In the photo, the two college students from Indiana are leaning toward each other, eyes locked amorously, lips puckered in anticipation– and hands blocking their mouths. The odd last detail is a playful symbol of the couple’s vow to save their first kiss until after marriage.
The image ran alongside a recent report in Ball Bearings Magazine at Ball State University focused on the small segment of students who have pledged to refrain from kissing until their wedding day, even as hook-ups and half-night stands take place in bars and dorm rooms all around them.
During her reporting, Lindsey Gelwicks, a Ball State junior and Ball State Daily News section editor, found that for students saying no to lip service “a kiss isn’t just a kiss.”
There are religious considerations, family expectations, peer pressures, emotional intimacy issues, and the media-created fairy tale of what the experience is supposed to be.
As Ball State psychological science professor George Gaither told her, “We get these ideas of just how magical kissing is. Think about all the different Disney movies and how much that one kiss, how just important that is for everything, for solving all the problems that the couple has and overcoming all kinds of obstacles. It all boils down to that first kiss.”
In the Q&A below, Gelwicks talks about how she first stumbled onto the “Waiting to Kiss” story and what the featured students told her about their just-say-no decision and the benefits they believe it has brought into their lives.
Q: What initially piqued your interest about this niche group of students playing the kiss waiting game?
A: I had actually started thinking about the idea around a year ago. I was getting lunch with a couple of my friends, and we began talking about a Christian group on campus that one of them used to be involved in. She mentioned that some of the girls in her Bible study group wanted to save their first kiss for marriage. When I got home, I wrote the idea down on a sticky note and stuck it to my bulletin board where it stayed until I finally had the opportunity to develop it. I never thought I would be able to make it into a full feature-length story.
Q: What did you discover about students waiting to kiss that might surprise people?
A: My boyfriend had read several drafts of the story as I was writing it, so he had an image of these students in his head. When he saw the magazine with the pictures for the first time, he turned to me and said, “Wow, these people are actually really attractive.” He wasn’t the only one to say this to me. Because sex is so prominent in our culture, I think we have this stereotype in our heads about those who don’t partake in physical activity. Sometimes we automatically assume that something is wrong with them or that they are just unattractive and “can’t get any.” This isn’t the case. They are just like everybody else. They have just chosen a different path than most.
Q: By many student accounts, hooking up is a major part of the college experience. Are the students who are playing the waiting game simply rebelling from this hook-up culture or are they honoring deeper religious traditions?
A: One of the things I originally wanted to do when writing this story was disprove the myth that abstinence is a religious decision. Unfortunately, I had difficulty finding people who were saving sex for other reasons. If I’d had more time and more connections with which to find people, I would have loved to delve into this idea deeper. But at this point, I really do think a lot of the decisions to wait stem from religion.
Q: What did the students you interviewed say are the positives of waiting to kiss or be kissed? And did you buy what they told you?
A: The couple who was already married discussed how each felt more cherished by the other because they waited. But I don’t think this is to say that if you have a physical relationship with someone before marriage they don’t cherish you. Every relationship is different. Just because some couples wait until marriage to have sex or kiss doesn’t automatically make their relationships stronger. One student who is waiting mentioned that she witnessed all the drama that sex causes her friends. But once again, I think this pertains to the people involved. So I did buy what they were telling me, but only as it pertained to their own lives. The advantages and disadvantages of waiting will not be the same for every couple.
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