My AWANA Experience Part 2: Sexism, Purity Culture, & Being Shamed by Leaders

This video is part 2 about my experience as a teenage homeschooled AWANA member. I share stories of being shamed by leaders, purity culture, sexist bullying, and friendship loss.

CW: religious trauma, public shaming, sexism & sexist bullying

AWANA program overview:
My AWANA experience part 1:

My new pronouns:

[Content Mentioned]
Veggie Rocks Album:
“VEGGIE TALES” by Fundie Fridays:

00:00 – Introduction & context
01:00 – Being shamed at a parent appreciation dinner
07:10 – Purity culture, courtship, & friendships with boys
12:01 – Being shamed for “the appearance of evil”
16:33 – Sexist bullying & losing a friend
23:35 – Am I still in contact with the AWANA kids?

[Background Music]
Title: Carefree Childhood

Image Description: Elly, who is white with brown eyes, is sitting in front of a desk as she talks to the camera. Their brown hair is half up half down, and they are wearing a black tank top. On the desk are two green plants, a small bisexual flag, and a lit candle. There are AWANA home movie clips in the intro and outro of the video.

#AWANA #Exvangelical #ReligiousTrauma #PurityCulture #Sexism #ChristianPatriarchy #Cult #ExHomeschooler


37 thoughts on “My AWANA Experience Part 2: Sexism, Purity Culture, & Being Shamed by Leaders”

  1. As if the things you said in these two videos weren't painful enough, you just put in the end that tragic breakup with the group… That's absolutely heartbreaking, thinking about how much love you felt for them, how gratef you were for them… I am so sorry that you had to go through this! :-'(

  2. It sucks when they gang up on you like that, does it not? I know how it feels. I tell myself that those other kids were scared and might otherwise have defended me, but they were probably just relieved that they were not the one chosen for punishment. Your videos are very important, please keep publishing your thoughts.

  3. So much of your videos sounds so familiar, and I am SO angry for you and for younger me. My family was more evangelical than fundie but there was definitely overlap at my church. I was also a target for some of the same reasons, and I wish I could just SHAKE the adults who even just watched and didn’t intervene, much less the ones who joined in.

  4. Right around my 16th birthday, my whole friend group also made the collective decision to not be my friend. It was so painful, and I'm sorry you also went through that.

  5. Wow, Elly! 5 minutes in and you uncovered a similar memory for me. My parents were always talking about moving, in addition to already shifting us from schooling systems every 2 years. I didn’t even remember the moving part.

  6. I remember how hellish it was having close friends of the "opposite sex" back at my church growing up. (Not actually a girl, but AFAB.) My best friend in middle school was a boy, and our moms and other adults at church would talk to each other about whether or not we'd end up together, and it felt weird and gross. It ended up ruining our friendship for good. Then my first relationship was another boy I was friends with, who I didn't actually like romantically, but I let the youth group and the church at large basically guilt me into dating him just because he liked me. He was a decent guy, and I liked having him as a friend, but dating him sucked. Especially since–at 14 and 16–he was convinced we were going to get married. And his parents supported the idea! Purity culture is miserable. And that's just the more lighthearted anecdotes, because I don't want to put the really gross shamey stuff in a Youtube comment. :/

  7. This was an odd listen for me because I also had a male BFF named Corey growing up, and my fundie family would try to shame me all the time for our friendship, implying that it was not only romantic but also potentially sexual, even as pre-teens.
    What made it most frustrating was that we both knew that Corey was gay (and turned out, so am I.) So it added an extra layer of frustration and pain. Thankfully, we never had a falling out and continue to be friends.

  8. You thought you could hand some boy a veggie rocks cd after he gifted you a soccer ball and you didn’t realize THAT WAS A CONFIRMED BETROTHAL?!?!?! I mean, c’mon! You should have known better 🤣❤️💯

  9. Another thing I'd like to mention about the shaming kids for not memorizing verses thing is that it's extremely ableist. Any child with dyslexia, ADHD, or any other learning disability would have had an enormous amount of trouble memorizing versus, and shaming them in that way was just another method of telling them that it's their fault.

  10. I grew up in a Fundy group – "the message" – as one of only 2 kids in the group (which might have v been a good thing – now, with more kids, they homeschool).

    I dreamed (literally) of something like Awana, so there's a bit of my childhood self that dies with you at the discovery that it wouldn't have been a loving family of coconspirators, but just the same bunch of self righteous bullies as I had at school, the only difference being their use of apparent scripture as validation.

    I'm curious about your use of 'sexism'. Having absorbed so much of the patriarchal miasma you grew up in, where did you learn the word? And where to apply it? I didn't discover feminism to far f far later (though that's potentially cause I'm alot older and was growing b up pre-internet).

  11. Will you do a book review of the Strong Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson. My parents got that book specifically for me and my "direct disobedience and defiance." Turns out I was just a little girl with ADHD that my parents never took me to get evaluated.
    I'm 37 now and was just diagnosed not too long ago.
    I hate that book for making me "easily manipulated by the Devil" according to my parents. They read that horrible book like it was the law.

  12. Purity culture is one of the cruelest, if not THE cruelest doctrines in all of Christianity. I know this video is primarily about how it affects women, but as a man, I can tell you all that it's oppressive for men too.

    Purity culture made me utterly obsessed with sex, something I desperately wanted but wasn't allowed to have. This obsession eventually led to a porn addiction, which has brought great shame and a fear of eternal damnation. Fact: telling people not to do something only makes them want to do it more. Purity culture also made me feel pressured to try to marry a woman quickly so that I could have sex without sinning, and this has led me to rush things with women and make them feel really uncomfortable. To make things even worse, I have some really weird kinks. ABDL, BDSM, and femdom, to be exact. I'm sure that many Christians would consider these kinks to me sinful even in a marriage between a man and woman.

    I still want to be a Christian, but I want to believe in a kind and compassionate God who won't burn us in hell for eternity just for acting on our most basic biological drives, which we did not choose to have. If there are more sexually open-minded denominations out there, I'd like to know about them.

  13. Thank you so much Elly, I love you so much for being so thoughtful and caring and sharing this. It hurt so much but it's so impactful to hear you call it what is, sexist bullying, and emphasize how deliberate and materially harmful the unspoken backlash I can identify with having felt as a kid was… just for trying to avoid the trap of being coerced into gender normativity. I really appreciate you making that connection that it was just a continuation of the persistent attempt to objectify us and sublimate our personhood even as we recognized and resisted misogyny around us. It really makes me feel so disturbed T_T

  14. I don't think it's embarrassing that you documented all the letters you sent—at least in my experience, it is EXTREMELY common for people in abusive situations to form the habit of documenting all correspondence that they can so that it can't be used against them later (e.g. someone can't lie and say "why did you send such a mean letter to me?" if you can hold up a copy of the letter and say "there isn't anything mean in here"). Not saying that's exactly what you were doing—I don't know you and definitely don't want to psychoanalyze you or anything—but at least in my experience, you're definitely not alone in documenting your correspondence and I don't think it makes you weird or embarrassing 🙂

  15. You do a lot of dialectical thoughts. Letting happy moments coexist with sad moments. I have to do that too. As someone who had conservative Xtian parents and grandparents, I also secretly questioned their beliefs a lot. I was always told that I walk to the beat of my own drum. As a child, I never fit in at the church as a) I have a Jewish background b) my unmarried parents living together was something the church elders made my grandparents step down from worship team for c) we were all neurodivergent. I never felt like the perfect blonde haired, blue eyed Christian girl who always was dressed to the nines and carried their perfect little childrens Bible in a cute carrying case. My family were the outcasts of my church growing up. It really hit me at 10 when I remember asking God why I was so different.

  16. Hi Elly, I just want to thank you again for sharing your experiences about growing in a fundie household. I also wanted to tell you to not be embarrassed about documenting everything! I wished I did as now documenting is a big part of my life! I used to have so many journals and I threw them all out and I just recently started properly journaling in a diary again… so please don’t be embarrassed! I think it is very smart of you to think of photocopying letters you send! 😊

    Edit : I just finish your video and it broke me when you said your friends collectively agreed to stop being your friends… I’m so sorry. For what is worth, you have many new online friends who care about you, even if we’re strangers. ❤️

  17. Thank you for your openness and honesty about this. I didn't grow up Fundie, but some people I really care about have done. The sheer toxicity of the environment and behaviours in so many ways is so horrifying.

  18. tysm for making these videos and making yourself vulnerable in order to share. as a young ex fundie (only 17 and v thankful to have gotten out when i did!), it's incredibly helpful and inspiring to see someone making these videos and living their life, esp someone who is queer like myself. also, i can't thank you enough for always taking the time to put captions!! i have an auditory processing disorder as a result of my neurodivergence, and far too often i'm left struggling to understand caption-less videos, but never w your channel. you're seriously so inspiring to me, thank you for what you're doing <3

  19. Thank you for sharing about this experience! I enjoy your channel a lot, despite the fact I grew up in an atheist family. You're such a nice and kind person!
    I was betrayed, humiliated and shamed by my "friends" and classmates, so I see myself in your story. These people ruined my life and I still struggle with social activities and making friends.
    I wish none of us were going through this, but it already happened. Thank you – you made me feel less alone

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