Archives For Purity


Letting Go of Old Taboos

A Review of 

PURE: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free
Linda Kay Klein

Hardback: Touchstone, 2018.
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Reviewed by Bob Cornwall

*** This review originally appeared
on the reviewer’s website.
It is reprinted here with permission.
Browse his website for other excellent reviews!

When I finished reading Pure, the U.S. Senate had only hours before concluded its day-long hearing that pitted the memories/claims of a previously obscure woman and the nominee for a life-time appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court that she believed had sexually assaulted her when both were in high school. These two people are both highly educated and at least outwardly successful people. But there may be more to the story than appeared on the surface. The question raised in the hearing was who should be believed. In the past a man’s word would have been taken over that of a woman, unless there was corroborating evidence (see the deuterocanonical story of Susannah). At the heart of such questions is a long-standing belief that a woman should keep herself pure until marriage. In fact, until that point she should be a nonsexual being, lest she begin a slippery slope into sin. The call for purity/virginity is combined with a warning about being a stumbling block to men. And if something untoward happens, like sexual assault, then she must be at fault. Was she drinking? Was she wearing revealing clothing? Was she flirting? If any or all these factors are in play, then she must have been asking for it. That is the line that has bandied about by politicians and from pulpits from time immemorial. In the age of #MeToo and #ChurchToo such beliefs are being challenged, and rightly so.

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Listen to this powerful interview with the author of this new book…

Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement
That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free
Linda Kay Klein

Hardback: Touchstone, 2018
Buy Now:
Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]


Listen to Klein’s interview with NPR’s Terry Gross… 

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BOOKS AND CULTURE reviews several
Recent Books on Chastity and Culture


Lies. Jessica Valenti talks about a lot of them in The Purity Myth: lies about statistics, lies about women, lies about sex. In fact, she talks so much about deception that the main truth she wants to advance gets pushed to the closing and opening pages of the book. That truth is that women are “more than the sum of our sexual parts,” a message she desperately wants her readers to take to heart, rejecting the far more common claim that “a woman’s worth lies in her ability—or her refusal—to be sexual.”

How exactly does one instill a healthier sense of worth? Valenti thinks it’s by taking away the shame in sex and “arm[ing] young women with the knowledge that sex should be a collaborative, pleasurable experience that has no bearing on whether they are ethical people.” Except, of course, that “collaborative” and “pleasurable” are obviously deemed good, as opposed to competitive and unpleasant, selfish and painful—modes of experience that would presumably be unethical. And indeed, she’s against both violent and unwanted sex, which is for her defined not just by “no” but the absence of “yes.” Sex isn’t really amoral, then. No, her problem is that sexual morality or the lack thereof still has such bearing on (women’s) worth.

Read the full review:

The Purity Myth:
How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
Jessica Valenti
Hardback: Seal Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

A Wild Constraint: The Case for Chastity.
Jenny Taylor
Paperback: Continuum, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]