Monday, October 22, 2007

Never Been Kissed

Sometimes in the mornings when I turn on the television for our daily hit of Sesame Street, I catch a glimpse of some televangelist's program, of course only if the TV happens to be on Fox. These people amuse me with their plastic countenance and practiced rhetoric, and so for a good chuckle, I'll often watch a few minutes to see what kind of perversion of Christ's teachings they are peddling to the masses.

The other day, we happened to tune in at the end of a segment that was clearly aimed at the teen/young adult population. On the show that day was the host, two young women, and Lisa Bevere. According to my copious Google research, Lisa Bevere is a motivation speaker (or as her website proclaims, she and her husband have a "ministry".) and author who specializes in self-help books aimed at Christian women. Apparently, she was appearing on this show to stump for her latest book, Kiss the Girls and Made Them Cry. (More thoughts on the book further down.)

It didn't take long for me to figure out what the topic of discussion: sexuality and the Christian woman. When the words "Christian" and "sex" are put together, inevitably the word "abstinence" follows quickly behind. Lisa Bevere and her co-horts were extorting the notion of "purity" in young women of the Christian faith. The two younger guests were there to share their experiences and testimony about how wonderful being abstinent is, and as I listened to them talk, it became clear that one of the women was taking the concept of "waiting until marriage" to a very stringent level. She was waiting to have her very first kiss until she exchanged vows with her future husband.



Growing up in the non-denominational Christian church, I am very familiar with the whole True Love Waits bullshit. It was shoved down my throat as a teenager, but never had I ever heard of a girl or guy taking such extreme measures to ensure her/his purity. (And before anyone gets snarky, she was a reasonably attractive woman.)


Herein lies my big beef with the way that the non-denom/evangelical Christian church deals with sexuality, namely the demonizing of non-marital sex and any activities (ooooh, heavy petting!) that could lead to non-marital sex.

I do believe in a holistic view of sex, that it exists not just in the physical realm but touches aspects of our emotional and spiritual selves. Read the Kama Sutra; it's not just about those wacky Indians and their gymnastic positions. Ascetics from a variety of faiths have eschewed the physical pleasures of the body in order to obtain spiritual enrichment. I certainly have respect for the people I've know who chose to remain virgins until their wedding nights; it's a level of commitment that I find commendable.

But I don't think it is a one-size-fits-all philosophy. Unfortunately, the majority of the Christian church thinks it should be, which is where I feel we are failing the kids who grow up in the faith. We are not teaching them a healthy view of sex and sexuality because no one wants to find the middle ground between a free love orgy and a chastity belt.

I was taught to believe that to engage in sex outside of marriage was impure and drove a wedge in my relationship with God. Waiting until marriage, as I told my youth minister once, seemed like utter nonsense because why should I wait for something that would never happen in the first place. (The joke's on my fifteen-year-old self. Ha ha ha.) Besides, sexual purity for God's sake didn't seem work very well in real life. I knew a lot of "good Christian" girls who ended up pregnant before they hit twenty. Then there were girls I knew who believed that as long as it wasn't vaginal sex, they were free to engage in everything else from the Bootie Time Playbook. This rationalization not only seemed hysterically absurd, but completely missed the whole point.

So back to Ms. Bevere and her book. According to some of the less flattering reviews I read on Amazon, she seems to regurgitate the antiquated notions of women as sexual victims and of the passive female sexuality (HA!). And that by remaining pure for God you will be granted, by divine intervention, a princely husband with whom you will have happy sexytime for the rest of your life. Okay. Whatever.

Still I am curious to read her book, especially in conjunction with Forbidden Fruit and The Abstinence Teacher (for a little fiction vibe) and to participate in a a discussion about these books with other adult women raised in the Christian church. I'd love to know the opinions of women with similar religious backgrounds, how they feel about the way we were raised to view sex, and whether or not we ultimately embraced or rejected those teachings. Sexuality is a subject that seems to be relegated to only the "Don'ts" within the walls of the church, and that's a shame.

Finally, Miss Never Been Kissed. If her sincere desire is to wait until God sends her Mr. Right, then she might be onto something. Because honestly, if she can find a man who, despite a deep affection for and attraction to her, can keep his lips off of her until the ordained moment in a wedding ceremony, he might just be her Mr. Right. Until then, I remain skeptical.

And, c'mon, kisses are fun! 412 Griffin Ave Kissing Booth, anyone?


Alex the Odd said...

Abstinence scares me. I do not jest. The concept actually frightens me, but that's a personal thing and stems from a desire to know everything it's possible to know about a partner to whom I make a life long commitment. And that means avoiding any nasty surprises in the bedroom.

One of my very best friends is waiting until marriage to have sex with her (now) fiancee, they're part of the "everything but" school of thought but are both rather straight laced about it so it doesn't go quite to the extremes of insanity that some people do.

Interestingly enough she's not a virgin, they've just decided to wait.

Anonymous said...

Brian and Sara Bilodeau (RBC class of 1997) waited to kiss until their "you may now kiss your bride moment" at RBC. They now have 4 kids - the oldest being 10. She was pregnant almost immediately after marriage. I totally admired them - both good looking, too - but could never have done that.

I'm interested in that book club idea. Maybe we can get that going!

TK said...

What's frightening are the number of outright lies the Church tells it's worshippers. My wife went to Catholic school for 12 years growing up (thankfully, it didn't take), and they taught her and her classmates that condoms have a 75% failure rate, and that they give you cancer. I'm dead serious. How fucked up is that?

And let's not forget that sex... takes practice. How fun is your marriage going to be if both of you has absolutely NO IDEA what you're doing? Whee, can't wait for the wedding night to end in blood and tears. Because that's love, baby.

That's love.

Anonymous said...

It's not unusual for very Orthodox Jewish couples to wait until the wedding day for their first kiss. It's called Shomer Negia, which translates roughly to "guarded touch", and people who practice it do not touch people of the opposite sex except those they are closely related to. Friends of mine who just got married didn't kiss or touch until their yichud room, which happens right after the wedding ceremony. (She's not shomer negia, and was certainly not virginal, but he is.)

This is the first I've heard of it in a Christian context, though.

Ryan English said...

WOW. The Christian college I went to had us play a game calle Kiss and Tackle. No lie, the boys had to chase down, tackle, then kiss a girl. It was an ice breaker game. Apparently, date rape training breas the ice.

Just ask Dan Carlson, he was there...

Genevieve Burgess said...

I'm a little frightened by this too, if I'd waited until marriage to engage in any sexual activity at all, there would have been..... problems. Luckily, I figured this out mid-way through high school (I'm very much not going to heaven) and got things sorted out before any really terrible problems arose.

I bought my brother condoms, lube, and a morning after pill as a graduation present since he was only then really starting to date. I'll probably do the same for my sister when she's in high school, healthy and safe exploration of sexuality is something I feel is important for both genders.

Anonymous said...

(Sorry guys. I wish I was HTML savvy so I could bold everyone's name, but sadly, I am not.)

ATO: As a young lass, I too was terrified of abstinence but mostly because I couldn't fathom the thought of dying a virgin. Going to grave without knowing what all the fuss was about gave me nightmares.

Evie: Those wacky RBC kids! My greatest concern with the "no kissing" rule would be finding out too late that my betrothed was a lousy smoocher. And I think you and I would be the sole members of the book club, but that would mean lots of wine at the meetings!

TK: Condom use=cancer? I am completely gobsmacked and now reconsidering sending my son to the local parochial school.

Anon: I had heard of the Orthodox practice of not touching the opposite sex. My understanding was that it related to cleanliness laws and prevented a man from inadvertently touching a menstruating woman. Didn't know that it extended to engaged couples as well. Interesting.

Ryan: What college was THAT? Wow. I'm speechless, really.

Rusty: Honey, if I've got a chance of getting into Heaven, then trust me, anyone does. And yes, good thing you figured everything out before you made an ill-fated trip down the aisle. Whew!

JamieSmitten said...

I'm with Alex the Odd on this one: if I'm buying (or even long term leasing), I'm taking a test drive first.

I think sex can be a true spiritual connection, but it can also be a lot like bowling. Some people prefer the same lane every week, others play around. Some people play every Tuesday and others never know when they will play again. And of course, you have to wear protection (bowling shoes). But the sex/bowling thing might just be me...

Anonymous said...

I'm all for wine and books about sex!

Anonymous said...

Can i be in your book club? I grew up in a very religious household where even the Smurfs were banned because of their evil ways. I learned early that abstinence was the only way to go - in fact at my parents house in my old room my True Love Waits plauque still hangs on the wall.

I almost got kicked out of Bible College for kissing a boy and later quit when I found out they were taking away a leadership position I had earned and giving it to someone more qualified (i.e. someone with a penis).

Then, at 23, i had my virginity ripped away from me. No one ever told me what i should do if THAT happened - so i slept with 8 different guys in the first six months after the rape.

It's taken a few years but I'm becoming a bit more balanced in my sexuality - and accepting who I am and how I got here. I still can't get my youth pastors voice out of my head though - He told us that "every physical touch creates a bond with that person and the more people you touch or let touch you, the less strong your bond with your future spouse will be" That still scares me...

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a non-denominational household that was very strict about sexual boundaries, and up until the age of 17 I thought that I wanted to wait until marriage to even kiss anybody.

Thank God I came to my senses.

My religious beliefs have changed since then (I won't bore you with all of the details), and now I believe that it almost seems harmful for kids to grow up thinking that sex before marriage if an awful sin. For the longest time the thought of any sex, whether in marriage or outside of it, scared the crap out of me, and when it came time for me to have my first sexual experience I freaked out afterwards because I felt like I had sinned (and this was after I decided that Christianity wasn't right for me). Sex is something that should be natural, and if it happens, it happens.

And lyl, my sister was raped at eighteen and went through almost the exact same experience. She got married recently, and she and her husband have one of the most loving and intimate relationships I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I was a virgin in high school and teased about it. My husband and I were both virgins when I married. Im almost 40 and been married 20 years. It was the best gift we could have ever given each other. God is not trying to "take fun away" by advising us to wait until marriage, but rather it is His love and concern of protection for us that He instructs us to wait. Of all the couples I know now that did not wait, they wish they would have...My husband and I have a special bond and trust that we otherwise would not have have we not had waited. Sex is good. Sex is Gods gift to a man and make them one. When we unite sexually with someone whom a marriage commitment has not been made a part of ourselves is ripped away each time and stuck with that person. Its not just physical consequences with which we find ourselves in, but emotional, unrest....God wants to give us rest and peace, a hope and a future. And its not about going so far but stopping just short of intercourse... If your in a dating relationsip ask yourself , would I be doing this in front of my parents, guardian, grandparents or teachers??? Save the bedroom for the me its worth it!!

Anonymous said...

I know this was posted forever ago but googled something on Lisa Bevere and this page came up so read through the comments. I just feel that the focus here is on the wrong thing. How many "rules" and "regulataions" can I follow or "How far can I push the envelope?" In high school and some of college I was very much a "push the envelope" type person. I wasn't really thinking about the future emotional ramifications my actions would have- I just knew that what I was doing felt good when I was messing around with other guys. I was also the victim of sexual abuse as a young child so I believe I was more sexually-minded (for lack of a better word) than most kids my age. I am so grateful that I came to the realization that God is NOT about rules and regulations so it's not how far I can push the envelope but He is about mercy, love, purity, healing, and most importantly- a RELATIONSHIP with ME. Although I messed around quite a bit I never had actual "sex" and nor did my husband when we got married. Sure, the first night of our wedding was a little awkward but also so special and fun and funny- I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to share that with him- I would not want to go through it with anyone else. And we are learning as we go- which is also so fun. The experiences that I have had with others before my husband have certainly affected my sexual relationship with my husband in ways but at the same time- through prayer, God's healing power, and committing myself to my husband each day and no other, we are having a redeeming, fun, and adventurous sex life. I think the focus should be on a right relationsip with Jesus Christ not "to have sex or to not..." I encourage someone who is searching to look to the Bible if they want to know Christ's view of sex rather than to another Christian's opinion. Although we, Christians, are doing our best to represent our Lord we are certainly not the ones to look at- Christ is- He's the perfect one.

Anonymous said...

my husband and I waited until our wedding day for our first kiss and it was AWESOME and MIND BLOWING!!! We believe it was truely worth the wait ;D

(found randomly your page by googling not kissing until marriage)

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