“Sexual Purity” – What does that mean?

LDS, Inc. has a new multifaith video out talking about the benefits of “sexual purity.”

If people want to not have sex, great. Don’t have sex. But what gets me about this video is that it frames sexuality as some sort of “impure” act. By associating “virginity” with “purity”, the video suggests that anyone who has had sex is no longer “pure”. Such a suggestion seems like it is laying the foundation for sexual dysfunction. Here’s how I see the logic working:

  • Not having sex makes me “pure”.
  • Having sex makes me “impure.”
  • The act of sex is the cause of “impurity.”
  • Sex, therefore, is impure.
  • I feel guilt over wanting sex, which makes me impure.
  • I finally have sex once married and feel impure.
  • Sex = impurity

How, exactly, is this “healthy” for people?

Don’t get me wrong… I’m well aware of the risks of STIs and pregnancy – I teach a course on human sexuality at the college level and cover all of these things in great detail. But I’m going to suggest Alfred Kinsey was largely correct when he said the only form of sexual deviance is abstinence (though, in all fairness, there are some asexual people who have no interest in sex, meaning it’s really not deviant for some).

The other part about this that bothers me is that we know, statistically, more than 90% of people have sex before marriage in the U.S. today (~95%). Videos like this imply that all of those people are “unhealthy” and, well, “impure.” I am not convinced that roughly 85% of Americans are “unhealthy” and “impure” because they had sex before getting married (I adjusted the number for lower rates in the past). I have a really hard time believing pre-marital sex is unhealthy when just the numbers suggest it’s not (not to mention the mountains of evidence suggesting it is perfectly fine).

There is also the issue of elitism and moral superiority. The video comes across as though anyone who does not abstain from sex is not as good as the people in the video. That bothers me (despite being someone who didn’t have sex before marriage). How is this the “moral high road”? What is wrong with sex before marriage or after marriage?

Finally, did anyone else catch a phrase or statement that positively framed sex in the video? And did they say anything about sex after marriage? I don’t think the video says anything positive about sex; it just frames it as impure. The end result is that people will associate sex with impurity, leading to guilt and later problems in life.
I think a better title for the video would be, “I choose to be purely ignorant about sex and the science around it”.


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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41 Responses

  1. chanson says:

    “Emotionally, especially for girls, if you give up something you can’t get back… that haunts you.” Oh, and you’re not “pure” anymore, you’re a licked cupcake.

    It’s not exactly a new message, coming from LDS, Inc.

    However, the point of explicitly linking this message with a bunch of other religions is an interesting new step in mainstreaming. Specifically, they seem to be continuing in the recent strategy is to emphasize the ways in which Mormons are just like any other conservative religious people (while not emphasizing any differences). But it’s not “mainstreaming”! Because — as you correctly point out — the extreme social conservative viewpoints that they’re blending themselves into aren’t mainstream.

  2. iamse7en says:

    Because it’s a commandment of God to not have sex with anyone other than your spouse.

  3. Kevin says:

    I would be able to accept the message if it were phrased as “I don’t have sex because I believe that God doesn’t want me to.” That’s honest, and certainly not offensive in any way.

  4. Sabayon says:

    Yes, the line about how having sex is especially emotionally damaging for girls was what struck me as well. I hate this narrative. It makes me so angry. It’s obviously harmful to woman and slut-shaming, but it also implies that men are just a bunch of emotionally stunted sex beasts. If the church is so concerned about pre-marital sex for everyone why the focus on female virginity and controlling female sexuality? I recently saw a video by Betty Dodson about the myth of the hymen, that I recommend checking out (obviously very NSFW): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaKsEwQKF_E

    It’s also pretty deeply disingenuous to talk about how Mormons are just like other religions on this. All Mormons are supposed to be virgins until marriage, but members of those other religions in the video often have very different opinions on the subject. I imagine they had to work kind of hard to find a Lutheran with such perfectly Mormon views on sexuality, as in my experience they are often in the more socially progressive end of Christianity.

  5. Alan says:

    iamse7en @ 2:

    Because its a commandment of God to not have sex with anyone other than your spouse.

    Even sex within marriage can be “impure” are far as Mormons are concerned. For the longest time only vaginal sex with the intent of reproduction was the acceptable form of sex. Profxm is right that, even within marriage, these ideas of impurity remain. Women and men feel that sex with each other is dirty. Don’t ever give into “lusts,” is the message, even if you’re lusting after your own spouse.

    I honestly don’t have qualms with the belief of a person holding out until marriage, but a person should be allowed to be erotically celibate if they’d like, and to lust after their partner once married.

    So, I think people’s problem with this “impure” campaign isn’t necessarily an attack on people’s belief to hold out until marriage, but the way that belief is coupled with an anti-body sentiment.

  6. Macha says:

    Slut-shaming, virgin-whore dichotomy, etc etc.

    There is a natural and healthy progression of sexual activity throughout a person’s life. I’m not saying it’s uniform, but each person will most likely (excluding people who are asexual, etc) experience a natural progression from touching and looking as a small child, to masturbation at the onset of puberty, to kissing and touching with a partner(s), to mutual masturbation, to intercourse. When you hit those milestones is individualized – there’s no universal road map. But left to your own devices, the average person doesn’t just jump from zero activity right into intercourse. There’s a progression.

    It’s unhealthy to suppress all sexuality – from exploratory touching to intercourse – until one moment in adulthood. To ascribe morality or immorality to a person’s individual sexual development is just wrong. By all means, teach all people, young and old, to be responsible, respectful, and compassionate toward themselves and others in their sex lives, but don’t try to present a universalized set of rules about sexual activity and threaten permanent damage to the psyche, soul, and body if they are not followed. That is abusive, because it’s a lie.

    We should be talking about “ready” and “not ready,” “healthy” and “unhealthy,” “respectful” and “abusive,” not “pure” and “impure.” That is a false paradigm.

  7. A says:

    off topic but Conner pinged my gaydar

  8. Madame Curie says:

    I guess what they are saying is, we should all be like Dove soap, only better (99.995% pure).

    Next up, floating tests to test our purity.

  9. Madame Curie says:

    Exaaaactly. “She turned me into a newt!”

  10. Chino Blanco says:

    Am I the only reader who’s been disappointed to watch ProfXM morph into the Perez Hilton of MSP? Ever since that post about the correlation between sexy titles and readership, it’s been ‘sex’ this and ‘porn’ that. I for one am looking forward to getting back to discussing serious topics like my seminal Peter, Paul and Married: Mormon Mnage Trois in Joseph Smith’s Kirtland.

  11. Madame Curie says:

    Tee-hee-hee… Chino said “seminal”…

  12. Andrew S. says:

    Loaded words AHOY.

    The video doesn’t seem to be saying to me that sex = impure or that the act of sex is the source of impurity.

    “Sexual purity” is the first loaded word…but the second one is “sexual promiscuity.” Both of these are tied, *not* “sexual purity” and “any sex whatsoever.”

    The funny thing is trying to watch this video WITHOUT reading anything into the loaded terms. Other than the opening quotation from the Proclamation on the Family, NOWHERE in this video do I get a sense of what it means to be sexually promiscuous, so as a related matter, nowhere in this video do I get a sense of what it means to become sexually impure.

    In fact, I could easily interpret this video in this way: “OK, even though I’m not married to my sexual partner, I am always faithful to the one I have. I don’t cheat. And we use protection to avoid having children. So I guess I’m sexually pure!”

    There’s little in this video (and that’s the shocking thing to me) to counter that thinking.

  13. profxm says:

    Mormons + sex = interesting!!!
    Mormons + porn = interesting!!!
    Seminal + Mormon + sex = interesting!!!
    pure + Mormon + sex = even more interesting!!!
    impure + Mormon + sex = OMG!!!

    Boyd K. Packer says something stupid – every fracking day in SLC…

  14. kuri says:

    Actually, it’s not quite as bad as all that, since for a lot of these pre-marital purity folks, oral, anal, manual, frottage, etc., don’t “count.” (Who else really likes the word “frottage”?)

  15. profxm says:

    I’ll +1 “frottage”! Awesome word.

  16. Holly says:

    @16 Yep, that’s why it’s called “anal almost sex” and “oral almost sex.” But there are those hardliners who insist, “I want my first blowjob to be over the altar.”

  17. chanson says:

    The funny thing is trying to watch this video WITHOUT reading anything into the loaded terms.

    That’s an interesting point. It’s funny how much the video relies on the fact that we all know what the code words mean.

    Take the quote I pulled @1. She doesn’t actually say what precious thing a girl might give away and not be able to get back. But there’s zero danger that the audience will be going “What was it? A winning lottery ticket? An autographed first-edition copy of Twilight?”

    Sabayon @4 — That is a really interesting video! It actually kind of reminds me of this interesting piece on how little is really known about what the G-spot is.

  18. Chino Blanco says:

    Has anyone clicked over and watched the clip at Youtube? Take a look at the bottom right just below the clip and you’ll see: “As seen on … Main Street Plaza” Ha! Thanks for promotional boost, Mormon Messages!

    Also, someone on FB speculated that all of these kids are LDS and they’re just play-acting (just like that famous NOM ad with the Mormon actors pretending to be doctors, mothers, etc.).

  19. chanson says:

    As seen on Main Street Plaza Ha!

    Cool! Is that some created automatically from incoming views?

  20. Chino Blanco says:

    Must be something like that. Nifty, no doubt. Also, I like how YouTube has assigned us a permanent URL: http://www.youtube.com/social/blog/latterdaymainstreet

  21. Daniel says:

    Listen to this complaining. If the Mormon Church had been talking about ‘purity’ 50 years ago, it would have meant ‘racial purity’. I think we’re seeing progress!

  22. JJS says:

    Actually, 50 years ago it might have been either.

    There has been progress in racial matters. No progress in the stupid teachings about sex though.

  23. barmy stoat says:

    Chanson in 1: “Oh, and youre not pure anymore, youre a licked cupcake.”

    Hehe. Somedays I wish I lived in Utah. I so badly want to stroll around Temple Square wearing a t-shirt with “licked cupcake” printed on the front. 😀

  24. Alan says:

    I like the phrase “licked cupcake,” too. =D

  25. Buffy says:

    Video propaganda for the Jr. Anti-sex League. How….creepy.

  26. Morzen says:

    When I was around 21 years old (soooo looong ago!) I was dating a new LDS convert. One day when we were talking about what we were looking for in a marriage partner and things like that, she became very distraught. Eventually she told me that she didnt feel worthy of me because knowing that I had just come back from my mission she knew that I was still a virgin. However, she told me that when she was about 15 years old (a long time before her LDS conversion, for what ever that matters) she was raped by an older neighbor. I dont remember too much of the details, but that was why she was upset and she felt that she needed to tell me this before our relationship went any further.

    Anyway, one day after that we were in an LDS institute class together and during the lesson the instructor said, (Blah, blah, blah)… and so of course every worthy priesthood bearer only wants to marry a pure and righteous virgin. I quickly glanced over to this girl when he said that and the look on her face crushed me. She was devastated by this remark. I quickly spoke out and said something like, Well, Brother Warner (his real name), I think the scriptures say that the Lord delighteth in the chastity of a woman, not in her virginity. My mother isnt a virgin and I dont if she was when she married my father, but I dont know of anyone who is more pure and righteous, more chaste than she is.

  27. JJL9 says:

    How to tell when Morzen is lying: When his fingers are moving.

  28. Morzen says:


    This is one of the problems with on-line, anonymous forums and places similar, i.e., you dont really know who you are dealing with. In any event, I dont want to burst your bubble JJL9, but this is a true account notwithstanding for whatever reason you find it difficult to believe.

  29. JJL9 says:

    Everyone who believes Morzen, please stand on your head.

  30. kuri says:

    ?u?z?oW ????l?q I

  31. kuri says:

    Apparently, MSP doesn’t support upside-down writing. I believe Morzen.

  32. JJL9 says:

    And by the way Morzen, I don’t find it “difficult to believe.” It’s obviously fictitious. You know it and I know it and it really doesn’t matter how much your buddies here back you up or attack me. Right now you’re reading what I’m writing and you know I’m telling the truth.

    You have two options. Be a man and tell the truth or continue spewing lies for the sake of bolstering your anti-Mormon feelings. It’s up to you.

  33. LDG says:

    How do you know Morzen is lying, JJL9? Do you know him IRL? Were you in the class he mentions? ‘Cause I’m betting you’re just trying proof by assertion. (And it is just toooo cute! It’s like watching a child take their first steps, and then stumble over the simplest of all the logical fallacies. Awww.)

  34. Morzen says:

    @JJL9:?If you can put any vitriol and defensiveness aside (assuming you have those feelings toward me), I would be sincerely interested in knowing why you dont find it difficult to believe, however you dont believe *me* relating this account. Did I get this right?

    I was in a missionary meeting with TS Monson many, many years ago (it was a leadership meeting) not too long after he became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and he told us numerous, and some very scandalous accounts of errant leaders at all levels — some bishops, even a Stake president. Stories about, like one bishop having an affair with the relief society president and how it involved revelation and prayer; one who thought that since he was the father of the ward he also thought that it was his right to do some very unsavory things with the older, unmarried women (we used to call them spinsters but perhaps thats not politically correct now days) in his ward; about embezzlement of church funds; just way out there stories. Of course, there was a reason for him telling us these stories; if I recall correctly he wanted us to keep our feet on the ground and not get carried away with doctrine or the mantel of our callings. He said, as an example about doctrine, a lot of people think that we chose our parents, etc organizing ourselves as family units in the pre-existence to mirror our family relationships here in mortality, but stating emphatically that no one knows anything about that being true, i.e., those aspects of the pre-existence have never been reveal to anyone. But some people will get carried away and stretch not only the limits of their callings and authority, but also doctrines like elastic bands, which all to often break at some point and come snapping back to hurt themselves and others. I think this was the case with that institute teacher — he just got too carried away with gospel idealism not realizing that we live in anything but an ideal world. This account I related is pretty benign and I dont think its a stretch to imagine that things like this occurs (unfortunately) all too often, and not only in the LDS church, many others as well.

    As far as my anti-Mormon feelings, Im not anti-any church. I have come to a point in my life to affirm that churches are created and maintained by mere, fallible mortals. Sure, I can believe that there are divine epiphanies and sacred historical accounts, and in fact do believe in some such as the divinity and ministerial purposes of Jesus Christ, but by and large churches are human institutions with A LOT of human agendas. I dont have any axes to grind; just sharing a personal account, and for the life of me I cant understand why you would call me out on this, which like I said, is a pretty benign happening. And his name really is (was) Bro. Warner, and no one need stand on their head over it.

  35. chanson says:

    Folks, JJL9’s remarks about Morzen are nothing more than a random personal attack. This thread is another reminder of what happens when you feed the trolls.

    Morzen — I found your story very sweet. I’m sorry I didn’t post a comment about it back when you first posted (and consequently the only feed-back you got was the above).

  36. Morzen says:

    Thank you, chanson (and others). Im not hurt over JJL9 s remarks, but it never ceases to bewilder me why gung-ho TMBs (as it would seem JJL9 to be) have to attack those who dont religiously think or believe as they to. Hence, this is sad, and especially in a world that is already far too contentious. You would think that ALL religions and proponents of same would be more tolerant and want to build bridges instead of blowing up the ones that arent like yours.

    Some of my kids (all on their own now) are active in the church and some arent, but we all get along with each other great as if nothing about religion or church matters in the least. However, for some LDSs, as soon as you think differently than them and dont attend anymore, you become somewhat of a pariah, or worse — a project — LOL!

  37. JJL9 says:

    Proof by assertion? Really? I wasn’t having a debate in which I was trying to prove he was lying and he was trying to prove he was not. There’s really no way either of could prove it, right?

    I have attempted to debate with you guys in a logical manner in the past and it simply isn’t possible.

    In this case, he knows he’s lying and he can deny it and you can pretend to believe him and we can all go on our merry way. Of course, he could come clean, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.

  38. Morzen says:

    At this point its just comic entertainment and really far beneath any level of dignity to give more credence and maybe time to this issue.

    But for what its worth, like I said, I have no axes to grind, and with regard to the LDS church and my long-time involvement with it, as this is an example (a mild one!) of the mentality, personality, or whatever, too many people have to deal with in Mormonism, and especially if there is even a hint of not being the kind of member someone else thinks you should be. A person once commented to me that in the LDS church too many people carry everyone else around in their back pockets.

    In the few years my wife and I have completely distanced ourselves from any church involvement, we (she more than me) have sought out other modalities of friendships and WHOA what a difference. No more roles to play, no more having to watch what you say, no more having to deal with plastic smiles and gooey talk.

    My wife told me about an incident a while back when a lady at church commented on some non-LDS folks, Theyre not members of the church you know, but they are still nice people. Huh, who would have thought that there could be nice people who are not Mormons. I know one, her/his name is JJL9.

  39. Morzen says:

    I do want to mention as well, though, that I have an exclusive and trusted business relationship with a TBMer and I will readily admit that his Mormonism is a major factor for my trust in him. But the regular run-of-the-mill members at church, and its odd (for the lack of a better word) dynamics — no thanks. I am much happier now than Ive ever been since Ive placed the eggs of my religiosity in another nest.

  1. July 28, 2011

    […] ProfXM at Main Street Plaza has a post analyzing a recent Mormon Messages Youth youtube video. I’ll embed the video below. […]

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