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Dear Unmarried Evangelical Women: Can You Prove You Are a Virgin?

awesome sex

Evangelicals worship at the altar of female virginity. Premarital sex is verboten, and women are expected to maintain an intact hymen until their honeymoon. Men are expected to not dip their pens in the ink either, but rarely do Evangelical preachers mention male virginity. The reason is simple, women are viewed as gatekeepers. Evangelical boys and men are weak, pathetic horn dogs that will fuck their way through their churches unless stopped by iron-padlocked vaginas. In some circles, virgin teen girls and women sign purity contracts with their fathers, pledging to be daddy’s little girl until marriage. Frankly, I find purity contracts, along with daughter-father purity jewelry, downright creepy — especially in light of the ongoing sexual abuse scandals roiling through Evangelicalism.

Despite the monumental effort by Evangelical churches/pastors/parents to thwart their daughters from having sex before marriage, sexually aware teens and young adults do what they always have done — engage in sexual activity. Smart parents teach their children about safe sex and birth control, realizing that it is more likely than not that their children will not be virgins when they walk down the wedding aisle; that is, if they bother to marry at all.

In Deuteronomy 22:13-20, the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God sets forth how questions of virginity should be handled:

If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

As you can tell from this passage of Scripture, virginity worship has been around for thousands of years. The Abrahamic religions, in particular, covet hymen-intact vaginas. Husbands expect their new wives to be unsullied when they have sexual intercourse for the first time. If they find out that another penis has been there before theirs, the woman is labeled a whore and the husband is free to divorce her. Keep in mind, the Bible says nothing about male virginity. I know, I know, s-h-o-c-k!

If a man says, hey, your daughter is not a virgin, it is up to her parents to prove otherwise by providing evidence of her virginity — a blood-stained sheet. I am still at a loss to understand how a man could have sex with a woman and not “see” the blood-stained sheet underneath him and his new wife. Perhaps, the woman’s parents were lurking nearby and gathered up the sheet as soon as the deed was done. But, even then, wouldn’t they have held the sheet up to their daughter’s husband and said, see, she was a virgin? She’s yours now! So many things in this story that don’t make sense; not that such insensibility is rare for the Bible. Remember, not only is this passage straight from the Christian God’s holy book, but it is also the never-changing law of God.

If a woman’s parents proved to the city elders that their daughter was indeed a virgin before marriage, her husband was required to stay married to her all the days of his life. Imagine THAT marriage! Imagine living with a man who accused you of being a whore and tried to have you executed. All the husband had to do to right the matter is pay 100 shekels to the father of the bride. After all, it was HIS reputation that was harmed by the husband’s accusation.

If the woman’s parents couldn’t prove their daughter’s virginity, their daughter was to be taken to the door of her father’s home and stoned to death by the men of the city. She would forever be known as a whore.

Explain to me, again, why any woman would ever want to be a Christian. (Why Would Any Woman Want to be an Evangelical Christian?)


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    This is highly embarrassing for me to share, and I rarely talk about it. I haven’t even told my own adult daughter because I am so embarrassed. I grew up in a fundamentalist evangelical household (Southern Baptist church) and was sent to an even more strict fundamentalist Christian school where many of the faculty had graduated from Bob Jones University or Pensacola Christian College. My mom was a bit unusual compared to my friends’ moms because she started educating me about sex at age 7. She didn’t have a lot of info about birth control because, as she admitted, she didn’t know a lot about it herself. She did stress how important it was NOT TO HAVE SEX OUTSIDE MARRIAGE. She admitted that she’d once had sex outside marriage and regretted it greatly (she was married 3 times, and I think it was between marriages 1 and 2). My mom told me when I was in my 40s and she in her 60s that she’d been sexually abused by a teen uncle when she was 5 years old.

    At church in Sunday school and youth group, sexual purity was stressed. At school, sex was rarely discussed beyond “”don’t do it”, and in the handbook sexual activity was a reason for expulsion. 2 girls that I know of were expelled for pregnancy, and expunged from the yearbook for those years. Many of my peers at church and school married really young. My much younger half brother did too. A couple of my friends admitted to me that they’d had premarital sex.

    I on the other hand couldn’t shake that admonition about premarital sex even after I left evangelicalism. We were told all these things about how we would get sexually transmitted infections, that we would have intimacy issues if we had multiple partners, and that we’d get pregnant. Those messages that we would RUIN OUR LIVES through premarital sex were so hard to shake that I never got over them. When I was with the guy I eventually married, he was incredibly respectful and we found ways to be intimate that didn’t require intercourse. At age 26, I visited my gynecologist prior to getting married and being mortified to ask her if my hymen would break and would it be painful and what kind of birth control do you recommend. I appreciate her matter-of-fact manner of informing me that the hymen had dissolved and not to worry about pain or bleeding – and that many women in fact never have a hymen-rupturing bleeding experience. I was embarrassed but relieved.

    So yes, I never had full-on sexual intercourse until I was 26 and married and have only had one partner. Evangelicalism was the reason I never had premarital sex. My choice not to have sex with others after marriage is because I am a big fan of fidelity (which is based on trust not on religious prohibitions). I was clear from the beginning that I would never tolerate infidelity and that I would never cheat.

    With my children, I made sure never to present sex as a shameful thing that should be avoided. I had to educate myself to make sure they were educated about consent, autonomy, safety, protection, etc. My adult kids have had more sex partners than I have, and it’s been an ongoing challenge of reprogramming myself with regard to their sex lives. My daughter appreciated when I explained to her what my mental hangup about it were, and she said she admired the work I have put in to break that pattern.

    So there it is. Sexual purity teachings are harmful as hell.

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    Just an amusing story… when I took up metal detecting I used to go around the picnic, parking & playground areas of several churches, always Baptist churches because of where I live that is the dominate culture and I started digging up all these very small “wedding bands”. It finally occurred to me it was purity bands which I had heard tale of years prior as being a new trend. I figured girls were chucking those things off almost as soon as they were forced to put them on in a ceremony because I think to most young women the whole concept of pledging your virginity to your father is creepy as all get out.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    ObstacleChick—Thank you for sharing your story. I respect your courage and honesty with your husband and children. Given my own history, I would have had a difficult time in teaching any children I might’ve had that sex is something to be enjoyed but respected rather than feared and weaponized.

    Ange—I agree that a girl pledging her virginity to her father—or anyone—is “beyond creepy.” I can’t help but to wonder how many girls made such pledges, not only after having sex with some boy (or girl) they met, but after experiencing incest or other kinds of sexual exploitation.

    What I find really galling is that, if I am reading Deuteronomy correctly, a girl who is raped or incested is just as much of a “hussy” as a woman or girl who gives herself to a man or boy before marriage.

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    Ben Berwick

    What is it about religious fundies and sex that twists their melons so much?! It seems this awkward relationship and stigmatising of a natural human expression of love reaches to nearly every corner of every branch of every religion as well. You just know what the regular Evangelical commentators will have to say, but I’ve encountered the gatekeeping idea from people of other faiths too. It’s demeaning to women, it reduces them to the role of property, with value being defined by sexual conduct/availability, and that value is defined by weak-minded men. It’s misogyny 101.

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    Some psychologist (?) said that some women raised in purity culture have similar symptoms as sexual abuse victims. I believe her.

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    Raised by a conservative Catholic mother and non-practicing Lutheran father. My parents’ idea of teaching me about sex was to give me a technical book to read, that discussed body parts and the processes that resulted in pregnancy.

    Fortunately I attended liberal Catholic elementary and high schools, and in high school especially, there was decent sex education under the guise of health education. The message was, “It’s a sin to have sex before marriage and to use birth control. We’re going to tell you about birth control anyhow. Oh, and rape is a crime of anger, not attraction, and you aren’t responsible because you wore the wrong thing or walked down the wrong street or whatever. But while we’re at it, we’re going to teach you some tricks to make you be a difficult victim in the first place, without restricting your agency.” Awesome, right?

    Except that for years, I had been hearing from my mother that a woman enjoying sex was a sin, it was intended by God for making children but that men couldn’t help themselves, a wife must never refuse when her husband wanted sex regardless of her own physical and mental state, and so on. It turned out that my mother was physically incapable of having children, though she only learned that years after I was adopted at birth, and she needed a hysterectomy. (This was before the time of modern imaging tools.)

    All those years of hearing that message messed me up badly. Enjoying sex made me feel horribly shameful. Having sex before I got married instilled a lot of shame.

    Oh, and before we married, Husband I made the conscious choice to remain childfree for reasons unrelated to this discussion, but it meant I felt more shame because sex was supposedly for making babies. For a good decade and a half, I fended off my mother’s demands for grandchildren, with her using every manipulative trick in the book, including sexual shame, to try to convince me to have children with or without my husband’s consent. Back then, I didn’t have a good enough sense of boundaries to shut those conversations down, and wasted countless hours trying to convince her that we’d thought this through and made the best decision for ourselves.

    But shame about being a woman with a libido made my life far, far more difficult and contributed to my other mental health issues.

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