Is Premarital Abstinence Making a Comeback?

“We must all aim to love ourselves and to love others in the most perfect way possible. That is chastity in its fullness.”

(photo: Photo credit: Nickolas Titkov, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Believe it or not, there are indications that it may be. At the very least it’s a topic that’s being discussed in places that might surprise you.

The Washington Post recently published a piece in its “Acts of Faith” section called “I’m a 32-year-old virgin, and I’m living the feminist dream.” To her great credit, Kate Bryan, a young Catholic woman, openly writes about her decision to save sex for marriage. Not only does her “commitment to sexual integrity” allow her to do the things she wants to do, it saves her a lot of worry. “I’m not wasting my time worrying about waking up next to a stranger, contracting a sexually transmitted infection or missing a period.”

Bryan cites a study in the journal “Archives of Sexual Behavior” indicating that Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s are more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive than the previous generation. And while it’s impossible to know all the reasons why, Bryan posits one: “Maybe they realize that a condom doesn’t protect the heart, and that true love is something worth waiting for and fighting for.”

Bryan is also open about the fact that she feels a void not being married, and not having children yet. Her childhood dream was to get married and have 12 kids (like the number of Jesus’ disciples). But she also believes all things are possible with God.

As it turns out, Bryan’s college thesis was based on the book Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Saint John Paul II. So she’s got some expertise on the complexity of the subject. She writes, “In the case of the single person, chastity does mean not having sex before marriage, but it also means striving toward the perfection of love. We must all aim to love ourselves and to love others in the most perfect way possible – that is chastity in its fullness.”

Over at Verily magazine Claire McArthur writes about her decision at the age of 15 to abstain from sex until marriage. In her piece, “The Hardest Thing About Not Having Sex Before Marriage Wasn’t What I Expected,” she focuses on the judgments people made about her commitment. “What astonished me was how unwilling others were to accept that I had made an informed choice simply because it was different from what they were used to. In an age when choice is supposedly supreme, my choice didn’t fit with the cultural narrative, and so it wasn’t viewed as valid.” McArthur describes being both patronized and pitied.

Some of the comments made in response to Kate Bryan’s piece in The Washington Post make McArthur’s point. One person asks, “Why is this offensive religious proselytizing being published here?” Another writes, “I can’t read this **** any more. So sad for the author.” And yet another suggests she needs psychological help. As McArthur noted, so much for respect for other people’s choices.

McArthur describes the experiences of some of her friends who did not, as Bryan put it, protect their hearts. “I watched friends fall for guys and convince themselves that they were cool with having sex because that was what the guy wanted, all the while secretly hoping the relationship would blossom into some great romance. I watched them get hurt over and over again pretending that they were having fun because it’s all supposed to be so fun, right?”

Claire McArthur got married at the age of 25, and looks back on the decision she’d made ten years before. “And then on a picnic one sunny spring day sitting next to a man who was better than any 15-year-old girl could dream up, it dawned on me that I had made a choice back then and stuck to it. To say that I was happy was the results would be an understatement.”