Recovering from Purity Culture and Sexual Shame Ryan Couples Therapy Gig Harbor WA

Purity Culture and Sexual Shame: History and Roots

Purity culture did not initially surface in the 1980s, ’90s, and early 2000s out of nothing. Rather, the social, cultural, and religious structures that gave birth to purity culture began thousands of years ago.

Purity Culture’s roots have taken hold within our consciousness ever since societies shifted from matriarchy and earth-based spirituality practices to societies ruled by patriarchy, capitalistic greed, white supremacy, and the rise of Christianity.

The United States was colonized by “Puritans”; those who practiced Christianity from a stark, ascetic, and rigid lens. And who believed in white men’s superiority, and the inferiority of BIPOC, of women, of non-binary people, of queer people.

Philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle influenced the early Christian church with their ideas that the body was something to be denied, controlled, and treated as sinful. Anything having to do with the body, sexuality, sensuality, pleasure, feminine and queer empowerment was considered suspicious, dangerous, and something to be controlled, suppressed, and defined as dangerous.

This way of thinking had deeply harmful consequences throughout the world on so many levels. But when we just think in terms of sexuality, sensuality, pleasure and the unique and vast ways that humans express these erotic energies through the body, purity culture philosophy has been traumatizing, shaming, and harmful to many for many, many centuries.

In our current times, those who have accepted the purity culture tenets and have tried to live according to its rules routinely experience sexual shame, sexual illiteracy, and unfulfilling, confusing, and painful (physically, emotionally, and relationally) sexual experiences and relationships.

Purity culture does not support or affirm:

  • The right of all humans to experience pleasure and erotic liberation
  • How to celebrate one’s sexual expression
  • How to navigate sexual energy and desire
  • How to understand one’s unique arousal template
  • How to honor the vast diversity of sexual and gender identity
  • How to communicate consent
  • How to make decisions about sexual activity from an informed, knowledge base
  • How to enjoy sex for pleasure’s sake
  • How to be embodied and feel safe at the same time

I work with many clients raised with purity culture teachings who are struggling with their sexuality and within their sexual relationships. They come to me in a lot of distress feeling like “failures” or feeling “broken”.

They desperately want to positively connect with and understand their body. They want to have sex that doesn’t hurt. They want to heal from and release the deeply embedded negative messages about sex that they were taught growing up.

I am passionate about helping clients heal from purity culture and sexual shame.

Learn more about Purity Culture and Sexual Shame

For many of us, raised in Western culture, the idea of erotic freedom is elusive, confusing, and anxiety-provoking.

We long to feel free and joyful in our bodies and through our sexual expression, but often feel that this kind of freedom and joy is just out of reach or not deserved.

Purity culture and sexually repressive systems pour a massive amount of energy into spreading inaccurate, negative, restrictive, shame-based, and fear-based messages about sex.

Purity culture focuses on controlling the sexual activity, expressions, and choices of humans. It defines sexuality, values, and what is “good” for people, without their consent. It takes away the birthright of all humans: the ability to decide for themselves who they are sexually, how they want to express this, and the kind of relationship they want to have with their own body and with others.

Many people raised in families, religions, and other systems that are connected to purity culture philosophies, do not value pleasure and diverse sexual and gender expressions.

They fear erotic freedom, ease, and celebration. Out of this fear, sex becomes a barometer for morality.

Purity culture and sexual shame models believe that the only “good” sex is between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman, who wait until they are married to have sex, which is defined as penis/vagina intercourse.

In the purity culture world, women are given the responsibility to hide their sexuality premarriage, so as not to “tempt” the men. They are taught that not only are they responsible to control their own sexuality, but they also are responsible to control the sexual desires and behavior of all men with whom they come into contact. They are shamed for being sexual at all prior to marriage and shamed for being not sexual enough after marriage.

Many couples also struggle to understand why marital sex is not the reward they were told it would be; why the sex they have does not feel like an affirmation of love; why sex leaves them feeling more disconnected rather than connected to their partner.

Instead, their sexual experiences are riddled with feeling unworthy, broken, and disconnected from themselves and their partner.

Healing from the negative, shame-based messages about sex is a vital aspect of creating a life of health, joy, and unconditional acceptance of one’s authentic self.

In order to fully embrace a vibrant connection to the erotic, we have to first uncover, explore, and heal from deeply embedded sexual shame, and from the messages/scripts/narratives of purity culture.

The good news is erotic freedom, ease, and celebration are the birthright of all humans! It is never too late to invite this beautiful, loving, powerful energy into one’s life and sexuality.

I grew up in a very religious and conservative home. The messages I received about sexuality were highly restrictive, negative, and shaming. But I learned, and continue to learn, how to let go of these negative, shaming, and punitive messages and instead cultivate erotic freedom, ease, and joy.

Both my personal experiences and my professional experiences as a sex therapist, have given me a passion for helping clients recover from purity culture and sexual shame.


I believe that we can heal from sexually repressive ideas, trauma, and imprisoning mindsets.

I believe that one can heal from negative sexual scripts and beliefs, past trauma, and confusing, unfulfilling current sexual experiences and relationships.

I believe everyone can learn what brings them joy in their sexual expression and experiences.

I believe everyone can learn what inspires and nourishes their desire and arousal.

I believe we can transform sexually painful aspects of one’s life into positive joyful experiences that allow authentic self-expression.

I personally have healed, and continue to heal, from my own sexual shame and the negative beliefs that have caused me so much inner turmoil, grief, and a deep sense of unworthiness.

If you come from a sexually repressive background, and/or were raised within the purity culture teachings, and carry sexual shame, I would love to help you heal.

I have witnessed clients let go of harmful sexual narratives, practices, and shame as they simultaneously create new, positive narratives and practices that enrich their well-being, their sexual confidence, their relationships, and their self-worth.

I hope that you will reach out today and being your journey to release the shame and unworthiness you carry and cultivate erotic liberation.

Are you curious about what life would feel like if you were able to have sex that is free from anxiety, shame, and purity culture narratives?

  • Are you ready to let go of sexual dissatisfaction, confusion, and pain?

  • Are you ready to deepen your understanding of your body, your sexual desire, and your arousal template?

  • Are you ready to celebrate your sexuality?

If so, sign up to stay in the know about my new online course:

Recovery from Purity Culture Teachings & Sexual Shame