5 Myths (lies) of Purity Culture
In this video I’m going to go over; the top 5 myths of Purity Culture and the damage it does to the unconscious mind, the lifestyle issues that arise from it, and where Purity Culture came from.
As a child of the 90s, raised in a transgenerational Christian home, words like “purity” “virginity” “modesty” and “abstinence” were common vernacular in my youth groups and church functions.
Even though women have been exploited, owned, and controlled around the subject of their virginity (or lack of it) for thousands of years, it’s time to put an end to it.
In the 90s Joshua harris, a homeschooled 21yr old virgin wrote a book called “I kissed dating goodbye” which influenced 1000s of Christian families to really take control of their children’s sexuality (mostly daughters) and put us right back into the middle ages.
BY THE WAY…he’s now divorced, has left the religion, and apologizes for his book…
Nice, but it’s a little too late for those of us that had to endure the Purity Rituals.
The USA burst out with “re-claiming” virginity and really creepy “purity balls”, in which really young girls, like 5 yrs olds and up, wore wedding dresses and married their fathers and God, in order to put their virginity in their fathers “hands” until married.
It’s sick, and I’ll talk about it in another video. But it was so strict and extreme we’re talking about not even kissing your potential life partner until your wedding day.
Despite my parent’s best efforts through a highly controlled homeschooled environment, I was a highly sexual being and amongst being given books about how masturbation would actually make me go blind, there was a severe lack of logical conversation around sex.
I myself had to go through a ceremony to marry Jesus, confess my sexual sins, my thoughts, feel shameful and reclaim my virginity. Then I was required to wear a “True love waits” ring for all to see.
And it wasn’t just my parents, my boyfriend at the time also blamed all his sexual desires on me. Often calling me a temptress and a jezebel. He requested I go to this ceremony as well to help HIM stop having the thoughts.
Ummm…why the fuck didn’t he just go himself?
In a nutshell, Joshua’s book is all about shaming sexual experiences ESPECIALLY WOMEN and basically stated:
1. Women are to obey men and are only worth their virginity
2. Women that have had sexual experiences are damaged goods
3. And when we’re ready, if we are perfect, then magically our marriages will be amazing and so will our sex lives
4. Don’t date until your ready to get married otherwise temptations occur
5. Masturbation is a deadly, punishable sin
And more ridiculous stuff like that. So let’s get into the first major myth:
Myth 1: The Spiritual Barometer Myth
The “spiritual barometer” myth says that what matters most about a person is his/her virginity. In other words, purity culture implies and sometimes, directly claims that a believer’s sexual history is the primary mark of their spiritual status (even determining whether they’re saved or not saved).
Purity is used to measure faith, to judge how good of a Christian someone is, compared to others. Rather than knowing Christians by their relationship with Jesus, purity culture asserts that we will know them by their virginity.
As women, our worth is often reduced to what we have or haven’t done in the bedroom. We wear white dresses on our wedding days as an outward symbol of internal morality and spiritual maturity.
Signs of our spiritual health, such as serving our communities well, caring for the poor, and loving those around us, are treated as secondary to virginity.
Using purity as a measure of spiritual health breeds pride and judgment among believers. It effectively makes an idol out of not having sex and exchanges their message of grace for a works-based religion in which salvation is dependent only on following rules.
Myth 2: The Fairytale Myth
The 1990s were full of Christian books that promised happily-ever-afters to girls who remained pure, prayed for a Christian husband, and avoided “casual dating.” We believed that, as long as we waited to have sex, God would bless us with good Christian husbands who met every criterion on the lengthy “future spouse” checklist that our youth group leaders encouraged us to write.
Instead, my first serious relationship in college unexpectedly and tragically ended in his death after years of ‘behind closed door abuse”. That was followed by another relationship with the most boring man on planet Earth. But, he was a Christian, so I stayed until he and I started arguing too much and he ganged up with his Christian mother and they decided to tell everyone I was doing heroin…yes heroin. I mean what?!
The fairytale myth caused intense anguish and despair over those long years. It also inspired a lot of anger toward God,
and more anger toward Christians, b/c they seemed to be the ones always lying to me and others.
The fairytale myth reduces God to a fairy godmother who grants our wishes as long as we do the right thing. It twists a relationship with God into a transaction: staying pure equals a dream spouse. Scripture is full of commandments that come with clauses: if you repent of your sins, God forgives you; if you accept Jesus as your Savior, God grants you eternal life. But what we don’t realize is that the majority of Scriptures are precepts, not promises. They aren’t guarantees. We aren’t guaranteed a fairytale marriage or even a spouse. It’s misleading to tell single Christians otherwise.
Myth 3: The Flipped Switch Myth
The flipped switch myth teaches Christians that if they remain pure before marriage, they’ll be able to flip a switch on their wedding night and have an instantaneously amazing sex life.
As many disappointed, disillusioned Christian couples have discovered, this is often far from the truth. Without proper preparation, education, and communication, a fulfilling sex life is not the norm for many newly-married Christians.
Purity culture promises single adults that they will automatically have amazing sex if they wait for marriage — but it has no power to deliver on that myth. When couples find out that this isn’t necessarily the case, they feel disillusion, disappointment, and frustration.
The flipped switch myth also perpetuates shame. Some women and men are unable to “flip the switch” in their brain that takes sex from “off-limits” to “go for it,” and their marriages suffer tremendously for it.
Many who grew up in purity culture struggle with shame and sexual dysfunction even after they get married. Staying pure before marriage doesn’t mean we’ll have satisfying sex lives.
Likewise, a lousy sex life is certainly not an absolute just because a couple was sexually active prior to marriage. We set Christians up for disappointment and failure when we offer false promises instead of emphasizing the mutual work, struggle, and patience needed for fulfilling intimacy.
Myth 4: The Damaged Goods Myth
This is MY personal favorite…if we buy into these ideas…
we‘re soiled and damaged goods if we do have premarital sex — especially women.
This myth…ahem…total LIE, describes women and sex as nothing more than a piece of tape that has been used too many times to stick, or a chewed piece of gum.
It’s disgusting and of course totally wrong.
Because anyone who’s had multiple partners and a healthy sex life knows that just like anything, you get BETTER at it!
Purity culture uses all sorts of analogies, metaphors, and stories to illustrate this toxic lie. We’re likened to chipped teacups or soiled cloth napkins; we’re cups of water tainted with spit; we’re a shredded piece of heart-shaped paper (and the pieces represent the parts of our heart that we give away if we have sex).
The primary message of purity culture is clear: you won’t be whole, clean, and pure if you have premarital sex.
- You will have to present a tarnished and ruined self on your wedding day. You won’t have your whole heart to give away to your future spouse.
- You will be forced to present him/her with whatever’s left of you.
- You are damaged goods and you should be ashamed.
- You must repent and re-claim your virginity. Then you will be forgiven and somewhat clean again.
Myth 5: The Women-As-Gatekeepers
You cannot fully understand the purity movement without examining the context in which it was born:
The messages of purity culture are rooted in patriarchal theology and traditional gender roles.
According to this warped theology, women are asexual and don’t want or enjoy sex as much as men. Sex is primarily to meet men’s sexual needs and urges, and women should perform their “wifely duties” cheerfully, willingly, and enthusiastically.
Purity culture claims that all men have high sex drives, can’t help but sexualize women, and can’t control themselves or be held responsible for their sexual desires.
Because women are apparently less sexual, they’re expected to gatekeep men’s sexuality. Because men can’t control themselves, women are responsible for men’s lust.
Imagine the shame felt by women and men who don’t conform to these rigid gender stereotypes!
Purity culture causes them to believe there’s something wrong with them because they don’t fit these narrow molds.
Even worse is the guilt and shame leveled at vulnerable girls, especially girls who are victims of sexual assault. Some are made to feel that it’s their fault because they “tempted” men with their clothing or behavior.
While these devastating messages are also sent in secular culture, I believe they do more damage in the church. In the church, a girl who is assaulted may be told that she’s “damaged goods” and that she somehow caused her own abuse.
Further, it’s appalling to me that the messages of purity culture are given primarily, if not exclusively, to young girls. Not young men. Purity balls, purity rings, and other symbols of the abstinence movement are almost exclusively marketed to females.
I had dozens of friends with “True Love Waits” rings through high school and college, but knew of not a single male friend who wore anything similar.
While men have certainly suffered due to the purity movement too, it has especially targeted women and girls. The gender bias of purity culture messaging further emphasizes that sexual gatekeeping is the female role and that women are responsible not only for managing their own boundaries and sexual temptations, but also those of men.
In preaching an ethic for sex that was built on patriarchy, we harm women. We heap undue responsibility and blame on women for men’s sexual sin. We promote shame in women and girls for sexual temptations and sexual sins. We engage in victim-blaming. We can perpetuate sexual dysfunction and unhappy marriages.
Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped as a 14-year-old in 2002, gave a speech about sexual assault.
Smart, who was kidnapped and held for months while her captor repeatedly raped her, recently discussed how her religious background made her feel worthless after the first rape — how she understands why others wouldn’t even try to escape, if, like her, they were taught that a sexually “impure” woman had nothing to offer.
Smart’s speech is largely being interpreted as a critique of abstinence-only education, but she’s pointing to an entire culture that fetishizes purity.
Abstinence-only education is just one example of religion's bizarre relationship with sex.
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