There are so many thoughts on the damage of the purity culture out there that I decided to evaluate some of my behaviour.
I think one of the major problems with purity culture is not necessarily that it suppressed sexual feelings in general but rather how these sexual feelings are ignored, and how that leads to devastating results.
Feeling sexual attraction toward someone is actually pretty bad in the purity culture. Of course they’d never admit that – they don’t tire of stressing how important physical attraction is, but what they actually mean by that is not necessarily sexual desire but beauty. Men are encouraged to look for someone they find beautiful. Women are encouraged to make sure their match is handsome, physically and characterwise. And that is exactly the problem. Beautiful and sexually attractive are not synonyms.
I don’t know about you, but there’s plenty of people I find beautiful, but not all of them are sexually attractive to me. And it works the other way around too; people whom I find sexually attractive aren’t necessarily beautiful to me.
Hence, while it may work out for some, marrying someone whom you deem beautiful does not tell you whether you will find him/her sexually attractive in the long run. As a matter of fact, I feel that sexual attractiveness is something that is systematically labelled a ‘bad thing’ in courtships.
As both men and women are encouraged to flee from sexual immorality, they actually flee from those people whom they find sexually attractive. A woman will do her best to kill all her desires for a man they sexually desire and end up rejecting them on a regular basis. This goes as far as interpreting advances by those men as attempts of the devil to succumb to sexual immorality. Likewise, a man will try to keep his ‘lust’ out of the picture, systemically avoiding women who cause him to lust – which is nothing more than a clear sign of sexual attractiveness. Instead they will seek for a woman whom they might find beautiful, but who also draws them closer to Jesus – a popular euphemism to avoid those women who are actually sexually attractive to them.
Of course, a sexual desire may be present in all of these people initially, considering that those are their first chances to gain sexual experience, the feeling of new and unknown, of absolute intimacy and, not to forget, the promise that everything will work out heavenly because they waited and fled from all sorts of sexual immorality. But initial attraction needn’t always last for years to come. When, after a few months of marriage, this promise of perfect sex is not fulfilled and the spouse loses the initial sexual attractiveness of the opposite gender in general, they may end up hitting rock bottom with the realisation that while their partner is beautiful, he or she could not keep the promise of ultimate sexual attraction.
Back to myself – I do not think that I would have ended up with a man like my boyfriend if I still followed the purity culture. He causes me to do things which are generally only permissible if you are a man. Fantasies, undressing him in my thoughts, looking at him and not seeing the (obvious) beauty of his face, his eyes, his expression, but instead lusting for whatever lingers a few inches lower, which is a body which many people might not consider objectively “beautiful” but rather as an average man. A body which I would not have permitted myself to find beautiful because it is tightly packed with tattoos. No, he might not have that objective perfect beauty of a six-pack and a flawless body, but neither have I and that’s something I can totally live with. Because I know that this person is extremely sexually attractive to me, and so am I for him despite my obvious flaws of a small chest and a body so skinny you might just mistake it for a boy’s. And fyi, I don’t even feel bad about it because I know that when he looks at me, he doesn’t see those flaws, neither does he think “well she has a beautiful face” like a good courtship boy should. No, I know that he lusts, and to be quite honest with you, I like it. I like seeing in his eyes that he can look at me and lust despite what I consider imperfect. I learned to appreciate the difference between being told “You’re beautiful” and “You’re hot”.
That doesn’t mean that you always feel this way, and it is by no means a guarantee that it will always stay this way. Of course I can still see all the other great things about him, and likewise he can see whatever makes me special to him. But I feel a good deal safer knowing that I am not with someone who has to kill all sexual desires for me in order to even deal with my presence.
I guess that the moral of this story is that if you put a ‘sin’ label on sexual attractiveness, don’t be surprised if you end up with a spouse you do not desire. I feel a lot of anger towards those in the purity movement who withhold this information from young couples, setting them up for a lifetime of self blaming and guilt.