Let's Stop Talking About Chastity as a Means to Preserve Purity

A good friend of mine emailed me about this article. She said, "I loved the essay, but your title was horrendous. Please re-post with a better title so that people feel compelled to read it." I laughed, decided she was right and there you go.

We drove to California yesterday.

The drive went as most of our long excursions tend to go. Too many restroom breaks at bathrooms of ill repute. The kids watching the same movie in the back seat over and over and over again. Riley rolling his eyes every time I gasp because I am SURE that we almost hit that car in the other lane. You know, the usual.

By the time we got to Vegas, the kids had only made me turn around and angry whisper once. I stared out the window from our place of relative peace and contemplated our surroundings. The freeway through the heart of Vegas was busy, full of people rambling home after a weekend of food and drink. We all drove under billboards that advertised adult toy stores, cheap liquor and women in thigh highs with breasts the size of volkswagons.

Las Vegas is many things and there are several aspects of it that I enjoy when I find myself there. Good food, good shops, even a nod to the arts with a Da Vinci or Monet exhibit here or there. But in the end, the business of Vegas is gambling and sex. I’ve got thoughts on the gambling, but they are pretty short and sweet. You know, don’t do it. The sex thing is a little more nuanced. I think it is easy to look down on a place that sells the opportunity to have meaningless sex. I don’t think it is easy to explain all the looking down when you are asked to articulate the feeling.

What does the term “meaningless sex” even, you know, mean?

As I drove under those huge knockers and legs apart, I shook my head at the transient nature of the pleasure they sold. But isn’t all pleasure, even my pleasure, transient? Surely, that is the nature of all things in this life. The meal that made you tip your head back with delight. The night of laughter with friends from your childhood. Watching a sunset with sand in your hair and a little burn on your skin. Every single thing we do in this life leaves us or is left behind.

So what is the difference between the afternoon spent with your spouse under covers and out of all your inhibitions and a passionate encounter with someone you’ll never see again?

What makes sex in marriage more meaningful than sex out of it?

As we headed out of the city, our car was surrounded by mid size cars holding men a little younger than me and men a little older. Always the driver stared straight ahead and the others in the car slumped against windows and into each other in sleep. They had all had a big weekend. I thought about the people in the city that had come to find a night of lights, a willing stranger, a room and a bed.I felt a little sorry for my imaginary sub-group of pleasure seekers and then felt ashamed. The feeling of pity comes from a place of superiority and surely, I am not superior to anyone. Ask any living person that has spent even two minutes with me and they will happily attest to that fact. I think every one of those imagined tourists  would have taken my sorry and thrown it in my face. As well they should. Those emotions do not have a place in a discussion about sexuality.

Riley weaved in and out of lanes and I tried to navigate my feelings. So what if one has to go back to regular life in a sedan after a weekend of relative debauchery? Again, don’t we all go back to life after our escapes? Every time Riley and I escape to a hotel we eat food in bed, tear each others clothes off and then wake up in the morning to go home to a mortgage and cheerios on the floor. And on the drive home, I am usually slumped over in the car asleep having been exhausted after our various, ahem, exertions.

The girls chattered in the back seat and I shook my head. Zuzu piped up,

“Mom, why are you shaking your head?”

“I am trying to figure out how to explain something important to you girls. I want you to have everything you deserve, but sometimes you need to know why you deserve something before you can understand why you want it. I can feel what I want to say, but I haven’t found the right words for when you ask about it.”

“Okayyyyy….”

I looked out the window again and tried to remove myself from preconceived notions and the talk of sunday school teachers from my youth.

And then the words came.

Hello daughters in the not so distant future. I am so glad you asked me why we encourage you stay celibate until marriage. You should always ask questions. I hope you never do as you are told simply because you were, you know, told. You know our religious beliefs and how they guide us in all things, including this issue. But even if we didn’t believe what we believe, I would still sit down and tell you I hope you wait. It isn’t because I think having sex before marriage makes you less pure or takes away from your value. Honey, we are all smudged by mortality. Purity as derived from Old French means “unalloyed”, metal that has not been mixed. Baby girl, you’re made of stuff much finer than any metal and there isn’t a thing you could do to change that fact. That is a truth of both science and spirituality. As to your value, it was determined and set for eternity the moment you were created. You are helpless to detract from it. Girls, that is the kind of helplessness you can and should revel in.

It is really the only kind.

I hope you wait to have sex until you meet a man worthy of you, because, in so many ways, sex is the power to create. I am not just talking about procreation, although heaven knows that is a divine thing. I am also talking about the creation that comes from speaking the language of sex with someone that walks with you through life. The creation of a space where time doesn’t seem to touch. A place that is forgiving and forthright and takes every mark mortality has given you both and acknowledges and consecrates them. A refuge that is only built after time and trust and love above each other.

The act of sex is at once vulnerable and empowering. It is a place where you can be fulfilled and act to fulfill. It is an opportunity to acknowledge and validate desire. It is a time when you can be stripped down to your core until it seems there is nothing left. It is a way to express just a portion of the force that makes you up, the steel and fire that compose you. It is something you give and something you take.

People will tell you that sex is sacred and they are right, but the act does not stand apart from you. Sex is sacred because YOU are sacred. If you decide to wait, I hope it is a decision that you reach because you understand who you are. You do not abstain because some man hopes to marry a virgin. This act of consecration has nothing to do with the desires of the opposite sex. You are not made to bend for the wants of men. No, rather, that choice has everything to do with an acknowledgement of your true self.

When you do get married, expect - no, demand - marriage in its fullest sense. Marriage is a commitment, not just to be faithful to each other and pay the mortgage together. It is a commitment to build, a commitment to pioneer, a commitment to breathe for one another through the depths and shout out in happiness when you have touched the sky. Sex is the language you speak when words have no hold on the experience of a shared existence. It is the expression of the inexpressible. It is funny and passionate and starbursts and slow and fast. And sometimes, it is the warmth that sustains you through the cold. When you have sex with someone who doesn’t know you, doesn’t cherish you, isn’t beloved by you, it is like speaking Greek in a place that doesn’t know the difference between alpha and omega. An interesting exercise, but without much point beyond the moment.

But isn’t life just a series of moments? Why does it matter what one contains when it will just be followed by another and another and another?

Here’s the thing. I think we get to leave the dross of this existence behind when we leave it. I do not believe in a reality in which we are haunted by the missteps of a mortal life. I do believe that when we live well and powerfully here, we are able to glimpse our true nature and gleaming truth of a reality beyond our current comprehension.Your heart will break in mortality, you will endure loss that claws and regret that eats. I can’t keep you from those things. But we are bigger than this experience and there are moments we create here that echo eternity back to us. Moments that build upon one another in the circle of those who share them with us. I cannot tell you how comforting those bright bits of insight are when tears seem ready to drown my heart. I want as much of that truth, and that seeking of truth, for you in this life as is humanly possible. I’ve found more opportunity for that shining sight in the arms of your father and in the life we have built together between all the “in the arms” business than I can ever tell.

And, darling girls, that is just the beginning of what you deserve.

And guess what? If you don't "wait", everything will be okay. Because every day is new. If one morning you wake up and decide that you want all the things I've wanted for you since you were born, you can have them. We are all bungling along here the best we can and this life is not a zero sum game. You get to change your mind and get to go out and find what you want. But, "Mom!" You say, "What if I never wake up wanting the things you hope for me? What if I don't seek for truth the way you seek for it? What if I am happy differently?"

Oh, sugar babies, that is alright, too. I will love you no matter what space in this life you occupy and I will always hold you up to the light so that I can see better through you.

Because you will always be so much more than I deserve.

 

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex and Even Better Intimacy

Let me just say that the title of this article is a little tongue in cheek. I don't believe in good girls or bad girls. I just believe in "all composed of the same beautiful worth" girls. However, the title, " The Uninterested in Learning About Sex through the Culturally Accepted Teaching Vehicles of Porn and Permissiveness Girl's Guide to Sex: A Book List" seemed a little long winded.

The response to my last two columns on sex has been overwhelming. ( Find them here and here.) Written months and months ago, they remain two of the most visited posts on Meg in Progress. I receive emails weekly (daily!) from readers with angry feelings, heartfelt comments, gratitude and amazing, inspiring insight. Honestly, you have all taught me so much. And generally that’s a very good thing. (The guy that said he was “going to ____ and then _____ while he ______.” taught me vocabulary I had never heard. Stuff that would make a pirate blush. That was not a very good thing.)

There have been two areas of concern discussed again and again in the emails sent to me.

  1. Okay, orgasms. Those sound great. But how do I go about having one? I feel like we are both fumbling around in the dark. And not in the good way. Am I the only one not having an orgasm?
  2. I read all these advice columns about what to do when the woman doesn’t want to have sex. But what can I do when it is my husband who doesn’t want to have sex? There are no resources for me. So not only do I feel rejected, I also feel completely alone. Am I the only dealing with this?

Women! Friends! Sisters! You are not alone.

Let me say that again.

You. Are. Not. Alone.

My inbox is full of your compatriots, women who are befuddled, stumped, mystified and, occasionally, heartbroken. And you know, in one way or another, I’ve been there, too.

We all have.

So please, let the darkness fall from you. Abandon the shame, the guilt and the secrecy. They have no place here.

It is time to let the light in.

It is time to speak unabashedly.

It is time to…read.

Yes, read! Listen, the last time you bought a new slow cooker you sat down and went over the instructions. You found out what heat and times were appropriate for each meat and veg. You looked into new recipes. You educated yourself. You took the time. What if we gave even the same small respect and deliberation to the most intimate parts of our life that we accord to our appliances? What if we decided it was worth taking the time?

(Your man can’t keep his hands off you, you communicate openly and you orgasm at the drop of a hat? Fine. You should still read these books. Because sometimes great can get even better. Ahem.)

Enter Kristin Hodson, founder of The Healing Group and sexpert extraordinaire. She has a few book recommendations for those of us that want to: get back to having good sex/start having good sex/keep having good sex. Between, you and me, this selection of tasteful and insightful volumes will be the best purchase you make this year. Yes, even including that pair of Anthro boots purchased half off right before they sold out.

Kristin, take it away...

Real Intimacy: A Couple's Guide to Genuine, Healthy Sexuality.  

First, let me put in a shameless plug for the book I co-wrote a year ago. It is written in such a way that if one spouse is a reader and the other is not, there can still be meaningful conversation. Each chapter has a nuts and bolts section, that way the non-reader is able to understand the main ideas. There are also questions, things to think about and action items at the end of each chapter. The subjects discussed range from sex 101 (what is the clitoris? How does it work?) to more complex emotional issues. It will help you lovingly discuss your physical relationship with your spouse, identify false ideas about sex, and reconcile your differing perspectives.

The Return to Desire: A Guide to Rediscovering Your Sexual Passion by Gina Ogden.  

Gina has over three decades of experience as a sex therapist and sex researcher specializing in women. She also includes spirituality in her work. This book helps transcend guilt, shame and "good-girls-don’t" messages while also opening up heart to heart communication with her partner.

*Meg’s note: Another bonus? Ian Kerner author of She Comes First (one of this girl’s fave sex books, ahem) said of The Return to Desire, “To read this book is to bask in the radiance of the wisest of sexual guides. Ogden gently and lovingly takes readers on a magnificent journey." Ummm, sign me up.

 Getting the Sex You Want by Tammy Nelson

This is another one I love. This book directly moves couples from talking to taking action. She is a big proponent of having the weekly "sex date" (Which I use with my couples and it works FANTASTICALLY).

Enduring Desire: Your Guide to Lifelong Desire

 

This is an especially great model that I think counters the false idea that there is a perfect sex and that good sex is always mind blowing.  His premise is a "good enough” sex. I think that as couples, we generally have “good enough” sex.  We also occasionally get the "whoa that was out of the world sex" and the..."well that was less than stellar sex."  Having space for the spectrum of experiences helps couples have authentic interaction.  

Now if you don’t mind, I am going to throw my two cents in. Ladies, this reading assignment is not just for you. You buy two of each copy and then tell your husband he just joined the most interesting book club of his life. Sex, like the marriage that contains it, is a partnership. There is give and take and …. give …. some …. more. Read together, talk about the things you learn openly and discuss the issues in your marriage and in your bedroom without recrimination. The openness, the acknowledgement of need, the revelation that you both deserve this may be new. It may also be hard at first (insert sex joke here). I can’t promise it will cure everything. I can promise it will help.

Let me stand here as your sister in arms and say proudly, unabashedly, from personal experience, it helped. Oh my stars in the ever blooming sky, did it help.

And now I am blushing.

Happy reading.

Want to learn more? Go to The Healing Group’s On the Edge of the Bed: A Tastefully SEXY Workshop for Women at The Hotel Monaco on September 14th. It is 6 hours worth of tools and helps for the price of one 50 minute therapy session. And there will be swag bags and non-alcoholic fruity cocktails. In a word? Awesome. Grab a bunch of your girlfriends and have a good time. Some of the topics covered:

  • Let go of a painful past and create a positive sexy and intimate future
  • Look at common problems women face
  • Understand the fundamentals of the body and sex
  • Increase to increase your libido and move sex back to the top of the to-do list
  • Increase your confidence and take sexual risks through the power of vulnerability
  • Navigate the 5 senses of sexuality
  • Add spice to your love life

 And just because I believe in the power of getting it on, my readers get $20 off their ticket when they use the code ‘meginprogress’ at checkout.

I was going to write “Now get out there and spread the love!” but that just sounds too literal in this context. So you know, ummm, enjoy yourselves.