"To maintain this gift from God, they believe that they must control sex before marriage," Diefendorf said. The support group is one way for the young men to explore their sexual urges, she said. Many of them opened up to struggles with pornography and masturbation, which some considered as "destructive" and a threat to their commitment to abstinence.
"People think that evangelical support groups are just about suppressing men's natural urges, but really they are caring, supportive and safe space that allow men to have a remarkably open and frank discussion about sexual desire," Diefendorf said.
Besides the support group, the men sought out accountability partners to help control their behavior. One of them, for instance, had an accountability partner who would text-message him each night, "Are you behaving?" Some of them used software to track which websites they visited, and shared the results with the partner.
A few years later, in 2011 and 2012, Diefendorf followed up with the men. Fourteen of them were married and she wanted to find out how the men's views of sex and masculinity had changed since marriage.
During a focus-group meeting in one of their homes, it soon became clear that as taboo as sexual activity was before marriage, it was now taboo to talk about sex as it was seen as disrespecting their wives.
"After marriage, the church culture assumes that couples become each other's support, regardless of the issue at hand," Diefendorf said. "There's little support in figuring out sexuality in married life, and these men don't know how to talk to their wives about it."
As one of the men put it: "For me to come home from work and say, 'hey, did you like it last time?' I mean that would be that would be such a weird question for me to ask."
The newlyweds also revealed they continue to think of sex in terms of control, and how the so-called beastly elements of sex temptations by pornography and extramarital a
|Contact: Sandra Hines|
University of Washington