Two weeks ago I wrote on premarital virginity.
Last week I got married.
Towards the end of our wedding reception my husband and I danced along with our guests to the hip-hop song Give Me Everything Tonight, and we sang every word to each other. It seemed to capture our feelings quite well. And for the first time, we were allowed to really mean it.
But when he had carried me up the stairs (six flights!) to our secret room the song didn’t quite fit anymore. On the floor were rose petals and the theme song from Braveheart, For the Love of a Princess was playing in the background. (For those of you who do not know, this song is a beautiful, heart-wrenching bagpipe ballad played when Braveheart marries his princess in the forest. You should listen to it or watch the movie if you haven’t.) Give Me Everything Tonight suddenly seemed, well, kind of silly. I felt like a beautiful princess, not a Nicki Minaj set free, and he was a brave and handsome warrior. I’ll take you to the candy shop, and all other previously forbidden language and concepts became jokes that sure, we could now say to one another, but why would we when Braveheart finally was alone with his princess?
And why is this weird? Because lovely bagpipe melodies are not what our culture associates with sex. In our culture sex is supposed to be dirty. Desirable and necessary and fun and unavoidable, but dirty. Gone are the days where children grow up admiring the statue of David or the painting of the Birth of Venus. Children are shielded from such things. Instead, at younger and younger ages, they are introduced to Victoria’s Secret models and The Hangover. We want to hide our five year olds from any knowledge of sex whatsoever and we mourn the first time they learn of it—but once they do learn of it, we shower them in condoms and birth control pills and consider it none of our business when they want to try it out. We hate the idea of our daughters dating, but we let our sons look at porn. We now hide sex not because it is precious or sacred but because it is shameful and disgusting. It destroys innocence, it’s mischievous, but everybody ought to do it anyway. And what a confusing contradiction this is! We can’t handle the idea of sex being something beautiful and perhaps unattainable whether for a short time or forever. We’d rather be animals, seizing it violently. We’d rather joke about it and laugh about it and flirt about it and use it than actually talk about it or admire its beauty. We treat sex like an inevitable fall. In other words, we humans have to eat from the forbidden apple, so let’s just get it over with.
My husband and I are a part of this culture and so we could not help but be influenced by it to some degree. And so once we went inside our beautiful hotel room we actually became a little sad. We both felt like children of Eden, standing at the foot of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Up until now the world had been telling us seize that apple and eat it! And we had resisted. But now, we were supposed to take it? We were supposed to do something dirty? What if we just stayed here and danced to this beautiful song and held each other? Wouldn’t that be enough? Goodness was too wonderful and too beautiful to be thrown away in pursuit of an apple.
But this is where our culture was so wrong. For when we turned around and braced ourselves to look at the tree, it was as if an angel came down and smiled, and led us back into the garden—to a time even before we met. What had been hailed as the breaker of innocence I now understood as the breaker of insecurity, bitterness, and all the many walls we build around ourselves as we grow old. The nakedness we might associate with a dark and sultry club scene can be instead the nakedness like that of cherubs. What we might think of as the end of childhood, can be only the beginning—a rebirth, together, unashamed and pure.
Sex has been deemed dirty because sin is dirty. The apple was never dirty– just the act of taking it when it wasn’t yours to take. The problem is, in our culture, we have nearly forgotten the difference between sex and sin. We have forgotten that they do not have to, and ought not go together. The prevalence of taking the apple when it’s not yours to take has muddied our conception of sex and even love. Deep down, when we steal something, we are ashamed and so we hide in dark alleys. On the contrary, when we are given something precious and sacred, we don’t hide in dark alleys. We seek the most beautiful castle for shelter in which to properly adore and adorn our gift. That’s what is so cool about marriage. You are given to. You don’t have to request give me everything because it is implicit that you will both be giving everything, freely and always. And you don’t have to be ashamed and you don’t have to lose any innocence.
My husband and I heard Candy Shop the other day and we laughed, but honestly, 50 Cent seems kind of pitiful now as he grunts out his animalistic desires to a woman he treats like an animal. Once sex became completely accessible to him to grab and seize, it lost its beauty and grandeur. It lost its humanity and became associated with dogs and cows (literal terms used in our culture to discuss sexuality.) What might be seen as the freedom to do what you want when you want becomes a stifling slavery to sin and a lonely dwelling in a dark alley.
I want to end with a quote by G.K. Chesterton. He says this in reply to the complaints about the “rules” within many religions. We hear this all the time: I love Jesus, but I don’t like how organized religion has all those rules. Why shouldn’t I be able to have sex with someone I love? Why shouldn’t I be able to… etc. Here is what Chesterton says:
Those countries in Europe which are still influenced by priests are exactly the countries where there is still singing and dancing and coloured dresses and art in the open-air. Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism. We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased. – Orthodoxy, Chapter 9
When you enter into marriage, (really, when you enter into family, religion, or any sort of place where there are “rules”) you enter into a room surrounded by walls. But as I have learned particularly in the past two weeks, if you submit to them they are entirely the walls of a playground. And the walls of a playground are far more free and light and beautiful than the walls of a club. My husband and I will still dance to and sing Give Me Everything Tonight, but it will be with a laugh and the knowledge that Pit Bull only knows the half of it.