The purity movement of the 90s created some odd sexual behaviors that we are still seeing play out 30 years later as those adolescents have become married adults attempting to have healthy sexual relationships. One of those sexual outcomes is that men (and many women) are proud that they “waited” until marriage to have “sex” (and when they say “sex” they mean intercourse), wearing it as a badge of pride that they are sexually healthy.
Being proud of one’s virginity is not odd, but it’s that many of these men are completely lying to themselves about their celibacy.
Let me explain.
At the same time, the purity movement was taking off, and so was internet pornography. This unique combination created a deep disconnect within young men’s beings, looking virtuous and feeling morally superior on the outside. “Look, I don’t have sex. I am such a good guy, I am waiting till marriage.” Inwardly, they have a secret, normally shame-filled, hidden sexual life with pornography, sadly creating a disembodied person, unable to merge sex and soul, body and heart.
This was definitely my story.
I was so proud of not having had the dreaded “intercourse” yet that I literally devoured and consumed thousands of naked women online and watched endless hours of other people having intercourse. I learned to push girls’ boundaries in relationships, seeing how far and close I could get to “intercourse” without actually having it (because I wanted to remain pure). Do you see how twisted my thinking had become?
I was already not “pure” and it had nothing to do with intercourse and everything to do with selfishly consuming women for my own pleasure. In some way, I had sex with thousands of women. One of the definitions of a virgin is “being in an original and unused or unspoiled state.”
Porn had completely spoiled me in the sense of teaching me a selfish and completely unrealistic view of sexuality and femininity.
We are not sexually healthy because we abstained from intercourse; we are sexually healthy when we have done the hard work to understand, grieve, celebrate, and bless our God-given sexualities.
This same faulty belief (that I am sexually healthy because I didn’t have premarital intercourse) is what messes with so many marriages today.
Many men still have cognitive dissonance as they convince themselves how sexually healthy they are and reassure that any problems that they’re having with sex in their marriage is definitely not their fault. The problem is that often, these men are not taking ownership of their own pornographic mindset and the misinformed sexual development that they brought into their marriage. (Before I get a bunch of angry emails from men, yes, women, you too must do your work of healing your own shame-filled abuse-ridden sexuality that you brought into your marriage. If both partners do their healing work of mending your sexual trauma from purity culture and porn culture you can all co-create something new and beautiful.)
Porn groomed me to be a disconnected sexual being while being completely oversexed.
On the other extreme, the church groomed me to be ashamed and terrified of my own body and taught me that a woman’s body was dangerous. I was taught that my desires and arousals were bad and that my sexuality was shameful and must remain hidden at all costs. I was offered such a backward view of sex, that a completely disembodied and emotionally distant viewing of sex was somehow better than actual sex with a real person.
I wonder, instead of watching porn when I was a teenager and young adult, what it would have been like if I had had a healthy relationship with a girl. Like a real relationship, where we had conversations, argued, laughed, cried, played together and enjoyed each other, and hurt each other with our words. Where we also explored each other’s bodies, and we grew together in emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical connection which ultimately led to intercourse.
Do I think that would have been best?
No. I still think the best sex is within a committed marital relationship, but when I compare that scenario to my sexual development and my experiences within purity culture and porn culture I would have been so much better off! Truly, I would have learned that my heart and body needed to be in full alignment. That sex is not to be selfishly consumed but shared in a relationship with another equal. I would have learned how to honor and not objectify, how to have patience and not demand (remembering porn teaches us that whatever we want we can get, instantly and without consent).
In conclusion, your work to be a healthy sexual man (or woman) and a better lover is to heal from both toxic systems, purity culture, and porn culture. Knowing that telling ourselves the truth about our sexual brokenness is the beginning of our sexual liberation. In regard to your history of pornography use, you must realize that your porn use gave birth to a pornographic mindset (thinking within a pornographically informed way), which in turn led to a pornographic style of relating. If you have stopped using pornography you still have to address your pornographic mindset and pornographic style of relating that linger long after the porn use has stopped.
If you grew up within purity culture you must name the shame-based sexual ethic that causes you to be stunted in your desire and pleasure and heal from that trauma as well. It is different from recovering from pornography abuse but of no less importance. Sexual health is available to you and to your partner.
God loves sex and is a big fan of your freedom and pleasure.