In the past year, I’ve written about sex in this space a lot (too much? Maybe). But if my memory serves me correctly, I’ve never held a thorough discussion of the subject with another person and made it available for public consumption…until now.
When I had the idea to hold a discussion of sorts, I considered all of my friends who would make the best conversationalist. A few options were weighed before I settled on my dear friend Cassi Clerget.
Discussing sex with Cassi appealed to me for one glowing reason: we are on complete opposite ends of the sex spectrum. I’ve done (literally) everything and Cassi has done (literally) nothing. She’s a virgin, and who better to have a discussion than two people whose views and experiences with sex may or may not be completely removed from each other’s? Exactly! Pure (afternoon) delight!
So for three days, Cassi and I traded (fairly clean) emails, discussing the ins and outs of sex (pun intended) and I have to report that I was thoroughly pleased with the result. She handled herself like the pro she is and delivered some poignant thoughts on the subject (and her fair share of sex jokes).
Cory: As you’ve mentioned in a number of your posts, you are a 24 year-old virgin. The obvious question is what factors have made you decide to not have sex yet? Is it a religious thing or have you just not found “The One” yet?
Cassi: I have not mentioned it a number of times. So dramatic. But yeah, I’m a 24 year-old virgin. If we’re being completely honest, I would say that I haven’t had sex because I haven’t had the opportunity. It’s hard to have sex by yourself…well, technically…never mind.
I’d like to say that it was purely a religious decision. My dad gave me a purity ring when I was 13 and I made the promise to not have sex before marriage. Throughout high school, that was enough for me. Christianity says sex before marriage is bad, so I went with it. But in college, things became complicated and a bit grey (50 Shades style, obviously). I assumed attending a Christian college would be like four years of church camp with a few history and English classes. But I watched my good Christian friends having sex with guys (not actually watching) and part of me wanted that. That connection, the intimacy. But it’s hard to find a potential sex partner when you don’t date. And I wasn’t about to have sex with a guy I didn’t care about; my hard limit, you could say. So I guess it was both: my religion said I shouldn’t have sex and I hadn’t met “the One.” I’m not sure which won out.
Cory: If you’ve actually read 50 Shades of Grey, I’m judging you so hard right now. Fair warning.
So based on your answer, if you found a guy you fell in love with, you would or wouldn’t wait for marriage?
Cassi: Are you really in a place to judge, Mr. I’ve Done Literally Everything? Thought not.
At this point in my life, where I am now, I can say I’d wait. Of course, since there’s no guy in the picture, it’s easier to say that.
As terrifying as it might be, I want that moment with my husband; that first once-in-a-lifetime moment to be after we’ve said our vows, made promises to each other, and started a life together. I want to give that last piece of myself to my husband, not just to a man I love. I want to treat sex with the respect it deserves; the respect I haven’t always given it.
If you had asked me a year ago, my answer would have been different. It would have been, “Why wait until marriage if you know you love them?”
Cory: So what caused the change in your response? And is it hard to maintain your virginity when basically everything we see, hear, and read these days is sex sex sex sex sex?
I don’t mean to get personal; I’m just curious about the mindset of someone who’s never experienced the thing that is literally everywhere.
Cassi: I spent a year in Las Vegas for school, and during that time, I wasn’t walking with God. I wasn’t putting anything into my relationship with Christ, and I didn’t really care. I took off my purity ring. I was done doing everything because the Church told me to. I was tired of missing out on the experience that all my friends had taken part in. I didn’t want to be a virgin anymore. I wanted to do the crazy wild fun things all the other girls were doing (being in Sin City was not helpful).
By the end of the school year, I was broken emotionally and spiritually. I was a mess. I was trying to be all these things I wasn’t. Because honestly, I didn’t want to be the girl who had sex with random guys (way too much work). I only wanted one guy, the guy. I realized I was just tired of being inexperienced. I saw that as some sort of defect, when it wasn’t.
Because the truth is, living in our sex-crazed, Magic Mike world makes being a virgin the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Sex is in everything—TV, movies, magazines, even books. It’s invaded our society, becoming the norm, and nothing is harder than going against what it considered normal. There’s no outlet, nowhere to put all the sexual frustration without feelings of guilt or shame. Most days, I wonder if waiting is worth it. Most days, I’d rather just give in. But I don’t want to throw my virginity away.
Cory: You’re right when you say it’s become the norm; even to the point that people are actually a little shocked when they find out someone is still a virgin into their twenties. It’s like you guys are that elusive bird from Up. “You really exist?!”
Do you find that there’s a stigma that comes with being a virgin in her mid-twenties? Do your friends look at you differently or hold you in a different regard than they do their other friends?
Cassi: We do exist! We’re a sort of endangered species, like those animals in the zoo everyone gawks at. And that comparison is not all flattering…but it’s kind of true. I tell someone I’m a virgin, they think I’m kidding. (Like that would be a fun ice breaker…) And I swear guys take a couple of steps back at that admission.
There is a sort of stigma, especially outside of the Church. I’ve been called a prude. Many times. It’s worse when they find out I’ve never dated anyone. “What are you waiting for? Prince Charming?” I’m not that naive. Innocent maybe, but not naive.
My non-virgin, Christian friends treat me like an innocent maiden circa-Jane Austen. Heaven forbid they accidentally tell me something and offend my virgin ears. They are part of a club I’m not in, so conversations with my married or sexually experienced but not married Christian friends can get awkward. Being a virgin doesn’t mean I can’t talk about sex. It just means I won’t/can’t talk about my personal experience. Like I should be sharing that anyway…
Questions for you! I know you’ve been awaiting these with the anticipation of a virgin on her wedding night. Or his wedding night. Either way.
Being a once married man, you are obviously not a virgin. How was it going from being married (and having a sex life, I’m presuming) to being divorced? It can’t be as easy as just turning off your sex drive. As mentioned before, sex has become the norm for those in our twenties.
Cory: That’s one thing people do that I never understood. Just because someone has never had sex doesn’t mean they don’t have the same desires and urges as the rest of us (also, a virgin making a “that’s what she said” is probably the funniest thing ever). Why treat them different or hold back because of them? But then again, maybe I just don’t have a censor chip in my brain.
To your question: I’m assuming that it would be hard to just turn off your sex drive after getting divorced. I can’t speak from experience. I waited about 4 or 5 months and then started sleeping around. I’m not exactly sure why. I think because I was in this kind of black period of self-depreciation in a way. I carried a lot of guilt from the end of my marriage and subsequent divorce. Because of that, I was doing things I knew were harmful to myself, and sleeping around was one of them.
As fun, awesome, and satisfying as sex outside of marriage can be (I sound like a Focus on the Family after school special), it can lead to a lot of things that aren’t good for your soul. I’ve slept with 6 women I wasn’t married to and I regret 5 of them. That should tell you something.
Cassi: Yeah, I’ve been told I have the sense of humor of a frat boy (still not sure whether or not that was a compliment).
Being a virgin doesn’t mean I can’t laugh at or make an inappropriate comment or joke. I must be missing that censor chip as well. And being a virgin doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to sex either. I know it’s out there, and I know people are doing it. I don’t want my friends to think they can’t talk about sex around me. That takes the fun out of everything.
You mentioned you regret five of the six women you’ve slept with. If you were given the chance to do things over, would you still make the choice to have sex outside of marriage, even with the one you didn’t regret?
And you have chosen, for the time being, to lead a celibate life. How has it been dealing with living a life without sex?
Cory: To continue with the blatant honesty, I’m not entirely sure I would do everything different. I enjoy having sex and the good things that come from it, but am I prepared to deal with all the negative aspects? Not really. I mean, one series of rendezvous led to me being legitimately stalked and that was a frightening experience. But I also got to experience physical love with a woman I loved completely. That is something I will always cherish.
As to the celibacy, it actually hasn’t been that difficult, surprisingly. As I’ve written, usually after a breakup, I go on a spree of “naughty” behavior. But this time, that hasn’t appealed to me in the least. I’ve been content with simply being alone with myself without having to fill some hole of physical need.
It’s assumed that you still think about the act of sex even though you’ve never experienced it. How does that manifest itself? Do you just base everything on what you’ve read or seen in books and movies? I’ve always been curious about this.
Cassi: I’ve never really thought about that. Yes, I suppose when I think about what sex would be like, it’s basically a compilation of the random things (movies, TV shows) I’ve seen, what I’ve read in books, and just common sense (I understand basic human anatomy for the most part…). Like some weird kind of movie montage of random images, if that makes sense. The down side to all that is since I have no experience with the act of sex itself, anything I imagine about sex is a carefully constructed ideal. It’s not real, and probably pretty far from sex in actuality. And while part of me knows that the act of sex in reality is nothing like what I read in books, it’s hard not to create expectations.
As someone who has had sex, how did your expectations of what you thought sex was going to be like match up with what it was in reality? Did those expectations get in the way of the experience?
Cory: I think those expectations you spoke of is why a lot of people are disappointed the first time they have sex. After all, we can’t all be like Noah and Allie during the first time…unfortunately.
I think the expectations left something to be desired during my first time, but not completely. I wasn’t exactly “pure” in every way the first time I had sex, so most of my expectations were a bit grounded in reality. And since I was a horny 19 year old virgin, those slight disappointments did very little to dampen the experience (TMI?).
Cassi: Wait, are you telling me that my first time isn’t going to be like a scene from The Notebook?! Why even bother at that point? Maybe I’ll just be a virgin for life…I take that back.
I’m curious, do you think men and women have different expectations when it comes to their first time having sex?
Cory: It would make sense that they do. Men and women approach sex from different mindsets (for the most part). Women are usually more emotional and/or mental in their approach, while men usually approach it from a physical standpoint. So it would make sense that the expectations between a couple about to have sex for the first time would be different.
Cassi: But I wonder if the expectations between a couple about to have sex depends on the type of relationship they have; whether it’s casual, serious, or a committed/marriage relationship. I only say that because when I told myself that I was ready to have sex, it was purely about physical release and not about emotional intimacy. I wanted casual. In fact, I didn’t want to deal with emotions at all, because I didn’t want to deal with the other feelings of guilt or shame that might accompany it. Not the healthiest approach to sex, I came to realize.
Cory: From an outsider’s point of view, do you think people not understanding the ramifications sex can have—on themselves and the person they’re with—is why it so drastically changes so many relationships? Do you think not understanding the emotional connection sex can produce is the reason so many men (and women) prescribe to the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” mentality? Or do you think they just don’t care?
Cassi: I would definitely say that a lot of people don’t understand the emotional ramifications of sex. I’ve seen my friends go into a sexual relationship all nonchalant, acting like it’s not a big deal, then a few weeks later they are in over their head and have no idea why they are so attached to their sexual partner/boyfriend. The truth is, sex is a big deal, but we try to downplay the emotional connection that takes place when you put yourself in such an intimate and vulnerable position. Having sex changes a relationship. Maybe in different ways for different people, but you can’t have that level of connection and not be changed by it.
But I think that we try to ignore the emotional connection. We can just have a physical relationship with no strings, we tell ourselves. We don’t want all that extra stuff. I think the more we ignore the emotions that come with sex, the easier it is to pretend they aren’t there, lending itself to the whole “love ‘em and leave ‘em” mentality. The longer we block out the emotional aspect to sex, the less we care about it. Of course, when we finally enter into a committed loving relationship, allowing those emotions to enter back in, I’m assuming, could be difficult.
Cory: You’re very right there. I’ve actually had one relationship that was a successful “friends with benefits” kind of arrangement. All was well until I found someone I actually wanted to be with romantically, someone I cared for. Only, the problem didn’t come with my DTF gal pal; it was with my girlfriend. I found it difficult to open myself back up to emotions and feelings when I had tried so hard over the last few months not to let those things surface. It was a predicament that took time and effort (and understanding on my new girlfriend’s part) to remedy.
The main reason I started writing in this space was to allow others to learn from the mistakes that I had made with God, Life, and Love, and really, sex fits into all three of those genres. But unless we fully understand it and realize the significance it can and will hold in our lives and the lives of our partners, hearts will continue to be broken and growth will continue to be stunted.
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