When I was 19 years old, I was coming out of a super rough place in my life. I think I needed structure, and I found structure and a level of family in the church.

I also think I was easily persuaded. I hadn’t had much structure in my life because of a rough family upbringing, so whatever they said, I was like, okay, this is what I believe.
The bible says not to have sex before marriage, and at the time, I believed I wanted to wait until marriage and it was the “right” way to do things.

It talks about how when a man and a woman come together, they become one. They teach that if you’re becoming one with all these people, it’s not necessarily a good thing, and at the time, it made sense to me that having sex with multiple people and sharing your energy with them and becoming attached was not healthy.

It honestly wasn’t a sexual thing. It was more about my own personal relationship with God and my relationship with myself.

I didn’t go on a single date in these six years. I didn’t masturbate at all. It was just not something I thought about. There were definitely people I was attracted to in that time that I didn’t act on. And the guys that did try to talk to me, as soon as I told them I was celibate — radio silence.

That taught me that my worth isn’t found in what a man thinks of me. My worth is found in what I think of myself, and I didn’t want any outside influence messing with my self-esteem.

Being celibate became a good way of figuring out who I was, and what I wanted, which was positive. But part of it had nothing to do with religion, it was just me wanting to protect myself — and that’s when it became an extreme.

I was trying so hard to create a stable environment for myself, and thought that if I had no men in my life, I wouldn’t have to deal with any chaos. Like, I just came from all this chaos, and then I went into this other extreme that was stability.

The first person I had sex with after that period was also the last person I had sex with before I became celibate. I met up with him randomly six years later, and it just happened. It wasn’t planned out.

Not immediately, but afterwards, I felt this extreme regret, like why did I do that? For me, it was super devastating — I had waited six years to have sex, I wanted the next time to be something that mattered. I think I only talked to him one time after that.

I didn’t have sex again after that for at least another year.

Eventually, I started questioning what I believed, and sex was another area that made me wonder, do I need to wait until marriage? Probably not.

I think my problem when I was younger was that I thought everything was black and white. I was either really really wild or saintly. I think now, I’m learning the beauty of the in-between — there doesn’t have to be any sex, but there doesn’t have to not be any sex. I can feel how I feel without feeling ashamed.

I’m still at a place where I’m questioning what I believe. I question the bible and how we interpret it and what that means in my life, but I know God is real for me. I think if I wanted to pray everyday again and continue to have sex, I can be just as close to God as I was before.

I don’t have sex with a bunch of people now, but I can choose my partners because I like the person and I can feel good about it. I don’t have to feel like my self-esteem is based on someone else. I’m glad I took the time to get to know myself more.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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