Before I Put Another Notch in My Shoujo Case

I’m an anime fan, by which I mean I’m not particularly a fan of manga.  I just don’t read a lot of it, though I do go on tears where I’ll read chapters upon chapters, and there are a few series that I do keep up with, like Genshiken and Claymore.  But mostly, I leave commentary on manga up to the experts, like Laura of Heart of Manga, and here on this site to R86 and Murasaki Lynna.

And so, I might be inaccurate when I say that it seems a trend in shoujo manga is for a couple to progress step by step through their relationship, with sex as one of the rungs on the dating ladder.  This is true of Pastel, a series I used to enjoy until it became too fanservice loaded and sex-focused for my tastes (not that even the earliest chapters contains a whole lot of it), and of Suzuka, and probably of other series I’ve read and can’t remember.

Suzuka Asahina
Suzuka’s unwillingness to wait leads to other unintended consequences (Art by HAL)

Without a foundation in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Japan isn’t as concerned with moral issues surrounding sex before marriage as Americans are.  Why would the Japanese wait for marriage if they don’t find it wrong?  Shoujo manga couples have it even hard (ha!), after all…

  • They’re extremely pretty (even the “ugly duckling” types)
  • They’re hormone-raging teenagers
  • Their best friends have usually already done it
  • It’s a chance to move past their shy glances and blushing cheeks

Of course, what they (and real people) don’t often realize is that enjoying such intimacies with someone else can have consequences.  You miss out on something incredible that you might only have shared with your future spouse – and who would you want to share it with more, anyhow?

This morning, I heard a radio interview with a young woman who is set to get married in a few months.  The DJs were dumbfounded at the fact that she and her groom-to-be had never kissed, and weren’t going to, until they officially became man and wife.  They wanted to save that intimacy, not to mention anything more physical, for their covenant marriage.

Sound crazy?  Well…then call me crazy: my wife and I did the same.

It was my idea to wait to kiss until we wed.  And to be sure, it was at times a struggle.  But it was worth it because we developed the most important parts of our relationship (emotional, spiritual, etc.) and saved our physical intimacy for our marriage, an agreement that meant something very special to us.  In a symbolic way, the marriage was sealed with our kiss when the pastor pronounced us “man and wife.”

Neither of ever regretted our decision.  But I do know many who have regretted enjoying intimacies before marriage.

There’s a reason for, and blessing to, waiting until marriage to be physically united as one.  I hope that we understand that it’s not about a conservative viewpoint that’s old-fashioned, nor is it like manga on the other end of the spectrum, depicting another rung on the ladder.  Sex is neither something to be feared nor something to do at will.  There’s reason to wait.  When we do, we honor it as the  meaningful, beautiful, and loving action it is.



16 thoughts on “Before I Put Another Notch in My Shoujo Case

  1. You’re crazy. Not for waiting until you’re married, but… Well… Because you said I could call you crazy, and I always like to take advantage of a any opportunity to question your sanity.. 😛

    An awesome writeup as per usual good sir! A while back, I shared with my coworkers that I was saving myself for my future wife, the overall consensus of the group, all female I might add, was that it was a really rare trait and that they wish they had waited before… Sealing the deal, as it were.

    You know, something just dawned on me: the Japanese put a lot of bearing and importance on the first kiss, but not so much bearing on the actual love making act itself… Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but still…

    1. I think you definitely have to go within church circle (and often not even there) to find a community of people who plan to wait. Small groups I’ve been a part of have often had a lot of good lookin’ guys and gals who were in their twenties (and sometimes older) and were still virgins. They were oddities in their workplaces and other groupings, but normal within church.

      Thank you for sharing. And yes, I am crazy. 😉

  2. Ah, well, I think it’s true that many of the Japanese aren’t as conservative as Christians can be. However, I think just like in America it’s a matter of personal preference. My husband and I happen to fall in the same category of abstinence thanks to Christian upbringing. My college roommates, not so much! 🙂

    The first kiss being more important – now that’s an interesting idea. I’d say almost all shoujo focuses on that. I wouldn’t say that sex is another rung on the ladder, though. Most mangaka emphasize that their character loves the person they become intimate with. Usually the partners end up together in the end if they go there. Most address the consequences of early intimacy, like pregnancy or regret. I think in shoujo they try to be more delicate about it since it’s a young girl audience.

    1. Thanks for the comments – I appreciate your insights!

      I would love it if someone who’s lived in Japan might comment on all this. Is kissing more emphasized in Japan, or is this merely an anime/manga thing (as I assume)? And what of abstinence in Japan?

  3. Great Post TWWK! I agree with it a 100%.
    I do becuase me and my hubby first kiss was also after we were declaered husband and wife, and it was the most wonderful kiss ever. Not to mention all the other more important reasons that you clearly explained on why to wait. It was also my hubby idea. Thanks again for such important and clear post.

    1. *high five!*

      You bring up a great point – the kiss I shared with my wife was also very memorable! Referring again to that radio interview I heard, the DJs all said that they didn’t remember their kiss at the altar. But when it’s your first with that person, how can you not remember it? I remember it as well as any kiss I’ve ever had.

  4. Though you’re certainly right that many shojo manga feature characters becoming intimate, neither Suzuka nor Pastel are shojo series – both are shonen romances. Since everybody has a different view of sex, I think it’s only fair that a range of attitudes toward the topic are depicted in shojo manga. So while many shojo manga show the couple making love as a sign of the strength of their relationship , others feature a more pure view by simply leaving sex out of the picture (such as Kimi ni Todoke). So I would say shojo features something for everyone. And you guys are certainly right – the first kiss is typically a much bigger deal in shojo manga than sex is – probably because girls usually have their first kiss stolen, which makes ‘the sacred first kiss’ more dramatic!

    1. Thanks for all the insight! I should have of course listed you in my post as well, and I was hoping you’d give some feedback. That all makes a lot of sense. 🙂

    2. Oh, and yes, Kimi ni Todoke! I’ve refrained from reading the manga, since I’ve put Kazehaya and Sawako in some sort of sacred bubble where they’re sexless, super cute and bashful. I’m glad you brought them up, though – I definitely want to check out that series, post-anime time frame.

  5. Waiting ’till marriage is so incredibly moe!

    Clannad is also a good example of that, where it was implied that they didn’t even have sex AFTER marriage, until they decided to try to have a baby. (There was that scene were after formally getting married, (without ceremony), Tomoya was kinda nervous as if expecting something, but being clueless as usual, she just went to sleep.)

    That’s part of the reason why I prefer male-oriented anime. They might be incredibly fanservicey at times, but at least everyone is keeping their genitals at a comfortable distance from each other, and often even lack kissing.

    1. Bwahaha, moe! Yes, I’ve finally been described in such terms! 😛

      Clannad’s a perfect example – I’d forgotten all about that! I remember it really striking me when I originally watched the series, but I haven’t revisited the pre-Ushio episodes in a long time. Thanks for the comments!

  6. have read thousands of shojous, but my most favorite is Skip beat ( my signature is renxkyoko in case you haven’t noticed, ^_^ ) It’s Chapter 193 now, but the couple , Ren and Kyoko haven’;t kissed.

    Kissing in shojous is mostly fanservice, and I tell you, almost every reader swoons. @__@

  7. My parents also waited until they married (ot for kissing, but for sex) and it was the most terrible decision. My mother suffered horrifically because my dad had no idea what to do =.= So, my mother has encouraged me that if I find a guy I like, don’t wait until marriage.

    And I think there is merit to that idea. I’ve talked about it with my friends. Some just like sex, and enjoy it equally with whomever they’re with. Others who are a little more emotionally attachd to their partners don’t regret waiting because when they did it, it was special and with someone special, even if they’re no longer with the first person they had sex with.

    Then there’s also the issue with how virginity has been almost fetishized in society. The only real reason virginity was emphasized back in the day – even into the early 1900’s – was because the main reason for women being virgins (if you were a MAN and a virgin, you were a priest) was to know whether the kid was the dad’s to figure out inheritance. I have seen so many terrible things said and done to girls that weren’t virgins that I don’t think we’ve moved past that in many ways. People like to think that sex is more accepted, but it’s not – in HS you might as well put on that scarlet A and be done with it. There’s so much emphasis on being a virgin that I feel dirty from it.

    1. I wanted to think a lot about what you said before I responded. And certainly, we’re coming from two different viewpoints.

      You have excellent points about how people view sex differently and how virginity can be fetishized. Certainly in high school, you have to mix in immaturity, social behaviors and bullying, inexperience, and so many more dynamics.

      The Bible emphasizes the holiness of union between man and woman, and I think it’s a beautiful thing. The imagery is intense – it’s of a man and woman coming together as one both physically and spiritually. While it’s fun to have multiple partners in course of life, and practically speaking, it makes sense, it definitely cheapens the act. It becomes less significant.

      That said, that we as a Christian community place such emphasis on sex while ignoring more pressing and important needs is shameful.

      But one last thought. There are certainly exceptions to how everything goes, and I think maybe your mother is one – not in how we think about sex before marriage, but in how it all goes. Without going into lurid detail, my wife and I were obviously inexperienced. But our growth together in this intimate way was very generous, kind, loving, and beautiful. It was perhaps awkward, but at the same time, incredibly joyful. Sex should be as anything between a loving couple – something to be shared and given. When it works right, with the right heart, I think the value a couple gets from waiting outweighs the experience one would have going in if they didn’t.

  8. Interesting article, though I have some disagreements. Before I get to those, though, I have also noticed the focus on sex in shoujo manga/anime as a part of dating; I actually wish this was examined more in anime and manga of all demographics since it is all too often used as merely comedy or cheap titillation. I’d recommend reading the articles “Torrid Anime Romances” and “The Purity Fixation” on the blog Behind the Nihon review. Now, onto what else I wanted to say.

    Even as a Christian, I have a skeptical view of marriage; marriage is just like any other institution in that it is more an expression of what society finds acceptable than what is truly the best for us collectively or individually and can be easily abused. This can be demonstrated by the rabid anger from fundamentalist and even some moderate Christian political organizations in trying to ban homosexual marriage on the basis of it merely conflicting with their worldview as opposed to, say, being a legitimate threat to public welfare. The amendment to the North Carolina state constitution demonstrates marriage as being more an institution than a sacred union of any sort by how it would not only recognize same-sex couples as illegitimate but also unwed heterosexual couples; marriage is used here as a tool to categorize what a [majority of] society likes and what it does not as opposed to what is “right” for individual couples.

    Likewise, the regrets that come with not being abstinent usually are more of a product of how a society champions certain relationships over others – in this case, how society chapions marriage over being unwed; yes, premarital sex can result in tough decision such as how to handle a pregnancy, but what about how society generally treats these couples? What about how most of these couples are shamed for having sex and how they will be subject to heckles such as “trash,” “whore,” or “deadbeat dad?” What about the narrowed socioeconomic opportunities because of a lack of support for the couple on the basis of not being married? What about the extreme obsession with protecting “purity” – especially for the young – in some countries (notably America) that manifests itself in intolerance for things that are merely a fact of life, including sex?

    Now, all this is not to say that choosing to remain abstinent until marriage is wrong; indeed, if two people want to reserve sexual relations until marriage, they should be free to do so. The institution pf marriage itself is too often view as being more respectful ipso facto rather than finer elements of a sexual/romantic relationship such as affection and mutual commitment to the point of villainizing any other kind of sexual relationship in addition to the people who participate in them, and that is what I am upset about.

    1. Thanks for the great comments. First, I’ll just say that I do agree with a lot of what you’ve said. We (both in society in general and in conservative Christian groups) do often “villainize” those that don’t follow our ideas of purity and marriage. We should lift people up and offer grace and mercy. The first century Christians were known for their acceptance and love; the 21st century Protestants are known for their judgment and protests. There’s a problem here. Readers here may (or may not!) know my distaste largely for the politicizing of Christianity in America and the lack of compassion showed by those who claim to follow a compassionate God.

      On the other hand, I support the idea of abstinence before marriage because I feel it’s biblical. Marriage as an institution may be a societal/governmental idea, but my wife and I went into it with a biblical mindset related to covenant marriage, and I think that was a good approach for us, to remember it more as structure ordained by God and symbolic of a holy relationship (in multiple ways).

      Again, thanks for all the insight!

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