A recent story over at Mummy Buzz featured news of Jill Duggar (of 19 Kids and Counting fame) and her fiance Derrick Dillard. Reportedly, the pair have decided to hold off, not only on sex, but also kissing, until they’re married.
First of all, can I just say this milkshake-sipping pair are a-to-the-dorbs? I’ve never watched 19 Kids and Counting, but I’ve read a few quotes from the pair. They sound like smart people, who know how they want to proceed in their relationship. Premarital chastity — especially to this extent — isn’t a common choice these days, but that doesn’t make it inherently wrong. Jill and Derrick are adults. Presumably they’ve made the choice that feels best for them and their circumstances. Hopefully it turns out well and they continue to be very happy together.
This post isn’t meant as a criticism of their specific chastity. But after the Mummy Buzz post went up on Facebook, I saw comments from people expressing certain ideas about the pros and cons of abstaining from sex until after marriage. Personally, I’m for people abstaining from sex until they’re ready. If some people’s ethics, values and beliefs mean that that point of readiness is after they get married, that seems valid to me. But I have to admit that there are some ideas, both good and bad, around chastity that don’t sit well with me.
They sure can. They can also get to know each other if they have sex before getting married. It is totally possible to have sex with someone and also have platonic conversations and experiences. Having sex with someone doesn’t mean you can’t learn where they grew up or what their fears are or where their obsession with Star Wars Lego began. Furthermore, I feel that learning about someone sexually is getting to know them — a very important part of them. If people choose to wait for marriage before sharing the sexual parts of themselves, it’s all good. But if they choose to do it beforehand, they can still cultivate the kind of intimacy that stems from truly knowing one another.
This one irks me, because it isn't accurate. I’m not knocking anyone’s marriage. I’ve been in one for almost fifteen years and so far it’s working out like gangbusters. But marriage is not a condom or the pill or any other form of contraception or STI prevention. Yes, if you’re not having sexual contact with another person, your risk of pregnancy and sexual transmitted illness is virtually zero. But as soon as you start having sex, your risk goes up, regardless of your marital status. Getting hitched doesn't mean you’re prepared to deal with a pregnancy and if one happens unintentionally, it can still be very difficult development. Conversely, non-married people can and do become pregnant without it necessarily presenting a crisis. Similarly, reducing your number of sexual partners does reduce your risk of contracting an STI, but you don’t have to be married to do that.
And also, the thing that maybe makes STIs seem a lot worse than other types of sickness, is that people with STIs are made to feel ashamed about their illnesses. For example, I doubt that anyone is concerned that Jill and Derrick, sweet as they are, are putting themselves at risk of spreading colds, viruses, even a potentially lethal flu by sharing that milkshake.
Communication, in my opinion, is high on the list of healthy relationship must-haves. And I agree that when sex isn’t part of your relationship, you can really learn to communicate. You can also really learn to communicate when sex is part of your relationship, because being able to express your desires, your boundaries, your concerns, your discomfort because they’re squashing your arm, often makes the lovin’ even better. Perhaps Jill and Derrick feel more comfortable cutting their teeth on other ways of relating before they get into sexual negotiations. Totally legit. I’m just saying that sex can also be an opportunity, instead of a barrier to communication.
Unlike the other examples, these types of comments come from the Waiting Until Marriage Is a Bad Idea camp.
When I hear "sexual chemistry," I think of something where great sex just happens between partners automatically. It’s the thing that happens in erotic stories. People put their bodies together and orgasms ensue because hormones and pheromones and stuff we can’t control. Personally, I don’t believe in sexual chemistry. Or more accurately, I don’t believe that if it isn’t fireworks right out of the gate, you’re doomed to a lacklustre sex life.
I believe in sexual attraction, which I think of as that feeling of “I want to have sex with this person.” I believe in sexual compatibility, by which I mean what happens when our sexual wants and needs fit with those of our partners. And I don’t think you *have* to be sexually active with someone to find out if attraction and compatibility are there. Your body will tell you if attraction is happening. And compatibility you can talk about beforehand. Like hypothetically:
Partner One: Would you be willing to wear one of those animal-themed winter hats when we do it...maybe one that looks like a frog?
Partner Two: Yes, yes I would.
Partner One: Yay!
Whether or not you’re sexually attracted to someone is still kind of random. The attraction bit is pretty much hormones and pheromones and all that jazz. But just because Jill and Derrick aren’t acting on that stuff, it doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling it. And I don’t know what’s going to happen on their wedding night. They might be one of those couples who just get together and magic happens. If so, they are super, super lucky. And if they aren’t — well, a lot of us aren’t, in the beginning. I firmly believe that regardless of how you start out, if the attraction and compatibility are there, over time you can build a great sexual rapport with your partner.
At any rate, good luck to you Jill and Derrick. Continue to navigate your relationship as you see fit. I hope your first kiss, your marriage, and your lives together are everything you dream of!
Speaking of sexual compatibility, check out this fun and easy exercise that can help you negotiate frog-hat-nookie or anything else you might want from your partner. And did you know that what we think we know about the hymen may not be legit?