TAGES-ANZEIGER

Confessions Of An Unusually Chaste Swiss Woman

Esther G. fell in love at the tender age of 16. She didn’t want to have sex, however, unless she was married. And she didn’t want to marry until she was much older. And so she waited – for about 10 years. Was it worth the wait?

Is pre-marital chastity worth the wait? (mark sebastian)
Is pre-marital chastity worth the wait? (mark sebastian)
Bettina Weber

ZURICH – A new movie by Swiss filmmaker Mirjam von Arx explores the "Purity Movement" in the United States. Titled "Virgin Tales," the documentary centers on fundamentalist Christian Randy Wilson, who is the founder of "Purity Balls' at which girls as young as four dance in cross formations and pledge to stay virgins until they marry.

The trend doesn't seem to have caught on in Switzerland, although some young people here do opt for pre-marital chastity. Tages Anzeiger spoke with one young woman, 28-year-old Esther G. (not her real name), who met the man of her dreams at 16 in a Zurich Pentecostal group – but waited a decade before finally sleeping with him. Still, she doesn't identify at all with the Purity Movement, which in her opinion "makes a circus out of abstinence."

I fell in love with Daniel when I was 16. He was 19. I would have married him right away, but I realized that I was way too young. Everybody in our youth group knew how we felt about each other, and Daniel was as much in love as I was – but we were just so young. In our circle, early marriages are not recommended. Relationships aren't encouraged either unless two people want to see if they really could work together as life partners.

But at that age, how could I know if Daniel was the right one? I was so in love, the issue obsessed me, but we only actually saw each other at youth group get-togethers and vacation camps. I decided that the best way to deal with my uncertainty was to maintain a certain amount of distance from him. And I did that until I was 19. Then we had a serious crisis: Daniel said he couldn't stand my ambivalence anymore. I decided I would trust in God to show me the way. He knows what's best for us. If Daniel was the right one, God would bring us back together.

Three years went by and I couldn't get Daniel out of my head. We saw each other occasionally in church, but usually avoided each other. I prayed a lot, and one day it suddenly came to me I needed to get things going. And I did something that's unusual for women: I made the first move. I wrote Daniel an e-mail and asked if we could meet up. He was reserved at first, but after a while the old trust came back. We started meeting, mostly in groups, and talked. A lot. We wanted to find out if we would make good life partners.

Avoiding "unpleasant surprises'

When do people who believe in sex before marriage start to think of themselves as being ‘in a relationship"? After the first kiss? After the first time they have sex? When they're publically considered a couple? For people who share our belief in chastity, it's when two people decide to seriously figure out if they would work as a married couple. And that means intense discussions. It amazes me when I see how little other couples discuss their plans for the future. A friend of mine just split up with a guy she's been with for eight years – for the first time, she brought up the issue of kids, and it turns out he doesn't want any. She was heartbroken. I feel really bad for her – she's 33, and now she has to find somebody else and build a relationship all over again. At the same time, I can't wrap my brain around the idea that two people could be together that long and never have faced a key question like that.

Some people think that approaching a relationship the way we do is heavy, unromantic. But it does mean you can save yourself some unpleasant surprises. Daniel and I talked about everything – kids, where we wanted to live. He wanted to live in the countryside. I wanted to be in the city. So we compromised on a community that's just on the outskirts.

The thing about abstinence is that it's a kind of protection for both body and soul. You give so much of yourself when you have sex, that wasting it on somebody you don't have a future with hurts. That's why I really believe you shouldn't have sex before marriage. If more people believed that, there would be fewer problems STDs including AIDS, unwanted pregnancies.

"A Sleeping Beauty kind of situation"

But of course there's a lot of temptation, so you have to figure out ways to avoid situations where sex could happen. In short: you minimize risk. Don't spend the night at each other's place. Don't go on vacation together unless it's with a group where the women room together and the guys room together. It was very tough sometimes.

Every couple has their own chastity definition. We stopped at kissing. I think it must have been harder for Daniel: he had had girlfriends before, although he hadn't slept with any of them. But I trusted him; he's very solid. And since I didn't know what I was missing, I didn't have physical cravings. It was a Sleeping Beauty kind of situation. Also, I was doing it voluntarily because I wanted to please God. The Bible says it's immoral to sleep with somebody outside marriage. It's important, though, for both men and women to respect this – not just women.

And after a two-and-a-half-year courtship, when Ester G. finally did lose her virginity?

I was able to enjoy it, because there was absolute trust. I knew my husband, and I love him. It's about spirit, soul and body. I really liked my husband's spirit and soul, so I just assumed I'd like his body too.

Read the original story in German

Photo - mark sebastian

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

For if nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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