Homeschool Relationships in the Purity Culture

A guest rant by Kate

This is my experience: Dating is only if you want to get married, so don’t date in high school. Be careful when you talk to guys, because you might lead them on, so just be careful what you say and how you act. Making friends of the opposite sex is a useless endeavor anyway, since you will undoubetedly end up attracted to each other, and there is no point having a relationship in high school.

But just say you try starting a friendship with someone, when you’ve been told that they are always trying not to undress you in your mind, or that if your shirt goes below your collar bones they’re going to have immodest thoughts about you, or if you stand too close somehow you’re just going to combust and have sex.

And then, imagine that despite all of that you do try to have a friendship, but neither of you have cell phones, and your parents have told you you shouldn’t add guys to your email because it’s “not safe”, and then on top of all THAT, imagine that the only time you see these potential guy friends is your one “social” day at church, where every busy-body homeschool mother in the neighborhood can see your every action, and if you are so much as seen as sitting next to each other, it means you’re getting married.

Because a simple friendship is not allowed, and there is no getting together to hang out unless it is a group setting, and when homeschoolers get together in a group setting anyways, the guys and girls always naturally separate because well…what’s the point of hanging out if attraction isn’t allowed and you can’t get married for another 5 years anyways?

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • lana hobbs

    I can so sympathize, Kate. Courtship culture and modesty teachings warped my view of relationships :/ they also made me really stressed – here’s a bit of my story:

  • Jolie

    I’ve been blessed with a mother ho always very explicitly encouraged me to have friends of both genders; even when deciding what kids from school to invite to my birthday parties as a kid/teen, I remember her gently emphasising it’s nice to hang out and socialise with both boys and girls. At the moment, I have slightly more male friends than female; and in high school the ratio was pretty equal. She also gently warned me, at an appropriate time in my life, that high school romances rarely last for a life time- although sometimes they do (it actually did work out that way for a very good friend; not for me though); and either way a break-up is not the end of the world. I guess in a way having this mindset helped me a lot with romantic relationships- especially the “staying friends with exes” part; and overall helped me grow into a balanced human being.
    I’d be amused that there are people in this world who would think that’d mean my mom raised me to be some sort of horrible slut; if I wasn’t genuinely sad for those people’s kids who grow up believing the opposite gender is some sort of an alien species.

    • Gillianren

      Two of my oldest friends have been together since our freshman (his sophomore) year in high school. They’re still happy, in love, and in a healthy relationship. My best friend and her husband have been together since I think their senior year in high school and are more in love than any other couple I know. Both couples are bucking the odds and know it–and they also know that it wasn’t anything they did. Everyone concerned just happened to grow up in a way that made them still a good fit for their partner, and it doesn’t always work that way. I also know that both of my oldest friends went through break-ups before getting together (because I’ve known them so long that I know all of their exes from having gone to grade school together!), and they learned from those experiences.

      This is the thing–my breakups, and my friends’ breakups, were all learning experiences. Not all of us have stayed friends with our various exes, and sometimes, that’s a very good thing. However, every relationship was a learning experience and made us into the people we are now. I don’t want to be the person I would have been without them.

  • smrnda

    Growing up I was very fortunate that my parents didn’t police my choice of friends, and I got to hang out with peers without a lot of adult supervision.

    It seems like this approach forgets that romantic relationships have to grow from somewhere – it’s like they think you just instill the right gender stereotypes, and then when you throw a man and woman together it works. It’s such a limited view of human beings.

    I also don’t get the whole freaking out over any and all sexual thoughts. People experience attraction. It happens. People can handle feeling attracted without being overwhelmed. In fact, it’s best to learn from getting to know members of the sex/gender you are interested in that feeling attracted doesn’t necessarily mean someone is right for you.

    • Kit

      “I also don’t get the whole freaking out over any and all sexual thoughts.”

      Excellent point – just to add something from cognitive behavioural therapy, the more you try to stop thinking about something, the more you’ll obsess over it (or maybe this is just for those of us who are OCD). The trick is actually to accept that you’re having these feelings and to accept that it’s natural first. As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if people in purity culture actually think sexual thoughts more frequently because they’re working hard not to have them.

  • Norm Donnan

    I think my teen son would sum up your life best with ,”it sucks to be you”.I really dont ever remember my parents ever discussing anything to do with girl choice.There was very occasional comment at youth group on how to treat each other with respect and not being sexual before marriage but nothing ever specific and it was a conservative church denomination.The only ones to come close to what you describe are the Closed Bretheran,which is considered a sect in Christian circles.

  • MrRoivas

    These people are way more obsessed with sex than my sex positive secular parents ever could dream of.

  • Composer 99

    The only person I know who, as far as I know, spends as much time obsessing about sex as it appears purity culture parents & thought leaders do is an extraordinarily promiscuous gay man.

    I appreciate the irony, personally.

  • aim2misbehave

    I’ve noticed that phenomenon – the deeper someone is into purity culture, the more they’ve been conditioned to view all members of the opposite sex and potential romantic partners, so some of the kids that were raised in the strictest parts of it literally have absolutely no clue how to interact with someone of the opposite sex on a purely platonic level.

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