Monday, June 5, 2017

We Don't Need Anyone's Permission to Love

A bride and groom dancing. Image source.
Growing up in purity culture, everyone always wanted to know "how far is too far?" What are we allowed to do when we're dating? What things aren't allowed til we're engaged? What things aren't allowed til we're married?

They taught us that the wedding day was a massive dividing line in the timeline of a couple's relationship. It marked the exact moment in time when they would finally be allowed to fully give themselves to each other, to completely and totally love and not hold anything back. Most importantly, you can FINALLY have sex. And live together.

"Wait," you may be saying, "they really said that's what a wedding is? That's the meaning of marriage?" Well they didn't say it directly- of course purity culture advocates would deny all day long that they believe marriage is basically a hoop you have to jump through in order to have sex. But go and look at what they teach, and what exactly they say about marriage. Most of the time, marriage is mentioned in sentences like "It's sinful to have sex before marriage." The entire premise behind purity culture is that having sex before marriage will RUIN YOUR LIFE, but very very rarely did I hear any warnings about rushing into marriage too fast. They didn't teach anything like "marriage is a really really big deal, so definitely take your time and decide if it's actually something you want to do." Nope, they pretty much just talked about sex, and only mentioned marriage as a requirement you must meet before you can have sex.

After the wedding, they said, you are officially allowed to have sex. A wedding is, apparently, a Grand Bestowing Of Permission. You stand before the government and your wedding guests, and make vows to your partner, and when everyone has witnessed how sweet and romantic and loving and committed you are, then you officially have permission to have sex, live together, and totally love each other.

Having sex before the wedding is bad, apparently, because you have a duty to stand up before a large group of people in fancy clothes and make a big announcement about it before sexy times can commence. To have sex without first notifying the public that you're going to have sex is bad, apparently.

Yeah, you have probably guessed that Hendrix and I don't buy that. We don't need anyone's permission. We are in charge of our relationship, and our wedding is not going to be a Grand Bestowing Of Permission. We already love each other and are fully committed to each other, and we want to celebrate that with our family and friends. We invite them so we can all celebrate together, not so they can be there to witness our relationship changing into one where we can finally fully love each other. And have sex.

Not that it's any of anyone's business, but we already do have sex. And we live together. (Please note that those are 2 completely unrelated things, though.) We're not going to say anything about our sex life at the wedding, because that's incredibly weird. Yes, I know at purity-culture weddings, the ceremony often includes an indirect or euphemistic reference to the fact that the couple hasn't had sex yet. That's weird, okay? All you ex-purity-culture people might not realize how bizarre and weird that is. In regular-people-land, whether or not a couple has had sex isn't public knowledge. (Related: You know that whole "white dress means virginity"? Yeah, not actually a real thing.)

I've heard a lot of purity-culture Christians talk about how terrible it is that young people nowadays are "acting like they're married." I guess this is a euphemism for having sex and/or living together? Pretty weird phrase to use though... if marriage is a good thing, then shouldn't we be glad that people are so interested in it that they're "acting like they're married" even if they're really not?

In our case, Hendrix and I have been acting like we're married since before we got engaged, I would say. What I mean is, we've been committed to each other, we've taken care of each other, we've made plans together and talked about big life decisions, we've worked together on housework, etc. It's been a gradual process of getting to know each other more and more, slowly becoming a better team.

In fact, just a few days ago we found ourselves at IKEA picking out a toilet brush, soap dish, and some other household things. It doesn't get much more "married couple" than that. Yes, there we were, having such scandalous and sinful conversations as this:
"Let's get this brush."
"Would it be for washing dishes or, like, cleaning the nasty stuff on the edge of the sink?"
"Let's get two- one for dishes and one for bathroom."
"Yeah, and let's get different colors so we don't mix them up."

And another thing: How weird is it that pastors talk about unmarried couples living together as if it's the most sinful, selfish thing, as if it's all about being lazy and irresponsible, being disobedient and taking the easy way out instead of getting married first like you're supposed to? I mean, seriously, living in a small apartment with another human being- even if you love them- can be hard. But listening to Christians talk about it, it sounds like some kind of endless sex party that's all about pleasure and avoiding responsibility. COME ON. When you live with someone, you have to have all sorts of conversations about housework, about money, about how they can't stand it when your cat leaves hair all over their clothes. You need to be a responsible adult in order to make it work.

But anyway. Hendrix and I don't need anyone's permission to love and be a couple. We decide what our relationship is. And now we've decided we want to invite a bunch of people to celebrate our love and commitment because it's such a beautiful thing. But that celebration doesn't somehow grant us permission to love.

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