I saved my 'virginity' for marriage, and it worked out great — until it didn't.

In 1993, at the tender age of 14, I took a pledge.

I promised not to have sex until my wedding night and to find a man who would honor that promise too.

I was taught that my body belonged to God, first and foremost, and then one day it would also belong to my husband. Then it would belong to my babies (and there would be babies, without a doubt).


At no point did I ever receive the message that my body belonged to me.

I was merely a gatekeeper, guarding my sexual purity in service of my god and future spouse. I wore a silver ring on my left ring finger as an outward symbol of my promise.

I was deeply steeped in the purity culture, as were my older brothers and all of our friends. My parents were devout Evangelical Christians, and all of our sexual education revolved around abstinence-only teachings and preparation for becoming a wife and mother. My parents talked openly about sex at home, explained the details of intercourse, and made it clear that it was nothing to be ashamed of, just so long as it was within the confines of marriage.

I was told in no uncertain terms that having sex outside of marriage was the worst thing I could do as a young woman.

And while I appreciated my parents' candid (by their standards) conversation, I also was hyper-aware that I had to completely shut down any sexual prowess to maintain that shiny, prized virginity.

And I did. I never allowed myself even to consider sex before marriage. I recruited my friends to join me on this purity pledge. I bought them rings if they could not afford to buy their own with money that I saved from working part-time at the mall. I was a pusher of purity, even taking my message to AIDS-ravaged Zambia and school girls in Kenya in my early 20's.

I was a 28-year-old virgin on my wedding day. This was not a technicality.

When we checked into our fancy hotel, I felt as though I was giving this beautiful man, my knight in shining armor, the most precious and special gift of me. I was proud. I made it. I wore my diamond ring as a badge of honor. Afterward, I felt empty.

My virginity was a cornerstone of my identity, and in a matter of minutes, it was gone for good.

My husband and I had, and continue to have, great sex. Of course, with nothing to compare it to, I can't know for sure. But there's primal attraction, intense passion, open communication, and great orgasms. Whenever the rest of our marriage has experienced devastating hardship and apocalyptic disaster, sex has remained a constant source of connection and pleasure and is the thing that consistently binds us together when everything else breaks down.

But this isn't the norm for people who were indoctrinated with purity culture. As girls, women are brainwashed to believe that anything related to sex is sinful. Then they're somehow expected to flip an imaginary switch and become sex goddesses on their wedding night.

You can imagine how well the wedding night and subsequent sexual interactions go for those women. But because our bodies don't belong to us, it doesn't matter. Only our husbands' needs and desires matter. Their success, their egos, their confidence, their masculinity, their ease, their pleasure, their orgasms.

It has taken a decade to undo our shared belief that I belong to my husband.

And, just as with any deconstruction process, it has been brutally painful and often disastrous. We had overlooked fundamental and essential truths about each other, all because we had our eyes on the prize: a Pure Life.

Teachings we both received discouraged women from declining sex without a holy reason. So when my husband wanted sex, since both of us held a shared belief that we were one spiritually, my refusal without good cause was not acceptable. But only my refusal — he could refuse any time he pleased. He was the husband, the leader, the provider, my spiritual covering, and protector.

Thoughts of refusal would trigger a hardwired, ancient edict playing on repeat in my head:

Wives, submit to your husbands.

Submit.

Submit.

The overwhelming shame and fear that grew in the fertile soil of purity culture isolated me from my peers, subjugated me to my husband, stole my autonomy, and cut me off from a divine connection.

I have hashed out my sexuality, my autonomy, and my marriage in therapy for the last 10 years. I hold my baby girl and look her in the eyes and speak to her the words I wish had been spoken to me.

You are full of light.

I respect you.

Your body and your desires are your own.

You are worthy of love and freedom.

You belong to yourself.

The world is yours to explore.

You are entirely lovable, just as you are.

And in so doing, I feel myself heal a little more, come back into my own body, emerge from the shame, and call myself home.

This story originally appeared on Ravishly and is reprinted here with permission. More from Ravishly:

Wear your values with products from PSA Supply Co., an independent site owned by our parent company, GOOD Worldwide Inc. GOOD makes money when you buy these products, and 10% of profits go to The Center for Community Change Action. Use discount code UPWORTHY to get 15% off your first order!
Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

When it comes to the topic of race, we all have questions. And sometimes, it honestly can be embarrassing to ask perfectly well-intentioned questions lest someone accuse you of being ignorant, or worse, racist, for simply admitting you don't know the answer.

America has a complicated history with race. For as long as we've been a country, our culture, politics and commerce have been structured in a way to deny our nation's past crimes, minimize the structural and systemic racism that still exists and make the entire discussion one that most people would rather simply not have.

For example, have you ever wondered what's really behind the term Black Pride? Is it an uplifting phrase for the Black community or a divisive term? Most people instinctively put the term "White Pride" in a negative context. Is there such a thing as non-racist, racial pride for white people? And while we're at it, what about Asian people, Native Americans, and so on?

Yes, a lot of people raise these questions with bad intent. But if you've ever genuinely wanted an answer, either for yourself or so that you best know how to handle the question when talking to someone with racist views, writer/director Michael McWhorter put together a short, simple and irrefutable video clip explaining why "White Pride" isn't a real thing, why "Black Pride" is and all the little details in between.


Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

The subject of late-term abortions has been brought up repeatedly during this election season, with President Trump making the outrageous claim that Democrats are in favor of executing babies.

This message grossly misrepresents what late-term abortion actually is, as well as what pro-choice advocates are actually "in favor of." No one is in favor of someone having a specific medical procedure—that would require being involved in someone's individual medical care—but rather they are in favor of keeping the government out of decisions about specific medical procedures.

Pete Buttigieg, who has become a media surrogate for the Biden campaign—and quite an effective one at that—addressed this issue in a Fox News town hall when he was on the campaign trail himself. When Chris Wallace asked him directly about late-term abortions, Buttigieg answered Wallace's questions is the best way possible.

"Do you believe, at any point in pregnancy, whether it's at six weeks or eight weeks or 24 weeks or whenever, that there should be any limit on a woman's right to have an abortion?" Wallace asked.

Keep Reading Show less

As the once-celebrated Information Age devolves into the hell-hole-ish Misinformation Age, many of us feel a desperate sense of despair. It's one thing to have diverse perspectives on issues; it's entirely another to have millions of people living in an alternate reality where up is down, left is right, and a global pandemic is a global hoax put on by a powerful cabal of Satanic, baby-eating, pedophile elites.

Watching a not-insignificant portion of your country fall prey to false—and sometimes flat out bonkers—narratives is disconcerting. Watching politicians and spokespeople spout those narratives on national television is downright terrifying.

Clearly, the U.S. is not the only country with politicians who pander to conspiracy theorists for their own gain, but not every country lets them get away with it. In a now-viral interview, New Zealand's Tova O'Brien spoke with one her country's fringe political party leaders and showed journalists exactly how to handle a misinformation peddler.

Her guest was Jami-Lee Ross, leader of the Advance New Zealand party, which failed to garner enough votes in the country's general election this weekend to enter parliament. The party, which got less than one percent of the vote, had spread misinformation about the coronavirus on social media, and Ross's co-leader, Billy Te Kahika, is a known conspiracy theorist.

But O'Brien came prepared to shut down that nonsense.

Keep Reading Show less