- My husband and I grew up attending church and following the True Love Waits movement.
- We were to completely abstain from sex until we were married. otherwise, sex was a sin.
- But the silver bands with “True Love Waits” on our fingers didn’t stop us from getting confused.
Like many 30- and 40-somethings, my husband and I grew up in church during the True Love Waits movement. We were teenagers when we met, fell in love and entered the “good” Christian fast track to marriage. We did what was holy, or so we thought.
We’ve been married almost 20 years and are only now realizing how damaging chastity culture has been — and still is.
Chastity culture meant abstinence from sex until marriage. Corinthians 7:9, from the Bible, was drilled into us: that it is better to marry someone than to burn with passion. This meant that we were not to sin sexually and that if we couldn’t keep it PG, we should get stuck.
This selected verse was combined with the very strong message “don’t do it”. Our virginity was a sacred gift to be given to our spouse on our wedding night. It was not something to be changed, because it was sin.
But that hasn’t stopped us from fooling around – and it’s made us think that sex is bad.
We had no sex education
We were never taught about the real mechanics of sex, or anything about consent, healthy boundaries, personal pleasure, or gender identities outside of the “norm.” Being gay was not only taboo but also sinful. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, the youth church leaders laughed. The only proper way to have sex was to do it when the couple – a man and a woman – vowed “till death do us part.”
The leadership hinted that married sex was really, really good sex. This zero-to-60 approach—no sex, then lots of sex—should lead to babies as soon as possible. Forget about getting an education, getting into a job we were good at, delaying parenthood to travel or come back on weekends or whatever. our job was to get hitched, go to town like rabbits, and procreate.
I remember when two of our youth leaders who had been dating for several years found themselves in a “situation.” She was pregnant. Our church leaders forced the young couple to stand in front of the youth group and apologize for their sins. I was devastated because I felt that our leaders should live by the word they preached. If they couldn’t keep their hands off each other until they were married, how could we?
I confessed my sins every time I did something with my boyfriend
Whenever my then-boyfriend and I “messed up,” I would go to my room, grab my Bible, and confess my sins to God. This was the last timei promised the empty air in my bedroom.
We wore silver bands on our left ring fingers engraved with “True Love Waits,” serving as a reminder not to slip. It actually didn’t work.
The intention was to honor God with our bodies, but what ended up happening is that we learned that anything sexual was shameful. It was impossible to shake it when we got married. Even though we were allowed to go “all the way,” the indoctrination that sex is bad didn’t go away.
Even writing this, I feel a strange sense of betrayal of my religious upbringing. Am I offending God by talking about how damaging I feel chastity culture was and is?
I have to remind myself that this is exactly why those of us who have been victims of the True Love Waits movement need to speak up. I cannot continue to feed on the power of purity culture that can destroy a person’s sex life and sexual identity.