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I’m Not Saving Myself for Marriage

November 17, AD 2012 13 Comments

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not saving myself for marriage.

First, I know no follower of Christ who thinks any of us can save ourselves. Secondly, to say “I’m saving myself” when you mean “I’m saving sex” equates who you are – and therefore your worth – with sex. But your worth is wrapped up in nothing except your existence. It is intrinsic.

So I’m not saving myself.

But I am saving sex.

I should add that the “save” in “saving sex” is not the same as the “save” in “saving the meatloaf for later.” Although I am waiting to have sex, when I say I’m saving sex, I don’t mean I’m “putting it off.” I mean I’m part of an insurrection (albeit it a tiny one) that is redeeming sex. Refusing, in other words, to treat it like it isn’t sacred.

This isn’t to say sex is not the gift of self. One spouse does give the gift of him or herself to the other, and vice versa, in sex. But I think among the ones of us who have decided to wait until we’re married to have sex, the gift we give in marriage is misunderstood when we think the gift we are giving is sex.

The gift is the partnership. The constant state of being there. The permanence. The merger of two lives and families into one. I could go on.

Sex is definitely part of it, but it isn’t it.

While saving sex may protect people, physically, emotionally and spiritually, in our hyper-focus on what saving sex does for me, an important truth has been neglected:

Saving sex protects sex.

Sex in our culture, generally speaking, is more about getting than giving. The world says part of it is important (pleasure), and while that part of it is important, I think all parts of it are important. But the world also says parts of it aren’t always necessary (i.e. unity beyond the biological, or fertility). And the world tends to tell us that we who wait are wrong because “everybody’s doing it.”

Because in our culture, “consensus determines rightness or wrongness.”*

But it’s like marriage. “Marriage is a sheet of paper” is parallel to “sex is not sacred.”

Marriage isn’t “just a sheet of paper” because a lot of people suck at it. Marriage is just a sheet of paper when you treat it like it’s just a sheet of paper.

Sex isn’t “not sacred” because most people in our culture don’t reserve it for the context of marriage. Sex is not sacred when you treat it like it’s not sacred.

This is why you could say the people who wait until they are married to have sex, and the people who would get married but never do, and the people who would like to have sex but are celibate because of what they believe about sex, and even the priests and nuns who keep their chastity vows have this in common:

They are all saving sex – redeeming it – by treating it like it’s sacred.

And it is.

– – – –

*From page 26 in Peter Kreeft’s book Back to Virtue.

About the Author:

Arleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity Is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (Ave Maria Press, 2014). She has a master's degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling from the University of South Florida and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the same university. She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and blogs at arleenspenceley.com.
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  • Elizabeth

    Great article. I do think sex is more than just part of a marriage though. Sex is “it” in the same way that the Eucharist is “it” for the Christian life. The Eucharist is the source and summit…all of the rest of our life flows from the strength we receive from the Body and Blood of our Lord. Sex is where my husband and I renew our vows and receive the strength for all the rest of our daily living.

  • Thank you for your commitment and your witness, Arleen.

  • Sarah B.

    Amen sister. And the thing with “saving sex” talk is that the notion of redeeming sex, and integrating our sexuality with the moral law, is sometimes lost, and people who are “saving” get this idea that once they say “I do” it’s a sexual free-for-all with no limits, no rules. But no! Chastity isn’t for single people; it’s for people. Period. That’s an important part of understanding why treating sex sacred doesn’t just mean abstaining while single.

    Great post!

    • Great point, Sarah. Chastity knows no bounds (whereas abstinence does) and that’s one thing I really love about it.

  • John Morgan

    Excellent Arleen. I’ve always thought marriage began with sex, not with a ceremony or sheet of paper — regardless of whether or not they started a life together. I know that probably puts me way out in left field. But I’ve always thought one drop of water was enough to quench a fire.

  • Frances

    Thank you for your post, a wonderful and thoughtful discussion on the depth and intrinsic beauty and sacramentality of marriage.
    God bless.

  • Thank you
    As a consecrate celibate, chaste for the sake of the kingdom, this is a little more relatable, as I am not saving myself for marriage. Even were I to refer to the my consecration as marriage, it still makes no sense for me to use the phrase “save myself for marriage”, as if my “marriage” or solemn consecration were not real until I died. Saving Sex… well that is a phrase that works, it is broad enough, but also specific enough. I will very likely be using this phrase in youth ministry.

    • Brother Mark,

      So grateful for this feedback (and that you shared this on your tumblr!).