Sexual purity as a moral or ideological value does not equate to sexual purity in practice.
Readership: Christians, especially those who were involved in the Purity Movement;
This post is the fifth in a series of articles that examine several aspects of the Purity Movement. For an introduction, please read the first post, Picking through the fruit of the Purity Movement (2020-4-20).
A previous post in this series, On the Definition of Virginity (2020-04-22), touched on the difference between technical virginity and true sexual purity. This post examines this difference in further detail, identifies what was missing, and assesses the damage done.
The Lie: Technical Virginity equals Sexual Purity
One of the biggest lies touted by many of the proponents of the Purity Culture was an idea that was never described in titillating detail in books, nor was it explicitly stated from the pulpit. But the nuances and implications was clearly understood by naïve, sexually inexperienced adolescents.
The lie was this:
Sex that qualifies as “real sex” must necessarily have all the following characteristics before one can be said to have “lost one’s virginity”.
- It must be a heterosexual
- It must be a committed relationship, preferably with another Christian.
- The female must experience the Tingles with her partner.
- No form of birth control should be used.
- The male’s penis must be placed fully into the vagina.
- The male must ejaculate passionately and unreservedly into the vaginal canal.
- Body fluids must be delightedly swilled, mixed and mingled.
- The female must experience an exhilarating satisfaction with the act of sex, i.e. no regrets nor buyer’s remorse.
- The experience is worthy to claim as an N count, i.e. something to brag about.
Granted, this is a good description of an ideal sexual experience, and this is the partial truth of the lie.
But the problem here is that they had it all boiled down to a set of rules. That is, as long as you didn’t have sex properly (as described above), you could still claim to be “Pure”, purportedly with a clear conscience, and in the eyes of God.
For those who wholeheartedly bought into this set of rules about purity, and who were successfully able to play by these rules, it wasn’t too difficult for them to sincerely believe they were still pure.
This was wonderful news for randy Churchian teens in the Purity Culture! Why shouldn’t they go along with the Purity Culture? It’s all good!
This level of permissiveness no doubt contributed to the popularity of the movement.
You see, it was an unstated assumption that these rules still allowed all of the following sexercises as fair play. For clarity, I’ll refer to the items on this list as “pseudo-sex”, but to be totally honest, these can be interpreted as nothing less than foreordinations of sexual intercourse.
- Being naked together
- Sleeping together
- Masturbation (using the hands to stimulate one’s self)
- Mutual masturbation with a partner
- Light Petting (using the hands to stimulate the erogenous zones of the body)
- Heavy petting (using the hands to stimulate the genitals to orgasm)
- Dry humping (rubbing body parts together with the goal of orgasm while wearing clothes or underwear)
- Body slapping/banging (rubbing body parts together with the goal of orgasm while naked)
- Facials (stimulation followed by ejaculating on the woman’s face)
- 69’ing (performing cunnilingus and fellatio simultaneously)
- Penetration with objects, such as dildos
- Titty banging (rubbing the penis between the breasts)
- Glansing (tickling the clitoris with the head of the penis)
- Fisting (inserting the entire hand into the vagina or anus)
- Anal sex
- Water sports*
* If you don’t know what this is, then you probably don’t want to know.
In addition, many young collegiate coeds who had easy and convenient access to a large number of potential partners, many of whom lived in the same dormitory building, could also engage in the following.
- Friends with pseudo-sex Benefits (FWPSB)
- Polyamorous pseudo-sex relationships (Poly-pseudo)
Of note, cohabitation (living together) and BDSM were not considered acceptable within proper Churchian culture, and this had been true long before the advent of the Purity Culture. However these were not as common in the 1990’s as they are today, so it was seldom an issue. But other than that, nearly any form of pseudo-sex was fair game, because, “We’re not going all the way! The Real Ideal sex is only for my husband/wife!”
Sexual Discoverie as a Black Swan experience
As you might imagine, this type of thinking kick-started a mindset of denial, even before any interaction with the opposite sex had occurred. But most young people were somehow not aware that it was denial. This actually led many young people to become more proactive in exploring pseudo-sex promiscuity, because they assumed it to be “acceptable”. As long as they didn’t have “Real Ideal sex” they could still sell themselves off as “pure”.
But in fact, any of these activities can still create feelings of guilt and shame, as well as soul ties. Not to mention, pseudo-sex can very easily lead into real sex, and this did happen to many initially sincere adherents to the Purity Culture.
When young people approached sex with this mindset, pseudo-sex became a Black Swan experience – an event having the following characteristics.
- The event is a surprise (to the observer).
- The event has a major effect.
- After the first experience, the event is incorrectly and inappropriately rationalized.
But it might be argued that in the case of the Purity Movement, the eventualities of any sexual liaisons were incorrectly rationalized before the event took place, and may have encouraged the event to unfold.
You see, many young people who were previously unaware of the yet-to-be-explored rages of the feral reproductive nature, and who were oblivious of their individual threshold of temptation, fell into a full grand-mal seizure of consummate desire after once tasting the fortuitous pleasures of pseudo-sex. Caught in the throes of passion, the urge to merge becomes irresistible, and thus, the humans’ natural design to copulate is commensurately completed. And since abortion was considered morally wrong and socially verboten, these naïve dalliances led to some unexpected episodes of procreation.
Those who got sucked under the riptide of proliferous passion were forced to bow out of their social participation in Purity Culture. As a result, their absence prevented others from becoming aware of the carnal risks. Those who managed to retain their social connections were not taken seriously because of their broken testimony and admission of guilt (or the apparent lack thereof)
Some who fell actually lied and denied, all in order to maintain an air of dignity, as well as social inclusion and relevancy.
We also know how the female hamster tends to discount any sexual experience that was anything less than thrilling, which essentially supports an attitude of denial.
But it was never mentioned that this kind of experience is entirely natural and to be expected as normal, and that when this happens, then it’s time to get married.
“But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” ~ 1st Corinthians 7:8-9 (NKJV)
Maintaining your “virginity” in the Purity culture was the art of walking a fine line. It emphasized purity as an ideological value, but it didn’t really emphasize purity as a practice. Purity in practice would require a thorough study of why purity is valuable in maintaining the vitality of the soul, and important in preparing for a strong marriage. (This is a teaching that has been missing from most churches for decades.) As a result, many well-intentioned young people were blindsided and lured into forfeiting their sexual purity without ever suspecting the deception.
From a historical perspective, we can see that the Purity Movement was a move in the right direction, because at the very least, young people had gained an authentic reverence for sexual boundaries – a vast improvement over the “Free Love” sexual mores of the previous generation. But still, the boundaries were too far away from what would be truly pure. In addition, ignorance, foolishness, and denial abounded.
Image credit: Black Swan (2010) starring Natalie Portman.