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Purity Culture & Religious Trauma

Sex therapy involves unlearning harmful messages from purity culture and replacing them with what I call “Sex Ed for Grown Adults.”

Purity culture emphasizes abstinence before marriage, modesty in dress and behavior, and instills shame and guilt around sexual desires and experiences. Purity culture’s influence often begins in childhood, with messages of abstinence and purity taught through family, church, and community. For women, worth is strongly tied to virginity. Men are often taught that their sexual desires are natural and need to be controlled and regulated. In some instances that control is the responsibility of the women. A major theme of purity culture is that those who give in to their sexual desires before marriage can be viewed as impure and unworthy. Conversely, sex after marriage is viewed as something that is supposed to be amazing, sacred, or mind blowing and if it isn’t then something is wrong within the marriage. 

Purity culture gives very strict guidelines to roles and expectations for each partner related to sex.

These roles reinforce heteronormative and cisgender worlds and can, in general, be a recipe for disaster for health and satisfying sex. These messages create a pervasive fear of sexuality and prevent people from enjoying sex throughout their lives even with a married partner. After marriage, they may find it can be difficult to desire sex because they were taught sexual desire was a bad thing.  Folks may struggle to articulate their sexual needs and desires, fearing judgment or disappointment from their partner.

People often seek sex therapy for purity culture to heal from trauma and learn about themselves as a sexual person. They have the goals of building self-awareness, feeling “ok” with receiving pleasure, easing communication with their partner, and kicking guilt and shame out of the bedroom. 

Most people who come to see me say “I’ve done a lot of work deconverting or divesting from purity culture, but I’m still struggling translating all of this to sex.” If this is you, you’re right where you need to be. 

Sex therapy involves unlearning harmful messages and replacing them with what I call “Sex Ed for Grown Adults.” Working together at your pace, I’ll provide you with exercises for exploring your sexual desires and preferences, mental strategies for quieting guilt and shame, and practice communicating about sex with partners. Sex therapy will help you develop a more holistic and affirming view of sexuality—one that celebrates diversity of preferences, consent, and pleasure. 

To get started exploring some exercises that can help you heal, check out these three blogs.

Sex Therapist’s Tip

There are a lot of suggestions! Your job is to pick one suggestion that you think is a good fit for you. Sex is no longer about “doing it right,” it’s about finding what’s right for you. 

Selfies for Sexy Time: And we aren’t talking nudes here

Sex Play Versus Sex Performance

Sexual Communication

If this or any other part of these suggestions feel like they’d be hard to implement, perhaps you’d be interested in sexual wellness counseling to work through these suggestions specific & authentic to you! If you’re curious, let’s schedule a 15-minute free consultation to talk about your goals.

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