When Mindy was 19, she lost her virginity to her husband on their wedding night. He says the first thing he felt was guilt.
“I had spent my whole life learning that if I kept myself pure and worthy of my husband, then my sex life would be great,” Mindy told In The Know. “I felt incredibly flawed and broken.”
Mindy — which is not her real name, but the pseudonym she uses online and how she asked to be referred to for this story — grew up in a Mormon family. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), or, informally, the Mormon Church, is a non-Trinitarian belief under Christianity that encourages followers to remain chaste until entering into a heterosexual marriage.
“When I was taught about sex, it was always about men,” Mindy said. “It makes women feel selfish by wanting things for themselves.”
Mindy said she was told her ultimate goal in life was to be a mother and wife. She was taught that, as a woman, she should think of sex only as a way to serve her husband and fulfill that goal.
“I was going to be the best Mormon and live the perfect Mormon life,” he added. But she didn’t expect to face “shame and guilt and panic attacks around sex” after getting married.
Chastity culture disproportionately affects women and girls, author Katie Cross argues in her book Feminist Trauma Theologies: Body, Scripture & Church in Critical Perspective. Although chastity culture has been around for decades, abstinence-based sex education began to become more popular in the US in the 1990s and 2000s as part of a recurring trend where, as writer Jessica Valenti puts it, society appears to link ‘sexual immorality with ‘national insecurity and impending apocalypse’.
Being taught that sex was immoral caused Mindy “trauma” that she still struggles with. Many of her edits are documented on her TikTok account, where she has nearly 200,000 followers.
“I was three years old when I was first told to keep my legs together when wearing a dress so boys wouldn’t see my underwear,” she said in a video. “I was 13 when I was told that boys would always want sex and girls are naturally less sexual – so it was my job to be the gatekeeper.”
Studies have shown that it is ultimately difficult to compare the sexual desires of men and women because women’s sexual behaviors tend to change over time, and women also face much more stigma for being sexually active.
“I was 16 the first time I kissed a boy with a tongue and I felt so guilty about it I wanted to die,” Mindy continued in her video. “I felt disgusted with my body.”
After a year of marriage to her husband, Mindy said she believed that God was not answering her prayers as a punishment for her sexual feelings before marriage. At the age of 30, Mindy decided to really explore how purity culture had affected her relationship with sex, and kept coming across the phrase “good girl syndrome” – which she repeatedly tried to dismiss.
“I had read about it before, but I always brushed it off because I didn’t think it was what I was struggling with,” Mindy told In The Know. “This was the beginning of me uncovering all the trauma that purity culture had caused me.”
Good girl syndrome is when a woman defines her worth and likability by how she can serve others. It’s a similar ideology to being a “perfect Mormon.”
“The Mormon ideal of perfection is more demanding than the military,” argues psychotherapist Donna Bevan-Lee. “It applies, not only to appearance, behavior and work performance, but also to thoughts and feelings, to the fundamentals of a person being.”
Mindy left the church, which wasn’t easy.
“My friends were Mormon, my family was Mormon, most people I knew were Mormon,” he told In The Know. “When I realized I couldn’t participate in religion anymore, suddenly I wasn’t part of the group.”
Something that made the decision a little easier for Mindy was that her children did not want to grow up under Mormonism.
“I felt the need to protect my children from the church and its teachings,” she explained. “Once I started to realize how much purity culture had damaged my relationship with sex, I knew I would grow up [daughters] different.”
Mindy’s daughters aren’t the only people affected by Mindy’s decision to leave. Since starting her TikTok account, Mindy says she’s been getting countless messages from ex-Mormons.
“The overwhelming message is one of gratitude,” he said. “There’s comfort in knowing you’re not crazy and you’re not alone. That there is happiness and a fulfilling life outside the Mormon Church.”
Mindy doesn’t consider herself “cured” — in fact, she referred to the process as “endless.” She’s still triggered by the memories that come up, but thankfully she’s built a support system on TikTok that allows her to feel validated and normal.
“The most healing thing of all was social media, honestly,” she said. “Being able to find humor in difficult situations helped me get through so much pain.”
Mindy recommends: Come as you are by Emily Nagoski
“This book does a really good job of explaining women’s sexuality and normalizing everything that makes you feel different and broken,” Mindy said. “It helped shift my brain to a more sexual place.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness or mental health issues, get in touch National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-6264. You can also connect with one Crisis text line free consultant by texting the word “HOME” at 741741. Visit the NAMI website to learn more signs and symptoms of various mental health conditions.
The post Ex-Mormon uses TikTok to “unfold all the trauma” chastity culture caused her appeared first on In The Know.
More from In The Know:
Toddler turns time-out into an adorable dance party
5 tower fans and AC with built in air purifiers to help with asthma and allergies
TikTok mom shares an easy and painless Band-Aid removal hack
TikTok says this best-selling perfume will get you lots of compliments: “It’ll make everyone you pass by be attracted to you”