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.

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.

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.

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.

11 comments
  1. Wow. This is profound. Thanks for the courage. The best advice I could give to any newlywed is to SLOW DOWN — in EVERY area of the relationship. Don’t feel so rushed, particularly when it comes to sex.

    Check out a post I wrote about this topic: http://paulperkins.com/newlyweds/

  2. A woman comes forward and expresses her honest feelings about marital sex, including disappointment that she was letting her husband down by not “performing” and a dude has the nerve to come on here and called her narrow minded and bitter? And that the magazine had lost integrity for posting this?

    Bro. Humanity has lost integrity due to your existence. Just stop.

  3. “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.”

    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 persons needs.

  4. The Old Testament law is categorized into three parts: the civil, ceremonial/priestly and the moral. Christians do not advocate the civil penalties for sexual misconduct for men or women as commanded in the Old Testament because Jesus has fulfilled the requirements of the civil and ceremonial/priestly law in the Old Covenant and we now live under the New Covenant.

    The penalty in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is part of the civil law. Sexual purity was highly valued in the culture at the time and a father was charged for the care of his daughter. If his daughter was promised to be a virgin at the time of the marriage, then the fact that she was not would bring disgrace on the father and possibly the family for the violation of God’s law. The daughter was stoned not because she was not a virgin because of the deception involved on her part in claiming to be one.

    The moral law is based upon the character of God. In Romans 13:8–14 we see that the moral law is still binding on Christians in the New Covenant. Every moral law or moral concept contained in the Old Testament that is restated in the New Testament is still binding. Premarital sex, or fornication (Acts 15:20, 29; Cor. 6:9) is against God’s law and is sin.

  5. Oh, I thought that this “cognitive dissonance” was the whole point of the article, that her church experience unfortunately reinforced that conflicting point of view in her. The conclusion I gathered was not at all that the pain was worth it but that the pain was unnecessary.

  6. I don’t think Jesus was asking us to be perfect in that verse. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have needed him to save us. I always thought the point of that passage was to teach that all sin is equal, and that we need his forgiveness constantly. Yes, adultery is a sin. No, it is not any worse than any other sin–there is no scale. We are all equal in God’s eyes.

  7. I don’t think Jesus was asking us to be perfect in that verse. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have needed him to save us. I always thought the point of that passage was to teach that all sin is equal, and that we need his forgiveness constantly. Yes, adultery is a sin. No, it is not any worse than any other sin–there is no scale. We are all equal in God’s eyes, and he loves us despite our flaws. 🙂

  8. I don’t think Jesus was asking us to be perfect in that verse. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have needed him to save us. I always thought the point of that passage was to teach that all sin is equal, and that we need his forgiveness constantly. Yes, adultery is a sin. No, it is not any worse than any other sin–there is no scale. We are all equal in God’s eyes, and he loves us despite our flaws. 🙂

  9. I don’t think Jesus was asking us to be perfect in that verse. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have needed him to save us. I always thought the point of that passage was to teach that all sin is equal, and that we need his forgiveness constantly. Yes, adultery is a sin. No, it is not any worse than any other sin–there is no scale. We are all equal in God’s eyes, and he loves us despite our flaws. 🙂

  10. This post hits on some of the same points I have blogged about time and again the last two or three years in several posts on my own blog, such as this one:

    “Christian Stereotypes About Female Sexuality : All Unmarried Women Are Supposedly Hyper Sexed Harlots – But All Married Ones are Supposedly Frigid or Totally Uninterested in Sex”

    The link/ URL to that page is (and please see the additional links at the bottom of this page, under the “Related Posts, this blog” section):

    http://christianpundit.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/christian-stereotypes-about-female-sexuality-all-unmarried-women-are-supposedly-hyper-sexed-harlots-but-all-married-ones-are-supposedly-frigid-or-totally-uninterested-in-sex/

    I also have many blog posts discussing how Christians tell virgins that if they refrain from sex until their wedding night that the married sex will be regular – and, their favorite phrase – that married sex will be, “Mind Blowing.”

    I have several posts at my blog with links to letters from married couples to advice columnists, and links to articles, about people who were virgins until they married, but either the married sex was terrible, or their partner lost all interest in sex, so that they are now living in Sexless Marriages.

    So, it is not true that if you stay a virgin until you marry that the sex will be frequent, great, and satisfying.

    Another false belief: Christians often teach that marriage makes a person impervious to sexual sin. That is wrong. Peruse any Christian news publication, and you will see daily to weekly news stories of married Christian men who work as preachers who are caught in adultery, fondling children, or using porn, etc.

    Christians assume that single adults over 30 are all a bunch of harlots but that married Christians are chaste and sexually pure, but that is not true at all.

  11. @ John Morgan.

    John Morgan said,
    “1. Hand holding leading to sex being taught by most parents, teachers, church leaders and books? That’s hard to believe.”

    No, dude, it’s really not hard to believe. How dare you feign ignorance of this point, when I’ve been blogging about that topic and the others she mentions on this page on my Word Press Christian Pundit blog for two or three years now, whch you know, because you’ve been to that blog and have read Iit – and even though I had to ban you from that blog, I know you still came by and read it.

    Christians sexualize almost everything.

    Baptists, fundamentalists, the Reformed, and evangelicals are so paranoid that any and all male-female enter-action will lead to sex, they warn single adults to stay away from each other, or they sternly caution singles not to so much as go out to coffee dates with each other for platonic chit chat, for the fear it will TURN TO SEX.

    (Examples of this, with book titles and page numbers can be found in the book “Singled Out” by Field and Colon, if anyone needs documentation. I also have examples, with links, on my Word Press blog.)

    Christians do not believe that men and women can be platonic friends.

    Christians are especially paranoid that all un-married women are randy little harlots who set their sights on married Christian men, so in their sermons, blogs, and books, they frequently tell married Christian men above all never to meet alone with an un-married woman, don’t give her a lift in a car, keep the office door open if a woman meets you in your office, etc.

    I have blogged examples of married Christian things saying that trash at my blog, such as…

    “Southern Baptists Perpetuate Myths About Genders, Sex, and Adult Singles at 2014 ERLC Summit – All Women Are harlots, men cannot control themselves”

    http://christianpundit.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/southern-baptists-perpetuate-myths-about-genders-sex-and-adult-singles-at-2014-erlc-summit/

    A quote from one article I linked to on that page:
    “A panel led by Bethancourt offered suggestions to help pastors stay sexually pure, including leaning on Jesus and putting a glass door on the office so others can see in.”

    John Morgan said,
    “2. Discussing your body being locked up on your wedding night was the responsibility of your church? I think that would fall to your OB-GYN doctor.”

    She’s saying that the church’s slanted, warped views about sex and sexuality created psychological problems, which manifested themselves as physical issues for her. And that is her church’s responsibility.

    Also, given that we are living in a church culture where

    1. every other sermon has a title such as, “Ten Tips For Great Married Sex” and where
    2. Rev Mark Driscoll tells Christian married couples in his “Real Marriage” book that they should have anal sex and he advises women to perform oral sex during church services, and where
    3. and where Pastor Ed Young Jr had a “Sexperiment” at church, where he and his wife got into a bed on the church’s roof…

    I don’t see it as a stretch for a church to go ahead and discuss her particular problem in this area. They might as well, they are discussing every other sexual topic under the sun already.

    John Morgan said,

    “3. Girls don’t care about sex? That sounds like something your culture taught you, not your church.”

    No, that is in fact something churches, preachers, and Christians do in fact teach – that only men are visually stimulated and enjoy sex, while women (especially married ones) supposedly prefer “emotonal bonding” and have to be cajoled into having sex.

    (Conversely, un-married Christian women are assumed by most churches to be randy harlots who bed hundreds of men per week.)

    I have blogged about that nasty gender stereotype repeatedly at my blog the last two years, which I know you have read, so you cannot feign ignorance.

    Many Christians support something called “gender complementarianism” which buys into secular American gender stereotypes, including ones pertaining to sex.

    Preachers, and other Christian personalities, such as Ed Young Sr., Mark Driscoll, Jimmy Evans, Christian marriage guru M. Gungor and others, teach the belief that “women and girls don’t like sex, don’t want sex, and don’t about sex” constantly in their books, blogs, and sermons.

    Here are some of my posts about these topics:

    Christian stereotypes about female sexuality:
    http://christianpundit.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/christian-stereotypes-about-female-sexuality-all-unmarried-women-are-supposedly-hyper-sexed-harlots-but-all-married-ones-are-supposedly-frigid-or-totally-uninterested-in-sex/

    When Women Wanted Sex Much More Than Men – and how the stereotype flipped:
    http://christianpundit.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/when-women-wanted-sex-much-more-than-men-and-how-the-stereotype-flipped/

    The reverse to that Christian stereotype about women is that all Christian men are horny horn dogs who are so sexually uncontrolled they are practically raping every woman they meet. I have blogged about that before too.

    John Morgan said,
    “How are churches presenting saving sex until marriage in a “distorted way.” It sounds like what you experienced was due to your own unrealistic expectations, not due to anything the church taught. “

    Wow. You pretend on your own blog as though Christians get singles and celibacy all wrong, but then you come on to this blog and say the exact opposite, which makes it sound as though you are just trolling this lady’s blog post.

    Yes, churches are in fact teaching virginity-until-marriage in a distorted way.

    I have example after example at my blog of how they are doing so. Churches constantly re-enforce unrealistic expectations, such as telling young Chrisitans if they just wait until their wedding night to have sex, that the sex will be great and wonderful – which is often not the case at all (I have examples at my blog).

    Most churches these days are not supporting virginity, but for the ones who bother to do so, they are adding a lot of un-biblical baggage on to the concept that messes people up, or giving men sexist ideas about women and female sexuality.

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