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What The Church Doesn't Teach You About Abstinence

Growing up in a traditional African household, the word ‘sex’ was hardly ever uttered in our home. There was a silent understanding that any discussion on the subject was completely off limits. I distinctly remember the unbearable awkwardness of trying to avoid all eye contact whenever a sex scene would pop up on screen. This discomfort around the topic of sex extended beyond my home to the other key pillar of my upbringing – the church. 

For my family, Sunday was church day and each week I attended the youth service at my predominantly African church. While the youth leaders tried to address issues that impacted us teenagers, the topic of sex was barely spoken about and on the rare occasions it was, those conversations were laden with fear. The key takeaway of most sermons regarding sex was that lust and sexual acts were sinful.

There was no mention that sexual attraction was normal, nor were we given any practical tools to process those feelings. The only recourse offered was to abstain until marriage. This narrative led me to associate sexual urges with guilt and I adopted the mindset that if I slipped up, I would be letting Jesus down and I would no longer be ‘pure’ for my future husband.