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Thursday, August 15, 2002

By Angie Vineyard, Research Fellow

A recent New York Times article, “It’s Never Too Late to Be a Virgin”, detailed the accounts of a handful of Southern brides-to-be who voluntarily abstained from sex several weeks before their wedding, hoping it would add more excitement to their honeymoon. The consensus among the women, some of them cohabiting, was that even though the church frowned upon premarital sex, everyone was doing it anyway. But to assuage a guilty conscious and to feel “like you’ve been a good girl”-one woman’s words-couples were trying to wrap up a present they’d already opened and shelve it for their wedding day.

Not only did the article focus on a diluted definition of abstinence, it failed to ask the more important questions: If there is such a thing as “secondary virginity,” what does it have to do with abstinence? And why is that so important?

“The point of remaining abstinent is to enjoy sex as God designed it in marriage and only in marriage,” said Shannon Harris, “to enjoy a oneness with your husband that can only be with the two of you.”

Shannon knows all too well about the power of abstinence. Three years ago, she married Josh Harris, author of the best-selling book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which has sold more than 800,000 copies, been translated into five languages and this year will be translated into eight more. Josh met Shannon after penning his first book, which led to his second, Boy Meets Girl. But before planning their future together, the couple had to deal with Shannon’s past.

“The past knocked on Shannon’s door almost as soon as we started our relationship. Though she had lived a chaste life since becoming a Christian three years earlier, she had many regrets about choices she had made before her conversion. She had lost her virginity when she was fourteen. Throughout high school and college she was rarely without a boyfriend. She lived for the pleasure of the moment. She was careless, even reckless. ‘No one tells you about the pain and regret at the end of it all,’ she often thought. If only she’d known the consequences of her choices. If only she’d known how irretrievable lost innocence is.” * [More]

Shannon’s story is not unique, nor is the longing for innocence. In fact, singles from every continent have discovered the power of abstinence and are shirking today’s lax sexual norms. Nowhere is this more evident than with “True Love Waits,” an international campaign started out of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1993 that encourages abstinence until marriage. According to Coordinator Jimmy Hester, an estimated 1.2 million singles are participating, although independent researchers reportedly estimate those numbers to be as much as 3 to 4 million in the United States alone.

But what if you haven’t abstained? Can a person be a virgin the second time around?

“I really don’t think there’s such a thing as secondary virginity,” said Shannon, “By the very nature of the word, you either are or you aren’t. You can’t reclaim your virginity.”

If skipping sex the month before your marriage makes you a virgin, then virginity is no longer virginity. Sadly, couples that abstain temporarily are only kidding themselves. Why should they not engage in premarital sex, especially if its behind closed doors and no one will know? Because they do know. They know innately that remaining sexually abstinent before marriage wields enormous power-but not power over the opposite sex-rather power that increases the level of intimacy with the opposite sex and thus contributes to a healthy marriage.

*Excerpted from Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.


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