Twenty years after Joshua Harris released his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, he issued a retraction of his rhetoric that had allegedly promoted the rise of purity culture. Purity culture trauma is a real affliction that entails emotional and physical side effects. Though Harris apologizes for his book's shortcomings, he doesn't mention its overwhelming impact on the people who feel traumatized by the ideology.
Purity culture teaches men and women to wait until marriage to have intercourse or sometimes even kiss. This ideology can mutate into the demonization of natural feeling and, in some cases, people have used it to rationalize assault. The disillusioned have left purity culture and joined a community of solace with other individuals to speak about their experiences.
The following stories cover purity culture and other sensitive topics that some readers may find triggering.
From Redditor /u/lunazeus:
Purity culture destroyed my self-esteem because older people in church told me I couldn't wear tank tops and shorts like my friends because I had [a chest] and curves at 11. "It might cause your Christian brothers to stumble." Well, maybe creepy Mr. Mike, the usher, shouldn't be [fantasizing about] an 11-year-old girl. But no, it was my fault. I got in trouble so many times for the clothes I wore innocently because I wanted to be like my friends who just happened to not be developing the same way I was.
I was still a child. There were always extra rules for me. We all had to wear one-piece bathing suits to church camp, but I was told to put a t-shirt on, too. So most of the time, I just didn't swim. What kid wants to swim in a t-shirt?
I hid my body behind oversized clothes and didn't dress cute or enjoy fashion for years because I didn't want to be a stumbling block. I'm lucky that I wised up and got out of it so my self-esteem and confidence could be on the mend, but I look back at my teenage and childhood self, and I feel terrible because of the way adults made me feel ashamed of my body. If I have a daughter, I will never expose her to that. It nearly destroyed me.
From Redditor /u/curse-the-wind:
Purity culture makes women feel broken and guilty for having a sex drive rather than viewing [it] as a distasteful duty that must be fulfilled for her husband.
I was taught women just didn't enjoy [intercourse] like men. It was something to endure for the sake of men. Imagine my confusion when I discovered I really f*cking liked it.
From Redditor /u/BrandeP:
It is also something men can move on from, but women will always be "no longer a virgin." I was always told that God would forgive me, but I wouldn't have that "special gift" to give. Where I was from, I think everyone was more blunt about the double standard. There was never really an expectation that your husband would be a virgin, but it would be catastrophic to a woman's future choices in a potential mate. It seemed to me that a man's role was breadwinner, so as long as he worked and made a decent living, he was golden.
If he goofed off until he was 25, he could turn his life around and still make a great husband. A woman's primary role was [purity]. It didn't matter if she was educated, talented, or anything else, if she had [relations] before marriage then she couldn't come back from that. She can't un-ring that bell.
From Redditor /u/DashSyri:
At my church growing up, it was sinful to just be checking someone else out. Christian side-hugs was a must. One paster caught me hugging one of my co-workers who I ran into in my early 20s. He made the off-handed comment, calling them boob hug, and warned me I was in danger. Dating in high school was forbidden unless you were courting someone. Which [led] a friend that I grew up with proposing to his high school crush so they could just date.
I took my prom date to church and was told, "Don’t trade your destiny for [pleasure]." The ministry during my adult years encouraged that you shouldn't even kiss before marriage. I lived with guilt and shame for years and felt that I had screwed my entire life up for making out with a girl in my early 20s.
This madness got even crazier when a family, who was housing an engaged bible college student, got their 15-year-old daughter pregnant - which is below the age of consent in the state I was in. Her family sent her out of state during her pregnancy and then she had to give up her child for adoption. When she came back I heard people claiming that she seduced him rather than calling him a [predator].
Then the biggest pain and regret I have was when I did have [relations] for the first time in my mid 20s with my girlfriend - we both lived with other church members. She confessed to her roommate... and she demanded that we both confess to the pastor or [her roommate] would rat us out. The pastor told us that we had to get married, but we needed to have accountability partners so it doesn't happen again, and if it does we would be kicked out of the church. I still look back at this [and] think of how ridiculous it is.