Purity culture does more harm than good

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

If you grew up in an evangelical church, at some point, rules about purity, modesty and sex before marriage were told to teenagers. While these instructions are often intended to follow what the Bible says, they miss the mark and ingrain an idea of shame around physical intimacy.

At my church, the emphasis on purity and modesty was dumped on the girls. We constantly had opportunities for weekends away to discuss purity and how if we focused on our relationship with God, dressed modestly and didn’t have sex before marriage, everything would fall into place.

The boys, however, never had these same opportunities, and it was clear they weren’t being taught much about abstaining from sex or how to respect women in general.

We were taught to dress modestly because if we didn’t, we could lead one of our peers to sin. Instead of teaching young men to not view women as sex objects, young women were taught to accept that men see us that way and that it’s our fault if they lust after us if we wear a tank top.

This is one of the ideologies that leads to people asking sexual assault victims what they were wearing when it happened. We have to stop this rhetoric and realize the only person to blame for sexually abusing someone is the abuser themselves.

Beyond just dressing modestly, we were taught to not have sex until marriage. We were reminded that remaining pure does not just encompass sex, but everything that leads to it.

Because of this mindset, it was ingrained in our minds that sex is bad, evil and scary. The awkward part is that once two Christians get married, it was implied that the wedding night would be perfect and amazing, because they listened to God and waited.

This is not the case. It takes time to get to know someone physically, just like it takes time to understand someone emotionally.

There’s nothing wrong with waiting for marriage to have sexual relations and making that commitment with your partner. The problem comes when there are lies told about it that damage your view of physical intimacy and who God is.

If you want to wait until marriage, realize that doesn’t mean God will grant your wishes and send you the perfect partner. Your value and faith are not found in your virginity.

Be careful to know that sex was created by God, and it is not evil and wrong. There are people who have waited until marriage and feel uncomfortable being with their partner, people who think it feels wrong after all the years of being told to never do it and abstain from any sexual thoughts. This is not natural.

In the end, do what is right for you. Sexual intimacy is important, and the right answer isn’t the same for everyone. So stay in your lane, pray about it and determine for yourself how to navigate sex in a healthy way that doesn’t involve feeling ashamed.