I Took Off My Purity Ring.

I am always grateful for the many voices that walk through the doors of Project Six19. Talented, respected, deep-thinking, and articulate are the words that capture these individuals. One of those people is Julia Feeser, our new social media coordinator. She is all of these things and I think you will understand why when you read a recent blog she posted at HelloSoul. Take a moment to read her story…

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When I was a sophomore in college, I took off my purity ring.

I had worn it on my right hand (it didn’t fit my left) for almost four years, a small trinket I had acquired at an abstinence conference because everyone else was getting one and I felt like I should too.

It wasn’t a particularly fashionable ring. It had a Bible verse inscribed on it (I can’t even remember which one) in juvenile font and no discernible qualities other than that once in a while someone would ask me about it. It had no significance to me other than I knew that by wearing it I was somehow on this holy level that people who were having sex weren’t.

Wearing a purity ring made me feel proud. I felt level-headed, innocent, able to practice self-control. I didn’t particularly care if others saw me as prude, because I knew that I was making smart life choices. Their experimentation with sex would end in sadness and broken relationships; mine would end in a blissful and committed marriage. I could feel worth and have self-love because I was Waiting.

Unlike high school, I found myself surrounded by girls wearing purity rings at my small, private Christian university. There were even girls who didn’t want to kiss until marriage (something I was slightly horrified by because I wasn’t about to wait for that). I realized I felt slightly less set apart in this environment, suddenly not in the noble minority as someone who had made the courageous decision to Wait.

A few months into my freshman year I began dating someone. I had dated a little in high school, but this time was different. No longer were there curfews or watchful parents, and I distinctly remember feeling that my transition from girl to woman was completed now that I was in college. I could handle an “adult” relationship and whatever that entailed.

My new boyfriend was not a Christian (something I would eventually realize was a deal-breaker), and while we tried to be on the same page about physical boundaries it proved to be very difficult for both of us. Waiting, it turned out, was virtually impossible when you really liked someone and could stay in his room well past midnight.

And eventually there came a night (which turned into many nights) where we went too far. And while we never actually had sex, we did just about everything but.

I was crushed.

As I sat in class next to girls proudly displaying their purity, I felt like I could no longer count myself amongst them. I was both angry and disgusted with myself, heartbroken that I was letting go of my convictions night after night. And while I still wore my purity ring, I felt like a fake. I couldn’t believe that I, a girl who was clearly so capable of Waiting, could compromise herself and her aspirations for sex within marriage. I mercilessly beat myself up.

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It wasn’t until several months later that I actually took my ring off, after my boyfriend and I finally broke up. At that point, I had come to terms with the fact that I had gone too far and had stopped feeling so angry with myself. So when I did finally take it off, it wasn’t because I did not feel worthy to wear it.

It was because my purity had become my identity.

Who I was as a person and a Christian had become wrapped up in whether I was having sex or not, and there was something distinctly wrong with that.

The reason it affected my self-worth so deeply was because Waiting had become such a part of how I saw myself: I had used abstinence as a means to feel good about who I was rather than because I really understood what it meant to me. I thought that “being pure” affected everything else about me: how others saw me, how God saw me, and my own worth as a person.

It also gave me a false sense of entitlement.

I had begun to perceive abstinence as a means to an end, as though a husband was a reward for my dutiful Waiting. When I wasn’t going too far physically, that meant I deserved a happy marriage I wouldn’t have to wait too long for. When I was going too far, I felt like I didn’t deserve that anymore, which only added to my sense of loss.

I took off my purity ring because I was done with what Waiting had become to me: a badge of honor, a method to get what I wanted, a way to feel good about myself.

I am still waiting to have sex. And while there are many reasons for this, my hope is I do not rest my identity on that one aspect about myself.

Sexuality, specifically for Christians, should be about so much more than just the act of waiting, and sometimes I feel like we tend to focus solely on that. Waiting to have sex should not be a scheme to make ourselves beautiful or worthy or a “good Christian,” but should instead be used to demonstrate the beauty of God and thus the perfection of his design for intimacy.

My hand doesn’t look like it’s missing anything at all.

© Julia Feeser and HelloSoul, 2014.

MTV Virgins – A New Reality Series

I don’t know whether to puke or to be thankful that a reality TV series is actually going to chronicle the life of a young adult choosing to wait. If it is anything like TLCs recent attempt I would rather they pass. If you don’t know what I am talking about then watch this promo video for the series. It seems like they found every person that fits a caricature of this decision and multiplied it with a kiss that looks like a bird regurgitating its food! Again…watch this video and learn what I am talking about.

Enough said.

Although I don’t think TLC did a good job with the subject matter I have some hopes that MTV will do a little better. That is, if the producers are truly trying to document the life of those that have chosen to wait. I think it could be good to see teens that have made this decision yet it doesn’t consume every part of their identity. That means seeing them do life like hanging with friends, going out, and even….dating.

There are certain stigmas and caricatures of those that have made this decision…can’t get sex if they wanted, nerd, don’t like sex, etc. This is a chance to take this decision and point out its rewards and benefits while not making the teens look weird. I also think that it can raise the bar for those that have thought about this decision but never given it much credence. It can become a learning opportunity for those that watch this show and a point of discussion in homes. Maybe even a chance for parents to share their own values with their son or daughter.

MTV-Logo-MTVBut let’s be honest, this is MTV. This is the network that brings us Miley Cyrus twerking on stage with Robin Thicke. It is also the same network that made JWOW and Snooki household names for their drinking antics on the reality TV show “Jersey Shore.” So my hopes are pretty low for what this show will accomplish when it comes to changing the cultural landscape surrounding this discussion.

This dynamic is rooted in two facts that I’ve discovered in my research on the show. First, this show will serve as an opportunity to highlight MTVs safe sex campaign, “It’s Your (Sex) Life”. It aims to empower youth to make better decisions about their sexual health. However, almost none of its material that it distributes or discusses on its channel talks about abstaining from sex as a viable option. If you want to see a PDF of what they’ve compiled you can click here.

As you can tell its discussion on abstinence or choosing to wait to have sex is super limited and almost an afterthought. Now maybe this guide will change in light of this new show but I highly doubt that. More than likely it will be sold as a show highlighting a teen’s decision to wait and the difficulty of making this a reality. Maybe even scripting situations where they are set up to fail.

Second, this show spawned out of another idea it had called My First, which was going to highlight teens on the verge of losing their virginity. The idea was dismantled after there was some protest over the show. So now the show is about a group of virgins that may or may not have sex. That in and of itself gives me great fear about its content and outcomes. But I hope I am wrong….we will have to wait and see.