An Open Letter To A Wavering Virgin

Author: Mary Beth Bonacci


I got a letter from a friend of yours today. She said you're being "tempted," and she's worried about you. She asked me to help her help you to be strong.

I could start by telling you the things you probably already know. Sex in the 90's is dangerous. You might get pregnant-no matter how you try to "protect" yourself. And sexually transmitted diseases are no longer a possibility but a probability if your partner's ever been with anyone else. Chlamydia can destroy your fertility. The sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) leads to cancer. AIDS will kill you. Each is an epidemic, not an occasional rare complication. And the condom does nothing to prevent the first two, and fails over 31% of the time in preventing AIDS.

You've probably heard all of that. It may have scared you for a while. It should. But I bet, in the end, it's not enough to scare you out of doing it.

There are a lot of forces pressuring you into sex, even if you're unaware of it. TV and movies, for starters. Virgins are hard to come by on prime time TV. Sure, 90210 has Donna, but how attractive does her lifestyle look next to Dylan and Kelly, or Brandon and whichever ex-girlfriend/ older woman/new girl in town he happens to hook up with on any particular episode? The sexually active crowd look like they're having a lot more fun.

Then there's all of the condom education programs. Sure, they may say, "Abstinence is better," but all of those condoms flying around sure give you the impression that everyone else must be doing it, and that there are a lot of adults around there who expect that you are, too.

Your friend said you're being "tempted." That means there's someone doing the tempting. And that someone, I assume, is your boyfriend. That can be the ultimate pressure. He says he loves you. He says everyone is doing it. Looking around, it seems like he's probably right. He says it'd be beautiful.

And if you don't give in, will you lose him? I don't know. A lot of guys use that threat. Maybe he's one of them, maybe he's not.

Does he love you? I'm sure he says he does. Perhaps he even thinks he does. For all I know, he could be a nice guy. But right now, he's not loving you.

You see, there are a lot of things they don't show on TV. They show occasional pregnancies, but only when the real actress got pregnant (like 90210's Andrea). They show occasional AIDS, but never blame condom failure. And they never show other sexually transmitted diseases, like herpes or HPV, that can't be cured in 30 minutes minus commercials.

And they never show the intense emotional bond that sex forms. Oh, sure, they may hint at it. Brenda's still whining over Dylan. But they don't come anywhere near portraying the emotional devastation that comes at the breakup of a sexual relationship, especially the first one.

I see that devastation all the time. I talk to teenagers all over the country, and when they come to me crying after a talk, it's not usually because of a sexually transmitted disease or a pregnancy. They're crying because no one warned them that the very act they thought would save their relationship has torn it apart. They were never warned how much it would hurt when they broke up. They were never told that this would be the emotional equivalent of divorce.

You see, Cod didn't intend sex to be something we just "do" in random relationships to help us have fun. He intended it to speak a very specific language- the language of marriage. And everything about it is ordered to that. The fact that it causes babies; the fact that if we try to do it with a lot of different people we get diseases; the fact that it "glues" our hearts together in a very permanent way-all these are evidence that He had a plan for sex, and that plan is marriage.

Inside marriage it's a beautiful thing. Outside, it hurts us, hurts our relationships and hurts our chances to find love.

He may say he loves you, but he's not loving you now. He's putting you at a lot of risks. Pregnancy, for one thing, which is a lot bigger deal for you than him. Diseases he may not know he has. And worse, he'd be allowing a bond to form-he'd be speaking the language of the body in a lie. His body would be saying "forever," as would yours. But you're not married, and can't promise forever, even if you'd like to. There are still too many unknowns ahead.

And, what's worse, he'd be alienating you from God, who is pretty clear throughout Scripture about how He wants sex treated. ("A man shall leave his father and mother, cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."

Notice "cleave" before "one flesh." That means marry before sex.) And you'd be alienating him from God. Is that loving?

A truly loving man wouldn't ask this of you. He'd be attracted to you, no doubt. But he'd be able to say, "I want what's best for you and these risks aren't. So, because I love you, I won't." That's real love.

I hope your boyfriend can understand your "no," and love you the way he should. But if he can't, what have you really lost? Love? Certainly not. Don't sell yourself short. You're created in the image and likeness of Cod. Hold out for a man who recognizes that, and acts like it. You deserve no less.

Think for a minute about what you really want. Is it sex, or is it love? If real love - deep, intimate, abiding, permanent love- is what you're after, then you'll be settling for a cheap imitation if you settle for sex now. And that cheap imitation will hurt you, and hurt your chances of finding the real thing later.

I don't know where real love is in your life right now, but I know one thing. You have a friend who loves you. She loves you enough to go out of her way to help you do what's best for you. You two stick together, and help each other be strong.

And don't let each other settle for less than the real thing.

Bonacci is a frequent lecturer on chastity.

This article appeared in the July 21, 1994 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald," 200 N. Glebe Rd., Ste. 607, Arlington, VA 22203-3797, (703) 841-2565.