“Give Me Sex Jesus” Debuts on Vimeo

By Julia Feeser

give me sex jesus

Patrick and Bonnie, a married couple who appear in the film and saved their first kiss for marriage.

A few weeks ago, a documentary was released on Vimeo called Give Me Sex Jesus. 

Give Me Sex Jesus is a fascinating look at the rise of purity culture during the 80’s and 90’s and how this movement impacted young people growing up during that time. The film highlights the stories of several different people, all ranging in age, relationship status, sexual identity, and sexual orientation.

In popular culture, the lingering effects of the purity movement are just now coming to light as those who were teens during that time are now adults navigating their sexuality. I find myself reading article after article (mostly by women) describing how the purity movement negatively impacted their views of sex, caused a confusing amount of shame, and often didn’t accomplish the intended outcome of waiting until marriage.

I was someone who had some exposure to purity movements through a conference I attended with my youth group at 15 years old. During the conference (which included a lot of flashing lights and popular movie clips) I learned from an energetic twentysomething about why waiting for marriage to experience sex was the best choice I could make and would keep my “purity” in tact. After the conference, I received a silver ring I could wear as a reminder of the promise I had made to wait.

I ended up wearing my ring for a few years, finally taking it off my junior year of college. It wasn’t that I had decided not to wait anymore, but I realized the ring was really just a ring, and the promise I was making had grown into a deeper purpose rooted in obedience to Christ.

Even though I wore a purity ring, I always struggled with the idea of “purity” itself. The rules and ideas surrounding purity felt cheesy and naive, and not at all practical for real dating relationships. To me, to be pure meant my virginity was in tact and I would inexplicably be overwhelmed with the desire to run through a field of wildflowers wearing a white dress, not caring about boys in the slightest bit (but I cared about boys, a lot).

While I have experienced first-hand the struggles created by purity movements (both in my own life and the lives of others), I truly believe that the idea behind purity movements came from a Christ-centered place and somehow became less about honoring the beauty of sex and more about an attempt to manage sexual sin in the lives of others.

Give Me Sex Jesus highlights one movement in particular; True Love Waits. 

True Love Waits was an abstinence-based movement founded in 1993 that promoted sexual purity, which they defined as abstaining from sex, sexual thoughts, sexual touching, pornography, and actions thought to lead to sexual arousal. The main component of their program was the signing of abstinece pledges by teens as a symbol of commitment to remain “pure” until marriage.

True Love Waits came under criticism for a couple reasons.

First, a 2003 study of the results of this program found that 6 out of 10 college students who had taken the pledge had broken it. Second, True Love Waits (whether inadvertantly or not) created a culture of rigid sexual rules that reinforced that all sexual activity was deeply sinful and devalued the person engaging in this sexual activity.

However, even though True Love Waits has received a lot of flack over the years (some of it justifiable and some not), I truly believe that the original intention for True Love Waits and similar purity movements came from a desire to give young people the means to experience sex in the best and safest way possible: marriage.

Looking back on movements like True Love Waits, we now have the opportunity to grow from where they faltered; leaning into conversations surrounded waiting not through a set of rules or pledges, but purpose in Christ.

It is not about signing a paper card, hoping this signature will still be relevant to us through the years and relationships we encounter.

It is not about adhering to strict rules regarding physicality, but rather understanding ourselves and the holiness God has declared already exists within our desire to be physical.

It is not about a fear of what we may do wrong, but rather a freedom in knowing waiting for sex isn’t really about waiting for sex and more about obeying God’s design for sex because we know He made it good, and we long for what He has declared to be good.

You can watch the full documentary below:

Three Reasons I Speak to Young People About Waiting for Sex

By Julia Feeser

why i speak to young people about sex

You don’t often hear people say they want to spend their time talking to teens about waiting for sex.

For many people this would actually be their worst nightmare. Nothing sounds more embarrassing and anxiety-inducing than standing in front of a group of teens living in today’s sex-saturated world and trying to tell them about the benefits of not having sex. You imagine the bored, uninterested looks on their faces, the whispers to their friends, the smirks as you try to carefully explain why a condom does not in fact protect against the emotional consequences of sex. Just thinking about it makes your palms go all sweaty, and being in a submerged cage with a great white shark nearby feels preferable to this situation.

For me, this is a reality through my job as a sexual integrity presenter in a high school health class. So why on earth would I put myself through this week after week?

During college, I somehow developed a desire to speak to young people (primarily teenage girls) about sex. When I would tell others this, their eyes would grow wide and they would ask increduously, “Why?” 

Why, indeed.

Here are three reasons I chose to speak to young people about waiting for sex:

I wanted to be a different voice for this topic. 

Abstinence instructors get an enormously bad rap and some of it is justified (like when instructors use incredibly deragatory illustrations to describe people who’ve had sex). The biggest argument against abstinence instructors and organizations is that an abstince-only approach does not delay sexual activity (as opposed to a comprehensive approach).

Abstinence programs have also struggled throughout the years to not come across as cheesy, ignorant of reality, and fear and shame-based.

With this kind of reputation, it’s no wonder people aren’t stoked to hear someone speak about waiting for sex.

I wanted to be a voice that didn’t induce shame but affirmed the students as empowered people who have the ability to make good decisions for themselves, regardless of where they’ve been.

I wanted to give them the chance to see that waiting isn’t about a set of rules or being “better” than other people, but instead about knowing sexual activity is matter of integrity. I wanted them to be able to see another side, to choose to have integrity with their own emotional and physical health, and the health of their partners. I didn’t want to shame them or scare them into not having sex; I wanted to positively offer the truth that waiting for sex is the healthiest choice they can make.

I wanted to counteract the unrealistic ideas I had been given about waiting. 

Waiting for sex is not about ignoring the reality that  you are a sexual being and desire to have sex. That is real, and that is good. Instead, it’s about embracing that reality and reinforcing its importance by striving to experience sex in the healthiest context possible.

When I was growing up, some (probably) well-meaning adults and books written by (probably) well-meaning adults gave me some really unhelpful advice about waiting for sex. Most of it consisted of setting clear physical boundaries. A majority of content revolved around intense feelings of guilt if you did so much as kiss another person.

Setting physical boundaries with someone is important, but let’s be real: physical boundaries only get you so far.

Waiting for sex is about more than telling yourself, “Okay, I’m definitely not going past this line.” This is great a great way to set up expectations for yourself and your partner, but if boundaries are the only thing keeping you waiting for sex, you probably won’t be able to wait for very long.

Waiting for sex is about letting the bigger picture of sex manifest itself in your goals and your relationships. Physical boundaries play one role among a bigger purpose, and one without the other will make for a very difficult journey.

I also received a lot of advice that seemed to last only so far. As in, until I stopped being a teenager.

I wanted to be able to inform teens on how to make good choices now, but I also wanted to empower them to know their journey in waiting for sex would look different over the years as they grew older and entered different relationships.

For instance, waiting to have sex with a boyfriend/girlfriend in high school was going to be a different situation than waiting for sex two years out of college during a serious relationship with no parental supervision. I wanted teens to know that if they really wanted to wait, they were going to have to learn to adapt and manifest this goal through different life circumstances.

I wanted teens to know their value is not conditionally based. 

This may be the most important thing I hope to get across to the young people who sit before me in a classroom.

Particularly for young women, there is a lingering idea that their value as a person declines the moment they have sex outside of marriage. And for young Christian women, this idea is especially perpetuated as sex and marriage become an idol.

For me, I began to believe that my virginity was the most important thing about myself I had to offer to a future husband. I now know how very untrue this is.

Yes, waiting for sex is an incredibly important and valuable thing to do, but there is so much more to who we are as people than whether or not we are virgins on our wedding night.

I want teens to know that if they have already had sex or experimented with sexual activity, their ultimate worth as a person has not diminished because of who God has already declared every single one of us to be if we choose to accept this identity in him.

This truth does not mean we should just do whatever we want sexually, but it does mean that if we do fall short God’s grace still declares us worthy and, if we allow it, empowers us to start over from exactly where we’re at.

Teens deserve to have a conversation about waiting for sex that meets them where they’re at with compassion, humility, and forthrightness. I want to be that person and offer myself as an adult who’s not only been there but believes in the people they are and are growing into.

This is why I speak to young people about waiting for sex.

Four Things That Will Actually Help You Wait for Sex

By Julia Feeser

girl with

Okay, so you’ve decided to wait to have sex.

Good for you! Ten gold stars for you!

Unfortunately (and fortunately!), there’s more to waiting for sex than just waiting for sex. 

And soon or later what you’re going to realize if you haven’t already is that waiting for sex is no picnic. It’s difficult, challenging, and will probably make you really, really frustrated and/or questioning your judgement at some point.

One of the most common questions I hear from students is, “How do you actually wait to have sex? What are the practical steps you have to take in order to make this happen?”

Luckily, although you will more than likely encounter a few convoluted and not so black and white situations when it comes to waiting to have sex, there are a few practical things you can do to help yourself and others along the way:

Date the right kinds of people. 

Waiting for sex doesn’t mean you can’t date! Seriously. It doesn’t mean you can’t hang out alone ever or kiss or even fall in love. You can do all these things, and sex doesn’t need to be part of the equation. However, part of making this happen is choosing people to date who feel the same way about waiting as you do.

If you’re working toward this mutual goal that you both have decided on, not contingent on simply just going along with what the other person wants, waiting for sex is going to get a lot easier. If you’re dating someone who is awesome but doesn’t necessarily want to wait, eventually what you’ll find is that you can only go so far physically before tension sets in.

Free yourself of this early on by being intentional about who you date and what values they hold.

Be honest about your frustrations. 

Yes, at some point, you will be mad that you are not having sex (especially if you’re waiting a long time). You will feel frustrated you can’t express your physical desires in that way, and you will probably struggle with the fact that you may be in a relationship with someone you love and you cannot have sex with them. Yep, frustrating.

So it’s really important to not gloss over these feelings. Be honest. Tell someone. Find a person you trust who is not your significant other and tell them what you’re struggling with. The longer we pretend everything’s all right, the longer we put off actually dealing with the problem and finding a solution or advice.

Plus, as with any type of long-term goal, you’ll need people along the way to keep you accountable and encouraged. You can’t go it alone, and you shouldn’t have to.

Know your boundaries before you’re alone watching Netflix. 

It’s pretty difficult in the heat of the moment to use your brain and say, “Oh, wait, we probably should’ve stopped somewhere around 10 minutes ago.”

If you’re someone who is waiting to have sex, you’re going to need to know yourself well enough to know how far you can go physically before you won’t be able to resist just going all the way anymore. Because the farther you go, the harder it will be to stop.

So help yourself out by thinking through where you’re going to draw the line. Will it be at kissing? Will it be at some touching? Know beforehand and don’t try to decide once it’s already happening – believe me, your boundaries will get blurry fast if you don’t have a clear picture going in of what they should be.

Oh, and this is the part of the relationship where you have to have a super-romantic conversation explaining in very clear language where your physical boundaries are. Not exactly a sexy conversation, but it will benefit you both.

Understand the purpose of waiting. 

If you’re waiting just because someone told you it was a good idea, or because you think you’ll get in trouble if you don’t, or your sole mission is, “I’m just going to not have sex,” you’re going to have a difficult time sticking to that commitment.

Waiting without purpose isn’t waiting, it’s just biding your time. (Tweet this!)

Waiting is so much more than just following a set of do’s and don’ts when it comes to sex. Waiting should be the outcome of a deep, personal desire to pursue life goals and love freely without the added burdens that sex can bring emotionally and physically.

When we choose to wait to have sex, we reflect who we know God to be – a God of love, trust, and intense passion for our utmost good. (Tweet this!) One who created sex to be experienced inside marriage because he knows that’s where true life and true sexual and emotional intimacy can be found.

If you’re trying to wait without this kind of purpose, you won’t wait.

Know that waiting is possible, even when it’s difficult. And having real, practical steps in place will make all the difference.

One Abstinence Organization’s Response to Alice Dreger

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By now you’ve probably heard of Alice Dreger, or at least heard of the woman who sat in on her son’s abstinence class and live tweeted the entire event. 

Dreger, a writer and professor of medical humanities and bioethics, sat in on her son’s class after learning two guest lecturers would be presenting an abstinence-only curriculum. During the presentation, she became increasingly appalled by what she was hearing and showed her dismay by live-tweeting her impressions.

And while some of Dreger’s outrage was well-founded (for instance, one part of the presentation involved handing out paper babies and essentially informing students that ultimately condoms are not an effective way to prevent pregnancy, which is not true if they are used correctly and consistently as the CDC states) there’s a few things Dreger said that we, ourselves an abstinence-based organization, felt compelled to reply with our two cents.

Before we do, it is important to be clear about our intent with our response. First, we have only read the tweets Dreger shared with the world this week. We do not know who the guest lecturers were or the organization they represent, but we would wager a guess that they hold a genuine concern for the sexual well-being of young people and it was not their initial intention to shame or mislead.

Second, we are grateful for voices like Dreger’s because although we don’t agree with some of the things she said or how she chose to voice her opinion, we recognize the need for people like her to hold programs like ours accountable to a higher standard of medical accuracy and language that clearly articulates a positive message of sexual abstinence.

Here’s just a few of Alice Dreger’s tweets during class:

Dreger’s right, most kids don’t receive their sex education in the classroom. Know where many teens are finding their information about sex? Pornography.

In fact, 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography before the age of 18. 

So while Dreger may be right about this, is sex education within the classroom something we should just give up on because, well, it just doesn’t matter? Absolutely not. Part of any education on healthy sexuality involves helping young people understand that the information about sex they receive from the media and yes, pornography, can be incredibly damaging and even lead false ideas about sex and intimacy. 

Yes, sex FEELS GOOD! We absolutely, one hundred percent are totally on board with this and how part of enjoying sex is for the simple reason it feels awesome! But is this casual attitude really the one you want to equip young people with?

Part of taking care and having fun means understanding how to honor not only your own emotional and physical well-being, but that of your partner’s as well. While our curriculum is abstinence-based, we choose to focus on what it means for a person to live with sexual integrity, meaning how do the choices you make now as teens affect your well-being five or ten years down the road? We want students to understand they take a risk when engaging in early sexual activity, risks that can (but do not necessarily) include STDs, pregnancy, increased risk of depression and low self-esteem, and the emotional hurt that can occur as a result of social bonding through oxytocin and vasopressin if the relationship is not maintained.

I think we can safely assume the air quotes here allude to Dreger not believing this statement. But here’s the truth: Are there ways to protect yourself from the physical aspects of sex, such as STDs or pregnancy? Absolutely. Are there ways to protect yourself from the emotional aspects of sex, such as the bonding hormones (see oxytocin and vasopressin)? Nope, not really. Something we always communicate is that it is not the condom that typically fails the user rather it is the user that fails to use the condom. But even when they do the condom will never protect against the release of the hormones listed above.

We believe in sex. We believe in its goodness and beauty and value in a committed, married relationship (for a ton more reasons we could get into!), and we’re NOT about scaring young people into believing false information about sex, like the guest lecturers Dreger witnessed. Sex is risky. It just is. And the safest form of sex is in fact not having it; choosing to wait. Period.

Ok, this one is just not cool. It’s not fair to assume that because someone chose to have sex, and then realized that was a choice they didn’t want to make, this means they are unfit to speak about why abstinence is beneficial. We get what Dreger is saying here, which is why is someone who didn’t wait telling young people it’s possible and healthy to wait? But isn’t it possible this person could actually offer a very insightful and truthful perspective on how not waiting for sex impacted his life and well-being?

Dreger goes on to highlight how her son came to class with information about how abstinence-only programs statistically do not have any impact on teens waiting for sex. And you know what? There is a lot of data (sadly) to to back this up.

However, there is also a lot of other research that would refute this data, like this recent article about NYC teens waiting longer! Plus, we have to ask ourselves why the teen pregnancy rate continues to drop if abstinence has nothing to do with it. No one really knows why these rates are dropping as this article points out, but it’s important to note this drop in numbers coincides with the rising presence of abstinence education. Further, there is a ton of research which suggests programs that give a holistic view of sexuality, including a clear conversation on abstinence, do work to delay teen sexual behavior.

One of Dreger’s biggest rants (sorry, concerns) was in response to feeling the guest lecturers used shame as an influence to wait for sex, and this was something that made us want to stand up and rant with her! We wish more abstinence programs operated under the knowledge that when it comes to speaking about sex, shaming is both ineffective and inappropriate and has no place in a conversation that is already a delicate one.

Here’s what we want to say to Mrs. Dreger:

Mrs. Dreger, we’re really, truly sorry that your son and the young people in his class were given shame-based and some misinformation about abstinence.

We need you to know that not all abstinence-based organizations are the same, and we work hard to equip young people with encouragement, factual information, and hope. And just like you, when we feel compelled to set the record straight about our perspective and experience, we’re going to do so.

While we share different opinions on how young people should approach their sex lives, we really aren’t cool with being put in this box that all abstinence organizations are worthless and wasting their time. We applaud your son for doing his research about abstinence organizations and you for encouraging him to challenge misleading information. Seriously. But we’re under the impression (and experience) that if one young person in that classroom hears our message of sexual integrity and takes it into consideration, we have a purpose being in that classroom.

 

*UPDATE:  According to the Lansing State Journal the program who spoke is called SMART (Sexually Mature Aware Responsible Teens). It’s provided by an independent contractor working with Pregnancy Services of Greater Lansing, a group that counsels pregnant women to avoid abortion.

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.

Speaking Out Against Slut Shaming

Today I was thinking about a conversation at the end of the the last school year. It surrounded the words “slut shaming.” Then I came across a video from a 20/20 interview that was done this summer. You can check it out by clicking here.

slutSlut shaming is defined as the act of making a woman feel guilty or inferior for engaging in certain sexual behaviors that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations. Some examples of behaviors which women are “slut-shamed” for include: dressing in sexually provocative ways, requesting access to birth control, or even being raped or sexually assaulted.

I first heard this term late last school year from a female student in one of the high schools we speak in every semester. She approached me as I was cleaning up my materials with a stern look on her face. She began by kindly introducing herself and then went into direct conversation about her thoughts on what we presented. The short version of what was shared was that she was surprised.

When teens hear that someone is going to come discuss abstinence they automatically think that the individual coming to speak is both a prude and cosmic killer of joy. I don’t blame teens or even young adults for this. Most are taking their cues from popular media and what they probably have heard at some point in their past about programs similar to Project Six19. However, most are surprised by our tone and approach, which is caring, honest and direct. When this young girl approached, I placed her in the same category I’ve seen time and time again:  A frustrated student who is unhappy with the way things are talked about when it comes to sex and relationships, and wanting a place to point their frustration and concern. She said that our presentation did a good job of sharing an important message while not shaming anyone in the classroom for other’s past decisions. She briefly talked of her past; a boyfriend she had slept with, regretted that it happened, and wanting to move on. She even mentioned that she considered calling in sick to our presentation because was afraid that we might “slut shame” her in front of her friends. She was thankful just the opposite happened that day. So am I.

There are a few things that I take from both the video and this conversation as they relate to this discussion.

sticks-and-stones1First, I applaud Katelyn (in the video) for her willingness to step up and be a voice for those that were marginalized. Or, at the very least felt marginalized which is very much the same. We need teens and young adults who are willing to make us aware of how words hurt. The old adage that sticks and stones will break your bones but words never will is not correct. Words are THE sticks and stones and although they don’t break bones they can break hearts.

Second, the media will always spin stories like this to make a message of abstinence look silly and wrong. Although I have no idea what was exactly shared during Pam Stenzel’s presentation I can speak to her heart. She wants youth to make a decision that is healthy and safe. Her own story speaks to this reality. Yes, I do think that she can be a bit brash but that is her approach and it has seemed to work well over the years. The number of people that invite her to speak backs this up. I also doubt she incorporated any talk on faith in the school setting. However, this does not negate our responsibility to be aware of how we speak on subjects of sex and relationships. Honoring those that we are speaking to while holding onto the convictions we share is a balancing act that takes great care.

Third, the language we use is important. Yes, we need to be honest and concise with the language we use but that doesn’t give us permission to shame. This is something that Project Six19 holds as one of its key values. Language can either build up and change minds or cause us great pain and become dogmatic. Specifically, I think it is important to realize the power of shame with this generation. It communicates that one person is a mistake. That is wholly different then guilt, which communicates that you made a mistake. Remember we have all been created in the image of God and He does not make invaluable or shameful things.

Let’s talk with honesty, building up those around us, holding onto our convictions while also being aware of how the words we use impact others.