DEAR CHURCH, YOUR PURITY CULTURE IS SHAMING & SEXIST

I think I’ve lost count of the analogies I learned by heart in the 2000’s purity culture.

the one I remember most clearly was one in which two pieces of construction paper were glued together.

these two papers, the pink and the blue, represent you and the person you choose to sleep with,” we were told, as we watched the the glue-dampened pages being pressed together and set aside, before we were launched into the same sexist “purity lesson” we’d heard a hundred times before. a few minutes later, the pages were picked back up and violently torn apart, shreds of the blue still left on the pink, and vice versa.

look how disgusting that is? do you want to be like that? of course not! no one does! and no one wants to be with someone like that, either. if you want to marry a man who loves Jesus, you have to make sure you never do something that would leave the pieces of another person’s heart in you, or else no good man would want to pursue you. a good man only wants a pure woman.

honestly, just thinking about that makes me angry now. just thinking about it makes me sick.

I sat and listened to these purity talks and every year it was the same. and every girls’ small group was so uncomfortable… it was assumed that for me as a woman, the waters of biblical purity that I must wade, went no deeper than what I wore and how often I ventured further than a side-hug and how well I controlled my unruly and over-dramatic girl feelings.

and I sat there, full of life and passion and love to give and thought “I have to stifle all of this.”

and I felt guilty for hugging my guy-friends.

and I felt all skeptical eyes on me whenever I ventured to have an honest and meaningful conversation with someone of the opposite sex.

I sat and listened to these purity talks, which once actually included the sentence “so in their small groups, the boys are going to discuss pornography addictions, but we obviously don’t need to do that here, do we?” and I watched girls silently cower in humiliation, glancing around to make sure no one saw. because who would voluntarily raise their hand “yes” to a question intended only to bring shame and judgment?

and the overbearing assumption that of course in our youth group there was no sex before marriage (I mean, except for like the REALLY wild people that were only kind of welcome there because their evil deeds might poison the rest of us, right?). there were no pregnancy scares. there were no terrified young women who sincerely believed that because of their mistakes no one would ever want them again. and I watched those girls silently melt into the background, nodding vigorously so that no one would assume it was them that had fallen seemingly past the point where grace could reach.

and I was so angry I wasn’t sure how to contain it.

Moriah + Joey_391

Be good,” we were told as women “be gentle and soft-hearted and modest, and then you’ll be wanted.” is what we were constantly reminded of. but we weren’t told nearly so clearly or emphatically that we were already wanted. already loved.

we were expected to use our voices to “say no to boys who want to have sex“, even though we were never taught to use our voice say no to boys for anything else within the church, and we were sexualized as girls who just needed to cover up more because the only boys worth having all believed that modest is hottest.

we weren’t told how to get help if we were feeling pressured in ways that bordered on abuse- only that we needed to make good choices. we weren’t taught how to distinguish between someone who cares about you and someone who wants to manipulate you. it was never explained to us that we were still wanted, still cherished, still loved if everything we dreamed went wrong, and if through our own choices or the forcing by another’s stronger voice, we found ourselves like that pink piece of paper.

it wasn’t until I was older, and I made mistakes out of manipulation and fear, that I truly felt the weight of this Christian shame culture. and it wasn’t until I began dating the man who would be my husband that I understood the fear instilled into the young men as well. it wasn’t until then that I felt the pressure so intensely that I was forced to take a deeper look at the culture that was causing sickening guilt without reason in a relationship that was beautiful and healthy and holy… that had caused guilt like that for years (read more about why that made me choose NOT to save my first kiss for my wedding day here.).

Moriah + Joey_390

we’ve got a culture of guys and girls hiding in their shame, and it needs to stop.
so can we make a pact? can we make some decisions to eliminate this “purity culture” that has turned into shaming and sexist habits?

1.) let’s teach guys that girls’ voices hold weight and honor- in all situations, including when they’re saying “no” to something they’re uncomfortable with sexually, and to treat their emotions as valid and important instead of stupid.

2.) let’s teach girls to own their voices– in every space, empowering them to voice their thoughts and convictions and emotions. let’s remind them that they are seen as more than a pair of walking yoga pants… and prove it in the way we treat and interact with them.

3.) let’s stop assuming  porn is a guy problem and modesty is a girl problem- you’d be surprised how many people you’re alienating by telling them that their struggles don’t exist in their gender.

4.) let’s start telling girls AND guys that they’re valued and loved and wanted– regardless of what they have or haven’t done. regardless of their struggles. regardless of anything because their soul has already been paid for by the blood of Jesus, and who are you to declare unworthiness over them?

5.) let’s start cultivating community and love and belonging- and worry less about hugs vs. side hugs and more about the precious ones who are slipping through the cracks.

I believe we can do it, church.

I believe we can replace this shame culture with a love culture.

I believe we can replace this sexist culture with an empowering culture.

let’s work on it together.

6 thoughts on “DEAR CHURCH, YOUR PURITY CULTURE IS SHAMING & SEXIST

  1. Moriah! This is so good! So relevant, so true! I have felt ALL of these things growing up in the conservative christian church, a LOT of this is why I left the church because now that I see these flaws it’s a sensitive place for me to be. Its a shaming place for me to be. And I still want to be in a community of believers but I CANT be around small/ close minded people. I really appreciate your words of honesty here. It is sad that this is still a prevalent thing in a lot of churches.

    SEX shaming has caused a lot of strife in our marriage. and being “impure” before I met my husband caused SO MANY insecurities that I would ever find a man that valued me beyond my flaws, my baggage, my mistakes, and my scars.

    When I told my husband I wasnt a virgin before we started dating, he took it VERY hard. He always waited for his wife, for that PURE wife. He waited, so obviously he deserved a woman who waited for him. When I told him, he almost stopped pursuing me. But, thankfully God worked in his heart. The people in his life ALL advised against him dating me…but he learned to love me in a way that I truly needed. FULLY accepting and FULLY loving despite all my flaws, despite my past. Despite offering him a pink paper with blue chunks still stuck to it and black pieces too. The hurt and the scars still persist…fears and the wrong ideals of what sex is, still linger.

    But we have hope things will continue to become better. And we have hope that our children will never need to endure this kind of fear.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. God is about love no matter what. His wanting your body to be pure is because your body is special and beautiful and perfect. That you do treat it as a temple with respect is because He made it. But will he love you less if you don’t? Of course not. What does a parent do when their children are hurt? Extend their arms and try to shield them from pain. We are in God’s image. We shield, protect, and love unconditionally. Does Jesus deserve everything? Your body and soul? I think so. He loves us sooo much that even with His power He will not force us to choose Him and HE hurts when we hurt ourselves and will reach for us to hold us when we choose to come to Him …without judging. Remember Mary Magdalene? He forgave her and every other person the rest of the World neglected and shunned. JESUS/GOD is love and love is the most beautiful word. It is forgiveness. Always remember that after all the beating HE GOT, all the hurt and pain in his body from head to feet, with HIS last breath HE still had the power to say …I FORGIVE YOU/ GOD FORGIVES YOU. You don’t have any idea what you are doing to yourself. Trust in ME and I will show you the beauty all around. So I say this. Until you give everything to HIM and put HIM first you will understand what real love is. It’s not about what you want but what HE wants. Why not? HE only wants what is best for us. Let HIM do the judging. It is not for us to point fingers. Love HIM. Trust in HIM. Live for HIM. Whenever you fall, pick yourself up and try again. HE IS THERE TO CATCH YOU. Isn’t HE the best?

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