4 Lies the Church Taught Me About Sex

Girls don't care about sex and three other lies I've had to unlearn.

I’ve heard people say that growing up as an evangelical meant they never talked about sex. This wasn’t my experience. I grew up in the thick of evangelical purity culture and we talked about sex A LOT. We just spent all of that time talking about how and why NOT to have it.

As someone who waited until I was married to have sex, I was assured that I would be guaranteed an easy and rewarding sex life. When reality turned out to be different, I was disappointed and disillusioned. Only through gradual conversations with other married friends did I realize I wasn’t alone.

I started to wonder if maybe the expectations themselves were wrong. Maybe what I’d been told or inferred about post-marital sex simply wasn’t true.

Here are four of the biggest lies about sex I believed before marriage

1. Any and all physical contact is like a gateway drug to sex.  

Once in high school I attended a big Christian youth conference. One night, one of the chaperones addressed the girls: “Girls, we have noticed some very inappropriate touching going on...”

The inappropriate touching she meant turned out to be two high school couples in the youth group holding hands. This woman was deadly serious. “I know it may not seem like a big deal to you,” she said. “But hand-holding leads to OTHER THINGS!”

I heard similar things from parents, teachers, church leaders and books. In my church it was not unusual for people to pledge not only to save sex until marriage, but even to save their first kiss for their wedding day. “Don’t start the engine if you aren’t ready to drive the car,” and other similar metaphors warned me that any physical contact was a slippery slope straight into the jaws of fornication.

Despite what Hollywood says, clothes do not take themselves off and bodies do not magically and effortlessly fit together.

On this side of things, I can honestly say that there are SO many conscious decisions you have to make between kissing and having sex. Despite what Hollywood says, clothes do not take themselves off and bodies do not magically and effortlessly fit together.

If you are committed to waiting until you’re married to have sex, there are many valid reasons to set boundaries on your physical relationship, but the fear of accidentally having sex shouldn’t be one of them.

2. If you wait until you are married to have sex, God will reward you with mind-blowing sex and a magical wedding night. 


Before my wedding night, I had been told that honeymoon sex isn’t usually the best sex. I had heard that good sex takes work. I knew that it would probably be uncomfortable at first. But what nobody ever, EVER told me was that it was possible that it just might not work at all at first. On my wedding night, my mind and heart were there, but my body was locked up tighter than Maid Marian’s chastity belt.

I entered marriage with the firm conviction that God rewards those who wait, only to find myself confounded by the mechanics. I felt like an utter failure, both as a wife and a woman. And while we did (eventually) get things working, this was hard, frustrating, embarrassing and a huge blow to our confidences.

Saving sex for marriage is not a guarantee that you will have great sex or that sex will be easy. All it guarantees is that the person you fumble through it with will be someone who has already committed to love you forever.

3. Girls don’t care about sex.

As a teenager and young adult I cannot count the times I heard something to this effect: “Boys are very visual and sexual, so even though you aren’t thinking about sex, you need to be careful because you are responsible for not making them stumble.”

Let’s disregard for now how degrading this is toward men and focus on the underlying assumption that boys are sexual and girls aren’t. For years I was told that “girls don’t care about sex.” Well, as it turns out, I do. This has been a deep source of shame for me. For a long time I felt like a freak, until I started to realize that I wasn’t the only one, not by a longshot. But I never knew it because no one would admit it.

Many girls (yes, even Christian girls) think about sex. Many girls (yes, even Christian girls) like sex. This doesn’t make you a freak. It doesn’t make you unfeminine or unnatural. God created us, both men AND women, as sexual beings. Enjoying sex makes you a human being created by God, in the image of God, with the capacity and desire to love—physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and sexually.

Many girls (yes, even Christian girls) think about sex. Many girls (yes, even Christian girls) like sex. This doesn’t make you a freak.

4. When you get married, you will immediately be able to fully express yourself sexually without guilt or shame. 

Many Christians have spent years—from the day they hit puberty until their wedding day—focusing their energy on keeping their sex drives in check. Then, in the space of a few hours, they are expected to stop feeling like their sexuality is something they must carefully control and instead be able to express it freely. And not only that—but express it freely with another person.

Many of us have programmed guilt into ourselves—this is how we keep ourselves in check throughout our dating relationships. And that “red light” feeling we train ourselves to obey doesn’t always go away just because we’ve spoken some vows and signed some papers.

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It took me several months to stop having that sick-to-my-stomach guilty feeling every time I was together with my husband. Not everyone experiences this, but for the many people who do, it’s terribly isolating. Once again we’re experiencing something our churches and communities never acknowledged as a possibility. We feel alone and broken and filled with a profound sense that this isn’t the way it’s meant to be.

I don’t regret waiting until I was married to have sex, and I’m not advocating that churches stop teaching that sex is designed for marriage. But I do think there is something seriously wrong with the way we’ve handled the conversation.

If our reason for saving sex until marriage is because we believe it will make sex better or easier for us, we’re not only setting ourselves up for disappointment, but we’re missing the point entirely. Those of us who choose to wait do so because we hold certain beliefs about the sacredness of marriage and about God's intentions and wishes for humanity, and we honor these regardless of whether they feel easier or harder. In the meantime, we in the evangelical church has a lot of work to do correcting the distorted ways we talk about sex and sexuality, especially to our youth.

Editor's Note: This story was originally posted in June 2014.

Top Comments

Jett Farrell-Vega

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Jett Farrell-Vega commented…

Wow, I could stand up and applaud for this article. I've actually wanted to write something like this ever since my wedding night four years ago, and I never got around to it. What Lily says here is absolutely true, and it's important for couples heading into marriage to be aware of this, as well as couples who waited only to find more frustration and disappointment than they expected on the other side of the honeymoon.

I was very surprised at the negative backlash in the comments. All I can say is #1 Each person's experience with sex is different. There are people who insist that because they had a great wedding night, that women who claim sex was painful or difficult their first time were just "doing it wrong". The truth is, that's ridiculous, and its the type of stuff that 90% of churches don't have the faintest clue how to address. Each couple is wired different. What the Bible says about waiting is solid truth, and I think the author did a fine job sticking to that truth while addressing difficult realities.

#2 I didn't get the impression at all that the author was knocking chastity before marriage or that she was simply bitter. Honestly, having been in her exact position, she has good reason to be upset. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to well-meaning misinformation that is proliferated through evangelical churches that devastates many young women who waited for marriage. The sense I got is that she's being honest about an issue that is important: over-simplifying staying pure. There is no surefire formula, and without the Holy Spirit, it's a difficult and frustrating game before and after marriage. It's definitely full of rewards and well worth it, but it's not a golden ticket to reckless nights of passion like some of us were taught.

My husband and I waited for our wedding night. To this day, I'll stick by it-- it was one of the best decisions we ever made. The benefits are numerous, and there certainly are many... However, its not without hardship. Our wedding night was a disaster too. Same thing, bodies wouldn't cooperate. Over the course of four years, we've learned a lot, but there are still so many things that we realized we were taught incorrectly (by loving, well-meaning teachers) when we were growing up in church. I'm now a youth pastor, and while I remain sensitive to being appropriate, I take it very seriously making sure that both the young men *and* the young women are better prepared to understand what sex, intimacy, and marriage mean.

Lily, I know you've gotten some negative comments. People have their opinions, and that's to be respected, but frankly, I think a lot of the people knocking this article don't understand what its like to be in this situation. I do. Thank you for having the courage to make this subject known, and thank you Relevant for publishing it. This is important, and I encourage other readers to not be offended by this information, but to consider it carefully and seriously, keeping in mind those who would be greatly encouraged if these four items of misinformation were addressed with greater care.

Niana Marie Santana

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Niana Marie Santana commented…

Has anyone figured out how to have a healthy physical relationship leading up to marriage? As someone who is engaged to be married with a history of sex in the past, how can we keep our commitment to wait until our wedding day without creating that reflex of guilt? Any advice from you marrieds who waited?

293 Comments

Jessica Erin Wallace

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Jessica Erin Wallace commented…

I wanted to let you know how this article has helped me. I was brought to tears while I was reading this! I am a newly married and I saved my self for my husband. When we got married I have been having trouble in this area. I thought I was all alone and no one understood me. In fact, when I tried to talk to my friends and family they made me feel stupid and made fun of me. Reading this article has brought new light to what I have been struggling with. Thank you so much for what you have written it is a huge blessing to me!

Victoria Elaine Paget

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Victoria Elaine Paget commented…

I was never "educated" about sex by my church or anyone in my church. This was done by my mother....as it should be. I heard countless sermons and lessons on how the Bible teaches us to wait until marriage and had planned on doing that. Unfortunately, I did not wait. As far as the point about holding hands...I disagree with you. I remember the first time I secretly held hands with a boy and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy and excited. As I continued doing that, the newness wore off and I wanted that feeling back so I had to do something else. Guess what....that keeps happening with everything. The reason we are told not to hold hands is just because of that very thing. It often doesn't stop there. No, most don't go from holding hands to having sex, but it certainly propels most people much further down the sexual road than they anticipated.

Roxane Hensley

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Roxane Hensley replied to Victoria Elaine Paget's comment

That's were knowing your self and setting boundaries for your self so you don't sin, I'm not just talking about sex it could be anything from food to spending habits. And just because it happened for you that way, doesn't mean it happens for everyone the same way.

Roxane Hensley

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Roxane Hensley replied to Victoria Elaine Paget's comment

having friends or buddies that you can trust helps.

Jaemin Song

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Jaemin Song commented…

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. This article was hilarious.

A Rob

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A Rob commented…

I just want to say that I'm a guy and I'm uncomfortable about the idea of sex for one thing I'm a virgin (I was probably not supposed to say that publicly) and the idea that a relationship should be based upon sex. Maybe it's not Christians that think this way but most of society does. I really don't want to base a relationship upon sex but romance, you know, cooking a dinner for a candle lit room, watching the stars at night, telling someone how they're important to you and just trying as best as you can to make your significant other feel special but not just about sex. I understand why women would say that they don't care about sex because for too long now, women have been used for sex, a stress-reliever, and then they get tossed aside like they're a no-good broken toy only for a man to do this to another woman. I really don't want to treat a woman that way but if I ever get into a relationship and she wants to have sex, I may not like the idea at first because of how uncomfortable I about it but then I realize that I have to fulfill her needs and so I will. I don't say that because secretly I want to have sex because I hope it would be a while in the relationship before I have it but I want to love someone and if they really desire it then I should fulfill it.

Randall Ajimine

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Randall Ajimine replied to A Rob's comment

"I understand why women would say that they don't care about sex because for too long now, women have been used for sex, a stress-reliever, and then they get tossed aside like they're a no-good broken toy only for a man to do this to another woman."

In my experience, it's not women who say "they don't care about sex," it's men who say that about women.

See point 3 above.

Also, re: "...if I ever get into a relationship and she wants to have sex, I may not like the idea at first because of how uncomfortable I about it but then I realize that I have to fulfill her needs and so I will."

If you don't want to have sex and the other person does, I would suggest talking about it with that person, not just going along with what they want. You should only have sex with someone who wants to have sex if you want to have sex with them. If you're uncomfortable, you need to talk it out with her and she needs to respect where you're at.

Good sex is consensual sex. :)

Marshall Jones

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Marshall Jones replied to Roxane Hensley's comment

"I hope it would be a while in the relationship before I have it but I want to love someone and if they really desire it then I should fulfill it."

Brother, trust me when I say, you do NOT have to fulfill her needs... That is God's role. Many relationships fail off the false premise that we should or could fulfill another's needs.

Lauren Van Wechel

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Lauren Van Wechel commented…

This is a great article, but I have read so many about how the church needs to change how they talk about sex, but no suggestions on how to talk about it differently. I have continually looked for this answer, but found none.
Guilt and shame has overtaken many of my friends who have "failed" to live up to the standards of purity that many churches put so much pressure on. Although I am still saving myself for marriage, I feel guilt when I slip in any area that a Christian would say is "unchristian like" sexuality.

I think the main thing that we are missing out on, or forgetting about, is Gods heart behind WHY he asks us to be obedient, to this and other things He tells us in the bible.
It is because He LOVES us.
And that alone should be enough to accept, but we have the tendency to add more regulations and reasons on to why he asks us to only have sex with our spouse, as if His love and care for how it will affect our heart are not enough. Hence, the promises begin to be made about how "sex will be better" or "your marriage will last longer".
None of these promises, whether we think them to be true or otherwise, are necessary.

We can't choose to trust God and be obedient to Him only during the times when we fully understand his wisdom.
If we fully understood or could comprehend all of his reasons for asking us to be obedient, we wouldn't need Him. He wouldn't be the extravagant and infinite and beautiful and amazing God that He is, in all of his wisdom, because we would have all the answers.
But we don't. And in trying to figure out exactly why God has asked us to keep certain things sacred, we have created rules and reasons and explanations to govern it, and these rules have heaped guilt, shame, fear, condemnation, or even apathy on something that God has given us, as a g i f t.
We are degrading his beautiful blessing, and confining his wisdom into something we think we can understand. I love not being able to completely understand God. He is bigger than anything I could ever dream, and His plans for me more magnificent than I could hope.
In giving Him this area of my life, trusting Him with my love story, I am handing it over to the most creative, loving, caring God, and it's going to be epic. It starts and ends with trust.
Thank you for this article. :)

Roxane Hensley

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Roxane Hensley replied to Lauren Van Wechel's comment

You should check out Scandalous: what good Christian girls don't talk about but probably should, by Emily Dixon I find it very resourceful there is an answer for pretty much any question you could possibly have. There is a preview on the wed site but the good stuff is in the book. Well worth it.

Lauren Van Wechel

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Victor Olade

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Victor Olade replied to Lauren Van Wechel's comment

Lauren, I was blessed reading your comment. I loved the way you ended it and may the Lord reward your child-like faith and dependence on Him beyond what you ask or think :)

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