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Dear Unmarried Woman: Are You an Appetizer or a Dessert?

bethany jett
Bethany Jett

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Just when I think I’ve heard all there is to hear from Evangelicals about sex, purity, and the like, someone will write or say something that I have not heard before. In other words, not all the nuts have fallen from the tree.

In 2015, Bethany Jett, a then thirty-something married Evangelical woman who writes on girly topics from a godly perspective, wrote a blog article about two reasons why a woman should save herself for marriage. Here’s what Jett had to say:

I remembered why I decided to wait to have sex as I listened to a podcast from Andy Stanley this morning on my way home from dropping off children at school.

“I’m not the appetizer, I’m the dessert.”

If we start off loaning our bodies, who is going to wait around for the main meal?

We ordered Olive Garden to-go last night and I had one of my favorite cheat meals—chicken alfredo and breadsticks with alfredo dipping sauce and an extra tub of alfredo sauce to heat up the leftovers the next day. Mmmmm … I was full and stuffed and happy. Deliriously-food-coma happy.

But I wasn’t completely satisfied. All the savory goodness was amazing, but I needed something sweet to finish it off. A bit of dark chocolate would have taken the cake … but there was NONE.

Justin ate it.

My marriage is like that. Dating Justin was the appetizer … good for a short amount of time, but I was excited to have the main meal with him. I wanted an entire lifetime. We’ve been married for almost 11 years, together for 13, and that man still gives me butterflies. He makes me strive to a better person and he is my teammate, partner, best friend and so much more.

But God knew that wasn’t enough.

So He throws a little dessert into the mix.

The dessert is exceptional.

It completes the meal…

…I’ve always believed that God means what He says. He said to wait, so I did. I always figured that if sex was as great as the students in my high school and my college roommate thought it was, that it would be even better if I waited. That God had a blessing in store if you did things His way.

There are many reasons to wait until you’re married to have sex, but here’s two at the top of the list:

1. God said to wait.

2. You’re worth waiting for…

Jett has been married for sixteen years. She is an advocate of purity rings, having worn one until her wedding night.  In 2013, Jett wrote a book titled, The Cinderella Rule: A Young Woman’s Guide to Happily Ever After.

While Jett tries to dress up her blog post with a bit of wispy, feel-good self-esteem, there really is only one reason a woman should wait until marriage to have sex: God said to wait. That’s the bottom line for Evangelicals: God said don’t do it, so don’t.

In 2015, I shared with readers Melanie Pritchard’s puritanical view of spaghetti straps. Jett has a similar view. Here’s what she had to say in The Cinderella Rule about spaghetti straps and a few other things:

Apparently, shoulders are sexy. I know that sounds crazy, but guys are wired differently than we are. That’s how God created them, and Justin (her husband) didn’t want to be tempted physically. He wanted to do things right.

Bottom line: it’s not our place to put impure thoughts into guys’ heads. We don’t understand that the male mind replays images days after seeing a girl in a short skirt or catching a glimpse down a plunging neckline.

A guy friend told me that he was minding his own business at a gas station, pumping gas, when he saw a girl at the opposite station. She wore an extremely short skirt, and he couldn’t get the image of her legs and the idea of what was under her skirt out of his head. He thought about it for a couple of days. “Those images don’t just leave your mind,” he said. “I wasn’t even trying to look at the girl either–“I was merely glancing around. “He ended up masturbating to remove the building tension.

While guys are responsible for their thoughts, we can’t allow Satan to use us as a tool to lead guys down a path toward lust, pornography, and sexually impure behaviors. Even wearing spaghetti straps during a church service can throw guys off. Another guy confessed that one Sunday, he had trouble concentrating on communion and the sermon that followed because the girl next to him had bare shoulders. He was wracked with guilt for not being able to concentrate, unable to push his thoughts away since she was right next to him.

Ladies, we may never fully comprehend how guys think, but if they’re telling us they can’t concentrate, let’s help them out. Grab a cardigan for church or work, or anywhere, and let’s keep our skirts and shorts an appropriate length…

…a godly guy wants to date a girl who shares his values.  If you want to be pursued properly, you must dress appropriately–just enough skin to be cute,  but not enough to reveal the goods. Dressing modestly helps keep his mind from going into fantasy overdrive.

Remember, a guys pursuit is with an end goal in mind; and girlfriend, we are taking a pursuit to the altar…

…Honestly,  chasing a guy is exhausting. Most guys will do anything with anyone, and high school and college guys, in particular, are not known for their exclusivity. Raging hormones dictate many a guy’s decisions; and if you pursue him, you won’t ever be sure whether it’s his heart or his hormones that loves you more.

When a man sees a girl he wants, he goes after her…Similar to a lion stalking his prey, a man will overcome any obstacle to get the woman he wants. I’m not talking about creepy stalker behavior. I’m talking about romantic, I can’t get her out of my head intensity. When a worthy guy desires you like that, girl, watch out!

But you’ll be ready.

You’ll know how to look.

How to dress.

How to act..

…when the right man starts the pursuit, let him.

I’m gonna to show you how…

What’s up with spaghetti straps? Am I out of the lust loop here? I’ve seen more than a few spaghetti-strapped women — my wife included — and I don’t think I ever had the thought, oh my, I need to have her right now. If I don’t have sex with her RIGHT now, I am going to have to spank the monkey to release all the built-up sexual tension.

Pritchard wrote about not revealing the “mystery.” Jett, taking a similar approach, writes about a woman not giving away all her “secrets.” What’s with all the code for genitalia and sex? Are Evangelicals so prudish that the correct words for genitalia and sex can’t be used?

modest dress
Little House on the Prairie, Preferred Dress for Fundamentalists

Maybe Pritchard’s and Jett’s problem is that they have spent their life around the weak, pathetic, forbidden-sex-on-the-brain men found in Evangelical and Catholic churches. Perhaps they need to get out more and spend time with real men, men who know how to control their sexual desires and know how to treat a woman appropriately.

Think for a moment about the pathetic, weak boys mentioned in the excerpts from Jett’s book. A man is pumping gas, he sees a woman with a short skirt, and he is so driven with lust that he later has to masturbate. The other man couldn’t focus on communion and the sermon because a woman near him had bare shoulders. Can there be any better examples of weak, sexually immature church boys? Not men, adolescent boys. 

Boys like these have been conditioned to think that they are helpless, that it is not within their power to sexually control themselves. Perhaps every church boy is like the stupid young man in Proverbs 7:

…I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart… Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves…With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks . . .

What I want to know is this: was the harlot wearing spaghetti straps?

It’s time for church boys to grow into men and own their sexuality. If they can’t keep from lusting, the problem is theirs, and not that of the women who dare to bare a leg, shoulder, or show some cleavage. If they are so sexually charged up that they are reaching in their pants as soon as they see an attractive woman, perhaps they need to spend more time looking at porn and self-pleasuring themselves until they get their “sexual tension” under control.

But Bruce, some women DO dress provocatively. Shouldn’t they be called out on their deliberate attempt to make men lust? First, how do you know that is what they are trying to do? Second, perhaps you need to learn to enjoy God’s creation. Yes, women are attractive, and yes, they can arouse sexual feelings in men. Duh, biology, right? Would you rather women dressed like they just walked off the set of Little House on the Prairie? Learn to control your thoughts and desires. It really is that simple. No God needed.

Sadly, far too many churches are nurseries filled with infantile men who can’t control themselves. I don’t know of any other way to change their behavior than to say to them, STOP IT!

People such as Bethany Jett and Melanie Pritchard are shooting at the wrong target. As often occurs in many Muslim countries, American Christians with puritanical ideas about dress and sexuality put the blame on women who dare to dress in ways that show their femininity and sexuality. Jett wants young women to show just enough skin to catch a man, but then the free show is over until the man puts a ring on her finger. In other words, she wants women to be flashers, showing just enough flesh to get the attention of suitable prospects for marriage.

Every day or so it seems there is a news report of an Evangelical pastor, evangelist, college professor, church leader, or Sunday school teacher getting into trouble because he can’t keep his hands to himself or keep his pants zipped up. (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.) This should not surprise us because many of these “fallen” leaders — Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his wife, for example — were raised in churches that preach the puritanical sexuality found in Jett’s book, blog, and other writing. It’s the whole blind-leading-the-blind thing. Generation after generation of Evangelical boys have been taught that they are impotent when it comes to controlling their sexual thoughts, urges, and desires. After a few generations of this, you end up with churches filled with hapless men who get boners as soon a woman shows more flesh than one of the young women on Little House on the Prairie. Instead of being taught to be accountable for their actions, these men are instead taught to flee from the Jezebels that roam the halls of the church; women who will rob them of their virtue.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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37 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Monty

    It’s an endless cycle, innit? The men in the church are told that looking at another woman lustfully is bad, so they get all guilt-ridden when they actually do look at a woman with normal, human desires. So, the church puts the burden on the women as though the men can’t control their desires. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
    Weird…..I was part of a rather large church for years. The youth pastor would always preach to the teens about keeping themselves pure and no sex before marriage……While he was knowingly cheating on his wife…With a girl that used to be in the youth group. This same church had the senior pastor giving weekly lessons on how to have a good marriage….right before a huge controversy went public about his numerous affairs with women not only in the church but on staff….while his wife had an affair with his brother….who was also a pastor….who was married.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      It is the old mantra, do as I say, not as I do. Of course, churches don’t find out WHO their leaders are doing until the indiscretion is exposed. Pastors are human and can and do commit what the Bible calls adultery or fornication. Pastors can behave like the rest of us cretins, they are just better at hiding their indiscretions.

  2. Avatar
    Stephanie

    Not this again. Sure it’s presented in a slightly different way but it’s the same message. Who wants “used goods?” They view women as sex objects. It’s just sad.

  3. Avatar
    Ruth

    At my house I’m the appetizer, main course, AND dessert!

    All this repression seems to do is feed into an obsession. Isn’t the whole message of the “Fall of Man” about how it’s impossible to get the forbidden out of your mind? When you take control of your own desires, regardless of what the desire is for, you realize it’s YOUR choice. When you realize it’s YOUR choice it becomes easier to be discriminating.

  4. Avatar
    Aram McLean

    Oh my, I went to the purity ring link and the first picture popping up looked just like a vulva for a second. I wonder if Jett is aware of these. Either way, I’m off to relieve the tension…

  5. Avatar
    Ami

    A. Cheerleading. Coach. Dafuq?
    And she is certainly having personal conversations with men, isn’t she? I don’t think I’ve EVER talked to a guy about his getting so charged up he had to go somewhere and whip his weasel.

    I think Christians would have easier, less guilty lives if they all figured out that men are visual creatures and allowed them to look all they want.

    They certainly have enough other things they’re not allowed to do.

  6. Avatar
    Timothy

    When I lived in Africa, I asked a Mulim why women could not pray with the men. The answer: because women should not tempt us to impure thoughts. Talk about infantilism. Grow up and accept responsibility for your own decisions. Puke.

  7. Avatar
    theObserver

    While Jett tries to dress up her blog post with a bit of wispy, feel good self-esteem, there really is only one reason a woman should wait until marriage to have sex. God said to wait. That’s the bottom line for Evangelicals, God said don’t do it, so don’t.

    That right there cuts through a whole lot of Christian waffle about self-esteem.

  8. Avatar
    carmen

    Oh my, Bruce. That woman’s advice is nauseating — but on the bright side, between you and your commenters I sure picked up a few new euphemisms for masturbation. . . . LOL!!!

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Men have a unlimited supply of euphemisms for sex, masturbation, and genitalia. 🙂 It takes women a bit to pick up on it, but if they are around men long enough, they will find out that most any word or phrase can be turned into a euphemism for sex, masturbation, or genitalia. Or so says a man with four grown sons. 🙂

      • Avatar
        sgl

        there’s song by ub-40 called “red red wine” about a guy missing his ex-gf, and there’s a line “monkey get choked”
        ( http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/ub40/redredwine.html )

        once i was getting my haircut when the song came on, and the young girl cutting my hair starting talking to another haircutter saying “omg, that’s so sad, why would they hurt a monkey like that!”

        i stiffled a laugh, and decided that keeping quiet was probably easier than trying to explain it to her. 😉

  9. Avatar
    Erin

    I’m so sad I missed this conversation! Yes, I have an opinion, lol!

    Having grown up and spent most of my adult life in a sex-shaming Christian culture…all I can say is that my still-Christian friends would be freaked out by my current sex-positive philosophy: “Sex is fun. Do it safely and with consent.” (Yes I have greater definitions around “safe” and “consent”, but that’s the short version.)

    Does it go to the other extreme? Maybe. But so what? It’s religion that has made virginity and chastity a commodity – from back in the day when women were property, pregnancy was risky, and monogamy was only actively enforced among women, so that their husband could be certain any children born were his. Sorry, this logic is no longer relevant. 🙂

  10. Avatar
    Tom Whitten

    What is a turn on? I’m sure for some guys it’s a heavy woman in fuzzy slippers and army overcoat. No matter what a woman wears, someone will get turned on. There are fetish sites for everything under the sun.

  11. Avatar
    carmen

    Geez, sometimes I feel like such an innocent — I’m 57 years old, I’ve heard that red, red wine song lots of times and never knew what ‘monkey got choked’ meant. … the gems I pick up on this blog of yours, Bruce!!

    And Tom, you been peeking in my windows?? 😉

  12. Avatar
    BJW

    Totally ridiculous. If Christian men would just control themselves and enjoy looking (tastefully, not drooling!), it would be a win win. But they are taught that looking is wrong, and women are sinful.

    But it was a nice bit of schadenfreude over Falwell. All kinds of jokes about him were circulating on Twitter. If he’d stopped moralizing over the LGBTQ community, I wouldn’t GAF what he, his wife, and the pool boy were up to. But we already knew that these evangelicals and fundamentalists that are trying to force us to live a certain way, are PRIME hypocrites.

  13. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    May these religious nutters who hold that the bible is the Word of God, and God says this or that by quoting the bible, eventually disappear from the face of the earth. Religious propaganda needs to be challenged and you are doing a great job of challenging this prudish nonsense (and other religious nonsense). Keep up the good work!

    Have a wonderful day!

  14. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I really hate being told what to wear. It’s equally concerning when these purity culture ideas about women’s dress spills over into the non-evangelical world. I am part of many running and fitness social media groups, and whenever a female runner gets assaulted and/or killed, inevitably someone brings up what she’s wearing. Fortunately that occurs less often than it did 5 years ago. What any woman wears is irrelevant – if someone attacks her, it is the attacker’s decision to do so. Period. (And masturbation is a victimless act – it’s amazing how fundamentalist religious people get their underwear all in a bunch over it).

  15. Avatar
    Rachel

    Umm, this argument about how good it is to save yourself for marriage because then the sex and the marriage in general will be better. It almost always comes from married people whose marriages have turned out well, where the sex and the other things ARE good. It’s confirmation bias. My parents, Catholic converts, kept themselves as virgins because. . .But here’s the thing, my dad was massively screwed up about all things sexual, thought sex was disgusting, that women in particular certainly didn’t and shouldn’t enjoy it, etc etc. . .of course he wasn’t seeking it out pre-marriage, why would he if he felt like that about it?! And those hang-ups about sex and sexuality didn’t magically disappear on the wedding day. . .or ever, they were an ingrained and very troubling aspect of his personality right up until the day he died. My oversharing mother (who lacks boundaries big time!) has told me over the years that there was a lot of what would now be called coercive sex: she felt unable to say no. The relationship was mutually codependent, a marriage that should never have happened.

    The woman writing here seems to think that sex is some kind of transformational magic. She gives it far too much importance.

    And yes, sooner or later you just KNOW with these people that it’s all going to come down to how short women’s skirts are, or how much skin they show.

  16. Avatar
    Lady M

    Well I think Ms Jett is completely wrong about waiting – I say never buy a vehicle you have not test driven. I mean what if you find out as a couple you are completely sexually incompatible. Now you have to spend your whole life together? Yech. I also agree that men need to grow up and learn to control themselves. It is not a woman’s responsibility to control men’s behavior through their style of dress.

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