Monday, August 28, 2017

Worth the Wait?

Bride and groom. Image source.
DID I MENTION I GOT MARRIED? Such a good decision. Being married to Hendrix is great.

And now I have some opinions about "worth the wait."

"Worth the wait" is a phrase used in purity culture. It means that if you wait and don't ever have sex until your wedding day, it will be, apparently, "worth the wait."

Now let's examine this concept and see if makes any sense. First of all, it's only meaningful to say something is "worth the wait" if one also had the option to not wait, and waiting and not waiting yield two different outcomes which can be compared.

For example, let's say you are looking forward to "Star Wars: The Last Jedi", which will be released in the US on December 15, 2017. Suppose you wait and wait until that day, and you go see the movie, and you love it- would it be correct to say it was "worth the wait"? NO. Because, assuming you don't work for Disney, you had no control over when the movie was released. You had no other option besides waiting until December 15, and your ability to see the movie on that day is not dependent on anything you did during that waiting time. "Worth the wait" means the decision to wait was a good one- it makes no sense if there was no decision.

If, on the other hand, you work at Disney and you ask yourself "should we just throw together a crappy movie, or should we spend enough time on it so it's actually good?" then the concept of "worth the wait" is meaningful. You are making the CHOICE to have the fans wait longer, but you believe the final product will be so good that it's "worth the wait."

Continuing with this example, suppose you are a devoted Star Wars fan who dresses up as an Ewok and camps out at the movie theater 24 hours in advance so you can be the first one in to the midnight showing. Then you are making the choice to wait there for 24 hours, and the result is different than if you hadn't made that choice. (Maybe if you hadn't come and waited in line for hours, you wouldn't be able to get a seat at the first midnight showing and you'd have to watch it the next day instead.) For some people, it's worth the wait, and others are more like "ain't nobody got time for that, I'll just see it on a different day, it doesn't matter."

My point is, it only makes sense to say something is "worth the wait" if you also had the option of NOT waiting, and the result from not waiting is different than the result from waiting. It only makes sense to discuss whether something is "worth" some cost if you can compare it to the result if you hadn't chosen to pay that cost.

All right, so when we talk about if sex is "worth the wait," let me first say this: I believe I never even had the option of having sex until after I started dating Hendrix. I was sheltered and clueless and scared of the idea of sex- it was described by purity-culture teachers as something that just *happened* suddenly when people lose control of their bodies. And I was asexual and didn't know it. I dated other boys before Hendrix, but back then I viewed sex as a horrific sin that OF COURSE was not a normal thing to do with one's boyfriend. In that mindset, there was no chance I could have consented to sex.

So to me it doesn't make sense to talk about the concept of "worth the wait" as it applies to the period of my life before I met Hendrix, because back then I WASN'T choosing to not have sex. There were so many mental and emotional barriers that it's just not realistic to say that sex is a thing I could have chosen back then.

In fact, I always used to wonder what people meant when they said "it's so hard to stay pure." That statement has 2 possible meanings:
  1. "Because I don't have a sexual partner, I feel lonely, and I don't like living this way."
  2. "I have many opportunities to have sex, but I know I must say no to all of them, even though I wish I could say yes."
I could very much relate to Statement 1 (though, as it turns out, I don't actually have sexual attraction, though I have strong romantic and sensual attraction). Statement 2 was... sometimes it seemed like that's what people meant, when they said "it's so hard to stay pure." Like when they would talk about how very few people are able to successfully get to their wedding day as virgins. But it didn't make any sense to me. I wasn't choosing not to have sex; I couldn't imagine any circumstance in my day-to-day life where the opportunity to have sex would present itself. (I was, however, very much CHOOSING to stomp down my romantic desires and "guard my heart." But that's a subject for another post.)

I remember one time, in high school, I overheard some gossip about how so-and-so's boyfriend is cheating on her. And I was very confused- did they mean "cheating" as in "having sex with someone else"? Because, we're just high school kids, surely nobody is having sex. (As an asexual, I have to ask: Were people having sex in high school? But... how? Like I know the statistics that say yes, a lot of people in high school are having sex. But I just... can't imagine ... I'm not judging or anything, I'm just ... sex was the farthest thing from my mind back then- I only thought about it in the context of "don't do it." And not because any part of me desired to do it, but because church people made such a big deal about "don't do it.")

(No joke y'all, when I first heard the song, "Let's Talk About Sex," I was baffled at what on earth there could be to talk about. Just "we're not going to do it"- what else could there possibly be, on the topic of sex, to discuss with your boyfriend or girlfriend? I seriously could not think of anything.)

(And then when I started reading feminist blogs, many of them talked about how it's important to have sex ed in school, and I was all "yes I agree, it's good to be educated about health and your own body, we don't have to be scared of information like I was in purity culture." And then, much later, I discovered that many of these feminist bloggers believed that it was important to have good sex ed for students AS A PRACTICAL THING BECAUSE MANY OF THOSE STUDENTS WILL BE HAVING SEX. And I was just TOTALLY ASTONISHED. I had NO IDEA that one of the main concerns in the sex-ed debate was "a lot of kids will be having sex, we need to teach them how to be healthy when they do." I had NO IDEA. My opinion was more along the lines of "purity culture taught me to be scared of my own body- how about we don't teach kids that".)

(I did not mean to make this a blog post about "All the Times Perfect Number Didn't Realize She Was Asexual" but it seems that's what's happened.)

ALL RIGHT MOVING ON. For the term "worth the wait" to be meaningful, there must be 2 different outcomes being compared: one where you chose to wait, and one where you didn't. But is there a difference in your married sex if you had sex before marriage vs if you didn't?

Purity culture claims that there IS a difference. They say that if you had sex with an ex and broke up, you'll never get over it, and it will haunt you for the whole entire future of your marriage. They said when you have sex with your spouse, you'll be comparing them to your ex, and you won't be able to really give all your love to your spouse.

I can't speak from experience on this- I've only had sex with Hendrix, who is now my husband, but I have heard from people who have had sex with more than one person during their lifetime, and they laugh at the absurdity of "it will haunt you forever and you'll never get over it and you'll always be comparing."

And another thing: Sometimes purity-culture proponents phrase it as, "you're worth the wait." Like in the "Purity Bear" video. I cannot find the original (if anybody can find the original, PLEASE send me a link, that thing is a masterpiece of creepiness) but here is a remake, and believe me, the original is pretty much exactly as bizarre and awkward. (Update: Thanks so much to the reader who found a link to the original!) "You're worth the wait." Instead of "sex is worth the wait", it's "you're worth the wait"- essentially equating "you" with "having sex with you." Creepy as hell, but yes, this is totally consistent with all the f***ed-up language about "giving yourself away" as a euphemism for sex. Purity culture is full of that kind of crap. (And then they turn around and tell queer people "don't define yourself by your sexuality." Yeah, okay.)

"You're worth the wait" makes no sense. Because there aren't two different possible versions of you, one that's the result of waiting and one that isn't. Purity-culture proponents present it like it's about respecting and valuing someone, when you refuse to have sex with them- but this can't be what is meant by "you're worth the wait." If your partner doesn't have sex with you now, and then they do have sex with you on your wedding day, are they getting a better "you" than if they did have sex with you before and also on the wedding day? Isn't the "you" on the wedding night the same "you"?

"You're worth the wait" is only a meaningful statement if premarital sex literally damages a person and makes them less valuable. Not just damages their sex life, but actually DAMAGES and REDUCES THEIR VALUE AS A PERSON. (Which, yeah, actually that is exactly what purity culture teaches.)

Anyway what I want to say is, I didn't wait til my wedding day to have sex, and I'm glad I didn't. After the wedding Hendrix and I came back to the hotel room, and I was in the shower washing off the sweat and makeup and thinking "wow I'm SO GLAD I'm not getting ready to have sex for the first time right now." It would have been one more thing to think about and worry about on an already-busy day. And it would have meant that, at that point, I would have still been living under the weight of worry and fear over the questions "what is sex and will it actually ruin my life?"- thank goodness I got those resolved YEARS before the wedding. And also, turns out sex is just getting together with someone else and stimulating each other's genitals, it's not a mind-blowing amazing thing, it's just, like, exactly as weird as "getting together with someone else and stimulating each other's genitals" sounds. Also, really glad I figured out I'm asexual and, because I had sex way before the wedding day, I didn't have to spend all that time looking forward to and obsessing over something that actually turned out not to be that interesting.

Wow, can you imagine if we "waited" and then had sex on the wedding night- I would have been like "wait, that's what sex is? Yeah there's no reason we couldn't have done that a long time ago. Would have saved me a lot of worrying."

(Perhaps for some people, they choose not to have sex before marriage and it is "worth the wait." It depends on the specifics of your situation. For me, "waiting" would have been terrible for my mental health.)

You know what was worth the wait though? The wedding. We were engaged for a year and a half, and that felt like a really long engagement- but it legitimately did require that much time to plan such a good wedding. We're in China and the wedding was in the US- and I'm only in the US twice a year. I needed to look at venues and get a dress, and those are things that had to be done in the US. And people had to plan for international travel, get visas, all that. And I wanted it to be in the summer instead of at Christmas (those are the only two options for when I would be in the US) because I have a bunch of extended family who are much more able to travel in the summer.

It really had to take that much time to get all this together. And the wedding was so amazing. I'm glad everything went the way it did. If we had tried to throw something together in 6 months or a year, if I had to find a dress in China without my mom and sisters, if we had to just pick a venue without looking at it first, if we had to find a different photographer (because the one we got probably would have been booked already if we were working on a shorter timescale), etc- the wedding wouldn't have been as good.

See, a wedding is the kind of thing you (in theory) only do once, and it takes a huge amount of time, money, and effort- a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Sex, not so much. I'm glad I had sex before marriage. It SO would NOT have been "worth the wait."

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