I am living with my boyfriend (and what that means for my purity)

Dear Dad,

In a lot of ways, yesterday’s phone call was a relief. I had been so afraid to tell you, but now I can freely say: I live with my boyfriend.

In the past, when the topic of men in or near my residence came up, you became distressed, so I thought I’d save both of us the emotional strain. When I told you I was moving into a house with a couple guys and a girl, you were so unhappy that I fretted about it for weeks, though I knew the men were honorable and they made good roommates. When I told you a funny story my neighbor told me about blue balls, your face became dark red and you said, “I’m going to kill him.” So obviously, I worried saying,”I’m moving in with my boyfriend,” would bring some backlash. I’ve learned to just avoid certain topics to keep from upsetting you.

But now, the cat’s out of the bag. I live with my boyfriend. And of course, that means we’re having sex.

This is the real heart of the matter. This is why I couldn’t tell you. Because you raised me to believe that a woman’s worth is in her purity, her value is in that she has “saved herself” until marriage. Not that she has waited to engage in a sexual act until marriage, but literally saved her entire being.

You raised me to approach sex with fear and shame, not open communication. Instead of discussing how or when to decide to have sex, I was told simply, “Don’t do it. Doing it is bad. You’ll regret it.” Remember that story of your friend who had sex once in college and felt everyone was staring at her and knew her guilty secret, Dad? Yeah, that story haunted me.

Even after I decided I would not wait until marriage, it took me years before I felt I was free of that guilt, before I trusted that I could make conscious, informed sexual decisions without hating myself afterward for somehow being less good than before.

This is a problem, Dad. This purity culture taught me that my value was inextricably linked to whether or not I had had sex. And if I had, I was less desirable or good than if I was “pure.” My smarts, my accomplishments, my integrity, my talents, my goals, none of them are as important to my value as a woman as my sexual activity, according to this belief.

But sex does not have to be like that. It can be enriching and fulfilling. It can be fun. It brings partners together and is an expression of both affection and desire. And it is not necessary to marry a virgin for this to be true.

Do I regret some of my decisions? Of course. But then, I regret what I ate for lunch yesterday. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy dinner. If I had waited until marriage, I’m sure I would still have regrets, as I’d have no idea how to express my wants or communicate my boundaries.

In the end, I’ve learned that what is most important for a fulfilling sexual relationship is trust, open communication and attraction. My partner and I have all of these. We care about each other and communicate and have a fulfilling relationship. He wants me regardless of whether or not I’ve “saved myself.” And I have freed myself from shame and can openly, joyfully ask for what I want. It’s wonderful.

I am sorry I hurt you and mom by not telling you sooner. I knew you would disapprove and was afraid of your anger. I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused you. I’m not sorry for having sex.

Love,
Victoria

P.S. For more on how purity culture leads, Christianity and fulfilling relationships, check out Libby Anne’s blog Love, Joy, Feminism. This is a good post on how purity robs women of sexual agency. And I highly recommend Samantha Field over at Defeating the Dragon’s post about how harmful tying women’s worth entirely to their virginity is. I related very strongly to the Christian object lessons she describes, as well as deep feelings of shame and dirtiness.

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7 thoughts on “I am living with my boyfriend (and what that means for my purity)

  1. I was raised to “save myself” for marriage too. Thankfully it was not ingrained into my mind by my parents that my virginity defines me/makes me valuable, but I still have had to deal with feeling guilty about sexual things since leaving Christianity. I hope everyone will become more open about sex as the years go on. And I hate hate hate the whole “purity” thing. Anyway, you do you! 🙂

  2. Vicki,

    It took courage to write this. You’ve got courage in spades. I admire your willingness to expose your private business in the name of helping others.

    As a mother and a daughter this topic is more compelling than most for me. As you know, I send Sophia to a Christian school. They, and I, teach attributes such as modesty and self discipline. I do not relish the coming years of her battles with defining and testing these ideals, but I intend to hold the standard of behavior as high as one can imagine.

    I agree that women’s identifies ought not be predicated on the shape her hymen is in. That said, it is a highly desireable trait, in men and women, to have a well honed commitment to healthy lifestyle. This is enough for me to justify teaching her to stay out of physical intimacy outside of marriage…for now.

    Between you, me, and the lamp post (and your dad, hi Carl) I will be better able to relate to her if she indulges her natural sexual urges than if she doesn’t. But I know how much sooner we all think we are ready for the complexities these choices birth than we truly are, or ought to be. I’m hoping to support her in discovering a healthy knowledge of her sensuality while also maintaining the integrity of obedience and self denial. We are very open and positive about sexuality; both the good and the bad.

    What we can’t know is how many traumatizing, life altering circumstances you avoided by being convinced (albeit through means you can’t appreciate) to wait until now to live with a partner. Certainly you can conceive of how many sticky situations young women (and their parents) can become embroiled in if they aren’t given a convincing deterrent. I can tell you that my parents have been through so much more pain due to my escapades than they would have had if I had been raised to ‘wait’. But they were ‘cool’. They told me they would support me no matter what I chose and that waiting isn’t necessarily all it’s cut out to be. I told myself I could handle whatever came of my choices. And I have. But many have suffered because of those choices. Avoidable suffering.

    You waited longer. You have been forced to earn every ‘advancement’ you make toward independence by debating them with a very strong ‘opponent’. What a wonderful gift! It is helping you become a stable, well rounded adult who is age appropriate. I’m giving your upbringing a nod for it. Parenting is a tough business. You can take the credit when your kids turn out as well as you have. 😉

    Again, thank you for handling these tough topics!

    ♡♡

  3. As you describe your childhood, I often wonder if it was the same one I’m remembering. For example, my attitude doesn’t limit a female’s worth to her sexual activity. ( nor a male’s, BTW) so it surprises me that that is your take away.

    YOU are very precious to me. So is our relationship. These are why I treasure honesty. I also value variety. To me, it adds to the enjoyment of relationships if the partners in them aren’t “ditto heads” (echoing one another’s thoughts and opinions on every matter). It is both more challenging and more fun to relate to someone who expresses ‘otherness.’

    As for the sexual act itself, you now know firsthand how deeply it can affect one. It bonds, warms, and charges intimacy as few other activities can. Its power is one reason to choose carefully when, with whom and under what circumstances to engage in it. Personally, I’ve never regretted marital fidelity; it’s been great for me.

    Thank you again, V, for your honesty. Bisous!

    • Thanks, Mom. I hope I was clear that these are the messages I received, not necessarily what you were trying to convey. And at the same time, both you and Dad have always encouraged my endeavors in school and in my career and areas of interest. At the same time, between family discussions on abstinence, a purity ring, and lessons in youth group and at Christian camps, I got the message loud and clear that the only option was abstinence, and when I sought something else, I felt lost and had to find a new way of approaching sex.

      Thanks for your feedback, Mom. I love you. Bisous!

  4. I think this is both a wonderful post and a courageous act,but I agree with moms’ post that your childhood seems somewhat dramatized.

    I understand that your experience was different than mine due to many things including gender. As the first child to get caught having sex (or caught doing pretty much anything bad), I know the terror that dad’s abstinence only policy can instill. I don’t think I would have survived if dad had confronted me in person (rather than by phone from Minnesota), when he found out I was having sex with my HS girlfriend. He was obviously disappointed and warned me of numerous dangers. Some were exaggerated but some ring shockingly true to this day.

    I agree that abstinence is not necessary before marriage, but you diverge from that point to claim that proponents of abstinence ( aka dad) strictly believe that a womens worth is attached to her sexual life. I don’t believe this is where dad or many abstinence proponents come from. It would be incredibly sexist for me to assume that a girl measures herself solely based on sex because she wishes to be abstinent until marriage.

    Dad was not as open or understanding about the possibility of sex as he could have been.This was because he valued us not because he valued abstinence. Kyle is the one I remember highly valuing abstinence. I see dad’s actions and comments towards you as a relatively typical reaction of a man who has watched a little girl he loves blossom into a woman. I can’t imagine how that feels but after being an adolescent male I can understand what he’s afraid of.

    I love your posts and they create wonderful discussions. I feel your hyperbole sometimes poisons the dialogues. That being said.. GREAT writing and congratulations on Sonoma!!!

  5. I’ve read all your posts. You write well.

    My sense is that maybe there are a number of issues that you need to either work through or simply get over. Really. This is textbook stuff. But you seem to be wrapping it up in a feminist kilt for your own purposes. It’s a little too obvious, and frankly, crude.

    I say, work out your deeper issues, and then come back with your feminist perspective. (A valid perspective, in my opinion.) But you seem to be so mired in other essential issues that your intended message may be derailed.

    • Hi Stephen. Thank you.

      I am still growing, that’s true. I like to think of life as a growing process and I hope I continue to grow and evolve until I’m old and gray.

      This blog is about working out issues in a lot of ways. If you’ve seen my about section, it sprung from my father’s apprehension about my feminist views, and my desire to foster a dialogue with him on that subject. So it’s personal, at times painful, and very rewarding in many ways. And in that sense it has always been about feminism and how feminism and patriarchy affect me personally. I think I’ve been true to that.

      Thank you for your interest.

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