Episode 14: Purity Culture & Trauma, Healthy Sex Education, Sex Positivity, and Exvangelicalism with Blair from @talkpuritytome

lindsey lockett standing waist-deep in a river with a waterfall. she is holding her hair up to expose her back

Purity Culture was a movement in the 1990s and 2000s that spread through Evangelical Christianity like wildfire. It has left sexual trauma and psychological damage in its wake. Survivors of purity culture report sexual dysfunction, feelings of shame and guilt about sex and sexuality, lack of education and information about sex and their own bodies. There is hope and healing for those affected by purity culture. black and white photo of blair from @talkpuritytome

Blair is a former evangelical and Purity Culture survivor living in the south. She uses her experiences to help people of all faiths and beliefs find healing from the trauma of Purity Culture by debunking the culture’s bullshit. She finds joy in helping others see the good in themselves and others and to live a life free from religious shame.

Show Notes

In this episode, Blair and I…

  • explain what purity culture is and what the relatively new term “exvangelical” means
  • discuss how the absence of sex education fostered an environment for the harmful practices and beliefs of purity culture to spread
  • reveal how purity culture was the method by which evangelical, fundamentalist Christianity wanted to control its members and those member’s sex lives
  • describe the sexual abuse that was and is purity culture
  • share how the end result of purity culture was deep shame, misinformation, guilt, and trauma.
  • call out the abuse of purity culture
  • discuss how people who are now in their mid-20s to mid-40s are the generation most devastated by purity culture
  • discuss resources for informed sex education and healing the trauma of purity culture
  • discuss the deconstruction of evangelical Christianity
  • expose the roots of purity culture and evangelicalism (hint: fear is a big one)
  • discuss the homophobic, monogamy-only paradigm of evangelicalism and how it manipulates followers and keeps them stuck
  • talk about how the generation who was raised in purity culture is now choosing differently as parents themselves
  • discuss why sex and religion need to be disconnected completely
  • expose the utter lack of boundaries in evangelicalism and why establishing boundaries is a big piece of the healing puzzle

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Transcript

[INTRO MUSIC] Hi there. Welcome back to the podcast. This is episode 14. Wow. 14 episodes. And it’s crazy. I am super excited to be interviewing someone who I followed on Instagram for about a year. She is in my very lovely exvangelical Instagram community. Her name is Blair and she is at talk purity to me on Instagram in this episode, Blair and I talk about what purity culture is and what the relatively new term exvangelical means. We also discussed how the absence of sex education fostered an environment for the harmful practices and beliefs of purity culture to spread. We reveal how purity culture was the method by which evangelical fundamentalist Christianity wanting to control its members and those members sex lives. And yes, we use the word sex cult for Christianity. We described the sexual abuse that was, and is a purity culture and how the end result of purity culture was deep, shame, misinformation, and guilt and of course, trauma. We call out the abuse of purity culture and we discussed how people who are now in their twenties to mid forties are the generation most devastated about purity culture and are also the generation who are now becoming parents themselves and who are deciding that that’s not actually what they want for their kids and having to like relearn healthy sexuality, sex education, and being sex positive. We discussed some resources for informed sex education and healing the trauma of purity culture. We also discussed the deconstruction of evangelical Christianity and expose the roots of purity culture and evangelicalism and hint hint fear is a big root here. We also talk about the homophobic monogamy-only paradigm of evangelicalism and how it manipulates its followers and keeps them stuck. And we discussed why sex and religion need to be completely disconnected from each other. There is an utter lack of boundaries in evangelicalism and really all fundamentalist religions and establishing our boundaries is a big, big piece of the healing puzzle. So Blair is a former evangelical and purity culture survivor living in the South. She uses her experiences to help people of all faiths and beliefs find healing from the trauma of purity culture. Find healing from the trauma of purity culture by debunking the culture’s bullshit. She finds joy in helping others see the good in themselves and others and how to live a life free from religious shame. LINDSEY: Hello, Blair, welcome to the holistic trauma healing podcast. BLAIR: Hi, thank you so much for having me. LINDSEY: Well, thanks for being here today. So can you tell us about yourself and what you do in the online space? BLAIR: Yeah, again, Lindsey already introduced me, but my name is Blair and I have a page on Instagram where I talk specifically about purity culture and, I’m among this amazing community of exvangelicals and extra religious folks. But my specific niche is purity culture. That’s what I focus on entirely on my page. And, yeah, I started it just over a year ago and it’s the community’s really grown so grateful for everyone who’s a part of it and yeah, we just all learn and heal and laugh together because I firmly believe that laughter and being able to laugh at the absurdity of purity culture is. It’s been super important for my healing and I think it helps. LINDSEY: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. it is crazy when we look back and we think about the things we used to believe in what really it seems like a different lifetime or something. For those who are listening to the podcast who may not have a clue what you’re saying when you say exvangelical and purity culture, can you define those terms for us please? BLAIR: Totally. Yeah, because even, but. Up until a year ago, exvangelical was not even a term that I use to describe myself, but it is a term in this community. So exvangelical is ex evangelical. So people who grew up in the evangelical world, especially, in the U S I feel like it’s a large group of us. And, we all congregated in the online space, which is funny, and found healing together in these online communities. And a huge part of growing up exvangelical for a lot of people is purity culture, or growing up evangelical and now exvangelical, as purity, culture and purity culture is it’s this set of ideas that. It’s somewhat hard to trace the origins of where exactly it started, but it’s really this hyper-focus on purity, which would mean abstaining from sex outside of a heterosexual monogamous marriage. And then, not even thinking about sex or having impure, sexy thoughts or dressing in a way that would be. causing others to think about you sexually it’s thought control it’s, emotion control. It’s all of these, ways that the evangelical church tries to control the sex lives of their members and it manifests itself in physical trauma, also mental and emotional, spiritual trauma.There’s so many aspects of it that, people don’t realize because there’s also so much taboo around sex that it’s up until recently, people weren’t really talking about how much it hurt them. LINDSEY: Yeah, for sure. So can you share some of your crazy experiences in purity culture? BLAIR: Sure.Yeah, totally. I totally use my own experiences now to hopefully let others, feel like they’re not alone. So I, grew up probably from the age of 14 and on like really heavily in purity culture cause that’s around the age where people typically start being interested in dating or, so that’s kinda when it really sets in, they really attack the teenagers in the churches with these ideas a lot of times. But yeah, I. I really fell for it. I really the adults in my life were telling me this was, a good thing in a way that I could please God. And I was like, all right. Yeah. I mean, totally. Yeah. I was, 13 or 14, and had no sex ed at that point. So did I really know what I was agreeing to? And I said, I wouldn’t have sex till I got married. Absolutely not, but I really fell for it. And, it wasn’t, that it wasn’t that difficult for me, honestly, in probably high school, because I was just a typical high school girl, I guess. And sure. I liked guys, but I was like, I need to really save myself and I didn’t have that much trouble with it in high school. But later on in college, I sort of started to question these ideas. And, then I realized that my lack of education around sex, it actually put me in some really bad positions where, I was with older guys and, they were. Wanting, a certain type of sexual relationship that I just didn’t know, like how to say no to, I didn’t know. I was totally unprepared for anything concerning sex or my body, how to care for my body. And I remember when I was 18, I was, I was away at college and a guy wanted to hold my hand and I was like, unsure, but I did it. And then I literally bawled my eyes out afterwards because I thought I had cheated on my future husband. I was so wracked with guilt. I don’t think that people, if you didn’t grow up in this can maybe imagine, it sounds silly. It sounds silly, right? It sounds silly to cry about holding hands, but. it was so real for me. I don’t know how to express it. Other than that, it was very real. I really thought I had cheated on my future husband. LINDSEY: Yeah. And, for those who are not familiar with purity culture, it was this big movement in the evangelical Christian Church, where as you said, the church basically wanted to control, the bodies, the thoughts, the sexuality of this new generation of young people. And it was a response to the free love, sex, drugs, and rock and roll of the late sixties and early seventies. And the evangelical church and especially leaders in the Christian world at that time, like Pat Robertson and focus on the family and organizations like that, they really were like, this was their counter move the be sex, drugs, and rock and roll of the sixties and seventies and what they saw as immoral. And, so it was basically like we have to swing in the other direction because the, that was so sinful and there was this big push for God, being displeased with our nation because we were deviating from the principles that our nation was founded on and all, all of this stuff. And I never cried over holding a boy’s hand, but I can certainly, see how that’s definitely like a red flag of purity culture. I remember being taught that even things like kissing were really taboo. And, because in a lot of Christian circles say even saving your first kiss for marriage was something that was demanded of you, because anything that you did, whether it was holding hands or kissing or whatever was, Or at least the way it was explained to me was like, I’m giving away a part of yourself that was meant for your husband. And did you ever do any, true love waits? We, we did those multiple times when I was in junior high and early high school. Did you ever do the true love waits stuff? BLAIR: I never did a specific, true love waits thing. because. I was more so it was more so through a house church, although I did, I do think that I signed an abstinence pledge in my public high school. LINDSEY: Oh, wow. BLAIR: I’m pretty positive that I did, but I mean, we certainly had abstinence only education in my public high school, just a normal suburban high school. But I’m pretty sure we had to sign some or we were given the option to sign a yeah. Air quotes around that. We were given the option to sign this abstinence pledge, after, being shown slides of diseased genitals and all kinds of things for a whole week. Typical scare tactics. And again, I want to emphasize this was public high school that I was shown all of this stuff. Yeah. even if they weren’t presenting it in the context of religion, it was basically the same teachings, but without the God and the Bible part, for sure. LINDSEY: Absolutely. BLAIR: And a lot of. Talk of, your spouse, whoever it is, will be happy that you didn’t put them at risk and all this stuff. It’s all you know, and yet we weren’t told about any kind of harm reduction around sex, weren’t really told anything about how to prevent STI or anything like that. We were just told, you’ll get them. And then you’ll die or you’ll spread them to people you love. And it’s I mean, this is 14 year olds that you’re telling this to. not a lot of, we’re not our brains aren’t fully developed and we’re being told all these scary things. There’s really nowhere for us to go with that except for fear based reactions. LINDSEY: Right, right. Yeah, for sure. And, I did do that true love waits stuff. the church that I grew up in was a Southern Baptist church in Texas. And every year they did an event called disciple now. And for three years in a row, the theme was true love waits. And my understanding is that true love waits was a curriculum that was developed by a Lifeway Christian bookstores and Lifeway was, is a Southern Baptist publishing company. And they developed this curriculum for abstinence and, air quotes, sex education, where basically, you gathered in the church for a weekend and every topic of conversation was about, your virginity being as a girl, especially your virginity, being like the most prized thing that you had and how it needs to be saved, to give to your husband, as this amazing, beautiful gift and sign of your purity. Even, especially for girls too, you mentioned like the way that we dress. So it was this pledge to not wear a two-piece bathing suits or not wear spaghetti straps shirts, because something about our shoulders was deemed really lustful and sinful. So there was, this pledge to dress in a way that honored God too and for your thoughts to honor god. So it was this pledge to not think about sex, not talk about sex, especially with the member of the opposite gender. And then the pledge of course to not have sex before marriage and to commit yourself to a chaste life of purity. And, one of the most probably psychologically damaging illustrations that was used in my childhood was, they would hold up a piece of white printer paper and, they would tear pieces of the paper off and put, throw them on the floor and be like, every time you kiss before you’re married, that’s a piece of yourself that’s gone every time you have lustful thoughts, that’s a piece of yourself that’s gone. And then what was left was like this little scrap of paper with jagged edges. And it was like, this is what you have left to give to your husband on your wedding night if you engage in these activities and, I wasn’t physically sexually harassed. Like I was never raped. I was never like groped when, if I didn’t want to be, I was never touched in an inappropriate way, but I can absolutely say that growing up in this culture was 100% sexual abuse. Do you agree with that? BLAIR: Oh, I totally do. And I know that some people might balk at that idea, but, you really think about what purity culture does is it takes away someone’s control over their own body in the realm of their sexuality. Cause, at all times, your sexuality belongs to God or your spouse, or, is being watched over by your father if you’re a woman. So yes, there’s no circumstances, especially for women or people who the church perceives us women, there’s no circumstances where you have control over your own sexuality. And I think that is, just undeniably that is a form of abuse and certainly sexual abuse and, I’m no researcher, I’m no psychologist in this area, but I have heard a lot of people say, and I agree that. It can have the same traumatic affects as sexual assault, do. Is it’s same? No, but it can have similar effects mentally, emotionally, physically, there’s even, people who experienced purity culture, They can develop vaginismus as can sexual assault victims after assaults. So there’s a lot of correlation and I certainly agree with you there. LINDSEY: Yeah, I actually didn’t realize that it was sexual abuse until I was, three years ago when I was in EMDR therapy and I was processing through religious trauma with my therapist and, this sexuality piece. And, she pointed out that I was experiencing a lot of the same feelings and blocks that survivors of physical sexual abuse experience. And, for me, I was a boy crazy teenager. Like I always had a boyfriend. Granted my boyfriend always was like part of our church, I did fool around with boys. There was a lot of making out a lot of heavy petting things like that going on. And in so many of my dating relationships, we would engage in these perfectly normal teenage behaviors. And I want to state, like those types of behaviors are perfectly normal for developing people who are discovering and exploring their own bodies and their sexuality. But I was engaging in these perfectly normal behaviors. And then my boyfriend and I, whenever it was over, we would feel such guilt and shame that we would actually pray together for God to forgive us. And then we would promise to each other, we’re never going to do this again. And then what happens like the next time we’re together by ourselves? Like it happens again. And so it wasn’t just. I did sign the true love waits card. Like it was like a literal pledge card and you could keep it in your wallet or in your purse and carry it around with you as a constant reminder of the promise that you had made to God and to yourself and to your future spouse. And not only was I being told to repress any and all sexual urges that I was feeling, but then whenever I did. Given using air quotes there. then I felt so much guilt and shame. And, for me, I know a lot of girls, like you, you felt like just holding hands with another boy was, like you were cheating on your future husband. For me, I wasn’t really thinking as much about my future husband as I was, just about how disappointing I must’ve been to God. And, so it was a real dissonance for me and it hasn’t ever actually fully resolved. I’ll be honest. I still experienced blocks in my sexuality and I have a difficult time communicating during sexual intimacy. I have a really hard time saying what I want or what I need, because I was taught that that good girls don’t think that way. Good girls don’t ask for that. I was even taught that women are not sexual that being sexual was in a duty that a wife had to her husband because his need was sex, but my need was not sex. Did you experience that also? BLAIR: Totally. Yeah. And I’ve had similar. Hang ups. Yeah. I mean, I was always taught that, it was the wifely duty or whatever, and, it may even to the point where it was basically very heavily insinuated that it might not be enjoyable for me. And that was okay. I mean, even saying it out loud, I’m like, I can’t imagine why we would be encouraged to just accept an unfulfilling or not enjoyable sexual life. But I was, I mean, that was part of it. It’s it might not feel good to you, you just go along with it. Cause that’s what you’re supposed to do. And just thinking and I’ve had similar hang ups in my twenties, late twenties. Now I’m about to be 30, where it’s hard to communicate about anything, about sex, because I was never given the language or even encouraged to think about how things felt to me or what I liked or wanted or was comfortable with. It was always about what would God say about this? What would my family think about this? What would my future spouse think about this? Not about what I think it was never about what I think, because like you said, I mean, we weren’t even told that we necessarily would have those desires. It’s really, I mean, it is, I think of a form of abuse, like you said, if you look at, I don’t know if you’re familiar with cult models about, how do you tell if something is a cult? I always, I firmly believe that the evangelical church is a sex cult. And how do we define a cult? We look at behavior control, information control, thought control and emotion control. And all four of those things, it’s like huge check marks on all of those when it comes to sex in the evangelical church. And that’s why I say, I think it’s a sex cult and I back it up. I mean, I, there’s a reason. LINDSEY: I think that, yeah, I agree with you a hundred percent. It really is. I mean, not just sex, but literally everything about evangelical Christianity is about control, fear and manipulation, and, I gosh. I mean, where I don’t even know where to start. We could go on and on giving examples of the bonkers behavior and things that we were taught, growing up evangelical. And I want to point out for people listening that this, the people who are most effected by purity culture as children are now. Like from the age of late twenties to like mid forties. So that’s the generation, purity culture started. I remember my first introduction to purity culture. I was like 12. That was the first time I signed a true love waits card. And, started being, given messages about my body and my clothing and the way I was dressing and stuff like that. And I’m 37 now, so that’s 25 years ago. Anybody who was born after me or before me, it was somewhere in there too. So I think the people that are the most effected by purity culture are people who are anywhere from like their mid twenties to mid forties. Now do I have my, do I have my timeline right on? BLAIR: That sounds about right. And I see the, demographics on my Instagram page and it’s pretty much right there in the like, 18 to 45 ranges the top of the bell curve for all of my followers. LINDSEY: Yeah. Can you share part of what healing this trauma has looked like for you? I’m assuming that you’ve done some healing work around this, or you wouldn’t have such a large following, on an account called talk purity to me. So can you share some of the steps that you’ve taken or resources that you found helpful for people who are listening and they’re like, Oh, I grew up in that too. And that would probably have some trauma too. BLAIR: Yeah, totally. One of the biggest things that I’ve done in the best gifts I’ve ever given myself, as I realized. that I didn’t get proper sex education. And I actually put myself through this, sex it’s a sex ed course for adults or anyone who went through purity culture. It’s Erica Smith’s purity culture dropout program. And again, it was I can’t imagine not having this resource for people who went through purity culture. I mean, it is so important because I think one of the worst things for me is that, fear lives in the not knowing something, not having the information, not empowering yourself with the information to find out about, what happens if I have sex without a condom? What happens if what, how do I actually get pregnant? What’s the mechanism in my body that allows that to happen? And if I don’t want to, how do I prevent, how do I prevent it? It’s I had so little education around sex that. I had a ton of fear because I didn’t know about sex. I, so that was huge for me, giving empowering myself with that knowledge from a very experienced sex educator was so healing for me. And it’s so simple, but it’s so important I think. And that’s been huge for me, to just go through that program and, to literally, we go through and we write down, okay. If you’re really afraid of being pregnant, what would actually happen if you got pregnant? What, how would your family respond? How would your partner respond? And just to realize that, your fears are based in a lot of irrational thought because you grew up in purity culture, it’s not. It’s not based in reality. A lot of it, it doesn’t make it not real for you because those fears are very real, but it’s, you’ve built up so much around that fear that you can’t really think clearly about it. LINDSEY: Yeah, I agree. So do you have any other resources? I follow Erica Smith. I, whenever you said that I was familiar with what you said, although I haven’t done the course so maybe that’s the next thing that I need to do. Do you have any other resources or books for people? The only book that’s coming to my mind right now is Linda Kay Klein’s book Pure. Have you read that? BLAIR: Yeah, that’s a really good one. also shameless by Nadia Bolz Weber, is really great. And, there, honestly I think a super healing thing for me as well has been, just being open about this hurt me, purity culture hurt me. And, but I now am taking the steps to heal, myself to, No, that I deserve a help, a healthy sex life and whatever that looks like for me. And it’s gonna look different for everybody to just affirm that I didn’t choose purity culture. It was placed onto me and that despite what I went through now, I have the choice to say, no, that’s not what I want for my life. And I’m going to take back that control and educate myself and get around a community of people that encourages me to have a healthy, happy sex life and not shame me for wanting that or thinking that’s important. If you’re out there and you’re, like me, maybe you’re from a small town or something like that, and you think, who can I talk to about this? I think a lot of people would be surprised, probably, th there may be some people you grew up with who feel the same way you do maybe feel it out, maybe, repost something on your Instagram. See if any of your friends respond to you, maybe just sort of like subtly sort of feel it out with people who are safe and see if you do have any people in your community who you can walk through this experience with, cause it is it’s a journey. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s a process to unlearn all of that. LINDSEY: Yeah. I think, it’s for me whenever I first started deconstructing, religion and Christianity, which for those who are listening, who may not be familiar with this deconstruction is the term that we use when we’re talking about the process of becoming aware that this belief system that we were either raised with or has been a part of our lives for a really long time with regard to substitutionary atonement with Jesus Christ, the Bible being the literal infallible word of God, the one day future return of Jesus to kill everyone who didn’t follow him and then create a new heaven and a new earth, the purity culture. And these are real things. People like, I’m not making this stuff up. Like this is real stuff that people believe. But deconstruction is sort of the process of you become aware that, something isn’t sitting right with you and you begin to just sort of follow these rabbit trails to try to find out like, is what I was raised to believe. Is this really real? Is this really who I am? Is this really serving me and the majority of people that I know. and you and I are both part of the same religious deconstruction community on Instagram. the majority of people that I know, they don’t start the deconstruction process and end up where they started. It always involves, like for me, I like to compare it to, a house of cards. Like you take one card out and question it, and it’s really quickly that the rest of the house falls down. Because really what’s holding it together is fear. And the minute you decide, I’m not going to live in this spher anymore. I’m not going to live under this manipulation and control anymore, then it’s pretty, not easy, but it’s it empowers you to keep moving forward. And, it took me a while with the purity culture specifically, because I think our sexuality is central to our beings. And it’s also the part of ourselves that we often repressed the most, like we might have words, we might express emotions. We might. whatever, but we repress our sexuality and it’s not just because of Christianity. I mean, it is because of Christianity. It’s because of a nation that is ruled by these fundamentalists, patriarchal colonizing beliefs of which repressing sexuality, especially women’s sexuality is really central to keeping the machine running in the way that they want it to run. And by they, the patriarchy. It’s it really hard for me to get to a place where I was even able to say, like you stated earlier, we are, I didn’t choose this, this is not what I want for myself. And I’m going to question it and I’m going to find what is right for me. Just that is monumental because it’s daring to question the system. I mean, it really is daring the system as a whole, not just the church, but like literally the entire Christian patriarchal system that we all live. BLAIR: Yeah. I agree. I mean, there’s this idea that, Maybe if you’re older, it’s too late or, you feel you might even feel dumb for falling for it. I mean, I know that I did, I think back now to some of it and I’m like, how could I be so stupid to fall for this? And I didn’t do it by accident. I was over time. Brainwashed think these things, I didn’t do it because I’m, I didn’t fall into purity culture because I’m a stupid person. I’m not a stupid person. I’m a smart person who thought I was doing the right thing. Right. And so if you’re feeling dumb for falling for purity culture or believing purity culture, I would just say. You’re not dumb at all. You did this in, in good faith. You thought you were doing the right thing and it’s never too late. No matter how old you are, you should have the kind of sex life that you want to have, whether you want to be celibate, whether that’s the right thing for you, whether you want to have casual partners, whether you choose monogamy, you should choose what is right for you. And it’s never too late or too early to do that. LINDSEY: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think it’s really important to point out how, really the only option allowed in purity culture was heterosexual Christian monogamy. And in the last few years, I’ve only really realized that, that I’m bisexual and, a big, that was a big realization for me because. And I, I discovered that after coming out of Christianity and after deconstructing and unpacking those purity culture beliefs, and it was like, Oh, this is this part of myself that I was literally never even allowed to entertain it wasn’t even allowed to be a thought in my head because. As I’m sure you were raised to believe also like God was a lot like Santa Claus, he could see you when you were sleeping. He knew when you were awake and he knew if you had been bad or good. And he was keeping a list and checking it twice. And so God can even read my thoughts. One thing that I, a lot of purity culture survivors that I have talked to have really struggled with is masturbation. Like touching themselves was a big no-no in the Christian Church. Were you raised with that as well? BLAIR: I definitely was, but it was totally presented it in a way where the word was not even used, like we never said that word, but it was, in so many words we were told that was not okay. But I know like for me, for example, like in college I was talking with a guy and, he asked me something about masturbation, about me, like in my own life. And I was like, I really didn’t know that women could masturbate. I truly did not know I was a college student. I was probably 21, 22. I sincerely didn’t realize that women could have an orgasm. Wow. Just, it didn’t occur to me. And he was like, is there something wrong with you? And I said, I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with me that I, can’t or haven’t, or, you know what I mean? Like I really don’t know. And then it was like this whole spiral of thoughts. I was like, is there something wrong with me? Of course there wasn’t anything wrong with me, except for just a lack of information, a lack of education. LINDSEY: The way that we discover our sexuality and you discover that we can have an orgasm is by self touch, right? That’s when that begins to happen. I mean, even little kids, like they put their hand down their pants or when they’re in the bathtub, they touch themselves and I remember freaking out when my kids were little like toddlers and we’re doing that. And I mean, I remember like discouraging them from touching themselves and telling them that they shouldn’t touch themselves and have, since, in the last six years have had to go back and apologize and tell them, I’m sorry I was operating under this set of beliefs that I had at the time that I now realize were harmful to me. And I started to pass those beliefs onto you, and that was wrong of me. And, I mean, I think half of my deconstruction journey has literally been just going back and apologizing to my kids for the things that we taught them when they were little, because my husband was a pastor. We lived in small communities where we were on staff at evangelical churches. My husband and I were both raised in evangelical churches and, So we started out parenting and very fundamentalist way. I mean, even down to keeping the kids home and homeschooling them because we didn’t want them to be tainted by the world, And, just all the things that we’ve had to go back on and tell our kids like, Hey, actually we were wrong about this. And, but to offer hope to people because we did that, we now have a family in which discussing sexuality is very normal and open and not a secret in our family. And that was a huge thing that was missing from my childhood is I did not feel safe to you talk to any adults about sexuality, or I did not have a safe place where I can ask questions because I knew that the answer from all of them would be the same. And that is you shouldn’t be talking about this. You shouldn’t be thinking about this, don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t do it. Don’t just all of these roles and, Do you have to learn now? BLAIR: I don’t have children. I would love to have kids. I’m in that age range where it, lots of my friends have kids and many of them are like me. They grew up in evangelical church, in purity culture, and they’ve since, realized that they don’t want that for their children. And, I feel for them and the weight of that responsibility to give their kids something better than they had. And I can, imagine how heavy that feels and, just like I said, the weight of, trying to make sure you’re doing better for your kids. But I think that there’s never been, more resources than there are right now, more ex angelical parents, more post religious parents than there are right now who are open about what that looks like. And there’s actually a really good Instagram called sex positive families which is amazing resources. Yeah. They just talk very openly about what it means to raise, a child who was sex positive and what comprehensive sex ed actually looks like. Because I think, and evangelicals try to make comprehensive sex ed seem like you’re going to teach a three year old about the mechanics of anal sex, but that’s not actually what it is, that’s what they try to teach. That’s what they try to tell you to scare parents away from allowing comprehensive sex ed in your school. But it actually is just, affirming that there’s you know, stimulation in your body that feels good. And that’s okay. We do that, in private, maybe we, we don’t, we’re not ashamed of it, but it’s, maybe we don’t do it outside in front of everyone. There’s just different, things that you can start to teach your kids that set them up for, a healthy sex outlook in their life and understanding their sexuality. And maybe the most important thing is understanding consent, so that if they are in a position where they’re getting unwanted sexual touch or attention, That they know how to say no to that. LINDSEY: Absolutely. That’s so important. Yeah, for David and I, the thing that we wanted to avoid at all costs, once we started deconstructing Christianity and unpacking purity culture was we both realized that our entire sexual narrative was framed by fear and shame. And so it was like, of course we don’t want that for our kids. And so we’ve had to just slowly, not only apologize to them for the things that we taught them early in their lives that were wrong, but then go back and have conversations about consent and boundaries and even just their anatomy, like just understanding your anatomy and why that’s important and knowing how to name the parts of your body, using the actual anatomically correct terms. And, and because I’m so thankful that we did that and I’m not tooting my own horn as a parent here. Cause it was hard, when you’re raised in a culture that makes sex, such a taboo topic that is shrouded in mystery and shame and fear. Then when you’re an adult and you have kids and it’s time to have those conversations with your kids, it’s very difficult. Not because the actual conversation itself is difficult, but because of all the baggage that you’re carrying into it as a parent. And as we were talking about the age range of the people who are now unpacking purity culture and the damaging effects that it had on them, We’re now parents, ourselves like that age range, 18 to 45, where there’s a lot of parents in there. And a lot of those parents are like you said, I don’t want to raise my kids this way. I, there has to be a better way. And, I feel like we have to, if we’re going to raise really sex, positive kids and families, we have to detach sex from religion completely. There should not be a connection. Like the church, this is the Christian Church. Any religion has no business in people’s bedrooms or in people’s sex lives. BLAIR: I totally agree. Yeah. I mean, and we see how in our country, in the United States, I mean, those are still very much connected. the morality of different people’s sexual choices. I don’t like the Falwells, his Jerry Falwell Jr’s recent sex scandal, if you want to call it that. I mean, that’s not my problem with Jerry Falwell. a lot of people were trying to make his whole little thing that’s been going on that caused him to be fired from Liberty recently where it was. LINDSEY: I literally don’t follow any evangelical news anymore. but I don’t know what you’re talking about. Did this happen recently? So yeah. Can you fill me in here? BLAIR: Yeah. I’ll fill you in. So it was, it came to light that there was maybe some cook holding in the, in his relationship with his spouse, meaning they had both agreed, to allow someone else into their sexual relationship. And I guess jerry, enjoys more the voyeur role. This is all what has come out in the news. A lot of people were making the scandal about that. but it’s, to me, I’m like, that’s not the problem with Jerry Falwell and his wife can do whatever they want to do in their own bedroom. I don’t care what Jerry Falwell’s sex life is. And I don’t think anyone else should care what Jerry Falwell’s sex life is. So when I started hearing exvangelicals sort of trying to like shame Jerry I’m like, why are we doing that? I have a whole list of things we can, talk about what Jerry Falwell, but that’s not one of them, let’s talk about how he has shamed, homosexuals or, let’s talk about that. Let’s not talk about what Jerry does in his own life. And I think maybe that was their point. It’s look at what he’s doing when he tries to tell people that gay marriage is a sin, maybe they’re trying to say, he’s a hypocrite and I agree, he can still have his own sex life and do whatever he wants to do. Yeah. I mean, and then I think the important thing to point out with that is that he and his wife came to an agreement of we want to allow another person in our bedroom or we’re going to have an open relationship or whatever, like them coming to that agreement is not unusual. It’s just unusual or we think it’s unusual because nobody’s talking about it because the majority of our cultures still buys into the heterosexual monogamous relationship. And because that’s the narrative they believe then whenever somebody starts to live their life outside of that narrative, it’s Whoa, you are immoral. And you are a sinner. And, actually, I mean, yeah. Is what Jerry Falwell and his wife did. Against the Bible probably. Yeah, again, why are we consulting a thousands year old texts, an antiquated texts for sexual advice. LINDSEY: Exactly. BLAIR: Why is that our standard, and a standard that is a faulty because it’s been proven how much of the Bible is mistranslated. And, one example being the scripture that a lot of Christians like to use about homosexuality being an abomination. If you actually go back to the accurate translation of the Bible, the word there is not homosexual, A man laying with another man or a woman with another woman it’s actually pedophilia. So religion shouldn’t have a say in the conversation about sexuality because it’s misinformed. It’s all about fear, manipulation and shame. And it’s not unusual for people to be attracted to more than one person. It’s not unusual for people to have open relationships. They’re just not talking about it. it’s not unusual for me to be attracted to both men and women and like that doesn’t make me a sinner or an abomination. It doesn’t mean that God loves me any less. It’s just that we have to start talking about these things because a lot of us are going through really similar things. LINDSEY: We’ve come out of purity culture and we’re like, Holy shit, there’s this whole wide world about sex and sexuality that I did not know existed. And it can actually be really fun to explore when you take out the fear and the shame. One of the things that I love, we follow both of these women on Instagram. They’re both exvangelicals is, Chelsea from healing embodied and, her bare naked soul. And they both do a lot of like erotic pole dance and, they are putting it out there and they’re like, This has been such a healing thing for me and my sexuality. And it’s allowed me to cast off the shame and guilt and the fear. And, I’m like, yes, we need more of this. BLAIR: Yeah. I think anything that, we talked about earlier, how purity culture really takes away a person’s control over their own sex life. And, I’ve talked to actually many people who grew up in purity culture who have found that BDSM is a very healing experience for them because, and I’m not an expert. So all the BDSM folks, correct me if I’m wrong or whatever, but it allows you everyone involved to feel like they have control over what’s happening and, there’s safeguards in place to make sure everyone’s comfortable and, checking in with one another. And I just think that’s so beautiful. If that’s something you’re interested in, to feel like that is a way for you to regain control over your sexuality and to experience things in a safe way. Yeah, I just, I never thought about that until someone mentioned that to me and I was like, wow, that’s actually really beautiful. And that makes total sense. I can absolutely understand why BDSM would be a very healing thing for someone who grew up in purity culture. so that they could feel like they had some agency in their own sex life, through that experience. LINDSEY: For sure. I also feel like it’s really difficult for those of us who grew up in purity culture. I mean, again, not just christians and purity of culture, but society as a whole, they’re very colonizer, patriarchal, male dominated society is what we see played out in, Hollywood on TV shows and movies where. Like my husband and I had just finished watching, Outlander and we both love the show, love the show. But the thing that I always rolled my eyes about during the show is there’s a lot of sex scenes in that show. And they’re all like, the man inserts himself, like immediately, there’s no foreplay. He’s just thrusting really hard, and then they’re done. And it’s this is what people think sex is supposed to look like. And yeah, Jamie is very, he’s very sensitive with Claire and he’s very, loving and everything like that. I do love Claire and Jamie’s relationship, but, I still roll my eyes every time that a scene that comes on because it’s this is just perpetuating this story, that this is how sex looks and that it’s very much all about the man and not about the woman at all. And, just the, nobody has sex with immediate insertion. Like nobody does. Right. it just doesn’t work that way. And, but because that’s, what’s perpetuated in Hollywood, it’s just this very like male centric. This is what it looks like. And I feel like there’s a lot of women, we can start to feel like, what am I doing wrong? Cause my partner can’t do that with me. Like that hurts if my partner inserts too soon or, but purity culture doesn’t teach us to think that way. And it doesn’t teach us to speak up for ourselves that way. And then the grander culture of american, Hollywood and TV shows is continually perpetuating that like male centric, sexual position. BLAIR: Yeah. And, I. I don’t begrudge anyone. Their fantasy is because sexual fantasy is super important, but it is interesting the stories played out in mainstream media, Netflix, et cetera. there’s I guess it’s a movie I couldn’t with Netflix. It’s hard to tell what’s a movie in a series sometimes. Cause it just keeps going, but it’s that. 365 days. Have you seen the preview for that? Okay. it just popped up on my Netflix, so it was like a Sunday and I was, I don’t recommend it, but it, it was interesting because the whole premise is that the man essentially kidnaps the woman and says you have 365 days to fall in love with me. And then they end up, spoiler alert they ended up getting together and they have just a lot of, that very passionate heat of the moment sex. And I’m like, okay, first of all, this is, very much assault and how, you are now having sex with your captive, this person you’ve kept captive, so this doesn’t feel right at all. But also just like the whole way it was made. It was like really romanticized. I don’t know. It was very problematic to me, but also the like damsel in distress thing, but I’m like, you’re in distress because he came back to you like, and now you’re. I dunno, it just felt so weird to me. And I don’t know. LINDSEY: Yeah. Stuff like that. And it’s like a mind fuck. BLAIR: Seriously. I’m like, if that’s your fantasy again, okay, whatever, people have fantasies for reason, and things that they wouldn’t actually want to happen in their real life. But. That to me was like, it was a lot, it was a lot to take in. LINDSEY: Would you say Blair, I don’t know if there’s a, if there’s ever an arrival date, but would you say that you are at least mostly through healing sexual trauma from purity culture? Or do you, are you in the middle of your journey? Do you still a long way to go? Like where are you at in your own story? BLAIR: Still think there’s a road ahead for me. I still think that I have some work to do in my own life, because for me, and I don’t know if that’s this way for other people, but as I heal, I see more that, I need to heal. and that’s. Not to discourage anyone cause there’s so much joy in the healing process and learning about myself and that self-discovery process. But I do think, like you mentioned earlier, our sexuality is so central to, our sense of self, how we place ourselves in the world, you know how we think about it. It just goes so deep, in our own lives that it’s not, not typically a quick fix when it comes to the healing process. For me, it’s, I still definitely feel like there’s a ways to go, but I also celebrate how far I’ve come, because I do think that I’ve come a really long way in my, my journey. But, I don’t know if it’s a personality thing or something, it really affected me very deeply. So I think there’s a, still a ways to go. LINDSEY: Yeah. I say this all in front, on the podcast, I feel like awareness is 90% of the battle and just being aware of what purity culture has done to us and aware that we are not broken. Our sexuality is not broken. Like we were abused and brainwashed and just that awareness is like, Oh, okay, now I know what it is and I can do something about it and I can go at my own pace. And, I can educate myself. Like you said, that self-education and sex education is so important. would, do you have any words of advice that you would give to people who are, coming out of religion, Christianity in particular purity culture and are unpacking this for the first time and this feels like a really big, scary thing ahead. Would, do you have any words of advice for them? BLAIR: Yeah, I would just say, start practicing with telling people, what you like and don’t like, and I encourage you to start that before you get to a place where you’re about to have sex with someone. Practice it outside of a highly emotional, sexual situation because. You can gain the confidence outside of those situations, and then you’ll be better prepared once, you are in a sexual situation, and I mean, even with friends, with family members start practicing, voicing your boundaries, your beliefs, your opinions, what you like, what you don’t like, what you will accept in your relationships, the behaviors and actions of others that you will accept in your own life. I would say start practicing that because in Christianity we’re often encouraged to just, if someone’s, doing something we don’t like, we just need to like, be the bigger person and what. You don’t have to, if something, if somebody is violating your boundaries or not treating you well, you don’t actually have to accept that. And I would encourage you to practice saying no to that in your own life, before you get to a sexual situation where it can feel really vulnerable and scary to do that. LINDSEY: Absolutely. Yeah. I’m so glad you brought up the Christianity and the lack of boundaries. There is zero boundary setting and Christianity and setting boundaries is really frowned upon and discouraged. And so it has created billions of co-dependents because none of us know how to set boundaries. And I agree that is such a great place to start is just with your boundaries. BLAIR: A lot of the questions I get from people, they’re just looking for advice for me. Cause you know, I’ve put myself out there as someone who wants to talk about these things. And I, feel honored for everyone who reaches out to me, but they just, so many of the questions are, my friend or my family member or my coworker, keeps telling me that I’m going to hell or I’m living in sin because I live with my boyfriend or I have sex, and I’m not married, And. And there, people ask me, what do I do? And if you want a relationship with this person, who’s treating you this way and, I respect that if this is someone who’s important to you and you want to still have them in your life, you’re going to have to set some really hard boundaries. And you’re going to have the self-love to keep those boundaries, because only you can hold your own boundary. You can’t expect someone else to hold your boundary that you’ve set. You have to hold your boundary. And it’s an act of love for yourself to hold the boundary that you’ve set with others who are treating you in a way that is not accepted. LINDSEY: Absolutely. And that’s, that’s what, purity, culture and Christianity in general, they don’t teach. It’s all about loving other people, but it’s not about loving yourself. And, to have a healthy sexuality, you have to love yourself. You can’t just be about the other person. BLAIR: The most important sexual relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. Even if you’re married, whether you’re single, married, whatever, that’s the most important sexual relationship you have is what you develop with yourself and for yourself. So if you’re struggling with, in the area of sexuality and you’re trying to get better and heal because, you want to do it for someone else, I would say. Take a step back because you need to do it for yourself. Your healing is always for you. And it’s not selfish to center yourself in that, cause you can’t be whole when you’re trying to still give to others and think about others in your own healing. LINDSEY: Yeah. Very well said. Can you tell people how they can find you? BLAIR: Yeah, I’m on Instagram and tic-tok, for people who have that, @talkpuritytome, it’s the same handle on both platforms. I started my Instagram and then realized that there’s a lot of really toxic Christianity on Tik TOK too. And, wherever those people are, I’m going to try to be there because I don’t want it to become an echo chamber for all the. LINDSEY: Yeah, amen to that. Oh, Blair, this has been such a pleasure to get to finally talk to you after I’ve been following you on Instagram for about a year. really loved it. I’m going to have all the resources to everything that you’ve mentioned as well as how to find you in the show notes. And thank you so much for joining me. BLAIR: Yes. Thanks so much for having me. This has been awesome. LINDSEY: What a great interview. I really hope you all enjoyed that. And I will have links to everything that we talked about in this episode the books the purity culture dropout course from erica smith sex ed how to follow Blair on instagram and everything else that we talked about in the show notes of the podcast you can find show notes at lindseylockett.com/Podcast and this is episode 14. And as always, you can find me on Instagram @iamlindseylockett [OUTRO MUSIC]
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