I raised three girls who are hip, stylish, smart, engaging, sexy and virginal.
Okay. Well, that’s not exactly true. Ashley is married so she no longer fits the classification but up until she took that oath of allegiance to the man of her choosing, she had remained abstinent. Constance, the youngest of my three daughters is getting married later this summer. Like her sisters before her, she has also waited.
Her doctor went slack-jawed when she told him that.
“I’m getting married soon and I need birth control,” Constance said.
“Well what are you using now?” the doctor asked.
“Ummm..Abstinence,” she answered.
“Abstinence?” the confounded doctor repeated.
“Uh, yeah,” Constance answered. “It’s worked for the past 24 years.”
He laughed and shook his head in that disbelieving way of some people.
“Is there something wrong with that?” Constance asked.
“No,” he said. “But it’s been a long time since I’ve heard that.”
When my daughter told me that story I asked her if the doctor’s reaction made her feel bad about herself, her choices.
“No,” she said. “It makes me feel like a celebrity.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, chuckling. (If there is one thing my youngest daughter doesn’t lack it’s a healthy-esteem. She was born with it.)
“The look of shock on the faces of people when they find out I’m still a virgin,” Constance said. “They think that’s so awesome. They all say that you don’t see that very much.”
Besides, she noted, she’s seen the emotional distress that her friends have endured because of careless casual sex.
There is no such thing as causal sex. It’s a misnomer. A lie. I know. It was because of me that my daughters all made the choice to wait.
“I didn’t want to end up like you,” Constance said.
Shelby is 27 and the family’s only remaining bachelorette. She says that from the beginning, her decision to remain a virgin until marriage has been a faith choice.
“A choice based out of my faith in God and a personal choice because my mother had an abortion at age 17 and I’ve seen the effects of that upon her life.”
She referred to me as if I was someone else. As if I wasn’t the one asking her all these questions. As if I wasn’t the one who’d had the abortion.
“Certainly her abortion was a catalyst for making the choices I’ve made,” she said.
I worry sometimes that maybe I’ve scarred my kids with a red-letter A for the rest of their lives. Maybe I raised them in a bubble, for a world that no longer exists.
Brooke Shields recently said her biggest health regret is that she waited too long to have sex. She was 22 when she lost her virginity. “I wish I had just gotten it over with in the beginning when it was sort of OK,” Brooke said. “I think I would have been much more in touch with myself. I think I wouldn’t have had issues with weight.”
Shelby has never had issues with weight. She was a runner in high school and college. She’s fit and makes good eating choices. Thankfully, none of my girls have been troubled with the eating disorders that have plagued their mother.
Still, I worry. So I asked my daughters if they regretted being virgins.
“Absolutely not,” Shelby said. “I don’t know Brooke Shields personally, but it sounds like she’s equating her body image with sexual activity. My choice to abstain from sexual activity has nothing to do with my self-image. It does define part of who I am, but it’s a matter of who I am at the core, not who I am in outward appearance.”
Shelby works in the legal field of domestic relations. Co-workers who know she’s a virgin refer to her as “The V.” They don’t understand why anyone would choose virginity over unbridled sex.
“You hear it all the time,” Shelby said. “They can’t imagine having sex with one person for the rest of their lives. I know that I’m counter to that culture. I am probably perceived as being very strange or odd. Those who don’t know me would probably consider me a freak or religious fanatic. That’s okay. I think differently than they do. I think how great would it be to only share that kind of intimacy with one person?”
Ashley hates that her sister is mocked for choosing to remain a virgin. Shelby and Ashley are identical twins. They have always been very protective of one another. But Ashley understands that such mockery is common in today’s culture. Her friends poked fun of her, too, before she married.
“My friends thought that our wedding night was going to be terrible because neither one of us knew what we were doing,” Ashley said. (Her husband was a virgin, too.)
But all those worries were for naught.
“My friends were basing their fears on their own experiences,” Ashley said. “Because they’d had sex in high school that was not that good.”
Ashley said she would have married her husband whether or not he was a virgin because she loved him. She’s bothered that the church sometimes pressures kids into marriage just so they can have sex, but Ashley is not the least bit unnerved by the notion that she’ll only have sex with one person her entire life.
“It’s a picture of intimacy that God has with the church,” Ashley said. “I can’t imagine wanting to have sex with anyone else.”
What about those friends who didn’t wait, the ones who worried about her frigidity?
“I have one friend whose sex life was much better before she was married,” Ashley said. “She’s been married awhile and does not have sex that often.”
Brooke Shields is applying flawed logic. Having sex at a younger age would not have ensured her a healthier body image. In fact, studies have shown that the younger a girl is when she becomes sexually active the more prone she is to a whole host of problems. The younger a girl is when she has sex the greater the age difference between her and her partner. The greater the age difference, the less likely she is to use contraceptives and the more prone she is to disease and unintended pregnancy. Well, you get the picture.
I’d wager that the former child star’s self-esteem issues didn’t grow out of a longing for sex, but a longing for acceptance.
Isn’t it about time we helped our sons and daughters understand the difference?