I "came out" when I was 18 years old.
Except that I'm straight. If I had come out as a lesbian, most people would have reacted normally to that ... which is not at all what happened when I came out a confirmed virgin.
When I tell most people that I took a purity pledge, they usually say the same things: "Are you serious?" or, "You'll never make it," and, "People just weren't meant to do that." But here I am more than two years later, still living a "pure" life. I'm not a hardcore Christian like the Duggar girls. I'm not super-prim and I don't wear long skirts. I believe in the principles behind remaining "pure," and the reasons that I follow are my own.
Now I'll be honest. Purity rings and pledges weren't part of my upbringing. At risk of sounding like some kind of easily influenced teenie-bopper, the first time I heard about purity pledges was from celebrities. Whether or not they kept them, the reasons that Disney stars gave for saving themselves for marriage -- focusing on their careers, waiting for love, and respecting their partners' bodies -- were what initially sold me on the promise I still keep today.It's Not Easy Being Clean
For me, a lot of staying "pure" is about enjoying platonic and romantic relationships with guys where the focus isn't on sex. I've been in a relationship that was purely physical (that didn't involve intercourse), and at some point I realized I had no idea who this guy was, because we were too busy hooking up to talk. He didn't know who I was either, and I don't think he cared.
I really think he saw me as the girl he was going to have sex with, and that's all he really wanted from me. Discovering that I was little more than a vagina to this guy made me realize how important love and respect were to me in a physical relationship. I really wanted to get to know someone, and know that he actually liked me, before we start adding a physical dimension to our relationship. So I started wearing the ring and telling guys in advance that if they were just looking for sex, they were looking in the wrong place.
If you're honest with guys about the fact that you're not going to have sex (unless you get married) and they stick around, you know that they're in it for you and not for your body. I realize I'm eliminating a large part of the male population from my dating pool by being up front about my intention to stay pure. But at least I'll know I have a guy who's willing just to be with me, and that's enormously sexy.
The Pluses of Being Pure
I know it sounds ridiculous, but not having sex actually has its upsides. I'm a very determined, career-oriented person. Keeping things on a friendship-plus basis with guys eliminates the stress of hook-ups, sleepovers, late-night drinks and oh, yeah, the fear of getting pregnant or having to maintain an elaborate contraceptive routine. I have a distinctive map I've drawn of where I am and where I'm going. I'll intensify my dating efforts when the slogging part of my career is over and I'm ready to have a family.
In my mind I know I'm not going to be having sex any time soon, so unlike most of my friends, I'm not constantly looking for a boyfriend or a hook-up. The energy that a lot of people dedicate to getting laid is redirected into work, exercise and writing. This may seem really far-fetched to you, but try it sometime. Try not to focus on sex and dating for a week, and see what you get accomplished.
I realize purity pledges may not be right for everyone, but they're right for me, even if people can be incredibly rude about my decision. But hey -- if I can go a quarter century without having sex, I can deal with a couple of Jonas Brothers jokes.
Beth Brennan is the collective pseudonym for Lemondrop's sex and relationship bloggers and their more "sensitive" stories.