God, Abstinence Is Sexy

“What!” yelled one of the ten Greek men in my tour group, “Harvard students don’t fuck?”

“But I was going to apply here,” another whined.

I had been their tour guide for less than 20 minutes, but already I had disappointed them. They held up their tiny pink fliers and demanded an explanation.

At the time, I explained away the squares of paper as being gifts from some well-intentioned Catholic students. But I was wrong. The kids handing out fliers had been members of True Love Revolution (TLR)—Harvard’s newest pro-abstinence group, which provides a non-religious rationale for waiting until marriage. I was eager to see if a secular argument could be as compelling as threats of eternal hell-fire, which, even if they’ve not convinced me to keep my belt tied, have always made me feel, at the very least, temporarily slutty.

“Benefits of abstinence transcend any religion,” one of the group’s co-presidents, Sarah M. Kinsella ’07, explained. “We wanted to make it so that the entire campus could get involved.” Well, if I were a women, gender and sexuality major, I would have responded by slamming down a cup of espresso (for emphasis), and said something about heteronormativity, since for certain couples in certain states, sex is always, technically, pre-marital. If I were a boy, and knew things, I would have proceeded by pointing out some of the problematic statistics on TLR’s website. And if I were a girl, I would have giggled and blown a spit bubble.

But I’m not hip, or smart, or mentally challenged. I am me. So, I asked the same question I pose regardless of context: “What about dry-humping?”

Seriously, though, what are the rules? Because the non-abstinence people give me latex and polyurethane to lay between penis, vagina, anus, mouth, and bellybutton. They have very specific instructions: When I see genitals, even if I’m not “sticking it to them,” I’m to cover them with rubber. I get that. But if TLR has different laws, Sarah was going to have to lay them out for me.

Sarah explained that the group is mostly concerned with addressing the benefits of waiting for sex until marriage.

But what about dry-humping?

“We’re concerned with general abstinence,” she said.

So, can I do the dry-humping?

“We’re not out to condemn anything,” Sarah’s co-president, Justin S. Murray ’07 told me later on. He explained that abstinent couples can find creative ways to have fun without intercourse.

“There are tons of enjoyable and affectionate things that couples can do,” Justin said. “You can share long conversations to learn about one another’s past and dreams for the future. You can take walks along the river, enjoy dates involving dinner or dancing, kiss and cuddle, discover ways to serve other people together.”

That’s fine. But while I’m listening to my Mr. Special tell me about his goal to become an astronaut, which of his body parts is fair game, and, more importantly, can I hump it?

According to Newsweek, some people find it helpful to use the Soccer Uniform Rule when exploring appropriate kinds of contact. That is, no touching areas that would be covered up by shorts and a t-shirt.

But this only confuses me more. What if it’s a smallish soccer uniform, such as one that Hot Girl might wear to a Halloween party? Not to mention, I’m totally screwed because my ankles are my most appealing body part, so how am I supposed to keep all those horny college students away from me with the soccer rule?

My confusion must have been obvious, and Sarah, bless her, brought out some facts of life. With infinite patience, she told me how females release hormones during sexual activity that bond them to their partner, and how males are such visual creatures that, for them, sex can sear vivid and potentially damaging memories into their minds.

Now that’s hot.

Jesus Christ, abstinence is sexy. Even talking about abstaining has made me hard. I still don’t really understand the rules, but I am very, very aroused. Last time I felt this amorous and tried to wait was when I saw Equus with some family friends and, out of politeness, held out until Act 2. My balls turned blue, and I couldn’t look at a horse for months without some degree of pain.

And, okay, so maybe none of TLR’s members are going to jump into bed with me, but I’m really glad there’s a supportive group on campus for folks who want to wait to get thumped. Just like any personal preference—whether it be for hand holding, leather daddies, or, in my case, sex hammocks—it’s easier to stick to your guns when you’ve got like-minded people to back you up.

At the same time, though, even after all of my hard-hitting questions, I still don’t understand why TLR asked God to leave the party. TLR’s presidents are Roman Catholic, heterosexual, abstinent, and dating each other, and though hard facts can add legitimacy to ideology, the statistics on TLR’s web site—intended, I think, to seem terrifying—are not at all convincing. For instance, TLR asserts that pre-marital sex acts put me at higher risk of depression. But do they seriously expect me to believe that dry-humping could make me sad when it feels so darn good? And let’s pretend for a moment that there’s a chance they’re right, and I do get a little down in the dumps.

Isn’t that what God created Prozac for?



Kathleen E. Hale ’09 is an English and American literature concentrator in Winthrop House.