Tag Archives: teaching kids about sex

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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How Moms Teach Sexual Integrity

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, observed in the United States and over 40 other countries. Many of us will sit in church tomorrow and hear a sermon honoring mothers, followed by a celebratory meal, and likely some gifts that your family’s mom would enjoy.

As all holidays go, it will be a joyous experience for many. And it will be sorrowful for others — such as those who’ve struggled with infertility, those whose mothers died in the last year or so, those who grew up with less-than-ideal mothers, those whose children have wandered away from their family.

And yet, we honor mothers — biological, emotional, and spiritual. I’ll be celebrating my mom tomorrow, expecting some show of hey-we-love-you from my own sons, and thinking about women who loved, comforted, and advised me through the years.

Mothers of all kinds have great influence, great power, great responsibility. Considering what I write about here, sex in marriage by God’s design, I got to thinking about the “moms” in my life and how they influenced my thinking.

I wish I could paint a cheery picture of me growing from girl to woman surrounded by a community of women wise about sexuality and willing to advise me about handling my feelings, my desires, my failures, and my heartbreak. Frankly, I grew up at a time when asking for a pie recipe would get me twelve church women ready to share their family’s cooking secrets while asking for sex advice would get me shocked faces and silence.

Looking back, I don’t blame these women. They didn’t have good sexual wisdom given to them either, and many believed that speaking about sex in public was just vulgar. They tried to pass on principles about being a good woman and a good wife, but when it came to sex, they got flustered and didn’t have much to say.

In my case, I strayed pretty far from God’s design for sex, got my share of wounds as a consequence, somehow found my way back, invested in learning about godly sexuality, and discovered something so much better and more beautiful that I was motivated to speak with other women about their sex lives and to write this blog. But my journey was not pleasant and I brought baggage into my marriage that I had to address. I’d rather us not raise a generation of women who don’t know about God’s plan for their sexuality or don’t know how to live it out.

Maybe that’s why I’ve written several times about how we talk to our kids about sex:

As a community of mothers, we can make a real difference in teaching our sons and daughters how God wants to bless them with the very best of sexuality in a healthy, godly marriage. We can equip them with the right perspective and strategies they can use to pursue purity, through abstinence before marriage and intimacy in marriage. We can be there to comfort them if and when they fail and let them know that there is forgiveness and hope.

Perhaps most importantly, we can model what it means to be a woman of sexual integrity. We can show with our actions that marriage is the place where sexual intimacy thrives.

We can show with our actions that marriage is the place where sexual intimacy thrives. Click To Tweet

When my sons see and hear my husband and I touch, flirt, embrace, kiss, and — quite frankly — lock the bedroom door, they are not party to our private sexual lives…but they know that sex in marriage is healthy, God-honoring, and quite the perk if they will wait for the right time and invest in that relationship.

I’ve “mothered” young ladies in this way as well, by talking to youth group girls about dating. I’ve answered a question on this blog from a teenager concerned about her sexuality. I’ve mentored a teen girl about her relationships (with the knowledge and blessing of her parents), speaking honestly about the challenges of sexual integrity.

We women have opportunities to set an example, speak truth to children in our midst, and mother a generation dedicated to swinging the pendulum the other way. Society wants our kids to give up on sexual integrity, but moms can be a positive and powerful influence for bringing about a revolution of God-honoring sexual intimacy in marriage.

Honestly, all of this spilled out of me after I looked up Bible verses with “mother” in them and saw this one I hadn’t paid attention to before:

“Truly I am your servant, LordI serve you just as my mother did” (Psalm 116:16).

Marriage Memory Verse 5-7-16

If I want my children to serve God as I do, then I’d better serve God well. In all areas, including sexual intimacy. Every day, I’m setting an example. That’s a lot of influence I have, and a lot of responsibility. But I want them to be God’s servant in their lives, in their marriages, and — one day — as parents themselves.

Let’s get our own heads right, ladies, and live into God’s plan for our sexual intimacy. Then let’s teach the next generation so that they can grow up in victory with marriages and marriage beds that honor our Father.

Happy (You Make a Difference) Mom Day