There was a time when waiting to have sex until marriage was considered the norm, for Latinos especially. If your mom didn't wait, your abuela or bisabuela probably did. These days premarital sex and moving in with your SO before getting hitched has become a big part of American culture. As a matter of fact, hooking up and having sex even before entering an official relationship is pretty much the new "normal." Even so, Gina Rodriguez's character on Jane the Virgin isn't the only one hanging on to her virginity. We spoke to a few young Latinas on how and why they waited or are still waiting to walk down the aisle before sex and how they about their decision.
"In today's world there seems to be this need to
categorize people and label everything," says clinical psychologist Dr. Karen
Caraballo. "We forget that women are always judged about their sexuality.
Men are not scrutinized for their sexual behavior, but we are. So there is this
double standard from our society and sadly were are reinforcing it when we
judge our friends and family members based on how they choose to express or not
And while women from past generations may have felt societal pressure or an obligation to reserve themselves for marriage, for Rosa Garcia, a 30-year-old bookkeeper from Brooklyn, not having sex until marriage was a personal choice she made for a number of reasons, religion being a big one.
"I'm 30 and have never had sex before. Saving myself is my way of glorifying God," says Garcia. "I'm a Pentecostal Christian, and in the Bible it stresses the importance of saving yourself sexually for marriage. It refers to your body as being the temple of the Holy Spirit. My body is sacred and it has a lot of value. I don't want to dishonor God, but I also don't want to have sex and allow just anyone to come into my life and do whatever they want with my body."
Jaely Jimenez has a similar story. Her decision to wait was also very much inspired by her Christian faith, which she sought out on her own at a very young age.
"I was actually the first to convert in my family," says 24-year-old Jimenez. "I was around 11 years old when I officially converted and started attending the Pentecostal church consistently. I was so turned off by all my relatives in the Dominican Republic who were moving in with their boyfriends and getting pregnant and I realized I wanted to be different. I wanted structure."
At the age of 16, Jimenez participated in a purity ceremony at her church where she made a vow to God that she would save herself sexually for marriage. The teen's parents even placed purity rings on their fingers that day that said, "True love waits." It's a decision and commitment Jimenez still holds on to until this day, but that doesn't mean she hasn't come across her fair share of challenges. Dating isn't exactly easy when you're trying to wait.
"Dating other Pentecostal Christians from my church has definitely made it easier because my previous boyfriends have understood that dating means hanging out in public, getting to know each other, and not being alone in a room where we can be sexually tempted," says Jimenez. "With that said, it does get hard, especially as I've gotten older. I'm human. But at the end of the day I just have to remind myself of my real purpose on this earth and that's to please God 100 percent."
"Temptation was definitely a challenge I faced," says 27-year-old Texas-born Emily Quintero, a Salvadorian and Mexican housewife who lives in Elmont, New York, and got married at 23. "My husband lived in New York and I lived in Texas, so when we were dating we wouldn't see each other a lot. Usually once a month or twice every two months he'd fly in to see me or I'd fly out to see him and we would obviously want to be together and at times we'd even be alone. There were definitely opportunities that could have led us to fall, but thankfully we didn't."
"I've dated people who were already practicing abstinence, and I've dated those who weren't, but were now making the effort because they wanted to be with me," says a 29-year-old Puerto Rican and African-American woman from Brooklyn who chose to remain anonymous. "And in both cases it's very hard, especially when you grow close to someone. But what I've learned is essential to it working is both parties being clear that they're doing this and why they're doing it. Anything less than that and you will have resentment or a power struggle."
But temptation isn't the only struggle these ladies have
faced. Reserving sex until marriage in 2016 also comes with its fair share of
criticism from peers, friends, and in some cases even family.
"There is a big difference in how the Latino culture views Latinas' sex life among generations," says Caraballo. "Older Latinos are more likely to support or praise the idea of waiting until marriage, but it also depends on the family's religious and moral views."
Reserving marriage might be something that's still supported by parents, aunts, and abuelas, but younger people aren't always quick to praise it.
Last year, there was a study conducted by The Journal of Sex Research that suggested people are very judgmental about virgins. Close to 4,000 adults over the age of 21 were surveyed, and when asked, "How likely are you to consider getting into a committed relationship with someone who is a virgin?" the majority rated their likelihood at 2.41 on a scale of 1 to 5.
There is so much buzz right now in the media about slut-shaming, but prude-shaming is something that very much exists, too. What a lot of these Latinas that are waiting or have waited until marriage to have sex, want folks to understand, is that they are just as strong, powerful, and independent as anyone else. Practicing abstinence doesn't make them feel deprived or oppressed.
"Abstinence is about love, respect, and self-control, not deprivation," says the anonymous 29-year-old woman. "Women who wait are not naive, suppressed, lifeless women. We simply believe in the value of investing and delayed gratification. When you wait, what's instant is strength and peace, followed by all the passion I've stored up for someone else."
"Reserving myself has made me stronger, independent, and sure of what I really want in a future partner," says Garcia. "I don't feel like I'm missing out and I don't feel pressure from society to just cave in, even at my age. I'd rather wait for a man who loves me for me and not just for what he can get out of me."
For these ladies, it's not so much about being perceived as pure or virginal to men or even to their families. It's about making this decision for themselves. The same way we respect a woman who chooses to freely have sex, we should respect a woman who doesn't. What a woman chooses or chooses not to do with her body is her business and her choice only.
"We are all unique. We all have different experiences and values," adds Caraballo. "The decision to have sex or wait until marriage is a very personal decision and nobody should be judged based on how they want to express their right to have sex or not."