In this piece, the authour recounts her experiences growing up in a church where girls were expected to take the virginity pledge. The piece is extremely critical. The comments at the bottom are worth reading as a counterpoint. Along those lines, it's important to remember that many people who remain abstinent until marriage are happy they did so, and that many people who had sex as kids wish they had waited, or had done so under different conditions or with someone else. Alternatively, there are also many, many people who are happy that they had sex before being married. In other words, this woman's experiences do not reflect everyone's, although I'm sure they resonate with many.
From XO Jane:
It Happened To Me: I Waited Until Marriage Night To Lose My Virginity And I Wish I Hadn't by Samantha Pugsley
At the age of 10, I took a pledge at my church alongside a group of other girls to remain a virgin until marriage. Yes, you read that right -- I was 10 years old.
The church taught me that sex was for married people. Extramarital sex was sinful and dirty and I would go to Hell if I did it. I learned that as a girl, I had a responsibility to my future husband to remain pure for him. It was entirely possible that my future husband wouldn't remain pure for me, because he didn't have that same responsibility, according to the Bible. And of course, because I was a Christian, I would forgive him for his past transgressions and fully give myself to him, body and soul.
Once I got married, it would be my duty to fulfill my husband's sexual needs. I was told over and over again, so many times I lost count, that if I remained pure, my marriage would be blessed by God and if I didn't that it would fall apart and end in tragic divorce.
I believed it. Why wouldn't I? I was young and these were people I trusted. Everyone knew I'd taken the virginity vow, of course. Gossip is the lifeblood of the Baptist Church. My parents were so proud of me for making such a spiritual decision. The church congregation applauded my righteousness.
We were together for six years before we got married. Any time we did anything remotely sexual, guilt overwhelmed me. I wondered where the line was because I was terrified to cross it. Was he allowed to touch my breasts? Could we look at each other naked? I didn't know what was considered sexual enough to condemn my future marriage and send me straight to Hell.
An unhealthy mixture of pride, fear, and guilt helped me keep my pledge until we got married. In the weeks before our wedding, I often got congratulated on keeping my virginity for so long. The comments ranged from curious (how in the world did you manage?) to downright disgusting (I bet you're going to have one busy wedding night!). I let them place me on the pedestal as their virginal, perfect-Christian-girl mascot.
I lost my virginity on my wedding night, with my husband, just as I had promised that day when I was 10 years old. I stood in the hotel bathroom beforehand, wearing my white lingerie, thinking, "I made it. I'm a good Christian." There was no chorus of angels, no shining light from Heaven. It was just me and my husband in a dark room, fumbling with a condom and a bottle of lube for the first time.
Sex hurt. I knew it would. Everyone told me it would be uncomfortable the first time. What they didn't tell me is that I would be back in the bathroom afterward, crying quietly for reasons I didn't yet comprehend. They didn't tell me that I'd be on my honeymoon, crying again, because sex felt dirty and wrong and sinful even though I was married and it was supposed to be okay now.
When we got home, I couldn't look anyone in the eye. Everyone knew my virginity was gone. My parents, my church, my friends, my co-workers. They all knew I was soiled and tarnished. I wasn't special anymore. My virginity had become such an essential part of my personality that I didn't know who I was without it.
It didn't get better. I avoided undressing in front of my husband. I tried not to kiss him too often or too amorously so I wouldn't lead him on. I dreaded bedtime. Maybe he'd want to have sex.