struck by what I wrote.

  • Glad you got through the criticism. Nice work!

  • @thereluctantroad: Thanks, friend!

  • Terry W

    I very much appreciate your words, especially after all of the press concerning another ‘star’ (Adele) being celebrated for her upcoming birth with her boyfriend. Wish there were a whole lot more stories like yours. Blessings. By the way, when you find that guy and want a Protestant minister to help with the wedding, just let me know (ha!)

  • @Terry: Re: “… when you find that guy and want a Protestant minister to help with the wedding, just let me know,” LOL! If I wind up headed for an inter-church marriage, I will be in touch. 😉 Love it.

    And thanks so much for reading, and for the feedback. Glad you liked what you read. Please feel free to share it with friends and family (or strangers, for that matter).

  • Arleen, I commend you for your open honesty, especially when you knew you could receive so much backlash. I could never handle something like that!
    Both my husband and I were virgins when we married and I would never in a million years have it any other way.
    I think it’s kind of humorous that some people commented that they didn’t want to know about your sexuality, as if sex is a taboo topic and isn’t plasterd ALL OVER our televisions and every square inch of our society. Funny how people dislike morality so much.
    Even so, good for you, Arleen!

  • @Nicole: Thank you so much! I appreciate the feedback and kind words, and for the great example you and Daniel set, that we really CAN live what we believe, even in a culture like this one.

    Re: “as if sex is a taboo topic” – Wow. Excellent point. So true. Funny how sex is safe to discuss and depict until you invite God into it.

  • Hi Arleen,
    I enjoyed reading all your articles tonight. My beautiful and very cool cousin just got married and she is your age. She was a virgin. (Definately by choice, she could have had her choice of men.) I often see a cool bumper sticker in my church parking lot – it says “I waited for marriage and I don’t regret it.” I know God is pleased with your choice, and you will never regret it either. You will make a wonderful wife someday. Funny, society probably wouldn’t complain if you wrote about how to have a great one night stand… but the virginity thing just strikes a nerve. Keep up the great writing!

    • Thank you so much for reading and for the kind words! You’re so right – it’s not talking about sex, but talking about NOT having sex that makes people most uncomfortable. It’s kinda funny, lol.

      I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that said “CHASTITY IS FOR LOVERS.” I ought to get another one.

  • Ed (UK)

    I don’t want to be unchaste in thought and sound creepy, but as a single, unmarried Catholic man i think you look GORGEOUS (and that’s what the Spanish call a harmless “piropo”) and write great! (and don’t worry, i’m not chatting you up, as i don’t know you personally, and then there is that thing call chemistry that doesn’t communicate over the net, plus i’m in the UK …)

  • Ed (UK)

    Btw, i made my last comment in response to those who insulted your looks (not for the sake of saying it which would come across as a bit creepy ..) They did that not because of your looks but disliked / hated that you were talking about chastity / celibacy.
    (and although chastity to me is so important, equally, being prudish is wrong too which is why i don’t feel bad about paying you a “piropo” ..

  • Ed (UK)

    I think some people find celibacy weird as in repressed. If there is no God, then they are right.
    But if there is a God (and i’m a strong believer there is!) then God nourishes our physical desires spiritually and physically through grace, transforming physical desires into creative / holy / loving kind of energies.
    Where physical energies aren’t repressed but TRANSFORMED into something new (and at times / often – depends – we have to repress temptations and unchaste thoughts but that is not the same as being repressed, overall.
    And one of the tragedies secular society makes (well, much of it) is that it says celibacy = repression. Wrong! And this is a strong message that we have to get across, i think.

    • Thank God for God! 🙂

      I feel you. I think the “repression” of temptations and unchaste thoughts to which you refer is really “avoiding the occasion of sin.” In the words a youth pastor friend of mine uses in sex talks with his youth group, “You’re not going to end up having sex in the backseat of a car with your significant other if you don’t end up in the backseat of a car with your significant other.”

      In my observation, avoiding the occasion of sin is one of the most often missed points. People want to know how it is that we expect them not to have sex when the thoughts they think and the things they do with their girlfriends and boyfriends, make them want to have sex. But chastity says to step back further. If you know X makes you want to have sex, you can’t do X, either.

      Humans are way better at this than they think they are.

  • Ed (UK)

    Arleen,
    So back to another post of yours about justification, that chastity is at the heart of (not the only thing) in bringing about the right ATTITUDE of love (both spontaneous and otherwise).
    Which now makes me think why Francis of Assisi made chastity one of the three vows for the Franciscans (the importance of chastity in getting the right attitude to love and to love generously and spontaneously as well as otherwise).
    Apologies for my stream of consciousness here …, but your blog has made me think (and feels like i’ve just broken through some little bubble of consciousness into one much deeper and joyful)
    God bless you,
    Ed

    • I’m so glad what you’re reading here has resulted in so much thought! That’s, like, the best compliment a writer could get. Enjoying your commentary, Ed.

  • Ed (UK)

    Arleen,
    It’s lovely to come across you and your blog.
    I live in the UK, and am surrounded by secularity (society in general, as well as friends and family, to a degree, too).It’s really nice and liberatering to be able to talk like this (i mean some of my closest friends are agnostics, and others i know might think i was being overly religious or whatever) – about ideas like this about chastity, God and religion in general, that cannot really do with those around me and where i live.
    I’ve bookmarked your site. Off on holiday soon for a couple of weeks. But will keep you on my prayer list (in that categry that consists of people you come across by chance, in the train, at a festival, on the
    internet etc ..)
    Best wishes, Ed

    • I so appreciate the prayers, Ed!

      How did you find my blog, anyway? (Always curious!)

  • Ed (UK)

    Via Sister Helena Burn’s blog

  • Ed (UK)

    Me, too!
    For a while i’ve been thinking about chastity in the context of God transforming physical desire/energy into other kinds of energy: creative energy, a holy kind of energy, and the energy or spirit of related (all connected). Then i found her blog and Theology of the Body which i hadn’t heard about (but you can kind of work out intuitively).
    Anyway, i included a piece on her blog comments about Shakespeare’s Tempest, and the connection (i see / interpret) between chastity and creativity.
    Hope i didn’t bore people with the details of the argument (and it’s not that important – i mean key is to pray to God, connect to God, the Eucharist, and so on for chastity, but has helped me / inspired me to a degree to follow chastity.
    I’d copy and paste it here if you’re interested or its on Sister Helena’s blog under the recent article on this topic.

    • Actually, I remember seeing that on Sr. H’s Magic Mike review. I haven’t had the chance yet to read it in full, though.

  • Ed (UK)

    Well, nice chatting to you. I’m putting my head down for the night (10:30 PM here).
    God bless

  • Anonymous

    Hollywood does not know what love is, enjoy the song…

    http://youtu.be/h89-3_kIRDA

  • Anonymous

    Hi Arleen, Just read your column, and wanted to say thank you for speaking up about these very important issues. What you say is true—I’ve been on both sides of this (I was not a virgin when I got married, but had dated my soon-to-be husband for years, and we were chaste). The years we spent learning how better to adjust to each other, to discipline ourselves for the sake of the other and our relationship, were a FAR better preparation for marriage than sex ever could have been. Thank you also for focusing on chastity rather than virginity — all too often the focus in Christian literature is on virginity, but then what about those of us who are no longer virgins? It feels like the game is up, and there isn’t anything to ‘preserve’ or ‘save’ anymore. It took me a while to believe that chastity was still important even though my virginity was long gone, and it took me even longer to understand why.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this — this is fabulous, and I wholeheartedly agree. I’m makin’ this my comment of the day.

  • angela

    Your words: “People who practice it [chastity] regard all people as intrinsically valuable, reject their objectification and uphold love as a choice in a culture that calls it a feeling.”

    Thank you…just thank you.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      Thank YOU, Angela.