On being a prude.
I realize the idea of sexual modesty might sound a bit quaint these days. Some in the culture believe sex should be as casual as shaking hands. And some self-proclaimed conservatives behave as if they do, even if hypocritically giving lip service to the ideal of waiting until marriage. But what sounds modest now seems increasingly radical. Holding out, waiting. Not necessarily for marriage, but until you know the relationship at least has a shot at going the distance. Unfashionable, I realize.
But things don’t become fashionable again unless someone puts in the effort. Let’s reclaim the word prude like a Patriots fan proudly owning the word masshole.
So what does this entail? This is not about religion; it is not about any dumb culture war; it is not about being asexual. This is what being a prude is.
The prude is saving himself or herself for love. This is the cardinal rule, and we’ll get to why shortly. It’s all about being cautious with whom one gets involved with. Heck, one might even say it’s being… prudent.
The prude believes in committed relationships. Which probably means monogamous for both parties, and with an intended duration of at least “the foreseeable future,” if not longer.
The prude does not necessarily dress herself modestly. Prudery is entirely about behavior, not appearance. One could leave little to the imagination and still not behave provocatively. One could dress like a Mormon and still be the town bicycle. Dress however you want. That’s a separate discussion.
The prude is not necessarily saving himself for marriage. Obviously, such a stance is compatible with prudery. However, people tend to save themselves for the wedding night for religious reasons, and proper prudery takes no stance on specific religions, or lack thereof. The prude is saving himself for love for both ethical and extremely practical reasons — but, on the other hand, wanting to know if you’re truly compatible in one of the more important categories might be reasonable before tying the knot.
The prude does not hate sex — quite the contrary. Of course, that won’t stop frustrated dates from making the accusation. The prude’s sex drive is no different than any other woman’s or man’s and in fact, the prude may be better than average at it. But wanting to protect herself is no different than staying away from a strange dog until you know it’s friendly. The prude might well be more frustrated than her partner. This does take some discipline.
The prude does not have a separate set of rules for women. If your stance is “women should save themselves, but boys will be boys,” that doesn’t make you a prude. That just makes you either a sexist pig or a self-loathing woman.
The prude does not ever want to be showing symptoms for STIs. Getting routinely screened for STIs is definitely recommended for any non-virgin (disclosure: I’m a physician), and a good idea for both parties before finally making the bedroom plunge. But actually having discharge or itchiness because of improper conduct would be absolutely mortifying to a prude — perhaps not the worst thing we could imagine, but pretty damn close. On the other hand…
The prude allows herself human error. Mistakes happen! But on the other hand, we do our best not to let them happen. Because they’re mistakes!
The prude knows and fears the power of oxytocin. The “bonding hormone” is released in especially high amounts during good sex, and is what ties us to partners whether we like it or not. We’re not pushing off sex just to be frustrating or just to play coy. It’s because we know how that stupid hormone is the greatest risk of sex there is, or at least to us. More here. So, in other words:
The prude realizes sex can lead him directly to love — whether he wants it or not. I woman I follow on Twitter once remarked that she could not wait for the pandemic to be over with so she could go back to freely having sex with her friends. Sex… with mere friends… and they… just stay friends? I was floored. The idea was as alien to me as breathing ammonia. For most people — and most certainly for the prude — intercourse will most likely lead to emotional bonding with the partner, no matter how lousy a human being they may be. And it may lead to said partner bonding with you right back, which can be a problem if they’re completely (or borderline) nuts. That’s why the prude must carefully screen potential mates beforehand, no matter how long that may take. While prudery has other benefits — ethics, avoiding STIs and pregnancy — the principle one is straight-up self defense.
The prude does not do friends with benefits. Because she realizes that she simply can’t; see above. You know what? Sometimes I envy people like the woman above who can spend a relaxing evening with a buddy doing the reverse cowgirl and walk away without any lingering, irrational need to be around that guy more. Or this dude my college friends called The Scorpion because he was famous for, every weekend, getting any girl in the club he wanted almost by sheer command — “GET OVER HERE!” That’s great they can hook-up with lots of people. The prude is simply not built like that, and knows it.
The prude, related to the above, does not get herself into this situation. (update 9/13/21) Her brain might still loudly be insisting to herself and the world that they were just “friends,” but her heart (and other body parts) have decided something else. Note that the guy in question clearly was able to have casual sex without developing feelings. Good for him! No judgement, seriously; these rules are not for him. The self-aware prude just realizes she cannot have relations without developing feelings, and behaves like a prude precisely to avoid a classic psycho-ex-girlfriend moment.
The prude does not do porn. Out of all the rules so far, this one will probably be the least popular. But as a vice, porn is more like cigarettes than wine— there’s no benefit, not even in moderation. Porn always leads to increasingly extreme, nasty, degrading forms of porn as the user watches more and more. Needless to say, this translates into increasingly worse and weird performance in the bedroom. It’s horrible and abusive to the performers, and that usually includes OnlyFans performers who get paid premium for horribly disgusting acts on camera. We’re a long ways away from Grandpa’s Playboy centerfolds.
The prude does not require “marital aids.” This is related to the above. Since the sex drive has not been overly, artificially stimulated by porn, the prude does not need to push to further and further extremes to achieve climax. Just vanilla sex is plenty, please. Sound boring? To the prude, what sounds more boring is requiring to be in a gimp suit in a bathtub while being kicked repeatedly in the groin to even get in the mood. Note: exceptions are carved out for actual medical and psychiatric diagnoses.
The prude can vote for anyone. Nothing here relates whatsoever to which guy you voted for. Let’s stop making politics part of literally everything.
The prude is not necessarily cisheterosexual. There’s prudery to be found in LGBT spaces, too. Yes, even among you gay fellows. No, really. I realize there’s a, shall we say, stereotype for gay men. But that might not be best for you! Perhaps you too feel the urge to drive up to the second date in a U-Haul. In that case, give time to consider protecting your heart with the ancient art of prudery.
The prude and her partner are probably, but not necessarily, monogamous. Poly relationships are real. But they are incredibly difficult, and doubly so for the prude. But if you can really establish a stable emotional equilibrium while either you or your partner are banging one or more other people then, in theory, this could be compatible with prudery, as long as no relationship were casual or FWB. I’d want to read your story on Slate for sure.
Above all, the prude demands mutual respect. If the would-be partner can’t respect the prude’s rules, seeks to overrule them, seeks an exception, or just walks away — that’s exactly the type of behavior the prude wanted to see before playing bedroom gymnastics and not after, and that’s exactly why we need our rules to begin with.