What Happened When I Listened to the Church About Purity.

tw: sexual abuse

Oh what I wish I could tell my past self- that what happened to you does not mean you’re tainted. You are not dirty. You are not impure. 

I drew this picture in 2014 a few days after being in a circumstance that I didn’t know how to process. A girl balled up trying to make herself small, burrowing her face into her knees, feeling shame and scared to show her face, with the word tainted, written in the corner.

You see, I received messaging from the church that my body was responsible for the sexual thoughts, feelings and choices men make. I was taught that I must dress and behave a certain way so that I won’t influence men to do things they don’t want to do. My body was the problem, and men’s minds were the monsters. 

I was in a situation I didn’t know how to get out of, manipulated and pressured into something I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t given the language in how to speak my boundaries, or the education on how to respect my body. I didn’t know what was happening to me or how I was supposed to make it stop. I just froze. 

After that night, I was no longer a virgin. That may seem like a “late bloomer” to some, but my choice in abstinence was formulated from being taught sex was ONLY for marriage, and if you crossed the line, you’ve committed the biggest sin- you’ve lost your purity; you were chewed gum, or a deflowered rose, if you will. I heard many messages of not putting yourself in situations were you could be tempted to cross the boundary; the boundary being sex. And if you find yourself being tempted- FLEE! FLEE, RUN FROM THE SCENE!!! Literally, those were the words. Flee the scene. I think about that now and how silly, unfeasible, and unrealistic that instruction is for a plethora of circumstances. 

Not to mention how many times I heard: “Your body doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to god. Honor god with your body, and keep pure.” and  “Don’t cross that boundary before you’re married- you will regret it.” 

Either flee, or regret. 

The church taught me abstinence over ownership. I was given a list of “don’ts”- don’t do this, don’t do that, turn off your brain, don’t have anything to do with sexual thoughts or feelings until it’s the appropriate time (meaning the wedding night), and you’ll be set for a long and successful marriage. I believed it, and as I understood it- keeping my purity, or virginity rather, was the badge of a really good christian girl, a promise of a really good marriage, and to be made right with god. That is all I ever wanted, was to be good, obedient, and doing it right in god’s eyes. 

But here’s the problem with abstinence over ownership: the list of “don’ts” doesn’t actually protect a person, because it’s not theirs to own, rather it’s an ordinance forced to accept as truth. My perspective is that it causes more internal turmoil, thinking something is wrong with them, when what’s happening inside their body and mind is actually completely biological and natural. The obsession of “don’ts” turns into being at war with yourself, instead of understanding your inherent worth and taking ownership of what it is you actually want and what your own values are.

I followed that list of “don’ts” so well, some people probably wondered if I was a nun. But up until I found myself in a situation I was unsure how to get out of, I had no ownership or respect for myself when my vocalized “no”, “I don’t want to” was ignored. My moment is confusing because I verbalized a no, my body said no as I froze up and stopped breathing, yet I believed I deserved it because I should not have been in that situation in the first place.

*I won’t go into further detail for the sake of possibly triggering any readers. 

I didn’t understand- how could I have let this happen to me? I understood the “don’ts”, followed the “don’ts” and it STILL happened??
Here’s my take on why- I was prescribed a list as truth, vs being taught integrity, autonomy, and trust over my own body.  Purity culture did not teach me what to do when my vocalized “no”, I don’t want to” was ignored. But it did teach me that my body was the problem because it causes lustful thoughts, and society taught me to not be a tease. I thought because this happened to me, it must have been because of something I was doing or wearing- it was my fault. Even though I said no.

Over time I became more brave in telling my friends what happened, and how ashamed I was and felt like such a hypocrite and failure. My friends of course, the beautiful beings they are, assured me that it was not my fault. That I am not dirty or impure and I am still loved because as I voiced before- I said no, and it was non consensual so therefore I am not ‘chewed gum’. Some even suggested out of the good from their hearts that god could restore my virginity and make me perfect again. But I wonder, let’s say it was my choice, if I chose not to stay abstinent, and I didn’t feel shame about it, would that still be the same narrative? Or would I be impure and dirty because my motives,  sexual tendencies, and lack of shame are what makes someone impure and sexually immoral and chewed up gum?

I have nothing against abstinence. I am not against viewing sex as something sacred and special. But I am against the messages in what it means to be good, pure and pleasing, delivered by Purity Culture. 

In 2019 I was offered the chance to be a guest speaker at a bible school. I spoke on this very topic, with the intent to explain that you can do all the “right” things, try to follow the rules of purity and still “mess up”. I shared my story with the objective to help students to understand valuing yourself, know what is important to you and why, how important mutuality and consent is, (or what consent even is for that matter, as that part seems to slip through the cracks in some churches) and having the language to protect yourself, comes first. Before all these rules and physical boundaries are instructed to you, you need to know your worth and value, have autonomy and integrity over yourself first for said boundaries to even work. Autonomy and integrity are the portals for sex, sexuality, and intimacy to be sacred, spiritual, and safe.

After I finished my teaching and shared my story, one of the staff members felt inclined to state to the whole class in front of me, that what happened to me was not rape. The staff member said: “Though it sounds a lot like rape, we need to be careful to not label things too quickly. And out of the protection of others as well as not having the hassle of law suits, lets be clear on what rape is and is not. I appreciate Jess sharing her story, because that is an example of what is not rape.”

I was baffled at their bold statement. And the issues with what this person said is- I never called it rape in front of the class in protection of possibly triggering any victims that may have been there, but also, never should anyone feel the need to define someone else’s story for them, ever. It showed me some people involved in the church would rather protect an image or for the sake of ‘hassle’ and be clear on what defines violation, rather than making sure a collective feels safe, seen, valued, and loved, and properly educated about sexuality.

I tread lightly on the words sexual abuse, rape, and assault to define my story. I do not want to be insensitive to the stories from purity culture that have caused trauma so intense it’s too hard to bear. And though my story is complicated and unique to me, it is unfortunately not uncommon. The effects of purity culture is an extensive list, no matter if its teaching were with good intentions, intention doesn’t matter when a situation is harmful.

But oh how I wish I could go back to that scared, shame filled girl, and lift her head off her knees and wipe her tears. I would tell her she’s okay, it’s not her fault, you are not dirty, you are not bad, your body is not a burden, and you don’t need to be scared or ashamed. And just you wait- seven years from now, you’re going to write about it in hopes to help others. You won’t even believe the beauty that will be created from this. 

If you’re ready to have support and reframe the things you believed from purity culture, message me. Together we will reframe your thoughts in order to reclaim your body, which is not broken or a burden, but instead deserves endless pleasure and freedom from shame. 

You can find my website at http://www.jessicamoorecoaching.com

Thank you for reading. Much love to you all.

Your purity culture drop-out

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: