Buster Cannon

Does the 'purity message' change as you get older?

15 posts in this topic

That was a great blog post. Here's my favourite part 

 

Who is more likely to give in, a teenage girl armed with teenage fervor for serving the Lord and teenage idealism for the Perfect Romance, or a 29-year-old with her own apartment who finally has a man interested in her after longing for a relationship for the past 15 years?

 

 

Dang, couldn't have said it better myself, so true!

 

I guess it depends on your church. I think many of them don't feel that they should meddle in the personal life of an adult in that way (that's been my experience anyways, I'm sure others have had different experiences), but a teenager is fair game.

 

I remember having abstinence and purity pounded into my head as a teen, though I had made my decision years earlier, before they had even begun talking to us about sex. I wonder how many of my peers truly made a decision based on the teaching. 

 

But yes, now that I am an adult, it is talked about far less often, and definitely not in a larger setting. Maybe they don't want to single out the singles? I have not really witnessed the right context for one of those discussions to take place, except for personal mentorship.

 

They have a point, the messages given to teens and then "old" virgins don't line up. I think they both need to be changed, personally. One puts virginity on a pedestal, and the other says it's not that important. Both wrong, in my opinion. 

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This reminds me of an excursion I had on the Internet about a month ago. I wanted to see what some people in the Internet thought of waiting outside of this site, so I looked at various comments on three different artticles that had to do with waiting/virginity (some more directly than others). I looked in a feminist site, a secular site and a Christian site. The most bitter comments I saw about waiting were on the Christian site.

Now, I don't mean they didn't support waiting. They did. But, many of the posters felt betrayed by their church. They felt like churches cared about teenagers who were waiting and married couples. Meanwhile, adult singles were neglected. To make matters worse, the posters felt like waiting worked against them, even in church. They were waiting, and as a result can't find a spouse since no one wants to wait. Meanwhile, the aforementioned married couples found a spouse since they were willing to have sex. They're then rewarded by the church and receive the focus of ministries' because they're married.

Now, I doubt (and certainly hope it isn't) like this at all churches. Still, I definitely felt bad for the posters on there.

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To clarify, I should have said, "were rewarded by the church by being the focus of various ministries."

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Showed my dad (a successful waiter) the article, and he agreed with every point. A few of my scattered thoughts:

  • Is the bar really set so low for Christian young adults that premarital sex is a given? My dad was talking to an older gentleman at another ministry he attends. Not sure what they were originally talking about, but at some point I was brought up, and it was mentioned that I was "pure" so to speak. The gentlemen responds, "so how do you know that he wasn't lying about what he did in college?" Gee, thanks, apparently if a guy says he's a virgin after a certain age he's considered to be lying?! <_<
  • I think I understand the whole "virgin wanting to marry another virgin" concept completely now. Looking back on it, you're all but promised that scenario during those purity talks. They get you all hyped up about waiting, and how awesome it will be that you waited for one another. Fast forward 10 years later, and now that scenario that was mentioned is completely unrealistic, and if you want it you're being harsh and unforgiving. In a way it feels like false advertising. Yes, the main motivation for you staying pure should be your relationship with God as well as it being a gift for your future spouse. At the same time, the "shut up and settle" part is very real, and it does sting a bit when it flies in the face of everything Christian culture taught you as a teenager.
  • Where is the line drawn when it comes to pride? Sure, you shouldn't feel down about being a virgin WTM, but it seems like if you're too happy about it you get shot down. Yeah, don't be a jerk and rub it in people's faces, but at the same time articles like this just seem to send mixed messages, almost going to the extreme of making you feel bad for waiting.
  • How do you even start to address this issue, if at all? Thing is, adult virgin waiters are an underground minority in churches, and it's very easy to feel ignored when the subject is never brought up again after grade school. You'd think that church would be the most supportive place, but too often you get a whole lot of nothing in that area.
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I think this is a subset of a bigger problem. Churches basically ignore single people after college. High school students and college students have their own focused ministries that include guidance about dating and marriage, along with advice on career goals, big decisions, etc.

 

But if you graduate college without a serious boyfriend or girlfriend, too bad, there's nothing in the Church for you. Ministries and Sunday School groups and Fellowships and whatnot are targeted to newlyweds and to parents of kids at different ages.

 

Also, I think the message to teens needs to change, for the record. All the talk about how you deserve a virgin and it's basically your reward for being a virgin, especially coupled with the gross metaphors of a chewed piece of gum or used toothbrush, need to GO. The message in that blog post that's given to older singles is a more inclusive, grace-focused, forgiving one. The obsession with sexual purity practically undermines the amazing glory of God and the power of Her forgiveness. It's like, Jesus can wash away all your sins unless you have premarital sex, then you're still a bit stained, sorry.

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Also, I think the message to teens needs to change, for the record. All the talk about how you deserve a virgin and it's basically your reward for being a virgin, especially coupled with the gross metaphors of a chewed piece of gum or used toothbrush, need to GO. The message in that blog post that's given to older singles is a more inclusive, grace-focused, forgiving one. The obsession with sexual purity practically undermines the amazing glory of God and the power of Her forgiveness. It's like, Jesus can wash away all your sins unless you have premarital sex, then you're still a bit stained, sorry.

This basically describes how I grew up. I think this message does send the wrong idea about what purity and virginity. I was taught about being a used piece of gum or how a guy only wants a fresh tooth brush straight out of the package, not a used one that someone else had. During the teen years my parents gave my a purity ring and pledge. My church expressed the importance of saying a virgin until marriage. My parents told me only two virgins should get married, if a person had premarital sex then they should risk being alone for the rest of their lives because nobody wants them. In college there are groups both christian and non christian towards saving yourself. The church that I'm at they do have groups for women and men in their 20s. But I agree that the purity message changes as you grow older. Seems to me that people realize that was you grow older your chances of marrying a virgin are slim and if you want to have sex get married young.

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Also, I think the message to teens needs to change, for the record. All the talk about how you deserve a virgin and it's basically your reward for being a virgin, especially coupled with the gross metaphors of a chewed piece of gum or used toothbrush, need to GO. The message in that blog post that's given to older singles is a more inclusive, grace-focused, forgiving one. The obsession with sexual purity practically undermines the amazing glory of God and the power of Her forgiveness. It's like, Jesus can wash away all your sins unless you have premarital sex, then you're still a bit stained, sorry.

 

In the case of teens, I think they'd be better off leaving the metaphors out, but at the same time it should be stressed that premarital sex does carry some serious, potentially long-range consequences.  Not just in the realm of STDs and pregnancies, but stuff like soul ties to past partners and potentially comparing your spouse to someone else are pretty important, and they aren't often talked about.  I agree that God can forgive all sins, and that you can be restored and move forward. However, at a young age, stressing the sacredness of sexuality isn't a bad idea at all.

 

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This is probably the most accurate thing I've ever read regarding 'purity culture':

http://haleyshalo.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/tough-luck-old-virgins/

Like the author, I'm also at the point where I'm trying to reconcile the two messages.

Thoughts?

 

I think this is very accurate and it points to an underserved population within "The Church", which undoubtedly may be small, but still exists.

 

To answer the question of "Does the 'purity message' change as you get older?", I'd say personally: Yes.  My own reasons changed as I aged, moving from "religious" to "pragmatic", and now teeters somewhere in between! :lol:

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In that article, the author is presenting two very different ideas, and I think it warrants attention.

 

First in life, we learn that we should wait until marriage. That's important - we learn the value of physical intimacy.

 

However, where we get confused is in failing to separate between to messages: (1) you should wait until marriage for sex, and (2) you should hold out for another virgin.

 

This gets complicated, because as we get older, we realize that the pool of virgins shrinks, as people either go against their values, or don't develop that value of purity until later in life. And as we get older, we get bitter - "Why has no one else waited while I have? What's the point of waiting, then?"

 

So here is the problem: we think waiting is worth nothing if we can't find partners who have always waited. It's a quid pro quo mentality we have - I did this, so my partner MUST have also done so.

 

However, as we get older, we make mistakes, and we see others make mistakes. We ALL hope to be forgiven of our mistakes.  And we tend to ignore this crucial idea when qualifying romantic partners.

If we want to give this a religious spin... Christ died to show us that, even in our darkest states, we are forgiven, because God's love is boundless. As Christians, we are required to try our best and grant that kind of forgiveness and love to others.

 

So, with the two purity messages presented by the author, I don't think there's a contradiction.

It's easy to interpret the two messages as such: (1) wait until marriage, then (2) don't worry about waiting until marriage.

However, I believe a stronger interpretation can be made as such: (1) wait until marriage, AND (2) forgive others for their mistakes - focus on their values, not on their history.

 

We shouldn't waver in our convictions to wait until marriage. But we must acknowledge that people make mistakes, and if people are trying to reclaim that sense of sexual purity and spiritual nobility that comes from celibacy, we should forgive them and accept them as they currently see themselves and thus wish to be seen by others - as no different than the (technical) virgins.

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Fast forward 10 years later, and now that scenario that was mentioned is completely unrealistic, and if you want it you're being harsh and unforgiving.

 

 

 

There are all different types of waiters and contexts to celibacy when someone is an adult.  One specific message cannot be given to "all" waiters because it will not encompass the unique needs and desires of everyone. 

It is completely acceptable for a virgin to wait for another virgin.  Wait away! 

But virgin adults aren't the only type of waiter.  There's divorce, widowhood, etc.  All types of waiters should be addressed and should not be lumped into one category. 

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Not to call anyone out specifically (in attempts to be kind).  But I will address those who make statements of sexual purity such as a used toothbrush and chewed gum, the STDS and pregnancies, sin, the souls-forever-tied, the heartbreaks, and comparing sexual performance with past partners (ugh, really hate that one). I'd say more men compare women with porn stars than waiting nonvirgins compare or even think about past love lives.

 

I wonder if you were a nonvirgin, forgiven by God's grace, if you would actually say the very same thing you just did (as in ANY of the above).  All these purity messages are full of shame (not just the metaphors but any of them).  People forget that often times virgins are virgins because of how they were raised (not of their own doing but the family they were born into and the church they were raised in) but yet people want to take all that credit for themselves and then imply how nonvirgins are broken people with all these consequences.  What consequences have they endured?  They've lived a full life!  They've made mistakes because they went out of the safety of their home and lived life!  They may not have known the way they should go, so they went out and looked for it.  Scared people don't make mistakes.  They're too busy hiding at home where its safe.  I have a child and my life is good.  My child is smart and well adjusted.  I feel I am a much better mother because I learned through living what is good for a person and what is not.  My child has way more potential because of her wiser mother than if I would have waited.  God blesses me through my tribulations.  I have become a very strong person.  And I wouldn't have changed a thing, because I've learned all along the way.  I make very good choices and I am driven and successful in life.  I live life with a purpose.  If a person wants to consider me broken for not being a virgin.  Then I certainly was more broken as a child (and as a virgin) than I am now.  Because of my hardships, I have grown closer to God.  I am in a more holy place now as a nonvirgin than if I was a virgin who waited. Because of my hardships, I've grown strong and have better self-esteem than ever.  I stand tall.  Before I lost my virginity, I cowared at everything, just as I was taught. God taught me wonderful lessons through life. Not everyone is born into a home that supports waiting until marriage.  Not everyone really knows God. But they have to FIND Him first. (even Christians).  Life is a journey.  Not a destination.

Make note that I am not saying virgins should marry nonvirgins.  Virgins should marry whoever they please!  But nonvirginity does not mean a person is broken or has unbearable consequences.  If you got someone pregnant in high school, what would you now tell a congregation?  To not be like you because now you have a child, the terrible consequence of not waiting?  Or would you teach a beautiful message about finding beauty in life despite its challenges? 

See, loosing your virginity is not always about sin.  Sometimes it is about having some sort of void in your heart.  You don't know how to fill it because you are so young and no one is showing you the way.  No mentor has taken you in.  No one is there for you.  But when you do find your way and you find peace with it, that is where the value of waiting is found. 

See, holding on to your virginity and, well, not holding onto it are two different messages.  Can you imagine how a nonvirgin teenager attending church camp for the first time would feel about all those messages of purity that are typically given?  I personally heard the story about how we are like a piece of tape and eventually will loose our stickiness.  I wasn't a nonvirgin at the time, but those messages are just about fear and shame!  And teach teenagers that God and "his way" is about fear and shame.  But God meant for us to live life.  Not to be afraid and ashamed and stuck in a box of conformity.  I am a waiter and I support waiting.  But surely there is a better approach.  Because this one divides people.  Virginity is special.  Lets talk about that.  But lets not explain how it is so special simply because nonvirginity is so un-special..  (stds, pregnancy, souls-tied, heartbreak, etc, etc)

 

Most importantly, I hope that virgins in the church find honor for their abstinence.  I hope the church can find a louder way to celebrate virginity and encourage it!  (And at the same time, embracing all humanity and the celebration of life itself).

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Not to call anyone out specifically (in attempts to be kind).  But I will address those who make statements of sexual purity such as a used toothbrush and chewed gum, the STDS and pregnancies, sin, the souls-forever-tied, the heartbreaks, and comparing sexual performance with past partners (ugh, really hate that one). I'd say more men compare women with porn stars than waiting nonvirgins compare or even think about past love lives.

 

I wonder if you were a nonvirgin, forgiven by God's grace, if you would actually say the very same thing you just did (as in ANY of the above).  All these purity messages are full of shame (not just the metaphors but any of them).

 

First off, I apologize if I came off as offensive in any way.  As a disclaimer, I think waiters, regardless of virginity status, are all admirable for being willing to go against the grain.  I believe that those who aren't virgins have even greater strength, because they know exactly what they're giving up and are still willing to wait anyway. That shows remarkable character.

 

Stressing the consequences of pre-marital sex is shaming if it's the only thing you ever talk about.  People grow up in different environments, some Christian and non-Christian.  Everyone comes to Christ with their own baggage, and regardless of that we are forgiven.  Our experiences may not have been perfect (no one's are), but they have been used to mold us into the people we are today, and we are stronger for it.

 

When I brought up the consequences, I mentioned them because there has to be a balance in how sex is preached about in churches.  If all you hear about sex is "IT'S BAD DON'T DO IT OR YOU'LL GET AN STD", then yeah, your message is chock-full-of guilt and gives them nothing to look forward to.  You have to let people know that sex within marriage is an amazing thing, and that your motivation for waiting should be out of a love for God and the expectation that His word is true, not out of fear.  That said, bringing up potential consequences isn't something that lessens God's forgiveness in someone's life if they've stumbled in the past.

 

From my experience talking to different people in church, most of them desperately wish that someone had told them about the consequences when they were younger.  Sure, they acknowledge that they are stronger for the experiences that they've had, and that God has forgiven them, but they also regret learning it "the hard way" and not having someone to guide them in their youth.  The good news it that no matter what you've been through, God can still use it for good.

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Buster, your post was really thoughtful. But reading what you've written in this thread, one can see you were never close to being offensive.

Your points are so incredibly good.  It's important that we teach children and teens about the consequences of sex, and why it is best to keep it exclusively in the domain of marriage.  But it's also wonderful that you acknowledge that nonvirgins shouldn't be shamed. It's a fine line to draw, but an important line. I think this is a wonderful thread you started, really important to discuss, especially as us prudes have to consistently face the reality that we are few.

 

Stacie, I can imagine this topic is of strong emotional significance to you. It's wonderful that you've shared such intimate thoughts.  I don't think any nonvirgin who is waiting for sex would believe their previous sexual experience is wonderful, and I don't think shame would be absent in someone very serious about waiting, but it takes someone really strong to accept it as a learning experience, as something that, despite a negative quality, can be seen as something contributing positively to one's life. You impact a lot of people with your words. They are life-changing - I speak from experience with you.

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Thanks for sharing the article above, it was an excellent read.

Something that the church today doesn't spend nearly enough time addressing.

I have my opinion on this issue as a faithful follower of Christ, regular church attendee and one who serves in the ministry.

Short and simply put, it's about revenue, who has more disposable income than professional single young men and women.

This is why the church wasn't meant to be a business, and pastors paychecks weren't tied to giving prosperity doctrine messages about exploring yourself and self improvement.

However I digress.

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