Somewhere Christian girls have gotten the idea that boys should know about their sexual history as soon as they start dating (if not before). Just the other day I got this text from one of my college students, “Is it okay to start something when he knows very little about my past with men?” My response? An emphatic, “Yes!” followed by, “He doesn’t need to know about your sexual past.” And here is why he doesn’t:
It’s going to encourage him to think about you sexually even more than he already does.
So you describe your sexual history. What’s he thinking about? Your sexual history. You, being sexual, with someone else. Nice. That’s what you want him thinking about, right? There is an appropriate time and place to talk about sex and sexuality when you’re dating (more about that later) but talking about your past is going to put it in his mind and that’s not a great way to start a relationship.
If you break up he becomes one more guy who knows the intimate details of your life.
If you tell every guy you date, or almost date, your sexual history, that many more guys are walking around the world with very intimate information about your life. It is wise to limit access to the intimate details of your life in general and, specifically, to limit access to the sexual details of your life.
He will know you’ve gone that far with other guys so it will be easier to justify going that far with you.
No one wants to think like this. And if he’s a decent guy he probably won’t consciously be thinking like this, but let’s be honest, human nature is going to help him think like this whether he wants to or not. Help him not to. By not telling him in the first place.
Perhaps we should be asking not, “How do I tell?” but, “Who?” and “Why?”
When I ask girls why they want to tell their potential boyfriends about their sexual history, their answer is typically that they want to tell him so he can determine if he wants to date her based on her purity (or lack thereof). They don’t want to do a bait and switch. The girls assume that he assumes that because she is a Christian she is pure and inexperienced and that he will be disappointed and reject her if he discovers she’s not. According to this line of thinking, giving him the option to call it quits before the relationship gets serious (or even begins) protects two things:
1) A guy’s “right” to have a pure wife, thus girlfriend
2) A girl’s heart from being broken when he rejects her after finding out who she really is
This breaks my heart for so many reasons. And I want to go into more detail on them, but I won’t right now, I’m just going to list them
- Girls are often taught about the value of their purity in a way that emphasizes the value of their “gift” for their future husband rather than the value of her purity for herself.
- A woman who thinks like this has often already judged and rejected herself. She believes she is less than what she really is and lives this lesser life. The world misses our contribution when we live small lives because we believe that we are small people.
- I’ve noticed a tendency among women to be so afraid of men rejecting them that a woman will try to tell her potential boyfriend or husband things that will make the him reject her before he has a chance to really get to know her thus saving her the pain of being rejected after he has gotten to know her. I know this isn’t true for everyone, but for those who live like this, the fear and self-destructive behavior causes us to miss out on so many good things in relationships.
- There is a cultural emphasis is on the value of the purity of women more than the purity of men. Though I believe this is, to some degree, changing, it still isn’t good or fair to either women or men.
- Women who have been sexually abused are particularly vulnerable to feeling like they are “spoiled” or “less than” and it sucks that other people’s terrible choices to violate them make them feel like we are less worthy of love or a good relationship. It is not true! Women (and men) who have been abused, you ARE worthy of the same love, respect and honor as those who have not been abused.
- Rejecting someone because of past choices when there is evidence of appropriate repentance(not just saying I’m sorry but turning from sin toward God and making appropriate changes in ones life), healing and growth is refusing to give the grace to someone else that Christ gave to us.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that God’s ideal is that we enter marriage inexperienced and undefiled. But many of us no longer have that option either because of choices we have made or because of choices that other people have made for us so our philosophy and expectations for entering into marriage with purity has to account for the messiness of reality in addition to Biblical ideology.
That said, I do believe there are appropriate times to talk about sex, sexuality, and sexual history in dating relationships.
It is wise to establish sexual boundaries at the beginning of a relationship. What do you believe are appropriate sexual boundaries for dating couples? It can be a rude awakening to discover that your idea of “too far” and his idea of “too far” are dramatically different. You can ask each other, “How can we help ourselves be successful at avoiding sexual temptation? What can we do to prevent tempting each other?” or other questions like that.
As your relationship gets deeper and you feel more secure in the relationship you may want to share your past because you want to be open about everything or because you don’t want to have secrets. This is probably best done when things are pretty serious and probably pre-engagement because it lets you deal with all the emotions that go along with the impact of other people’s choices on your life with a little more freedom. Waiting until things get very serious also limits the number of guys you end up telling.
It is possible that he’ll feel rejected because he wasn’t the first one. It’s likely that it will bother him to think about the fact that you’ve been with other men (or women) to whatever extent that you’ve been with them. That’s to be expected; who wants to think of the person they love with someone else? But a good man will work through these emotions. A good man will show you the same grace that he has received from Christ. Let him prove to you that he is a good man by the way he acts toward you in your dating relationship before you give him the opportunity to show you what a good man he is when you tell him about your sexual past.