Category Archives: Sex & Faith

The day I learned I was a hipster/progressive/”current feminist” advocating ‘commitment-free’ sex for all!

And here I thought I was just Catholic (but if I snap out of my “current” feminism anytime soon, I’ll be sure to let you know). ;-)

In the meantime, allow me to give you a brief summary of the pushback to my virginity posts: 

1. Juicy Ecumenism–a website affiliated with The Institute of Religion and Democracy (The IRD)– –posted a piece mocking post-evangelical bloggers. The official Twitter feed for The IRD mentioned me and so, I figured the mocking post was roasting me.

2. However, the pseudonymous author later left a comment saying he wasn’t writing about me. He was writing about…Ann Voskamp. Which was even more confusing because I’m pretty sure Ann is not post-evangelical. She is evangelical. Also? She doesn’t wear hipster glasses. BUT I DIGRESS.

3. And then, yesterday, The Gospel Coalition critiqued me (and the other brave, Christian women who wrote similar posts) for our flawed ‘underlying complaint.’ According to The Gospel Coalition, our underlying complaint “seems to demand that we accept different decisions without critique or even regret.

So, I have some feelings about all this. (Oops. I said the “f” word. Feeeeeelings. Excuse me for a moment while I lay aside my irrational, lady-emotions and put on my lady-brain. Don’t worry, this change of clothing will be ENTIRELY MODEST, ba ha ha)

Here goes:

  1. Regarding the satirical post mocking post-evangelical bloggers: writing a mocking post under a pseudonym is cowardly. Even though the author later clarified the post wasn’t about me (so why was my name tagged in the tweet?), that didn’t make it OK. Ann Voskamp is a friend of mine. If you’re going to roast real people then have the guts to do it under your real name. 
  2. Regarding The Gospel Coalition: the underlying complaint of my virginity posts was NOT a demand that Christians accept “different decisions without critique or regret.Dear Gospel Coalition, if you’re gonna critique my position, at least be honest about my position (pun! pun!). In fact, NONE of the virginity posts I’ve read in the last week (Preston offers a nice round-up list here) have called for “accepting different decisions w/o critique or regret.” The very title of The Gospel Coalition post is misleading! NONE of us are advocating ‘commitment-free’ sex. Good grief.
  3. What we ARE rejecting is a culture of mass shaming, making a public example of God’s precious children and scaring them with fearful rhetoric. 
  4. What we ARE calling to light are the harmful practices and behaviors of evangelical purity culture. We are doing this by sharing our personal stories about how we’ve been affected by the guilting, shaming and public spectacle-making of purity culture. As we share our stories, we experience freedom. As we share our stories, we release shame. Freedom in Christ IS freedom from shame and THAT was the message of our virginity posts.
  5. Furthermore, the women who began this conversation are all Christian women. I, for one, am a married mother of five. I am a Catholic Christian. I believe All The Things. But somehow I apparently approve of ‘commitment-free’ sex? Um, NO. If my kids tried to use that logic on me I’d be all: go get your little lying butt to Confession right this minute!
  6. What this means is that The Gospel Coalition is intentionally attempting to change the conversation AWAY from harmful methods and practices and is inventing an entirely different conversation. Straw man, anyone? Er, straw-lady?
  7. It is such a bizarre conclusion that I can only wonder at the motivation. Was The Gospel Coalition post really about defending traditional Biblical beliefs or was it about publicly shaming, silencing and dismissing the women who were brave enough to speak up about their abusive, personal experiences? SUMFIN SMELLS ROTTEN IS ALL I’M SAYIN’.
  8. No, seriously:
  9. By accusing us of trying to change traditional Christian beliefs, The Gospel Coalition proves it’s not interested in hearing about harmful behaviors within the Christian community but instead, has invented a conversation of its own wherein they–the Gospel Coalition–bring all the women into line by accusing them of aberrant theology. 
  10. Now, where have I seen such dismissive/silencing tactics before? Hm. Oh my frail little lady-brain must be failing me again. Maybe I should just go home and ask my husband….
  11. Quoth the husband: “Elizabeth, I’m proud of you.”
  12. WHAT UP.
  13. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must needs go put on my Red Rahab lipstick and have lots of
  14. committed
  15. Catholic
  16. sex.
  17. (Hipster glasses not included).
  18. And all the people said……..

Purity Culture Fallout: “I wanted to die because I had ruined ‘God’s plan for my life’”

This weekend I read through your stories about the harmful effects of purity culture. I found myself nodding, laughing and weeping. For many years I felt very alone in my struggle with sexuality and the purity culture. That has all changed and I can’t thank you enough for so bravely honoring me with your stories. I learned so much and I hope you, too, felt a sense of relief and community.

I want to highlight a few of these stories because I think they are almost archetypal of purity culture—representing a common experience of purity culture fallout.

These are our real stories. I can only hope the church starts listening……

: :

I had bought fully into the myth that sex would be Wonder And Delight as long as you keep everything in the package until the wedding day, and that was about seventeen million miles from the truth.

: :

While I was supposed to stand proud because I had mastered my desires and maintained my white knuckle grip on my virginity, I was ashamed, confused, and insecure about the sudden shift in our relationship. One moment it was forbidden and defiling and impure, but a few hours in a white dress and I was supposed to suddenly feel free and open and wildly passionate?

: :

No one talked to my husband or I about it beforehand ever. He thought it was like the movies, where foreplay is optional or only lasts a couple of seconds. No one told him or me that going for it before the female is ready can cause actual pain and physical trauma. The poor guy was baffled and wanted to take me to the emergency room. I cried for an hour and thought God was punishing me, a virgin, for not being “pure enough”.

: :

I can highly identify with many of the stories here; I have my own sad marital sexual problems. The issue with using Catholic teaching as the “answer” is that the teaching doesn’t recognize or even care to look at the real problems of intimacy that are affected by sexual abuse, guilt, rape, sexual confusion, previous sexual relationships, sexual misinformation, and God knows what else. People deserve to have these often scary and debilitating issues dealt with PRIOR to having children. In a way, it’s the process of being open to your own life and the new life you have with your spouse before you can be open to another life.

: :

I grew up in the church, read every book about waiting/purity that I could find. I still ended up having sex before I got married, with a married man at that. Here’s the deal-I think we need to discuss the issue of purity but within the context of full discipleship, not as a separate entity.

: :

I was so sick of feeling that my worth as a young woman had to do only with the condition of my body and nothing to do with my mind or spirit. If my future husband thought the greatest, most precious gift I could give to him was an intact hymen, then I wanted nothing to do with him. I think abstinence is good. I wish I had been a virgin when I met my husband. I’m not sorry for rejecting that dehumanizing attitude, though.

: :

I had a purity ring and I was raped the day after I recieved it. I almost married the guy because I was told nobody would want me and after growing up in the church it was easy to believe this. Once I got married it took forever to not feel guilty about married sex. Then he had an affair. I was told I needed to have more sex (I did the whole time during the affair to try to win him back). I healed and learned and grew and got grace. Then I got remarried and really learned that things can be good. I wonder how my life would have been different had I believed I could talk about what happened to me.

: :

I was raised a Mormon, and purity, virginity, chastity, and virtue were all equal qualities. I was molested, and according to my leaders after I told, I should have told the first moment he touched me. I was 7 when he first touched me, and 13 when I told. He abused me for two years, then we moved. He was not a member, and my parents didn’t press charges. He was a good ole boy, and I was expected to simply move on. At 21, I was raped. I never reported it because I assumed it didn’t matter, it didn’t matter as a kid, why should it matter as an adult? When I did tell (a year and a half later), tge first response was, why did it take so long to tell? Second, what were you wearing? Third, well, you shouldn’t have opened the door.

: :

Pastors say: “Oh, the sex you’ll have! It’ll be amazing! Look around at all the married couples here – they’re all having incredible sex!”. They do it to make the waiting seem worth it. So sexually, yeah, you’re supposed to go from nought to sixty in a day. I had a friend who was a virgin and was marrying a virgin (I think). She was certain that on their wedding night, they’d just leap on each other with pure animal lust (these people who’d only ever kissed). Turned out that he felt guilty for ‘robbing her of her innocence’, and she needed stitches.

: :

I’m 21, and God brought me the love of my life. My best friend. And we blew it. What I’m struggling with now, is yes, our mutual loss of virginity, but the feeling of impending doom that I’ve always had preached at me, that our relationship will fizzle out because of one mistake. We are dealing with this mistake, the toll it will inevitably take on our future, the possibility of pregnancy, and we are happy to be walking through it together.

: :

I wanted to die so many times because I had ruined “God’s plan for my life” by my responsiveness to a man’s attention. It drove me into deep depression. And yet I kept going back because I just wanted to be loved. And he kept taking me back because he just wanted to be loved, too.

Am I being “soft on sin”?

In the aftermath of my post on idolizing virginity and Sarah Bessey’s post on being damaged goods, there are some who say we do not have a “holy hatred” for sin. We are told that we are “soft on sin” and, as one commenter said to me, she prays I will one day cherish the virginity God helped me keep.

I want to make something perfectly clear: what we are rejecting is a culture of mass shaming, making a public example of God’s precious children and scaring them with fearful rhetoric. What we are rejecting is the fetishizing and idolizing and objectifying of virginity. 

Rejecting a culture of shame is NOT being “soft on sin” it is being kind to sinners.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 
Romans 2:4 (NASB)

The Greek word translated as “kindness” in this verse is: χρηστός. It is the same word used in St. Matthew 11:30 to describe Jesus’ yoke as easy. In Ephesians 4:32, this same word describes Christian behavior: be kind to one another. In I Peter 2:3, this same Greek word is used to describe the Lord as gracious.

Kind, easy, gracious. This is the heart of God toward us. 

The Biblical usage for χρηστός is mild, pleasant, benevolent–it is the exact opposite of harsh, sharp and bitter.

Here’s the truth: nobody came to a true, authentic understanding of grace and forgiveness through hard, sharp, bitter words and actions. Nobody came to true repentance through threats, intimidation and fear-tactics.

It is the kindness of God which leads to repentance. It is the graciousness of our Lord which draws us closer. It is the the easiness of Jesus’ yoke which makes us His devoted followers.

Kindness, grace and easiness make us feel safe, loved and cherished–IN SPITE of what we do or don’t do. This χρηστός of God is what frees us from the shackles of fear and shame.

As long as we are bound by shame and crouching in fear, we are unable to experience this shame-free life. And as long as Christians shame and scare each other, we actually hinder the freedom of Christ in others’ lives.

Yes, virginity is wonderful. I value it. I tell my children to wait until they are married to have sex. But my husband didn’t love me more because I was a virgin. He loved me because I was me.

Our dignity and worth as human beings has NOTHING to do with what we do or don’t do.

I am not my first kiss. Or my lack thereof.

I am not my virginity. Or my lack thereof.

I am not my hymen. Or my lack thereof.

I am not my sex life. Or my lack thereof.

I am precious because I exist. 

WE are precious simply because WE.ARE.HERE.

So, I guess I should write about sex more often?

Yesterday was the biggest traffic day on my blog. Ever. The comments, though, were my favorite. I read every single one. I cried. I laughed. My heart broke all over my laptop. I just want to thank you for sharing your stories with me. I’ve never had so many women send me emails and tweets and messages saying thankyouthankyou and “I want to hug you!” Here’s what I learned yesterday: so many of us are just dying to talk about sex & faith in an open, honest, non-shamey, loving, accepting way. We can do this. I know we can. Let’s keep this conversation going. As an excellent followup, please read Sarah Bessey’s piece on Deeper Story today: I am damaged goods.