I grew up in the height of what is now known as Purity Culture. It was a movement born out of the sexually liberated Boomer Hippies, as a means to maintain the masses.
At 11 I was introduced to a sexual purity classes, held at church. We were told that our blossoming bodies were death traps to men; our appendages unsightly and sinful and born to be hidden. I was introduced to the book “Passion and Purity”, a book penned by renowned author Elizabeth Elliot. She was the woman I longed to be: a missionary, blessed with a husband and children. She too, refused to date. The words my 11 year old mind read burned a scar into my malleable conscience. At 13, I was introduced to another book called “And The Bride Wore White” by Dannah Gresh. This books listed 7 ways in which you were sinning if you were a sexual being, and how to overcome it.
At 13, I was in another purity class. From ages 11-26, I sat through at least 15 different purity classes from many different teachers, pastors, and bible school faculty. There was always one favourite game that seemed to follow wherever I went: the Dirty, Used Present Game. This started out by giving a girl a ball of wrapping paper, or sometimes a wrapped gift. The girls were encouraged to “rough it up a bit” before passing it on to the next girl. By the time the wrapping paper completed the circle, it was in shreds. The teacher would then hold it up high and say “Girls! If you have sex before marriage…” *dramatic pause* ” this wrapping paper is YOU!” Our tween eyes widened in horror. “You don’t want to be this dirty, used, unwanted paper, right?” We shook our heads. “Then save yourself for you husband, don’t date.” Some girls signed vows that they would never have sex. Some vowed they would never kiss. Some girls promised to wait.
When I developed my first serious crush in junior high, I was petrified of all things sexually relating to boys. I couldn’t kiss, because that was the gateway to hell! I turned down kisses, agonizing for weeks at the conflicts within. It took a long time before I got free from the notion that kissing was the gateway drug to debauchery.
I wish I could say that this nonsense of sex-shaming, and woman shaming ended at the early years. In bible college, there were strict “No Touching” rules. There was a joke-turned-rule that you had to keep 6 inches away from one another, in which the irony of phallic measuring was never lost on me. Just in case your wicked shoulders seduce them, ladies, make sure 6 inches never, ever touches you. Grown men and women needed constant monitoring. I have never in my life seen such addictions to the mere THOUGHT of sex, than in Christian leadership. I will never forget the shock of a whole room of grown women in their 20s and 30s being told that masturbating was sin unto the Lord and as harmful as a night of orgy. I will never forget the burning rage in my gut when I was pulled aside and given a warning because my ass was a distraction in my jeans. “Now Rebekah, I think we may need to tell all of you no more skinny jeans. They are rather revealing.” Damn straight my ass is nice: the Holy God Above has gifted me, so let us be glad and rejoice!
In missions school in France, there is one horrific week that stands out among them all. France is quite more liberated than the US, so couples were allowed to touch, I could wear my best ass-hugging jeans, shoulders were just shoulders, etc. One week we talked about sexual purity. We discussed how much tongue to use before it became too much, which positions were best, how to get ready for a long sexy night vs. a morning quickie. In our states of shock and horror, we were then handed slips of paper that had every sex act imaginable, plus molestation and rape. We were then told to check every box for everything we had ever done, everything our parents and grandparents had ever done (who would spend the time imagining your ancestral kama sutra rituals, my dear God??!!) and report it to the staff members. If we refused, our diplomas could be withheld from us. That school was $7,000! Who would want to waste $7,000 because they didn’t report hand jobs or masturbation, or RAPE. I handed mine in and mumbled and they kept asking “IS THERE MORE?? THERE MUST BE MORE????!!” No bitch, I vowed not to be that used tissue paper, remember??!! Remember???!!
Being told all of your life that dating is wrong, really puts a cramp in your style. When my body started twinging from the lack of human affection at 25, I decided I should start dating. I joined a mega church that boaseted the largest number of Millenials to attend, ever. 3,500 young adults met together every Tuesday. While I started to explore the dating world, the messages at the church echoed it. The sermons were mostly on sexual purity. Hip, “young”, 40 year old pastor with sleeves rolled, would begin with “Sex is great, amiright? But guys, you’ve got to stop. Girls, be Holy. Guys, go to the gym.” They would quote statistics that said sex life of virginal marriages far outlasted those of the used paper type. The virginal marriages reported better sex, too. We were told that if we didn’t want divorce, ruin, and the worst married sex of your life, then wait to have sex. I wonder….did anyone factor in that the virginal sex was only so great because there was literally nothing else to compare to? These pastors would then say (as I found out with all of the purity class teachers too) “Oh, I didn’t wait. Are you kidding me? But you should, because God says. I also got married in my early twenties”.
At around 26, I finally managed to grow out of that stage where leaders thought I needed to be shamed. I think that’s because once you pass 25, you’re expected to be married.
As a Christian, I really can’t argue what the Bible has stated clearly: “sexual sin is sin”. Pre-marital sex is definitely cleary marked as a no-no, so I won’t refute that. My next post will get into the heart of that matter. What I wish to say is that giving this teaching out of fear, shame, a hatred for women, a self-loathing that leader’s have that is born out of their own sexual deviances, and a need to control , has led to an entire genertion of Christians who have deep wounds. I’ve seen young women spiral into depression suicidal thoughts because they slept with their boyfriend. I’ve seen groups of young men prostrate themselves on the ground with tears running down their faces shouting “WE HAVE SINNED! WE HAVE MASTURBATED!”. As hilarious as that sounds, it is really a horrible thing to witness. Right alongside of them, silently (because women can’t be sexual) women cry “WE HAVE SINNED! WE HAVE MASTURBATED! WE WANT HUSBANDS! WE WANT BABIES! THESE THINGS ARE IDOLS, AND WE SHOULD BE SILENT!”
Instead of teaching young minds that sex in all forms is wrong, like some sort of Victorian school, let’s teach about healthy and healing sex. Let’s give preteens an understanding of the tool of masturbation, and how acknowledging your sex drive is as important as understanding hunger and thirst. Let’s not shame teens for dealing with their hormones in a good way, demand that they wait to have sex until married, call them useless if they do, and then not have any way to deal with them when they’ve reached 25 and they’re unmarried.
Let’s teach the reality that exploring your own God given body with it’s own God given appendages and nerve endings will benefit a healthy sex life. If we teach children to be afraid and ashamed of their bodies, how then can they not be afraid and ashamed in marriage?
Let’s for once as Christians stop pretending that sex doesn’t matter in a marriage, while all the while crying and whispering about a failed sex life.
Is it possible to just stop obsessing over sex in general, as Christians? Can we just accept that sex is as normal as pooping, yet we don’t go around obsessing over our bowel movements?
Sex is good, masturbation is healthy, you are not “less than” because you have working genitalia…but you ARE a creep if you’re too concerned over your student’s great ass.