Question 1: Gettin’ Rowdy in College

Please welcome our second guest and first participant in the Sex Quiz! This Hopeful Abstainer’s story patiently refined my original questions over the course of the entire month, and she has a seriously contagious enthusiasm for laughing, biking and adventure. If you have no idea what I’m doing. Check out the introduction to this series here, and consider adding your story.

Q: Tell us about your first (or an early) sexual encounter. Define sexual encounter however you will. What (if any) meaning did you make of it then? What meaning do you make of it in retrospect.

A: “My college roommates were waiting by the door after every one of the 5 dates it took before my college boyfriend kissed me. I would come in and throw myself on the couch in semi-faux desperation.” 5 dates is a respectable waiting period, but for this Hopeful Abstainer, the dates represented 21 years of waiting for that first kiss. When it finally happened, it was a 2 hour affair, and the relief of discovering she could hold her own on the dance floor felt more important than the kissing act itself. That first kiss turned into a boyfriend of 2 years, and she only got up the courage to tell him he was her first kiss a month later. After all of the embarrassment and anxiety over when it would finally happen for her, she was pleased to hear he wouldn’t have supposed her naivety. As with many late bloomers, friends and family told her that college would be her time. Our well-meaning confidants know our discouragement over the dates never enjoyed by the high school version of ourselves, and they regale us with tales of the mature university man who will truly see us. While she believes that her college first kiss was a matter of circumstance not a holy high school decision, she entered that first physical relationship with the training of her True Love Waits curriculum. He was also a Christian so they stuck to strict rules–no sleep overs, no bed time. As far as meaning is concerned, she was honestly just relieved to discover that her mouth seemed to know what to do.

Tomorrow, you’ll hear more about that accompanying sex ed that formed her first encounter.

Gratefully Yours,

Two Hopeful Abstainers

Sex Quiz, Bi$@&es!!

It turns out that my friends and family have more important things to do than create 500-700 word essays about their sex lives for my blogging hobby. This was a sad realization, but quite an understandable one. And so I’ve been on a meandering path to figure out how to elicit the confessions of my venerable Hopeful Abstainers. With the help of a few close friends, I’ve settled on 5 basic questions that get to the core of my quest to tackle this single obsession—how should I live in this body of mine? The interviews thus far have challenged my cynicism, given me reason to laugh with knowing sincerity and deepened my friendships with companions who I’ve known for years but with whom I’ve not breached this topic in such depth.

If you are a stranger who happened upon this blog, I have a few recommendations for you:

  • Consider grabbing a friend and asking each other these questions. If you have time to write it up, please do submit it HERE to share with this community. If you don’t have time for the writing, I think you’ll still enjoy the glass of wine/beer/hard liquor/hot tea and conversation. Community for those Anonymous Abstainers who embrace the complexity and beauty of faith and sex is, after all, the essence of the blog. For more on my purpose and dreams for the conversation, read HERE or HERE.
  • If you aren’t quite ready to share your stories with a person you have to see on the regular, write up your own answers. Read over them; refine them. Discover your own story, and if you feel compelled, share them HERE. I’m still hopeful you’ll find some companions along the journey through the telling of your own story.
  • Lastly, if you read more HERE you’ll find that I define abstinence quite broadly, and I hope that regardless of your gender and sexual identity, marital status, faith/spiritual leanings or sexual ethic you will find that your voice is welcome here. If it ever starts to feel like it isn’t, you should let me know ASAP. I’ll want to rectify that situation pronto.

With gratitude and overwhelming conviction, I invite you to sign up for the blog updates by subscribing to my blog with your email on the right hand side of the screen. I’ll never send you emails directly or share your information ever. You’ll only receive updates from WordPress when a new story is submitted. With all this said, you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow morning to begin the unveiling of the 5 questions….

With Anticipation,

A Hopeful Abstainer

Blue Balls: Yea, I Said That

This post is not funny. I’ve not experienced this humiliation one time in a way that retrospectively makes me chuckle. Perhaps you find credibility in my typically raucous and clear intention to find humor in my feeble attempts to abstain. The mortification of this particular topic stems from two primary sources:

1. The first time a guy asked, I only sort of knew. I had to google it later, and it was terrifying.

2. The question only comes up in close relationships for me. I have to believe that there is a smidgen of relationship potential before it gets to the physical point when he feels the painful urge to ask. In the context of my emotional and physical guard coming down, the question feels laden with unfair blame. I mean, even that stranger on Fire Island didn’t ask. He knew we had pushed things too far for my comfort. He quickly understood that I really hadn’t been playing it coy with the virginity chatter. He took care of himself in the bathroom…like a gentleman.

What is this degrading topic?

Blue balls.

What is this heinous question I dread?

Do you understand blue balls?

It stings and enrages every time a guy asks if you know about blue balls. Every. Time. Yes, I understand. And I am deeply embarrassed that you have to ask me that question right now. I’ve already laid my virginal vulnerabilities at your mercy. Quite honestly, I don’t have a lot of compassion on this one. I’ve made my standards clear. Hold yourself accountable to the same standards by which you are now embarrassing me. Know your body a bit and call it off sooner. Please don’t imply that your painful predicament is entirely my fault. I’m already humiliated enough. AND I need a cold shower, too.

Perhaps there is a scenario in which this harmless question about the discomforting color of your testicles may open an honest conversation leading to improved intimacy and honest mutual consent. Though, I’ve yet to experience it in that way. To be transparent, this humiliation plagued me exactly twice—two times too many—and was preceded by something like this:

“I’ve been having so much fun. I really like you, and um. I need to tell you something. (She smiles meekly) I really, really like you. I just. Well, I just. I mean. I’m not going to sleep with you.”

At times, my list of reasons to dread that vulnerable moment spirals to irrational. And, I do hope that my timing will continue to improve as it seems there are better times to deliver the virgin message than others. Most importantly, I pray that hope, sincerity and honesty will be the mark of my dating relationships. Because quite frankly, I’m working through enough shame and doubt to turn your entire scrotum a rainbow of emotionally conflicted colors, and I’m gonna need you to help a sister out on this one.

Well. There is just really no way to turn that one around now, is there? I’m fighting the urge to explain this sort of rage in a more palatable way. But the truth is that being a hopeful abstainer is more than just a couple of near misses and G-Rated mishaps. It’s an all encompassing effort to wrangle your faith and your body into one being rather than the dissociated mess that both our faith and secular cultures propagate. This rather untoward question about bodily discoloration feels to me only a symptom of a larger, more important question that I continue to ask. How then should we live in these bodies of ours?

Yours Truly,

A Hopeful Abstainer

Make a Joyful Noise: Sex Noises & Church Camp

I learned about sex noises at church camp. The conversation involved at least three of us. Again, I radically altered names to protect the guilty.

Meet the guilty:

Deb: A slender, leggy, Texas equestrian. At one of her infamous sleepovers, we played strip volleyball in the yard. Then, we marched a couple of miles down the country road to toilet paper a boy’s house in the nude. We were caught by her dad.

Brit: A second, slender, leggy, home grown homecoming queen. She dated a Varsity baseball player as a freshman. As roomies at a small Christian college, we kept dorm life spicy with streaking and pants-ing episodes.

Me: A busty, leggy golfer and adamant rule follower. I was definitely in need of some support when we were running, naked, down that country road and was most certainly the last of us to have any sort of relationship to my sexuality.

The three of us were sitting in a dormitory at the University of Houston on a service trip to paint houses in the inner city. My best recollection comes down to this dicey dialogue.

Deb: (giggling) When I get married, I am going to make really loud sex noises.

Brit: (with a loud guffaw) Yea you will. I bet you will be really feisty and loud. You’ll be like, “Oh yeah, ooo, mmm…”

Me: (blushing dramatically) What are y’all talking about? You don’t really have to make noises when you have sex, do you? I mean, it just seems like there is a lot going on there already.

Deb and Brit: (simultaneous) Seriously? Aw, you are so sweet.

Deb: It’s like you can’t help it. The noises just come out, but you have to practice so that you don’t sound stupid.  Like this. (loudly) Aah. Aah. Oooo. More. Yes. You try it.

Me: (emphatically) No way!

Brit: Come on. Try it.

Deb and Brit: (in unison) Aaaaaah. Mmmmmmm. Ooooo. Yea.

Me: (Deb and Brit’s moans continue) You guys. Cut it out. Seriously. Come on. Ugh. Fine. Mmmmmm. Ah. Um. Oo. Ah. Are you happy?

All laughing. End Scene.

Despite and possibly because of moments like these, I loved church camp. I was a church camp junky who kept a spiral notebook with phone numbers and MySpace screen names. I loved all of it–the service projects, daily Bible study, aimless hours playing cards in the dining hall, the pre-camp fundraising talent show. My childhood bestie and I did a bit where we stuck flashlights up our noses, killed the lights and flickered them to the tune of the Dueling Banjos. The crowd roared, and my parents got the discount for kids who participate in the fundraisers. I loved camp so much that I worked three years at a camp. Did I mention? I LOVE camp. Like, I still love camp.

The cynical New Yorker in me is horrified by images of adults hopping up hormonal teenagers on intense prayer experiences, close living quarters and too much sugar. I watched that documentary, Jesus Camp, and ugly cried. I promise my camps were different. I realize it’s like when Bill Clinton promised he did not have sexual relations with that woman. It may be technically true, but who really believed him? You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one.

What remains of my charmed Texas self believes a more intimate spiritual truth. I learned so much of my sense of service, compassion and how to live in Christian community through camp. I learned about forgiveness, friendship and commitment, and I fell in love with Jesus and the Bible. I retreated to remember that my life was more than the angst of being a loud, bookish girl. I found refuge from the sadness of my parents’ divorce. Even now, I believe that God met me at camp, and I feel the embrace of God in remembering that innocent conversation in the UofH dormitory. I’m often hard on my Christian sex education. I fancy myself worldly and educated–preferring complexity in my life of faith. Yet, in the sex noises memory, I see three innocent teenage girls exploring their sexuality. They are naïve and unburdened. They envision a simple Cinderella story and prepare their sex noises for the mind blowing and sentimental sex they will enjoy with the men they love. It’s uncomplicated. Some days, I pray for something that simple. I’m wondering if you do too.

Yours Truly,

A Hopeful Abstainer

Phalic Faith

I realized that I was in over my head when he started unbuttoning his pants. I had seen a penis in health class, and once, I saw a horrifyingly diseased penis in abstinence education at church. But here, now, after I had told him, in no uncertain albeit tipsy terms, that his penis would in no way make it to its desired place in my vagina, I started to get nervous.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I convinced myself that things wouldn’t play out this way.  He was gorgeous and tall and Venezuelan, and it was late and dark, and far away from my friend’s beach house. I just needed a place to crash. And, let’s be honest. This was Fire Island; his sexuality was in question for much of the beginning of our conversation.  Totally harmless, and look! An open Bible next to his bed! This is not complicated at all. When I visit Fire Island with my boys, I usually assume that my feminine assets are of little use to me, but my backward gaze on this liberating and petrifying night tells otherwise. I was newly-27, and this penis before me was very clearly interested in my lady parts.

As I walked home at first light the next morning, I took a detour to the beach. I needed to breathe in the salt air, and to breathe through the all-too-raw mix of relief, horror and ecstasy washing over me like the waves rolling before me. A small town Texas transplant and statistic-defying-virgin, I had learned early in my NYC tenure that a tasteful, yet sexy bedroom story is a valuable asset at a party of young professionals. Now, I thought, as the tide came in, like my rising hangover, I no longer needed to hide behind well-timed potty breaks, and my trove of quaint Texas country living tales. Don’t misunderstand. I was not plotting the debut of my new story, but there was something about that walk of shame that brought comfort that no full bladder ever had.

As far as racy party banter goes, what I had just experienced likely shared little difference to the awkward first sexual encounter stories most of the high schoolers I counseled at work face well before their sixteenth birthdays.  Except, when the time came to finish the deed, I flipped out, closed my legs and pointed to the open Bible. He finished our steamy, but conflicted episode in the expected way. I spent the final hours of the night huddled next to the wall, freezing, but too proud to ask for a sweatshirt–his roomie snoring above us. Now, I didn’t need a new sex talk alibi to be sure, but I also didn’t need this particular story, either. Not at my age, anyway. But that morning by the ocean, I realized for the first time that I needed something even more important, and maybe had all along: To not to feel so lonely in my mix of intentional-celibacy and newfound semi-sexuality.

The Christian faith is mysterious, a very certain reality that I faced on that beach, on that day, after that night. The Bible–a beautiful story of restoration with lots of crazy, and the church’s teachings on sexuality make more sense in a high school abstinence education class than they do when you are facing down the big 3-0 with as much bravery and hope and virginity as you can muster. I realized that summer dawn that I haven’t given up on revering that sacred flesh where my faith and my body kiss. But I felt quite alone in my experience of it. My community of faith –  the church, the physical body of Christ reincarnate, while supportive in my pledge to abstain, had done little to answer my ever-present quandary: How then should I live in this beautiful, sexual, curious body of mine? This is the question that keeps me up at night, and the one I’ll attempt to process here. Join me!

Yours truly,

A Hopeful Abstainer