What Effects Have You Seen from “Purity Culture”?
So several questions and answers have gotten me thinking about the title question: What Effects Have You Seen from “Purity Culture”?
This can be in your own MB or with your kids, siblings, friends, youth group, overall culture, etc. Both good effects and bad ones can be discussed. I have seen this peripherally discussed on TMB, but I haven’t seen it be the focus of discussion, so bring all of it up and discuss!
Note, the recent threads that had me pondering this topic are:
The purity culture of the 90s was between my own youth and that of my kids, but I was never comfortable with it – especially the ceremonial aspects like purity rings, etc. It seemed almost like it was making “purity” and virginity a fetish in its own right. Some of it was almost creepy and felt like old-fashioned ownership of women, where a father prized his daughters’ virginity since that determined his own reputation and their value to a husband.
I think it put sexuality up on a pedestal as existing in a perfect state – as long as you remained “pure” and perfect before marriage, you would then be transformed and rewarded with a perfect sex life after your wedding. But the reality is that sex is a lot more complicated and imperfect, even for faithful Christians.
I am sure it was beneficial for some people. But I think it did not prepare a lot of young people for the messy reality of married sex lives. I am also sure it caused a lot of pain and cycles of guilt for young people who felt like 100% failures because they couldn’t live up to the 100% pure ceremonial standards.
This was pretty much before my time, and we never got onto the whole “purity culture” with our kids, even though we did take them through the Passport2Purity. TMB actually probably helped bring a balance to how we taught our kids.
I did notice one thing that we had to adjust…. my husband strongly pushed that dating was for the purpose of finding a future spouse (which we still believe.) Therefore, if you are 13, are you really ready to get married, therefore need to be “dating”? With our oldest, we noticed that he took that to an extreme we weren’t really expecting. With the first girl he liked, he must have felt like he needed to “want to marry her” or that she had to “be the one”, before he could start dating her. Therefore he was talking marriage, before he ever asked her on a date. We had to sit him down and straighten that one out, and I think my husband backed off on how strongly he pushed that concept to the other kids and we added a balance.
I have heard people share about their negative experiences from the purity culture…. such as struggling with sexual freedom within marriage. I have read about the idolizing of virginity…. so much so, that the girl feels guilty for losing it in marriage.
As in all things, when we try to do “sin management” rather than deal with the heart, not a lot of good will come from it in the long run. I would guess that within the purity culture, we had people trying to “manage” the sexual nature, the lusts, and desires… and the hearts were missed. When we miss the heart, we either end up with a total rebellion and someone who walks away from it all, or more legalistic people to carry on the “sin management”.
We and our children ‘missed ‘ the purity culture era! However, elements or facsimiles of purity culture are endemic to Christian sexuality and have been for decades.
God’s grace through Jesus freed us from the condemnation of the law. In the book of Romans, Paul lays out the dilemma of trying to be a rule keeper instead of being free from the condemnation of sin. The chief problem with trying to be good, keeping the rules, etc. is guilt. Breaking a rule or failzing to keep them perfectly heaps guilt on our soul. Guilt pulls us into the abyss of futility. The purity culture has the propensity to say to a youngster/virgin, “You cross the line and you’re no longer pure. You’re guilty, you failed, you’ll live with it for the rest of your life!”
Paul argues in Romans, rather eloquently explains, that God’s grace through Jesus His son wipes the slate clean. We can be ‘virginal’ once again! Through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit we are helped, encouraged, and comforted to live and act out of conviction (love) rather than striving to be perfect. Conviction to do or not do is freeing! It lifts us out of the abyss. One mistake no longer defines us!
To my chagrin, I pawed Ms. Youngbear. We ‘knew’ we were meant for each other, years before we married in our early twenties. It heaped lots of guilt on me and more so her. It took some time, after we were married, before she didn’t flinch when I took her breast in my hand during a playful moment. Guilt does that.
Being circumspect during courtship is really important for our kids. Just as Jesus invites us lovingly to share our failure or insecurities, so ought we as parents have that relationship with our children. When we (our kids) ask for and receive His forgiveness, let’s remember that He does so, does not condemn us, and warmly says, ‘go, sin no more! 🙂
When I first heard about the “Purity Movement,” the idea was that the emphasis would be on purity, not virginity. If a kid messes up, their virginity is gone for good. Their purity is not. Anyone can choose to be pure regardless of their past. I am not sure when or where I heard this — it was probably 25 years ago when we had children in a Christian non-denomination church school. I do know that I reviewed their sex ed material and was happy with it.
As I recall, it was much later that the purity movement came to be associated with “courtship” a la I-Kissed-Dating-Goodbye. The Christian school was not against dating, and neither are my wife and I. We do not believe that the primary purpose of dating for teenagers is to find a spouse. It is to learn about interacting with the opposite sex, learning about yourself, and making friends. I dated a lot, and am still friends with a few girls I met before I met my wife. My wife and I were both teenagers when we met. I did not lose my virginity or repeatedly get my heart broken. There are right ways and wrong ways to go about dating. Josh Harris did it wrong.
“Courtship” as used by those influenced by Josh Harris is an adulteration of the word. That is NOT what people used to do. My grandmother “courted.” She dated much the way we do now, except she was picked up in a horse and buggy!
@Brynna regarding your question on what is “Purity Culture”:
The term is loosely defined, but the “courting” and “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” book that @SC mentioned are definitely included. I haven’t found a good explanation/definition of it that does have an opinion on it, so I’ll do my best to give a brief one in bold here (anyone else feel free to add to, subtract from, suggest edits, or comment on this):
The “purity culture” was a movement primarily in the Evangelical church that put a strong emphasis on promoting virginity before marriage and discouraging dating. Timing for the culture was mid/late 90s and early 00s. It was known for outward-appearance things such as purity rings, purity pledges, and purity balls, though those alone do not define it. I believe some credit the “True Love Waits” campaign with starting the movement.
I feel that adding more to it might unfairly (but unintentionally) bias people in their answers. One thing I will say is that this is not strictly limited to Evangelicals, as Zelda grew up Catholic and felt it affected her views.
I didn’t grow up in the church, but experienced this in my young 20’s when I came to the Lord. My husband grew up in this. When I look at this culture now, what I see is a bunch of rules meant to manage the “necessity” of the existence of sex. There is very little celebration of sexuality, the gift of sex, the sex drive, and the pleasure. It is a hypocritical message in my opinion. In words only is sex acknowledged as something good
Although it wasn’t called the purity culture when I was growing up, some of those concepts were followed.
Now whether it was only my household, or whether it actually was part of the purity culture, I’m not sure. But I feel the most damaging part was the concept that guys were bad and dangerous. For whatever reason, I was taught to be so scared of them and that it was wrong to be with them, and for sure not alone. The damaging part is that my DH still feels I don’t trust him. I hate that feeling, but it is a very deep thing. I don’t know if one can ever get rid of it.
As for having parental approval for who you marry, I am never sure what to think about that. Its a great idea. But, if I had had to have my parents 100% approval to marry DH, I wouldn’t have married him. Granted, DH did go to them and ask if he could marry me and they agreed. But they didn’t like his one sibling, and I have no idea why. They still don’t like most of his family for no reason, but they almost worship the ground DH walks on. He is closer to them than I even am.
We tell our children they can marry who they want, as long as its in the Lord. None are scared of the opposite sex. They have their male and female friends over and just have a good relationship. It always makes me glad to see that.
Growing up, my parents and place of worship didn’t fully jump on board with purity culture books etc but the teachings still made their way in. I saw it as parents trying to help their kids, so I don’t find fault with the parents. BUT ours was not an extreme situation. Being the next child in a relationship after their first had a child out of wedlock, I felt a lot of pressure from my family to not make mistakes, at least visible ones. Unfortunately. So from my perspective the purity culture stripped you of understanding and control, and heaped on shame and guilt even for the innocent.
For as long as I can remember, my Grandmother had a newspaper clipping on the side of her fridge that said, “Sex is God’s wedding gift to married couples. It is not to be opened early!” Boyfriends on that side of the family were routinely threatened with a particular farm implement that would render premature use of certain anatomy impossible to repeat. (Think about that for a bit.) I’m not sure whether it was truly that heavily emphasized in my youth (outside of the family circle) or if I deduced in my brokenness from my experience as a child of divorce that to avoid it, one must go about marriage the “RIGHT” way, and latched onto the no pre-marital sex rule as a “right” way I could embrace.
The “purity culture” as described here, with purity rings, True Love Waits, and “I kissed Dating Goodbye” came along early in our marriage, when I was still reading everything I could get my hands on about building good marriages, and that stuff got included a lot. When it was something directed at pre-marrieds, I just tucked it away for future parenting strategies. I never read the whole book, but Focus on the Family Magazine did one of their excerpt articles on IKDG and I think I was in just the right frame of mind to buy it hook, line, and sinker. I still had guilt about all the fooling around we had done before marriage, I was determined to be perfect* at marriage so that we would never ever divorce or be unhappy together, and I had already started thinking about kids and all the wonderful things I would teach them!
*Perfectionism is something I have always struggled with!
The impact it has had is that when our DD was 13 and in puppy love with her first boyfriend, I had bits and pieces of that stuff swimming around in the back of my mind and even though I didn’t agree with all of it (I wanted her to have the puppy love experience, and I wanted her to learn to interact with boys) I tried to establish a mindset of considering every boyfriend a potential husband (as in, never date someone you would’t marry) but I think it just ended up fueling the notion they had that they were in real love and going to grow up to get married. I tried to encourage them to focus on learning to be good spouses (over the LOOOOOONG term!), but they weren’t ready for that and my poor DD just ended up getting hurt by a boy who, frankly, will probably go on to hurt many girls. It didn’t help that we kept hearing stories about couples (who we knew at least slightly!) who had been happily married for many years after becoming a couple at thirteen! It was a mess. Really messed with her head for a while. She also drifted away from most of her friends and was pretty lonely most of last year.
(Praising God, she now has a really nice boyFRIEND who is good for her, brings out her best, encourages her wellness, and behaves as much like a brother as anything else, and she is re-connecting with her friends.)
I think if I had not had that IKDG stuff floating around in my ideas vault, DD might have still had her heart broken, but she might not have been hurt quite as much as she was.