3 Myths About Purity Culture


If you grew up in the “Purity Culture,” there is work to be UN-done. Teens growing up in this powerful subculture of the church were taught about sex through deep shame and tight restrictions.  

Words like Clean and Dirty reduced sexuality as something to say “no” to, but, there is more. Let’s bust through some of the myths purity culture taught, while trying to catch a glimpse of the much wider vision God has for us as women. 

Let’s move away from being scared of our design, desires and body in order to embrace our sexuality for what it is; Sacred By Design.

(In each episode, we’ll be incorporating a Spiritual Practice. In this episode, we’ll be naming some ways Purity Culture may have hurt us mind, heart, and body; so we’ll be doing a “Body scan.” Please join us.) What is Purity?

Let’s dive in.

This Episode’s Transcription

Andrea 0:02
Welcome back to another episode of sacred by Design. Today I have Rebecca joining me and we are going into a topic that a lot of you may have heard of, and it is called the purity culture. It was a movement in the 90s Evangelical Church, and the purity culture was a strong current of deep shame and messages around sex that involves nothing but shame. Really, teens growing up within the subculture of the church may have worn purity rings, to show others that they were quote unquote, clean, they might have attended love weights banquets, instead of going to prom.

If you are one of those kids, your chastity belt might have been strapped on so tight that it left a mark, on your mind, on your heart, on your body, and definitely on your sexuality. And on this episode of sacred by design, Rebecca is with me to unwrap a little bit more about what this message taught. What it may have sent the messages it may have sent back then and what it looks like now. So with this big of a topic, Rebecca, where do we even begin?

Rebecca 1:32
Yeah, yeah. Purity culture focused a lot on what to say no to. And by doing that, and missed a lot of other things that that we want to say yes to and Miss kind of this bigger view of God’s design and beauty and sexuality. So we want to talk some about what what were some of those things that purity culture said no to and hopefully bust some of those myths a little bit. But we want to see through that too, and talk about where some of the yeses, what do we what do we want to say yes to hear, what does God have for us? And even as a bigger conversation as Christians, boy, we’re known a lot for what we say no to right. And what if, what if we were known more for what we said yes to and what could that even look like?

Andrea 2:30
Well, that is I mean, that’s not even just looking at purity culture differently. That’s looking at God differently. Yeah. And I love the idea that right off the bat, you just did not hesitate to bring that truth bomb, because we are saying yes to so much more. And so the purity culture, yes, said no to a lot of things. But what are we going to say yes to? And I love the idea of looking at the purity culture through kind of myths. So if we can bust some of those myths together, are you game? Are you ready? Yeah, I have a couple of them. Myth number one, girls, girls, it’s your fault. Boys have those kinds of feelings. What that says is as a woman that’s really up to you. And the message here is strong. stewarding sexuality is both your responsibility and your fault who I hate.

Rebecca 3:24
Yeah, this breaks my heart. Just hearing it like that breaks my heart for women. And how often did we have that modeled for us to have contempt towards others, an end shame towards ourselves. That’s, that’s hefty. And with this, it’s bound up in fear and shame, like you said, and misses out on the love and beauty and honor that that’s intrinsic to how we are as women our power made. And really a big one with this is it really misses the whole whole piece of women’s sexuality, that that’s that we don’t even that doesn’t get focused on we don’t talk about that nearly as much as we do on on the men’s side of things, but to talk about how we’re designed that our bodies our desire of good and remarkable but that that gets missed when we get put. Put this on us of It’s Our it’s our responsibility. It’s our fault. We want to we want to mess that up.

Andrea 4:33
Yes. Because it is more remarkable than it should be restricted. So I number two, girls, it’s your choice. Either you’re a slut. Dirty, or one of those girls, or prude. The teaching here was if you indulge your desires, you better go underground and hide it or just flat out squash your sexuality.

Rebecca 4:58
Yeah, what a loo lose both those don’t sound real great, not not an invitation that I want. And, and again, this and this is the mark because it really puts a heavy emphasis on not not women, but really women’s virginity, like as a status. This is something you’re and there’s a lot of terrible metaphors here, which I’m not going to repeat any of those OPERS repeating, but that that’s a status that you’re handed but could is tenuous, you could easily lose it. Instead of instead of looking at what if purity was something, I don’t even want to use that word really, but But what if that it was a, it was a virtue that we that we grow in, that we cultivate with God’s help, not just a marker or a status, but something that’s, that’s continuing. That’s a, that’s a big shift, and one that I continue to kind of try to come back to,

Andrea 6:02
And what a journey that should not be silenced, and not restricted. But this invitation to more, I mean, it’s just an invitation that you keep repeating almost, with both of these myths of just to not be silent. But to ask questions to explore. Something that we like to do here at regeneration Ministries is use the gift of curiosity, of being curious, and there’s no room for curiosity here. Myth number three girls wait to have sex until you’re married? After you’re married? you’ll flip a switch, have a ton of sex and it’ll be amazing.

Rebecca 6:47
Yeah. And we just know too many stories that that’s not it’s just not true. It’s just not true that whether and across the spectrum, really, whether it’s couples who haven’t engaged sexually before marriage, but then once they are married, that it’s it’s hard for them to start to say yes to each other, or whether the couple’s been gauging sexually before marriage and and relearning how to say yes, within marriage when there’s kind of a thrill to sneaking around, or are you engaging before marriage, but that having to learn to relearn how to do that within within marriage? Then it puts a spotlight on a really big focus on the first time, doesn’t it? Yeah. Which is undoubtedly important, but there’s a lot more afterwards write your wedding day. That’s a big day, but your marriage is what happens afterwards. And with sex, too, that this this myth, it’s Wait, wait, wait and then flip the switch. But there’s, there’s a lot more that happens afterwards and puts a lot of pressure just on that. I’m your first time.

Andrea 8:20
What is a different way to handle that? What’s a what’s a more inviting way to handle that? Wait, wait wait part, you know, without shame minus the shame. How do you do that?

Rebecca 8:32
Let’s doesn’t maybe totally answer your question. But there’s a quote that I really love that relates to this idea of purity from a priest called Tarik kowski. And he’s talking about chastity which I know that’s kind of a that’s kind of a dirty word we don’t we don’t really like to use that one’s got a bad rap. But talking about it more as this is something that we that we grow in and in whatever place we find ourselves. So he says I’m just going to read it here. Chastity is a free, joyful, wholehearted creative giving and receiving of love in the way that best suits the place we find ourselves whether that’s married single celibate, dating, engaged, elderly, prepubescent adolescents, same sex attracted, sick, disabled, divorced, widowed, etc. In the place we find ourselves. Chastity is this free, joyful, wholehearted creative giving and receiving of love. That’s a that’s a total shift.

Andrea 9:38
That’s a definition worth investigating and living by and going for. That’s something I want to say yes. Yeah. I just feel like for anybody listening who might have grown up and the purity culture that even just revisiting some of these ideas can really really trigger some feelings. Like even just in your belly, you know, just to feel like a tightness or even a headache developing just because, well, this is what was right. Or this is what I was told. And this is what I did. But then to hear an invitation like the, what is the his name again? Derrick kowski? Yes, I mean, Derek, thank you for that kind of eloquence and freedom, and joy, and that that’s the invitation that God sets before us for our sexuality, for our sexuality, because God created us with our sexuality. And it is sacred by design that’s worth sitting with for a moment.

Rebecca 10:43
Yeah. So if that’s you, if you’re feeling some of that, some of that tightness here or remembering some of the things that you were taught, or, or some of the things that you’re trying to delay down to unlearn. We want to end today with something I call a body scan. But just to be able to be a little bit more connected to ourselves how we’re feeling and in our body. So I’ll lead us through, I like to close my eyes when I do this. If you don’t feel like doing that, or that’s not a good idea, right now, wherever you’re listening to this podcast, feel free to just kind of soften your, your, your gaze, whatever you’re looking at. And we’ll start just by taking a couple deep breaths, letting yourself settle in. Knowing even that is hard to do sometimes feels a little clunky, and that’s okay. And starting at the top of your head, we’re gonna work our way slowly down, just checking in where you feel any tension, or release in the place between your eyebrows, and your cheeks, and your jaw moving down into your neck and your shoulders. With each exhale at your shoulders come down a little bit more. Notice how when you take an inhale, it fails your chest, let your stomach go soft. Let your hands relax, maybe your fingers curl inward, moving down into your hips, and on top to your legs, and all the way down to your toes. Feeling yourself all together all connected. Knowing that you are made intentionally by God with love, full of beauty, that you are honored. Your desires are good, biggest breath you’ve taken yesterday. Let it come out like us. That’s great.

Andrea 12:39
Thank you, Rebecca. I just think that what a gift for women who experienced growing up in the culture of purity culture, and you know, if you heard when you’re doing your story work, you know when you’re trying to figure out or get to the source of your your pain or your struggle or habit or whatever it is that you start to collect the dots. And then when you do the dedicated work of sitting with a therapist with a coach with a journal with God, to you start to connect the dots. And what a gift for women, especially if they have daughters right now that they’re able to correct those dots moving forward for their daughter so that they grow up with that invitation with the freedom and the beauty of what their sexuality can and should look like.

Rebecca 13:36
What a gift. Yeah, the move away from being scared of our design to embodying the sacredness of it.

Thanks For Reading.

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By Andrea Smithberger

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