Wedding Woes

At the corner of purity culture, predators, and the patriarchy

Dear Prudence,

I lost my virginity when I was 16. I had been groomed by someone 14 years older than me since I was a teen and led to believe it was a relationship, when in reality all this person wanted was “my virginity.” In any case, I finally figured out the whole thing after he ghosted me when I became “used goods” (words my groomer used). I picked up the broken pieces of my life, went on to have another relationship, broke up, and found my husband. Unfortunately for me, my husband was a virgin when we married (he saved himself for his one true love a.k.a. me). It happened that when he disclosed this to me we were both semi-drunk and in the starting phases of love. When he asked me if I was a virgin too, I said yes. You see where the problem is now … we have been blissfully married for six years now with a toddler and couldn’t be happier, but every now and then, this particular scene flashes in my head. Are you a virgin too? When I lied, I was obviously in a state of panic/denial/ shame/love and other things, but I lied to my husband. He has no issues about my past (I however did not go into major detail about the groomer—again shame played a big part here), but I feel miserable. On the one hand, I feel like I cheated my loving, trusting partner, and on the other feel, I feel so ashamed that if I have to tell anyone how I lost my virginity, they will think I am trash. I can’t stop thinking about this, and every time my husband proudly talks about me to someone else, I feel I don’t deserve his love. What should I do?

— Not a Virgin

Re: At the corner of purity culture, predators, and the patriarchy

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    Get to a therapist! 

    IMO, this secret is worth keeping at this point but what you need to do is figure out why you're continuing to internalize this. 

    What I'm curious about is why the LW went into details about the groomer but not the virginity.  Was the H asking for a case of purity culture of an exposure to STDs?  There's a lot of info that's needed here. 
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    Go to a therapist and ultimately marriage counseling so both of you and your kids can escape this toxic obsession with virginity. 
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    @banana468 I think you know it was purity culture. You don’t ask about “virginity” specifically and talk about “saving yourself for marriage” if it’s not a purity thing. 

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    levioosa said:
    @banana468 I think you know it was purity culture. You don’t ask about “virginity” specifically and talk about “saving yourself for marriage” if it’s not a purity thing. 
    Yeah -the more I think about it you're right. 

    It's one thing to ask for the sake of STDs but when phrased as "saving yourself" there are deeper roots in there that are problematic. 
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    I'm more curious if it was only that one time she said she was a virgin or if it also led to other lies related to that.

    If it was just the one-time, especially if they were both drunk, it's too bad she's even still thinking about it.  That could've been chalked up to "he asked me a loaded question that brought up difficult memories, I didn't want to get into."

    After all, not every question deserves an answer.

    But I suspect this first lie has also led to a lot of lying by omission, over the years.  That's the part I could understand her H being upset about.

    This might be an UO, but I think uber religious people often really f**k their kids up.  I had a friend in college who grew up in this kind of conservative, chauvinistic religious household.  She was saving her virginity for marriage, because "that's what women are supposed to do".  Her b/f raped her, early on in their relationship.  But since he was the one who "took her virginity", she felt she needed to stay with this POS.  They dated for two years and eventually got engaged.  Fortunately, she finally broke it off.

    I knew he was verbally abusive to her, but she never told me about the sexual abuse until years later.

    And the cycle continues.  She got married to a great guy, other than he's also jumped on her super religious bandwagon.  They have one daughter, who is now 15.  She's never gone to school.  She's always been home-schooled, even though she is high-school aged now.  I worry she's ripe to be a victim of the wrong guy.  She's purposely been kept in a safe bubble her whole life.  The only other kids/people she ever meets are exactly like her.  White, middle class, politically conservative, uber-Christian. 
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
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    Therapy. There is nothing inherently valuable about virginity and you are not shameful or dirty because of what happened to you.Work out with the therapist if you want to tell him and if it’s a safe place for you to do that. 
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    levioosalevioosa member
    First Anniversary First Comment First Answer 5 Love Its
    edited May 2022
    I will never forget the time my ex bf’s “mentor” (we were probably 20 at the time) talked to him about purity and virginity, and he trusted him with the info that we had fooled around a little. Cue to the whole “bible study” knowing and the mentor taking me aside and telling me that I shouldn’t tempt him with my breasts as it was impure and wrong. Mind you he didn’t put any culpability on ex-bf enthusiastically “crossing boundaries.” I was so upset for multiple reasons. Fuck purity culture. It’s the absolute worst and it lead to a lot of trauma in my childhood and adulthood. Even H has had a very complicated relationship with purity growing up a very conservative Catholic. We had to work hard to break down the trauma and insecurities and to enjoy the relationship we have now. 

    Edit to clarify: ex bf and I were probably 20. His mentor was in his 60s and he also started to ask me invasive details about our intimacy and my body that were just so over the line. 

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    @short+sassy,  agreed.  It's insane indoctrination.  The stories DH has told me about how shameful he felt about sex because of what he learned in church just makes me so sad for him and his younger self.  He's also come so far as well in how he's been able to see how it was fucked up and release some of that self-blame.
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    LW needs therapy b/c she's still internalizing shame over something that happened to her that wasn't her fault and never was.  That's what purity culture is doing to her.  Then, I hesitate.  B/c I don't think she should have to tell her husband, BUT if they're still all up in purity culture and she does the work to leave the shame behind...there's either a bridge or a wall that's going to be built and it really isn't focused around her sexual history at all.  
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