In the News Marriage Prep Relationships Sexuality

An Open Letter to the Author of “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos”

woman sitting, weary, looking down, with city behind

Dear Lori,

This week you wrote a post titled “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos.”

Your post is haunting me.

You see, I am a debt-free virgin without tattoos. I’m also a Reformed Presbyterian Christian, deeply immersed in the Scriptures, well versed in the history of the church and the writings of the Puritans. My mother and I live together in a happy multi-generational home. I can cook for any number of people from one to 100. I help homeschool my younger brothers. I am the exact woman you hold up as an ideal. I am the person you say young women should strive to be.

But I’m still single.

More importantly, is that even the point? Despite your praise for my particular brand of womanhood, I read your post with mounting rage and disgust.

First, I can tell you with confidence after more than a decade of modern courting and dating, online and off, that most men do not prefer virgins.  Ask any virgin woman you know, and she’ll tell you that most men react to her virginity with a spectrum of emotions including shock, shame, disbelief, mirth and fear. These women will say that usually, once you’re out of your teenage years, virginity is a difficult and delicate conversation you must have in your dating life, not a bragging right.

Being a virgin doesn’t guarantee you’re going to attract the cream of the crop. A few years ago, I specified my virginity on my online dating profile. I was promptly asked, by three different men, if I’d become a sister-wife in a polygamous marriage. Being a virgin also attracts deeply misogynistic men looking for a naïve, inexperienced woman whom they can control and abuse.

Virginity is a choice I continue to make because I believe that God is the God of my soul and my body, and He has laid out a very clear sexual ethic in both the Old and New Testaments. And I know there are godly men who believe the same for themselves and are seeking that in a spouse. But telling a young woman that her virginity is something that will catapult her to the front of the “wife selection line” isn’t true, and it isn’t kind to spout such prescriptive lies.

Second, let’s talk about the prosperity gospel inherent in your premise: “If you just do XYZ, then you’ll be worthy of the best, most godly man money can buy (or behavior can earn).” Your post tells women to be what men like so they can be deserving of the best mate. As if there is a long line of Prince Charmings out there ready to gallop in if only these girls would be good enough for them. Plant your little seeds of righteousness, ladies, and they’ll blossom into a beautiful romance.

This isn’t what the Bible teaches. This if/then religiosity leaves women feeling either guilty and worthless or — if they’re like I was in my early 20s — indignant and angry at God. I’m told I’m beautiful, smart, kind and virtuous. I can run a house, take care of a family, and am an active, vital member of my community. If I’m doing everything “right,” then where’s my godly man? Did God bait-and-switch me?

No, He didn’t. God never promised me a husband. He promised me himself — in this life and the life to come. But teachings like yours obscured that truth for many painful years of my life.

Your post also instructs women not to go to college. Here again, I’m your poster child of a dutiful young woman. I didn’t go to college — in part because I didn’t want to go deeply into debt, and because my family was going through a lot and needed me at home at that time in my life.

Instead, I went to work. I’ve been a baker, a bookseller, an office manager, a salesperson and a travel agent. My work ethic has sustained my family in times of great need. But not having a degree means I’ve had more difficulty pulling myself and my family out of poverty. When I was laid off in 2010, I couldn’t get an interview for nearly seven months because I didn’t have the letters “BA” next to my name.

Many of your reasons against a woman attending college strike at imago Dei — the image of God that we all, men and women, carry within us. Alongside men, women deserve the opportunity to be educated, to learn about the world and our place in it, and to grow our various skills and talents to serve God and others.

To live in fear of higher education and our culture’s influence denies God’s power in a believer’s life — whether male or female. Single men would be wise to take a second look at the single woman who relies on the Holy Spirit and can apply the truth of Scripture to everyday life, even its pressures and temptations.

Likewise, while it’s good to stay out of debt, not all who go to college accrue mountains of student loans. But if a woman does have debt, a mature Christian man likely won’t view it as a deal breaker for marriage — he’ll be willing to sacrifice for his bride as Christ does for the church.

Lori, I’m weary.

During much of my teens and early 20s, people discouraged me from becoming the woman I could be. They agreed with you that there’s only one way to be a godly woman — by becoming a wife and staying home with children. This is a good and noble pursuit, but it’s not the only one. God made the body of Christ diverse for a reason; He doesn’t give us all the same path to walk. There’s biblical evidence for women to work outside the home: Lydia was a seller of purple, and the Proverbs 31 woman was an entrepreneur (investing in real estate, making and selling linen). Deborah was a judge, for goodness’ sake. The idea that the only way to be a godly woman is to be a homemaker is just patently false.

I am all for living a holy life with a godly sexual ethic, and for honoring our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and living sacrifices. I’m on board with being financially responsible and living as debt free as possible. I’ll shout from the rooftops that the ultimate end of a Christian’s educational life isn’t a diploma or a job, but is the knowledge of God, which is the greatest good.

But my message to young women is not, as yours is, “Live a disposable life. Make yourself small. Erase your heart until a man writes what he wants to see on it.”

My message to young women is this: “Learn and grow for the glory of God and the cultivation of your own soul — not simply to make yourself more attractive to a man.”

Women, glean your fields, buy your vineyards, sell your purple, sit at the feet of Christ — and doing that will be enough, no matter if you marry or not, no matter if you have children or not. Single or married, your life can be joyous and your service valuable — not because of what you do, but because of who you are: an imperfect, perfectly loved daughter of the King.

—Erica Wilkinson

***

You can find Erica Wilkinson either working on her first book or procrastinating on Twitter @EverywhereErica where she regularly comments on why “Perfect Strangers” was the best 90s sitcom.