Yet Another Post about Purity, Teenage Girls, and Bears (Yes, Bears)

Hey there, college girl, spending a Saturday night watching “Friends” reruns while your roommates are out kanoodling. I know you’re sad and lonely, wondering why your only date this year was a blind one set up by your roommate—one that ended before it started, when the guy remembered he had a big Bio exam and couldn’t be away from the books for even one minute.

Your friends have been gushing about the men in their lives, pinning wedding pictures like crazy on Pinterest because they know their boyfriends are The One. Truth be told, you’ve also been pinning wedding pictures, just because, though you feel a little sheepish planning a ceremony without a clear sense of who The One will be, or what colors will look best with his eyes.

Maybe your friends have also admitted to getting as far as second base, though because they are Christian women, they won’t likely use baseball metaphors. Instead, they’ve told you how much they’ve been blessed by The One, and how the Holy Spirit has been moving swiftly through their prayer times together, and you feel a little more jealous because the Holy Spirit has never moved through you in quite the same way, and never when you’ve been holding hands with The One, a Bible placed between you.

I know you feel bad. Which is why I was happy to stumble on a new product, called the Boyfriend Bear. Yes, you heard me right: The Boyfriend Bear.

Last year, Kendra wrote about purity bears, which was this somewhat creepy animated bear that hovered over the shoulder of a teenage boy, reminding him that his date was a skank, and that she was angling to get him in the sack. The purity bear whispered to him that he shouldn’t give in to the temptress, and he listened. Heck, if some stuffed bear suddenly appeared on my shoulder, telling me to stop doing something, I might listen, too.

But that was just a savvy ad campaign, a way for evangelicals to remind their young ‘uns that threats to sexual purity might loom as close as your front door. These Boyfriend Bears are real, live, honest-to-goodness stuffed animals, meant for those who don’t have the real thing (men, that is, not animals). And, also, for those who need a “visual and huggable reminder to stay pure,” not “just another stuffed bear to throw in the corner.” Like that blind date once did to you.

The Boyfriend Bear is intended for those who want something to hold and cuddle until they can give it up. One can also pray for her future spouse while holding the Boyfriend Bear. And, a girl can write a letter to her future spouse and stick it into the bear, and then on her wedding night she can give the letter-stuffed bear to her new husband, because what man doesn’t want to spend time reading stuff on his wedding night? The whole bear exchange will work especially well if her new husband happens to be a fourteen-year-old boy.

I’m actually a little impressed by the founder of the Boyfriend Bear, a 16-year-old girl who felt called to do something more with her life after a youth conference. I remember that same feeling after church camp and Mennonite conferences, but my desire to be and do something more usually faded by the time I’d gotten home and turned on the television. So kudos to the Boyfriend Bear founder, who even knows her spiritual gifts—Missionary, Faith, and Encouragement—even if she doesn’t yet know how to create parallel structure.

Still, the Boyfriend Bear also seems an artifact of the ways evangelical Christians become hyper-obsessed with sexuality by pretending not to be obsessed at all, and pass that obsession onto their teenage girls. In other words, the Boyfriend Bear calls attention to a girl’s sexuality, making it a central part of her identity, by saying simultaneously that her sexuality must be sublimated, at least until marriage (and then, only after the Boyfriend Bear ritual).

Which makes me ask of evangelical culture, once again: Why the intense focus on staying pure? And why the intense focus on making sure girls remain “pure”? After all, there aren’t any Girlfriend Bears to cuddle, or even the masculine approximation. Is it that boys don’t have to reminded so often as girls? Or is something else going on?
Instead of compelling young girls to squeeze a bear until The One comes along, and telling her that the act will help her stay pure, why not say this:  Hey Girl, go out into the world and do stuff. Become an athlete. Act in a play. Be the smartest kid in your class. Volunteer with those who could use the help. Make friends with some guys from your class. Go to the movies. Try dancing.
Discover who God means for you to be, and make that, rather than purity, your “lifestyle.” Because you have so much more to offer the world than merely your body, and I’m sure God wants you to do something more than hold onto a stuffed bear, waiting for some man to complete you.