I used to wear a purity ring like Selena Gomez. But now the idea is reprehensible to me

In my mind, good became synonymous with virginal. So, like many other girls my age, I took a pledge that I didn’t fully understand

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The Independent Online

When I was molested in ninth grade I told the woman that conducted my bible study meetings in North Alabama. I can't remember exactly what she said, but it boiled down to, “Good little Christian girls don’t put themselves in those situations.” That made me start to ask myself what ‘good’ really was.

I had always considered myself to be a good kid. I didn’t talk back, I didn’t stay out late, and I always ate my vegetables. But those things must not make someone good, I mused. It must, instead, be about removing oneself from sexual situations.

In my mind, good became synonymous with virginal. So, like many other girls my age, I took a pledge that I didn’t fully understand. I pledged that I would wait until marriage before I had sex, and I bought – and wore – a purity ring to seal the deal. At the age that I made the vow, sex was just an icky thought in the back of my mind anyway - so the idea that someone wouldn’t wait until they absolutely had to have sex (for children, perhaps) was foreign to me. It seemed like it would be an easy pledge to keep.

Through high school I had a long term boyfriend who would pressure me to have sex. The abstinence pledge helped me say no. The truth is that I wasn’t interested in having sex, but I fell into a trap that I think a lot of women fall into: I didn’t feel like “no” was good enough. I had to have a reason. The tangible evidence of my purity ring felt like something I could fall back on when I didn’t feel sure enough to assert myself.

Later, however, I realized that I had hidden behind my promise and allowed myself to be defined myself by it. I was staying abstinent out of fear of punishment. Increasingly, I recognized that the concept of preserving virginity is outdated and that pledges and rings are retrograde choices, rather than empowering ones.

I’ve abandoned the idea that I have to stay a virgin in order to be a good kid. The idea that I have to be untouched for a man to find me suitable is now, quite frankly, reprehensible to me. As a woman, I should be able to do what I want with my body without fear of keeping a deity happy with arbitrary notions of purity. (The God I believe in will love me even if I’ve had premarital sex. He’s a pretty cool dude like that – and he gave me bodily autonomy for a reason.) The purity ring no longer adorns my finger, and I won’t be taking it back out.

These days I’m in a very loving relationship, and we’ve decide to abstain from sexual intercourse for now, but we’ve chosen to do this for wholly separate reasons to do with the PTSD I developed after my molestation as a young child. The fact that we made our decisions based upon what we want as a couple – and not out of fear of damnation or excommunication – is far more empowering to me than any commitment to staying out of my partner’s bedroom. No longer do I hide behind my religion, allowing representatives of it to make moral decisions for me without my input. Now I make choices based on my own morals and beliefs, rather than because I was told by another person what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s dirty and what’s pure.

Relationships are about finding out what you want and who you are, and being able to do that while helping your partner do the same thing. Personally, I feel like purity rings take a lot of that away. Once I became fully committed to another person, I saw how my past education in abstinence was redundant and even damaging. And while I respect the happiness of people who stand by their commitment to virginity, I know that the right choice for me was never to subscribe to the idea that my worth is found between my legs.

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