I remember I was almost thirty when I had to sheepishly ask someone about the system of measurement used in high school whereby guys, especially, evaluated “how far” they had gotten with a girl.
For those not in the know:
1st base = “French” kissing (kissing that involves tongues in each others’ mouths, as opposed to the lips simply pressed together
2nd base = hand-to-(female) breast contact
3rd base = hand-down-the-pants: the vagina is touched
Homerun/scoring = sexual intercourse
Now, that was embarrassing to type out.
But it is a convenient, if childish, way to refer to the various levels of physical affection. (I will not use those terms here, though: I merely list the above as a public service!)
There are some women who may never feel the need to ask themselves the question of how much physical affection they are willing express while dating, and I respect that.
For me, though, waiting to have sex (um, again) before marriage is part of being a Christian. And part of the reason I created this blog is that I believe that no matter a woman’s religion (or lack thereof) it is spiritually – and emotionally – healthy to refrain from casual sex.
I have found it important to set limits for myself when it comes to, well, “making out” with a guy. I have been a Christian since high school, and before I had so much as kissed a guy, I had vowed to save sex until after I was married. Culturally, that had been the acceptable norm for my parents and their peers: which is to say, the older Baby Boomers. Then, came the ’60s and the Sexual Revolution. Things got complicated.
And they got especially complicated for me when during my college years I finally met a handsome, sexy guy who was as enamored with me as I was with him: something that seemed miraculous. All of my hypothetical resolve melted once real lust was at stake and the real-life chance for sex was finally at hand. I didn’t last long.
I’m not proud to say that being young, I foolishly acquiesced to sex with this young man because he said that if we didn’t have sex we might as well break up. I think this is common, though — and perhaps the more lonely a woman feels, the more likely she is to cave. I was just getting used to this uncommon privilege of having a boyfriend and I didn’t want to lose him. So I lost my virginity instead.
I was 22, and now I’m 37. Nowadays, of course, if a man dared to issue that sort of ultimatum to me, I would be out the door before he finished his sentence, laughing scornfully on my way out. But I was so very attracted to this young man, and wanted so much to please him, that my virginity seemed worth sacrificing.
I think two seconds after my now-infant niece finally turns twelve, I am going to warn her of the time-tested lines that no doubt young men still use with their girlfriends today to push them into having sex. If I believed them fifteen years ago, no doubt there are girls still believing these lies today:
We should have sex because…
“Once you start, you can’t stop.” (I think that eventually became the ad line for a popular potato chip brand)
“You can’t get me excited like this and then just stop things.”
“It hurts when I (get an erection) and I don’t have sex.”
And if the girl wants to wait until she’s married?
“I love you.”
“We’re going to get married anyway.”
The most ridiculous one is, “Now that we’ve gone this far, we have to go all the way.” The implication was that once the guy had an erection, my not having sex with him was some outrageous violation of his human rights. How cruel of me! What teases we women are! Oh, I have been called a tease, believe me.
I once asked a male friend of mine, a young Christian man whom I respected a lot (I still do) – about what the truth was when it came to a guy getting “stimulated” and what happens if he doesn’t get to have sex. Did it really hurt him? Did he simply have to take his pants off at this point?
He actually laughed at this (though not at me)! He said that of course that wasn’t true — that it didn’t even make sense that a man who had an erection “had” to have sex, or at least have to somehow ejaculate — as if he was a female cow who would suffer in pain unless she was milked before sundown.
After all, I’ve never had an erection, but I do know that it would not be convenient or socially acceptable to simply demand sex of whomever was around every time you had an erection. Neither could you probably masturbate conveniently every time this happened.
I remember in college a Christian girlfriend told me about a mutual friend – also a Christian – who had begun dating a fellow Christian man, and it was pretty serious. Right from the start, they decided they wouldn’t even kiss until and unless they got married!
My friend reacted with a kind of awe and admiration: wonder, even. But to me: no kissing? Why date, right? I pretty much saw dating as a way to get kissed, and a convenient thing to do if you ran out of things to talk about.
Then, of course, came that gem of a guy who said have-sex-or-we-break-up. But since that time, I have managed to avoid intercourse. Sadly, I have not been celibate, however: I have not managed to refrain from sex altogether. And I didn’t always want to refrain, either.
But it took me years to get over the heartbreak of that first boyfriend. And I knew it was because of our sexual relationship. Knowing that helped build my resolve to wait until marriage.
But I believe that remaining celibate has to do with regarding your body as a sacred thing: not just anyone can touch it. In other words, keeping yourself healthy emotionally and spiritually while dating means setting stricter limits (beyond swearing off sex) when it comes to physical affection.
For instance, I remember the heartbreak I felt when things ended with a man I had only known for a few weeks, but whom I felt pretty close to: an artificial closeness based, in part, on the fact that we had made out to the point where we were both naked, although we never did have sex.
In contrast, a few months later I dated a man with whom things actually became serious. We even planned (prematurely) to get married, and yet this time I decided to put on the brakes. Kissing only. That’s it. Nothing more. And however sad I was that we broke up, I never felt that almost physical sensation of my heart being wrung out like a wet towel. And I believe that the lack of long-term pain was due to our commitment to holding off on short-term pleasure.
In my experience, once you get comfortable kissing and feel confidence in your own desirability, it’s all-too-easy to go from kissing to having sex. In fact, as soon as your is in his mouth, you’re on the way to sex and it’s up to you to put on the brakes. If you let the part of your brain take over that demands instant and easy gratification – consequences be damned — well, you’re going to have to plan ahead if you don’t want to get pregnant.
Once I found out how easy it was to slide into sex, I understood the reasoning of the weird-sounding Christian couple who decided to avoiding even kissing.
That is not to say that I am ready and able to take on that policy: I just recognize its wisdom.
PS: It would not be fair to avoid answering the question I posed in the title to this post. Thus, I will say from personal experience that you should stop at French kissing. It’s worked for me.
Image: The Kiss, by Italian artist Francesco Hayez, 1859; available via public domain, thanks to Wikimedia