There was a mystery writers’ conference in town recently. It was scheduled to last all day. A well-known author was scheduled to speak and talk about his books. When he got up to speak, he announced a “spoiler alert” because he was going to talk about his most recent book and how it ended. Those in attendance who had not read the book got up and walked to the back of the auditorium, where they found a separate room off to the side. Meanwhile, those who had read the book stayed in their seats. When he finished talking about his new book, he called them back in and asked them to sit on the side of the auditorium where a “newbie” sign had been placed and those who had read it to sit on the side where an “oldies” sign had been placed. He continued to talk about how to develop characters for a couple of more hours.
When lunch came around, can you guess who sat with whom? Yep, those who did know how the book ended sat together and those who did not know how the book ended sat together. They even had the diplomacy to sit on opposite sides of the cafeteria, so they couldn’t overhear each other’s conversation. People who had read it talked about the plot, the time frame, the characters, the places, everything about it. They laughed amongst themselves, with knowing laughter, while they discussed the story line and how it compared with other books. One girl actually stood up and, in a hushed whisper, told everybody that two of the characters in the book were actually brother and sister, a detail not too many people knew about. The people who had not read it were not in on what the laughter was all about. But they thought a little time of not knowing was worth it to preserve the mystery. They talked about why they liked mysteries, who their favorite authors were, sequels they would like to see, and how they could incorporate a trip to mars into a story. They also talked about which books they were currently reading and when they would get their copies of the book being discussed at the conference. A few of them said they’d changed their minds and had decided not to order it because they had learned of another one that was even better. This is a classic example of natural social division. It had nothing to do with shaming, evilness, condemnation, judging, and so on. It did not run along the lines of gender, age, race, class, or marital status.
It’s the same way with the mystery of sex. Is there a mystery more profound than sex and the creation of new life? I can’t think of one. It is infinitely more mysterious than a mystery novel. Given this, wouldn’t you think there were be a natural social division between those who have had sex and those who have not? God seemed to think there would be. That’s why he called one group virgins and one group marrieds.
The Elephant Man (1980) is one of my favorite movies. It’s about a man who was ostracized from society because of a disfiguring medical condition called neurofibromatosis. His face was enough to cause children to shriek. It was based on a true story. I was 19 years old at the time and I related to the story of Joseph Merrick. Here was a man who had been socially outcast and relegated to circus sideshows, not because of his character, but because of his appearance. I sometimes felt like a freak in a sideshow when I was 19. I heard a lot of “knowing laughter.” Shawna Sparrow described this very well in her book, Tough Crowd: My Adventures as a Chastity Educator:
“The word virgin has become code for ‘loser,” and it usually conjures images of being unattractive and undesirable. In our popular culture, someone who is a virgin is usually portrayed as an overweight geek living in his parents’ basement. So as a companion to the message, ‘Sex is cool,’ the media also gives us the message, ‘Virginity is lame.'”
As I got older, I realized that I was not the only one my age who had never had sex. And that had a TREMENDOUS effect on my commitment to wait. The value of relatability cannot be underestimated, especially when it comes to passing sexual ethics to the next generation. “If that person can do it, I can do it too.” There is NOTHING more powerful in a young person’s life than finding a person to relate to. And in the case of chastity, that is not going to be his/her parents. If the Elephant Man was your son, who would you rather him meet – the latest male model on the cover of GQ Magazine or another person suffering from neurofibromatosis and their family? What are you willing to do to preserve a sacred mystery?