Purity culture is usually a combination of religious and cultural beliefs that promote abstinence from sexual activities till marriage. These six Nigerian women share with us how they overcame purity culture.
A lot of the guilt and shame I felt around sex and decency came from following Christianity. I was taught that I needed to be “pure” until marriage. No sex, no masturbating, you have to “dress decently”. So, abandoning Christianity has helped me abandon that conditioning. I learnt to understand that wanting sex is completely human and that it doesn’t make me dirty or any less of a person.
Honestly, I just know that one day I stopped caring about all that nonsense. Even though I stopped or thought I had, I think a tiny part of me still held on to that for myself. For example, when I tried having sex for the first time, it was kind of in my head. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. It just wasn’t working.
Purity culture was not introduced to me through my parents because I was born into an unconventional situation. I’d picked it up from things around me like school and church, and it stuck with me. There was also the fear that if I had sex before I got married, I would definitely get pregnant and my life would be over. I tried to overcome the mindset, but it was a conversation with my dad that really sped up the process.
We talked about a lot of things in general. I even found out he thought I was having sex at the time although I was not. He let me know it was okay and that he doesn’t believe in parents lying to their children that sex is a bad thing because it’s really not. He told me it’s natural and it can be really good when it’s good, and that it’s really just about waiting for when you think it’s right, with someone you really trust. There were still ways to go after that, but the conversation really helped.
Being an atheist really helped. Religion is a major reason why people hate and shame themselves for wanting and doing human things. Purity culture is built on the back of stupid religious beliefs. Cultural bits as well, but can we even divorce religion from our culture at this point?
Purity culture was so ingrained in me that when I had my first serious relationship, I thought I was asexual. I wasn’t sexually turned on, didn’t have sex because I was always dry and lube didn’t help. I just thought maybe it’s not for me. Growing up, I heard about how during your first time, you get attached to someone and I didn’t want that. Last year, I decided to explore myself.
I took more control of what I wanted and explored my body more. Finally, I decided I was going to pop the cherry, so I texted someone that I knew wanted to sleep with me for a while. I smoked and drank a bit to ease my mind and then it happened. We kept at it for a while until I got bored and moved on. It took almost two years after my first trial to eventually to the point of my first time. In that time, I became more of a feminist and unlearned a lot of biases about gender and my body. I had to consciously unlearn a lot to get to the point where I now own my sexuality.
There’s a certain level of “fuck it” independence brings. Also, having an open-minded and non-judgemental partner who is willing to explore things. So yeah, having my own house/being able to afford weekends away with an open-minded partner was basically what did it for me.
For more on all things women, please click here