I am eight years out from claiming the title from the 2005 comedy 40 Year Old Virgin – if I don’t marry by then. Unlike the movie that sought to depict all older male virgins -- who are not priests or monks -- into being awkward, antisocial, and weird, I hold my head high. I walk without embarrassment, and proclaim that virginity is the natural state in which all people are born and is nothing over which we should shame ourselves.
I know by writing this I make myself vulnerable and open to the attacks from the world. I will likely be called a “freak,” “weird,” and “unnatural” for retaining my virginity through my thirty-second birthday. I write this not for the cynic or the jaded who have become bored with their own life and find pleasure in criticizing the lives of others. For those who criticize virtue and goodness are indeed jealous of the lack of virtue and goodness in their own lives and seek to deprive others of it. I write this for those who might feel as if their purity and chastity is for naught, for those who feel as if they might falter in their perseverance, or those who feel as if they are alone in their quest for virtue.
Through my thirty-two years of keeping my virginity, I have learned and grown in ways even unexpected to me. A few of these areas of growth are what I choose to share with the reader.
I do not attempt to say that the thirty-two years have been without temptation. There have been times when giving away my virginity would have been easy. In those moments it was like a man being offered a low hanging fruit from another man’s garden. Sure, it would have been easy, and no one would know; I would have only cheated myself, and it was not mine to take no matter how low hanging the fruit might be. These temptations have allowed me to focus on who I am as a person and determine where my own boundaries reside. My “yes” means “yes,” and my “no” means “no.”
Even more so I have not allowed society to dictate to me the norms of my behavior and life. Some act as if the whole purpose for virginity is to give it away as soon as possible. Virginity is a dirty world only whispered in the corners of schools as if it is a disease or drug. Yet, to date there have been no reported deaths due to virginity. All the while people gather round their glowing boxes asking it for solutions to save them from the own virginity less they die.
If TV is, as TV execs have said, a reflection as to how the real world lives, then as a thirty-something male the expectation from society is that I should be sleeping around with girls by the third date, having sex with every drunk floozy who throws herself at me, spending nights at a lover’s place, or even sharing the same house or apartment. Moreover, every relationship would be either a syrupy-puppy-love-barf-at-all-the-cuteness-fest or completely abusive and dysfunctional. If this is what American culture and society expects of a thirty-something single male then I will gladly be wrong, and I will boast boldly in my wrong.
One thing for which I am grateful for is that I have no regrets, no shame, no guilt. Not once have I had to second guess my decisions not to have sex. Not once have I awoke with a stranger in my bed. Not once have I had to do what my friends called “The Walk of Shame” (Leave a girl’s place early in the morning, before she awakes, so as not to have to face the consequences of the previous night’s actions.).
1,000 Ways to (Make) Love
Because I have refused to give into cultural expectations, I learned sex isn’t the only way to express love towards someone I love. As the saying goes, learn to make love 1,000 different ways. That is, learn to express your love to another by as many means possible. I have not met, as of yet, one girl who does not like flowers. Girls like flowers. Girls like being heard (even if you have nothing to say in return, just listen). Girls like to laugh, hold hands, hug, and spend time with the person they like and/or love.
Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S)
There is an odd adage that states, “Sex complicates things.” It has been repeated often enough that there must be some truth in it. Yet, interestingly enough, it is a phrase I have only heard from sexually active singles and unmarried couples. I find the opposite sex mysterious enough already that I don’t feel the need to make things more complicated than things already are.
Why does sex complicate things in an unmarried relationship? Simple, it signifies and expresses a reality it cannot make present. The body speaks of union, but the heart and mind speak otherwise, and it thereby causes confusion. To liken it to a sacrament, premarital (or even extramarital sex) is like trying to celebrate the Eucharist with milk and cookies instead of bread and wine. Yes, it might be delicious, but it cannot make present the reality it signifies. I do not mean to say that sex inside of marriage is not complicated. But the difference here is that in the marital union grace is dispensed to strengthen and help during those complicated moments.
Respect, Love, Not Use
I remember the moment when I realized girls were not just things guys tolerated for a while with hopes of having sex with one. In a lengthy “make-out” session with a girl when I was in high school, a thought entered my mind. “Entered” is too tame a word; it was more like superman smashing through a brick wall. The thought was simple, short, but would later prove profound. The thought was “using and used,” and it repeated itself like a broken record in my head for the reminder of the night. This thought was not from me. It did not originate in me. I was drunk on emotions, and my brain was flooded with a hormonal cocktail, and all I wanted was more. I would have never thought such a thought, but there it was.
Eventually, during a break, I went to use the bathroom, and as I washed my hands the thought blossomed, “You’re using her . . . You’re using her as a thing, an object . . .You just want pleasure, not love. You don’t care for her . . . She might as well be a toy and not a person.” My initial response to this blossoming thought was, “So what. I’m getting what I want.” The reply I received was shattering to me: “You know, she is using you. She is insecure. She is using you because she wants to feel loved. Do you like being used?”
I left the bathroom a changed person. I realized selfishly using another person as a means of gratification was wrong. I did not want to use her, and I was even more appalled at the idea of letting myself be used in a similar fashion. Little did I know at the time that I had a revelation similar to something a certain Cardinal wrote years prior. This Cardinal – who later became Pope John Paul II – taught that selfish, unjust use of a person was the opposite of love. “Wait! I thought hate was the opposite of love?” My whole life I have been taught that hate is the contrary to love. Now here is a Cardinal – the Pope at that – telling me otherwise.
Through further reading and studying, I learned that when a person is unjustly and selfishly used as a means to an end the result is that user cares not for what is best for the one who is being used. For love is to willfully desire the best for the other person. I might hate a person, but still desire the best for them and in doing so love my enemy. But I cannot love the person I selfishly use, because I make the person I use into an object, a thing, something which I no love care what is best for it. In those long make out sessions, I was doing the very opposite of what Christ wished: love your neighbor; not use your neighbor as a tool for your own selfish ends.