True Love Waits: A Woman's Perspective

I just put up an article about sexual purity, abstinence, purity culture, and True Love Waits Weekends: "True Love Waits: What My Youth Pastor Did Right"

It was my personal views on growing up in that culture, how it shaped me and my views on sex. And it was mostly positive.

I know full well it is not the whole story, which I why I put out a question to my women Facebook friends:

During the True Love Waits weekends or at other times when girls were getting taught by themselves (perhaps only by ---the youth pastor's wife), or another female leader) were you ever made to feel as if sex itself was dirty or to feel guilty about your body and how boys will lust over it. Note, I'm not asking if girls were called to sexual purity or abstinence or to dress modestly, but if instead sex itself was looked down on or guilt was associated with sex.

Now of course, this is not a scientific study but merely an assorted collection of anecdotes. I do believe though that these womens' stories represent a decent mix of perspectives. Like the many negative articles about purity culture I simply want them to stand on their own. I have kept their stories anonymous and will continue doing so unless they tell me otherwise:

I didn't feel like it was taught that way specifically. (Sex was bad, etc) I think they tried to make it clear that sex was a gift that was only for marriage. My guess is if there were some girls in attendance who had sex before, they probably did feel guilty. But I don't think it was intended to be that way.

When attending a True Love Waits weekend, I don't remember being made to feel sex was dirty or inappropriate. My past experiences had already made me feel this way. I was very thankful to be taught that waiting was not only a wise choice but one that honored God and my own body. I didn't have anyone in my life daring enough to discuss sex and intimacy with me. Because of the openness and vulnerability of the True Love Waits conference, I made a commitment to wait and honored it until my wedding day!

I don't remember being taught it was dirty but it definitely wasn't a positive. And there was guilt associated with it. I think they just didn't teach us the purpose or the good of it in the light of what they were saying God wanted it to be. I think it was more important to focus on avoiding it at all costs from even the first glance than anything else. I distinctively remember a time that ---(youth pastor's wife) was talking about how women should never complain when they are on their period and how they should be strong and never show weakness by emotions. I was super pissed because I thought that was crap. (which I think is totally ironic) but in general, that's the problem is that they didn't teach us how to be women outside of a conservative mindset and didn't teach us how to find a husband, to be a wife or to form a marriage. Simply how to not have sex or else....----(her husband) and I have said that we want to focus on teaching our kids to marry the right person/be the right spouse because (imo) it's a much worse situation to be in a bad marriage than to have had sex with someone outside of marriage. I think, in general, the church has done a piss poor job of teaching youth about sex which becomes a daily part of your life. I get that they didn't want to build it up and thus get us all horned up and send us out to the wolves but I don't think the positives or virtues of it were discussed.

Hmm. I don't think I remember that as a specific issue. The true love waits stuff, as a whole, presented sex as a bad thing. It was the big bad wolf, that we all tiptoed around and never spoke about directly. The biggest thing I remember is waiting for the talk about how it was normal to feel lust and the urge to have sex-as teens it was surprising that they left it up to us to interpret on our own, and the rest of the information was geared toward us to come to that 'dirty and wrong' conclusion. Does that make sense? 
I think that ---(youth pastor)---(youth pastor's wife), and ----(church name) meant well and had their hearts in the right place...but instead of all the no no no, why not acknowledge the God-given feelings that are normal and appropriate and focus on how to exist as someone who is remaining a virgin with said feelings. It's a big part of why I left that church and God as a whole. I felt broken because I didn't know how or where to put my feelings and beliefs. I had hard questions that went unanswered and I couldn't stop feeling incredibly guilty about regular life choices, like the music I listened to or if I didn't carry my True Love Waits bible at school...

Now I mock that type of thing.  I felt great relief when the movie 'Saved' came out because it was the reality of my teen years, backsliding language and everything. There's no place in my life for shame or guilt where there should be none. I hope my boys are Virgins when they get married, but it's pretty low on my priority list. I would hope they grow into gentlemen who love God and treat others with kindness and respect, and respect their own bodies as well.

I hope that all made sense. I clearly had a lot of issues with ----(church name), not just with this issue. But it sucked to feel like I was wrong and abnormal and dirty for wanting to kiss my boyfriend. 

Interesting question.  Im going to attempt to answer before I over-think it.  

Sex as a "dirty" topic was something I struggled with throughout my late teens and early adulthood.   I was raised in the church, but came to a personal faith in Christ in my early teens.  I was a always a "good girl."  And I have to say that by my high school graduation and 2 True Love Waits conferences, sex was a topic I still didn't fully understand. The topic of sex was something good girls don't talk about. 
Looking back, I assumed this was just how I was raised and how my family dealt with the topic.  I had never really connected my uneasiness with the topic with True Love Waits.  What I can say though, is that I feel like my parents gave me very little information and specifically encouraged me to attend this conference  in order to be fully informed.  But 15 years later I remember being told to have high expectations for a husband (I still have my Standards list:-)),  don't have sex until you're married,  stay as far away as possible from anything remotely sexual, and men will lust after you if you don't dress properly.  
My confusion afterwards was based in not have an understanding of what is sex? What makes something sexual?  I remember during a True Love Waits conference someone brought up the question "How far is too far?"  The answer was that if you are asking that question then you have already gone too far,  You don't try to see how close you can get to the edge of a cliff, you just run away.  

That left me with the impression that a physical relationship with a man was not something I should ever be involved in.  I spent years struggling with why God created me with a desire for something I wasn't supposed to have.  I was 24 years old, and engaged to be married before I was able to finally come to terms with a scriptural view of sex.  After reading and researching and praying, I still spent the first few years of my marriage feeling like I was doing something wrong.  Worse, I was enjoying something wrong.  I've been married for almost 9 years, and every once in a while I still feel guilty that my husband and I kissed before we were married.  Back at True Love Waits the big challenge was to save that first kiss for your wedding day.  

I can't blame it all on True Love Waits, sex was a taboo subject in our home and my parents never really gave me any information.  But looking back I just wish someone had explained to me what the purpose of sex is.  And that under the right conditions, it is a holy and amazing experience.  Something to look forward to at the right time.  I also wish someone had helped me come up with realistic guidelines for myself when in a relationship.  I was scared to death to have any physical contact with a boy.  But once I was in a relationship, I didn't know where to draw the line.  

Anyway, I hope this was somewhat helpful.  If nothing else writing all this out has helped me realize some of the things I want to do differently to help my daughter as she gets older.  

Also, aside from my husband I have never talked about sex this much in my entire life.  Awkward.....

When attending these events I felt like sex was only to be done if  you were married and trying to make a baby. We were told how sex was love and God is love and the bible says no sex before marriage. Your body is God temple. boys will lust over you so you have to be careful how others may interpret what you wear and how you act. It came across like boys are sexual machines that want it all the time and have no self control so we as girls have to be mindful of that and not tempt them. Now that I am a married adult I feel as if the content in this event could have been dealt with differently. Example: i think if the meaning behind the act of making love was explained it would have come across better. I understand that the church is not sex education but at that age, young girls shouldnt feel like boys only want them for sex.  young girls  can have the desire for sex too.  Sex is suppose to be the ultimate connection and a way to express your love on a deeper level than just saying it or doing nice things for the other person. I feel this did not get communicated because it might have come across to young dating people as "well this is true of our relationship so lets do it." We did get personal experiences from leaders who had sex before marriage and those who waited but it was all negative in the end. Girls that already had had sex could repent and be forgiven and be "a virgin in God's eyes again". I think it is just as much the man's responsibility as it is the woman's to decide when and if sex is right for them. If couples know the facts on both sides of the equation they would be able to make a sound informative decision together. Were there events like this for boys too? I can't remember. If not, then why? I'm sure boys were curious. Were girls made out to be sexual objects? Hope this helps. 

---(youth pastor's wife) was in charge of my True Love Waits. I honestly don't remember thinking they made sex out to be a bad thing or dirty. 

I was still pretty new to ---(church name) when I attended true love waits. I also attended a Lisa Bevill all girls thing later on. I'm not sure we really had any sex talks during the Lisa Bevill event. However, my first thought of True Love Waits is that it in no way made sex out to be dirty. I can count on one hand (with fingers left over) the number of people who know I was sexually abused. I've come to peace with it no and it do no one any good to bring it up; however, for the purpose of your blog I think it might help you to know the perspective I had at the time I attended True Love Waits. I didn't know the girls very well, other then a few close friends who got me attending that church. I'd been very involved in my Lutheran Church previously and knew I wanted to wait. I think my desire was as much to please God, as it was a way of hiding from my issues with my body and relationships in general. I recall (I think this was TLW's at least) that they did a couple of make overs for a few girls. I think the pastors daughter was done and I remember jokes about how her Mom agreed to the hair cut, but no color. Another girl who was very tom boyish was also made over and her transformation was the stuff of reality TV shows. (I believe later she devolved an eating disorder - not sure if it's related). However, they were clean make overs. More fun then anything. The stuff of teenage sleep overs. About the only conversation I can recall in detail, probably because of your question, is one that focused on girls who had willingly or unwillingly already had sex and who now wanted to wait. I remember at least one girl admitted she had be raped and wondered if she was still considered a virgin. I just remember the love that was poured out. There is no shame, there is no blame. A fresh start for those who gave it up willingly to make a new choice and change their futures and hopefully peace for those dealing with guilt and grief over the route their lives had taken. I don't think a TLW event should ever make sex seem dirty. If it does, then they are doing it wrong. 

Hope that helps 

Just a last thought. If sex weren't intended by God to be such an amazing and lovely thing, then Satan wouldn't have spent so much time and energy into making it so dirty. Any kind of TLW event or other girls event about sex needs to focus on that. It's something to cherish and save for that right person, who will cherish it in return.

I've been wracking my brain in how to answer this, but I can't come up with anything very thought provoking!  I never felt that guilt or shame played any part in the TLW weekend retreats.  I'm not sure if that's because looking back on it, I don't remember Lori being very "present" there?? Let's face it, I doubt she was being very "pure" those years, so she probably wouldn't be as likely to push the issue.  I think where guilt & shame came into play was AFTER these weekends, more likely from peers.  I remember many conversations between friends talking about the monstrosities of who was doing what with who, over things like just holding hands or sitting in a car with each other alone for too long.  
By the time ---(youth pastor's wife) came along I was older and it seems like people were more mature about it.  ---(youth pastor) & ---(youth pastor's wife) always presented it as something awesome to wait for, and I don't think focused on the "do nots" of waiting, which, looking back on it, seemed much more effective.  

Hope that makes sense!

Yeah it was basically a scare tactic... I mean I understand because they were dealing with, essentially children but there was no emphasis on sex in marriage vs. premarital sex. They focused on how sex before marriage was awful and all the scary details.... Nothing about biblical intimacy.

Out of my experience in church/youth group during teachings like that, I don't ever recall feeling like sex was bad or dirty. I never grew up with a bad view of it which I am sure plays into it also. But no, I never felt that way

No I don't remember being taught that. But I already knew that God blessed sex for married couples so even if I would have heard that I wouldn't have listened. 

The Lord gives us his guidelines in the Bible for sex because he knows how much our conscience can be seared buy it if we engage in it or any form of it before marriage. I think when you have experience with lust and anything sexual before marriage you might have a problem seeing the marriage bed in a totally pure light because to you sex has always been a no no naughty don't do it type thing because you've only experienced it outside of marriage and it's hard to transition those feelings to, "ok now it's totally pure..." 
And please read the companion article if you have not already:
"True Love Waits: What My Youth Pastor Did Right"
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