For Ellen Burkhardt and I, No Sex Until Marriage is a Choice

I’m not sure why I did this, but I went on Salon.com a few days ago and read an article. It’s Salon.com and it’s on the internet, so I don’t know what I expected when I read that article and the ensuing comments, but I certainly did not expect the vitriol and hatred that met my eyes.

You see, I read Ellen Burkhardt’s article “When guys find out I’m a virgin.” In the article, she details the reasons that she has decided to remain abstinent until marriage and the difficulty she has experienced in finding someone willing to date her because of (or in spite of) that decision. One of her reasons for this choice is religious-based; she identifies as a Christian who “was taught that sex is for marriage.” She discloses other reasons for her decision to refrain from sex until marriage, reasons not linked to religious beliefs.

Okay, that’s cool, I thought as I read, She’s making a choice about what to do with her own body. WRONG! According to many of the commenters on the article, she.is.not.making.a.choice, OR she is making the wrong one.

Some of the commenters kindly (not!) recommended therapy to Burkhardt. Apparently, by reading one article by Burkhardt, many commenters (doubtless physicians all) were convinced that she was “browbeaten” into her decision of “fetishizing virginity.” They called her article “disturb[ing]” and apostrophized to the philosophy and rhetoric gods, asking “What does the author think is interesting or enlightening or informative about this essay?” These commenters did not stop at critiquing the logic or the form of the article but went beyond that to call Burkhardt a “silly, pitiful person” (ad hominem logical fallacy, btw.), “creepy,” “crazy,” “whin[y],” and “not ‘marriage material’.” The comment stream also included gems like “Screw you, church.”

These comments were hurtful not only because I am making the same decision as Ellen Burkhardt, but especially because I am making the same decision. That’s the thing — I, as a woman, am making a decision about my body and what I do with it. Using my own agency, I am making a logically derived, conscious decision. Belittling and denigrating my choice about my body (and Burkhardt’s choice about her body) is some of the worst anti-feminist drivel I’ve been exposed to since my days working as a cart girl at a golf course. It’s like the 70s never happened, like the fight for a woman’s right to have agency has availed little in light of the hateful comments of those secure in the comfort of their internet anonymity.

Even worse, I think, was that some commenters employed the same arguments used by those who justify rape and rape culture. One comment informed us all that “most American men simply aren’t willing to wait until marriage,” another that “progressive non-asexual men” would absolutely not abstain from sex. That line of thinking relies on the characterization of men as beings with voracious sexual appetites, appetites that cannot wait to be satisfied. That is the same characterization of men that those justifying rape culture use when they blame rape victims for “tempting” their rapists — the men who cannot say no to sex.

Internet comments generally suck, but these were worse than ever. I have taken the risk of giving exposure to some stupid-ass comments and their authors’ stupid-ass usernames (that means you, @Lovecutefeet), but I do so to expose their anti-feminist rhetoric and to tell them to STFU about bodies and choices that are not their own. It’s my choice; it’s Burkhardt’s choice; it’s no one else’s. And to deny that is to deny women the agency not only to make choices about sex, but the agency to make well-informed decisions for themselves.

___________________________________________________________________________

Laura Creel (@Little_Utopia) is the managing editor of Little Utopia.LC

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5 responses to “For Ellen Burkhardt and I, No Sex Until Marriage is a Choice

  1. I’ve not read the articles linked, but if no sex before marriage is a preference and a choice we can make then why can’t these men also chose to not want to date such women (and express their own reason why)?

    Choosing not to date this woman, or similar women, is not an act of force or coercion. Nobody ‘owes’ adult virgin women a hand in marriage. Men not wishing to marry women who they’ve never had the opportunity to have sex with is not men being unreasonable!

    As I understand it one of the primary reasons for the institution of marriage was (and still is) to ensure a man committed (in a binding legal contract) to provide for a woman BEFORE they had sex and she got pregnant. Until very recently having sex pretty much meant getting pregnant. Getting pregnant obviously impacts the woman (and her family and local community) far more than the man who got her pregnant. Hence the emphasis on the marriage contract which guarantees his financial support for her and the future children. This legal/ financial protection is why, on average, women tend to be more in favour of marriage than men (even to this day).

    Women’s greater risk RE sex/ pregnancy is also why there has always been more emphasis on women’s virginity and the shaming of sex before marriage. For centuries abstinence was the only effective form of contraception (and sexual health guarantee) and shame was how abstinence was encouraged by parents of young women, and their local community – who all did not want that young lady to become pregnant before securing a man in marriage because if she did it would then be up to THEM to provide resources for her and the child.

    But in the modern age of contraception and sexual healthcare abstinence is no longer as necessary as it once was, and men and women are both a lot freer to engage in casual sex (sex before marriage, sex for fun). In today’s society it’s easy to view the shaming aspect of sexual promiscuity in moral terms only – but really the moral condemnation was simply a means to an end. How do you get young horny women to go against their bodies’ natural impulses and refuse to have sex with the good looking travelling axe head merchant or local farm boy? …… The answer is through shame (fear of ostracism) …… and telling them they will burn in hell!

    Today most women (and men) engage in sex for several years before getting into serious long term relationships that could lead to marriage. This allows them to get a feel for what they like and don’t like and what they want out of a long term sexual relationship.

    I would imagine one reason why (some) men would run a mile from an adult virgin is because they realise she has no clue about her own wants, desires, needs and preferences – having never experimented sexually before – and so they don’t want to waste a significant amount of time, energy, money and emotion on a woman who may decide 1, 5 or 10 years down the line that she actually prefers a different type of relationship, or a different type of man (or maybe women) or celibacy or whatever.

    > I think, was that some commenters employed the same arguments used by those who justify rape and rape culture. One comment informed us all that “most American men simply aren’t willing to wait until marriage,”

    That’s not the same as justifying rape. Some people demand to test drive cars before committing to buying them. That’s not justifying car theft either. They are not even remotely linked.

    There is no ‘rape culture’. Rape (at least the rape of women and girls) is one of the most taboo crimes in society and it is universally condemned by men and women. The only possible argument for a ‘rape culture’ is the issue of the rape of boy or men and rape by women. None of these topics gets any media publicity or condemnation or support – and even today many people (including outspoken feminists) have argued that men and even boys cannot even be raped.

    The apathy regarding the issue of rape of males is the only possible evidence of ‘rape culture’. As is the general mainstream support for feminism which still refuses to address the issue of the rape of males, or show any concern (let alone help) for male rape victims. SO much for gender equality. It’s ‘he for she’ all the way….

    > That is the same characterization of men that those justifying rape culture use when they blame rape victims for “tempting” their rapists — the men who cannot say no to sex.

    I think the word is ‘exploiting’. Men will often spend an entire evening and a lot of money actively seeking consent for sex with a woman by going to places where men and women are known to look for sex (bars, clubs etc) and offering to buy a woman he is attracted to drinks, dinner, movie tickets, the cab fare etc. Often these men will then invite the woman back to his place for ‘coffee’. These are all indicators that the man wants to have sex with the woman and is seeking her consent over the course of the evening (or even several dates).

    Feminism trains young women to view this entire mating ritual as a form of hedonistic entertainment for the woman’s personal benefit, as if men have nothing better to do at the weekend than go out and pleasure women with free stuff, flattery, ego boosts and hopefully some witty and charming conversation. Feminism trains young women to just enjoy the man’s attention and ignore the fact that he is repeatedly asking for consent in ever increasing incremental stages (giving her constant opportunities to express her disinterest, and demonstrate her LACK of consent by refusing his drinks etc and wandering off and getting a cab home or whatever). Instead feminism encourages women to wait until the last second while you are both half naked making out on his couch back at his place to start thinking about whether or not you want to actually have sex.

    This irresponsible and reckless attitude towards the giving/ receiving of consent puts women AND men in great danger. The whole point of mating rituals is to gradually negotiate sexual desires and intent over the course of an evening (or longer) in order to establish consent and a sense of trust while you are both relatively sober and thinking sraight. The ‘narcissistic princess’, Beyonce, ‘girl power’, self entitlement approach of modern feminism makes a mockery of that vital process of gaining consent and destroys any chance for trust to be established.

    Having tricked women into believing that acting irresponsibly and recklessly is ’empowerment’ feminism then changes tune the next day when the woman sobers up and realises she had regretful, train wreck sex, which she was not sure she even wanted but certainly felt obligated to have after an evening of giving consent (and agency, power) to the man at every possible opportunity. Now feminism tells the woman she was never empowered after all…. and that as a woman she can only ever be a weak, inert, passive, object manipulated by men. And that she must cry ‘rape’ and get this man (who spent an entire evening seeking and apparently getting the woman’s consent) locked up in a cage as a monster, where of course he will be repeatedly beaten up for being a rapist … and probably raped too…

    > And to deny that is to deny women the agency not only to make choices about sex, but the agency to make well-informed decisions for themselves.

    I don’t think people commenting on why they would not choose to go out with this woman qualifies as ‘denying her agency’. Demanding men’s approval for your own choice to abstain from sex and/ or demanding men lead similar lives (or at least do not express their preference for a sexually active lifestyle) is not equality, it is just being, well, ‘bossy’.

  2. I personally do not understand the problem other people have with someone who chooses to wait for marriage. It’s not their sex life.

    Plus, sex can become the glue to a relationship, and that’s not cool. Sex is great, but it should never be the foundation of a relationship. If someone won’t date someone without sex, it shows sex is the all important part and that won’t hold a lasting relationship.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this post. I was just introduced to Ellen Burkhardt’s article and some how found my way onto your blog response. It’s great to see woman discussing these types of issues, that are clearly contrary to public opinion. As you pointed out so beautifully, this is about our own choices of what we as woman want to do with our bodies. Society seems to think that freedom over our bodies means exposing it and sharing it with anyone, with a “who the fuck cares” kind of attitude. I also liked that you incorporated a comment about men, and how we as a society portray them as sex hunger animals. Men are more then that. Feminism seems to have so many definitions these days and I think it has strayed from the original idea of how woman should have agency over themselves. It is something I feel passionately about and am in the process of forming my own blog to discuss some of my own opinions. You and Burkhardt are in inspiration to woman who have different views about their lives and feel they can’t express them in our conforming society. Keep it up, ladies.

  4. Burkhardt is brave for stating that.
    THE REASON INDIVIDUALS CHOOSE TO WAIT ON SEX MAY INVOLVE A BIBLE STAND POINT. 1. COMMITTING ADULTERY OUT MARRIAGE. 2. To avoid STD INFECTION. FOR EXAMPLE CLAMYDIA, GONORRHEA, PELVIC INFLAMMATORY DISEASE, HPV, GENITAL HERPES, SYPHILIS, HIV AND AIDS. 3. SOME IF NOT MOST WANT TO BE LOVE WITH WHO THEY ARE HAVING SEX WITH AND HAVE COMMITMENT. 4. THE RISK MAKING BABIES BEFORE YOUR READY TO HAVE KIDS.

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