How to Date a Purity Culture Kid
(probably Part I because I’ll most likely think of a thousand other things I need later when I discover them & the language to express them)
In a world where slut-shaming is “accountability” & having a body is a sin, it’s hard for a rehabbing Purity Culture Kid to enter the wildly frightening world of dating. We are marching into the unknown armed with, well, nothing! (Name the movie this deep-cut quote belongs to & we are best friends on the spot.)We have no sex education, no partnered sexual experience, no language to communicate our wants and needs, and no clue what we would want to ask for if we could.
A year ago, at age 22, I got my first kiss. You may have read about it. It was a dusty, outdoorsy, eye-opening sort of moment – mildly romantic & mildly uncomfortable & there was that one jagged stone underneath me that I could not imagine away for the life of me. The sudden hormonal rush kept me staggering around for a bit afterwards & I imagined myself in love for a whole 5 minutes before we were on our hands & knees in the 3 am Arizona desert searching frantically for his keys.
I didn’t transform into a princess. I wasn’t awakened from some magical slumber to the fairytale of love. I got a nice boyfriend out of it, and we had a few months of mildly romantic, mildly uncomfortable interactions, & by the end of the summer, I didn’t have him anymore. Nothing changed. Nothing transformed. No hellfire & brimstone. I just stayed me. A little more confused & muddled & disillusioned perhaps – but still me.
That break-up – and the next two after it – alerted me to the knowledge that I had none of the tools and none of the language to have realistic, successful relationships. I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted, and worse still, I had no idea what I’d ask for even if I did. But “realistic” and “successful” don’t sound very romantic, do they? Waiting on “the one” & the myth of “true love’s kiss” inspire more dreamy-eyed, hormonal rushes than the sober, cautious choices that time and experience evoke from us.
We turn partners into princes & sexual intimacy into a game – as long as we women can withhold enough of our virtue, men will still want us. Once they get what they definitely wanted all along, they will discard us for the next set of virginal eyelashes that bat at them.
1. NEVER SHAME US FOR OUR INEXPERIENCE. I’ve been shamed for being a “seductress” and a virgin just about equally. One boy actually got up & ran away pre-kiss when I blurted out suddenly that I’d never been kissed. IT DIDN’T FEEL LIKE A DREW BARRYMORE MOVIE, I CAN TELL YOU THAT MUCH.
2. NEVER ASSUME WE’RE COMFORTABLE WITH SOMETHING. CHANCES ARE: WE’RE NOT. But just because we aren’t right this minute doesn’t mean we can’t be eased into these things. We’ve never been equipped with the language to talk about safety or boundaries other than DON’T HAVE SEX EVER EVER EVER OR YOU WILL GET PREGNANT AND DIE, so ask us a lot of questions. Watch for hesitation. We might be saying yes to a certain physical situation just to appease the supposed sex-crazed monster we’ve been raised to assume you are. A world in which we are allowed to physically express our feelings for you but also not do anything we don’t feel like doing is not a world we were ever trained to exist in.
3.TRY TO JUST COOL IT ON THE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CLOTHES. Or hair or personal style or maybe just appearance in general. Chances are, we’re probably already OBSESSING enough already about whether or not you are judging us for wearing what we want, so find things to affirm & then just shut up. We probably already spent enough teenage years being asked if we were “goth” for our black t-shirts or getting sideways glances from Christian co-eds at our fire engine lipstick. If we ask you point blank for your input, that means we trust you enough not to mock or shame us for our personal choices. DON’T GIVE US REASON NOT TO. Let us swim around in our freedom for a bit – we’ll find our way. If we need to wear a see-through midriff shirt just because we can, don’t shame us for that. If we need to smear glitter all over us for a night on the town, humor us. Let us be ourselves. Let us find ourselves. A little exhibitionism never hurt anybody. And frankly, if the pieces of material slung on our backs matter that much to you, you should probably not ever date a Purity Culture Kid. Or anybody, for that matter, but… I digress.
4. DON’T TREAT US LIKE FRAGILE BITS OF PORCELAIN THAT MUST BE PRESERVED AT ALL COSTS. We are tired of our shelves. Chances are, what we really need is sunshine & a good hard run. Challenge us, but cautiously & slowly. We’ll get to where you need us to be, physically and emotionally, as long as we don’t feel like you’re rushing us along.
5. DO NOT USE THE AFOREMENTIONED RULE TO TURN YOUR PURITY CULTURE KID INTO YOUR PERSONAL PLEASURE DISPENSER. We are not here for your benefit. While chances are we’re trying to challenge these harmful expectations, girls and women raised in this environment were often taught that our opinions are simply not as valid as a man’s; that we must be prepared to respect and comply with his every whim, and that the primary male objective is to try and get into our pants. If your physical interaction begins to take a selfish turn, your PCK will most likely regress rapidly & chances are, you won’t be seeing much of them anymore.
6. REMIND US NOT TO BE AFRAID OF YOU FOR YOUR EXPERIENCE. Sorry, we’re kinda judgey. We don’t know how not to. We are repulsed by it when we find it in ourselves, but unfortunately, we don’t know where to root it out until we first have the negative reaction.
7. REMIND US EVERYDAY THAT WE ARE ENOUGH. It doesn’t matter if words of affirmation is actually our “love language” or not (I’m not convinced that’s a “thing” anyway). We need to feel enough. We need to hear it & see it & feel it coursing from your fingertips when you touch us. Maybe I’m at the point in my journey where I know I’m enough, but gosh, it sure is nice to know that you notice it, too. The camera roll on my phone is full of screenshots of text messages from new & old relationships that have made my heart a little lighter.
There’s more, I know there is. I want to hear what you would add to this list, PCKs, or if there’s a point you would challenge. These are just the little scraps that I’ve managed to gather for myself. Please share yours with me, if you feel so inclined. I’m concerned with the ways that we progress and regress as people based on our relationships.
Ultimately, friends, hold off & maybe stay single – stay enough – until you find someone who sees you the way you do.
Trust me on this one: it’s worth it.