How 'Purity Culture' Pressured Me Into Becoming a Teen Bride

Love & Learn 61

When I was a teenager in the evangelical Christian world of the late 90s, it was pounded into my head that having sex outside of marriage was the worstest, most terriblest, sinnliest sin I could commit outside of murder.

I was given lessons at church camp about how once I had sex, I’d be a “chewed up piece of gum.” In another youth group lesson, we were all given a piece of tape. Some of us would stick ours on the back of other people’s hands, and some wouldn’t. The more people we stuck, the less sticky the tape got. Only the “pure” tape people stuck together in the end -- the lesson being that if you had sex before marriage, surely your union would fall apart, as you had used up all your “glue” on other people.

That was crap.

All of it. And you know what? A lot of that thinking actually led to a hell of a lot of pressure to get married before I was ready. In case you’ve been paying attention, I’m now getting divorced after almost eleven years of trying to make it work.

Ok, let’s work back a few years to my first very serious boyfriend. I was 17. I was in head-over-heels, infatuated teenager love this dude. I wanted to marry him someday. I’d had boyfriends before, but this was the first one I had ever really loved.

More from The Stir: The 'Perfect' Age to Lose One's Virginity Is Different for Everyone

After almost a year of dating, we did the deed. And just in case you’re wondering, yes, we used protection, because I was an idiot in love, not an idiot about pregnancy or STDs.

I thought it was all good, because even though he didn’t know it yet, we were totally going to get married someday. I was sure. Have I mentioned yet that I was an idiot teenager?

That guy ended up breaking my heart, and all of a sudden, I had this shameful, awful secret -- I wasn’t a virgin anymore. No one would ever want me. I carried it like a scarlet letter, invisible to the world, but ever-present to me.

I knew that someday I would risk rejection from another man for my atrocious sin of being an idiot teenager so in love that I committed the only act that was bad enough to destroy my life but not land me in jail.

Fast-forward a few months after the terrible breakup, and I started spending some time with a guy acquaintance. I even tried to hook him up with some of my girl friends! He was a bit awkward, but confessed to me that he wanted a wife. At his request, I taught him how to talk to girls, took him shopping for new clothes, and before I knew it, he was my closest confidante.

One night over Mexican food, I confessed to him that I wasn’t a virgin. He didn’t care. I’m skipping over a lot of the in-betweens here, but two months later we were engaged. I was a month shy of my 19th birthday. We were married seven months later.

I had wanted to wait another year before getting married, but I was so grateful that someone wanted to marry me that I didn’t insist.

He didn’t want to wait, you know because ZOMG SEX AND WE MUST BE MARRIED ASAP!

I’m not saying we did before marriage, and I’m not saying we didn’t, because that’s irrelevant. We were both just VERY EAGER have God-sanctioned marital sex.

So I got married when I was 19 years old, in large part because of the pressure from the purity culture I was enmeshed in.

Everything could have turned out fine. It often does. But because this whole sex-shaming culture I’d been part of caused me to overlook an awful lot of red flags -- because a whole lot can be forgiven if you’re just so freaking grateful that you’ve found a man willing to forgive you of the grievous sin of not being a virgin.

I still love Jesus, and I’m still a believer, and believe it or not, I still believe that extra-marital sex isn’t the best option.

But I no longer feel like a chewed up piece of gum. I don’t believe Jesus ever taught that. Aren't we supposed to be made new and whole in Him?

Did you feel ashamed when you lost your virginity?


Image via Tatiana P./Flickr

dating, divorce, hooking up, love, marriage, sex, sex confession


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nekoy... nekoyukidoll

I told my last BF i didn't want to rush into having sex and didn't want to before marriage (note: I'm not doing it due to religious reasons, just simply I want my first time to be with someone I intend to be with for the long term).  At first he was fine with that then suddenly did a 180 and said he wanted to do it before marriage.  I stuck my ground and we later broke up.  Best decision I ever made since it proved he wasn't the one; the guy that's the one will wait for you no matter what.

Lilit... Lilith.23

No i was 17, deeply and madly in "horny" kind of teenage love, and i did not feel chewed up one bit.

But than again, i wasn't raised to think that my virginity was the holy key to purity.

And hey! 8 years later, my horny horndog of a lover is my dh and it's all good.

Choco... Chocodoxies

I was 19. I had sex with my male roommate because I was ready and he was my best friend. We never did date. I was thankful to be rid of the anticipation and the anxiety of losing my virginity. He was gentle with me and we remained great friends for years afterward. I dated a real ass afterward and a fantastic guy whom I knew I would never fall in love with, no matter how amazing he was. I then met my future husband. He NEVER would have dated me if I were a virgin. He himself was nervous about relationships and scared of getting involved with someone seriously. My comfort with my sexuality and my comfort with him lead us to a fantastic dating life. We did it backward, moved in together, then bought a house, THEN got married. I am so thankful I did it MY way. I have never regreted having sex when I did, or with whom I did. I knew I was ready. I hope the same for my girls. Not that they wait for some big weding night, but that they wait until they are ready, don't feel pressured, and are able to usher in a new part of their adult lives with confidence and trust. That is so much more important than a white dress and a signed marriage certificate.

Pinst... Pinstripes4

Life can really being trying sometimes. That sounds awful. I wish you the best, Jenny, and you were and always will be worth way more than chewed gum.

Allison Schmidt

I was a dumb 16 year old. I had just lost my mom, was losing my grandma soon due to health problems, and was deeply depressed. I lost my first love due to cheating, so I did it with who I thought was a friend (self-absorbed POS) out of revenge and wanting it over with.

3 years later, I met my fiance (of 2 1/2 years now), who had only been with one woman. I do regret on not waiting because knowing that my experiences with boys could have been a lot different.

Austi... Austinsmommy12

I felt shocked. I lost it at age 18 to the guy I had shared my first kiss with 7 years before. I never, ever should have done it, but I don't regret it now. I really wanted to end up with him, but he had other ideas. I loved him from childhood. Still do, to an extent. Thought provoking post. I was raised pretty similarly. It was drilled into me from puberty that you always wait for marriage. My sister is 24 and waiting. I'm glad I didn't though. Lord what pain I would have been in on my honeymoon!

Freela Freela

I'm all for saving sex for committed relationships, but didn't grow up with the idea that not being a virgin was going to lessen my worth as a human being and a woman.  I don't want my girls growing up with the idea that their purity is worth more than they are as human beings.  And I agree that wanting to have sex is not a good enough reason to marry, and grabbing on to the first guy you feel will tolerate your damaged, spoiled self is probably not the best way to go about choosing a spouse.

IBNea... IBNeaters

It's like you jumped into my head and wrote this for me.  My dad was a baptist preacher and it was drilled into me at an early age about guilt for just about everything that I did.  Now, a few years after divorce, I've finally come to terms with the fact that I have a beautiful son and my life is so much better now than I ever thought it could be a few years ago.  I am now a worship leader in the Lutheran church and love the concept of grace.  We all screw up--not just about sex, but about tons of other things--but it doesn't matter.  If I ever do start dating again, I don't know how I will handle the intimacy issue, but I do know that I don't feel like less of a human anymore.

Sarah... SarahHall58

Whatever choice you make is your choice. I chose to have pre martial sex and I enjoyed all of it. I know what things I like and really was able to enjoy myself. Mamato2b2 is a miserable bitch who isn't able to be tolerant of other people's choices. Must be nice to be perfect huh

nonmember avatar elaine

This was so true for me. I was date raped and felt worthless since I wasn't a virgin anymore. My spiritual leader told me maybe I could find a righteous man to overlook my sin. I married the first guy to say that it didn't matter to him, and I felt lucky that he would take me. Now, after finding out that he has been cheating on and off for the past two years, I don't feel so lucky. The warning signs were there when we were dating, I just ignored them because I knew I didn't deserve anyone better. I hope to teach my girls that their worth is not based on their "purity". I don't want this life for them.

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