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Growing up in “purity culture” as it has come to be known, has so many repercussions. It is harmful mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Not only are there often sexual shame and dysfunction, disconnection from ourselves and our partners can make it hard for a long-lasting, healthy and normal sex life. But there is hope to heal and move forward. What Is it Exactly?
Purity culture, with its roots in evangelical Christianity, emphasizes strict gender roles and norms, abstinence, and modesty. You might have heard these phrases and ideas:
“Modest is hottest” [Because you know, female clothing - or more true the skimpiness of it - can cause a man to lust. It is the woman’s responsibility to dress herself in a way that keeps men pure.]
"Open books, not legs" [Virginity is the absolute goal until marriage and there are all kinds of images it's compared to. Virginity is compared to being a beautiful rose and the petals are tossed on the ground and trampled on once virginity is lost. Also, if you lose your virginity, you are liked a chewed up piece of gum that no one will never want.]
"True love waits" [Do not have sex until your wedding night, at which time you will magically turn into a mind-blowing sex machine.]
How Does It Harm?
1. Disconnection From Your Body
No curiosity about your sexuality is welcome or good. Throughout the period of adolescence, with a changing and growing body full of hormones, nothing sexual is good. Sexual desire, natural sexual thoughts or dreams, are distasteful and sinful. The body is something to be beaten into submission, never connected to and embraced.
2. Uneven Rules for Men & Women
The rules for males and females are not fair or equal, and the concept of intersex or non-binary individuals is off-limits. Men are NOT supposed to engage in sexual behavior, but somehow, it's considered normal for them to have sexual desires and feelings. However, they cannot act on these desires with women, and especially NOT alone through masturbation.
Women, on the other hand, are NOT to be interested in sex until their wedding night and they are the gatekeepers for keeping sex out of the relationship until the magical marriage vows are said and the pronouncement is made. Even being a woman causes a man to sin.
3. Sexual Shame
The keys here are denying self and having lots of self-control. Physical responses like being “turned on” are evil and the goal is to turn it off and shut it all down as soon as possible. Being human, in this case, is bad and shame is the response.
4. Sexual Dysfunction
The lack of education on what “normal” sexual health and pleasure looks and feels like creates an environment where it's hard for the person to know whether or not what they are experiencing is within the range of normal or they should seek help. 5. Disconnection from Self and Others Perhaps one of the most destructive ways purity culture can bring harm is that it might break the connection with the true self and thus, making it difficult for true connection with loving partners. Just looking at this list can feel daunting and hopeless. Especially as we take stock of the ways purity culture has brought harm to us and even as I write this, much is rising up within me that needs to be closely listened to and worked through. I know I have to keep telling myself that "I'm never too old and it's never too late" to take the next even-if-it's-tiny step toward recovery and healing.
This Week on the Podcast: Dr. Camden Morgante, psychologist, coach, writer, and fellow mama is passionate about purity culture recovery, egalitarianism and reconstruction. She currently lives in Knoxville, TN with her husband and her two beautiful children. We know what is wrong with purity culture—now we need to know how to heal. As a licensed psychologist specializing in sexuality who grew up in the height of purity culture, Dr. Camden, as she is known around the internet, offers a path forward to help repair the movement’s harmful effects, overcome shame, and reconstruct healthier faith and sexuality. So if you are trying to recover from purity culture's harmful effects (aren't we all at some level), make sure to give the episode a listen. You won't regret it!
You can find Dr. Camden at the following:
Facebook: Dr Camden Morgante
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Want help recovering from Purity Culture?
Dr. Camden provides one-on-one sessions (or even one-on-two for married couples) to guide in the process of recovering from the harmful effects of purity culture in your life. She also helps you to reconstruct and embody a new set of beliefs that will provide the framework for a healthy sexual relationship with your spouse. To find out if this is something that would be helpful to you, you can start by taking her quiz, Which Purity Culture Myth Affects You?
Dr. Camden's mission is to help you heal from the myths and shame of purity culture and reconstruct healthier faith, sexuality, and relationships. She does hold a traditional sexual ethic affirming a belief in premarital sexual abstinence and sexual faithfulness in marriage. However, she does not impose her ethic or beliefs on her clients, but guides them in reconstructing their beliefs and healing from the effects of purity culture.
Can't wait until Tuesday and need just a little snippet from our podcast episode. Here's something to whet your appetite and hold you over until then!!
One last thing. We want to remind you that we are so glad you are here. We wouldn't be the same without you. You will always find GRACE for where you've been and who you are now, and SPACE for who you are becoming and will be.
Carry on, our new-found friends. Welcome to the twisty-windy, full -of-adventure faith path that's laid out before us all. Love,
Lizz & Esther P.S. SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER HERE!