I’ve heard people say that growing up as an evangelical meant they never talked about sex. This wasn’t my experience. I grew up in the thick of evangelical purity culture and we talked about sex A LOT. We just spent all of that time talking about how and why NOT to have it.
As someone who waited until I was married to have sex, I was assured that I would be guaranteed an easy and rewarding sex life. When reality turned out to be different, I was disappointed and disillusioned. Only through gradual conversations with other married friends did I realize I wasn’t alone.
I started to wonder if maybe the expectations themselves were wrong. Maybe what I’d been told or had inferred about marital sex simply wasn’t true. These ideas came from multiple churches that I attended, from my Christian school, various summer camps, teachers, parents, and books I was encouraged to read. I know that my experience isn’t universal, but I also know that it is not unique. Since I have started writing about this, I have heard from thousands of people who have shared similar stories.
Here are four of the biggest lies I was taught about sex.
1.) Any and all physical contact is like a gateway drug to sex.
Once, in high school, I attended a big Christian youth conference. One night, one of the chaperones addressed the girls: “Ladies, we have noticed some very inappropriate touching going on…”
The inappropriate touching she meant turned out to be two high school couples in the youth group holding hands. This woman was deadly serious. “I know it may not seem like a big deal to you,” she said. “But hand-holding leads to OTHER THINGS!”
I heard similar things from parents, teachers, church leaders and books. In my church, it was not unusual for people to pledge not only to save sex until marriage but even to save their first kiss for their wedding day. “Don’t start the engine if you aren’t ready to drive the car,” and other similar metaphors warned me that any physical contact was a slippery slope straight into the jaws of fornication.
On this side of things, I can honestly say that there are SO many conscious decisions you have to make between kissing and having sex. Despite what Hollywood says, clothes do not just fall off, and bodies do not magically and effortlessly fit together.
If you are committed to waiting until you’re married to have sex, there are many valid reasons to set boundaries on your physical relationship, but the fear of accidentally having sex shouldn’t be one of them.
2.) If you wait until you are married to have sex, God will reward you with mind-blowing sex and a magical wedding night.
Before my wedding night, I had been told that honeymoon sex isn’t usually the best sex. I had heard that good sex takes work. I knew that it would probably be uncomfortable at first. But what nobody ever, EVER told me was that it might not work at all. On my wedding night, my mind and heart were there, but my body was locked up tighter than Maid Marian’s chastity belt.
I entered marriage with the firm conviction that God rewards those who wait, only to find myself confounded by the mechanics. I felt like an utter failure, both as a wife and a woman. And while we did (eventually) get things working, this was hard, frustrating, embarrassing and a huge blow to our confidences.
Saving sex for marriage is not a guarantee that you will have great sex or that sex will be easy. All it guarantees is that the person you fumble through it with will be someone who has already committed to [loving] you forever.
3.) All boys think about is sex, and good girls don’t think about it at all.
As a teenager and young adult, I cannot count the times I heard something to this effect: “Boys have raging hormones and are always thinking about sex.” We girls, on the other hand, were the guardians of virtue — our own, yes, but more importantly our brothers-in-Christ. I was taught that boys would go as far as we would let them and that it was our job to keep things in check. Along with the other good girls, I gave side hugs and wore tops that covered not just my chest but my shoulders as well.