July 20th, 2005

Dear Wendy,

When I first read your book, I had not yet kissed a boy (i was very intimidated by a strong sense of sexuality I felt within me that i didn't know what to do with, partly because of some fears of men, and partly because of fears of sex my parents had instilled in me, and partly because I knew that it was, indeed a very big deal). Reading your book provided me with logical arguments and justification to make me feel better about that sexually unsure me, and in fact call it virtuous. But now I'm having doubts. Do you really think it's healthy to wait until marriage to ?


*name changed to protect privacy.

Hi Andrea,

Great to hear from you. It makes sense that you'd wonder this, because seemingly everywhere one reads of the importance of being "sexually healthy." But what does this really come down to? Let's analyze it.

In the end, if you decide to have a full-blown premarital relationship with someone, either it will lead to marriage or it won't. Taking the best case, suppose that it does and he's the perfect guy for you. OK, great. But you may have sacrificed a lot by not waiting. If anyway you would have gone on to have an intimate relationship with him, then what have you gained? More time smooching? I'm not convinced that it works that way.

Marriage lends sexuality a spiritual aspect, making it more meaningful and altogether of a different quality. So you haven't really gained much by rushing things. Worse, you could be marrying someone because of the sexual glue that brings the wrong people together, and not for more solid reasons like admiring someone’s good character. True, people talk a lot about knowing that you're "sexually compatible" and "sexually healthy" but what about discerning if you're truly emotionally compatible? A more traditional courtship does give you more objectivity on this score, and I think that’s really important.

After all, without true emotional compatibility, even the most thrilling affairs tend to lose their initial spark after 18 months or so. This may explain why the "sexual compatibility" ethos is totally consistent with the divorce ethos. If everyone is so sexually compatible, then why are they divorcing? It can’t be fun to realize a few years down the line that you've actually married the wrong person. And, mind you, this is all the best-case scenario.

The worst case you already know: giving your body and soul to someone—or many someones?—who end up treating you like a sexual object. Is the emotional pain of this somehow more "healthy" just because so many people do it? I don't think so. I think that waiting, although it's very frustrating at times, is far healthier emotionally. At least at the end of the rainbow you have something real: a beautiful, emotionally-deep intimate relationship with a special man—and for you, he'll have to be really special. And you have this connection forever. But in the first or second scenarios, you have something far less real, far less likely to last, and in my opinion, far less emotionally healthy.

I suspect that if you stick it out, you won't regret it.

All my best,


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