Disclaimer: The following paranoid meditation is not an accusation, a rant, a lamentation, a soprano aria, or a "fuck you!" (wouldn't that be ironic?). It's more of a question about what we are and aren't allowed to call "true love." Naturally, although I have, for personal reasons, framed this question in terms of a hesitant woman and a not-at-all hesitant man, it should be taken for granted that similar questions could be raised by a hesitant man -- although there are certain gender dynamics that necessarily differentiate the two subject-positions.

After receiving various messages, it seems like, to emphasize that this is not an accusation, rant, lamentation, fado, etc., I should mention that I haven't broken up with anybody recently, I'm not being pressured by anyone to have sex at this time, and a good deal of this is generally hypothetical. Thank you.

The theory behind the slogan "True Love Waits" is that, if two people really love each other, then they can wait until marriage to have sex. If they can't wait, then it's about sex and not love.

Of course, there are all kinds of reasons not to buy into this idea -- it doesn't make much sense to me to suggest that premarital sex and serious love are mutually exclusive. One might argue that if two people define their actions toward one another according to whether or not they are married, then it's about marriage and not love. The iffinesses of "True Love Waits" have been noded at length. If you're a premarital-sex-liking person, "True Love Waits" should cause you no philosophical problems.

The question that has been haunting me for the last few years is: what if true love doesn't wait?

Say you have some good reasons for not wanting to have sex. I can think of a few: being wigged out by the chemicals in contraceptives and not wanting to chance pregnancy; religious convictions; not buying the Repressive Hypothesis; general contrariness; simply feeling unready. What if you want to, you know, wait?

In the past few years, I've had the increasingly unpleasant suspicion that you can't; that no man who is not a religious fanatic who is likewise convinced that a woman's place is in the home will engage in a serious relationship with a woman who won't have sex with him. This is a particularly bad situation for the woman who's holding out for marriage, or at least stability. Because if true love doesn't wait, stability will never come.

No pun intended.

I grant you, a man might think he would be fine with it. He's a decent guy, right? I mean, what kind of an asshole would refuse to consider having a relationship with someone just because she doesn't want to screw right now? It's her choice, right? He's a feminist, right?

But let's not kid ourselves. He thinks the time before she'll throw her anxieties to the wind is not only finite, but pretty short. Months short, or maybe even weeks. Meanwhile, she's thinking more in the years range. And as time wears on, patience runs out.

And... so does the man.

Suggesting that true love may not wait after all.

Now, this is a pretty disturbing idea to me. There are many reasons to have sex, but to my view, conforming to another's social expectation should not be among them. It seems as though true love should wait if you ask nicely.

But of course, everybody believes this, including the heartless man in my above example. As etouffee put it to me, if it doesn't wait, "then, obviously it was neither true, nor love." We all want to believe it, which is where the abstinence campaign gets its rhetorical power. Who can argue with "True Love Waits"? True love definitely waits. It waits by definition, because it is by definition ideal.

So it seems we've done nothing but collect a little more tiresome evidence against the real-world existence of true love. Yes, it's a little messed up that unless a man is of the rabid and frankly scary women's-virginity-hoarding persuasion, he will drop her when he notices that he will not be getting any in the foreseeable future. But it's a fact of life, and getting irritated about it won't change anything. It's, ahem, screw or be screwed.

But it seems unfortunate, doesn't it?

etouffee also said, rather wisely, "What if True love doesn't wait?..what if it becomes impatient, and less choosy..what if it refuses to act its age- and becomes somewhat childish..impulsive, as love is wont to do...What if true love settles for close love...or lust, which can sound like love in dim light-candlelight, moonlight and those other versions of light that are imperfect and not True?"

liveforever says What if True Love just gets bloody well fed up with all the circus show hoops it has to jump through, and goes off to do its own thing, with a wave of "goodbye" and a wish of "thanks but no thanks and better luck says next time"?

I've received a lot of messages to the effect of "Well, if it's all about sex, then it isn't love. Stick to your guns!" (or whatever). They are mostly really versions of "Don't worry, girl! True Love Waits!"

Which sort of misses the point. This isn't a Dear Abby letter (see disclaimer above). I'm considering the possibility that there's no way for it not to be about sex. That the closest thing we can find to the ideal called "true love," which as we know always waits, is not in practice separable from sex. That true love -- true love -- really might not wait.

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