Here is my latest podcast guest appearance over at Deeper Waters! We talk about sexuality, purity culture, etc.
This is the second episode of The Scarlet Virgins Podcast that has been recorded for Youtube. This episode is on sexual suppression after growing up in purity culture and how it has had an impact on myself and my peers.
If you enjoyed this topic, you can find more content on the same subjects by getting The Scarlet Virgins book:
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Email me: Rebecca@newcrunchymom.com
So some weeks ago I had a few of my wonderful readers ask me to respond to a Washington Post piece called, “I’m a 32-year-old virgin, and I’m living the feminist dream.”
It took me some time but I finally got all my thoughts typed up and you can find them here over at Iron Ladies: Chastity for Feminism’s Sake?
I also wanted to let you all know I am recording a podcast episode with Deeper Waters on Saturday but you can see some of the details of that here before it happens: Deeper Waters.
As for my own podcast, my husband is working in his spare time to edit new episodes for The Scarlet Virgins Podcast. If you like my book or haven’t read it yet, you can go check the podcast out and see what I’m all about. I also did some updating to this website so that you can see all of my books in one place and see any upcoming projects on the book tab once we have an estimated release date.
We had a huge breakthrough with The Scarlet Virgins this week as I checked one of my major goals off the list: placing it in a physical book store. If you would like to support me by purchasing it from that store, it is Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.
While I was signing the copies over (with shaking hands), I realized they had a local musician playing. It was so good that I genuinely thought it was a CD playing, but it was actually live music. He was playing my favorite song and combined with the swirling emotions from handing over the books, I nearly cried. I wanted to give this guy a shout-out because his music is amazing! You can go to his website here, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter.
Here is one of his videos:
That’s all the updates I have for you now, but I’ll have a few more in the coming weeks!
Anyone here want a copy of The Scarlet Virgins and haven’t bit the bullet yet? Or are a snoopy hater who wants to know what the fuss is about? (I jest, mostly 😉) You’ll want to check this out! We are offering the first chapter for free through this link.
Since writing my book on purity culture, I’ve been doing a lot of interviews and guest posts for other podcasts, websites, and radio stations. For the most part, the reception has been good and I haven’t had many problems. We weren’t really expecting the attention the book has received because it was originally written for a very small audience and as such, specifically geared towards those select people. For this reason, I did not cover many of the things that I may have had I known how things would go (perhaps included more statistics and medical studies), but one thing that a few people have pointed out is that I never explicitly gave instructions for how to recover from purity culture. I give starting points, not a comprehensive guide for getting over sexual and spiritual dysfunctions.
I’ve had several requests for a follow-up book on healthy sexual ethics for Christians and for something geared more towards gaining healthy sexuality and spirituality. While I don’t feel equipped to take on a project like this, at least in book form, I can definitely share things that have helped me. I can’t give any hard and fast advice simply because recovering from indoctrination in purity culture and legalism is extremely complex and requires much more than just the experience of one person to come back from.
Sexual shame is a difficult thing to overcome, but it is a constant for many people who grew up the way I did. It is a shadow that follows us around, an ever-present skeleton in the closet.
Its mere presence in our lives fuel more guilt and shame due to the dysfunction it brings into our marriages and spiritual lives. It makes us feel like failures even when we did our best to follow the rules. The roots of the shame are more complex than just the messages we received that sex was “bad” or “dangerous” because many of us also deal with guilt from sexual assault, rape, or premarital sexual relationships. Many people like me were taught that our worth and identity was tied to our “purity” or virginity, so when we lost it (even if we waited for our wedding night), we also lost ourselves. Quite a few of us felt shame and guilt for participating in sexual intercourse within marriage, all because we were taught it defined who we were. There isn’t a quick and simple solution, though most everything begins with releasing these things to Jesus, which is where I left off in The Scarlet Virgins.
My peers and I have seen the side effects of these teachings, both spiritual and physical things like struggling with our faith, sexual aversion disorder, disassociations, repulsion toward bodily fluids (makes even kissing difficult), erectile dysfunction, sexual addictions, body image issues, etc.
The good news is that, for those of us who deal with shame surrounding sex, we aren’t alone. Jesus understands everything we’ve been through and forgives us when we fall short. He’s also given us each other and our experiences to help one another, so I’ll share mine in hopes that it will help you.
Here are some of the things I have found that can help when you are getting used to sex and intimacy.
Think about the things you’ve learned about sex over the years. Things like “women who like sex are sluts,” “women don’t like sex,” or “men always want sex.” Now challenge those assumptions. Ask the men you trust what they really think about some of the things ascribed to them, ask women who are safe to talk to if they feel like they can’t be sexual because it would be abnormal. Confront the narratives you’ve known all your life and test their validity. Many of the common ones that I dealt with are false.
When I was a young, I avoided learning about sex. Not necessarily because I was embarrassed, but because I was terrified. Since sex was “bad”, I didn’t want to poison my mind with knowledge about it. This knowledge included the basic anatomy and physiology of how reproduction works. This became a difficulty for me later on when I didn’t know my own anatomy or how sex and attraction naturally progressed.
Learning how your body is structured and operates isn’t shameful, and I don’t believe it takes any of the mystery away from sex. If anything, I think it makes it more amazing because you realize how intricate God made the human body. It also allows you to understand what is happening to you and to the person you are with, which can make it easier to avoid temptation when you need to.
Unfortunately the message that some in the church often teach is all about not having sex, and very little (in my experience) about sex being good within marriage. Hearing this message of sex being dirty or bad over and over can condition us into believing that, even though it isn’t true.
To combat this conditioning, look for positive (and biblical) messages on sex like Song of Solomon to help ease your way into a new mindset surrounding sex. It may seem simple, but sometimes the things that seem like baby steps are some of the most helpful and powerful.
Expectations about sex, whether they are from purity culture or secular culture, can really hinder intimacy on the wedding night. This can put additional pressure on newlyweds who were led to believe sex comes easily and naturally (with lots of sparks) on the wedding night. Certainly some people don’t have any problems, but those coming out of legalism and spiritual abuse tend to.
Let go of any expectations of how you think the wedding night should go, including going completing intercourse, climaxing together, and laying in bed to fall asleep afterwards (unless you want a UTI, you should probably go to the bathroom soon after). You both might be clumsy, will likely be nervous, and depending on how your wedding day went, might be more fatigued than you expected by the time you get home. There is nothing written in stone that you must have sex on the wedding night. It is okay to go slow with physical and emotional intimacy and take as long as you need, it doesn’t make you a failure or less masculine or broken. I’ve heard many couples say they wish they would have spent some time naked together and slowed down instead of nervously trying to have sex the second they got home because that was how they thought things worked.
Many of the expectations set by pop culture and even the church reduce sex to the physical or emotional, and while it is both, it is much more than that. It isn’t always easy and it may not always feel like anything beyond the physical, but often times it takes years to get to the point of sex “feeling” the way many people describe. Knowing that it is a learning process and that you don’t have to have it all figured out on a specific timeline is freeing.
I have always been ashamed to express myself romantically. There is a running joke among my friends from 4-H camp about my utter lack of ability to own how I felt about a guy beyond being frustrated and angry. I never even drew my first name with the last name of the boy I liked on paper like many preteens do. It was too dangerous, especially since I was taught that having a crush meant I had, “given my heart away” and that I had an “emotional STD” because of the attraction I felt. This led me to stifle all of my romantic and sexual energy, which was not only unhealthy, but ended up having emotional and physical consequences. Denial and suppression are powerful and often destructive things.
If you have difficulties owning your own sexual energy because of shame, you aren’t alone. Some of the things that have helped me overcome this in myself have been listening to music, writing poetry, writing fiction, writing nonfiction about what I’ve been through, writing my own songs, and drawing. You don’t have to ever show your creative work to anyone, but it can be very helpful to let the feelings flow onto paper or a canvas.
When all else fails, there is no shame in seeking out professional help through a doctor or counselor. Some conditions may require professional help to overcome, like Vaginismus, Erectile Dysfunction, Sexual Aversion Disorder, etc. Sometimes just having a name for the problem you are facing can help bring you healing. Getting help is worth it, for you, for your spouse, and for your relationship together.
After growing up in sexual shame, many people end up overcorrecting in doctrine and sexual practices. I cannot count the number of marriage group I’ve been added to that use the phrase “the marriage bed is undefiled” to endorse no boundaries when it comes to sex in marriage. Not just things that could be considered gray areas for some Christians, but things like threesomes, bestiality, pornography use, etc.
The problem with these behaviors is that they are not biblical. We cannot correct unhealthy sexuality by turning to another form of it. This only compounds the issues and makes them harder to unravel and correct. While some issues do need professional help from earthly means, I truly believe that the only way to heal a broken sexuality is to seek the One who created it as whole and perfect. No amount of medication, therapy, or lashing out can fully take the pain and fear, only Jesus can.
Joshua Harris is a popular name in the circles I grew up in, namely Conservative homeschooling ones. He has recently been making some serious waves on social media because he is rethinking his famous book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. His book is one that many of my friends and their parents read, whether by genuine interest or due to coercion. I didn’t read his book until I was writing my own book evaluating the dangers of purity culture, but the things he promoted were certainly a part of my childhood, for better or worse.
Many of my friends and family know that I have critiqued Harris’ book and at one point directed anger towards him (which was misplaced I now feel), so it has come as a surprise to many that I have financially supported the Kickstarter campaign meant to fund a documentary he is a part of called I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Something that has bothered me as I have worked through my own experience with purity culture, insofar as his book was involved, is that I was presented with two options: his book as inspired (essentially just an extension of the bible), or his book as a work of religious indoctrination and evil. These two options presented also lead into either hero-worship or hatred of the man himself. I thought I had to choose one of these options, because that was all that was ever presented to me.
Then I spoke to Joshua Harris himself on Twitter. I decided on a whim that it was a long time in coming and that I was done with letting other people decide how my relationships, whether romantic or otherwise, would go. I was done with passive aggressive internet discussions in which everyone wanted to talk and no one wanted to listen. I tried to find out who Joshua Harris was then and who he is now. I believe people change and get wiser, and I think that Joshua’s very public life has been both a burden and a blessing, but also something that God can reveal His love and grace through.
While I do believe in culpability and that many of the things said in I Kissed Dating Goodbye were damaging, I also believe in forgiveness and grace. For the first time when I actually spoke to him, I saw him not as some evil author out to make a profit on innocent children, but as a fallen man and, more importantly, a Child of God, just as we all are.
Many people are up in arms in support of, against, or in skepticism of the film due to their own experience with Harris’ book. There can be no denying the project has hit a nerve in bringing up the past, a past that many would sooner forget. There are many concerns people have had with the documentary (rest assured, Harris is not profiting from the film), but from the very first moment I heard of it and confirmed that the makers were Christian, I knew that I would #BackTheConversation with I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
I think that the documentary is a step in the right direction towards a healthier conversation about sex, relationships, and legalism in Christian circles. I do not expect the film to be the end-all-be-all of rectifying what has happened in the past, and I do not think it should be or even could be no matter what is said or done. It is my hope that, in helping to fund this documentary, it can bring hurting Christians together so that we may heal together, forgive, confess our sins, and rejoice in the love and forgiveness Christ gave us in his death and resurrection.
If you would like to learn more about the film, you can watch the Kickstarter video or see the backer options (as of this writing, there are 6 days left to back it).
No matter if you choose to monetarily support it or not, please pray for all of those involved. I truly believe that the beautiful people involved in the production of this film need to be wrapped up in our prayers as they have been and will continue to face the uglier sides of humanity during this project.
“We have to be willing to call out teaching that puts words in God’s mouth in order to get a certain result, no matter how innocent it seems or how desirable the result may be. The Scarlet Virgins graciously yet honestly reveals the fruit of sexual legalism, and shows us exactly what is ‘so bad’ about Purity Culture.”
I am happy to reveal that I am now published on The Federalist! This has been a very big deal for me, probably the biggest honor I’ve received apart from being published on the largest Christian blog on the web.
I am so happy to be able to represent Christians like myself who value purity and Christianity after living in legalism. Please help me share!
For those of you who knew about this huge honor beforehand and kept quiet, thank you!
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