I wasn’t a serious Christian until my junior year of high school. Like many people I was a believer without strong convictions. I thought the Bible was right, but I also kind of figured as long as I didn’t die I would have plenty of time to be forgiven and try harder. So when puberty hit, my hormones were far more influential than the Bible. And I had no intention of waiting until marriage for sex.
Adults like to imagine that teens are just walking around in confusion looking for direction from the first voice of authority that offers any, but it turns out they already have some pretty set ideas on things. Parents and teachers are too afraid of condoning behaviors to offer any practical advice; as if their understanding would somehow become the aphrodisiac that propelled teens toward sin. So we turned to each other. Because while the moral opinion of our sex ed teacher was completely irrelevant, peer pressure was a very dominating factor in the world of sex. Besides, I wanted to have sex. I wasn’t looking for confirmation of my worldview. I got plenty of that from my boyfriend.
There were so many rules governing sexual education. It mostly resulted in scare tactics about disease and teen pregnancy. Even outside of abstinence-only preaching schools, sex shaming was an ever-present theme. We received only failure statistics on birth control. No one ever made me put a condom on a banana. Are you kidding? Parents would have been outraged by such a vulgar nod to promiscuity. The last sex education session I endured in school was in the ninth grade, only a few months before losing my virginity. It had zero impact on that decision.
Now, what if someone had handed out free condoms in that class to both me and Miss Purity Ball 1991? I imagine she would have been disgusted and thrown them away. Maybe she and her friends would have organized a condom burning after the Wednesday night youth group meeting and prayed for souls like mine. Maybe I would have been there. And perhaps we all would have chanted a unison prayer re-dedicating our hymens to Jesus over the charred remains. But who are we kidding? Surely her parents would have written a note to excuse her from a sex ed class that gave out condoms and allowed bananas in the classroom.
I, on the other hand, may have actually had protected sex. Because I didn’t do that. Why? I was naive. It was a hassle. A fifteen year old doesn’t always have money or transportation options, especially growing up in the country. They don’t always have a strong grasp on the fact that things don’t just happen to other people, either. Let’s just say I was lucky.
Then I wasn’t so lucky…. because I found Jesus.
Look, I am just as surprised as you are that I eventually chose to become a born again virgin. A lot happened to me in the year following my first sexual experience. It’s perhaps more relevant to this topic than anything else I have to say. But it’s a long story meant for another time. So we’re skipping ahead.
When it came to religion, it was just me reading my bible and coming to a place where I believed I needed to give myself over more fully to god. Hormones were still a factor, of course. I wanted a man after my own heart. And my own heart had become religious. My ideal man would want me to be as pure from sexual sin as possible. It was during these years of abstinence that I possessed the most damaging views about sex. And this came from the Bible alone. I cannot imagine if I had been raised in an environment that had demanded this of me all along.
If you follow this blog you are aware that I met my husband in a missionary musical group that infiltrated schools. Pretty sexy, I know. He grew up in a very conservative Christian home where girls waited until their wedding day for that first magical kiss. We waited until marriage for sex, but neither of us were so strict as to believe in waiting until marriage for other things. And here lies the controversial gray area of Christian premarital relations: some couples do nothing at all, while other couples do everything but.
Do not be fooled. A young man who is forced to avoid intercourse might know more about sex than anyone you have ever met. Many Christian teenage couples are the authority on foreplay. Some of you know exactly what I am talking about. But a quick view of my journals from our year of courtship will make it clear that our level of guilt was off the fucking charts. We were adults at the time. We were not having actual intercourse. We were making plans to get married. And there were pages upon pages of guilt over our sinful sexual behavior.
Not that it stopped us. We would pray about it. We would talk about it. Later we would rationalize our urges as we had done a thousand times before, and then we would feel worse about it. According to Jesus we were committing adultery every time we looked at each other lustfully. Guilt felt more righteous so we kept that cycle going until our wedding night.
Sometimes I hate that stupid girl.
I’ve been having bible-approved sex for over nineteen years now. Sure, half those years were without god looking. I guess he got bored and disappeared. But still. Where’s my reward? It’s almost as if no one even cares anymore.
Why are Christians obsessed with teenage sexual sin? At that time in our lives when sex first begins to dominate our thoughts, isn’t it dangerous to start labeling sexual behavior as pure or sinful? I hope you see that as a rhetorical question. In conservative circles sexual purity can actually become an identity. Many girls are so proud of their abstinence vows that they find it difficult to transition to marriage. The marriage bed robs them of the one thing that made them worthy. Self worth has nothing to do with sex.
If you grow up in this environment and have any questions about your sexuality you are in for some rough times. Mostly because of your own belief in the Bible. I once argued with a friend about masturbation. He was a young man who claimed he had never done it because it was a sin. Whether he was lying or not doesn’t matter. Religion had been fucking with his head in dangerous ways. Telling a teenage boy that the one and only powerful god can not only see him touching his penis, but that he is disappointed in him for doing it? Holy shit. I’d lie, too. But you can’t lie to god.
And what if a teen has urges that the bible and their community say are unnatural? I mean, god knows your thoughts. Your thoughts! Just when their world begins to revolve around hormones and romance they discover that they must choose between god and happiness. And they had better be sincere about that decision, because god will know. Maybe they will decide to walk away from god. And their family. And life as they know it. There’s a great big world out there, but it might as well be on Mars. So a teen from the bible belt has to go and kill himself because of some bullshit Paul wrote to the Corinthians that one time? Fuck.
This is the kind of information that kids shouldn’t be exposed to. This is what should outrage parents. I’d rather my child watch porn during sex ed class than crack open a bible. But when you’re inside the god matrix you can’t see it that way. You can’t fucking see it. Teens in a god-centered world have a lot of pressure when it comes to sex. They are educated in a way that acknowledges biblical perfection as the only possibility. And this, my friends, is just one more reason why god should never be allowed in the classroom. Many of these students will spend a lifetime dealing with their “mistakes” on their own.