Rethinking Celibacy
Terrace Suite - Bedroom

Image by Intercontinental Hong Kong via Flickr/Creative Commons


April, the only character on Grey’s Anatomy who identifies as Christian and the only one who has conflicts about sex, has inspired another blog post for me. On Thursday’s episode, April and her fiancé took a compatibility test in their premarital counseling session. The test revealed they were like two peas in a pod, but Matthew, the fiancé and a virgin, was worried about performing well his first time on their wedding night. They decided to solve the problem, take the pressure off and have sex beforehand but changed their minds, opting instead to stick to the promise they had made, or in April’s case, remade, to God.

This got me thinking, would I marry a virgin or a “second-time virgin?” At this point in my life, the answer is no, unless I end up with someone at least seven or eight years younger than I am. I’m 33. Virginity would just be weird for a man my age or older. That’s not “the world” talking. (It’s just sexist.) I think of this in terms of Christian numbers logic, and I assume all characters are Black and able-bodied, because that what I want. A Black man who’s such a committed, church-going Christian that he’s a virgin at 25/26? When I was in college, the fantasy of that man had us promise ring-type girls reciting purity verses to keep ourselves from lusting. That’s a man who gets snatched up or paired off via church matchmakers, and he would be married by 24, maybe 27 if he wanted to earn a PhD before getting married. If he’s not, then yes, either something is wrong with him or nothing is wrong and he doesn’t want to have sex with a woman. (Again, sexist. Also judgmental, making generalizations, all of that. But I stand by it.)

And a man who’s had sex before but has recommitted his body to Christ and isn’t going to have it again until marriage? It’s been within the past two years that I had convinced myself this is the type of man I should hope to attract because he would present less risk. I’m about to get what I call “good-memoir-honest” on this blog and just state: I’m not good at sex. If a man I was dating were to discover that early on—and “early” is relative (and by posting this I’m not helping myself, am I?)—he would bail. I haven’t practiced much because no one has asked for my number in 18 months or so and it’s hard to connect with a vibrator at that human, “Let’s talk and touch and find out what the other likes” level. If we wait until marriage to discover we’ll have to work at making sex satisfying, I figured, at least he can’t break up with me easily.

Kepner and Matthew

Matthew, April and my hands on the camera in the referenced episode.

But what if we’re both bad in bed or just bad for each other? What if he’s a 10 on a 1-10 freak scale and I’m a three? Sexually incompatibility for life feels like a much bigger risk now that I’m 33. It also seems a much more probable risk now that I know—from reading and experience—sex doesn’t just flow naturally and sexual incompatibility is real, even for Christians. Sometimes you practice more and get to know more about a partner’s preferences, but it never makes perfect or you find out you don’t like the same things. Then what?

I used to believe God would never direct me to marry someone I’m sexually incompatible with. “God designed you. He knows what you like. Experimenting before marriage shows your lack of faith in him, your lack of trust that he knows best,” religious leaders and religious friends told me. Of course, that means you also have to believe you have a soul mate, that there’s a “one” designed specifically for you as opposed to one of many you could choose to marry and choose to work through your issues with on a daily basis. Now that I know loving someone every day is a choice, I know I could choose to live with bad sex in marriage for life and enjoy my partner’s other wonderful characteristics, or choose to leave the marriage.

Or, I could choose to find out beforehand. I desire companionship and want to share struggles, triumphs and household chores, but I also want good sex, and I want to married only once. So to me, following April’s lead is too great a risk.

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