“I believe God’s standard for sexual morality is clearly explained in the Bible: chastity before marriage and complete fidelity within marriage. And this is for good reason: studies and numerous life experiences show that following this standard leads to the best outcome for sexual fulfillment and strong families.”
I believe our sexuality is a gift from God and He gave it to us for at least 3 purposes: procreation, intimacy and connection, and pleasure! Sexuality isn’t a “dirty” thing, but a beautiful part of being human that ought to be celebrated in the right context. It is something special you are sharing together with your partner, an experience to help you two become one. Building a great sex life is one of life’s greatest joys and also one of life’s greatest challenges.
Elements of the Purity Culture
Purity culture is a movement that came about in the late 1900’s and early 2000’s among conservative Christians in America targeted towards youth. It is a movement with a strict belief that abstinence before marriage is the most important thing to your spirituality. While the basic premise of purity culture and abstinence from sex before marriage is good and Christian, well-intentioned parents and leaders perpetuated an underlying message of anxiety about sex, and their messages were often shame and fear-based.
In this purity culture view, sex in marriage became a sort of idol, or a carrot that was being dangled in front of young people to keep them on the right path and lead them to marriage as quick as possible. Those who did not abstain from sex before marriage were thought to lose their value in God’s eyes, and feel full of shame for this. Along with abstinence before marriage, some contributors to purity culture would take it many steps further, vowing not to even kiss until after they were married.
5 Purity Culture Myths
We spoke with Dr. Camden Morgante, an expert in this field, all about purity culture, what it is, the myths that come along with it, and how to overcome the shame that purity culture has made you feel.
Dr. Camden has been working tirelessly for years to help people overcome the harm from fear and shame messages they have internalized due to this culture. She has found 5 basic myths that come along with the purity culture. Understanding these myths will help us move past them and the harm they are putting on our marriages.
The Spiritual Barometer Myth
This myth is one that makes you believe that your spirituality as a Christian can be measured by your morality before marriage, and that this morality is a marker of good christianity. In talking about this myth, Dr. Camden does not want to discount the importance of chastity, but to not put shame on people that have made sexual mistakes or sins, especially people that have experienced sexual trauma not of their choice. Your spirituality, your worth, or anything else, is not determined by your morality before marriage. God has the power to forgive all and change any heart.
The fairytale myth is one that makes you believe that if you remain pure and clear in your sex life before (and after) marriage, God will give you a blissful marriage with an eager sexual partner (where everything in the marriage comes together easily), with a “happily ever after” ending.. While God does bless us for making good decisions, it’s presumptuous to think that God will spare us from the experiences that make us grow through marriage. it isn’t a bargain of “if I do A, then God will do B.” We will always be blessed but those blessings aren’t always immediately recognized. And sometimes God’s best for us isn’t what we think is the best for us. We need to trust God when we can’t see what’s coming next.
Flip Switch Myth
The flip of a switch myth is one that makes you believe that when you get married you can just flip a switch and sex is going to be amazing and pleasurable right away. The reality is that sex takes work and doing it well is a learned behavior! It takes practice, communication, and teamwork. EVERYTHING in marriage takes work! All of these things require preparation and education. We need to be educated in order to make wise choices, and this is no different when it comes to our sex lives. Please educate yourself and your children as well as you can when it comes to sexuality in order to help this myth disappear.
Damaged Goods Myth
This myth is really very harmful for people who have premarital sex or especially those who experience sexual trauma. They have a feeling that they are “damaged goods” and that God wants to punish them, that they aren’t enough for Him or for their future spouse. Those who suffer with this myth need to learn how to have healthy boundaries and accountability. If you have truly repented, God has forgiven you and paid the price, so you don’t need to keep punishing yourself.
The Gatekeepers Myth
The last of the 5 purity culture myths is one that says that women are the gatekeepers of men’s sexuality. This makes them believe that before marriage the woman has to be the one who puts on the brakes because men can’t control their sexual urges. And after marriage, it makes people believe that the woman always has to be sexually available so that the man doesn’t get bored and turn to pornography or other things. This leads people to think that sex is just for the man and that women shouldn’t experience sexual pleasure. This is not a very intimate or passionate thing! We need to remember that we are all responsible for our own behavior and not responsible for other’s.
It is important to know the difference between guilt and shame, especially when it comes to sexuality. Guilt is when we think “I have done something wrong”. Guilt is productive and helpful. This can motivate us to look at our actions and make changes to the way we are behaving so that our actions and our values once again line up with each other. Shame, on the other hand, is when we think “I’m bad” or “I’m worthless”. Shameful thoughts are not motivating and keep you stuck in a cycle of low self esteem, viewing yourself in a very low light.
Realize when your guilt is justified, and allow that guilt to drive you to change and motivate you to seek forgiveness. Once you seek that forgiveness and truly change due to your guilt, don’t let shame make you think you need to stay down on yourself, or that you are less than you are. Be careful that you don’t shame others either. Shaming doesn’t change anyone’s behavior, it only makes them feel judged and less than they are. Be loving and kind, and if someone you love, like your child, is committing sexual sin, talk it out with them. Explore what is going on with them instead of just jumping to shaming them right away.
Dr. Camden recommends studying as much as you can about your sexuality from reliable sources, such as the Bible. She also gives a few book recommendations to study along with your study of the Bible listed below:
The Great Sex Rescue- by Sheile Wray Gregoire https://amzn.to/3vaUMnQ
Talking Back to Purity Culture- by Rachel Joy Welcher https://amzn.to/3cxgPyB
A book she will be releasing later this year!
You can also find Dr. Camden and learn more about Purity Culture and it’s myths at drcamden.com or by searching for her on social media @drcamden.
Like what you read? Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode here and download the Intimately Us app, the fun and sexy app for your marriage! It’s full of games, connecting activities, and ideas to increase connection and pleasure in the bedroom.