Is there room for other perspectives in the evangelical conversation against purity culture?

Is there room for other perspectives in the evangelical conversation against purity culture? May 24, 2013

Today, @mslooola, who I follow on the Twitters (#FF her for more great tweets on the topic, by the way–can I do #FF on a blog? Is that cheating?), tweeted her thoughts on the recent trend of evangelicals calling out Purity Culture:

Now, I have a lot of friends/acquaintances who are evangelical, who are speaking out against purity culture, and whose sexual ethic (regardless of their personal convictions on when you should have sex) revolves around consent, and respect for others’ autonomy and humanity. This does not cover everyone I know who is speaking about this issue.

But when I saw this tweet, I had to laugh, because in many ways it’s so true.

You see these posts declaring that those who have sex are NOT damaged goods, and their lives are NOT ruined! They CAN have good marriages and God CAN still use them. Many of them are empowering and refreshing, but they all have to have a disclaimer about how premarital sex is definitely still a sin.

Then, more conservative blogs catch wind of these posts and respond with (totally unfounded) accusations that the people writing these posts are advocating that everyone just walk down the streets naked, carrying a box of condoms, ready to get it on with anyone in sight.

The original bloggers (who I understand want to defend their own convictions, which have been grossly misinterpreted by these conservative blogs) respond by vehemently reminding everyone that, yes, premarital sex IS a terrible sin, and you WILL regret it, but it’s not worse than say lying  or having a bad day and being a jerk to someone.

At this point, I just sigh, because it feels like we’re just going around in circles and ending up at the same place, over and over again.

I want to be clear that I don’t think it’s wrong to be personally convinced to be abstinent until marriage. In fact, I think it’s a decision that deserves respect and affirmation, and I think that people who shame abstinent people and virgins are participating in rape culture.

But I feel like this conversation keeps hitting the wall of “premarital sex is clearly a sin, but . . . “

I see friends who don’t even say that they are “okay” with premarital sex getting blog hate just because they didn’t include a “premarital sex is clearly a sin, but . . . ” phrase. Maybe other bloggers feel like they have their hands tied as they watch while those who don’t make definitive declarations about their personal convictions are discredited.

And I wonder . . .

I wonder if there’s any space to respect the autonomy of those who have different convictions about sex. I wonder if there’s any room for the stories of people who had premarital sex and didn’t regret it. Maybe even for those who are glad they made such a decision.

I know that’s my story. Maybe it’s yours. Maybe there is room for us, or maybe we’ll have to make room.

I don’t think the movement against purity culture is going to have any sort of meaningful success until we can stop making this all about “sin” and start talking about autonomy. As long as people don’t have space to make decisions about their bodies and their beliefs, purity culture will prevail. It may change shape, but it will prevail. 


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