Purity culture has become a buzzword on social media. A few weeks ago, we had Brandi Harris on our podcast to talk about moving on from purity culture and developing your own eroticism. Here, we are going to talk about what purity culture is, unpack the bad from the good, and discuss how we can move on from purity culture.
What is Purity Culture?
Purity is a good and worthwhile goal. Humans seek pure water and pure air to keep us physically healthy. As Christians, we seek to have pure intentions and to become pure in heart through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We also seek to be chaste before marriage and loyal to our spouse once we are married.
Unfortunately, sexual purity and the culture surrounding this idea have become twisted. Somehow, a culture of sexual purity has developed that tells us sex is bad and something we shouldn’t desire. We are led to believe that “losing our virginity” means that something is being taken away, and that we are irreparably damaged. Because of well meaning lessons on chastity, a lot of us were conditioned to associate sex with shame and being unclean.
Every good lie has a kernel of truth. Purity is a worthy goal, and yet a lot of lies have been sewn around the idea of being sexually pure. These lies stick with us, even after we get married. (We have a blog post that explains more about the myths of purity culture).
How does purity culture affect us?
Every person has an innate eroticism. It is a part of our human sexuality. However, purity culture discourages people from exploring and understanding their own eroticism. Typically, the result of purity culture is women who are unaware of their eroticism and men who are shamed out of exploring it. Purity culture subconsciously conditions us to not just control that part of us, but to suppress and ignore it.
This means that after marriage, spouses can have trouble accessing their sexuality. It may lead to feelings of guilt and shame, insufficient arousal, and a block to pleasure. Although we value chastity, surely there is a way to teach purity without creating a roadblock to our God given ability to find pleasure in marital sex and intimacy.
Moving on from Purity Culture
We can all move away from these toxic lies and get closer to the principles God has taught us. What is at the core of the law of chastity for you? The first step to moving away from purity culture is to understand the spirit of the law, and not just the letter. Focusing on the letter of the law creates a false dichotomy; virgin or not, penetration or not. But as we know, there is so much more to sex than penetration! If we focus on just the letter of the law, we miss the chance to learn about all the beautiful emotional and spiritual bonding of the sexual experience. To move on from purity culture, we need to define the spirit of the law of chastity.
This may look a little different based on your personal beliefs. I will share my own view, but if yours is slightly different that is okay!
God has given us sex as a tool to help us multiply (having kids) and to help us replenish! Sex is about bonding with our spouse in a deep and extremely intimate way. We wait until we have committed to our spouse before God and man (through marriage) to bond with them sexually. In this light, saying no to this bonding before you are ready is a beautiful thing; and it is just as beautiful to say yes to bonding with your eternal partner!
Most of the people reading this blog are married, already having sex with the love of their lives. And yet, purity culture may still be blocking us from reaching our full sexual potential. Here are some ideas on how to move forward!
Tips for Everyone
One of the best ways to combat the effects of purity culture is to feel more connected to your spouse. When we feel more connected, whole-hearted sex comes more naturally. What would help you feel more connected? For some couples, it could be adding more consent seeking to the process. For others, they may need more conversation, more non-sexual touch, or more reassurance. A lot of couples need to work on making more space for vulnerable conversations without judgment.
Both high and low desire partners need to know there is no shame in their desire level. High desire partners can make space for their partner to explore and to be calmly excited about progress. Low desire partners can give assurance that they do love their spouse and want to be with them sexually (even if it’s not right now).
Here are some general tips to help men, women, and our kids move on from purity culture. (Remember, these are generalizations. You may need individual coaching to help you discover your own eroticism).
Tips for Men
A lot of men are subconsciously taught that they are taking something from a woman by having sex with her. Therefore, a husband may need reassurance that his wife wants this and also finds it pleasurable. He needs to know his desire is not shameful and that he can serve his wife through sex (it’s not just for him!).
Tips for Women
Eroticism can be developed through your inner narrative. Women are often taught that men are the only ones who want sex. But that’s not true! In fact, women often naturally start discovering their eroticism as children, hearing stories about prince charming and dreaming about being married. That imagination and storytelling is part of your eroticism! Be aware of where your mind goes in sex. Try to stay present and intentional in your narrative. Roleplay and sexy storytelling can help you here!
Tips to Teaching Kids
In an airplane, you have to put your oxygen mask on before you can help your kids. Similarly, you first need to feel comfortable with your own eroticism and then teach your kids. Help them understand the principles of God’s plan and commandments. Yes, these principles will lead to behavioral restrictions before marriage, but it is so important for them to know the why. Seek to help your kids feel safe asking you questions. Help them develop their own self-worth and teach them they are deserving of the intimate bonds of a loving spouse. Help them understand what sex is for, and the best way to use it.
Purity is a fantastic goal. However, the adversary can use this truth to sew shame and guilt into our marriages! Focus on the God given gift of complete intimacy with your spouse and move on from the toxicity of purity culture!
Written by Amanda Severson with Get Your Marriage On!