After I made the decision that I no longer believed in sexual purity, my life did not change much right away. I had not exactly been fending off men beforehand, valiantly preserving my virginity, nor were there any prospects in sight now that I had given up purity. I was 26 years old and still my same introverted self who was insecure and scared to date. But my mindset had changed. I was freer, more liberated and open-minded. And the thought of starting a relationship with someone wasn't as daunting. Whereas before, I would have worried about finding a virgin just like me who was willing to wait, now I was willing to open up my possibilities. I realized I could take any relationship at a natural pace: no need to set up rules and boundaries for physical affection, no need to rush into a marriage to avoid the temptation of sex. We could have sex when we felt ready to take that step.
It would be about 2 years before any of my beliefs regarding sex would be put to practical use. In the meantime, I focused on grad school and work. I moved into an apartment of my own. In my spare time I played video games, read books, went to dinners and movies with friends. I think it was in that time that I shed any and all guilt I felt about my sexuality. I came to accept myself as a sexual person. Maybe even embraced it. My whole youth, I had been taught that while God did indeed create us to be sexual creatures, that desire in us was only good for pushing us to find a spouse so we could release those desires within marriage. Until then, you were to "shut up shop" in nearly every way. (Don't ask me how those two concepts were supposed to coexist!) But I was able to refute that and stop the guilt and shame I carried for most of my young life. Thankfully, my mental and emotional progress was enough to begin a healthy relationship with very little baggage leftover from the purity movement.
When I was 28, I began dating a man I had known as a friend for a few years. We lived very far apart so the first year of our relationship was long distance with visits about every 6 weeks for the first year until he moved to be with me. He had exposure to a lot of the same Christian culture I experienced, including purity culture, but he had left it behind soon after high school. He didn't have a lot more experience than me in relationships, and he was still a virgin, too. We were both the same age and very compatible with each other; we fell in love quickly.
Considering everything I had been taught about sex--how momentous and life-altering it was--I was surprised at how soon I felt ready to take that step. And how natural and not-a-big-deal it seemed. Now that I was in a real relationship with no rules or stigmas surrounding sex, nearly all the things the purity movement had told me sounded ridiculous. I could see now how important sex was to a relationship and I couldn't imagine leaving that element to chance until a marital commitment. Through sex, we learned so much about each other and got to see different sides of ourselves. And rather than feeling used or ashamed (as I was led to believe I would feel if I had sex before marriage), I felt empowered. I could see now what an utter myth the promise of a magically amazing wedding night and sex life was now that I actually knew how it worked: how it took communication and practice to get good enough to have great sex.
I felt like I had been lied to my whole life. Sex wasn't demoralizing, it didn't change me, it didn't feel wrong or unnatural. I've begun to realize that almost every negative warning spewed out by the purity movement was based on the assumption that pre-marital sex happens mostly to people who aren't ready for it emotionally, between couples that do not have trust or commitment. It's the only way to explain why they think every woman comes away from it feeling broken and used and why every man will tire and leave the woman after. (Actually, there are a few other factors in play there.) Nowhere was I ever taught about the type of relationship I would find myself in: a loving, trusting relationship between two consenting and prepared adults. Purity culture tends to ignore those couples or dismiss them as people who are living in sin and who will be disappointed on their wedding day.
Not only did I find that premarital sex was okay and good, but once I experienced it, I realized that, at least for me, it was better and healthier than waiting would have been. Whereas we were able to take our sexual relationship at the pace we were comfortable at, progressing on our own timetable with no outside pressures, couples who wait have a different experience. They have an appointed date and time that their first intercourse is supposed to take place: the all-important wedding night. They can anticipate it for months, building up the expectations in their heads. They don't get to start out slow; they're expected to go from zero to sixty in one night, ready or not. And if the sex isn't as amazing as they were told it would be (which of course it isn't--they're both completely inexperienced), it's too embarrassing to admit it when everyone expects you to say it was like a fairytale.
The purity movement told me that practicing purity would prevent me from getting hurt, but I now feel as though I escaped a world of hurt that was waiting for me if I would have followed it through until marriage.