Purity Culture and S-E-X

I think most of us can agree that a lot of our “purity culture” is pretty messed up. Years of trying to teach kids about the Biblical way to go about sex has ended up in twisted ideas of self-worth, disappointed or confused newlyweds, shallow friendships for fear of getting too deep, and so very very many adults choosing to toss the whole idea entirely once they realize the damage it has caused them and others.

Some of it sounds almost like it can make sense. If two papers are glued together and you pull them apart, they lose a piece of themselves and then they’re not quite the same. If I chew a piece of gum and then offer it to you, of course you don’t want it; it’s used, it’s dirty. If I unwrap your present before it gets to you, it loses some of its shiny appeal, doesn’t it?

But then you start to think about how deep those connotations go. Wait, am I a piece of paper? Am I piece of gum? When I give pieces of myself to one person, does that really make me undesirable to others? Does it make me lose some of my intrinsic worth? What if I have a piece of me ripped away? Does that still count? Am I now worthless?

Sure, it’s true that some people, regardless of their belief system, prefer that their spouse had waited and saved themselves entirely for them. It’s a beautiful gift, truly. But is it all your worth is tied up in, especially as a woman?

First of all, absolutely not. Especially as followers of Christ, we ought to know our value is intrinsic; we are full of worth because God created us in His image. That makes us valuable, that makes us beautiful. Nothing can render us “useless” or “worthless”. Period.

Secondly, the Church is trying to teach a Heavenly idea using Earthly logic. The idea of waiting until marriage to have sex is not because you depreciate like a used car, it is not because you will lose all sense of worth and purpose, and it is not because no one will want you because you’re dirty and old and used up. That’s so far from what God says. The truth is that saving yourself for marriage doesn’t make sense unless you have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Unless you truly care for the Lord. If you don’t, it’s really just a weird rule. Granted, sex is the most intimate and precious exchange of trust any two people can have, and that does carry with it an emotional weight whether or not anyone chooses to acknowledge it. But the idea of “saving yourself” is not simply so that you don’t get sad or don’t get attached, though those are good secondary reasons if you’re looking for them.

Sex is a strange and beautiful thing God created for us to enjoy. It brings us pleasure, it creates life, it fosters connection, intimacy, and a deeper love than anything else really can. It is, done properly, the highest form of trust, love, and vulnerability to share with another person. By those standards alone, you would want to make sure it’s a pretty special person at least. But why wait?

Not to sound trite, but, well…because of God. While He has good reasons for keeping sex as for-marriage-only, they are all reasons we can choose to ignore or decide to work through the emotional consequences of later. The truth is that if you care about the Lord, you want to honor Him and you want to obey Him, whether or not you always understand His rules. If doing as He says is a way to honor Him, then it makes sense to do as He says. Sex, the way God created it to be (within marriage), is, strangely enough, another thing created to honor Him. So doing it right is also honoring Him. I told you, this makes no sense unless you care about the personal relationship you have with Jesus Christ.

It’s hard to teach a relationship to people unless they’ve experienced it themselves. It’s hard to tell a person “you should do what my mom says because you love her” if they’ve never met your mom and, quite frankly, couldn’t care less about her. So instead of trying to show kids and teens the person of Jesus, instead of trying to share with them the beautiful relationship that can be had with them, we focus on the rules that will make it look like they have the relationship, the rules that will keep things tidy and save face, the rules that we hope will keep them out of pain and emotional turmoil, the rules they will eventually completely discard. And in focusing on the rules, we have somehow made something that is so beautiful and strange and God-honoring into this taboo, legalistic, dehumanizing set of ideas to wonder about and rebel against.

I know I’m not the first person to say “hey, maybe we should focus on introducing people to Jesus before we try to change their hearts and minds.” But um. Hey. Maybe we should do that. Purity culture has got a lot of us all tied up in fear and self-loathing, when sex should be a joyful, wonderful gift for both parties within marriage. It is not something he takes and she gives. It is not something she doesn’t want and he does. It is not where her worth comes from, and it’s not what makes him a man. It’s a gift for both partners to enjoy, to learn and grow in, and to give to each other, not to keep a tally of who’s worth less.

Anyway. Rant over. Let’s stop telling our girls to wear ankle length skirts or be responsible for their horny male peers sinning over them. Let’s stop telling our boys next to nothing about their own modesty. Let’s stop teaching modesty as if it’s all about clothing and not about a condition of the heart. Let’s stop teaching that someone has to lose and someone has to win in sex. Let’s stop teaching that it’s a burden and a conquest. Let’s stop being so weird and just teach the truth. Show kids who Jesus is. Let them see how your relationship with Jesus informs your life, changes your heart, and causes you to grow daily. Then let the little children go to Him, because it has to be their choice to make friends, doesn’t it?

Okay okay NOW my rant is over.

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