What I Wish I Had Been Taught Instead of Purity Culture with Rebecca Lemke

Rebecca Lemke

I met Rebecca Lemke when she contacted me about appearing on her podcast, The Scarlet Virgins. Her book about her experience in the Purity Culture shares the same name. And I was impressed with how she was speaking up about her experience, both the good and the bad.

We had a wonderful discussion, which will appear soon on her podcast. But in the meantime, I asked her to return the favor and talk to my audience about what she wished she had experienced instead.

This is great information for two reasons:

  1. Even if you didn’t grow up in the Purity Culture, many churches embraced its underlying message in subtler ways, and you might need to rethink what it really means to be pure before God.
  2. We married folk often have children, who should be our students when it comes to sex, and we should think through what messages will point our kids in the right direction.

I hope you’re entirely convinced now to read every word below, because I’m eagerly turning things over to Rebecca.

Blog post title + male & female symbols on chalkboard with chalk beside them

My husband and I are currently making our way through the book Making Chastity Sexy by Christine J. Gardner. A generous friend sent it to me because of my interest and extensive work on purity culture. This book has sparked some discussion between my husband and me about the way we would have liked sex and relationships to have been approached in our youth and some of the ways in which we hope we can approach these things with our son.

A point my husband made recently is that much of what we learned was through the Christian pop culture. Yes, there was a lot of in-your-face rhetoric with the purity rings and conferences and concerts, but the fear we learned was subtle in a lot of ways. It crept in on us more through the subtext within the culture and the way people acted than what was actually said.

Which, to be sure, was fear-mongering in many respects. At least in my case, where crushes were considered an emotional STD and therefore you were to marry your first one to avoid contaminating anyone else or yourself.

The number one thing I wish there had been more of is a culture of practicality surrounding sex. One point Gardner’s book makes is that sex was sold as a product, specifically amazing honeymoon sex, if you paid the price of waiting until you were married. A virgin body on your wedding night was made into a commodity to sell abstinence until marriage.

It seems abhorrent to me that information about precious gifts of God (our bodies, our sexuality, our marriages) was spun to produce an outcome rather than just giving us the facts and the Word of God. Why, on God’s green earth, was that not enough?

Instead of trying to make false promises and add to Scripture to up to ante to gain compliance, I wish the Powers That be would have spent time teaching us about how sex and marriage actually work.

Instead of trying to make false promises and add to Scripture to up to ante to gain compliance, I wish the Powers That Be would have spent time teaching us about how sex and marriage actually work. - Rebecca Lemke Click To Tweet

For example:

1. How our bodies work.

Things like hormonal changes, male and female reproductive systems, things that impact libido, what influences attraction, etc.

Purity culture has made sexuality this big bad thing that only becomes good the moment you say “I do.” Even going so far as to say noticing beauty is inherently sinful, which has caused problems for many people in the path of this idea. The body is bad, the spirit is good (amazing how tenacious old gnostic ideas are). Except when you get married, then somehow the body is magically good.

This kind of odd rhetoric combined with lack of any education on puberty, attraction, sex, etc. makes it easy to see sexuality as this conceptually blurry, overpowered bad guy. Appropriate information contextualizes sexuality so you know and believe it is a good thing. With this foundation, you also happen to understand why it is prudent and God-pleasing to exercise it in the proper place within marriage.

2. What healthy sexuality looks like.

Numerous men and women have contacted me since my book came out to tell me that, since being fed a diet of purity culture’s high expectations, they have been extremely disappointed with the realities of sex. This is an issue compounded by exposure to pornography, which is something many of these individuals have experienced as well (oftentimes as the result of an attempt at sexual self-repression that backfired).

Sex isn’t always wild and crazy. You don’t always break a bed frame or wake all the neighbors up. Sometimes pregnancy complications arise and pelvic rest is ordered. But to hear the talk at a purity event, you wouldn’t know this! The existence of this blog and others like it helps to combat this issue, but nothing can replace having practical expectations laid at the beginning.

My husband and I have made it a point to be an open book with our son so he doesn’t have to wonder or feel ashamed or scared about sex. We make it a point not to idolize sex or manipulate its importance in his mind by downplaying or overemphasizing its role in our lives.

Instead of growing up in a subtext and culture of fear and lack of knowledge, I wish we would have had the opportunity we are trying to afford our son, to be surrounded by stability, certainty, knowledge, and respect for sex within the context God created it to be.

The Scarlet Virgins Book Cover

Rebecca Lemke was a Good Christian Girl who wanted a Good Christian Husband and a Quiverfull of kids. The sort of blessed, picturesque life promised to people who followed The Rules.

The Scarlet Virgins is a memoir of Rebecca’s journey through the ramifications of spiritual abuse and purity culture, wrestling with the temptation of apostasy, the descent of herself and others into the depths of addiction, alcoholism, anorexia, depression, self-harm, and suicide. She outlines the dangers of finding your identity in your purity or ability to follow the Law rather than in Christ and what he has done for you.

For more information about Rebecca, the book, and her podcast, visit The Scarlet Virgins.

Related posts:
Talking to Your Kids about Sex: No More One & Done
Is “Don’t Have Sex” Enough for Teens?

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63 thoughts on “What I Wish I Had Been Taught Instead of Purity Culture with Rebecca Lemke

  1. Pingback: My Latest Guest Post Over at Hot Holy and Humorous! – thatnewcrunchymom

  2. Terry

    Maybe it’s because I grew up in a slightly different culture (the Christianity of the ’80’s, rather than a 1/2 generation later), but I’m not sure I understand what the problem is/was. Keeping our bodies pure until marriage isn’t “legalism”; it’s a scriptural command. Even so, it’s still not like the message was ever abstain-or-go-to-hell, but rather that sex is something precious to be saved for marriage, and opening this gift “early” has consequences – and not just pregnancy or std’s. Elevation of a teenage crush to spiritual fornication would have been a bit extreme, but how is an abstinence message “adding to scripture”? And no, abstinence is no guarantee of “amazing honeymoon sex”; but I see no “commodity-selling” in painting a picture of a couple coming to their marriage bed as virgins. Rather, “a culture of practicality” sounds more like the world’s message that “kids are going to have sex, so we may as well update our theology on the issue.”

    As for point #1, maybe there could have been segregated, church-based sex-ed courses so teens didn’t get either a pornographic dose in public school (mine was actually pretty tame) or nothing at all in Christian school (in my husband’s case) – or the crude misinformation disseminated on the street. Then again there is something to be said for a couple learning together after vows are exchanged. This could also apply to #2 in the sense of just letting kids be kids. How early do they really need to know about this stuff? Hearing my parents openly talk about sex would have creeped me out – not because it was something shameful, just private. Again I’m from a slightly different generation, and maybe my experience was unique in the messages I received and the fact that I really wasn’t interested in sex as a teenager. Have I misunderstood the message here? I’m genuinely confused.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I grew up in the 80s as well, Terry, and I totally understood what was said here. First off, Rebecca didn’t say that abstinence is adding to Scripture, but rather the problematic message from the Purity Culture, and some others in churches, is all the extra rules that made many women fearful of romantic desire and ashamed of their God-given sexuality. The apostle Paul spoke openly to singles about the importance and longing for sexual intimacy (1 Corinthians 7), but also advised them to control their bodies and thus live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). Too often, however, virginity itself has been made the ultimate goal rather than the outcome of a holy life. And from there, the restrictions back up to make sure that nothing gets a girl anywhere near a loss of virginity, with the “slippery slope” argument. But we don’t want to add stuff, like the Pharisees did, that makes the end goal checking all the right boxes, but instead call each other to holy lives. We can empower our youth and singles to pursue holiness — which, yes, they will know includes abstinence before marriage.

      And I talk to my kids fairly frequently about sex. Of course I don’t tell them the particulars of my marriage bed! But we talk about God’s plan for sex and the beauty of sex in marriage — like the Bible does — and so far they’ve made great choices because I was there to inform and encourage them and they had someone to ask questions who provided answers within Christian values.

      Reply
      1. Terry

        I suppose in my Southern Baptist upbringing I could look back and see a message of chastity as an end in itself, though perhaps not as overt. But your explanation does make more sense. Thanks.

        Reply
  3. Brian

    I guess I’m having a little bit of a hard time with some of this myself. I absolutely don’t think considering a “crush” to be the equivalent of an STD to be healthy theology in any way. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t in the so-called “purity culture”, but I don’t see what was so wrong with a lot of what they seemed to teach. Of course it wasn’t perfect, and I absolutely think some of the things like a Christian sex ed would be very good. However, be careful what you wish for. Something like that would have to be done nearly flawlessly to avoid unintended problems in the opposite direction, such as awakening lust. Also, I’m not so sure it’s a great idea to give the message that sex in marriage might not be so good. I understand not wanting to make it seem like sex will automatically be a 10 out of 10 the first time, but I think telling young people that sex might not be all that is a double edged sword that might really backfire.

    I think there’s more danger in de-valuing sex in marriage and virginity than there was in an overly legalistic purity message. Of course both are flawed, but from a practical point of view the worst case scenario (being disappointed with sex and having a hard time awakening a repressed sexuality) seems far better than the worst case in the opposite direction.

    We don’t live in the same world that most of our ancestors lived in, one in which the sexes almost never mixed outside of a family setting. I honestly don’t know what the right message is for young people in a world where porn is at their fingertips and they are bombarded with unchaste images daily. In such an environment, a young man would need to have serious guards in place to keep from slipping. There certainly hasn’t been a culture yet that allows the degree of gender mixing that isn’t highly promiscuous, so we’re really in uncharted territory here. We need to be very careful not to swing our message too far in the other direction. I would like to hear more specifics about what our message should be to young men and women.

    Reply
    1. SLS

      Brian said, “Something like that would have to be done nearly flawlessly to avoid unintended problems in the opposite direction, such as awakening lust.”

      For the majority of young people sexual feelings are going to be awakened no matter what you do. That is the result of puberty. I didn’t even know what sex was when I first started having sexual thoughts, feelings and responses. Telling the truth about God’s design for sex is not “awakening lust”. If it was why would God put it in the Bible?

      Brian said, “from a practical point of view the worst case scenario (being disappointed with sex and having a hard time awakening a repressed sexuality) seems far better than the worst case in the opposite direction.”

      From a physical perspective sure, but that doesn’t take into account the whole picture. Problems with a repressed sexuality can lead to broken marriages, broken homes, and broken lives. Sure, the person may not have an STD, but the emotional damage that comes from repressing sexuality can be devastating. Instead of one person’s life being hurt the whole family could suffer.

      Reply
  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, and I hope it opens up a lot of conversation.

    To me, the purity culture is taking something, chastity, as an end-point when it’s really a quality that serves a higher goal. Chastity is part of obedience to Scripture, yes, but it’s also a smart thing to do because it can make the rest of life, at a turbulent age, a whole lot easier.

    It’s a bit like exercise; one doesn’t do hundreds of pushups just so that one can do better pushups; that would be madness. One does them to produce a healthier body, and to build strength and endurance for needed tasks.

    Reply
  5. Doug

    Great topic for discussion! Always love Rebecca’s perspectives.

    I’m curious how those who emphasize “purity” in relation to sex find biblical justification for applying the term in such a way and with such emphasis? The more reasonable choice it seems would be to emphasize what God does: in the act of intercourse the two become one flesh. Paul uses this as the basis of his argument to men against sex with harlots — not purity.

    Also, I appreciate Rebecca including “attraction” on her wish list.

    Reply
  6. Keelie Reason

    I’m a product of the purity culture, but not the one I keep hearing everyone bash on. I went through true love waits and wore a ring. I even wrote my husband to be a note when I was 13. I had the note and ring delivered to Austin on our wedding day. Our church and all the ones we went to gave us positive messages about sex. We were taught that purity doesn’t end when you’re married. We should always have the appropriate interactions with the opposite sex. We were taught sex was a gift from God and that it was good.. Really good…which is why we craved it so much. Yeah, we learned about std’ s and pregnancies, but not as the sole reason to not have sex, but the fact that those things happen because of sex.

    We were taught about forgiveness after sexual sin and how we were covered by Christ’s blood just like any other sin. We could turn from our sin and start over at any point. Sex wasn’t the unforgivable sin.

    I think we didn’t get it completely right about dress code and the standards we placed on women to stay modist, but we got it right with the message of sex.

    I’m just having to accept that we received a very different message from the purity culture.

    Reply
  7. Laura Ketchie

    Thank you for writing about the fallout of Purity Culture. As a Christian therapist, I see those who have actually experienced sexual abuse as a part of the culture, and it has been devastating. It’s like sex has become warped in a totally different direction. Some cannot enjoy the gift God has given marriage because of it.

    Reply
  8. Sara

    Hi, I guess I believe in the purity of mind, body and soul. And I also love to believe the best way to abstain from sinful thoughts and pleasures is to being engaged in the works of the Lord. Sometimes, it is better is know less than to know everything and crash down.

    Reply
  9. Ashleigh Rich

    I totally agree with what you’re saying here. I too grew up in the midst of the true love waits, I kissed dating good-bye craze. I think we have to balance the importance and sanctity of sex without making sex before marriage the “dirtiest” sin that will forever ruin your life.

    Personally, I think a greater emphasis on grace would have helped to balance out the rhetoric of the purity movement. I totally missed that concept. I thought if I was “good” and did the “right” things I would be rewarded with a great relationship. The idea never entered my head in any real way that a relationship (and sex) are gifts of God, given only by his grace and not based on anything that we do.

    I think one of the downfalls of the purity movement was too big an emphasis on action (or lack thereof) and not enough motivation on motivation (i.e. following God’s ways not because of what we will get out of it, but as a demonstration of our love for him).

    I do think this is a hard subject though. As some of the other comments show, the purity movement wasn’t 100% wrong it it’s teachings or it’s motivation. I think the people behind it had good motives. However, it was deficient and didn’t take into account the complexity of the issues of sexuality, relationships, grace, and forgiveness. The reaction for a lot of people has been to swing the other way and completely ignore the Bible’s teachings on sexuality. Finding the middle way is difficult, but it’s important if we want to accurate represent to the coming generations what God’s plans are.

    Reply
  10. Esther

    I just clicked on the link to Rebecca’s website and read a brief synopsis of her book. She is not talking about a culture that is bit too legalistic and strict when it comes to sexuality, she’s talking about what sounds like a ‘cult’. I was horrified with just reading a little bit of what she and the young people she was raised with were taught.
    I agree with you that young people face even more problems today than when we all grew up but the answer has to be biblical truth with no manmade add-ons and to encourage the pursuit of being holy in a rounded way and we must teach a positive view of marriage and sex to counteract all the worldly garbage young people are bombarded with. At the end of the day without the work of the Holy Spirit, all the rules in the world will fail so what is needed most is the gospel. I agree with what you are saying Brian about the danger of swinging the other way and we humans do seem to love going from one extreme to the other. The casual dating v courtship thing springs to mind. We need balance.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      Esther, I read some of what she wrote and I have to agree that some of what was taught seems theologically wrong. However, I see some real red flags here as well. In one article I read, Rebecca stated that some of the main issues with “Purity Culture” were that they taught that sexuality was dangerous and the “no touch courtship” was a terrible thing. Well, I see some real issues with that honestly.

      First of all, sexuality is very dangerous and it’s interesting that we would even debate that. Sexuality can lead people to do the most destructive and terrible things we can imagine if used outside of its God-appointed boundaries. Of course sexuality is dangerous, and we should treat it as such. But just like fire, the fact that it’s dangerous doesn’t mean it’s not amazing and beneficial. Dangerous doesn’t equal bad, but treat sexuality like it isn’t dangerous and you I’ll end up with destroyed lives.

      Next, I know it sounds somewhat extreme to our westernized 21st century ears to hear of “no touch courtship”, but should we be so quick to discount it in the right setting? I’d like to point out that courting didn’t include much touching in the Judeo-Christian history for the vast majority of time, and yet we did pretty well. In fact, in many cases there wasn’t very much contact between a bride and groom prior to the wedding at all. If statistics and all of my anecdotal evidence are correct, we have tried courting with touching, hugging, and kissing and found it to be a very dangerous path. Most Christians don’t make it to thier wedding night as a virgin. That fact alone should tell us that our way of going about courtship is seriously flawed. When men and women are allowed to be completely alone with each other and are highly attracted to each other you are rolling the dice on whether they come out sexually unscathed, no matter how devoted to God they are.

      I’m not saying that the messages of Purity Culture were right. I’m saying that we might not want to back completely away from the underlying premises that their teachings were based on without closely examining them first.

      Reply
      1. J Post author

        Rebecca has talked about extensively passing on a healthy view of sexuality that includes respect for maintaining boundaries in dating.

        But I’d suggest that some (certainly not all) of the reason that a strong majority of even devoted Christians don’t make it to their wedding night is that we don’t talk about sex positively and helpfully in church. Even having sexual feelings can be considered sin, which is not taught in the Word. We have passions (the apostle Paul acknowledges that), and then we should place those in obedience to God our Father. How we talk about sex matters, not just the rules, and I think that’s the major takeaway here.

        Reply
        1. Brian

          I totally agree with you J. Many churches don’t talk about it at all, which is worse in my opinion.

          Reply
      2. Terry

        Reading Brian’s thoughts on the “no-touch” mindset, I wonder if the American Church might have a few things to learn from our sister churches around the world. I went to Siberia on two occasions for mission trips, and we were told that the singles of the Russian church we were working with would “date” in groups. Males and females observed each other as they interacted in this context to subtly evaluate “spouse” potential, and no couple was alone together until they were formally engaged. There was still “flirting” (or what was considered as such) and playful banter in public, but physical contact between sexes in most contexts was considered inappropriate. The second trip was two years after the first, and I was surprised to find that several of the people I had known as singles on the first trip had married each other in the interim. I don’t know how long a typical Russian courtship lasts but I would not have guessed at any level of attraction based upon my observations on the first trip. The typical “signs” we Americans notice – sitting together, hand-holding, pda’s, etc. were simply not there. This model may not be entirely translatable to American culture, and I don’t know what these people were being taught about sexuality in general (if anything, as even pregnancy is considered extremely private) but it seemed from the outside like a “middle ground” to the extremes described here.

        Reply
        1. Brian

          That sounds like an interesting model. I would wonder what and how those Christians were taught about sex. In a perfect world, I’m not sure kids or even adolescents should be taught about the details of sex until close to marriage. I would think the basics would be ok, but perhaps no tips or helpful instructions until the couple were engaged. Of course, we don’t live in anywhere near a perfect world and the internet makes things very complicated. How do you stop a young man from looking at porn out of curiosity, as I did? Or, how do you stop them from seeking out explicit sexual information or advice? These are the things that will be the biggest challenge.

          In today’s world, I think the best course of action is to expose children to far more information about sex than otherwise would be good, in order to fill their minds with the positive and Godly side of sex instead of what they will surely find in the world. The average age a boy views porn for the first time is now 9 or ten years old. Let that sink in for a sec. 3rd and 4th graders are viewing explicit sex acts if left unchecked, and will be forever damaged by it. That’s just what they see on the internet. Children talk far more about sex at young ages than in previous generations. I think we have no choice but to counter those messages with very early information about what holy sex is. Wow, what a world we live in.

          Reply
          1. Terry

            Interesting…although now that I think about it I’m not sure how well my husband and I would have fared in a “group” context. We’re both introverts (I more than he), so in a group too large or with one person dominating the conversation he and I wouldn’t have a chance to really interact, open up and get to know each other. I suppose the equivalent to “group dating” for us was another mission trip, before we were an “item”, on which his parents were the team leaders and we were able to observe each other’s behavior and personality while still interacting in a group setting. Once we started “dating” the format was more like the world’s in the degree of privacy, though without the sexual components. We even went on a couple of camping trips together, although we slept in separate tents. It was during all of this time alone that we were able to discuss family issues, dreams, marriage and other things we wouldn’t have felt comfortable talking about in a group setting. But we both lived at home although we were both in college, our parents knew each other, and we may well have been atypical in our restraint otherwise.

            So this puts us back at “square 1” in finding a middle ground…One point I recall that seems to hold true is that the girl is typically who decides how far a relationship goes physically during the dating phase. I was apparently atypical in my disinterest in sex itself, although I did think plenty about boys, romance and sex in the context of marriage. For me I think it was largely about self-respect and not being a “typical”, oversexed teenager. So how do we convey the message to girls that they’re worth waiting for? What happened to a sense of self-respect, such that even if a young couple is “in love” they (or she) can still exercise self-control rather than succumb to emotions and/or physical attraction? From what I’ve gathered, girls need to be getting this message primarily from their fathers so they don’t feel the need to search for a “man’s” approval. But does it hold true across the board that involved fatherhood equates to fewer sexually-active daughters? J and others here have mentioned talking to their kids about sex, although I would think that in the father-daughter relationship, a general affirmation and sense of protection would be sufficient. Thoughts?

          2. J Post author

            I have boys, and I talk to them about sex pretty openly. Not specifically, but openly. They can learn how-tos later, but we need the foundations and strategies laid down early. And I disagree with you on the idea that girls should be the ones who maintain that physical integrity: We have to teach that concept to both genders. First, because that’s clearly what God expects. And secondly, because it’s not fair to place the burden on the female. As someone who had a higher drive, it really stunk to be expected to manage both my libido and my date’s libido. God calls us to self-control, meaning I control myself and he controls himself. We should help each other out, but the responsibility is shared.

            But I wholeheartedly agree that more fathers need to step up and teach their children well — not to say things that scare them about men’s libido (e.g., “Young men just want sex. That’s how they’re made.” What? No!), but rather convince their children that sexual intimacy is worth waiting for the ring, the vow, the lifetime covenant. Mothers share this responsibility too, but I admittedly see more moms concerned about this issue than dads. Maybe that’s just my audience, but I agree that dads really matter on this topic.

          3. Brian

            Terry, statistically it’s very true that involved fathers do produce far fewer sexually active daughters. Of course there will be exceptions, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the vast majority of teen pregnancies, or sexually active girls in general, come from homes where the father wasn’t involved or was barely involved.

          4. Doug

            Brian — A group context allows for greater transparency. People tend to put on facades when dating in isolation, sort of like a job interview. A group context also tends to minimize sexual temptation. All this allows for clearer judgement when selecting a potential mate. The process then proceeds to a more intimate one on one scenario and all bets are off. The best plan of action is a very short engagement.😉

          5. Brian

            J, I think no matter the gender, parents should teach each individual child that they themselves will have to be the gatekeeper of sex prior to marriage. You can’t assume either way what your kid will encounter. The unfortunate reality is that the female will most of the time end up being the gatekeeper (just as in marriage), just due to the nature of sex drives of the sexes, but that shouldn’t be the way we teach it.

            And yes of course fathers should be having these talks. From my point of view it has been fathers that seem to care more than mothers about protecting their daughters sexually, while simultaneously not seeking to care enough about their sons’ sexual protection. I think this springs from being more protective overall for girls. Mothers I’ve observed seem to let daughters get away with more than fathers, but are more protective of their sons.

          6. Doug

            Foundational to hook up culture is the belief that a man and woman can have sexual intercourse with no strings attached. In a sense, we reinforce this false belief when we emphasize simply waiting til marriage. We must instead make our sons and daughters know that when they have sex they will inescapably become one flesh with inescapable spiritual, physical, and emotional consequences. It has nothing to do with a baby. We must deempasize the ring and the ceremony in comparison to the sex.

          7. Brian

            Doug, that sounds like a really great method. Also, I believe that engagements should be very short. In fact, I think we (men at least) were created to marry very early. Why else would we enter puberty as a teenager?

          8. Terry

            It was not my intention to state that girls “should” be the gatekeepers of sexual activity, just that they often are (as Brian points out) in a Machiavellian sense, exceptions nonwithstanding. Yes, boys should have enough respect for the girls they date not to pressure them (and here’s another place where fathers are very important), but short of physical force it seems for the most part that the girls’ degree of permissiveness is the deciding factor. Perhaps in these cases the boys should be dismissed as “husband” material (if their degree of self-control and respect is that low), but if even the “pressured” girls are receiving their sense of worth and value from an earthly or heavenly father, sex should be a non-issue. Ideally, self-control and respect for the relationship should be the message to both genders. It does seem odd that involved fathers would be more protective of their daughters’ sexuality than moms, and vice-versa; but maybe this is because fathers know better how young men think than their wives do, and alternately mothers know how manipulative and conniving girls can be in relationships.

            And Dave, my experience in singlehood was that a group context was a hindrance to transparency, as I was more inclined to put on a facade in a roomful of people, whereas in a one-on-one conversation with someone I trusted (such as my boyfriend) I would be more willing to let my emotional guard down. But I do agree that sexual temptation would be much more hindered in a group context. My husband and I actually had a very long dating and engagement period (which was mostly my doing), so I suppose we were oddballs in that sense as well.

          9. Terry

            I wouldn’t have a problem with short engagements, as long as the couple has had sufficient time to determine that they do want to make the lifelong commitment. But my two cents on the onset of male puberty (albeit as a female) is that it gives young men time to adjust to hormonal and emotional changes before they take on the responsibility of a wife and kids. Again, strong male role models are key here. Juvenile male elephants living in areas where the adult males have all been culled go into musth early, and the hormonal changes combined with the absence of older males who could show them how to behave leads to atypically violent behavior – killing rhinos, hippos and even female elephants. Normally a young male would grow up in the presence of older, more experienced males, learning gradually how to handle stronger and stronger hormonal cycles and how to behave appropriately in elephant society. Yes, these are animals; but I can’t help but see an obvious corollary to male human behavior.

            At the risk of being sexist, I do think women are better equipped to marry young(er) as we tend to mature emotionally at an earlier age (the Lydia Bennetts of the world notwithstanding). I think this is why husbands tend to be a few years older than their wives, in addition to men being more established in a career and thus better able to provide for a family (or otherwise protect a young, naive wife from the deceivers of the world).

          10. Brian

            Terry, I don’t know if men should marry as young as 12 or 13, but if you’ve ever gone a long time without orgasm as a teenage boy, it’s pure torture. I simply can’t imagine that God intended boys to endure that for years on end. I can completely see a period of adjustment to he hormones, but the flood of testosterone isn’t so much a series of cycles as it is a constant and more or less sudden increase that stays there and never goes away. And it’s definitely true that women mature earlier, and they typically enter puberty a little earlier. He brain maturation for men doesn’t finish until the mid-20s. If a man waited to have his first sexual experience until that age, he would have gone through over a decade of extreme torturous sexual desire.

          11. J Post author

            Not having been a teenage boy at any time in my life, I consulted the experts in my home: two sons who were the age you describe not long ago. Their perspective was essentially that we ladies likely don’t fully understand the intensity of sexual desire and hormones that teenage boys face, but that it doesn’t rise to the level of torture. It is manageable, though incredibly difficult and irritating at times.

            My own takeaway is that we women should have more sympathy for what young men go through with their raging sex drive, but young men should also be encouraged that they can maintain self-control and pursue sexual intimacy within the context of marriage. I know many young men who have waited until the wedding night, even when that night was in their mid-20s or beyond. Jacob waited seven years to make love to Rachel, so apparently God thinks it can be done. (Although good gravy, Laban, seven years was extreme!)

          12. Brian

            J, Im not saying that it’s impossible to never masturbate or have sex until you’re 25, but I would absolutely describe waiting that long as torture. This is only my own experience of course, and it’s likely that men have somewhat varying degrees of sexual drive. I’m assuming that I’m average. The only time in my life I went longer than two or three days without an orgasm since age 13 was during basic training when I was 17. I was so physically tired and completely busy from 4 am to 10 pm for all of those 8 weeks, that I never had time to think about it. My head hit the pillow and I was out like a light. But, nothing short of that ever made my sex drive bearable after about 3 days. Try waking up with a huge erection in the morning and being able to think about nothing else, and almost nothing distracts you, despite trying everything you can think of to take your mind off of it. The next day if there has been no release that only gets worse. Believe me, as a 14 year old boy who wanted all that to go away I tried everything in the world to turn my thoughts away from virtually every girl that looked my way at school. Try sleeping at night as you lie awake, your every thought directed towards quieting that unceasing desire. It’s terrible and I’m very glad women don’t have to deal with that. At some point in life all of that died down thank God. I’m 38 and I can go a few days before that kind overwhelming desire creeps up. If there are men out there with little or no sexual desire like I had, I’m extremely envious and they are lucky.

          13. J Post author

            I wonder if maybe you were actually high on the libido scale, because that’s just not how the guys in my world (and they are not low drive) describe it. They would likely agree with “unceasing desire” but not “every thought directed towards…”

          14. Brian

            J, you might very well be right, I without being inside of mind of other men I’ll never know. Some people have different weaknesses than others. Some people cant stop eating and find it extremely hard to lose weight, while others forget to eat. That being said, I think a lot of evidence points to my experience not being an anomaly. The statistics back up the fact that very few Christian men make it to marriage without having sex first, and out of those who do, a giant portion have used porn. As you said, a lot of that is due to poor messages and teaching that kids get, but I think a lot of it is just the innate sex drive of men.

            Does that mean you can’t overcome it? In a different situation I might have been able to. If porn didn’t exist and if I’d received better teaching and if my first girlfriend hadn’t seduced me in the most manipulative way possible, then yes I think so. I was certainly determined to stay pure from the very beginning, despite the fact that I failed. There’s no excuse for failing either way, but if I’d had the right barriers in place I think I would have.

            The point I was making is that even if I had gone all the way to marriage without ever looked at porn or had sex, it would’ve been more difficult than I can begin to describe. I got married at age 22. That would mean 10 years of constant extreme sexual frustration. That to me seems unrealistic and cruel. Imagine being really hungry for 10 straight years. Yeah, you know you won’t die, but what if all you ever thought of was food without being able to eat? Does that sound reasonable for ten years? So, either we teach boys a way to masturbate in a non-sinful way (possible but not easy), or we expect some of them to live in misery (or marry earlier). Maybe some men don’t reach the level I did, but I can’t believe it’s not a huge portion of the male population.

          15. J Post author

            Most Christian wives don’t make it either. But this is one of those issues that fuels my desire, and others’, to get the Church speaking more effectively about sex. I fully believe that armed with a better understanding of our sexuality, the role of intimacy in marriage, and a commitment to God’s design, we can deal with the hunger.

            Also, I still disagree with this: “10 years of constant extreme sexual frustration.” Actually, I only disagree with one word: “constant.” I wanted to point that out because that word doesn’t reflect what other men have described to me (not just my sons), but also because it plays into a view of men that they only think about and want sex — which makes women feel used and men feel pigeonholed. Sorry, but even the starving stop thinking about food sometimes.

      3. Rebecca Lemke

        Hi Brian!

        I wanted to address something you mentioned about reading one of my previous posts to see if maybe I could flesh out some things. I think the teaching that sexuality is dangerous is damaging because, well, God made sexuality. And saying it is dangerous makes it sound alarming and entirely sinful. Here is where I am coming from:

        Sexuality, in the context God made it is, was meant to be powerful! It was meant to bond people together in a way that was unique and good. And so, I believe sexuality, inherently, is good and powerful, not dangerous (a matter of semantics and word choice as I read your comment we seem to have similar understands but different feelings on the word “dangerous”).

        However, outside of the context that God made it to be in, inside of sexual immorality, it is dangerous! Very, very dangerous. To the point where I believe it drives much of apostasy from God. And you know, that is actually one of the reasons I wrote my book. Many of my friends reacted so strongly to being taught that we were bad because of our God-given sexuality that they went off the deep end into full-blown sexually immorality. Now, that was their choice. I don’t make excuse for what they have done. I saw, from there, the trajectory of how that led to their apostasy.

        This is why I speak up. Having a healthy understanding of sexuality, I think, is directly tied to having a healthy understanding of God! Maybe it is because it is the most intimate thing we have here on earth outside of our relationship with God, but I think there is a connection, subtle or not, between the two.

        Anyways, I would also LOVE to see the research you mentioned! I loved Mark Regnerus’ Forbidden Fruit and Premarital Sex in America (highly recommend them) both of which touch on the more mainstream purity culture, purity pledges and their effectiveness. I’m always looking for more information! 🙂

        As far as no-touch courtship goes, as I mentioned in the comment below I am not 100% opposed but I think the confusion comes in because no-touch courtship has multiple definitions and there are some I think are unhealthy, though not unhealthy for everyone. My husband and I dated but were not alone together, and we made it to the wedding night virgins in every sense.

        Purity culture actually was a response to rising teen pregnancy rates, a very valid concern! I touch more on that in my book, but on a whole, I actually don’t fault people for being concerned for the spiritual and sexual wellbeing of young people! The world is mad, and chastity is an undervalued virtue.

        Anyways, I am really thrilled there is such a good discussion going on here, I am sorry it has taken me a bit to respond! I am a bit under the weather, but I am happy to answer and clarify as time and energy allow. 🙂

        Rebecca

        Reply
        1. Brian

          Rebecca, thank you for taking the time to respond to me. I really don’t think we have a lot of differences of opinion based on your response. The only thing I suppose we might not see the same is the danger of our sexuality. Now, I can completely understand not wanting to call what God gave us dangerous, because viewing sexuality as dangerous can slide into viewing sexuality as “bad”. This is the mistake it seems that many in the Purity Culture made. Sexuality isn’t bad any more than Electricity is. Electricity used in the right way has been one of the greatest things ever created. But electricity used in the wrong way is a truly terrible sight to behold. It’s the same with sexuality.

          That being said, I think it’s extremely dangerous to view our sexuality in a way that only looks at the positive sides. Viewing sexuality as only a positive is exactly what the sexual revolution did, and pretty much for the same reasons. I’m not saying that you are teaching that sex should be a free-for-all, but we can’t ignore the power of our sexual desires or the damage that can be done if we don’t take it deadly serious. In fact, I would say that far more damage has been done by not treating sex with the caution it deserves than with people that went way too far in trying to control people’s sexuality. I’m sure this is why people in the Church reacted the way they did, and swung too far towards “sex is inherently bad”.

          When I mentioned statistics, I’m sure you’ve seen the same kind of research about Christians that I have. This study for example:
          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156853/#!po=14.5833
          This is just a study of Baptist Church goers who professed to be born-again believers, which found that 73% of believers had sex before marriage, as opposed to around 85% of non-church goers, with almost all of those Christians who did have sex regretting it (80%). That’s pretty dismal, but at least there was a slight difference between Christians and non-Christians. So, 7 in 10 believers know it’s wrong to have sex outside of marriage and they still succumb to the temptation. When you consider the fact that 15% of the non-Christian population don’t have sex before marriage this should really tell you something. A portion of the population just don’t have much sexual desire, or may not have desire for the opposite sex. Remember that many marriages are sexless. Or, sadly, some portion of the population may not be very attractive and thus have a hard time attracting a mate. Once you account for that, the numbers would be even worse.

          Lastly, I’m not sure we can prevent believers from having sex without serious barriers in place between the sexes. Take this study for example, which showed a majority of women have had sex since the late 1950s.
          https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Brian_Wilcox/publication/247721621_The_Impact_of_Religiosity_on_Adolescent_Sexual_BehaviorA_Review_of_the_Evidence/links/54eb89ae

          Reply
          1. J Post author

            I think one problem with how we handle sexuality is we become reactive to messages around us, rather than proactive with the message God gave us. I’m not at all saying that we shouldn’t respond to wrong messages about sex (or I wouldn’t have a blog with 800+ posts!), but we primarily need to lay the foundation of what God says about sexual intimacy and make sure we’re not just swinging the pendulum against the sexual revolution or the Purity Culture or whatever else is out there. We can learn from what we’ve dealt with, but God’s Word needs to be the real compass for our beliefs and actions.

          2. Rebecca Lemke

            Thank you so much for these links, I can’t wait to read them! 😀

            I completely understand where you are coming from with balancing the messages. This is actually something I have run into a lot, because I don’t want people to think everything is good! Especially after running into some other “post purity culture” graduates. Justin Megna and I actually did an episode on counter purity culture, which is what we describe as the sexually immoral swing post purity culture. It is a very sad, painful thing to watch our peers do. I don’t want to be associated with it, so I end up writing paragraph upon paragraph of caveat’s on all my posts but generally remove most of it because it distracts from that particular topic.

            I tend to focus more on sex being good because the “audience” that I originally wrote my material for needed that, because it was lacking for them. 🙂 When I interviewed Pastor Eric Brown on Law and Gospel on my podcast, we talked about how hard it is to balance that because everyone generally tends to need a different dose of each based on where they are at and what their experience has been. So that’s why I tend to speak more towards the positive.

            I do actually hope to start talking a little bit more about important sexual boundaries, in fact I actually have a blog post in draft right now that is tentatively titled, “Practical Advice for Those Who are Waiting.” I think it is important to add the Law, the real Law, because otherwise you just end up in a different kind of bad situation, if that makes sense.

            There is so much sexual immorality in today’s culture. I really hope that we as the Christian Church at large can offer a stable, healthy idea of what sex is and what healthy boundaries are around it! I think Mrs. Parker’s point is wonderful too, and it is something my childhood Pastor taught me. The world may toss and turn about with every passing trend, but we as Christians have a rock we stand on. When things get rough and the world starts to burn, we go back to Him. <3

          3. J Post author

            Great stuff, Rebecca. But if you keep calling me Mrs. Parker instead of J, I’m going to feel old! 😉 Actually, my sons’ friends grew up calling me Ms. J. That works too.

  11. Melody

    I, too, grew up in the “I kissed dating goodbye” time and though there are some good concepts to it, there are also a lot of problems. I saved my first kiss until my wedding day, but to this day I still struggle with really enjoying kissing my husband. There are exstremes in both directions, and balance is definitely key! I think as well, as parents we need to be actively involved in our kids lives, we need to be the ones who take responsibility in what and how we teach them about sex. Also being aware of our kids unique personalities, some may not do well with a ton of information, some may. But personally, I think one of the keys is not shying away from the uncomfortable, but being open and honest with our kids (even so far as starting from infancy teaching the real names of all their body parts, not avoiding, or skipping over because it’s awkward. that way when they are older it is easier as a parent to talk with them, they know they can talk to you about it, and predictors know someone is actively involved in every area of their life.) Purity is going to look different for every individual….yes we have biblical standards (like sex outside of marriage ect.) But I think it’s the parents who need to step up and teach their kids, not leave it up to the church, schools, tv or culture.

    That being said though, I really enjoyed your article and agree their needs to be some changes in the way the “purity culture” views talking, or lack there of, about sex.

    Reply
  12. Mrs.Miller

    Rebecca, it sounds like your experience with Purity Culture is definitely on the extreme side. I’m sorry this is what you had to experience when that’s obviously not how God intended his Word and commands to be used. I’m glad that you’ve had healing through Him since then, and I really respect you sharing your story for the benefit of others.

    I recently finished Jamie Ivey’s book “If You Only Knew,” and she tells her story of growing up in the church buts simultaneously struggling to have a Godly, healthy view of sexuality. Something she said really stuck out to me. She was talking about purity culture and the true love waits movement and how she signed the cards and made the pledges just like everyone else, because it fed her need for approval in that moment. But when it came to staying pure with her next boyfriend, that card in her Bible didn’t give her the approval she so desperately craved, but her boyfriend’s lust and affection sure did, and so the cycle continued. I had never heard anyone describe their experience quite like she did, but i appreciated it. (Also, I HIGHLY recommend this book. It totally read my mail and is a beautiful story of finding Freedom in Christ.)

    Anyway, I grew up in purity culture, at least to a large degree. I had the promise ring, I read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” I was homeschooled, etc. And thankfully both my husband and I kept ourselves pure for our wedding day.

    To me, a healthy view of sexuality includes not just the physical aspects, but also the emotional ones. Sexual shame doesn’t do anyone any good. God didn’t come dwell among us and die on the cross for us so we could carry our shame around inside and internalize our mistakes. That doesn’t make anyone healthy. We all make mistakes, and some of them are sexual and some of them are otherwise. I think it’s unfair to young people to put all of the focus on what physical acts to do and to not do, when what we should really be focusing on is how to have emotionally healthy relationships with self, parents, God…and oh yeah your boyfriend or girlfriend too. A healthy sexual relationship is an outgrowth of a healthy relationship with God and with your spouse. And to oversimplify and say that sex is bad and then all the sudden it’s God’s gift to mankind as soon as you’re married is really damaging. God designed sex as an emotional glue to make couples closer to each other. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a beautiful thing, it just has to be in the right time and place.

    Reply
  13. Esther

    I totally agree about teaching the emotional aspects of relationships. As a teenager I think the church I was in was quite good and balanced in it’s teaching about sex but what was lacking was teaching about the emotional side. Too many young people got hurt emotionally even though they remained relatively sexually unscarred. We need to teach caring for one another’s hearts alongside caring for each others bodies. The dating was too casual which was why years later I could see why Josh Harris’s book was popular. It however went too far.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Great point. A good friend of mine took care to teach her teenagers that hearts were involved and they needed to show genuine care for that. That is, they couldn’t just date, attach, break up, date another, etc. without emotional consequences. That didn’t mean her kids didn’t date—they certainly did—but they were more thoughtful about their choices. I always thought that was a good take.

      Reply
  14. mepharisee

    Much needed article & discussion for today. Many Christians don’t understand that the product we have today is from the work we did in the past. In my teens the church was in the midst of the fear mongering. As a church, & country, we went from Father Knows Best to Jerry Springer to The Kardashians to sex al a carte on WiFi. These past 50-70 years was terrible culture shock for the church. We saw JFK get assassinated, Roe v. Wade, & the sexual revolution give rise to gang violence, drug use, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, no fault divorce, & porn as a household name. You mix that onslaught with the American superiority complex the church has & you get today’s results. The Christian sex talk of the past was a panic stricken effort to put out worldly fires. We were scared & mad at the same time. It’s no wonder the message was DON’T DO THAT! The purity message has its roots in all that.

    Fear isn’t all bad though. The fear of God is a part of God’s Word to us. No it’s not a horror movie looking over your shoulder fear. It’s a fear that makes reverence, honor, & obedience. Yet, God’s Word doesn’t make the same mistake as the church did above. Fear sits right along side all the rest of God’s character. Fear is communicated with righteousness, love, good, protection, grace, & security. The church, when preaching sex, left out all the good while reacting to the worlds bad. It is my hope that this post is not suggesting that a message void of fear today is the solution to the message of only fear, in the past. Fear is in the eye of the beholder regardless of what is preached. I witnessed the preaching yet I still sinned sexually as a teen. So, what caused the fear culture; my sin or the fear mongering? You could say one influenced the other, but you can be raised correctly, sexually speaking, & still sin. And incur fear because of that sin. Fear is woven throughout both righteousness & sin. It has its place in the pro sex Christian life. Our sexual sin isn’t helped by a church that won’t have a real sex talk with you. But our sexual sin doesn’t help us see clearly to get help either.

    I get it, the church dropped the ball on sex education & equipping the saints for marriage & sex, but I wanted to point out that the fear of the Lord is nothing to run from when embracing the whole message of God’s pro marriage sex. As much as I want to bash on the churches past, I was left questioning if we’d have ended up here if the message was perfect. Didn’t Adam & Eve sin? They had it perfect, right?

    Don’t get me wrong. It is a great post & I do see the need for it. I did send a link to my wife & daughters.

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      “Fear sits right along side all the rest of God’s character.” I love that!

      And it’s quite true that nothing we do will keep us all from sin. I believe we must still do all we can while recognizing our failures and embracing our Savior. Thanks so much!

      Reply
    2. Brian

      Extremely well stated mepharisee. I do think that some Christrians would mess up no matter what message is preached, but I have to believe that less sexual hardship would occur if we prepared young people the way God intended. The hard part is knowing exactly what that message is. What hedges should single men and women have, and for that matter what should dating and mate selection even look like? None of the cultural safeguards that used to exist (such as chaperones) are in place any longer, so we are in very uncharted territory.

      The more I think about this, the more I wonder if we can send men and women off by themselves alone at all without significant sexual mess-ups from a huge portion of the Christian population. If you put two young people who are highly attracted to each other together and they have a normal sex drive, I really don’t know if it’s reasonable to expect them to resist the temptation to do what thier bodies and hearts are crying out for them to do.

      The trick is how to put robust enough barriers, both physical and spiritual, without damaging the future married sex life.

      Reply
    3. Doug

      In reference to Adam and Eve, we are told “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Adam and Eve’s problems were rooted in adding “neither shall you touch it” to God’s word. Eve believed this additional “mand-made” precept. Perhaps because death did not instantly follow the touch, Eve was encouraged to eat. She lost a healthy fear. The actual sin of eating followed. Rebecca hit on this in describing her upbringing. Much purity teaching revolved around precepts added to God’s word. The precepts sounded reasonable so many unquestionably went along. It was a case of mistaking foolishness for sin. Truth is, Eve could’ve “fondled” the forbidden fruit all day long and it would have caused no harm if fondling was all that took place. We should have a healthy fear that “fornicaters and adulterers God will judge.” We should leave it at that.

      Reply
  15. Marci Livingston

    I appreciated this article but like so many articles they do not offer the hope for tomorrow. I agree that many of the messages my husband and I received before we married was detrimental but now that we have children of our own and our oldest just becoming a teenager (GASP) we want to make good decisions about how to guide them. And we are desperately looking for tips, suggestions, guidelines, anything that can help us shape our children to be the men they need to be. That is what we want to see written; not the past failures but hope for our next generation! Please can you write about that?!?! 🙂

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Rebecca dealt with her perspective and gave some great advice on that. But I’ve written quite a bit with some tips for the age you mention. Check out these articles:
      Is “Don’t Have Sex” Enough for Teens?
      How to Talk to a Teen about Sex
      Purity B4 Marriage, Sexual Intimacy After: Teen’s Q
      Top 10 Things I Want to Teach My Teens About Sex on To Love, Honor and Vacuum
      Sheila on To Love, Honor and Vacuum also has a lot of articles about teaching your tweens and teens about sex.

      Reply
    2. Rebecca Lemke

      Hi Marci,

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to be a debbie downer. I do actually deal with more hopeful messages related to this topic, but I find that covering everything related to my experience is beyond the scope of a single blog post.

      I have several articles that deal with recovery for those impacted by what I talk about and about teaching children about sex in a more holistic way. 🙂
      Here are two of them, hopefully between these are Mrs. Parker’s links you can find what you are looking for.

      http://rebeccalemke.com/2017/08/18/how-to-get-used-to-sex-when-youve-been-raised-to-be-ashamed/

      http://rebeccalemke.com/2017/09/13/the-talk-10-tips-for-teaching-your-kids-about-sex/

      Rebecca

      Reply
      1. Brian

        Rebecca, I’m actually very curious what specific boundaries you think are appropriate for the average teenager to both avoid sexual sin and prevent damaging thier future sex life.

        Reply
        1. Rebecca Lemke

          Hi Brian!

          I think any kind of sex (anal, oral, digital penetration, whatever other workarounds kids are doing these days) before marriage is absolutely inappropriate. I also believe the question of “How far is too far?” is not helpful.

          The situation should be approached from the perspective of both young people treating each other with respect and love as Children of God. For my husband and I, this translated to us being okay with holding hands while dating but not kissing on the lips until engagement.

          Everyone is different and I believe there is a spectrum where some people have to stay away from even kissing before marriage while others can do so without moral or other issues.

          As an aside, I don’t actually have a problem with no-touch courtship as a concept, I know people who it worked well for. But it isn’t a one-size-fits-all system. And it is also very ill-defined, as for some it means simply not touching, and for others, it means they NEVER have a private conversation before marriage (phone calls are monitored by parents, email, texting, etc).

          I was an abnormal teenager, engaged at 17 and married at 18, so I can’t really speak for the average teen. However, unless they are very mature, I wouldn’t recommend them dating much beyond group dates until they are 17 or possibly older. And of course it is prudent to not put yourself in a situation where temptation could arise (ie don’t go parking, don’t be in a house alone). When in doubt of whether something is or isn’t appropriate, just don’t do it! 🙂

          Again, my experience is quite limited with this. I hope this answers your question. I know the church throughout history has discussed this topic, so I don’t want to even pretend to have a definitive answer, this is just my 2-cents. I’ve been very discouraged by other folks coming out of purity culture who have endorsed the sexually immoral stance of anything goes, so I appreciate your question.

          Ultimately, I believe appropriate boundaries come naturally from convictions forged by studying the Word of God, regularly attending church and receiving the Sacraments, etc.

          Rebecca

          Reply
  16. Anonymous

    The Bible was written in times when people regularly married before they were even 16 years old. Now, with marriage being pushed into the late 20’s, people are being expected to spend a decade or more waiting to have sex. God intended for people to wait until marriage to have sex, but likely never intended for people to wait so long to get married. The cultural shift of moving marriage out a decade or more from when it has historically occurred has left people with two choices, sin and have sex outside of marriage or waste a decade of their lives not having sex that they would have been having at any era in the past. On top of that, humans are sexually maturing three to five years earlier than they were 150 years ago, compounding the problem of having so many preople biologically and emotionally desirous of sex, but not marrying.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      That’s what I used to think, but I’ve really come around to believing that God expects sexual purity regardless. John the Baptist didn’t marry, Jacob waited seven years for his wife, and Abraham was ten years older than Sarah so he obviously wasn’t in his teens. Yes, I think we wait too long in our culture, and I’d like to see marriage ages come down a bit, but I frankly used this as a bit of an excuse before and I don’t believe it is. If we want to do things God’s way, we’ll figure out how to submit even our sex drive to Him so that He can help us through. Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
      1. Brian

        Regardless of how long we wait, you’re absolutely right that God expects our compliance with what he expects. We all have to deal with what we were given.

        Reply
  17. Brian

    Rebecca, I don’t know the answers either, but i think what you said is perfectly reasonable. I think I’m of a mindset that a couple should never be physically alone in a private place together. So, if in a public place, I would say holding hands and hugs are probably ok. I definitely don’t think calls should be monitored at all times. I don’t think you’re strange for marrying at 18 at all. Historically, it is the modern world that is strange. Thank you for engaging in conversation.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Lemke

      Hi Brian!

      Well thank ya, I try to be. I am in agreement, being in public is a really good policy. It worked well for us! My husband was a very honorable man and looked out for me, for which I am thankful. My husband really loves discussing how other cultures approach courtship and marriage, it is a constant topic of conversation at our house! You are sure welcome, sorry it took me a bit to get back to you. 🙂

      Rebecca

      Reply
    2. SLS

      Like Rebecca said I don’t think a one-size fits all system works (aside from prohibiting things that are clearly against what God says). Each couple will have different maturity levels and be more or less vulnerable to certain temptations. My wife and I were alone in private places together and we made it to the marriage bed without being sexual with each other. For another couple that may not be wise. It really depends.

      Ultimately if a couple wants to have sex with each other they will find a way to do so regardless of “safeguards”. That has been true over the entire course of human history regardless of culture. Instead of focusing on arbitrary rules the Church should focus more on explaining what God says about sex. There should also be a focus on making the commitment to livelong purity an individual decision based on the person’s relationship with God rather than peer pressure or fear.

      Reply

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