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

Recovering from Purity Culture and Sexual Shame

The purity culture movement began in the 1990’s and was a strategy used by the conservative Christian church to control the sexual choices of their youth.

The Gospel Coalition defines it this way:

“Purity culture” is the term often used for the evangelical movement that attempts to promote a biblical view of purity (1 Thess. 4:3-8) by discouraging dating and promoting virginity before marriage, often through the use of tools such as purity pledges, symbols such as purity rings, and events such as purity balls.” (Taken from The FAQs: What You Should Know About Purity Culture)

Purity culture has impacted many people in deeply negative and painful ways.

Purity culture is an attempt to control the sexuality of another using literal interpretations of the Bible and through a shame-based and fear-based lens.

Those who 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 include information about:

  • 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 body and through our sexual expression, but often feel that this kind of freedom and joy is just out of reach or not deserved.

This is even more prevalent and intense if you have been raised within a religious purity culture mindset.

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 and choices of young people through literal interpretations of the Bible, through Christian teachings and rules, and through a reward system for those who remain “chaste” until marriage. Those who do so, are seen as good and praised; those who sin, are shamed.

Many people raised in families, religions, and other systems that are connected to purity culture 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 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.

To learn more about the impacts of purity culture go here: The Negative Implications of the Purity Movement on Young Women.