Category Archives: Fidelity

What Happens To Men Who Stay Abstinent Until Marriage?

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by Sarah Diefendorf

Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara arrive at a White House State Dinner in April.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend, the singer Ciara, recently announced plans to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.

It was a vow that came as a surprise to many. After all, sexual purity is a commitment that is historically expected of, associated with – even demanded of – women. However, sexual abstinence is not something assumed of men, especially men like Russell Wilson.

Wilson, an accomplished, attractive athlete, embodies contemporary ideals of masculinity, which include style, wealth and, yes, sexual prowess.

So how does a man like Russell Wilson navigate a commitment to abstinence while upholding ideals of masculinity? Wilson’s status as an athlete and heartthrob is likely giving him what sociologist CJ Pascoe calls “jock insurance.” In other words, due to his celebrity status, he can make traditionally nonmasculine choices without having his masculinity questioned.

But what does it mean for a man who isn’t in the limelight, who makes a similar type of commitment to abstinence? And what does it mean for the women they date, and might eventually marry?

I’ve been researching men who pledge sexual abstinence since 2008, work that comes out of a larger scholarly interest in masculinities, religion and sex education.

While men make this commitment with the good intentions for a fulfilling marriage and sex life, my research indicates that the beliefs about sexuality and gender that come hand in hand with these pledges of abstinence do not necessarily make for an easy transition to a married sexual life.

Who’s Pledging “Purity?”

Comedian Joy Behar recently joked that abstinence is what you do after you’ve been married for a long time. Here, Behar makes two assumptions. One is that sexual activity declines both with age and the time spent in a relationship. This is true.

The second is that abstinence is not something you do before marriage. For the most part, this is true as well: by age 21, 85% of men and 81% of women in the United States have engaged in sexual intercourse.

purity ringIf we compare these numbers to the average age of first marriage in the United States – 27 for women, and 29 for men – we get the picture: most people are having sex before marriage.

Still, some in the United States are making “virginity pledges,” and commit to abstinence until marriage. Most of the data that exist on this practice show that those who make the pledges will do so in high school, often by either signing a pledge card or donning a purity ring.

Research on this population tells us a few things: that those who pledge are more likely to be young women, and that – regardless of gender – an abstinence pledge delays the onset of sexual activity by only 18 months. Furthermore, taking a virginity pledge will often encourage other types of sexual behavior.

Virgins In Guyland

But little is known about men who pledge and navigate this commitment to abstinence.

I was curious about how men maintain pledges in light of these statistics, and also balance them with expectations about masculinity. So in 2008, I began researching a support group of 15 men at an Evangelical church in the Southwest. All members were white, in their early to mid-20’s, single or casually dating – and supporting each other in their decisions to remain abstinent until marriage.

The group, called The River, met once a week, where, sitting on couches, eating pizza or talking about video games, they’d eventually gravitate toward the topic that brought them all together in the first place: sex.

On the surface, it would seem impossible for these men to participate in what sociologist Michael Kimmel calls “Guyland” – a developmental and social stage driven by a “guy code” that demands, among other things, sexual conquest and detached intimacy.

Rather, the men of The River approach sex as something sacred, a gift from God meant to be enjoyed in the confines of the marriage bed. At the same time, these men struggle with what they describe as the “beastly elements” – or temptations – of sexuality. And it is precisely because of these so-called beastly elements that these men find each other in the same space every week.

The men of The River grappled with pornography use, masturbation, lust and same-sex desire, all of which can potentially derail these men from their pledge.

It raises an interesting dilemma: to these men, sex is both sacred and beastly. Yet the way they navigate this seeming contradiction actually allows them to exert their masculinity in line with the demands of Guyland.

Group members had an elaborate network of accountability partners to help them resist temptations. For example, one had an accountability partner who viewed his weekly online browsing history to make sure he wasn’t looking at pornography. Another accountability partner texted him each night to make sure that he and his girlfriend were “behaving.”

While these behaviors may seem unusual, they work in ways that allow men to actually assert their masculinity. Through what sociologist Amy Wilkins calls “collective performances of temptation,” these men are able to discuss just how difficult it is to refrain from the beastly urges; in this way, they reinforce the norm that they are highly sexual men, even in the absence of sexual activity.

The River, as a support group, works largely in the same way. These men are able to confirm their sexual desires in a homosocial space – similar to Kimmel’s research in Guyland – from which Kimmel notes that the “actual experience of sex pales in comparison to the experience of talking about sex.”

A ‘Sacred Gift’ – With Mixed Returns

The men of The River believed that the time and work required to maintain these pledges would pay off in the form of a happy and healthy marriage.

Ciara, in discussing her commitment to abstinence with Russell Wilson, similarly added that she believes such a promise is important for creating a foundation of love and friendship. She stated that, “if we have that [base] that strong, we can conquer anything with our love.”

So what happened once after the men of The River got married? In 2011, I followed up with them.

All but one had gotten married. But while the transition to married life brought promises of enjoying their “sacred gift from God,” this gift was fraught.

Respondents reported that they still struggled with the beastly elements of sexuality. They also had the added concern of extramarital affairs. Furthermore – and perhaps most importantly – men no longer had the support to work through these temptations.

There were two reasons behind this development.

First, respondents had been told, since they were young, that women were nonsexual. At the same time, these men had also been taught that their wives would be available for their pleasure.

It’s a double standard that’s in line with longstanding cultural ideals of the relationship between femininity and purity. But it’s a contradiction that leaves men unwilling to open up to the very women they’re having sex with.

These married men and women were not talking to each other about sex. Rather than freely discussing sex or temptation with their wives (as they had done with their accountability partners), the men simply tried to suppress temptation by imagining the devastation any sexual deviations might cause their wives.

after marriage

After marriage, the men felt left to their own devices.

Second, these men could no longer reach out to their support networks due to their own ideals of masculinity. They had been promised a sacred gift: a sexually active, happy marriage. Yet many weren’t fully satisfied, as evidenced by the continued tension between the sacred and beastly. However, to open up about these continued struggles would be to admit failure as masculine, Christian man.

In the end, the research indicates that a pledge of sexual abstinence works to uphold an ideal of masculinity that disadvantages both men and women.

After 25 years of being told that sex is something dangerous that needs to be controlled, the transition to married (and sexual) life is difficult, at best, while leaving men without the support they need. Women, meanwhile, are often left out of the conversation entirely.

So when we urge abstinence in place of healthy conversations about sex and sexuality, we may be undermining the relationships that are the driving goal of these commitments in the first place.

Complete Article HERE!

More Sex EDGE-U-cation with Kathy Labriola — Podcast #394 — 10/16/13


Hey sex fans, welcome back.

Author, educator, counselor, nurse and hypnotherapist, the delightful Kathy Labriola is back with us for Part 2 of her k2outdoorappearance on this the Sex EDGE-U-cation show.

But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of our chat, did you? Well not to worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in the Podcast Archive right here on my site. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the header; type in Podcast #393 and PRESTO! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

Kathy and I discuss:

  • Autonomy vs. intimacy;
  • Love In Abundance; A Counselor’s Advice on Open Relationships;
  • Being a card-caring bisexual;
  • Advocating for poly rights, but not universal polyamory;
  • The role the internet plays in building the poly community;
  • The fallacy that people are repressed into monogamy;
  • Serial adultery and the myth of life-long monogamy;
  • Tips for coming out as poly;
  • The people who inspire her and her sexual heroes.

 

You’ll find lots of information about Kathy on her fantastic website HERE!

Click on the book art below to check out Kathy’s books.

Jealousy WorkbookLove in Abundance

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: DR DICK’S — HOW TO VIDEO LIBRARY.

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Sex EDGE-U-cation with Kathy Labriola — Podcast #393 — 10/09/13


Hey sex fans, welcome back.Kathy w chicks

Coming up is a brand-spankin’ new edition of the Sex EDGE-U-cation show. By now I’m sure you know that this is the series that takes a look at the world of fetish sex, kink, and alternative lifestyles and we do so with remarkably talented people from all over the freakin’ world, don’t cha know. My guest today is one such person. Author, educator, counselor, nurse and hypnotherapist, the oh so amazing Kathy Labriola is in the house!

Kathy has been writing, and teaching, and presenting on the topic of open relationships for decades. She has a brand new book out that deals with one of the biggest bugaboos for the non-monogamy set, as well as all you monogamous folks out there. And that is — jealousy. You can be sure that we well be talking about that timely topic and so much more. You won’t want to miss this sex fans!

Kathy and I discuss:

  • The whole workbook concept;
  • Dealing with emotional responses to triggers in our relationships;
  • Jealousy and envy;
  • Belief in a sacristy economy fuels jealousy;
  • Seeing if an open relationship is right for you before tackling jealousy;
  • The disparity in feeling of jealousy in a relationship;
  • How we grow up my determine how fit we are for open relationships;
  • Her background and training;
  • Ethical non-monogamy, polyamory, and open relationships;
  • Her feminist perspective on monogamy and other relationship models.

 

You’ll find lots of information about Kathy on her fantastic website HERE!

Click on the book art below to check out Kathy’s books.

Jealousy WorkbookLove in Abundance

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Stockroom.

drdicksstockroom.jpg

SEX WISDOM With Pamela Madsen — Podcast #279 — 05/18/11


Hello sex fans! Welcome back.

Ya know I was thinking some weeks ago that we haven’t had a kick-ass SEX WISDOM podcast since Carol Queen was on my show way back in early march. This is, of course, the podcast series where I chat with researchers, educators, clinicians, pundits and philosophers who are helping us take a fresh look at our sexual selves. So I started to rummage through my little black book to find us the perfect person to break this sex wisdom drought. And guess who I found?

Well, I’ll tell ya. She is an amazing woman — she is a fertility/sex educator, blogger, author of:  Shameless: How I Ditched the Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure… and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner, a motivational speaker and founder of The American Fertility Association. Here with me is the irrepressible Pamela Madsen. Prepare to laugh your ass off, sex fans. I know you will enjoy her as much as I do.

Pamela and I discuss:

  • All of her “parts”;
  • Her crooked mainstream life;
  • Permission giving;
  • Being a swell mommy;
  • How her book got its title;
  • It’s only kinky the first time;
  • Tips for becoming visible;
  • Her martini circle;
  • Erotic massage for women;
  • Her surrender.

Pamela invites you to visit her on her site HERE!  Her Psychology Today column is HERE!  Look for her on The Fertility Advocate HERE!  She’s on Facebook HERE! And enjoy her twitter feed HERE!

(Click on the book art below to get more information about her book.)

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: Adam & Eve.com.

More Sex EDGE-U-cation With Cooper Beckett & Ginger – Podcast #272 – 04/06/11

Hey sex fans, welcome back!

I’m so glad it’s finally Wednesday, because the founder of Life On The Swingset, Cooper Beckett, and his podcast co-host Ginger are here with more of their signature Sex EDGE-U-cation. I’ve been salivating for their return since Part 1 of this show appeared here last Wednesday.

But wait; you didn’t miss last week’s show, did you? Well, don’t worry if ya did, because Part 1 of our chat is archived right here on my site. Simply use the site’s search function in the header. Type in Podcast #270 and PRESTO! But hey, don’t forget to use the #sign when you search.

Ginger, Cooper and I discuss:

  • The sex toy review section of their site;
  • Promoting anal toys and pegging;
  • Similarities and differences between swinging and polyamory;
  • What’s consensual non-monogamy;
  • Swinging remains edgy for lots of people;
  • The CBS series, Swingtown, and other cultural references;
  • Debunking the swinger myths;
  • Communication, the backbone of all alternative lifestyles;
  • Working to close the bisexual double standard — W/W and M/M;
  • Embracing sexual diversity.

Be sure to visit Coop & Ginger on their site HERE! Find him on Facebook HERE! Read her blog HERE! And follow them both on Twitter HERE & HERE!

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Sex Advice and Dr Dick’s Sex Toy Review.

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode

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