Purity, Sex

Virginity Is Not Like A Pop-Tart

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Today I wanted to share something that has been on my heart for a long time. Growing up in church, there was a recurring theme that fell on the shoulders of young women: Purity. Though I believe we should make every effort to wait until marriage to have sex, purity, on the other hand, is something different. Our identity as a person doesn’t change the moment we have sex, yet there are so many women that struggle with this idea that they’re allowed to have or even enjoy sex without being sinful or dirty!

I was raised up in an Assemblies of God church and school, which was heavily a part of the “purity culture” movement. Purity, above all, was taught as the most important aspect or more so the character of a woman. If you are unfamiliar with the teachings of  “purity culture,” some of the ideas that were introduced to me were:

  • Pre-Marital sex is the worst sin
  • Virginity is like a Pop-Tart, the more you share, the less your husband will get when you are finally married.
  • It’s the woman’s responsibility to keep herself AND her boyfriend/fiance pure.
  • Dressing immodestly causes men to stumble and lust after you, so you MUST cover up.
  • Sexual thoughts, sexual acts, and intimate actions (even holding hands or a kiss) are dirty and you are dirty for thinking, talking about, or doing these things.
  • If you wait to have sex until you are married, your honeymoon is going to be FANTASTIC.

The list goes on and on. The church set up sex to be somewhat of a god and was regarded as the end-all to one’s happiness. We signed purity contracts and wore purity rings as a promise to wait until marriage to have sex. Women were the gatekeepers to their purity AND the man’s purity. I was told we were called WOMAN because it was a constant reminder to say “WHOA-MAN” when the petting got a little too heavy.

Pop-Tart Purity

In 9th grade, this analogy was presented to us in chapel: during the talk, the speaker opened up a pop-tart and asked if anyone wanted some. Of course, everyone did, so pop-tart projectiles went flying around the chapel until he finally stopped and called one person up to the stage (who hadn’t gotten any pop tart). The speaker apologized to the kid and said he’d give him everything that was left in the package. Excitedly, the kid held out his hands while the speaker proceeded to pour out all the crumbs and place the crumpled wrapper in the now visibly disappointed kid’s hand. “This is your virginity, your purity,’ he says, ‘the more you share with others, the less you give your husband.” The room gasped and sat in silence.

You Are No Less of A Person When You Mess Up

I hope you’re as puzzled as I am. The problem with analogies like this is that it’s simply NOT the case. Yes, there consequences for your actions and yes you will carry some kind of baggage into a new relationship/marriage when you have been involved with other people. BUT, YOU ARE NOT LESS OF A PERSON BECAUSE OF IT! If you are a God-Fearing Christian and have asked forgiveness of your sins, you are forgiven. Plain and simple. Your husband isn’t getting less of you because of your past. Yes, there are things to work on and there will be tender spots from your past, but everyone has them. No one, I hope, would support the idea that you lose a limb every time you have sex with someone, so why is it okay to accept the idea that it can happen emotionally?

But, this idea of purity is continually presented to young women as the most sought after characteristic. It teaches us that when we remain pure and follow God’s plan for sex in a marriage, everything will be hunky dory. Well, there are flaws with this way of thinking.

First, purity, though presented as a lifelong characteristic, leaves the moment you have sex. Why? Because if you are taught, your entire life, that purity is the result of abstinence, then the moment you start having sex your purity is out the window! Secondly, if you believe that your honeymoon will be filled with endless orgasms and mind-blowing sex, you’re going to be in for some disappointment. Sex is fun and takes some time to work on, you’re not just going to know what to do right away. It’s mind-blowing in the fact that you get to know someone intimately and that’s something you’ll never forget.

purtiy

Oh No, What Did I Get Myself Into?!

When I finally met my boyfriend (now husband) I realized how difficult it was going to be to keep my feet in a bucket. I also felt this HUGE burden to keep him pure- I was a mess. How could I keep myself in check when I know what we BOTH want!? Ugh. All of these things were taboo and bad and I wanted them. It took 8 weeks into dating for him to gain the courage to kiss me, so things went slowly at the beginning. But by 7 months, it all went off the deep end. Granted, when he moved away we stayed abstinent until the wedding night. (I don’t share these details to glorify the mistakes I made, I just want to be upfront and truthful. I am human and have made mistakes and asked for forgiveness.)

I felt this intense pressure to tell someone I messed up but I also felt like an absolute failure. How was I supposed to tell my peers that we made a mistake when I was supposed to be the “good girl?” I was so afraid of rejection that I told no one and held that secret with me until I started this blog. If this sounds familiar, don’t hold it in, please talk to someone you trust. The freedom you receive from overcoming a struggle is so much greater than the fear of rejection.

How Do I Move Past This Harmful Mentality?

So what do you do when you have believed for so long that your identity is wrapped up in your purity? If you’re like me, you freak out. Switching from one mentality to another doesn’t happen overnight, nor do I think it should! Know this: your sexuality is a gift and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your purity doesn’t change when you have sex. Virginity and Purity have been wrapped up together for so long and yet they represent two different concepts. While your virginity is “lost” when you have sex, your purity still remains. You are a new creation in Christ, you are forgiven, blameless, pure! Sex is an additional bonus to experience just a glimpse of how much more pure God’s desires are for us.

No matter what you have gone through, God still loves you. Don’t allow yourself to believe that you are nothing less than perfect in God’s eyes. Re-learning how to think about purity and sex is a hard thing to do. The change won’t happen overnight but continue to trust that God will graciously help guide you through the process of embracing who you are OR embracing sexuality in your marriage.

When we tell young women to stay pure for their wedding night, we enforce this idea that it’s all or nothing. Leading young women to believe they are either dirty or clean because of sex will only perpetuate these harmful ideas.

This is only a scratch in the surface on my approach to helping shift the “purity” mentality in our churches and families. There is so much more I want to say, but will have to wait for another time 🙂

If you grew up in this “purity culture” movement, how do you think we can teach young women about this idea of “purity”?

Until next time,

Emily Heart

10 thoughts on “Virginity Is Not Like A Pop-Tart

  1. Interesting thoughts….and yes, people should not feel unclean of their past if they have repented…

  2. E, you touched on some major issues in the church today. Here’s a cyber hug. Thank you so much.

    We really need to stress the fact that purity is not the same as virginity. One can be a virgin and habour ‘impure’ thoughts.

    It also shouldn’t be a burden placed on the woman especially as it’s not usually stressed for men.
    The Church needs to promote right living but in the way Jesus did. Without judgement but in love. Thanks again for this.

    1. Thank you so much for the support! You are so right about having “impure” thoughts! It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in, or what you have experienced, the goal of “purity” should be sought after by everyone- not just virgins. Also, the idea that there is all or nothing when it comes to virginity leads young women into the temptation to believe “we haven’t gone ‘that’ far…” and that’s a scary place to be.

  3. Thanks for talking about this. I think what surprises me about this is at the time I didn’t think anything was wrong with this focus on purity…

  4. I’m not sure how I feel about this post, to be honest. I was a virgin on my wedding night and I don’t regret that for one moment! No, there weren’t mind-blowing orgasms involved on our honeymoon, but it was still an amazing time. I guess the reason I’m not sure how I feel about this post is that I still believe it’s important to save sex for marriage. I didn’t grow up in this supposed “Purity Culture.” My parent taught me it was important to save sex for marriage, but it wasn’t something that we focused on all the time. I did grow up believing it was important to dress somewhat modestly but I never felt like it was only my responsibility to make sure we didn’t have sex before marriage. All that said, I believe that God forgives us and makes us clean and that sex before marriage isn’t the dirtiest sin there is. In fact, I believe that God sees us as precious and valuable no matter what we’ve done. I’m reminded of the words to a chorus that we sang growing up in the church; “Nothing you can do, can make him love you more. And nothing that you’ve done could make him close the door. All because of his great love, he gave his only Son. Everything was done so you would come.” I’m thankful for his grace and mercy. 🙂

    1. There’s nothing to regret about that at all! That’s definitely something to celebrate. I, in no way, want to make people think that they shouldn’t wait until marriage- it’s something that I truly believe we are called to do. Thankfully, you weren’t raised in up with “purity culture” teachings and your parents taught you well. The problem I am addressing is how those of us who did grow up in ‘purity culture’ were taught to believe it was all the woman’s responsibility- and that isn’t true at all! My parents told me to save sex until marriage, but I didn’t know what sex was, ha.
      Purity is something we should strive to have, no matter what point in life we are in (single, dating, engaged, married, divorced, widowed etc.). It’s a state of mind, a worldview, not a state of “being” like virginity is. For too long, people meshed the two and it created some harmful and hurtful ideas in my mind and in the minds of many other young women.
      All in all, I firmly believe and will continue to enforce the idea that saving sex until marriage is a big deal. But, I recognize people make mistakes and if some of those people were raised to believe they were dirty and worthless, I want them to know that they are still loved and perfect and blameless in God’s eyes.

  5. Purity culture can also lead to sexual problems even once one is married. When you’re constantly taught that sex is this big sin- that as a woman you must be a virgin, you must be pure and, you must safe guard men’s purity as well- it’s a set up for possible sexual dysfunction once you are married. All those ingrained lessons don’t magically disappear from your mind after you exchange vows.

  6. I also am in the “purity culture” of the Assemblies of God. However, the youth group in my church has realized this and has taken a different approach to it. Instead of the regular night where we take an oath of sexual purity and we wear a ring symbolizing sexual purity, that night has turned into something else. It’s now generally called “purity night,” and we don’t only vow to abstinence. We vow to remain pure in ALL areas of life. Speech, thoughts, attitude, everything. Not only sexual purity. Purity as in we are vowing to live a life as pure as Christ did. So the ring we wear not only symbolizes sexual purity. It stresses a commitment to a walk of purity in all areas of life. We want to teach our youths that sexual purity is just as important as all other types of purity. We also felt that the youths were tired of beaten down with that same old “NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE!!!” And we sensed that the way it was stressed gave youths the impression that it was the most important area to remain pure in, and it’s like the “greatest shame” to break sexual purity. This isnt so. Its important to remaim pure in ALL areas of life, and we wanted our youths to know that. So this is how my church has kind of improved that purity culture. We may still have a lot more room for improvement, but I like what we’ve done a lot.

    1. That is great! It’s so refreshing to see a change in what we teach teens! Purity is totally a “way of life” not just tied to your virginity and worth. Thank you so much for this comment! It makes my heart happy 🙂

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