A 2001 study suggests one in six people between the ages of 12 and 28 has taken what’s called a “purity pledge” – meaning they will refrain from sex until marriage. Emily Schwiezer and her fiancé Michael Falls, both 5th year Indiana University seniors, are waiting until their wedding day at the end of the month.
I mean, sex, to me, is about becoming one with my husband, and I believe it’s an act of worship too, to God,” Schweizer said. “I believe that’s what it’s made for.”
Falls and Schweizer found their faith during their time at IU, pledging to abstain from sexual behavior both personally and with each other: they haven’t even kissed since December.
“We’re by no means saints,” Falls said. “And we experience the exact same desires that everyone else experiences, so it has been tough to keep our values.”
John Santelli, Chairman of the Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University, said people like Michael and Emily are certainly in the minority.
“The percentage of people that wait until marriage to have sex is actually vanishingly small, probably only 3% of people wait until marriage to have sex,” he said. “It hearkens back to some very old social movements. I think it’s always had a certain cultural value; it’s a funny cultural value, however, because we find most people don’t actually do this archetype of waiting until marriage.”
But for Falls and Schweizer, it’s worth the wait, even if Emily’s own family doesn’t understand the decision.
“My family thinks I’m crazy for waiting this long,” Schweizer said. “I think they’re slightly worried, too, but no, definitely it was an individual decision, a personal choice. I don’t want to get to my wedding day and regret things that we’ve done physically when I know that we could have waited or should have waited.”
“When Emily’s mom found out we weren’t kissing, they made fun of us,” Michael said. “Just poking fun. But as far as our friends, most of our friends share our values. My roommates are the same way.”
Al Teaters lives with Michael and is getting married to his fiancée, Leanna, this August. But unlike his housemate, he’s had sex before. Teaters says it’s a sin he’s committed, but believes he’s been forgiven. So he considers himself pure for his wife, even though he admits having had sex before has caused some struggles in his current relationship.
“I lost my virginity when I was 16. Since 7th or 8th grade, it was the way I found my emotional security,” Teaters said. “Those decisions affect my relationship with my fiancée now, because I’ve taught myself that physical intimacy is how you should connect with someone, including before marriage. After marriage, I think it’s completely valid. What I saw happen was my heart broke down; my relationship broke down.”
But Columbia’s John Santelli points out Teaters is in the majority.
But IU sophomore Hope Spector, who’s studying to be a sexual therapist, sees the act in a different way.
We’re one of the only species that has sex for pleasure. We should embrace it; we shouldn’t frown upon it,” she said. “It’s a gift. Use it. Open it. Do something with it. Don’t keep it locked up in a cabinet for years to come.”
But for Falls and Schweizer, sex won’t just be about pleasure, and as far as they’re concerned, they’ll consummate their relationship soon enough.
“How good it’s going to feel and finally getting to do it actually has nothing to do with the way I think about the first time I have sex. It has everything to do with becoming one with my wife, which is the way God intended,” Falls said. The honeymoon, we might go crazy a little… I don’t know… We’ll see.”
“I think if we were supposed to walk down the aisle today,” Emily said, “I could do it for sure. I feel like by May 29, I will be like, running down the aisle to get married.”