5 Lies I Learned about Sex Growing Up in Church Culture

My husband Nathan and I have been in marriage counseling for the past 9 months. That’s no secret to many who know us. It was a secret for a while however, but I suppose that’s another topic for another day.

The final straw that brought us into our counselor’s office was the strong lack of deep intimacy. One night Nathan looked over at me in bed and said, “We need help.” I knew in that moment that he was right. I was out of rebuttals and out of reasons to justify. We had gone round and round and round the same track for 13 years and had no idea how to get off and get onto a new one.

     

Through counseling and some serious self-examination, I’ve had to get really honest with myself about my views and my beliefs about sex. I have had to examine what I believe to be true and right and then cross examine how that lines up with the character and nature of my God. Many things I could call out as lies, but they were so deeply rooted within my heart that the conflicting messages led me to almost paralysis.

I am still on this journey of healing and wholeness and have quiet a ways to go. However, I have felt a strong pull for the past few months to share my journey in hopes that it will facilitate in others a desire to heal and a desire to get curious about why we do the things we do.

Through all of this, 5 distinct lies have emerged in regards to sex. I believe I was taught these lies growing up in the church and as a part of church culture.

Let me be clear though, I love the Church. I love HIS Church. This is not a slam on God’s people or His Body. This is, however, a call for us all to check what we have been taught. Even in the midst of very good intentions, sometimes things can be directly or indirectly communicated and taught that do massive damage to our relationships.

Which of these lies have you believed?
 

No. 1: Purity Equals Mind-Blowing Amazing Sex

Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further. Sexual purity and morality are a big deal to God. He addresses these topics many times in the Bible. But what if we have missed His heart in it all? What if the church has lied to its young people by omission, leaving out the honesty of how it plays out.

Many, including myself, grew up in our teens and early 20s thinking that if we waiting to have sex before we were married, God would promptly reward us with amazing and mind-blowing sex that was free and fulfilling. After all, we weren’t bringing “baggage into the marriage”. We were a “clean slate” not comparing our newly married sex to experiences we had prior. I can just hear those words ringing to me from some of the books I read and youth talks I sat through.

And I can feel the shame felt by those who knew they were a “dirty” slate. Those who had given their virginity to someone else, and thus had no “gift” to offer their husband on their wedding night.

Such a lie they believed as well. God is the God of restoration. But that wouldn’t be my story. I was “pure”, and “It will be totally worth the wait” they said.

Our wedding night and honeymoon were sweet and special and awkward and frustrating. We were in no way prepared for the fact that true sexual intimacy would take work and education. Sure, we had read a few books prior to marriage, but still bought into the lie that since we waited, things would be amazing, almost instantaneously. We expected the honeymoon to be a bit of an exploratory week, but imagine our surprise when months went by and things didn’t get any better.

Where was our reward? Where were the fireworks? Awkwardness turned into frustration which turned into shame which turned into bitterness which turned into a great divide.

My prayer is that church continues to teach sexual purity, but teaches it from God’s heart. I absolutely love what Ann Voskamp has to say about it HERE. My prayer is also that the church adequately prepares teens and engaged couples for the reality that is in front of them when they are married.

Good sex doesn’t come because you waited. Good sex comes from education, openness, communication, vulnerability, commitment, grace, laughter, and embracing your God-given sexuality. And it takes TIME. And good sex comes from talking about it, lots. That is such an incredibly foreign concept to so many young Christian married couples. More about that coming up in Lie #5.


No. 2: Shame & Inhibition Disappear with Marriage

So you’ve been taught to say no to something you’re entire life, and now you are being told to say yes, and a very enthusiastic yes at that. Hello confusion!

I personally grew up believing not only was I not supposed to have sex until I was married, but I really wasn’t even supposed to desire it or let my body become aroused in any sort of way.

Essentially I learned to deny that I was a sexual being and turn off any traces of my sexuality whenever they might pop up. If I did allow myself to go there, I would feel guilt and shame. I had no idea that desire and arousal where completely normal parts of growing up. Maybe for boys, but certainly not for girls (see Lie #3).

But like Lie #1, it was communicated to me, that once married, I would just embrace these parts of me. What was wrong would suddenly be right, and all the guilt, and shame, and inhibition would melt away. I would harness my strong sexual energy as a fierce married woman and use it for a passion-filled love life. If only it were that easy!

The reality is those things don’t just melt away. My view of my own sexuality was built on shame which immediately brought with it inhibition, and I’ve heard story after story of the same from other women.

As a mom, one of my goals it to raise my kids with a healthy and balanced view and understanding of their own sexuality. With boundaries and love comes freedom, but with shame and legalism comes bondage.


No. 3: Sex is for the Boys!

I feel like this lie is the title of a catchy pop song somewhere. I’ve got a little tune playing in my head.

We all know boys are highly sexual beings, right? From the time I hit puberty, I heard many things about boys and sex. Here are a few:

Boys have a 2nd brain (in their pants).
Even just baring your shoulders could cause boys to have sexual thoughts about you so cover them up.
Once the motor starts going, it’s really hard to put on the brakes. Screech!
Boys think about sex every 10 minutes. All. Day Long.
Boys undress you with their eyes. Oooooo.
Boys touch themselves often. AHH!

Some of those things are true. Maybe even all of them for some guys. And I’m pretty sure all of them are normal parts of growing up. Do men and boys need to be taught to discipline themselves in some of these areas? Absolutely, but that isn’t the topic for the moment.

The point here is that everyone, male or female, grows up knowing that (most) men love and crave sex. It’s normal. It’s talked about. It’s accepted as the way they were created.

But what about women? The church is largely silent on this. I don’t know that I have ever, point-blank, heard a church state to girls during those “purity” conversations, that they, too, are created as beautiful, sexual beings and that God created EVERY part of them with a purpose and sometimes that purpose is just for pure pleasure. So what is the fallout of this?

The fallout is that girls grow up to be married women who believe that if they desire sex, if they desire or feel pleasure, if they get excited or turned on, than they are abnormal and possible even immoral. They don’t learn to make friends with their own sexuality which leads to those feelings of shame and inhibition in marriage that we talked about in Lie #2. 

The reality is that God created sex for the mutual benefit and pleasure of BOTH male and female. Those things don’t necessarily play out in the same way or look the same, but they are both there and are both to be embraced.


No. 4: Modest is Hottest!

Can we all just be honest for a second? Being modest is a lot of things, but it is certainly NOT hottest! Like it or not, for better or worse, that is simply the truth. I think a simple investigative study could easily prove this.

“But wait,” you say, “The Bible tells women to dress modestly.” That may be true, but nowhere does it say that it is “hot” when you do so. 

There is certainly a place for modesty, but much like purity, it can be taught with a very wrong message attached to it. When attached to a wrong message or meaning, it creates that same shame that we have talked about previously.

So what does a young married girl (or an old married girl) do when her husband asks her to put on a little something sexy? There is a good chance that she brushes it off and stays in her long john PJs because she feels so uncomfortable in her own skin and with her own sexuality. She might even feel resentment that he even asked. Men! All they ever want is sex after all! (Remember Lie #3)? Or she might even do it out of obligation and feel such a conflicting slam of messages after the fact.

In no way am I advocating we teach our girls to walk around half naked and put their bodies on display for others to turn into objects. A big NO to the objectification of women! But let’s be careful with how and why we teach modesty.
 

No. 5: Don’t talk. Don’t tell. 

The Unspoken Rules: Don’t talk about sex in church or in Christian homes. There is one caveat to this though, if talking about sexual purity, you can talk about it. A LOT. Other than that though, mums the word.

Parents-Don’t let your kids know you have sex. Leave them believing it is only for making babies. Give them the birds and the bees talk, but make sure you really emphasize the waiting component. Do not offer any additional information.

Can we just take a minute to guess what this creates? If you’re having trouble, let me fill you in. In creates an atmosphere where communication and curiosity are taboo. It creates a cycle of lack of understanding, lack of dialogue, and ultimately wrong information.

If parents won’t talk about sex with their kids beyond the birds and the bees, how in the world are these kids, who turn into adults, going to have the confidence and information to discuss sex with their own spouse? If the church only talks about purity to teens, how can they learn to embrace God’s full design for sexual intimacy?

Where are these kids going to turn for information?

Well, back in the day, we turned to friends and AOL Instant Messenger for a mixture of correct and incorrect information. Thank goodness Google wasn’t around then! However, today is a different world! When kids are curious, they can easily type things in Google and suddenly and innocently end up in a porn filled world that is so incredibly difficult to get out of.

What if parents and the Church allowed teens and young adults to know that God designed sex for MANY purposes?

What if the church balanced out teachings on fornication and other sexual immoralities with education on how to have a deeply sacred intimate life with your spouse?

What if no one beat around the bush (Sorry! No pun intended! Ha!) and created an atmosphere of openness where people could get the information, education, and support they needed without shame or guilt?

Yes! We need to teach our kids how to discipline themselves in many areas of their lives, including sexual immorality, but we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is far too much at stake!

 

Let’s all be the agents of change. This can start by simply opening up the conversation with your kids at the various age appropriate times. It can start by acknowledging where our thinking is wrong. It can start by sharing with our spouse or another trusted person that we are struggling with believing lies in this area. It can start by seeking out counseling as a couple or as an individual.

If this is not something you are used to talking about, it takes courage to open your mouth. Know though that you are NOT alone. There is HOPE.

Jesus said that He came that we might have LIFE, and might have it more ABUNDANTLY. He didn’t follow that up with an “except”. He created us on purpose, with all our bits and parts.  

And He created it ALL for His ultimate glory. Yes, having a deeply intimate relationship with your spouse is glorious to the One who created you. 

ENDING DISCLAIMER: Somehow people have come to assume that I am a mormon and part of the LDS church. I just want to clarify that I am not, nor have I ever been. I am unfamiliar with the doctrine of that organization except to know that it is not the same as my personal beliefs. This post is not written by someone coming from that background. In my experience many mormons can identify with these same things, but it wasn't specifically written with the LDS community in mind.