Tag Archives: purity culture

Book Review: Pure by Linda Kay Klein

*content warning: general descriptions of trauma and anxiety*

I read this book in two days. I couldn’t put it down. What’s so engaging about it is that the author is intimately linked to her subject. Born and raised into purity culture, she suffered the same shame and traumas that the women she interviews did. She even grew up with some of them and experienced the exact same messaging. I don’t know if I’ve read a book of this kind before where the author is so much a part of it.

I’m thinking about this book at a strange time in my life. After losing my dog Yoshi, one of the great loves of my life, it was like the ground beneath me shifted. Things I had buried for years and that have been knocking on the door for months refused to be ignored a second longer. I’ve finally had to acknowledge that I do not feel safe in my own body. I’ve had to acknowledge that my very first memory – a strange, shrouded memory of some kind of physical trauma –  is still haunting me. It guides my sexuality, my anxiety, and how I feel in my own skin.

The extent to which this has affected my experience with purity culture isn’t clear. The big thing I’ve been thinking about is my first serious relationship back in high school. I was physically anxious constantly. I analyzed every little physical thing, feeling both intrigued and terrified. Because of purity culture, I believed that the warning signals going off were from God. If my boyfriend touched my leg or I stroked his hand, trigging a flight response in me, I thought it was God telling me what we were doing was wrong. Now, I know that isn’t the case. Because purity culture saw repressed sexuality as a virtue, it allowed me to ignore signs that something else was wrong for a very long time.

This book also made me feel very relieved. I’m not the only one who feels confusion and anger. Even with deconstruction and transformed beliefs, the women in “Pure” still struggle with the messages engrained at an impressionable age. In my head, I believe that “purity” is a false construct, but in my body and heart, there’s a battle going on. With me, there’s an added layer – that early physical trauma – that complicates things.

Basically, purity culture isn’t the end-all-be-all for my array of issues, but it played a strong supporting role. At certain times in my life, it played a starring role. I recommend “Pure” for anyone who needs to feel that they aren’t alone in dealing with the fallout from purity culture, and for anyone who wants to understand what purity culture does to people.

Purity culture isn’t a relic of the past. It’s alive and well in many communities, and I anticipate a strong backlash from the mainstream church in response to people telling their stories. That’s usually what ends up happening when the church gets called out. Thankfully, there are churches and spiritual communities that are different and willing to listen. They will also need to be vocal. It’s time for a change.

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A Post About Sex

I’m usually pretty tight-lipped about stuff like this, (my family reads this blog after all, this may be one to skip, Mom), but I think it’s really important to talk about considering how much mental illness/antidepressants affects it, and how silent the Christian community usually is about sex in general. I was never forced into purity culture or wearing a purity ring or anything, but the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” had a huge impact on my worldview from a young age, and I’ve definitely dealt with some shame issues. This post isn’t so much about that; just wanted to put that out there so you know where I’m coming from.

LET’S GET INTO IT.

I wish I had more of a libido.

There, I said it. If I had break down my feelings about sex into percentages, 90% of the time I’m completely uninterested, and 10% I’m basically on board, but I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other. It wasn’t always this way, so that makes things even more frustrating. I used to think it could be related to my bisexuality, that maybe I went through phases where sex with a guy just wasn’t my cup of tea, but in the last year, the whole concept of sex has become just uninteresting.

Why has my sex drive shut down? I’ve been blaming most of it on my antidepressants, but as I’ve reduced my dose to nearly zilch, it’s clearly not why. That was a pretty major disappointment, to be honest. I really hoped, despite the fact that Effexor isn’t supposed to be affect libido, that I would be one of the few cases where did. Since I don’t have any depression symptoms either, I can’t even blame my old nemesis. I’m mostly medication and depression-free, and still totally frozen sexually.

Could it be my birth control? That’s very possible, and I’m kind of leaning towards that as at least part of the reason, but what should I do with that information? I don’t want to stop taking it. I actually lost a month’s supply and stopped for a week or so before calling in another prescription, because the cramping and bleeding was so bad. Seems like going off birth control would be another exercise in gradual reduction, and I’m not interested in doing that.

Maybe this is just the way I am? I’m generally fine with that, but I’m not the only person in this equation. I’ve read a lot of advice online, some of it good, some of it really bad, and I’ve talked to a few of my girlfriends, but nothing has really clicked. This really confirms to me how much sex and sexuality is an individual thing, and Christian culture discourages and oppresses pretty much all and any exploration or discussion of it. If it is talked about, it’s all male-focused and doesn’t get into how girls and women are feeling. There is no masturbation talk for girls or talks about different levels of libido and normality, and I don’t believe that’s limited to Christian culture. Culture as a whole is not a fan of healthy female sexuality.

So, is this my normal? Maybe. But how do I change it? Should I want to change it? Can I change it? There are a lot of questions. I don’t really want to think about them. My plan is to address the possible physical reasons, like the birth control. I ordered powdered maca, which has been used in Peru for libido with limited side effects. This is big for me, because I am very skeptical of supplements and herbs and what not, especially when they’re labeled as “super foods.” Not expecting miracles, but the bag cost less than $10, and just maybe it’ll help counter the effects of the birth control, if that is indeed part of the problem. I’ll let ya’ll know after I’ve tried it for a while.

If you made it this far in the post, congrats. Maybe this is all way too much information, but this has been a big part of my relationship stress and questions about my identity, so it would be weird to never talk about it. Thank you for bearing with me.