As the pushback on the subject of purity culture continues to grow, a number of Christian bloggers are coming to terms with the damage years of internalized shame over sexual desire has caused to an entire generation. They’re realizing that perhaps comparing people who have had sex outside a hetero marriage to “chewed up gum” or promising fantastic sex if you keep your legs closed until [hetero] marriage miiiiiiight be misleading at best, inherently damaging at worst.
Don’t get me wrong, much of the backpedaling seems to boil down to “How do we teach Christians that non hetero married sex is dirty without actually using the word dirty?” The messages are still very much cisheteronormative and offer marriage or abstinence as the only acceptable choices. But still, purity culture critics are DEFINITELY changing the conversation. Each time purity culture criticism is blogged, tumbled, tweeted, pinned, etc, that’s more pressure on the church to acknowledge it is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Keeping this in mind: it’s important to know the difference between backpedaling and genuinely trying to change the conversation on sexuality. If you happen upon a website that claims they want to counter “shaming” messages on sexuality, I’ve found there are a few keywords and phrases that will quickly tell you of their real intentions.
The first clue that a blog or site is merely backpedaling is any sentence that starts with “in today’s sex[crazed/obsessed/starved/depraved/saturated] culture…” Anything that follows is usually promoting a one-sided view.
Other words and phrases to look out for:
Sexual integrity: masked as a “healthy” approach, but in the end, simply another way to tell young people to avoid the sexy times.
God’s design for sex/marriage: ignores the fact that the Bible frequently contradicts itself regarding sex and marriage, not to mention historically the definition of marriage has constantly changed.
If a blog post discusses (or is written by) people who have engaged in sexual activity outside a hetero marriage, look for words like second chance, redemption, sexual brokenness, promiscuity, and any word that demonstrates that this activity is unacceptable. Often sites will also refer to a consensual and natural sexual behavior as a “struggle” and offer encouragement.
Also, it’s important to pay attention to how words like grace and healing are used. Often they are veiled mandates to adhere to a specific sexual standard.
Still, make no mistake, the pushback is driving much of this backpedaling; forcing many Christians to rethink how they discuss sex with young people within the church. Although much of this discussion is still a mater of repackaging the same message in a “nicer” way, it is still progress.