So Totally Relidge! “Purity Culture & Idolatry of Virginity”

Kristen Howerton and I discuss shaming language, fear-based rhetoric and the “reverse objectification” of evangelical purity culture. Kristen shares how clients will come to her completely discouraged about their sex lives because they believed the “purity brochure” which promised awesome married sex. We discuss purity rings (why not “Gossip Rings”?) and using the language of commerce to talk about sex. Note: we recorded this episode before The Gospel Coalition published its critique, but if you watch until the end you’ll see that we preempted their false narrative by going on record as saying: it’s GOOD to wait until your wedding night! What up, TGC. What UP.

  • http://twitter.com/char_mae Charlotte Atchley

    best. episode. ever.

  • http://twitter.com/CatherineDenton Catherine Denton

    Seriously, you guys are awesome! You say these things in a reachable way and have fun while you’re doing it. I grew up driven by not wanting to mess up with sex and later living in that fear for my own children. But there was always something that felt wrong about it (my husband was especially against this legalistic thinking), so we didn’t subject them to purity rings, etc.

    BUT, your post revealed to me that, I hadn’t fully let go of idolizing virginity and I am so grateful for your honesty. This video further showed me it was fear-based. I am ecstatic to be able to put into words what has haunted me about the whole purity push and my wrong-thinking in it. You don’t know how much my repentance of this will help my relationships. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Nancy

    I didn’t grow up in a church that did the “purity” stuff, and my non-denominational Christian church doesn’t push it either. They talk about sex in the middle and high school context, but it’s just that — part of a larger context of what it means to follow Christ in all areas of life. (We will see how it goes — my oldest is just in his first year of middle school!)
    But as a mother of both girls AND boys, the thing that strikes me as odd (and a wrong approach) is how much seems to focus on girls — the dances, the rings, the modesty talks. I hope someone is casting a bigger vision for BOTH boys and girls regarding living *chastely*, which we are also called to do after/within marriage too.

    On a related note, I’ve been to one wedding where the couple shared their first kiss during the wedding ceremony, and I was wondering what in the world that was supposed to accomplish!!!! Talk about being expected to go from 0 to 60 on your wedding night — that is NOT how women’s bodies and arousal work, for crying out loud!!!

    • KatR

      Oh, boy. In my former church, not kissing until the wedding was a sign of uber spirituality. I remember having coffee with an acquaintance of mine after the church fell apart, and she told me how difficult it was to go from first kiss to (the expectation of swinging off the chandelier) sex in the space of a few hours, especially when there was so much control and shame around sex to begin with. Not fun times.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        Yeah, I always thought zero-to-supersonic on the wedding night was pretty unrealistic. (As well as too m uch like the expectations of Master Everything Perfectly on the First Attempt I grew up with.) More likely, I figured it might take weeks to months to get in practice.
        Just another thought — isn’t that some sort of Purity Cult “Christianization” of porn conventions? Flip the switch and start burning the barn down, dynamite in the sack without any foreplay or buildup at all, just like a jump cut in a porn flick (or a male rabbit mounting a female in the wild).

  • Tara S

    A GOSSIP ring! What is up! I’m going to get one of those. And I will just *lord* it over all my of friends, until I need to get a humility ring instead.

    • KatR

      My mind is busily setting up my pretend Etsy page…the gossip rings, the humility rings, 20% off the fasting rings for Lent!

      • Anonymous

        LOL! Love it!

  • http://www.badmenproject.com/ talking figleaf

    Most important thing anyone in the modern religious wait-till-marriage community has ever said in favor of, well, waiting till marriage.

    1) The first time you have sex will be the worst time ever.

    2) So (seriously!) do that with someone who loves you, who’s committed with you, who’s pledged with you, and who cares enough to make sure that first time really is the worst… because they’ll learn with you how to make sure it’ll get better.

    That’s so much more honest, so much more true, so much less hype, and sooooo much less $%@$% fetishization and objectification!

    And frankly it also sounds like a heck of a lot more fun!

    Oh, one other bonus of the “learn as you grow” approach to virginity? Unlike the “unused refrigerator” model the “figure it out together” model cements the case that his virginity is just as important as hers. Because otherwise, if he has had experience, then he’s short-circuiting not just her experience but theirs! Together!

    Because, seriously, if you really want to be “traditional” about it then you’d have to remember the tradition (thankfully that had faded literally only a few years before I came of age) of the father dutifully and embarrassedly (if that’s a word) taking his adolescent son to the local brothel so he’d “know what to do” on his wedding night.

    Charming? I don’t think so. Romantic? Not that either. But technically absolutely necessary if he was supposed to know what to do and his bride was supposed to be completely and utterly in the dark.

    Also, if you’re into being Godly, and if purity really matters, then it’s a heck of a sacrifice to ask a young man to compromise his purity in order to be able to bring “experience” (and what? maybe “authority”) on his wedding night. Far better for all concerned to go in knowing you’re both on an even footing and that you’re going to figure it out together, possibly suffer through it together, and eventually really enjoy what you figure out together.

    I’m so glad you, Kristen, and other bloggers of faith are taking this subject on.

    figleaf

    • falfie4

      Wow, that is the best thing I’ve heard about sex and waiting…EVER! Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/frognparis Rebecca Erwin

    My 12 year old daughter watched this and I could see the validation wash over her. Purity as a loving obedience to God is different that a cultural conformity. Thanks for supporting what I am trying to teach her.

    As for lubricant: Astroglide is the bomb! It never gets sticky like KY can. Within the first year of marriage, our young marrieds leaders introduced it to us. From that moment forward, I would create a “honeymoon” gift that included: a candle, Astroglide, chocolate and smelly lotion along with a card of instructions for each item. The bride would look at me like I had lost my mind as I made her promise to take with her on her first night. After the honeymoon, I got the nod and smile of gratitude. Best. Gift. Ever!

  • aninchofgray

    Thank you! Love this important conversation

  • http://www.badmenproject.com/ talking figleaf

    Oh, about the KY vs. vanilla lotion vs. bladder infections. They don’t call it “honeymoon syndrome” for nothing! Another reason 1st-time sex isn’t always so great is that at least for women 1st-time sex can also mean irritation and often infection of the urinary tract. (This can happen regardless of lubrication used, artificial or natural.) It can also happen regardless of either partner’s prior experience.

    But in the context of waiting till marriage, and of the first-the-worst notion, is that if you’re both committed, and understanding, and you recognize the reality instead of the fantasy, then you can both get through things like “honeymoon syndrome” together. As opposed to imagining either or both of you are doing something wrong. Or, worse, blaming each other.

    figleaf

    p.s. That said, yes, KY is better than vanilla lotion, and there are persons-of-faith advice and marital-product sites that can help select even more appropriate lubricants than KY.

  • Ashley Kreager

    You laugh about giving KY as a wedding gift – but that’s exactly what my husband and I do! We received a honeymoon care package (from friends who experienced the honeymoon UTI) and for the last seven years we have given our own version of “the gift” at every wedding. It’s become an anticipated surprise in our circle of family & friends (hush-hush til you get one yourself) – and we often have several married couples pitch in for the new bride and groom.

    We like to include snacks, water, booze, headache medicine, foot rub, bubble bath, the Creighton approved lub (Pre-Seed), and a little note of marital/wedding night advice. It’s been fun to hear reactions from the couples when they return from their honeymoons. Sometimes a random item in “the gift” was more useful than expected!

    From our own experience, as well as nearly everyone who received “the gift” from us, it is one of the best things you can receive on your wedding day. So important for those who really have waited until they are married!

  • Ashley

    You laugh about giving KY as a wedding gift – but that’s exactly what my husband and I do! We received a honeymoon care package (from friends who experienced the honeymoon UTI) and for the last seven years we have given our own version of “the gift” at every wedding. It’s become an anticipated surprise in our circle of family & friends (hush-hush til you get one yourself) – and we often have several married couples pitch in for the new bride and groom.

    We like to include snacks, water, booze, headache medicine, foot rub, bubble bath, the Creighton approved lub (Pre-Seed), and a little note of marital/wedding night advice. It’s been fun to hear reactions from the couples when they return from their honeymoons. Sometimes a random item in “the gift” was more useful than expected!

    From our own experience, as well as nearly everyone who received “the gift” from us, it is one of the best things you can receive on your wedding day. So important for those who really have waited until they are married!

  • alr

    If Kristen starts an “honesty ball” movement, I’m on board. Spent half of today dealing with a teenager who could use a good dose of why honesty is important! And a lying manipulative teenager, in my mind, is setting him or herself up for a lot more issues in the future than one who kissed someone.

  • Alexandra

    Yes, we were given KY for our honeymoon. It helped sooo much. Also, a counselor friend said that one of the best ways to avoid a UTI is to pee after sex. Cleans out the tract.

  • Anonymous

    Totally off topic no doubt. I remember growing up in the 60′s and 70′s, and this reminds me of the ‘drug talks’ they used to give. They tried to scare you into NOT going there, instead of just plain talking about the common sense approach to the subject. I remember to often the teacher of the time would tell you if you ever smoked a joint? You will end up dead in a alley with a needle in your arm. Its a total fruit loop way of going about it.

    On the virginity part? I just remember staying away from sex due to NOT wishing to be a teen mom, and the shame it would bring to myself…and the family.

    My mother was very upfront about sex, and she had no issues speaking to me about it. Yes, she brought faith into the discussion thankfully not like the purity movement. I remember telling my mother I felt like the only virgin graduating high school, and her telling me she very much doubted that. She felt that kids were more talk than action at that point. She wouldn’t say that today, but she did then.

    I remember being totally grossed out at her warnings about how boys hands may travel during the dating. I honestly thought she lost her mind….until it happened! (laughs) Not only that but they did EXACTLY what she told they would, how she told they would, etc. Being a teenager realizing she was right and not loony It was a WOW moment. Then thinking about my mother actually dating like I did? (giggles) I was totally icked out!

    Funny thing is? I gave the teenagers the same talk she gave me. I appreciated her approach, and honesty. lol and my daughter was THEN looking at me like I had lost my mind….

  • JAS

    I have first hand seen these purity message ruin a marriage. Someone very close to me(trying to protect their identity) their wife doesn’t know how to turn off the “no, no, don’t, sex it’s wrong” message in her psyche, to now that she’s married, it’s OK. Her husband for the first few years was considering divorce, but loves her too much to divorce. So for the most part, they live like roommates. She won’t go for counseling.

    And another thing, trying to find a counselor for this type of issue, is almost impossible. Note: don’t go to your Pastor for advice or counseling, they often come from a very chauvinistic and ignorant mindset. Really tragic to see this happening.
    If anyone knows of some good books that really help, not loaded with stereotypical religious views, let me know. I will buy them for this couple.

  • http://twitter.com/frognparis Rebecca Erwin

    My daughter (12) and I were visiting a shop on Valentine’s Day. She found a ring in the shape of a crown and asked, “Mom, can you buy this as my gossip ring?”

  • Aprille

    Gossip ring…
    honesty ball…

    EPIC!!!!

  • FM

    Well in short I’d say:

    Purity/Virginity/Chastity = good

    Puritanism = bad.

    It is important to teach that sex is good and best in its proper context (i.e. marriage), yet we cannot say that having sex outside of marriage is going to ‘defile someone forever’.

    Most importantly it should be taught WHY you want to stay pure. Not only for your future husband/wife but because you desire to be pure spiritually as well.

    The motivation should be spiritual, not some promise that waiting will make sex magical or some scare that tells you that not waiting will turn you into a whore…

    Purity rings… purity balls… they sound all like nonsense to me. A ring will not help you live our chastity…. thinking about WHY you desire to be chaste will.

    *Takes notes on the lube advice*

  • Niki

    I have never agreed with a virginity/purity discussion MORE. Thank you for putting your words to this topic in a way I have never been able to.