“It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people not on whether or not they’re sexually active.”

Photo by Rob Wright

This is a line from the opening paragraph of the book PURITY MYTH by Jessica Valenti.  She goes on to say, “The lie of virginity – the idea that such a thing even exists – is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality.

I look at the ministry of Jesus and I keep coming back to the question – where do conservative Christians get the idea that the New Covenant values virginity over the quality of a relationship?

And when did our behavior ever threaten to separate us from the relentless love of God?  When is a past or future event more important than the heart of a person, the values they stand for, the faith their life demonstrates – justice, love, grace and forgiveness?  How is virginity before marriage more important than a loving safe committed relationship whether married or not?   Is this not the purpose of sex … deep intimacy and pleasure … to be deeply known and loved?  Is this not why God would want us to guard our sexuality until we are in a committed relationship?  When is love most free to express itself?  Isn’t it when it is least at risk of rejection?  So wouldn’t it make sense then, that emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual freedom is most free to express itself in committed love?  Does a wedding (alone) guarantee love, safety, justice from that day forward?  Are all Christian’s who are married experiencing a safe loving sexual relationship simply because they are married?  Are all Christian’s that are partnered and not married NOT experiencing sacred sexual experiences just because they have not gotten married?

Or is it less the LETTER OF THE LAW and more the spirit of the law – the daily demonstration of the commitment and love each person lives out (wedding or not) that determines if a relationship has the security to experience more of the depth and blessing of love that God avails to those who wish to love deeply?

Does God desire for us to NOT do something because it is sooo bad (ie. have sex with someone who does not love us, for example), or because it may side track us from something that could bring us more joy? And what about how God tenaciously redeems our detours turning them into remarkable lessons that grow wisdom and compassion in such a way we are hard pressed in the end to regret the detour? Why do we get so hung up on monitoring every unmarried person’s sexual behavior … as if their every step and mis-step is our responsibility or our story?  It isn’t. Our life is our story.  Their life is their story. This includes our children from the moment, every moment, they walk out of our homes until they return (to go to school, play at friends, leave for college). Do we invite our children to be accountable in writing their own life stories, with guidance at first. Or do we deny them that opportunity by being a helicopter parent?

By only valuing the narrative of NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE and not valuing any other narrative we miss all the other stories of how God is working in remarkable ways to bless, teach, guide and nourish.

[Not to mention how we silence, dismiss and reject hundreds of people in a way Jesus would never do.]  Remarkable stories of sweet, loving, committed relationships that unfold gently emotionally, spiritually and physically in ways both people are grateful, even when the relationship does not last.  Narratives that become a precious memory in the developmental story of each person.   How often I have heard, “I loved that relationship and all that it taught me.  I felt like I should have felt ashamed of how close we became since we were not married.  But in the end, it was a sweet, loving relationship that I will always be grateful for.”  Or the story of how people had experiences that were hard and challenging, learned things ‘the hard way’, but how they became wiser, stronger and how now, they use that experience to bless others.  Instead, we silence that story or shame that story or worse yet, we shame the person!  But God, has redeemed that story.

We “Christian’s” shame the woman at the well … while Jesus blesses her, sees her, knows her, accepts her and loves her just as she is.

I honestly can’t believe we are still having this conversation!  Jesus gave us the example with the woman at the well.  It is time to see … virginity is not the issue … what is going in what hole, when,  is not the issue.  A NEW COVENANT SEXUAL ETHIC IS SEXUALLY CARING FOR ANOTHER WITH MUTUAL LOVE, GRACE, JUSTICE, ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT.

Time to begin to talk about how to develop these characteristics in ourselves, others and in relationships … and stop reducing people to their sexual behavior.  THIS is what we must focus on!  We are called to Love. Like. Christ. Period. Amen.

Check out our new project Thank God For Sex – a community approach to healing sexual shame  – Set to go live at the end of September.  Follow us on Facebook!!   The Thank God For Sex Project is a COMMUNITY BUILT website filled with videos and written stories of individuals who’ve experienced religious sexual shame and who later learned that God never intended for them to feel that way. In their own words they tell stories of how over time, they discovered a new way to relate to their bodies, sexuality and God. These stories shed light on an array of circumstances; hurtful messages from society, pain from purity-movement churches, shame about bodies, fears of intimacy, abuse, confusion, etc. Most importantly, we want to show how people figured out a more affirming story about sex and what that story or new belief system is or is becoming.


Tina Schermer Sellers, PhD

Hi Gavin – I am not sure what you are asking. I did not say anything about a people group who “only” value the narrative of sex before marriage. I am making the point that there are other narratives, other people, whose lives and stories we have been silencing because the church is only willing to engage the sexuality conversation around intercourse … and intercourse occurring after marriage. The church is causing a great deal of harm because of this through silence, shame and fear as my most recent post demonstrates. If you have not heard these stories – you can hear some at videos.

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