No matter where I was at the time on a religious scale (and I’ve visited both ends), in my discussions about sex I never had anyone – be it a secular person or a clergyman – be able to give me a sensible, reasonable and non-dogmatic (as in, not based on just some religious rule) for postponing sexual initiation. And even when I was on the “more” end of the scale, my reasonable and ever-searching mind could never be convinced by dogma alone. (The fact that I visited that end of the scale after being initiated to the bodily pleasures might be a significant factor in it.)
Then I met Mark Gungor and got that Holy Grail of an answer, and have walked the Earth with it in my pocket, feeling superior to all those who on the subject had only dogma to offer. I didn’t want to make it easier for them to pass judgement and act all sanctimonious. But I feel it’s time to go public with it. You’re welcome.
Mark Gungor is an American minister who conducts seminars for couples called “Laugh Your Way to Better Marriage”. They include his lectures about marriage, love, sex, relationships etc. but in form of stand-up routine that’s pretty funny and insightful at times. Other times he’s preachy and judgmental AF, which I haven’t noticed those years ago when I first learned of him (and when I was religious). So, caveat, I guess?
Gungor became famous for one specific part of the seminar where he compares men’s brains with women’s brains that you may have seen it or at least heard about. This video was a revelation to me and literally dozens of people I shared it with or referred this to. While it’s an oversimplification at times and the given thesis can be misused to justify inflexible behavior, it’s still pretty clever.
In that same seminar Gungor also discusses sex drive in a way that was truly eye-opening for me. So much so that quotes from this became part of my vocabulary (“if anything changes I’ll let you know”). Bear in mind, he is still a clergyman and he speaks as one. Therefore it’s to be expected that he will be advocating abstinence until marriage. (Myself, I’m and always have been far from being that strict, because, among other things, that would just make me an astronomical hypocrite.) He also displays some outdated views of modern women (as if every woman’s sole purpose is to pursue marriage) and of sex itself (not taking into consideration that this may just be a fun activity two consenting adults can share with no strings attached) I did only slightly mind back then and now find unbearable. But the mechanism he describes itself, the “perfect standoff”, is pretty well explained.
But Mark Gungor is the first person who ever provided me with an actual non-dogmatic reason for postponing sexual initiation in another video of his (from 2:50 some 6 minutes onward, until about 9:00). Again, he talks within bounds of marriage only (because priest), yet that stuff he mentions about imprinting on first experiences rings very true to me personally (hooray for anecdotal evidence!) From the time perspective I know I got into all that sex business way too early for my own good. Sure, it provided me some bragging rights among my peers, but at the same time it literally broke me for many years to follow. Can’t say for sure if I ever got unbroken. In my defense, I was young, it was in a relationship and it was supposed to last forever (it didn’t).
Now time has passed since I first encountered this material and revisiting it I found myself agreeing with Mr Gungor much less than I had years ago. The non-dogmatic reason still works though, only now I would loosen the conditions even more. He said, “wait until marriage”, and I never agreed with that. Back then I interpreted it as “wait until the relationship is serious”, as in: if you feel ready to marry that person, maybe you don’t have to wait until you actually do? That’s because, let’s not kid ourselves, sex is very emotional, and where emotions are at stake, it’s just as easy to get hurt as it is to hurt someone.
But now I’d say this: “wait until you’re in tune with yourself well enough to not get hurt or hurt someone else”. In order for sex to be safe (emotionally; the topic of condoms and birth control is a completely different kettle of fish), you need to be in tune with your own emotions (even if there aren’t any – that’s also something to be aware of) but also – and that’s equally as important – you should be sure the other person (or persons, why not) are too. The game should be fair on all fronts.
And that is an answer I would give anyone. That’s the answer I currently plan to give my own daughter (when the time comes, or, preferably, before that). No matter if you’re 16, 18, 24 or 30. No matter what’s your relationship status (come to think of it, for some people even the wedding night might be too soon and they might need to wait even longer) or just free of any attachment – that’s a completely individual issue. I am not and will not judge.
PS. I just realized I wrote about sex hardly ever using the word “consent”. Since it’s extremely important, here goes: remember about consent. Always ask for consent, always expect to be asked for consent, always respect not getting one and demand accepting you not giving it as well. Consent always, consent everywhere. Consent, consent, consent. And if you struggle with the concept, here’s a very helpful video about tea.