What dating rules work best for teen girls?
We’re so excited that our brand new book She Deserves Better: Raising Girls to Resist Toxic Teachings on Sex, Self and Speaking Up launches next month!
Until that launch, we want to take the podcasts to walk you through some of the key things that we found in our survey of 7000 primarily evangelical women, looking at how their experiences as teens in church affected their well-being and relationships today.
It’s going to be a wild ride–seriously, some of the findings are just fire!
And we thought today that we’d start in the middle of the book, looking at what we learned about teen dating.
Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:
Timeline of the Podcast
0:10 She Deserves Better is coming!
7:10 The generational differences in dating
12:00 The origins of Purity Culture
18:00 Defining Purity Culture with ‘word clouds’
27:15 The outcomes of dating rules
32:10 Questionable dating advice
40:00 Creating dating rules that work?
(Transcript will be late this week because we had to refilm at the last minute. But it should be up in a day or two! Sorry for the delay).
So: What should we do about dating?
Rebecca and I had such fun doing this podcast, because we finally got to delve into all the data that we found for our new book! It’s so fun to be able to switch gears and let you all know about a whole other treasure trove of findings from an all new survey.
(It helps us immensely when you pre-order, because it signals to online retailers, “there’s a lot of demand for this book,” so they order lots in stock. Then they’re far less likely to run out when it DOES launch, so people still still get to buy it. Plus other bookstores order stock and libraries order books depending on what the #1 new releases are. And when you pre-order, you’re guaranteed the lowest price!)
We will also have a launch team which you will qualify for if you pre-order from anywhere. Just send us your receipt starting on March 13, and you’ll get early access to the book, lots of exclusive webinars, some pre-order bonuses, and more!
On today’s podcast, we walk through:
- A generational look at what rules the different generations had about dating, and who dated and didn’t date
- A look at some of the advice given to millennial teen girls especially about dating
- Why the advice of how to find a mate was often so off-base
- Why purity culture tended to define a teen girl’s faith almost entirely by her virginity.
Plus we look at different outcome variables for dating. Here’s what mean by that: Usually when we think about whether or not a dating rule “works”, we’ve only looked at whether or not she saved sex for marriage. But what if there are other factors to consider as well? Factors like:
- Self-esteem, both in high school and long-term
- Likelihood of marrying an abuser
- Likelihood of getting maried, if you wanted to be married
Tune in to the podcast to find out what gives us the best results when it comes to teens and dating! And then a conversation about what parents can do to influence their kids in the right direction (and what that right direction is!).
Things Mentioned in the Podcast
- Our new book She Deserves Better, which launches April 18! It helps us immensely when you pre-order!
- Sign up for my email list to be notified about how you can join the launch team!
- Our book The Great Sex Rescue
- The University of Georgia study on teens who don’t date
What do you think? How did dating (or not dating) affect you when you were a teen? Let us know in the comments below!
(Transcript will be up in a day or two. We had to refilm at the lat minute and didn’t have time to get it to our transcriber. Sorry for the inconvenience, but watch back here in a day or two and it will be up!)
This podcast is great.
The idea that all touch is sexual is completely insane. I have done Larp and Brazillian Jiu Jitsu and both of those were full contact. I do not understand this idea that all touch is sexual. I don’t get it. Are you getting turned on while being triangle choked,?
Saying that Brio is comparing God to enemies to lovers fanfiction is hilarious. It is interesting how well it fits. God seems less like God and more like Naraku from Inuyasha or Gideon Graves.
How do we talk to each other? Ah yes the question posed by those great philosophers known as The Cramps, What is inside a girl?
Can you guys please deal with the whole ” Girls do not like nice guys so become an alpha male who benches three plate and acts like Marlon Brando” thing? It is a growing sentiment it seems.
What about folks who have never dated before?
I have to admit you guys are great.
It was an interesting podcast. I am anti purity culture, I think worrying so much about a girls virginity is asinine, and I push back against most of the modesty culture, purity culture rules. Don’t get me started on dad giving their daughters purity rings, yuck!
I have two kids, my son is not at the age yet where he is thinking about girls at all so I won’t address him other than to say the rules for my son will be the same as the rules for my daughter, boys don’t need different rules.
My daughter is a teenager, she is focused on school, she is in a college prep school, college and then career are her goals, making good friends, and being great at her sports and her now goals. Boys and finding someone to date are not important right now and I don’t think they need to be. Her Dad and I do not have rules against dating. We have shared with her that she doesn’t need a boyfriend, boyfriends don’t increase your worth, and as busy as she is dating can wait, with homework and team practice after school where would dating fit in? She has had some older role models who also didn’t date in high school because they were busy being students and athletes and learning about what interested them. I do not think you need to be dating in high school to be married later, that is pretty silly, teenagers don’t need to date or worry in high school about finding a spouse later. Very very few people marry their high school sweetheart. My husband and I also don’t think marriage needs to happen when you are fresh out of college. Marrying my kids off is not something I think about, I am more concerned with them being good happy well adjusted people who can take care of themselves as an adult. I know far to many marriages that fail when two brand new adults, who have no idea how to be adults get married and have to try and figure out life together before knowing who they are as an individual. My husband and I got married at 27 and 30, we are going strong, had plenty of time to grow up and still had time to have the kids we wanted to have. You don’t need to get married and have kids the moment you pass that last “teen” birthday, all hope isn’t lost to find the person you connect with later.
Sounds like your daughter has a great head on her shoulders!
I first listened to this podcast while in early labor with my daughter. I thought to myself, what better way to prepare for this little girl than to listen to wise, evidence based teaching! I just wanted to thank you for all that you do because I want my baby girl to learn healthy teachings rather than the toxic stuff that I was raised under. God bless!
Oh, I love that! Congratulations on your new baby girl!
I think it’s good to socialize kids as much as possible and encourage friends of both sexes from a young age. For the most part, they don’t like to play with each other at younger ages and generally stick to their gendered camps and tribes, but it’s still something that can be encouraged. We have found that when visiting with families, and there are no other options available, then they tend to play and interact with the opposite sex just fine — and this is healthy and good! As they grow older, group settings are great, where they intermingle and get to know each other. Personally, I think full-on dating (one-on-one) time and exclusive relationships are useless at middle-school age and even high-school for the most part. Unless you are at a position and stage in life where you are getting close to being self-sufficient, dating really has no relevance. Have friends, hang out in group settings, have shared interests with the opposite sex — for sure! These are great ways to get to know people, and actually can tell you more about a person than one-on-one as you see their character and how they interact and treat others. It also gives you a lot of those relationship skills of how to interact, treat, and navigate with the opposite sex without needing to exclusively date.
Re purity/virginity emphasis:
My preferred approach is not to focus only on when a girl has sex for the first time but to say that everyone, regardless of gender, needs to made good choices at every time, that include being safe, treating other people well and having regard for any future children.
That means boys/men too. That means that what happens after the first time still matters. It means that what you do when you are married matters. It means that it isn’t just having sex that matters, but whether there was full consent, commitment, intimacy, love, etc. it means every day is a new day, with the ability to make better decisions even if we previous made some that weren’t great.
Yes, exactly! If our sexual ethic only applies to single people, then it really isn’t a sexual ethic.
The conversation between God (the author’s interpretation) and Brio magazine writer was just unbelievable. I heard talk like that when I was in my 20s and had emerged from a divorce. Without realizing it and not knowing it had a name, I dived into those purity culture books after I got divorced. I read in books or “Christian” blogs that said females should not be looking for their future husbands. Just leave that up to God and fall in love with Him. Shannon Etheridge wrote a book for women called Every Woman’s Battle which was mostly geared toward married women who struggled with having sexual fantasies and “emotional” affairs with men who were not their husbands. Even though I was divorced at that time, I thought she gave some good advice but then I’d feel a lot of guilt for fantasizing about men when it was not even sexual or I had crushes which I could only have because some of these books told me I was not allowed to initiate conversation with single men. That wasn’t godly. Well, an interesting thing Shannon had in her book was about marrying Jesus but that did not mean you could not marry an earthly man. I know the Bible talks about us believers being the bride of Christ and that metaphor is used a lot, but looking back that just sounds weird. Our book group did have a wedding ceremony where we married Jesus. At that time, I just saw this ceremony as a stepping stone in my walk with God and took it as a symbol, not a literal husband.
So, those teachings kept me in unwanted singleness for many years. I wanted to do God’s will and not make the same mistakes I made when I was with my ex-husband. From the time I was a teenager, I never really knew how to be friends with guys. I did have one heterosexual male friend, but most of the guys I considered friends were gay (which I did not know at the time) and I always felt so comfortable around them.
Well, after I hit 40 and the biological clock was loudly ticking, I decided that I just needed to get out there and try online dating for the fourth or fifth time and just open myself up. I was done with following those rules which really are not from the Bible because dating was not a thing in biblical times. Surprisingly, I have done more dating (including a broken engagement in which we remained friends) in my 40s than I ever did in my 30s. I used to believe that if I didn’t find anyone after 40, I was just ready to be put out to pasture. I think getting to know men at my age is much better because I am more secure with myself.
So not only has purity culture been harmful to teenage girls, but it is also harmful to adult women like myself.
“Don’t manipulate the situation.” -quoting modern influencer, around 33:30.
Once again we have someone assuming the worst of women, of teen girls, that they must be trying to manipulate men, boys, God. Because if a female is trying to take an active approach in her relationship status, she must be out of line with God’s will for her life.
That just really rubbed me the wrong way.
Well, sure, may as well start the subjugation of the woman to the man before the relationship even starts. Then she’ll already be on the right path if they get married.
True. Start ’em young.
That darn Ruth… How dare she try to take the reins in her relationship status with Boaz! Look how badly that turned out for her!! lol
Not exactly related but I had the thought recently that part of why Paul was telling women to stay quiet in church, the ones that in particular were likely just being too talkative, may have been becaue in that culture girls were probably married off very young. I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way but quite a few of the teen girls I know are very talkative when they get together. The ones at my church certainly have been hushed now and then simply because they are still developing impulse control, etc. and can disrupt some of the learning going on. Wonder if something like that may have contributed to that particular group needing to be addressed. Just a thought.
Ooh I noticed that too! It seemed like a sneaky redefinition of terms so that “exercising agency while in possession of two X chromosomes”= manipulation! Orwellian and gross.
Loved this ep. I’m a millennial who managed to escape a lot of the worst of purity culture but this doublethink about God and guys was definitely something I accidentally hoovered up. I used to think that I had to reach a certain level of holiness to merit a boyfriend and felt I had to almost disguise my desire for a boyfriend when praying, as if God would be fooled! At the same time (at 18) I heard a FoTF speaker say that if you had a desire to be married, then you would get married (without emphasising the need to do any work towards that goal, e.g. as you said, getting a phone number!) Even now, I struggle to put myself out there dating-wise unless I feel like I have it all together (there are other reasons for that as well, mind). I tend to assume I have to become perfect physically and spiritually before looking for another sinner to date, which I’m coming to realise is crazy! If I hadn’t been bound by the idea of ‘the man needs to ask first’ I’d have dated a lot more. Lots to think about. Thank you!
I almost cried while listening to this episode. I never really connected these stupid dating rules to unwanted singleness. But that’s exactly what happened to me. I always internalized it and thought it was my fault. I wasn’t pretty enough or skinny enough to be pursued (I was overweight in high school, then gained more weight in college/adulthood). Since I couldn’t initiate, it was my fault for not making myself desirable enough to be pursued. I am 32 years old and I have been on two dates in my entire life. I’ve never been in a relationship and I’ve never been kissed, nor has anyone even held my hand. I wasn’t necessarily forbidden to date, but it was strongly discouraged. I wasn’t given the tools to enter the dating world and talk to boys/men. I watched all the girls around me date and eventually get married, and I got left behind. I even told my mom once when I was 18/19 that I thought God was punishing me by keeping me single.
I feel like I missed the boat, my prime opportunity. I used to be involved in Cru on my campus. I knew so many Christian guys at that time, but no one showed any interest and I didn’t know how to express mine. Even then I heard at a Cru conference that there were better outcomes if the guy asked out the girl, the girl still had to just sit there and wait. Now I’m part of a small congregation where all the single men are in their early twenties (all two of them). I’m meeting NO ONE and online dating was exhausting the first (and only) time I tried it. It’s totally true that the advice is the same whether you’re 13 or 30. I just hear the same platitudes over and over again. It feels like mind games.
It’s to the point that I’m just totally confused about what I want. Do I still want to get married and have kids? It’s hard for me to say that with confidence when I feel betrayed by those who taught me these awful things and unwanted by any man I’ve ever had interest in. I can feel myself teetering into a bitter headspace that just thinks, “Fxxk men, I don’t need them anyway.” I feel like at this point marriage is never going to happen and I should just cut my losses now by trying to fool myself that I never wanted it in the first place or that I’m better off without it. So it’s not really a healthy “I prefer to be single” headspace. I feel like I can’t be honest with myself. Just like when I was in high school, when I couldn’t want it too badly.
I am the only person in my family who is not married or to be married. I have four brothers, three are married (two with kids), and one engaged. It was so much simpler for my brothers. And I’m left feeling unwanted and alone. And lonely. And I love being an auntie to nieces and nephews, I truly do. But I still feel lonely. All my friends are coupled up. It gets harder and harder to hang out with friends. I go to work and I go home, and maybe I see some family. That’s it.
And this whole time I thought it was my fault. But maybe I just wasn’t set up for success. But either way, I have to live with the aftermath. And it feels horribly lonely.
I feel you on this one. I had been single for a long time after I got divorced at 26. I wanted to do things God’s way when it came to dating and remarriage so I read “Christian” books on dating, sex, and marriage which gave bad advice. Like you mentioned, some of them said that the guy had to do the pursuing which would make for a better outcome because guys want to pursue. I thought by doing all the right things such as waiting for the guy to make the first move, avoiding dating (though I attempted online dating several times without much success), dressing modestly (but attractively), living the right Christian life, believing that I should let the man be in charge (even though I just could not agree this was okay, I wanted an equal partner), etc that God would bless me with an earthly husband.
Now that I’m in my mid-40s, I ditched the whole “I kissed dating goodbye” attitude and just decided to live my life. I got engaged when I was 41, but that didn’t work out and thankfully we’re still friends to this day. I had more friendships with men in my 40s than I ever have in any other season in my life.
I would not give up on the possibility of getting married. I used to worry a lot about this during my 30s and after my broken engagement, I decided that I was going to enjoy my life as it was, yet still be open to change and new experiences. After discovering this blog nearly two years ago, I have learned a lot and feel gypped that I was fed a lot of lies from Christians about dating, relationships, and marriage. They harmed me and I’m still trying to bounce back from purity culture harm. It’s a process.
Same, same, absolutely same.
Abigail, I am so sorry you were fed that misinformation. I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but if you decide you do want to get married, 32 is far from too old. I have MANY friends that intentionally waited until their 30s to look for a marriage partner because they wanted to be secure in their careers, finances, and self-knowledge. I married at age 23 and, looking back, it would have been far better if we had waited. We had so much to learn and hurt each other a lot in the process.
I don’t know if marriage is right for you or not, but 32 is definitely not too late to heal from dodgy teaching or to get married. I got married when I was 45 and I didn’t even meet my OH until I was 42. But whether married or single, you don’t have to stay home on your own – why not try joining some groups or evening classes that interest you? Worse case scenario, you have fun learning a new hobby, best case scenario, you make some new friends too!
Abigail, bear with me here. There’s a point to this story. This all happened forty four years ago, just before Christmas my junior year of college. A friend and I had planned a deer hunting trip over on the Tellico river. My parents were out of town at a cousin’s wedding and my friend called the night before we were to go to tell me he had the flu. I decided to go on by myself. I didn’t tell anybody I was still going.
Sunrise found me in a tree stand twelve feet above the deer trail and about eighty feet above the river. About 7:00 am the stand decided to break. I first hit the trail and tore the ACL in my left knee. I then tumbled all the way down the bluff bouncing off rocks and trees until landed from the waist down in the river. The temperature according to the thermometer/compass pinned to my coat read 28 degrees. I crawled over to my rifle and fired three shots (universal distress signal). There was dead silence. I waited twenty more minutes and fired three more. Again silence. It was then that I realized that nobody was coming to help me. I was shivering violently and trying to think. The way I saw it I had three options, lay there and freeze to death, use my last round to get it over with quick or crawl up that cliff. The fact that I writing this tells you which one I chose. It took me over two hours. I pulled myself up into my truck and drove myself over thirty miles to the hospital in Maryville.
I’ve told this story to say what happens with your life from here on out is up to you. Nobody is coming to help you. You’ve got to take charge of the future. If you want a husband and family then forget the rest of the world and go get one. Don’t listen to anybody else. You run you and you let people know it!!!
I dated as a teenager and young adult and I have no regrets from dating. I do wish I’d had adults to talk to, openly, without judgement. But, I didn’t. We have placed no restrictions on our teens with regards to dating. My concern is for them to be fully educated about the warning signs of controlling and abusive relationships. That has been my focus in my conversations with them, that and a complete education about sexuality, including their options for health & safety should they decide to have a sexual relationship.
As you were talking about dating based on generations, it brought back memories of my mother (born mid 50s) telling me to “just date,” go out with any & everyone so you learn what you like & don’t like. Which as a millennial, I understand to a point, but why waste my time going out 1:1?! Then, I much rather hang out as a group. As the pressure to date & have a boyfriend was so intense— from family, extended family, friends, etc. etc. with so many people asking I know it definitely got tied to my self worth, if I had a boyfriend or not, & when things didn’t work out— the heartache was just horrible.
Me just remembering the time my father made my sister sign a notarized (by a family friend of my grandmother) purity pledge…woof