Thursday, January 17, 2013

My single years after college, part 3

During this time of questioning, another college girlfriend got married. They had started dating in college, but when he got a job on the East coast, she stayed in Minneapolis, and their relationship became long distance for the next three years. She didn't move out to be with him until he proposed. The long dating process was rare in those circles. I remember discussing it once over brunch with her, and she said she had told him she was ready to get engaged whenever he was ready, but in reference to sex (and perhaps a ploy to get him to propose sooner), she added, "I can wait, but can you?" This was another very clear case of the expected gender roles in regard to female sexuality that I discussed here. Apparently she had little desire to have sex with him, but assumed he couldn't control his desire for her.

When she announced her engagement to our small group of friends over a Facebook message, one of the other girls, who was already married, wrote her a silly limerick that joked about the bride-to-be hoping that her fiance would be good in bed. She responded to it by saying, "It reminded me that I'm going to Do It with a boy which kind of freaks me out!!" Maybe she was only saying that to appear modest, but it seemed strange to me at the time (and still does) that she wouldn't feel completely comfortable with the idea of having sex with the man she supposedly loved and was going to marry.

By the time of her wedding, I was already a fairly harsh critic of evangelical Christian culture, so I had little patience for seeing what risque or helpful gifts she was going to be given at the private shower/bachelorette party the weekend of her wedding. In fact, I think I met up with my cousins and went to an Oktoberfest party instead. But my one friend, the one who's wedding I talked about here, told me she got her a "honeymoon starter kit" that included lube, among other things. Apparently, this is not uncommon in Christian circles. "You probably think that's gross," she said, referring to my unmarried virgin naivete.

Back home in Denver and in my attempt to reevaluate my beliefs, the first big one I struggled with was homosexuality. I had always been taught it was wrong, that it was sin, that it was against the Bible. But I also believed in love, that it was the greatest commandment of all. And it was too difficult to "hate the sin, not the sinner" without finding a hindrance at loving the sinner. My roommate and I had befriended a lesbian couple next door. One of them sang in a church choir. It made me really happy that they could find a place to worship that allowed them to participate. Why shouldn't they be able to? They were good, normal people. Were their sins any greater than anyone else's? And why--if God made humans male and female with only one sexual identity--were there some people born with two genders? Where did they fit into God's plan, and how were they to identify themselves? Perhaps gender isn't so important. This was how I began to view homosexuality as not sinful. Later I would find Christian arguments that supported that belief, even biblically, which solidified my change in thinking. But it was partly due to this first honest pondering of human sexuality that I was finally able to make the leap to discard purity teachings altogether.

Even though I was able to change my religious views regarding homosexuality, getting rid of the purity doctrine was much harder. Whereas homosexuality seemed to be an endless topic of debate amongst Christians, purity was widely accepted. Where homosexuality didn't affect me on a very personal level, purity was part of my identity, and my beliefs surrounding it would have an impact on my future actions and choices. Where accepting homosexuality felt like love, rejecting purity still felt like...sin. Selfishness. Impatience. Rebellion. Everything I had been led to believe sex before marriage was. It was so ingrained in me for years that waiting for marriage was the only right way, that the thought of turning away from this one right path was frightening. 

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