This is an installment of the Religious Fundamentalism and Sexuality Project. You can read the full list of questions here and the posting plan here. The first six participants whose stories I’ll be posting are Melissa and Haley, Lina and V, Latebloomer and Katy-Anne.
4. Did you experience peer pressure regarding sexuality and/or purity? How did you respond to it? Did you ever see yourself as a role model or example for others in the purity movement?
Melissa and Haley
I was the oldest of most of the children in the families we knew, as well as the oldest of my siblings. I think most of my peer pressure came from adults (including my parents) who were always telling me how lucky I was to have been protected and taught correctly, and that my siblings were lucky to have someone going ahead of them in courtship and marriage so that they would know what it looked like. I remember feeling frustrated that I had hardly any real life examples of courtship done the right way, which lead to my reading as many courtship stories as I could find. I definitely saw myself as a role model and example for siblings and other young people. I tried very hard to live up to that.
Since my sexuality was already so repressed, it was very easy for me to fit into being a “model.” I listened to the messages and generally tried my best to conform. Hey, I was pretending to be a boy when my brain screamed “GIRL.” How hard is it at that point to “act modest?” When peers growing up weren’t getting with the program, I was miffed. Everyone has temptation, why can’t you conform like me? Why anger God, parents, and your church? I was the peer leader of our youth group and that process all played a role in following my dad’s footsteps into my first career as a minister. I served for three years as a minister after seminary before my gender identity resulted in that career ending.
Lina and V
Peer pressure was complicated. I was easily the most conservative girl in church, and therefore ended up as a role model (as if being the pastor’s kid wasn’t enough), but at the same time, I saw what the other Christian girls were doing. I continually waffled between feeling holier-than-thou, and wanting what they had. I suppose I successfully “fought” peer pressure, though, since I didn’t have my first kiss until after sophomore year of college.
I definitely saw myself as a role model. By the time I was a junior and senior in high school, almost all my friends, even my very Christian ones, had gone “farther” than me. I couldn’t understand why they just couldn’t keep it in their pants. It was so easy for me, so obviously it was easy for them, too, right? Wasn’t God keeping them pure? Didn’t they want to be pure for God, and for their future spouse? (Many years later, when I began kissing girls and immediately wanting to take their clothes off, I understood).
As an extremely isolated homeschooled student, I did not spend time with my peers, not even at church since Reb Bradley did not allow a youth group. The only social pressure I experienced was to conform to the purity culture of the church.
I had liked and been attracted to and dated women, which basically made me worse than everyone else and completely unworthy to ever be a role model for everyone in the purity movement, but I did try to be an example in modesty to make up for it, and I went to extremes. I experienced a lot of peer pressure in the area of modesty. I was already used goods and basically trash as far as purity was concerned, but for a long while I was proud of myself and the great example I was of modesty.