Sure, you’ve had dry spells—a few months between flings, a year after your boyfriend moved out. But believe me, you’ve never been in a dry spell like David Chamberlin or Anne Redd.
High-school girlfriends, college girlfriends, the combined membership of the “We Broke Down David Chamberlin Club” back home in Springfield, Ohio—they all tempted him with their soft, seductive charms. But David didn’t give it up. The horny boys in high school pleaded with Anne; so did the hornier boys down at William & Mary. But she didn’t lose it.
Now they’ve been going together more than four months, and they still haven’t taken the magic tumble. They’re not going to. Not now, not next week, not if they get sloppy drunk, not even if they get engaged. When the vows are sworn, when the limo driver has whisked them away from the reception, when David has carried Anne across the threshold of the honeymoon suite and laid her gently down on the conjugal bed; then, and only then, it can happen.
“If we ever get married,” says David, smiling at his sweetheart, “the thing I would cherish most—besides the fact that I was married to her—is that on our first night, I could look her square in the eye and say, “This was so important to me that I give this to you. You are the first and only one I will ever sleep with.’ That, I think, is an incredible gift.”
In this new Republican universe, sex—at least the premarital variety—is taking a battering. Polls, pop sociologists, and glossy magazines assure us that abstinence is hip. Forget the hunt for the last American virgin. Today, all the cool kids aren’t doing it. An organization called—perhaps optimistically—True Love Waits has collected promises of premarital chastity from hundreds of thousands of teens. The Family Research Council, a vociferous, D.C.-based conservative group, is bombarding the youth of America with a pro-abstinence ad campaign in magazines like Rolling Stone and Seventeen. “Save sex,” the ads exhort, not “safe sex.”
The Family Research Council, in fact, is where I found David and Anne. She’s an editorial assistant there; he does PR. I called the group seeking a (happily) abstinent couple. David answered the phone and immediately volunteered. When Anne, he, and I sat down for lunch a few days later, I could see why he’d been so enthusiastic. Ralph Reed himself couldn’t father prouder, more all-American virgins than David and Anne.
You want a red-blooded male? David, who’s 23, grew up in the very middle of Middle America. He’s tall, strapping, and handsome. He plays baseball. He goes to church. He likes U2, Tom Petty, and J.R.R. Tolkien. He drinks a little, smiles a lot, and says “Gosh” like he means it.
Anne is the kind of young woman who makes strong men swoon. She’s petite and blond. Her eyes are big and china blue. She talks confidently and laughs easily, especially at herself. Anne, who’s 24, is a Navy brat—the child of “an admiral and a homemaker”—and she attended 11 schools in 12 years. She goes to church, loves Emily Brontë and Annie Dillard, and belonged to Delta Delta Delta in college.
Their blossoming romance mixes ’90s technology and ’50s sensibility; Newt Gingrich would love it. For six months, Anne and David were office friends. But he couldn’t resist her charms. In early spring, he asked her out, by e-mail. She dissed him, by e-mail. He e-mailed again. She accepted. Three dates followed in three nights—California Pizza Kitchen, Hard Rock Cafe, Baskin-Robbins. On the third evening, they held hands in the car. “I felt stupid because I was paying more attention to her than to driving,” says David.
Anne and David do all the usual couple-y activities: movies, walks, picnics. A few weeks ago, she visited his family in Springfield. “It went great,” David says. “My sister says I should marry her.”
They do all the usual couple-y activities—except the one you’d expect, that is. Their love affair is free of modern romance’s usual inconveniences: no condom-fumbling, no morning-after panic, and, best of all, no wet spot. Isn’t sublimation sublime?
“There is so much more to her than just a sexual dynamic,” David says, his voice full of sincerity. “I admire her intellectually. I know that sounds geeky and cheesy and I’m sure she will call me on it later, but I’m serious. I love the way she has a tender heart. The way she gives to people. The way she cares about me and others. There is an openness and honesty that attracts me, that keeps me interested, that makes me want to know more. She’s incredible.”
“That’s really, really rare,” Anne says, blushing at his compliment. “It’s so nice to know that someone is interested in me and not my body. I see that as very strong and masculine of him. I admire that strength. It’s a reminder to me of how strong his character is.”
Skeptics out there—particularly those who’ve just finished a morning quickie—are scoffing at Anne and David. Surely, they sneer, these virgins are puritanical nutballs brainwashed by fundamentalist preachers. Surely, Anne and David must be terrified of sex. Surely, the couple must believe that doing the nasty is nasty.
In fact, the opposite is true. In this unchaste world, say both, virginity makes perfect sense. Yes, they are religious and the Bible demands abstinence, but that’s not the only reason they are waiting for the big bang. Their families encouraged them. They learned the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. They heard friends talk regretfully about not waiting. “I’ve never heard anyone say, “I wish I’d had sex with more people.’ I have heard them say, “I wish I’d had sex with less,’ ” says Anne.
And most of all, they say, not having sex makes it special, makes it more than just another bodily function.
“You don’t need to have sex to know how awesome it is going to be!” Anne enthuses. “I want to have something that powerful and awesome shared just between me and my husband.
“The message of abstinence is so positive.” she continues. “All it is about is appreciating someone for things other than sex. It is respecting the power and value of sex.”
(To be fair to the skeptics, Anne and David do preach some dogma. David refers to a friend who’s done the deed as having “fallen.” Anne discusses premarital sex with the same kind of dismay that others reserve for something like, say, dealing crack: “I don’t think it is ever to late to stop having sex,” she says earnestly. “Even if you’ve done it once, you can still stop. You haven’t wrecked yourself.”)
It’s not surprising—given that David and Anne haven’t gotten any, ever—that their relationship pulsates with sexual tension. As lunch progresses, they wink and stare longingly at each other when they think I’m not looking. He gently massages her shoulders. She arches her back slightly and smiles as he touches her. Their flirting begins to worry me: How do they manage to resist each other? How does David restrain himself from ripping off his tie, unbuttoning Anne’s blue suit, and, well, you know….
“Early on, I guess we had an agreement on where to draw the line, and that was that,” says Anne.
And where is the line?
“The neck,” she says.
My jaw drops. “The neck?” I ask in disbelief.
“The neck,” she repeats firmly. “We draw the line at kissing.”
“We just kiss,” David says, not a hint of frustration in his voice.
“And hug and hold hands,” Anne continues. “And we will snuggle on the couch or whatever. You don’t want to make it too hard on yourself.”
“Once you get started it’s hard to stop,” David says.
“And, besides, you can get really creative above the neck,” she says, slyly grinning at her boyfriend.
“Yeah, you can get really creative,” David echoes. (Abstinence is sounding more and more intriguing.)
“It’s a very romantic way to date,” Anne says.
“A lot of people would probably make fun of it,” David concludes, “but I think it’s the coolest thing ever.”
And with that, David and Anne rise from the table. On the restaurant’s stereo, Elton John croons “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” as the couple heads for the exit, holding hands.