For too long, conversations around sexual purity have included virginity as the supreme example of Christian values.
Even those outside of the Christian faith have declared the same thing; writer and feminist Jessica Valenti says the church’s obsession with virginity is hurting young women.
And you know what? I agree.
Popular culture exploits a woman’s sexuality both before and after they have sex. It is a non-stop reality for almost every female in our culture. And it is modeled most in today’s pop stars.
The rise of Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus are perfect examples. Each of them used their “sexual innocence” to win over parents of pre-teen girls. In the years that followed both wrote a book about their devotion to God and to waiting until marriage to have sex.
Virginity was the key for parents to label each pop star worthy of praise and thus good role models for their daughters
Unfortunately, the church has mimicked this behavior.
For too many Christians virginity has become the answer – the moral quick fix – to their salvation. You can be vapid or even unethical, but as long as you’ve never had sex, you’re a good person worthy of praise and admiration.
We are now seeing a backlash against the purity culture that many grew up with in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Most of this frustration has not been pointed toward waiting itself but rather how this message was communicated.
For years, the typical messages of sexual purity were focused on regulating behavior rather than helping people condition their heart to truly follow Christ. It was more about what you didn’t do than what you could do with your body and your mind.
Women have become the sexual gatekeepers in our church and outside of it. Often conversations on modesty have placed the emphasis on what the women wear and do rather than the entire community. Thus, women have been responsible for men’s sexual behavior.
And this is absolutely insane.
While many have rightly taught that waiting to have sex is about much more than virginity, there remains a reverse message that a girl or woman who has had sex is now “damaged goods” unworthy of the pure love of a good Christian man. The end result is a message that denies the power of God’s grace to heal, forgive and transform. And the reality of all of this is that we are all “damaged goods” in need of God’s forgiveness, whether we are virgins or not.
For too many years the church has responded to the culture’s definition of sex by saying “No!” Collectively we have failed to look at God’s definition of sex, which is intended to bring unity and oneness, and rather limited the conversation to a matter of, “How far is too far?”
Research has proven that when the commitment to wait is attached to something beyond themselves, like a desire to follow Christ, they are more likely to find success in waiting (and they are also more likely to recover well if things don’t go as planned.)
That is why our identity in Jesus Christ is so important.
He makes us completely whole again so that we might fully love without shame. This is why virginity is not important, but living with sexual integrity (being wholly obedient to Jesus with our sexuality) is. In Christ the old has gone, the new has come, and we are a new creation created in Christ Jesus to give ourselves in love as He did. That is our identity. That is what really matters.
Virginity should only be the by-product of a devotion to God and His design for sex, not the identifier.
What has been your experience of this “waiting” conversation? What went well? What do you wish had been different?