Another Problem with ‘Purity’ March 4, 2012

Another Problem with ‘Purity’

Libby Anne, who grew up thinking sex was only something reserved for marriage, talks about one of the byproducts of that way of thinking: The belief that all men only wanted one thing from her.

Eventually, I ended up kind of scared of guys my age, because, after all, they were all sex-crazed maniacs who couldn’t help but undress me with their eyes during every conversation and might even want to date me just so they could have sex with me. They might pretend to be interested in me for myself, but I knew the truth — all they wanted was sex. Maybe it’s not surprising that I didn’t really have any guy friends in high school.

… The only way I could convince a guy to marry me was to dangle sex in front of him like a prize — marry me and you get this! And then, wham! He’d be stuck! It also gave me a very bad image of the men around me. Guys my age scared me. I didn’t feel like I could understand them. They were all sex maniacs who were only interested in my body. Only by playing the game right and holding out just long enough could I trap one of them into marriage. And then he’d be stuck.

Read that piece. At least read the last two sentences of it.

Whether you want to or not, raising someone to believe physical relationships are inherently wrong outside of a marriage means also passing along other crazy ideas: That you should avoid becoming close friends with someone of the opposite sex. That no men can possibly like you for your mind. That all women are temptresses just waiting to seduce you. That marriage is the only way to “tame” men. That hooking up (in any way) will deprive you of a happy marriage.

It’s not just fundamentalists who preach this stuff, either. This is mainstream Christianity. And you’re better off leaving it all behind.

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  • Anonymous

    Hemant, don’t forget about the Church of Revlon and their barbie doll disciples. Women and men can be made to feel inadequate, unworthy, or ugly in lots of ways.

  • Perfect subject for a Sunday morning! In Christian Science ANYTHING to do with a body isn’t real, including disease & sex. Sex is another elephant in the room no one acknowledges. You can do it when you’re married but you’re never supposed to refer to it. Hard-core CS’s will only have sex when they want to get pregnant. I knew a woman who followed this to the letter. You know how that ended…

    It’s one more idealistic straw on the Perfect Camel’s back: You’ll wait for THE RIGHT ONE…you’ll FALL IN LOVE FOREVER…you’ll LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER… Not tools for sane living or self-confidence.

  • Guest

    My mom drilled that into my head from, what seems like, birth. It was always, “they will tell you whatever it takes to get you in bed. They will say that they love you, but as soon as you have sex with them, they will lose all respect for you and you will lose all respect for yourself.” she also told me that guys like to make fun of the girls they have sex with and the whole school will know and I would have the reputation of being a slut. She was just repeating the things her mom told her and she was a virgin when she got married (really), so she had no basis for the things she told me. I guess you could say that type of teaching works. I didn’t “give it up” until I was 21. I have a hard time believing boyfriends who say they love me. I always question whether they love me or the pleasure they can get from me. I know that’s completely unfair to men, but the only thing my mom taught me to be skeptical of was a man’s affection.

  • Anonymous

    Why do xtians allways talk about virginity as if it was a prize that every man wants to get from a woman and then he’s not interested in her anymore? Why waste all the effort to get some not so great sex just once? It’s stupid….

  • Anton Kozlik, ventriloquist

     Sounds an awful lot like the babble promoting religion, god, heaven, etc.

  • JenL

    And of course, if both the man and the woman truly do chastely wait for marriage, then the honeymoon consists of two people who have at best an academic understanding of the mechanics, but who have been told that the sex will be wonderful because it’s now divinely sanctioned, and because they properly avoided giving away any bits of their bodies, hearts, souls…    

  • Karen L

    I knew a few boys like that in high school:  only wanted to get into a girl’s pants, talked down girls who did have sex as sluts, etc.   It never occurred to me that they were also quite likely reacting to the message they’d received about sex and proper sex roles through religion and the culture around it. 

    So that message may be harming boys as well as girls. 

  • V Williams

    This sounds so much like my sister.  She is a pretty, nice, smart, funny, 31 year old woman who has NEVER been on a date.  One day she called me, horrified, to tell me about this sex crazed man she had met.  She was working at the time as a nurses assistant.  There was an older woman she had been talking care of and every day her grandson was coming into visit her.  About a week in, he asked her if she’d like to go out to dinner with him after her shift.  She turned him down flat.  See, he hardly knew her so he must have just wanted to have sex with her.  It is so sad because she really wants to have kids.  I’ve suggested artificial insemination (she’s clearly never having sex) but it has been so drilled into her head that kids need to have both a mother and a father that she thinks even that would be wrong.

  • Nathaniel

     So how does she plan to snag a man? Go down to the local gay bar for a closet case?

  • Caravelle

    She could check out whatever asexual community there is around where she lives.

    The sad thing is if she isn’t asexual she’s cutting herself from something she’s probably enjoy if she could get past her issues.

    On the other hand, interacting with asexual men might help her get past this idea all men want to have sex with her and habituate her to seeing them as human beings. I guess that could also work with gay men come to that…

  • Caravelle

    When you think about it, being told all the time that you only ever think about sex would lead to thinking a whole lot about sex, simply from the “don’t think of an elephant” principle.

    (that said, an actual study into the question did show that while men thought about sex a bit more than women did, they also thought about eating and sleeping more than women did, i.e. it was more about bodily functions than just sex. What this means is another question; both hardwiring and social explanations can make sense, there isn’t much evidence on way or another)

  • Kaleena

    Wow. This hit close to home for me. I think I had that exact conversation with my mother not even a month ago. 

  • This assumption about males and females being predatory and focused only on sex is so pervasive that it goes far beyond adolescents who have been raised in religious families. It’s everywhere.

    Men and women can and do enjoy wonderfully caring friendships which have no romantic love or sexual components, yet they have to constantly deal with the presumption from the public, their families, and their friends that they must be having a sexual relationship simply because they’re of opposite genders and they spend time together. Anyone who has had such a friendship probably understands how very frustrating this ubiquitous prejudice can be.

    Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to The Blues in the Night for the 1941 film of the same title, and the song was an instant hit. The first verse goes like this:

    My mama done tol’ me,
    When I was in knee pants,
    My mama done tol’ me, son
    A woman’ll sweet talk
    And give ya the glad eye;
    But when the sweet talkin’s done,
    A woman’s a two face
    A worrisome thing
    Who’ll leave ya t’sing
    The blues in the night.

    Later versions were just as widely popular, such as the hit recorded by Dinah Shore in 1942. The lyrics were changed to be a warning about men instead of women:

    My mama done tol’ me,
    When I was in pigtails,
    My mama done tol’ me, hon
    A man’s gonna sweet talk
    And give ya the glad eye;
    But when that sweet talkin’s done
    A man is a two face
    A worrisome thing
    Who’ll leave ya t’sing
    The blues in the night.

    It’s not just the mamas of the world who perpetuate this cynical anti-human slander. Look into yourself to see if you have ever made the assumption of a sexual relationship between a man and a woman who as far as you actually know, are simply enjoying a friendship.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, the modern purity culture in the US denies that women have a sex drive at all. It’s all about their virginity and how they look. Maybe what they unwittingly do to men. But not about what they feel.

    Which as far as Christianity is concerned is a very recent thing. From almost the beginning, women were seen as lustful, seductive and emotional. Which is one big reason why they needed to be controlled.

  • lane

    My mother made a “mistake” and slept with someone before she was married.  My father told her he was doing her a favor by marrying her in spite of this, because no one else would want her. (They are now divorced, fortunately.)

    Somebody hand me a puke bag.

  • lane

    I agree with this.  While mainstream culture may say that all young men and women want is sex, purity culture states that women who have sex are going against their nature.  I was certainly told this.  This info is also accompanied by statistics on how women who have sex are plagued with low self-esteem and depression, etc.  All women TRULY want to do is bake cookies and be chaste, dontcha know…

  • Anonymous-Sam

     Even better when you’ve been raised to believe that divorce is exclusively a man’s prerogative and the only way he’s allowed to do it is if you’ve cheated on him. Oh, does that lead to some ugly hijinks…

  • Anonymous-Sam

     Even better! Sex with a virgin isn’t actually all that great, from what I understand. It can be uncomfortable or even painful for the body to acclimatize to something it’s never done before (hymen notwithstanding), for one thing, and for another, experience matters. Someone who’s never done something is never going to be as good at it as someone who’s done it for many years.

  • Alchemist

    This idea that sex is purely a marital act, that it’s only purpose is that which is prescribed by god, also gives the impression to both men and women, that they don’t really own their own bodies. There are many issues with this idea, but the one that concerns me is that if we don’t actually own our bodies, don’t have dominion over our bodies, are we truly responsible for them?
    This idea spreads out into all parts of our lives. If our lives are “given up to god”, if we are truly answerable only to god, if we follow “god’s plan” for each of us, then we need not take any responsililty for that life.
    This smacks of a proscription against truly growing up and becoming responsible adults. There are so many passages in the bible that tell us that it is the better part in life to remain as a little child, to follow a heavenly father and do as he wills.
    I’m 37 years old, I haven’t lived with my parents for 20 years, I haven’t followed their will for all if that time. To follow the will of a parent, and an imaginary one at that, is utterly absurd. Our natural parents die at some point and “in the wild” much younger than they do today. Does this not show any reasonable person that the need for a parent whom we should follow is just plain crazy?

  • V Williams

    She believes that if God wants her to be married, he will bring the man he wants her to marry into her life.  It isn’t her job to find him.  One year, for her birthday, I paid for a month or so of eharmony.  I thought that might work for her since they seem to be all into the “traditional values” thing.  No one would talk to her.  I have no idea what she put on her profile, but I can’t help but think it must have been a little crazy if no one would write her back.  Another year I offered to do the same thing again and she got mad.  Sensitive subject…

    Her best friend is just like her.  Actually, she has been on a handful of dates, but I don’t think any second dates and has certainly never had a relationship.  The reasons are basically the same.  Anyway- she has a pinterest board where she puts ideas for her wedding.  It is called “Someday my prince will come.” It is so, so sad. They don’t seem to be asexual.  They talk about finding men attractive and all that.  My husband thinks that it is a bad friendship for them to be in since they seem to be supporting each other’s dating issues.  I’m hoping that they are secretly lesbian, but ashamed to admit it.  Granted, that isn’t much of a hope since being ashamed like that is bad too – but somehow that seems better that not having the sort of relationship that you want at all.  And, it doesn’t really seem like that is what is going on anyway.

  • Anonymous

     That was the point i wanted to make ^^

    Imagine the first wedding night when BOTH parties are complete newbies? 30 seconds and lots of disappointements (except for the guy, best 30 seconds in his life so far :p )

  • Thackerie

     My mother also tried to drill that into my head. I “gave it up” at 14.

    She also tried to convince me never to “live in sin” with a man because the man would just “up and leave” me. When I pointed out that husbands can also “up and leave,” she told me, “No, it’s harder for them to leave because getting a divorce is expensive, complex, and time-consuming.”

    Great! Just what every young girl dreams of — being legally bound in a loveless marriage to a man who sticks around only to avoid some inconvenience.

    BTW, I am currently living in sin with the same guy for 22+ years … with no end of the relationship — and no wedding bells — in sight.

  • Anonymous

     Uncomfortable and painful is not JUST for virgins, either. I have never had non-painful intercourse, basically because my muscles won’t relax properly. It’s something to work on…..but I CANNOT imagine waiting for marriage, expecting the wedding night to all beautiful and wonderful…and then feeling THAT instead. What do Christians feel in this situation? Betrayed? Guilt that maybe they caused it by lusting or something? Yikes.

  • Anonymous

     You can be like the Duggars where you only have sex to procreate….meaning, non-stop procreation.

  • Anonymous

     Doesn’t sound like asexuality, but I’m glad you brought up that point. It’s important to point out that some men and women can be happy without being sexual. My fiance has a cousin that I suspect is asexual (or maybe just really really shy?). She is 28, and still lives with her parents. She has never had a boyfriend, and told everyone in the family that she is NOT interested in ever getting married. I don’t think it’s a religious/tradition thing because she didn’t even bat an eye when I said I wasn’t changing my name after getting married (which is something that even forward thinking people often balk at).  Asexual? Or just really lacking in confidence, and avoiding dating altogether?

  • I dated someone who was raised in this philosophy. Every few months or so, she’d confess to me some new advice her mother had given her. It ranged from how “saving herself” makes a boy want her more to how it’s ok to break up for a little while because it will just make him want you more as he starts to get jealous. As much as it pisses me off, I wonder if “good” repressed males really are so sex-starved and crazy to fall for that. Suffice it to say I had enough pride in myself to get out of that situation.

  •  “Asexual? Or just really lacking in confidence, and avoiding dating altogether?” Sounds like a black-box kind of problem to me. I think it’s best not to assume one way or the other.

  • Your reply, at least my understanding of your reply, is extremely selfish sounding. Is the only reason to have sex so that you get a “feel-good moment?” Seriously! 

    The whole reason that you don’t want to have sex with someone who is a virgin is because you don’t get yours. Wow. I’m appalled.

  •  That sounds like a friendship a girl I once knew was in. She obviously wanted to find a boyfriend, and her best friend kept trying to find some, even openly asking other guys out for her. But she was shy and awkward, and would hide behind her friendship whenever she was uncomfortable. A guy would probably have to be sex-craved just to put the effort into competing with a dependent friendship like that.

  • My spouse and I each waited until our wedding night. It was awesome knowing that we had valued ourselves and each other, and had committed to each other long before we had even known each other. I valued marriage and my future spouse SO much, that I wouldn’t give in just for a moment of cheap, fleeting passion. My spouse did the same. 

    The way people value their bodies and that of their significant other so flippantly makes me sad. Oh, and trust me, it was not 30 seconds of disappointment 🙂 

  • They’re kind of primed for it. Same basic structure as the: You’ll wait for THE REDEMPTION… you’ll STAY IN PARADISE WITH FRIENDS FOREVER… you’ll LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

    The underpants gnomes …PROFIT is in there somewhere, too. It’s just hidden.

  • Why is this sad? She values marriage. What’s wrong that? I have a friend who waited until he was 34. Now he’s married and has a wonderful family. My cousin didn’t get married until she was 46. But you know what? She’s happy now. She’s incredibly happy. 

    I would rather your sister find someone compatible to live out the rest of her years happily ever after than to go through the pain of a divorce or worse because she rushed into something. My advice, don’t project your values, priorities and time line onto another person. Even if it is your sister.

  • I find it interesting that so much credit is given to the sex-craved men. The seem so self-aware and have excellent planning skills. I could maybe understand a hysterical warning like “They don’t understand what they’re feeling or thinking, but their bodies are driving them to just have sex with you.” Maybe it’s easier to think about in terms of “There’s an incredibly crafty devil out there” than “Everyone is complex and slightly different.”

  • Anonymous

    Dammit, religion!  Don’t make men (or women) choose between sex and cookies!

  • Anonymous

    That was chauvinistic side coming out.

  • Anonymous

    It’s hard to say whether indoctrination made boys preoccupied with getting into girls pants (those hormones are intense), but I’d definitely wager it played into them talking down about those same girls.

  • solarsister

     Not waiting until the marriage night to have sex DOES NOT equal “valuing their bodies and that of their significant other so flippantly”. Thanks for trying to shame people who chose to do things differently than you, though.

  • solarsister

     There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with not rushing into things. Hell, I’m almost 31 myself and quite happily single. I’ve had a couple of relationships but on the experience front I’m probably lagging behind a lot of people, but I’m cool with that. I’m not actively looking for romance right now but open to long-term relationships or marriage at some point in my future. But that’s different from what’s being described above. The poster’s sister sounds like she has a very unhealthy attitudes towards relationships – what they’re like, how they actually work – that’s holding her back from actually finding someone.

  • Anonymous

    These are things that I had suspected some girls were up to when I was younger, but hadn’t heard any of it actually voiced out loud until a couple of years ago.  Who has a little daughter and automatically thinks, “A-ha!  Now I have someone to instruct in the ways of manipulation!”???  I guess probably the woman whose husband is teaching their son all about kicking sissies’ asses.

  • V Williams

    You seem to really be enjoying feeling superior here!  All other things being equal, having sex with someone who knows what they are doing is going to feel better than having sex with someone who doesn’t.  That is obvious.  I can’t help but think you are being overly defensive here.  Clearly, there is a lot more that goes into a relationship than sex and a lot more to sex than an orgasm.

  • V Williams

    Exactly!  I never said it was sad to not be married in your 20’s.  It is sad to want to be married so bad that you are planning your wedding all while being afraid to talk to men because you are freaked out by sex.  The only one projecting their values onto other people here is momma J.  I have never once suggested (nor do I think it would be a good idea given her current attitudes) that my sister have sex with a man.  I simply think she shouldn’t be afraid to meet one for coffee.

  • Anonymous

     That kind of mindset is so bizarre to me.  I valued and enjoyed the sex I had with men before I married my husband.  I do not regret starting to have sex when I was 15.  In fact, the only thing I really do regret is not having more sex with more men when I was younger.

    But that also doesn’t mean that I don’t value (or devalue) the sex I have had with my husband.   However, I definitely recognize that the sex we had early on wasn’t quite as…fulfilling…as the sex we had after a decade or so of practice!

  • Anonymous

     So, a woman is selfish for wanting sex to not just be pleasurable, but without PAIN?  Wow, you’re a nasty judgmental fruitcake!  I feel sorry for you.

  • Anonymous

    His point is that both partners can’t really enjoy the intercourse if one of them feels pain during the process.

  • Ndonnan

    Another silly  artical with an equally disingenious conclusion.An unballanced individual portrayed as the normal response to a mothers advice.Most teenagers ive talked to including my own say ok,but think,yeah whatever and do what they think they can get away with. They dont live with an irrational fear of men or woman any more than is normal teen angst

  • Caravelle

    I agree. I wasn’t assuming anything; I can really see arguments one way or another (on the one hand sexual people absolutely can have those hangups, and she could be going overboard out of extreme repression. Or it could be she’s going overboard because she happens to be asexual and therefore has no reason not to – and fears sexuality all the more because she doesn’t understand it. Or any other possibility on that spectrum. Or off it).

    What I meant was that since she’s clearly non-sexual in practice, and intends to remain that way, and still wants children and a relationship, the best thing for her would be to have one with another non-sexual person – and an asexual person would fit that bill. So would a closeted gay man, or some other person who’s freaked out by sex. The difference between those and asexuals though is that asexuals aren’t self-deluded, or lying about themselves and their tastes. So they would probably be a safer option for her.

    Whether she was a safe option for them, now…

  • Anonymous

    She isn’t unbalanced. Her parents are. You clearly haven’t read what goes on in some Christian circles. Some families are run like mini-cults. Liby Anne grew up with that experience. She lived it. Her many siblings still do. This definitely happened. And she is far from the only one. There are documentaries about it. Her family is part of a whole movement who have exactly the same mindset. And compared with others, she had it relatively mild in some areas – such as education.

    She may have had some hangups about sex initially, but others who comment on her blog have it had far worse. They’ve needed years of therapy to get over their upbringing and have a healthy sex live. In one post a disturbing number of women said that the only way they could get aroused is by fantasizing about violent sex/rape

    Check out: (see the lower right side for many general articles) (for more Quiverfull stories)
    And many, many more people with the same experiences:

  • Rwlawoffice

    I have seen some stretches in your blog posts before but this is one of the biggest. Teach your daughter to save herself for marriage and you are teaching her that all men can be manipulated into marriage for sex? Those two ideas don’t go together even from a logical standpoint, much less a Christian viewpoint.

     Then you end it with the suggestion to leave Christianity so that you can have physical relationships with whoever you want like the result will be that men will stop wanting to use you for sex and you will never manipulate men with sex as if that is never done outside of the Christian circles.

  • Thackerie

    “Is the only reason to have sex so that you get a “feel-good moment?”

    Is the only reason you post on this forum so you can scold other people who choose not to live like you and then pretend to be superior to us? Sounds like you have a really bad case of sour grapes.

  • Thackerie

     That sounds like a sure path to disappointment to me. But, perhaps not to fundies who are too naive to ever realize what they’re missing.

  • absent sway

     I waited, and expected it to hurt the first few times. After at least a year, it was only just improving, but I had come to expect more pain than pleasure, which didn’t motivate me to try much. My husband couldn’t enjoy it for long, either, because any initial pleasure would be interrupted by watching me suffer. I am grateful that the other things we value about each other, and some sexual skills besides intercourse, sustained us during that time. I didn’t feel guilty, thank goodness, but betrayed comes close. Betrayed and incredibly frustrated and a little insecure and fearful for the future of my marriage. The word “castrated” also comes to mind. It was hugely demoralizing.

  •  How do you know? How do you know he’s not craptastic in bed? Or that you aren’t? No experience means no basis for comparison, no way of knowing if you’re sexually compatible, etc.

    Your way leads, statistically, to more divorce, more unhappy marriages, and more people who never get to be happy with their own sexuality or bodies. And “saving it” isn’t valuing your body or that of your partner…it’s fear-based repression. I valued my body plenty, as did my wife, before we married, and we both had sex with plenty of other people before-hand and had sex with each other for a year and a half before we got married. That’s how we knew we were compatible on all levels. Maybe you want to take chances like that with the rest of your life, but such foolhardiness is hardly “valuing” anything. It’s just stupid.

  •  Yes, actually. There is no reason for my wife and I to have sex other than to share mutual pleasure and intimacy. We have no intention to spawn.

    And there is nothing wrong with pleasure and intimacy. Pleasure is a good-enough reason to do anything, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

  •  It’s sad because no one is ever going to want to walk into the massive amount of crazy that all that represents. And they shouldn’t. That chick is what my wife calls “bad candy”…a willfully irrational person who will purposely create dysfunction in any relationship.

  • Rwlawoffice

    What a crock. The mantra of the modern liberal society that promiscuity brings long standing happiness and self worth has been pushed for a long time but it is a lie.  The divorce rate in this country has risen with the increase of promiscuity not the other way around.  If someone decides to wait until they are married who are you to say that is because they are repressed and not because they value the sanctity of that act and want to keep it within their marriage.  If you believe that a person who only has sex with their spouse and didn’t start that until they were married then you are naive, misinformed and justifying your own sexual actions.  There is no need to put down someone elses value system in the process.

  • Rwlawoffice

    That sentence should read if you think that people who wait until their marriage to have sex can’t have a wonderful sex life then you are naive.  sorry for the error

  •  And yet the statistics come out on my side. The most traditional, Christian, “pure” regions, where the only sex education is abstinence, have the highest rates of divorce. People who wait to marry until they’ve had a few relationships and are in their late twenties to thirties generally stay married.

    The red states also have higher subscriptions to porn per capita, more reported sexual abuse, more reported physical abuse, lower general IQs, lower levels of general education, higher rates of criminality and recidivism, and do worse on standardized tests.

    But keep believing your dogma. I’m sure it’s really working out for you.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Cites? Just on the divorce rates in Christian marriages being higher then the general public following abstinence education, not the unrelated elitist jabs at the south.

  • Jeanette

    Though I’d add…shaming a person for being a virgin is unhelpful also. Perhaps ironically, my reaction to thinking I had never had sex and therefore must be “bad at it” made me wait to have sex long after I wanted to. Then after I had multiple partners I realized people are different and I had to learn all over again for new people, as did my new partners. Sex is more complicated than just “more of it makes you better”. Finding a good match and having more sex with that good match (or matches) makes you better…with that person.

    That said, yes, people who treat a woman’s virginity as a “prize” and then lose interest in her after sex one time are assholes and probably really really bad at sex.

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