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.
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.
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,