Unraveling The Source of Our Sexual Shame: Jay Stringer Deconstructs Purity Culture
We’re starting a new series that is going to be fire–it’s For the Love of Dating, Sex and Relationships. We’re going to cover a lot of territory over the life of this series–and with this episode we’re going to start with a question; what was it that you learned about sex during the most formative years of your life? Because whether you realize it or not, this can greatly shape how you approach sex as an adult. Maybe you’ve been unraveling what it is you think about sex, how you think about your body, what sex means to you–and you’re tracing it back to what you learned as teenager or young adult–and maybe that education wasn’t positive. To help guide us through making those connections to our early sexual education and how we view sex today is therapist Jay Stringer–returning for his second appearance on the show. Jay pulls back the curtain on the teachings many of us got about sex when we were young. Even if you never were a part of movements like “True Love Waits,” or received lessons on purity culture by your church, or other religious organizations–perhaps there was a rigid sexual space in the childhood home you grew up in. We’re speaking to all the ways sex might have been presented to us with messages of shame. Jay encourages us to look at our sexual stories, seeking ways to find healing and wholeness toward a healthy view of sex. And bonus–for you parents who find talking about sex with your kids akin to a slow, painful death, Jay and Jen talk through ways can engage our kids around sex without the shame approach that a lot of us experienced, and to have those conversations in a loving, age-appropriate way by being open and responsive.
Content Warning: This episode talks extensively about sex, sexuality, and unwanted sexual behaviors, so it may not be suitable for young listeners.
Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love Podcast. Okay, everybody, welcome. Man, am I glad you’re here. Whew! We are kicking off a brand new series today to wrap up the summer season here on For the Love. This series is called, everybody buckle up, For the Love of Dating, Sex, and Relationships. I mean, honestly, how could we not have this series? It’s not just because I’m back in the dating pool and navigating a lot of the same things my single sisters and brothers have been navigating for years. It’s also because, and let’s be honest, most of us are trying to figure out relationships in general, so whether we’re married or single or straight or gay, we want to know how to be in them, how to make them better, how to avoid the pitfalls, how to know ourselves better, how to be a better half of a relationship ourselves.
This is my classroom right now, being in a relationship with Tyler and dating, and everything being new in my 40s again. I have been handed the opportunity to learn and to grow, to examine patterns in my own life that are unhealthy and unhelpful and do them differently and have agency over how I am showing up inside a relationship. It’s just an incredible journey for me. I’ve learned so much this year.
Look, we cover a lot of ground here, and the truth is, we could have probably done this series for a solid calendar year, but we have packed it into a nine-part series, and that’s on the outer edges of how long we normally do a series, but there’s just so much here. I’m going to give you a little snapshot of how amazing this series is going to be, before we start this week’s episode, and we’re starting off just right.
Over the course of this series, we’ve got a bunch of stuff. We are going to be talking about everyone’s favorite life activity, sarcasm, for the single crew, online dating. It’s a lot. You guys, thank the Lord we’ve got someone who’s going to demystify the whole thing for us, make it more approachable and healthy. We have a dating coach, Perri Schneider, for an episode in this series. You’re going to love her, and you’re going to love that conversation.
If online dating makes you sweat, and you want a different route, we’re also talking with a professional matchmaker, who’s got some stellar tips for us in how matchmakers find the perfect match and, bonus, he also specializes in connecting and creating safe places for black people to find the love of their life, so get excited because we’re talking to Joseph Dixon about all that.
Then, in the midst of all this kind of relationship talk, we also have an incredible episode discussing being single, and why this choice, which can absolutely be an on-purpose, wonderful, vibrant, healthy choice, is real and valid. It has this whole wonderful conversation around it and community and experience. Tons of people are living their best lives apart from a romantic relationship or raising families or whatever, with meaning and purpose and intention. I loved that conversation, and you are, too, because you’re going to hear insight and validation from Shani Silver on this.
And we really want you to stick around for the whole series, because we will cap it off with me, your Jen, spilling the tea about me and my new person, Tyler Merritt, who will also be in the final episode of the series. You’ve definitely heard me talk about him. Maybe you’ve seen him on my socials, or maybe you’ve heard us. For our little show, we are going to go pretty deep and talk about some stuff that no one’s heard yet. Tyler is like an open book. He doesn’t have any sort of embarrassment about anything, so who even knows what that guy is going to end up saying, and I might even be asking some questions you’ve been asking me about the two of us.
Community, I do want to just say, you have been so encouraging and protective of us both, and you have just been the safest, most wonderful place to bring a new relationship to the table, so I love you for that, and I can’t wait for you guys to officially meet Tyler here in our podcast world. Can you just tell I’m a little excited about this series? It’s just full. Every conversation has been interesting and fascinating and stimulating. We’re running the gamut of all these conversations that matter to us.
To kick things off, I’m super thrilled to have a returning guest, who has so much to offer in this space, from a therapeutic standpoint. The first time he was on, that episode was downloaded and downloaded and downloaded and downloaded. We knew, at the close of that, when you all said back to us, we want more of this, and this conversation was too short, and we have a million other questions, that we were going to invite him back, because he is just a profoundly gifted, generous, and gracious leader in this space.
You might remember Jay Stringer from our Elephant in the Room series, where he talked to us about unwanted sexual behaviors, and we very lightly touched back then on purity culture. He and I are about to really get into it, but that’s that whole Christian youth phenomenon that kind of lasted through the late ’80s and ’90s that basically painted sex as just the ultimate bad thing. We were actually exalted for suppressing our normal sexual desires, obviously being virgins until we got married, young I might add, and then, of course, for women, not being the key source of temptation for these helpless and hapless Christian boys. It was a mess, gosh. Jay and I talk all about it because, lo and behold, this sort of teaching caused a bit of trauma amongst the people who were exposed to it, both men and women. It was bad for all of us.
Maybe you guys, like me, perhaps, have been unraveling what it is you think about sex, how you think about sex, how you think about your body, maybe even within the confines of a loving relationship or marriage. Jay and I actually both talked about how we did not get enough time the first episode to really dive into this, and he has a lot of study and research around it, plus the work he does every day with people who have sexual fallout in their lives and relationships, when they have come from this purity mindset, and so we had to have him back.
Even if you were not indoctrinated into purity culture by your church, or maybe other religious organizations, or even just sort of maybe a rigid sexual space in the childhood home you grew up in, this episode is for you, too. We talk about all kinds of sexual health, and get real excited, because we add a whole other layer onto it, which is teaching our kids about sex.
How do we raise our kids without the sexual shame that a lot of us experienced, but maybe not an absolute sexual free-for-all, right? What’s the third way? What is this? Jay and I absolutely drill down into this, and so I think you’re going to love this conversation if you’re parenting kids. Even if they’re little, he really takes us on this parenting discussion from the time they’re young. A lot of us are working through that.
For those of us who didn’t have a good precedence, or we didn’t have a good model to learn from personally, we’re in the wild west right now, as parents. We’re the parents now raising the next generation and don’t have a lot of great history or experience to pull from, and so we built this interview for us in mind, how to talk to our kids in a way that is open and healthy and creates a space where they feel safe and connected enough to learn from us, because they are going to learn. Make no mistake. They will learn. It’s either from you or it’s from their peers, but they will learn.
All right, back to our man of the hour, so Jay Stringer, he’s a licensed mental health counselor. He’s an ordained minister, and he’s an internationally known speaker on the topic of unwanted sexual behavior, its source, and its impact, also its recovery. Oh, he’s the best. He’s actually spent the last decade working to research and understand all sorts of sexual brokenness, and then what the journey to healing looks like. His book is called Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing, and it’s based on the stories of almost 4,000 people and how they unraveled their shame and began to understand where their own unwanted behaviors were coming from.
And, exciting news for all of us, he has been given a grant to do a whole new round of research for another book, which is so great for us. We cannot have enough good voices in the world talking about this and collating other experiences to give us guidance. Honestly, Jay is at the top. He’s one of the best. He’s also a leading researcher and guide for folks specifically that have left or experienced purity culture, which he experienced too as a kid, so he’s got personal experience to offer you all.
This is such a good conversation. We went way too long. We had so much to say. He talks to us as adults who are reimagining or reinventing what a beautiful, healthy sex life could look like at any age, and then he talks to us as parents. It is packed, and you’re going to love it, and you’re going to love him. I am absolutely so pleased to bring my second conversation with the wonderful, the smart, the generous Jay Stringer.
Books and Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing
by Jay Stringer
Addressing Broken Sexual Behavior with Jay Stringer – For the Love Podcast Episode
The Great Sex Rescue: The Lies You’ve Been Taught and How to Recover What God Intended
by Sheila Gregoire
Come As You Are: Revised and Updated: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life
by Emily Nagoski
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
by Greg McKeown
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XO – Team Jen