Feminism | Posted by Ama K on 08/17/2012

Sex and Christianity

Purity Rings: Not For Everybody

I was born and raised a Christian. From the time I came out of the womb, I was immersed in a highly religious family, and I lived most of my life with blinders on. I never really questioned anything and just accepted whatever was said to me. As I got older, I got more curious and began questioning the beliefs I was raised with more. I still believe in God and consider myself a Christian, but there are many aspects of my religion that I don’t agree with.

At church one Sunday, I went to the teen service and the topic that week was virginity and sex before marriage. I personally don’t plan on waiting until marriage, but I was interested in what was going to be said. There were two couples (one married, the other pair still dating) and one single person sitting up in the front of the large room speaking to us and giving us their personal experiences with waiting until marriage.

There were things said that irked me. For example, the girl that was in the dating relationship said that having sex before marriage was selfish because you were causing yourself, and the other person in the relationship, to sin. They also said that you shouldn’t do anything in a relationship if you wouldn’t be comfortable telling your future husband or a pastor about it. “Can you imagine telling your husband that you’ve had sex with other people? Could you imagine how that would make him feel?” one woman said.

Several things like this were said, but even though I didn’t agree with them, I just brushed them off. But near the end of the forum, something was said that I couldn’t ignore. One of the pastors said, “One more reason to wait until marriage- you are a gift to your partner. Imagine being really excited and running downstairs on Christmas morning and your gift is already unwrapped. How would you feel if your gift was unwrapped or tainted?” This comment angered me. Why are they telling people that they are worthless, that they are spoiled goods, if they have sex before marriage? Why are they commodifying sex? This has a major effect on the way young people, especially women, view sex. They begin to believe that sex is something bad that you don’t talk about.

About a year or two ago at my church teen service, they separated the boys from the girls to talk to us about sex. The woman that was speaking to us had waited until marriage to have sex, and I still remember when she told us that sex is not a great experience for her. She told us that she cried after her first time and that it doesn’t get any better. I don’t think she feels this way about sex because she waited to have sex, but because she didn’t seem comfortable with the idea of sexuality at all. I feel like she saw it as something dirty. And she wouldn’t be the only one — there is a lot of shame placed on sex in the church. If you’re a girl and you like sex and you have sex before marriage you’re seen as a slut, and I feel like religion, while it’s not the only factor, contributes to slut-shaming. A quote from Kerry Howley helps explain my view on this whole situation:

It’s deplorable that sexually adventurous young women are constantly told they are “degrading themselves” by seeking out various experiences, that every bit of enjoyment eats away at some secret store of purity. This whole tradition–the idea that women need be preserved in glass so as not to “ruin” themselves, lest they diminish their sexual value by “giving it away”–restricts the lived autonomy of women in ways I can’t even begin to articulate. None of the slut-shaming makes sense unless you assume women live to give themselves to men in their purest possible form.

Your worth is not based on how many people you have had sex with. Instead of basing a person’s worth on sex, how about we base it on how you treat people or your personal qualities. And also, if a partner can’t deal with the fact that you’ve had sex with people before them, they’re not worth your time.

If you want to wait to have sex, that’s great. But do it for yourself. Don’t do it because someone tells you that you should. And if you aren’t waiting/didn’t wait, you shouldn’t be ashamed for your choice.

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  • Anna @ at 12:55 pm, August 17th, 2012

    I do believe that sex before marriage is not a good thing, but I also believe that those people who were trying to teach you about it took a wrong approach, or did not teach it correctly. Sex is a good thing, God designed it as such. But all good things have consequences, be they good or bad. THat’s where abortions come in. Lots of people believe that abortions are okay. They use them as birth control, many times without regard to the fact that they are taking something that only God can give; life.

  • Gigi @ at 3:15 pm, August 17th, 2012

    @ Anna, I have never in my life come across someone who uses abortion as birth control. Do you personally know anyone who has done this? Abortion is a serious issue and at times can cause harm to the mother. Since it can be life threatening in some situations; it’s highly doubtful that anyone would put their lives at risk every time they have sex; it’s statistically improbable that someone who has regular sex could even SURVIVE that many abortions.
    While I’m an atheist myself, I think people who do not agree with abortions need to realize that not everyone is subscribed to their personal belief system.
    I think the ideals here about virginity being a ‘gift’ to your partner and being ‘tainted’ by previous sexual encounters is a sexist metaphor to shame women who make their own choices and void sexual liberation. If people believe these things based on religion then fine, they can live their lives by those rules if they want; it’s when people start preaching about other people who do those things that grinds my gears.

  • Kelsey @ at 1:12 am, August 18th, 2012

    Thanks for writing this, Ama. I feel that the church’s approach to sex negatively impacts girls’ experiences when they do decide to have sex, whether they wait until marriage or not. I did not wait until marriage to have sex, though I once felt strongly about True Love Waits, and I still struggle sometimes with feeling guilty or dirty for doing so. I encourage any women, Christian or no, who are uncomfortable about sex to read about it, talk about it, and most importantly, discuss it with their partner(s). Sex is not something to be embarrassed about, and I feel that the church’s stance can pressure girls to feel that way. Knowledge is power, right? Knowing your body and how natural sex is may be a good way to become more comfortable with it. Sex is awesome! It isn’t scary, and it breaks my heart that some women might never enjoy it.

  • Sarah @ at 8:26 am, August 18th, 2012

    As a Christian, I feel that again and again the church has failed in teaching the abstinence message. We’re told that sex is dirty, unclean, dangerous, and harmful. And then the big bad world comes in, with flashing lights and flavored condoms, and is all “Hey, guess what? Sex is awesome! It’s fun and cool and harmless and like, totally hot!” And for many young people, there’s no question about what to choose. Because of how poorly the church has educated it’s young people (as well as the failure of abstinence-only education in public schools – don’t get me started) you find a rise in teen pregnancies within the church. And, sadly, in many cases the women have to choose between having the baby and living through all the shame the church would put on them for being “unclean”, as well as the many other hardships of raising a child on your own, or secretly having an abortion. The church’s puritan and shame-based sex education hurts not only the younger generation, but also the values and narrative of Christ.
    Personally, I believe sex outside of marriage is not so bad as sex outside of love. I’ve chosen to wait to become sexually intimate with someone until they’ve shown enough commitment and love to me that I know I can trust them as fully. Maybe that show of commitment will be marriage, maybe it will be something else. But my point is, there are thoughtful and important reasons that scriptures tell us to wait, but in failing to understand these the Church has (once again) butchered the message.

  • Link Love (28/08/2012) « Becky's Kaleidoscope @ at 12:14 pm, August 28th, 2012

    […] “Your worth is not based on how many people you have had sex with. Instead of basing a person’s worth on sex, how about we base it on how you treat people or your personal qualities. And also, if a partner can’t deal with the fact that you’ve had sex with people before them, they’re not worth your time.” Sex and Christianity – f bomb […]

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