When Samantha Boesch was 23, she began attending a meeting of Sex Addicts Anonymous. Not because she was having sex so much that it prevented her from doing anything else — or even because she was having sex at all. She watched porn and… that’s about it. That was a sin so awful in her evangelical circles that she believed she had a serious problem.
It took her more than a year to realize she didn’t have an addiction at all. Her self-shaming was just a product of Purity Culture, which led her to believe that even thinking about sex before marriage was a problem that needed to be solved.
She writes about that experience, and how she finally walked away, at HuffPost:
Walking away was terrifying because I spent my whole life believing what my community had told me and I was still worried I might be making the wrong choice. Maybe God would smite me and condemn me to hell. Maybe my life without the church would be miserable. But choosing to turn away from shame, being able to listen to the intuition that had been inside me all along, felt well worth the risk.
For most of my life, I was told my sexual desires were a sin against God. I believe this led to personal shame and the belief that I couldn’t control my own natural sexual urges. But I now know my curiosity about my sexuality and my body was healthy. When I removed the strict moral lens of religious purity culture, everything became crystal clear.
Keep in mind that none of that is trashing Christianity as a whole. It’s a specific kind of teaching that still occurs in certain Christian circles. She’s hardly the only person who lived through it, recognizes the damage it caused, and is now using her platform to call it out. To anyone who’s still in the bubble, it’s arguably more compelling to hear about all this from someone who went through it herself.
I would also point out that Boesch doesn’t say that when she walked away from Sex Addicts Anonymous, she flipped the switch and decided to go wild. It’s no one’s business, of course, but it also doesn’t matter. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to wait, just as no one should be shamed for choosing not to. What’s troubling is when Christian leaders send a message that anything and everything sexual must be feared and avoided until the wedding — at which point those couples are just magically expected to figure everything out and be compatible. That’s not how anything works.
By the way, Boesch wrote a piece last year in which she went down the “rabbit hole” of Purity Culture videos as a way to see purity rings, accountability worksheets, and Josh Harris books from the other side. As she wrote then, the people making those videos have good intentions, but the product they’re selling is incredibly harmful.
It’s especially damaging to young women who have to deal with all kinds of double standards in evangelical culture, including getting blamed when men cross the line.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)