Attending Catholic school as a young child makes my first memories of learning about sex, well….awkward. To this day, I will always remember our seventh grade religion teacher, who was a very old and slightly obease nun, and how she chose to teach our sex lesson. Each student was given a certain scenario that we would have to role play with the Sister, and I particularly remember having to confess to her (she was playing my boyfriend) that I was pregnant (I wasn’t, of course, but my character was). I don’t know if they made deodorant strong enough to stop me from sweating that day. Looking around the classroom, every single student’s cheeks were looking a litttlleee more rosy than usual. As we exited the classroom, the sweet sound of silence rung through the hallways, and I remember thinking how I could probably never talk to a boy again.
We are constantly fed conflicting narratives on sex- from the media, from our friends, from politicians- you name it. One of the media sources that recently has provided an interesting narrative on sex is none other than my favorite show, The Bachelor. For those who are unaware of the structure of the show, when the bachelor is down to his final three contestants, they spend the night in the “fantasy suite”, an intimate arrangement where the bachelor and the ladies can spend a night together without cameras. For obvious reasons, there are a lot of implications around the fantasy suite. Some couples do simply use the time to catch up and chat, while others use the time to experience more physical intimacy.
Those who are watching this season of The Bachelor (and for those who aren’t, I promise you, this will connect to greater themes) probably know that Madison, who is a virgin and is saving herself for marriage, has piqued interest across the nation, as well as sparked a lot of controversy. As a woman of faith who has grown up on very similar principles as Madison, this episode has sparked a lot of thoughts, feelings, and debates within myself, and taught me lessons on how to handle the topic of your sexuality within a relationship.
When watching last night’s episode (aired on February 24, 2020), my very first thought was about the importance of communicating your boundaries with your significant other. When Madison pulled Peter aside after the rose ceremony to tell him it would be hard for her to continue if he was intimate with the other women, she never mentioned why. Explaining the “why” is the difference between healthy boundary setting and giving ultimatums. There is nothing wrong with setting expectations for your partner, but you need to be open about those expectations for your partner and for yourself early on in the relationship. If these expectations are not set early on, confusion, distrust, and tension will ultimately plague your relationship. It is crucially important that both people are on the same page from early stages of the relationship.
Part of the reason why Madison had trouble explaining her “why”, in my opinion, is because of her upbringing, and how talking about sex was never made easy. Watching her talk to Peter, I was picturing myself in middle school, in my plaid uniform skirt, having to talk abou sex with our dear religion teacher. I was uncomfortable with Madison’s discomfort, and yet understood where it was coming from. While Madison has made extremely admirable choices for herself, she doesn’t own those choices, and seems almost hesitant to share them with her partner, at least in that initial conversation.
No matter who you are, or what level of sexual experience you have, own it! Be confident about the decisions that you have made for your sexuality. Contrary to the narratives that we hear so often in the media, your sexual experience has no bearing on your worth as a human being, or your worth in any dating scenario. Madison shouldn’t feel ashamed for her decision to save herself for marriage, and Peter shouldn’t be ashamed for his decision not to. Confidence is the most sexy quality a person could have- don’t let any insecurities about your sexual life stifle that.
That being said, set yourself up for success in your dating scenarios. Madison shares that she has struggled and compromised some morals of hers the entire time she has been on The Bachelor. While I am generally a fan of hers, I am deeply perplexed as to why Madison chose to participate in The Bachelor given her moral standards. Part of confidence and boundary setting is making sure that you are choosing dating situations that make you feel your most comfortable and provide you opportunities to meet individuals who share your values. “The Bachelor” may not be the best forum to meet a chaste Christian man, just like Hinge may not be the best place to find your next one night stand. Choose where you choose to date wisely.
Not even Reality Steve knows what ends up happening with Peter and Madison. My take? This issue is the stuff that real couples deal with, and causes real people to break up. Of course The Bachelor producers work hard to create dramatic scenarios, but this scenario would’ve played out between these two, cameras or not.
Although a large portion of America is rooting for Madison and Peter to be together, I, for one, am not. Differences in crucial values and morals are hard to overcome, no matter how much you love someone. Unless both parties truly feel as though the issue of him sleeping with others will not taint their relationship (and I have a hard time believing that it won’t), they should both seek someone who is more values-compatible with them, and we all should too.
My little seventh grade, red faced self would never imagine that I would ever write a blog relating to sex or about my religion class. I’m glad and proud of myself that I no longer feel embarrassed to talk about these subjects openly- and that I feel very comfortable holding myself to the standards that I do today. Faith has grown and shaped me into who I am today, and has helped me to keep a loving and open mind to people whose experiences have been different than mine. My only hope, with this blog and the others I’ve written, is to help people be confident and unapologetically themselves. With that said, go out and own it- whatever “it” is for you!