As I’ve discussed before, the church sends out different messages about sexual purity depending on what age group you fall into. If you’re still in high school, Sex Is Bad. (It’s Good if you’re married, but since you as a high schooler have no hope of being married any time soon and since most of you are going to college for four or more years during which you will not get married, Sex Is Bad.) If you’re out of college, then abstinence is rarely mentioned, with the sort of implicit understanding that everyone understands that Single People Don’t Do It. Not that I’ve ever seen anyone hauled in front of the church to be disciplined for fornication, other than mostly regretful single male worship leaders who were saying goodbye because they got caught. I would bet good money that in churches with lots of people returning to the fold (you know, the loving, nonjudgmental churches), there are regular attendees aplenty who are fornicating with delight, with many even openly cohabitating. But let’s not be harsh, because we don’t want to give anyone the impression that legalism still mars the church. God will convict their hearts in His own good time. Besides, if I point a finger, someone might point a finger back at me, and that would be unpleasant and rather unedifying.
In the manosphere, there is a constant to-do about a woman’s “number” and a woman’s history of riding the “carousel.” As far as I can tell, there isn’t a specific “number” beyond which a woman becomes a carousel rider, but it seems generally agreed upon that a woman’s “number” must be three or lower to qualify as “good.” I’m not sure if this means the husband is number three or number four, but it does seem that most men who are shopping for a wife definitely get uncomfortable beyond five. Even if a woman has always only ever had sex with men with whom she is “in a committed relationship” and has never strayed, six is just too many. Even if it was a decade ago and she’s been living like a nun since, she’s still likely to be branded damaged goods.
Committed Christian men are even more hyperobsessive about the almighty “number” because (if they’ve been 100% pure themselves) marriage is their one and only shot at finding a sex partner, and no one wants to marry the town bike. It’s understandable that the idea of treading where a score of other men have tread before is not a particularly appealing one, especially when one has tread nowhere oneself. Still, with the age of first marriage being so high, and living in a sexually permissive culture where many Christians do not adhere to traditional sexual morality, it becomes increasingly unlikely that a Christian will be able to or even be able to expect to marry a virgin, especially after, say, age 25. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just that in many cases, it won’t be. By the time someone is 30, hoping for virginity in a future spouse is like hoping to see a unicorn.
So is virginity, in a practical sense, really even that relevant after the “prime marrying years” are past? I think most Christian men beyond college age would agree with the “three is a magic number” approximation. So if you’re an attractive 32-year-old Christian woman who’s had sex with two guys and haven’t had sex with anyone in the past five years because you’ve rededicated your life to the Lord, are most single Christian men going to say, “Um, sorry, not a virgin, bye.”? I doubt it. A lot of those men won’t even be virgins themselves, and since the woman is still under the magic number, she’s still marriage material.
I’m not condoning fornication. God’s rules are God’s rules. As the creator of sex, God knows what He’s doing in setting boundaries. Paul says, “‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is beneficial.” This is one of those “rubber meets the road” areas, where “faith is being certain of what we do not see.” As I get older, I’m not sure that I see that there’s much personal benefit in getting married a virgin vs. getting married somewhere under the magic number, but as I also see the societal havoc (and personal devastation) that fornication has wrought, I am reassured that God is, as always, infinite in his wisdom.