the modesty purity movement and our sacrificial virgins

sacrificial virgins cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

The modesty and purity movement is both fascinating and frightening.

When people start talking about purity, someone must die. The cry for cleansing conjures up suggestions of genocide. It reminds me of Rwanda.

Read René Girard. Religion was necessary in the development of human evolution to control violence by imputing guilt onto the scapegoat. I suggest this exposes the failure of religion because we continue to create, despise and ignore our victims at an ever-increasing rate.

Thabiti Anyabwile’s blog is “Pure Church” and his tagline is “a desire for an increasingly pure church”. Scary. His popular post at the Gospel Coalition blog network titled, “The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing Homosexuality and Gay Marriage” is horrifying but important because it betrays a very real hatred of homosexuals. Thank God he said it because now we know it’s real. It bears a genocidal nuance because it’s a small step to calling them “cockroaches” to be cleansed from society.

It’s the same with the virginity, purity and modesty movement. The demand for girls to be pure prepares the way for girls to become victims. Our sacrifices. I find the renewed story of Teresa Scanlan, Miss America of 2011, sad but telling. She was homeschooled and the homeschooling community was proud… until the slut-shaming began and some started to criticize her because she wore a bikini, even to the point of questioning the genuineness of her Christian faith. She was an adored virgin until she became a despised slut. Those seem to be the only two options. Unless you’re a wife. But that’s a whole other issue.

The pressure women are under, especially young women and girls, is astounding. Is it not true that on the one hand they’re pressured to be pure virgins, but then on the other hand they’re pressured to be promiscuous? Does it all circulate around their sexuality? Their vaginas? Is it all about whether or not they’ve been penetrated? Had? Is the female still a supplement to the male, complimentary, a helper? Something to fulfill the male? Like an accessory? An add-on? “You complete me”?

The purity and modesty movement objectifies the woman for the man’s pleasure… whether it’s to use the slut now or save the virgin for later.

The daughter in this cartoon, about the same age as my daughter, has a good mom. They won’t be just another tool in the man’s shed.

My daughter Casile, an artist, sums it up well:

“This stuff makes me so angry I can’t even!”

Download my eBook "Money is Spiritual" for just $10!

173 Replies to “the modesty purity movement and our sacrificial virgins”

  1. It is sad b/c we get such contradictory messages…be pure or loosen up. And the same people obsessed with purity for unmarried women want married women to pop out a thousand kids. They are also the same people that don’t seem to think rape is a big deal and that we should try to find the blessings in it.
    One of the comments on the homeschooler page about Miss America that was really sad told her that she should not have aspirations as high as becoming President. She should do what “God wants for her” and become a wife and mother. How does this woman know what God wants for another person? Sheesh.

  2. You know, I didn’t read Anyabwile’s blog post–just some of people’s reactions to it and I didn’t realize that HE was the one who actually used the phrase “gag reflex”. So sad. As some people become threatened, they sink into ever more fundamentalist behavior. If all fails, use the most disgusting rhetoric possible to scare people into believing. Blech!

  3. Women are under a lot of pressure, but in my experience that pressure isn’t exclusive to women. Aren’t men also encouraged to preserve their sexual expression for marriage and isn’t there benefit in this? Perhaps I miss your point but the objectifying of women seems to muddy the waters of what is otherwise a helpful principle.

  4. Another good example is Elizabeth Smart who was told by her rapist that she was now used up, damaged goods, and that no one would want her now – and based on her upbringing, she believed it!

    And as a homeschooling mum, I am both horrified yet not surprised to read the comments in regard to Teresa Scanlan. I am a member of an inclusive local homeschool co-op and have learned the hard way to avoid the Christian homeschooling groups entirely.

    A year ago or so ago, our local city-wide Christian homeschool organisation banned same sex couples and their children from participating in its activities/events. There is just one same sex couple that any of us know of (and know them well we do), and they had rescued and adopted five children. So they were clearly someone’s agenda. It was the final straw for me and I immediately pulled my membership.

  5. Society is WAYYYYY more forgiving about men having the same behavior as what they despise in women. So is the church.

  6. As a woman, I don’t understand you logic here. The modesty/purity movement goes completely against objectifying women! We live in a society where “sex sells”, where in tv, media, magazines, etc. women are seen as something men can use like a tool or plaything for their own pleasure (look at playboy!). That is the message that our daughters are getting. The modesty/purity movement says “No more! I will not swallow these lies that tell me my self-worth and value are found in my sex appeal. I am more than that, I am worth more than that”.

  7. But it goes in the opposite direction and tells them their worth and value are some how linked to sexual activity which is just as damaging and wrong. It’s the same message as “sex sells” in that your only worth is some how linked to your vagina and not in what kind of loving, compassionate, strong person you are.

  8. One day this summer, my 16 y.o. daughter was at her best friend’s house when the dad told my daughter that she was wearing shorts that were too short and she was not allowed to wear them to his house again. Never mind the fact that his daughter competes on the track and cross-country team and has to wear short shorts to run in.

    What bothered me about our friend’s response to my daughter was that he only viewed her in the shorts that she was wearing. Why would he look at her this way? He’s known her for several years now. Why wasn’t he able to just look at her as his daughter’s friend?

  9. That would have given me a really bad feeling too. Not long ago, my FIVE year old daughter ran out the door after being invited by a neighbour boy to play. I caught her on the way out and had to send her upstairs to change into looser clothes first NOT because I had a problem with what she was wearing (shorts and a tank), but because I sensed that the boy’s fundamentalist mother would! And she’s only 5! (Obviously a sign that I should not be allowing these playdates at all – and I no longer am.) But I couldn’t risk her shaming my daughter in the way I remember being shamed by a few individuals for my clothing choices growing up.

  10. Agreed. It’s obsession over something that really, truly isn’t anyone’s business but a child’s parents (and not an adult’s parents). But even then – parents make a HUGE mistake when they make more of the issue than it is.

    I am very concerned about the “hook-up” culture that my children will face in a few years – the damage being done by it is clear. But I refuse to be a parent in whom my child is too scared to confide no matter what they have done. I plan to concentrate on the many amazing facets of who they are – their sexuality being an important one, yes, but just one.

  11. By defining a woman’s self worth as somehow tied to her sexual choices, we are of course objectifying women. You clearly imply that a chaste woman has more “self worth” than the woman who poses for Playboy. In fact there have been many women who have found the experience very fulfilling and empowering. Many have spoken up about how wonderful it was to be able to embrace their sexuality in ways they felt were healthy rather than accept pressure to deny this very important part of themselves.

    Both the one who tells a woman they should be sexually active and the one who tells her she should be a virgin are objectifying her as someone who should bend to THEIR wishes..

  12. Ugh – at 5?! Isn’t it sick that someone would look at a young child in that way? I get that they think they’re trying to “protect” them, but when you really think about it, it’s sick.

    She went back to her friend’s house on an unplanned visit and was wearing the shorts again. The dad happened to come home from work while she was there. He said to her, “Ahem….shorts.” It makes me want to go punch him and call him a perverted old man!

  13. No, it says just the opposite! I have 3 girls, by telling them not to buy the message that their value is tied to how sexy they look, what kind of body they have, and how much they show it off; it opens the door to the conversation about where their value DOES lie then. I get to tell them “Hey, you don’t need to look like a sex object, a guy should like you for who you are inside. He should take the time to get to know what a loving compassionate, strong, SMART person you are”. And I just don’t understand how encouraging this in our daughters would make them afraid to confide in us? That seems like a whole other issue in parenting, and of course that’s a bad thing. We need to have open and safe relationships with our kids where we can talk about these things and lots of other important things w/out them being afraid of us or what we’ll think. But our society ALREADY IS obsessed with sex and sexiness. If we don’t talk to our girls about it that is the only message they will get.

  14. I hate the purity and the courtship movement. It ruined my life. I am going to encourage my daughters to live very differently.

  15. I am not implying that a chaste woman has more self-worth than a woman that poses for playboy. My point in that comment was to point out that the magazine’s purpose and aim is for men to USE sexual images of women for their own pleasure. This of course “objectifies the woman for the man’s pleasure” like the author was talking about. Some women do enjoy being objectified because it gives a sense of power (been there, done that) but there is great danger here for our girls. Focus on image and looking a certain way so guys will want you can lead to a very unhealthy life (lots of biographies have been written about the behind the scenes horror of eating disorders and drug addictions). As a mom, I want to show my daughters that there is another way. That their sexuality is not the most important part of who they are.

  16. Thanks for saying so. I’ve got some similar feelings. Hyper-critical purity teachings, and a giant sense of shame for my own sexuality and history, led me to make some monumental relational mistakes…I traded my own intuition for the intuition of the church. No more.

  17. I believe girls and boys should have the same values, and I think it is wisest if sexual expression embodies genuine care and affection. I don’t think random sex and the hook-up culture are wise. But I don’t think virginity (for either males or females) defines their virtue or identity.

    I do have one weird question, though. Do any of you think sex creates a kind of spiritual connection? When my ex-spouse and I had intercourse before marriage, she seemed to be spiritually impacted by my spiritual stuff — we were both in charismatic circles — and had to have a kind of prayer session for her burden to be lifted. She is very spiritually sensitive. I still wonder if that was ontologically real, or in her head. Based on that odd experience I wonder if we should be cautious about whom we sleep with because of making a spiritual bond. Yet on the other hand, I don’t think anyone is obligated to consider themselves one with a rapist or other abuser. I know, that’s an eccentric question.

  18. I would argue that the purity movement does objectify the woman for the man’s pleasure. It’s just the opposite side of the same coin. Most denominations that focus on these teachings are male-led. In my experience, single adult females fell under the “leadership” of the male pastor, who heavily influenced our view of sexuality and ourselves, with what their view was (which, as the pastor, was of course biblically sound). I never felt my sexuality was shameful or image based, nor was I objectified, in my life outside of the church. Putting women under pastoral leadership and dictating a sexual ideology is objectification, in my opinion. I think it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If sexuality is not the most important part of who we are, why is so much time in the church spent cultivating this culture of false chastity?

  19. It was my objective as a mother to try to keep my daughter out of this crass, disgusting, meat-market we have nowadays, as long as possible. This is no easy task and I think I still bear the scars. Thankfully, once she grew up she got married. She also had school teachers who showed very graphic images of sexually transmitted diseases. This definitely had some impact.

  20. I think what you are saying to your daughters is great, Ellie. You don’t need to defend that.

    But I don’t think that this is what girls/women hear from the purity/modesty movement. All I am saying is that it really ought to stay between (hopefully healthy) parents who are thinking for themselves too and their children, who are also allowed to think for themselves.

  21. Since you all are teaching your girls to have sex no matter what the age put this on your refrigerators:

    The best way to
    prevent STDs is to avoid sexual contact with others. If you decide to be
    sexually active, there are things that you can do to reduce your risk
    of developing an STD:
    Have a mutually monogamous sexual relationship with an uninfected partner.
    Use condoms
    correctly every time you have sex. The use of latex or polyurethane
    condoms during vaginal intercourse, when used consistently and
    correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of STDs.
    Delay having
    sexual relations as long as possible. The younger people are when
    having sex for the first time, the more susceptible they become to
    developing an STD. The risk of acquiring an STD also increases with the
    number of partners over a lifetime.

    Illinois Department of Public Health
    HIV/AIDS/STD Hotline
    The Division of STD Prevention, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    CDC-INFO Hotline (24 hours, seven days a week)
    800-232-4636 (English and Spanish)
    888-232-6348 TTY

  22. the problem with the modesty/purity movement is that all the pressure and responsibility lies utterly and completely on the woman. There is not a word in that movement that tells boys and men to be “pure”. Nothing that tells them not to look at a woman as nothing but a sexual object, someone less than they, inferior to the male supremacy. The Purity movement is ALL about sex and not at all about self worth. Because it tells girls, that if they are not virgins, and not married, that they are inferior. This is merely an attempt to hand over a woman’s sexuality, to the control of a husband, or a father.

  23. Perhaps this is your approach and experience with purity/modesty culture, but it isn’t representative of what’s going on. It does not stop at “You don’t have to dress sexy,” but goes on to “You must not dress sexy, lest you cause a man to lust.”

    There’s a whole chain that links from this– women (and girls as young as 10) being blamed for their own rape because they dressed “too slutty” or were “too flirty” or were promiscuous or had a relationship with their rapist, breastfeeding moms being told to cover up (not always possible with fussy babies or those with feeding difficulties) or go to the public restroom or their sweltering cars so their babies could eat, women being blamed for their own sexual harassment if they dressed in anything shapelier than a burlap sack, and on and on and on.

    It’s all still objectifying the female body, telling the woman that her body is public property by default unless she does something to flagrantly place it off-limits, like dressing in baggy clothes 3 sizes too big and never being alone after dark in public and not drinking too much and so on. In essence, she must be pure nd modest or any victimization she experiences is her own fault, not the man’s who victimized her.

  24. And the same people obsessed with purity for unmarried women want married women to pop out a thousand kids.

    Never mind the wedding-night whipsaw from Virgin-Unto-Death to Perfect Porn Star fulfilling EVERY pent-up Fantasy 24/7/365. Especially with the purity culture tactic of promising the boys Barn-Burning Swinging From The Chandeliers Dynamite Married S*E*X if they only save themselves for marriage.

    They are also the same people that don’t seem to think rape is a big deal and that we should try to find the blessings in it.

    Makes a lot of sense — if you’re the Rapist.

  25. Tom….. sorry, I’m missing something. Who is teaching their daughters to have sex no matter what age?

  26. But it goes in the opposite direction and tells them their worth and value are some how linked to sexual activity which is just as damaging and wrong.

    It just takes the eroticized society, flips it one-eighty (from “YEAH YEAH YEAH!” to “THOU SHALT NOT!””) and firewalls it just as much in the opposite direction. Communism begets Objectivism.
    I have long maintained that Christians are just as sexually screwed-up as everyone else, just in a different (and usually opposite) direction. Again, Communism begets Objectivism.

  27. Again, Christians are just as screwed-up sexually as everyone else, just in the opposite direction.
    Communism begets Objectivism.

  28. And on the men’s side, “Salvation by Marriage Alone” teaches the same thing as pop-your-cherry hookup culture: Virginity is a Stench, if you’re not doing somebody, YOU’RE A NOBODY. Just on the Christianese side, it requires a ring and an I DO.

  29. See, to me that’s a warning bell that he has a problem with lust and is trying to foist the responsibility off on the girls he’s lusting after. I’m not sure I’d feel safe letting my daughter be at his house… Or letting him have much interaction with the short shorts wearing track girls.

  30. No kidding. You have to wonder about these adult men who are so concerned with the sexuality of children.

  31. It’s also a very poor choice of word – pure. Just look at the antonyms. And just one act puts you there.


  32. reminds me of a story I read not too long ago involving a young couple who were part of the Purity culture. The ended up in the emergency room on their wedding night. She had to have stitches. Can you imagine someone who had been taught to not even acknowledge that part of their body ending up needing stitches in it? And that’s AFTER it got tore up. Her poor husband was of course beside himself. He didn’t mean to, he simply didn’t have a clue what he was doing or how to do it properly. I often wonder about that young couple and pray that they both were healed from that terrible event.

  33. It’s best not to lump all Christians together, as we come in all shapes, sizes, biblical interpretations and emphases, and political and social persuasions. Purity and modesty culture is a feature in *some* denominations and churches. In others, it would be and is regarded with great distrust for its contribution to sexist rhetoric and rape culture.

  34. I taught my girls not to think like a sex object, there is a big difference. They could wear what they wanted (as long as it abided school dress codes) and to find what they found worked for them as a personal wardrobe choice. I also advised them to use protection, if and when they decided to become sexually active and to choose wisely, as sex is only part of a healthy relationship.
    If some guy wants to only look at a girl and use his danglies to do his thinking for him, then its not her fault, but his. Which is why I taught my son, to be respectful of the women in his life, and not to make intimate decisions or to look at women using only the “outter brain”.

  35. Part of me would want to pick up my kids at his house in a halter top, and a sarong, as I’d just come from the pool, and then give him hell for staring.
    That’s the evil side, that I rarely let out in public. Good thing too. She’s even snarkier than I am.

  36. well, there are certainly a lot of very different churches out there. If a church is spending more time on anything less than the gospel (whether modesty or some other topic) than I think it has gone astray. I don’t understand the term “false chastity”. I don’t know what’s false about encouraging my daughters to be modest and pure. About having honest conversations about the harmful and very real side effects that living a promiscuous lifestyle can bring. Our girls need to know these things to make wise decisions in life.

  37. Personally, when I was a fundamentalist Christian, I loved the modesty/courtship movement. I saw it as a valid alternative to the sometimes messed up dating world. That said, I think it should be a personal choice. No girl should ever think she is less than anyone else because she chose to have a sexual experience with someone or likes showing off her body. But if some girl wants to dress modestly, save her sexual debut for her wedding night, and save her heart for her husband, more power to her. It’s just wrong, as you said, to pressure girls into that when it’s not for them.

  38. I totally agree and that is wrong and awful! It has not been my experience that this is what the majority of the movement or the churches I have been involved with believe. Unfortunately you will always have people that take something good and twist it for their own selfish motives.

  39. I’m also confused about this. As a single man, I’m just as concerned about saving myself for the one woman I marry someday, and I don’t think it’s just because that’s what my culture believes. I think it’s because that’s what the Bible teaches, and it is not just a pressure to women. It sounds to me like this is saying women shouldn’t bother saving themselves for one man who they will eventually marry? Maybe I’m missing the point too?

  40. I am sorry that this has been your experience. It has not been mine. There have been *some* famous guys that have stood up for purity like the Jonas brothers, Nick Lachey, and Tim Tebow (but honestly there are not many famous women or men who care). I think it’s pretty harsh to say “there is not a word” about it because I’ve definitely heard the opposite. We all, men and women, are responsible for our own modesty/purity. The whole reason there is a movement is that for so long there hasn’t been anything to reach out to kids and show them there is another way. They are bombarded on a daily basis w/ sexual images and promiscuity on tv, movies, music, and magazines. People that don’t act this way or dress provocatively enough are made fun of.

  41. No, what we are saying is simply this. Virginity or a lack of it, doesn’t make one pure, or superior for a current, or future sexual partner. Being pure is a mindset, not a biological alteration. Being pure is less about our sexuality or our gender, and more with the lens we view ourselves, and then others with. It’s what we think about, and were we move from thought into action.
    Do we seek to be humble, kind and generous to others? Do we do self checks to make sure we are keeping selfishness, and pride in check? That’s where purity is found, not in the state of our genitals.

  42. How does this in any way relate to my comment? Clearly I get that you do not approve of the poly lifestyle (as if that triad is concerned about your disapproval…lol) but I said nothing about poly relationships in my remark.

  43. I like your post, and it begs several questions: is the purity movement truly a unified movement, or rather disparate voices? And perhaps can’t we see that some of the voices are positively affirming women to make their own choices, and others are sending out negative shame messages? As a young man, I also appreciated the “don’t feel pressured to have sex” messages that floated around evangelicalism. It was an important alternative to the “just do it” ethos I got elsewhere, and helped me avoid problems that my peers faced.

  44. Oooh, thereby hangs a long and somewhat creepy tale. I’m a fairly mainstream Christian (Episcopalian) in my early sixties, and let’s just say I carry around more than a few extra pounds. I’m not ashamed of my shape or my body, but when my son’s formal evening wedding was being planned, I wanted a dressy and flattering outfit. Garden-variety department stores (Nordstrom’s, Macy’s), plus-sized outlets (Lane Bryant et al), and “wedding clothes” stores all seemed to be offering clothes that I would consider not flattering–too short, too tight, too youthful, too bare “up top” for a woman my age and size. I feel better when my upper arms are covered. 🙂

    I turned to the Internet and found myself exposed to a whole bizarre world of “modest attire for women.” I was absolutely amazed and felt compelled to delve further into strange underwear and nightgowns, head coverings, “activewear,” and everyday clothing for women and girls as young as toddlerhood. These items aren’t directed at people with traditional religious strictures–Muslims, Orthodox Jews, or Mormons. I couldn’t be sure who bought the stuff, but there was plenty of it out there, and each website was stranger than the one before. I could not imagine the idea of a group of teenaged girls playing volleyball and such in long, baggy bloomers under full skirts–but apparently there are places where they do. I was left with the feeling that the whole topic was unsavory and genuinely creepy. I was also left with the feeling that the word “modest,” has now been freighted with vast new meanings that are strange to me.

    Fortunately I was able to find the perfect wedding outfit at a nice, normal department store–Dillard’s, that Southern bastion–where I located a sparkly long-sleeved jacket and long, slinky pencil skirt that were festive, age-appropriate, and–yes–modest in my view. But I sometimes wonder about all those creepy clothes and wonder just who is wearing them.

  45. Sorry, but when someone has to gloat about how “pure” they are, I consider it suspect. as they are using their sexuality as a source of pride. And Nick Lachey? Really? He’s saying that these days? Funny.
    And of course there are tons of women and a lot of men who quietly just go about being celibate, or just decide against sex for a period of time for a wide range of reasons…health, a loss of a partner, not found someone they want to engage with yet, religious preferences. They just don’t see it as part of a marketing strategy to sell albums, or tickets to Christian themed events.

  46. The purity movement post-dates my children’s growing up years…thank goodness. However the culture has been around for much longer in fundamentalist culture. I have my own horror story about being on the “other side” of that whole ‘you must be pure” load of crap, and the treatment I received as a result. That is why I determined that no matter what, my children would never be made to endure shame, shunning and guilt for their sexual choices.

  47. I made a valid point about objectifying women and you want me to allow you to turn it into some unrelated sideline so you can attack it?

    I quit playing your silly games long ago.

  48. Exactly…Very well said!

    And as for the bible teaching sexual abstinence…it is only when viewed through the filter of church oppression, because it really does not exist on its own.

  49. it is interesting that two of the women Jesus was recorded to have lengthy conversations with would not have been accepted in the “purity” culture. The woman rescued from a stoning, because she was accused of adultery and the women living with her seventh partner. Did Jesus condemn either? Tell them that because they weren’t virgins or examples of the “right” strict sexual constraints others tried to place on them that they were worthless, and should just be utterly ashamed of themselves?
    Nope…not a word.

  50. Well the only difference between those lovely people and all those heroes in the bible, was the gender configuration. And in this story, there seems to be a lack of jealousy. It’s not for everyone, and not a choice most of us make, but for those that do, and all parties involved are happy with…where’s the problem?

  51. Well, I haven’t heard them “gloat” about how pure they are, they are simply talking about their lifestyle choices. How come when a celebrity comes out about their sexual choices it’s celebrated, but when someone talks about choosing to refrain it is suspect, pride, and hypocrisy? That kinda seems like a double standard. As to if he is still talking about that these days, I truly don’t know, I don’t really keep up w/Hollywood lately so if I was wrong about him then I’m sorry. I guess I’m going to have to agree to disagree w/y’all. I can’t keep responding, I’ve got to take care of my precious kiddos 🙂

  52. I tried to read through this entire thread. I applaud the Christians who spoke out, and I am very glad that a man spoke on the side of purity. Christians do not teach sexual purity in order to tell girls that their purity is the measure of their value. Purity is about recognizing their own value so securely that they don’t need to barter their bodies because of neediness, not even sexual neediness.
    And by the way, no Christian would tell the victim of rape or other sexual abuse that she was henceforth worthless. Somebody said that to Elizabeth Smart, but that is not Christian teaching.
    What you enemies of purity are missing is that the teaching of purity is for both men and women, and the teaching is only one part of the teaching of self-control. People who have self-control don’t eat like pigs, buy things they can’t afford in order to feel better about themselves, or engage in sexual activity as if it were only a game. Purity is not even about being perfect. It is about committing to a Christ-like lifestyle. Christians know that none of us actually is like Christ, but in relationship with him, we keep working toward that goal. When we fail at anything, we go to him for forgiveness and healing. Many, many people of both genders are successful in protecting their sexual purity until marriage, but that is not the single measure of their value or their readiness for marriage.
    Self-control in any realm is not a popular idea in our culture. Self-indulgence is the standard, and that is the reason most of the comments in this thread are scornful and dismissive of the idea of sexual purity, except for the times they are rabidly aggressive against it.
    Do a little research. Get the facts. You will discover that the concept of purity is a much bigger idea than “just say no” to unmarried sex.

  53. I disagree, purity is not about our bodies. Its not even about Christianity. Eating too much, or sex without being married doesn’t make one unpure. I don’t think it has a much to do with self control as some would like us to believe. All of us have things we do that probably is not the healthiest choice for us, but does it negate purity? Hardly. To say that self-indulgence is a standard with self-control being tossed by the wayside just doesn’t add up with reality for most people. It takes self control to get up every day, and work at a job, even if its one you don’t like. it takes self control to pay your bills every month. it takes self control to not curse out the girl at the fast food counter who got your order wrong. It takes self control walk past the candy aisle of the grocery store knowing you love chocolate, and also knowing that it gives you heartburn.
    To me, being pure to me means living the life of loving your neighbor as yourself. That means that you want the best for others. You want the best for yourself as well. You’ll know and gladly accept that the details of course will vary from person to person, but hoping for that best is a goal.
    You also want to consider yourself as a person of value, just as you consider others as a person of value…anything less robs the purity out of the equation. If God already considers us all thus, which I think He/she does, then that pure thought…God loves me, God loves them…so I must as well…To me its that simple.

  54. For starters, I observe that you believe you have the right to choose your own meaning for purity. “To me, being pure …” In the world of language, nobody has the right to do that. The contract of communication requires an agreement on the meaning of the collection of sounds that make up a word. So there is a dictionary meaning — the best guide to successful communication when using that word.

    Second, the “purity” teaching of Christianity utilizes the dictionary definition merged with the biblical teachings about purity and self-control. Amazingly, despite all the Christian emphasis on loving our neighbors, the teaching of purity is not about the teaching to love our neighbors.

    The dictionary definition of purity in one general purpose dictionary is:
    1-freedom from contaminants: the absence, or degree of absence, of anything harmful, inferior, unwanted, or of a different type. 2-innocence: virtue and innocence
    The dictionary definition describes what purity is. Self-control is the way a person achieves it. In other contexts than human sexuality, rigid standards and precise processes produce purity. The overarching concept of disciplined action produces purity in all contexts.
    I completely agree with you that God loves everyone. That is why Christ died and rose from the dead. The Christian teaching of purity is about living with the same kind of self-control that took Christ to the cross. A person who pursues any virtue knows that the goal is not perfectly achievable, but just like the preparation for a marathon, the commitment to purity has value in and of itself. It isn’t about being better than anyone else; it is about being your own best self, the person you were created to be.
    You are certainly right about the importance of loving other people, and you are right that God loves all the people. However for each person, there is a call that takes precedence: the call to put God first above everything. Purity is part of the Christian response to that call. It isn’t about tape measuring someone’s garments. It isn’t about judging other people. It is completely about being true and faithful to God and about achieving complete fulfillment as a human being.

  55. May I please reblog this on my tumblr? Much of your work is Christian-themed, and while I appreciate it, I don’t think most of my followers do. But this sums up SO MUCH cultural baggage!

  56. Double Ugh!!! “Dad” sounds creepy himself. Maybe the friend should come over to your house from now on. (Or maybe she should counter “Ahem. Paying inappropriate attention to women’s clothing.”)

  57. “The way she was raised” is an inaccurate scewing of
    Smart’s remarks.
    She referred to feeling used up because of what a teacher said one time.

  58. being a virgin doesn’t SUPERSEDE our worthiness to God or anyone else…but does anyone else here have a problem with the fact that the ten commandments weren’t brought up; at ALL? both conversations need to be had. It’s an “and” statement that needs to be had; purity is important for both girls/women AND boys/men; AND purity doesn’t define a person’s eternal worth. Let’s be honest here. Acting like purity doesn’t matter at all serves no one good – at all.

  59. Purity is concretely different for females, no matter what your belief. Our lives, safety, and general well-being is directly affected by our sexuality, independent of religion or culture. And yes, all it takes is “one time” for a girl’s life to change dramatically forever. If we adults have any social obligation to youth, we are among other duties obligated to help them navigate that time–when their bodies are fully capable but brains not fully developed–to be aware of the dangers of sex. It’s not easy to both do this and simultaneously prepare children to one day engage in healthy, mutually beneficial sexual relationships. This dichotomy was not created by the church, nor was it created by homeschoolers or Republicans. It’s there and, as long human biology allows for natural pregnancy, it will always be there. Let’s not hide behind those who are trying to address real danger.
    It’s troubling to me to see sex continually trivialized, even moreso when it’s done under the guise of thoughtfulness.

  60. Not according to this piece, Rebecca –

    “I was raised in a very religious household, one that taught that sex was something special that only happened between a husband and a wife who loved each other and that’s what I’d been raised, that’s what I’d alwayss been determined to follow, that when I got married then and only then would I engage in sex. And so, for that first rape, I felt crushed –’Who could want me now?’ I felt so dirty and so filthy I understand so easily all too well why someone wouldn’t run. Because of that alone. I mean, you can imagine the most special thing being taken away from you –not that that was your only value in life –but something that de-valued you? Can you imagine going back into a society where you’re no longer valued? Where you’re no longer as good as everybody else?” ~ Elizabeth Smart

  61. Point out the specific teaching–other than the terrible gum analogy– that was actually bad, Jeannine. Surely you’re not saying that teaching sex only within marriage was the cause of her shame, because if so ANY teaching about “safer” sex would have had the same result…because she was used she would have still felt used. What was missing from her awareness was the knowledge that children are targets of sexual predators and that a rape victim is completely innocent. The problem here is one that requires nuance for human beings who yet tend to see the world with less nuance. Kids are going to tend to automatically see “less value” even if they are not taught victims have less value. What’s necessary is being taught the dangers and complexities, if they are not specifically taught them, they will draw their own sometimes faulty conclusions.

  62. Yeah, that is disturbing…he might blame those shorts on some horrific act he would like to perpetrate against her. Red flag! Red flag!

  63. That’s why I am bothered by the idea of the immaculate conception (Mary’s conception). What does that say about how the rest of us were conceived.

  64. It is a lot more about the women. There was a story of a woman got fired from her teaching job at a Catholic school for being pregnant and not married. Her boyfriend applied there and got a job AFTER she was fired.

  65. What do you say to girls who have been sexually abused and are thinking they are not pure b/c of someone else’s actions? Is a woman who is married still considered pure? A couple that is not married and is having sex and being faithful and responsible? Do boys need to remain pure as well? I am sure there is a lot of circular arguments out there but being sexually pure implies not having had sex. For those who have engaged in sexual activity, through their choice or not, must be impure, right?

  66. I feel a little sad about this post. Yes, what you describe can and does happen in some circles but that is not the point of modesty/purity. The point,( I learned a little too late,) is about protecting the heart of that young person until they are able to make informed decisions about what they want in life. If the type of purity movement people are following is only physical then it is of no use and will only lead to rebellion because the only motive is to keep sex (pleasure) away. However, if the idea is to protect and nurture until the child is mature enough to make her/his own decisions, that is different.

    Used correctly, the purity movement is about a woman making her own choices and not being there to only please the man. It;s about giving the girl/boy time to make up their own minds on the subject and not be hurried along with the crowd. If used correctly (I understand some don’t but on the other hand, some do) I feel it is a big step towards feminism.

    I don’t think it’s the purity movement that is the problem so much as those who use the shame of such an issue to control others. Shame is the real enemy when it comes to anything sexual.

  67. The answer in the cartoon is cowardly. It fails to acknowledge the reason for the notion of purity in the purity movement. And the reason for the drive for purity is simple. Folks believe that the Bible teaches God designed sex for marriage, not for random relationships. Having a cartoon that says anything other than this is dishonest and shows the weakness of the cartoonist’s argument. What … did you just want comments that agree with you? lol

  68. To many courtships are really arranged weddings. They are arranged either by the girl’s father or the church. The woman has very little say since she is not allowed to ask a boy out or date in many of these courtship churches. She must wait to be asked to court and then she may either consent to court or not, but if she doesn’t there’s no saying she will ever be asked again. And if she doesn’t consent to the courtship people will question why she is saying no to something her father or other spiritual headship has already given permission for. It’s a mess. Run away, Run very far away.

  69. I don’t think it was just the “one time”. Isn’t it possible that the entire culture she was raised in nurtured that worldview and that her rape experiences only confirmed it?

  70. From having lived in Utah, I can state that purity culture is alive and well there. Young Women (that’s the name of the group in the Mormon Church) are taught that if they have sex, they’re no better than chewed gum, a crumbled-up cookie or a rose that has been pawed and fondled. (The daughter of one of my friends got this nonsense in her public school and her mama nearly came unglued when told.) I honestly don’t know how Elizabeth Smart got through her teenage years intact with that kind of programming going on.

  71. This is a really bizarre take on chastity–which is about respecting yourself and others. My decision to be chaste was just savvy, and I don’t regret it. I taught my daughters the same thing, and they have more respect for themselves and a more critical eye towards the young men they date than most girls. They don’t feel the need to make some guy want them by using their sexuality as currency.

  72. Haven’t looked at Deuteronomy 22 have you? Nice little rule in there, “23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you
    shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to
    death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for
    help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge
    the evil from among you. 25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, 27 for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her.” The whole “purity” thing started as a property issue. A man who slept with a woman not pledged to him was stealing from the father and the future husband. It had nothing to do with “sexual purity” and everything to do with property rights.

  73. Aren’t men also encouraged to preserve their sexual expression for marriage and isn’t there benefit in this?


    If a man “screws up” (from the church’s POV), it’s always the woman’s fault. She led him on. She tempted him. It’s the Garden of Eden repeated ad nauseam. Nowhere have I seen is he encouraged to take responsibility.

    That said, I agree that patriarchy screws men as well as women and people who don’t conform to the gender binary.

  74. Purity culture perpetuates rape culture, which always blames the victim and not the perpetrator.

    Purity culture perpetuates the Virgin/Whore Dichotomy.

    Purity culture teaches that my worth, and yours, is tied to what’s between our legs and not to our character, contrary to what you may say or think.

    Purity culture teaches that men (in general) will always be horny, objectifying a-holes and absolves them of responsibility.

    Purity culture encourages women to be misogynistic toward each other and to themselves.

    Purity culture objectifies women, too.

  75. I don’t think it’s the purity movement that is the problem so much as those who use the shame of such an issue to control others.

    Which is exactly what purity culture does, because it perpetuates rape culture, as well as the virgin/whore dichotomy. Not to mention it absolves men of responsibility.

  76. How about this concept: sex is a series of compromises. If I want to invite a third into my relationship and my husband want to try it, good for him! If he’s uncomfortable with it, I honor his feelings and set it aside until he brings it back up as something he may want to try. Just like if my husband wants to try anal play and I’m uncomfortable with it, he shelves it until I say “yeah, that may be something I’m interested in trying now.”

    You can’t have a good sex life until you *talk* to your partner honestly and frankly about what things you want to do, maybe want to do, and absolutely will not do.

    @Ellie, it’s amusing that you reference the fact that you want your girls to say “… these lies that tell me my self-worth and value are found in my sex appeal.” What you communicate, intentionally or not, is that their worth is still tied up in their sex appeal, though as non-active instead of active.

    I believe true “self worth and value outside of sex appeal” would be acknowledging that a sexually active person and a sexually non-active person are equal in value.

  77. your quote Rebecca “Kids are going to tend to automatically see “less value” even if they are not taught victims have less value”
    Of course they are that is why these teachings have so much damage. Start teaching that people who abuse others are evil, and responsible for what they have done. Emphasize the innocence of victims.

    In my church our pastor had a service for those who had been abused. He told us we were pure and gave each one who had been abused a white rose as a symbol of that purity. I kept mine.

  78. Excellent Beth. Completely agree. And your last sentence totally sums up my problem with the purity movement. Sex, like any other thing in life, can be abused. But purity has nothing to do with whether a person is sexually active.

  79. And this passage is yet another reason why we should not try to base our moral system on bronze age writings of a barbaric people.

  80. Actually the bible does NOT teach that God designed sex just for marriage. That notion is a church promoted myth.

  81. You know it is actually possible to have sex in the absence of marriage in ways that are actually respectful and edifying for both don’t you? So many keep painting the choice as two polar extremes which is not reflective of reality.

  82. As someone who has had an eating disorder I can assure you that it has nothing to do with men. In fact, being raised in purity culture and by abusive parents really helped make the disorder worse. By placing their sexuality on a pedestal and not allowing them to explore or express their sexuality you effectively stifle it. And you define their worth by whether or not they can effectively stifle it or not. Which is sick.

  83. We’re not talking about individual’s choices, but a movement with classes and sermons and books and websites and purity balls and vows between daughter and father that she will remain pure until marriage for him and a whole boatload of attitudes that a woman’s body is not her own property, that infantilizes her as being incapable of making her own choices, and that blames her whenever she is victimized due to her sex. “But I practice something similar but at its core significantly different and it’s lovely and empowering and great,” says nothing about the purity movement.

  84. What part of “flee fornication” do you not understand? Is it the “flee”? Is it the false notion that “fornication” only refers to adultery? Help me out.

  85. But the purity movement doesn’t want the dangers of sex realistically discussed or it would be behind truly educational sex education rather than abstinence only programs. It would have realistic classes for boys on how to deal with their libidos, what consent really means, and how not to take advantage of situations where consent is not given but the girl has also not said no. It takes two to have sex, to make a pregnancy, but the focus is always on girls and what they can do to not make the boy lust, not invite sexual assault, not invite harassment, not be raped, and so on. It’s rape culture wrapped up in Bible pages and tied with a pink bow.

  86. Cute attempt at sarcasm. Of course it reveals much more about your biases and ignorance than in any way represents a legitimate attempt to engage me.

    Still…you clearly seem to have a belief that biblical fornication refers to sexual activity outside of marriage. This is not consistent with an honest study of the term and it’s biblical usage. Even if I embraced biblical morality, I would not find this term being applied in the manner you believe.

  87. You seem to think there’s an abundance of asexual humans running around. To the contrary; it would be great news for us all, myself included, if fornication didn’t mean fornication. LOL. But you have me intrigued now … what has your honest study of the word revealed to you and, more importantly, what exegetical evidence do you have that the word in that context simply *cannot* mean all sex outside of marriage?

  88. I have not a clue what you mean by “an abundance of asexual humans running around”. You will have to explain that comment to me because it seems to make zero sense in the context of our discussion.

    As for my “honest study of the word”, lol, yes I have studied the subject quite extensively. Out of time for today unfortunately as I am heading out of the house…but I will follow up. And of course I will also correct your mischaracterization of my comments. I did not state that it “cannot” mean, simply that it does not mean. I would point out however…that it is you who is claiming an absolute definition for the word so, perhaps while you wait for my “exegetical evidence”, you might provide a little of your own substantiating your usage of the term?

  89. When describing teen sex the word “respectful” is probably not the first that comes to mind. There are a lot of dimensions to sexual restraint, and respect is just one of them.

  90. Agreed…self gratification at the expense of another is not healthy or respectful. This in no way invalidates my comment.

  91. This passage falls into the body of ceremonial and social regulations which Christ invalidated on the cross. You won’t hear any Christian advocating that anyone be stoned, not even a rapist. The teaching of purity asks for personal commitment to God above all other loyalties and calls for self-control in the context of that commitment. The teaching of purity does not make any human being the judge and jury over others, nor does Deuteronomy, despite what this passage sounds like when you carve it out of the book. Christians know that a woman who has been raped was guilty of nothing, and when she cries to the Lord, he makes her whole, pure as any virgin. She doesn’t need to be made pure because of some sin she committed by being available to be raped. She needs to be cleansed of the guilt and shame and humiliation and deep filthiness created by such an invasion of her body. Christians know that a man who rapes women is not actually committing a sexual act even though the assault takes place in the form of a sexual act; it is clear to us, as it is to anyone who studies the problem, that the man is assaulting the target he considers the most vulnerable, because he can’t fix what is broken in his life by himself. Christians know that if the rapist cries out to God, God will answer with forgiveness and cleansing for him, too. Christians will not tell the justice system to exonerate the rapist, because God has ordained government and its representatives of justice as the agent of good order for all societies. The rapist should be convicted of the crime, and the rapist should accept the punishment. If, however, the rapist has prayed for and received God’s grace, then prison will be very different for him than if he were simply biding his time till his release date. God can use the time in prison to teach the rapist the same self-control he teaches those of us outside of prison.
    Interestingly, if you read very much about self-discipline, you will discover that those who are best at it consider it to be quite liberating. This is what purity is all about: the liberty to be free and completely fulfilled in relationship with Christ.

  92. I think the purity movement may have its flaws, but I also think you’re seeing it in an erroneously ugly lens.

  93. I don’t have to “start” teaching that abuse is evil and that victims are innocent of the crime against them. I already teach it. I also teach the dangers of sex. I also teach what a joy sex can be, just as my mother taught me, in our conservative, pro-abstinence household.

    If we are going to caricaturize pro-abstinence teachings–be sure to caricaturize “safe-sex” teachings as well, please. (There is no “safe sex,” implying that it exists is deceptive and irresponsible.) Or, better yet, realize that both are approaching an extremely difficult and important social topic without quick and easy answers.
    Sex and kids–judging from old taboos and biology–have always been difficult for societies to manage. A major reason is that teens have physical impulses and capacities for sex without having fully developed brains. Their ability to judge danger and risk, for example, is not fully formed.

  94. Per your first question, I brought that up to remind you and any other reader that no sexual being has any incentive to hold to the belief that the Bible restricts sex before marriage. So, contrary to what the cartoon suggests, the ONLY reason people promote the idea of sexual purity is because of biblical authority.

    Your tone is as if it delights people to promote the idea of sexual purity for some offhanded reason when in fact the only reason someone would believe it is because the Bible suggests that it’s God’s command. I mean, we’re talking about sex here! A human delight!

    As for my assumptions about the definition of the word, they come from … the dictionary! LOL. Just like I know what “flee” means (and “control” and “body” and “flesh” mean.) I know what “fornication” means. I don’t go around doing word searches in places where I disagree with the Bible while refraining from doing word searches where biblical teachings are convenient to me.

  95. It isn’t “polarizing”. It’s making a choice. Saving sex for marriage or not. You can’t do both.

  96. Fornication, as it is used biblically, is a generic term (I.E. NON SPECIFIC) referring to some form of illegitimate sexual activity. In order to identify specifically WHAT the bible (not to be confused with God) calls fornication one must look at context of usage.

    There are many such examples including; adultery, incest, bestiality, rape, forced prostitution upon one’s daughter, sex as pagan worship and pederasty. Notice the specific pattern here, fornication refers to situations involving non-consensual and/or harmful sexual activity. At no place in the bible is the term fornication used to describe sex between unmarried people specifically or in any way meant to encompass all sex out side of marriage. That is a church teaching…not a bible teaching.

  97. Nobody is arguing the validity of the choice of saving sex for marriage. What is polarizing is the attack on those who choose NOT to save sex for marriage as if they are damaged goods or immoral for their choice.

  98. The LDS culture nurtures the concept of chastity, before and after marriage, for both males and females. It also teaches that abuse is evil and that offenses against children are most vile, that victims are innocent, and that when an actual sin is committed, repentance is possible. These gum analogies, or any other such spoiling analogy are not correct, but neither is the idea of “safe sex.” Neither abstinence teaching nor safe-sex teaching, at least not the stereotypes, adequately each kids. But parents, however, can do much better than some boxed-up and bottled curriculum. Thank goodness the LDS Church encourages parents to teach to the needs and understandings of each of their children. My LDS mother taught me, and I teach the children in my care.

  99. Thanks for sharing the synonyms you’ve encountered in your studies. Others have found it means “sex with one you’re not married to” which, of course, restricts the actions of unmarried people. But again, I appreciate your reply. And the fact that you did so.

  100. Surely you do not believe that the “purity movement” is some unified mechanism with one office and PO box number? There are people who teach abstinence, as well as candidly discuss the ramifications of sex on multiple levels. That’s one of my jobs as a parent. This last Spring my daughter and I again discussed it, and we were both engaged and interested for well over an hour, one-on-one, specific to her understanding, to her questions and thoughts. No class can replace that.
    The premise of this article is a caricature of masses of people, it’s disgusting and faulty, but I am pretty sure Mr. Hayward is well aware….gotta keep the page views coming!

  101. Oh so you are changing the rules of the game now. You appeal to biblical authority, which you cannot substantiate, and so now you want to declare the standard is what “others have found it to mean”. Not to put too fine a point on it, but why should I care what others define it as? You very clearly claimed “biblical authority”, and that claim is not valid.

  102. That may be true in some of these churches, but most of the individual families and couples who have chosen the courtship route that I’ve talked to would disagree. Usually, the father won’t give his consent unless his daughter is truly interested, and any good father by their standards wouldn’t force his daughter into a marriage she didn’t want. Also, there is absolutely no pressure for anyone to get married unless they’ve found someone they’re “equally yoked” (compatible) with, so turning a potential courtship down would be understood if the girl just didn’t like the guy that way. It depends on the church/family, I suppose, but I still think it’s a valid way to find a mate.

  103. They aren’t but their choices are immoral. Unless you decide to redefine immoral, which is what a lot of people are trying to do.

  104. Actually…what gives YOU the right to define for another what is an immoral choice? And don’t come back with the answer that the bible does. One, the bible does NOT declare all sex outside of marriage to be sinful. (In spite of the church hysteria on the subject). And two, the bible is not everyone’s final authority on morality. (Thank goodness, because the bible promotes MUCH immorality)

  105. Yeah, the purity movement is definitely not a unified movement. There are some people out there educating girls to the best of their knowledge and promoting it as a personal conviction rather than a law, and there are other people shaming girls because of their sexuality and life choices, declaring lots of people “unpure” and “sluts” if they disagree. I think in any movement there are positive people and negative people, those who encourage their fellow (wo)man and those who put them down.

  106. Both you and others claim to have correct definitions and claim them to be biblically accurate. This discussion predates us all. I just wanted to know why you limit the definition of fornication as you do, while in [other] theological circles it has been found to include those having sex with those to whom they’re not married.

    To me, the only ones who appear to have a questionable incentive to see this word as they do would be people who think as you do. Those who have the more restrictive definition are more than likely sexual beings who would normally lack incentive to be conservative in this issue. Yet they still hold the conservative view. Which, to me, helps support the view’s validity.

  107. How exactly does it absolve men of responsibility? Men are still held to the same standards as women, asked to remain “pure” until marriage and cover their bodies as well. Fathers of courting daughters take on an even greater responsibility than fathers of dating girls because their job is to protect their daughters from heartache and help evaluate suitors. Suitors have a greater responsibility because they not only have to win the heart of the girl but her entire family as well. Yes, it still makes a clear distinction between virgins and non-virgins, but most girls and guys who “make mistakes” are forgiven when they repent and have just as much of a chance of getting married as “virgins.” This is in a good church/family, anyway. I recognize that there are some bad people out there, but most of the really public purity/courtship proponents do things this way. The purity movement is not a united front; there are those who respect women’s opinions and rights and there are those who see them as property. It’s unfair to put them all in one bag.

  108. The point is that the whole culture produced this in her, Rebecca. Her words are clear. Children can be told something and hear something else entirely. We say, “I’m so proud of you for x,y.z!” and they hear “You’d better keep performing! Earn my love!” That’s an AWFUL mantle to thrust on a child.

    A parent may never intend to send that message, but it’s the message that is heard that counts. It’s not easy to be conscious of the impact of everything we say to our children – but their lives, in so many ways, depend on it.

  109. Well, you’re I cannot define immorality for someone else. But I can believe there IS such a thing as immorality and it does have a concrete, immutable definition. Which I do. But no, I can’t define it for someone else. At least I have a definition!

  110. Wrong. Are you unfamiliar with the word of Jesus to the woman taken prostitution? Jesus forgave her and treated her with respect and love. The people who simply wanted to argue about anything and everything would have stoned her to make a point, except for one thing: Jesus asked each one to judge himself before he judged her.
    Every person created by God, and that is every person, deserves the love of others. Those who have been abused sexually, or those who have for whatever reason engaged in casual, albeit consensual, sex, still deserve the love and respect of others. They deserve this love, because Jesus said that loving others is the second most important commandment. Nowhere did he give us a command to stop loving other people. Nowhere did he give me the right to dismiss or scorn someone who makes different choices.
    To say that, however, is not to say that Jesus thought every choice was good. It is not to say that I should remain silent about the whole body of this teaching. Quite the contrary. If I actually love people, I want them to have the best life possible. Don’t you? Jesus teaches us how to have the best life possible. Why wouldn’t I talk about how that works?
    Just curious. When you hear a Christian advocate personal purity, do you hear a judgment of yourself or others, or do you get angry because you don’t want to live that way and then decide that the Christian’s spoken point of view is a judgment? There is a difference between asserting a point of view and judging other points of view. No question of course that if my viewpoint is different from your viewpoint, we don’t agree. But it isn’t necessary to assume that I scorn you, because we disagree. Is that what you do? Scorn those who disagree? Or do you listen to see if there is something to think about? Do you even examine other views? I have read most of the comments in this thread on both sides. I do disagree with many, but I don’t scorn anyone. I do advocate for my viewpoint.
    What would you prefer?

  111. Really? Immorality has a “concrete, immutable definition”? Wow – That is quite a claim which I would love for you to back up.

    Look, it is great that you have identified what you believe to be immorality for you. That is something which would be beneficial for all of us to seek to resolve for ourselves. But the moment you make a wildly reckless claim that the definition is “concrete and immutable”, you are declaring that what YOU have defined is also applicable to all.

    Seems like you are talking yourself in circles here.

  112. Clearly we are discussing the difference between absolute moral values and evolved ones. The Bible is the revelation of God, and its teachings are absolute. They don’t change with the times. Ceremonial and social elements do change and the biblical teaching, an absolute truth, is that Christ fulfilled the obligations imposed on humans by the ceremonial law. If you filter out the ceremony and the historical record and then measure them against the absolute truth, you will see that the absolute command to put God first coupled with the absolute proscription against adultery is a clear teaching that humans must be pure. We can’t achieve that goal, because we are constantly trying to find a way to evolve with the times rather than live by God’s revelation. Through Christ, we receive the grace that daily purifies us. This is true with regard to sex or stealing or any other sort of impurity in our relationship with God.
    The latest fad word is “evolution” and people like to use it everywhere. Evolving morality is the version that is being argued here, the sort of evolution that says each person evolves in his own way and then lives by what he thinks will make him happy.
    It’s a lot like saying you have evolved beyond the law of gravity right before you step off a fifty-story building. The absolute truth will catch up with you despite a probably exhilarating free fall.
    Commitment to purity teaches you the wisdom of not stepping off that roof.

  113. I said I BELIEVED the definition is concrete. It’s just a belief. I probably have the right to believe in concrete definitions, UFO’s and that grape stains can be removed with peroxide and sparkling mango juice.

  114. This is ironic…considering it is you who claim to have an absolute definition and the biblical authority for it, yet have absolutely no substance to back it up. You seek to add to scripture what is not there.and accuse others of questionable motives when they call you on it. Convenient don’t you think? And extremely self righteous…which is a huge part of the whole problem being discussed.

  115. How teens (and younger children) understanding things is what I’ve actually been addressing. Nuance is extremely hard to teach to kids. “Their lives depend on it” applies on either side of this issue, and kids lives are in even greater risk when they translate “safe sex practices” into “it’s okay to have sex.” A truly productive discussion would be about approaching that nuance with our kids. “Hold off sexual activity as long as you possibly can, preferably until you’ve chosen a mate; but if you can’t wait, use birth control, and if you use birth control, it is never 100% successful at preventing pregnancy, nor is it always successful at preventing STDs, even if used correctly.” How much nuance is in that sentence?
    I grew up in an LDS home and attended LDS Church (as a tangent I lived in Utah when Smart was abducted, was even on a volunteer search team canvassing SLC neighborhood the Saturday following, I was in Utah when she was found and was beside myself but also weeping for what she must obviously have gone through.) Anyhow, in the “culture” I grew up in, I valued chastity, managed to remain a virgin until marriage, and I consider sex a great thing I get to share and enjoy with my husband. And when I was sorely tempted to have sex before marriage, it was not fear of being brandished unclean that stopped me, it was the sure knowledge that this one act could bring my children into a family that was not ready to be a family. Somehow the message got across to me, in large part because of LDS culture.

  116. Now you are deliberately being obtuse. Hell you can believe the earth is flat, immovable, and the entire universe revolves around it if you like. Your belief does not constitute fact and when you attempt to project your beliefs onto everyone else’s reality your individual “right”s are not so clear.

  117. And you are deliberately trying to be offended when I haven’t been offensive. I conceded that I cannot define immorality for others. I affirmed that I CAN define it for myself, including it’s concreteness or inconcreteness. The only reason this annoys you is because you want me to drop my definition of morality altogether and let you define it for me.

  118. “The Bible is the revelation of God, and its teachings are absolute. They don’t change with the times.”

    Nope…gotta call pure bullshit on this statement.

    The bible’s “absolute”revelations include God Himself slaughtering entire nations, killing newborns for the sin of their parents, slaughtering thousands for complaining that He was slaughtering too many of them, forcing women to marry their rapist, condoning misogyny, slavery, and a host of other repugnantly immoral actions. These are not ceremonial teachings but rather the direct acts and views of God. (Supposedly)

    You feel free to worship the book. I’ll seek out a more enlightened approach.

  119. Nope…not offended in the least. Simply not allowing you to make a false claim. You stated specifically that immorality has a “concrete, immutable definition”. Of course you have not provided this fixed and unchanging definition.

  120. I think a lot of people would agree that young girls need to be taught that their value is not tied to how sexy they look. However, they also need to know their value is not tied to how modest they look either.

  121. I think you have not noticed that the so-called “movement” actually does teach both males and females to put God first, to submit to his sovereignty. This is a call to all human beings. The purity movement is not a self-defense class.

  122. I went to and there are 8 definitions of purity. One of them is chastity. Dictionaries are written as descriptive uses of language (they find out what the majority of people use words to mean, and write it down), rather than prescriptive uses of language (ie some governing board or king or ruler deciding what a word means and telling us how we have to use it).
    It’s totally legit for allegro63 to explain what purity means to her. seems like what it means to her even fits into what the dictionary says (see all 8 definitions).

  123. You are right to point out this truth. These women were not condemned, because Jesus, God in the flesh, loved them. He did not say, keep it up! He said, “no more.” He called them to change. He forgave the past. He loved them and took them forward to better lives. This is the true teaching of purity. You keep the goal in mind, and you trust God’s grace to keep catching you and forgiving you as you grow in to maturity. The point is that a man or woman who chooses purity, chooses to follow God’s guidance in making the big step to sexual intercourse. They learn to value that experience and its implications and its obligations and the commitment required to sustain a relationship not only an adult of the opposite sex, but also with the children that grow out of that relationship. Purity is not just about abstinence.

  124. I don’t worship the book. I do recognize what it is. It is like a lot of other things: you can’t pick and choose parts and claim that they are the same as the whole. The message of the Bible is only clear when you read the whole thing. Because that message comes from God, the message (which is none of the things you deplore) is timeless. It is set in the context of eternity. I repeat. Read the whole thing. Find the real message. Pick any book you like, by any author, and you could take selective notes that say whatever you wish. Read the whole Bible and listen to the whole message. Your issues are with time-anchored situations, not with eternal truth.

  125. I haven’t scorned anyone, so stop playing the victim. I can handle people who disagree with me and yes I know my Bible.

    I worry about the kid being sexually abused and hearing that sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong. He or she cannot differentiate between what they are being told and what the pastor means. I worry about the LGBT child wondering if life is worth living. Am I am so tired of the focus being on women who have to be pure and keep men in line. I am tired of the talk of “sexual addiction” being the default state of humanity according to the church. I will never be ok with something that is so psychologically damaging to people. NEVER!!!

  126. Wrong. The examples I cited represent actions undertaken by God Himself. Unless you believe God has grown up and stopped being an omnipotent spoiled brat then you still believe those actions represent His nature.

  127. Why should the Ten Commandments be brought up? What is it with this expectation that any Christian discussion should have the Ten Commandments brought into it? They’re part of the old law, which we are not under.

  128. The cartoon rocks, but I think the statement “Religion was necessary in the development of human evolution to control violence by imputing guilt onto the scapegoat. ” while ringing true doesn’t go far enough. Humans need to sacrelize / make idols of things in order to create rallying points to leverage the economies of scale. For greater depth, the 2013 Boyarsky lecture on youtube pretty much nails this line of thought..

    Sex marketing does this to make money, gain fame, and power. Virgin idolization does so in a zest for power, albeit there are many other factors. Both often lead to unintended collateral damage. Superficial appeals to cultural mores and/or cherry picking the scriptures are not likely to get us very far as to addressing this… No one likes to think they are building an idol.

  129. You make the mistake of assuming that the people who spoke out against the purity movement are not Christians. You have created a false dichotomy– Christians, who spoke out for purity, and non-Christians, who are attacking it. I don’t know the religious persuasion of everyone commenting here, but I do know that several of them are Christians and some of them grew up in churches that preached purity and modesty to their detriment.

    You do us all a disservice when you assume we are not your brothers and sisters in Christ.

  130. “She needs to be cleansed of the guilt and shame and humiliation and deep filthiness created by such an invasion of her body.”

    Being a victim of rape should not create guilt and shame and humiliation and deep filthiness in the first place. If the woman has truly done nothing wrong, then she should never feel guilty or shameful, now should she?

    Why does she? Because we live in a rape culture that objectifies women, then blames them for their own victimisation.

    We are called to consider the fruit of a teaching to discern whether it is good. Neither licentiousness nor the purity/modesty culture produce good fruit. Both feed into objectification of women, rape culture, victim blaming, slut shaming, and married couples who can’t get past a deep sense of shame whenever they have or try to have sex. That sometimes women and men enter adulthood not terribly scarred and pretty much functional is not good enough.

    I would not wish shame and guilt and humiliation and deep filthiness to be feelings I associate with sex, therefore, in love for my neighbour, I cannot condone teachings that impart these feelings to our young people.

  131. Of course not. Just like the anti-gay movement has several groups that profit from it and also homebrew groups and individuals who take the teachings into their homes, the purity movement has several groups that profit from it, as well as homebrew groups and individuals who take the teachings into their homes (and I am not saying that is what you are doing).

    Those groups do have purity balls and sell purity rings and purity curriculum and abstinence-only sex education and modesty clothing and so on and they make a huge profit off it. Claiming that just because there is not one monolithic group that it doesn’t exist is like saying that the automobile industry doesn’t exist because there’s more than one company.

  132. Read your scripture again. Jesus is God’s son; God provided the Ten Commandments directly to man; Jesus fell (still falls, eternally) under God’s commands, even as a part of the Trinity. Jesus was not here to OBLITERATE every Old Testament law, but to fulfill it.

  133. Surely, you don’t want the kid being sexually abused to think that it is a good thing!?!? Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think that the child who hears that it is a bad thing that he should not endure will go looking for help to escape. Nothing about the purity movement should make any child think life is not worth living. God loves every child, even the ones who have been led to believe they are homosexual. Yes, that is how it happens. God doesn’t make anyone homosexual. I can’t speak to sexual addiction. I have seen the term on pulp magazine headlines, but I haven’t heard anyone in church use that term.
    Believe me, a call to purity is not a call to demean or destroy anyone. It is a call to come near to God and be changed by him. It is a call to let go of things that impede your progress toward fulfillment of your God-given purpose. It is a call to turn away from things that destroy. You can turn toward grace, forgiveness and redemption, the pure love that gives life, not death.
    There are calls to death-dealing behaviors, but they don’t come from God. The call to purity is a call to live, to live in time and space, to live in eternity and infinity with no boundaries, a call to engage in a relationship that transcends all the other lures. It really is so good that it is worth more than anything you might leave behind. It is a call to psychological health, not psychological damage. I don’t know what people have said or done to you, but I don’t have any desire to hurt you or anyone. I just know that being pure and putting God first is completely good for people, not destructive.

  134. The Ten Commandments were provided to *Israel*, as was the entire Old Testament Law. It was a suzerainty treaty between YHWH and the citizens of Israel. Jesus, in fulfilling the law, created for us a new citizenship. Christians are not under the jurisdiction of the old law, but are in the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Heaven. Just as I am not beholden to obey a law requiring that I not be alone with a man not my relative, though it is the law in some nations, I am not beholden to the old law.

  135. And it also teaches females to put males first, above their own interests and the interests of other women, and that’s a problem. And, yeah, it’s not a self-defense class, because that might actually be useful.

  136. It absolves men of responsibility by teaching that it’s the WOMAN’S fault that a man is turned onto her because of the state of her dress. It teaches the WOMAN that SHE needs to cover up, lest she be perceived as a “slut”. She is always taught “you need to be pure”/”you need to save yourself for marriage”. She is taught her worth is connected to what’s between her legs.

    It does not teach the man that he needs to take responsibility for his thoughts. Men are not taught to remain pure or that they need to save themselves. Men are not taught that their value is connected to what they do with their dong.

    Purity culture is sexist and misogynist, perpetuates rape culture and the virgin/whore dichotomy, upholds the patriarchy, and it encourages the objectification of women.

  137. I found myself in a honeymoon suite with a man I barely knew and with whom I had only shared a first kiss with 3 hours earlier. I was frightened and nervous but determined to be a good wife to this man. And that was the early, good part of our marriage. 10 years later I finally worked up the courage to leave and divorce him. I want my girls to date. I want them to know the men they marry. And I think I prefer them to live with the men for a while first because I want them to truly know what they are getting into, before they enter into a legal commitment with someone who can destroy their health and finances. I am no longer that trusting, innocent young woman and I would rather they not go through what I did.

  138. If Christians believe that undisciplined sex is a good thing, then they are living by a standard in conflict with biblical teaching. I do apologize for assuming that Christians shape their personal standards according to the Bible. We can certainly be brothers and sisters in Christ even though we disagree. It does make me sad, however.

  139. I’ve long wondered if the woman “caught in the act of adultery” was actually a rape victim, but because she didn’t cry out for help as dictated in that ridiculous law..for a crap load of reasons, like, he had his hand over her mouth, she’d been knocked unconscious, he was a soldier, temple priest, person of power. So what could have actually happened was she was being convicted of someone else’s crime.

  140. No woman has to be taught to feel shame and filthiness when her body is invaded by a rapist. Women who have never heard of the Bible feel that way when they are raped. It is a vile and violent act, and it doesn’t matter what religion a woman believes when it happens. The rape victim always feels humiliated. It is completely natural. People who love Christ and teach their sons and daughters (yes, both) to put Christ first and live by a standard of Christ-like purity do not teach their daughters to feel humiliated by rape. It is the natural human reaction.
    People who teach purity do, however, teach their children, male and female, that sex is not a toy or a game. It is reserved for marriage. They also teach how to deal with failure — that is to say, how to deal with sin. I know that is an unpopular word, but I am sure Christians are familiar with it.
    People who teach their children to live by a standard of purity teach their children what to do about sin. Sin in all its many forms is so prevalent that Martin Luther recommended confession morning and night. That is not a bad idea. Come clean with God every time you talk with him. Don’t carry guilt and shame around any longer than necessary. Go right to God and confess and ask for the courage to do what is necessary to make amends.
    This is the right advice for men and women who stray, for those of either gender whose convictions are overcome by the temptation.
    A rape victim does not need to confess sin, but the rape victim still needs the comfort of God’s grace. No, you didn’t do wrong. No, you are not ruined. Yes, I love you. Yes, you are still my beloved child. Those who succumb to temptation need first to confess the sin, then to ask forgiveness, and finally to ask what must be done to make things right. Part of the power of forgiveness is to be enabled to do what it takes to make amends.
    I didn’t make this up. It is all in the Bible. Christians know it is all in the Bible. Christians who teach purity as the Bible teaches it are doing the right thing. Anyone who tries to teach anybody a standard for human behavior that does not come from the Bible is making a mistake.

  141. Who here said “undisciplined sex” is a good thing???

    These kinds of false accusations make discussions on sexuality impossible.

  142. Woman taken in “prostitution”??

    Even your assumption that the woman was guilty of prostitution (No where stated or implied in the text) is a huge red flag into your mindset. In the complete absence of any facts you have formulated an opinion that makes the WOMAN responsible.

  143. According to Christian theology, Jesus is like the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In His mortal existence, Jesus is like Dr. Jekyll – gentle and accepting of all people. In the after-life, though, He is like Mr. Hyde – judgemental, intolerant, and willing to save some but cast others into eternal banishment (or perhaps torture). Some Christians pattern their lives after the Dr. Jekyll Jesus, some after the Mr. Hyde Jesus, and some after a little of both. I question the underlying theology.

  144. Could you explain that? I thought that the purity culture called men to be more responsible. To protect the woman, to respect her. I do understand that many people use shame to control those around them but that is not unique to the purity culture and thus I see it as a different, although related, issue. How does the purity movement perpetuate rape?

  145. If a man looks at a woman with the intent to have sex with her, or even just cat-calls her, it’s because of how *she’s* dressed, or how *she* presents herself, and *she’s* always the one who is encouraged to do something about it, while the men get a free pass because hormones (or whatever excuse). But this happens even if she is dressed modestly. (I read a blog post once about a well-endowed woman who was ogled even though she was dressed modestly.) She never wins. 🙁

    Rape culture pushes the victim-blaming mentality: the idea that if *she* had done something differently — worn a different outfit (even though women get raped when dressed modestly; rapists don’t care about what a person is wearing), didn’t get drunk (opens a person up to anything, never mind that it is impossible for a person to give clear consent when they’re intoxicated/inebriated), used the “buddy system” (what if she wanted to go out by herself? or had no choice?), tried to fight off her attacker (an act proven to be pointless, not to mention it’s an ableist suggestion in the first place (doesn’t take people with physical or mental disabilities into consideration)), didn’t let her rapist in (even though most rape victims know their attackers) — she wouldn’t have been raped. It’s also largely because of this that many rape victims don’t report what happened to them. Rape culture teaches “how to prevent a rape from happening” rather than “how not to be a rapist”.

    The purity movement does the same thing. It teaches women “how not to let a man come on to you” or “how to save yourself” and how purity is attached to her nether regions, rather than teaching men “how not to be an objectifying a-hole”, or teaching that a person’s worth is attached to their individuality.

    You (that’s an in-general “you”, btw) don’t hear anyone telling men to dress modestly, or not to take their shirts off. You don’t hear anyone telling men to take responsibility for their own salacious thoughts. You don’t hear anyone telling men that their worth or value is attached to their dong and what they do (or don’t do) with it.

    Purity culture and rape culture are both misogynist and sexist.

    I think that there needs to be balance. No one should be shamed for wanting to wait to have consensual sex until marriage. On the other hand, no one should be shamed for having consensual sex with someone they’re not married to. I think this is one of those things that falls into “Everything is permissable, yet not everything is beneficial”, but not in the way the purity movement teaches. For one person, it’s beneficial to wait. For someone else, it may not be. If someone is raped/sexually assaulted/molested, they shouldn’t be told they’re damaged goods or that no one will want them. Their value as a person (which has nothing to do with their genitals) should be upheld. They should be supported, defended. What happened to them isn’t their fault; it’s the fault of the person who did it to them. It is also not a woman’s fault if a man ogles her and treats her like a sex object; it’s his.

  146. Hi, Thanks for your website. I have a daughter and this modesty purity movement and our sacrificial virgin fascination concerns me.

  147. The man stumbled in his walk. The woman was a stumbling block.

    The man slept with another man’s future wife. The woman gave away the gift that was reserved for her husband.

    It’s almost always male-centric.

  148. Perhaps there’s a difference between teaching a child (boy or girl) that sex can cause babies and disease, and should be reserved for committed, adult relationships, and telling them that sex outside of marriage is “bad” without explaining what is bad about it.

  149. A little devil’s advocate here. At what point would you tell one of your daughter’s friends she needed to wear more/different clothes? When her cheeks were hanging out? Maybe a thin top with no bra? Most of us have some standard which could be breached. Fortunately, we never had to deal with this while raising our children. I guess, had I ever one of my kids’ female friends dressed – IMO – indecently, I would have at least brought it up with my wife. And had she agreed with me, a comment from her surely would have been better received by a young girl than one from me.

  150. I don’t really know how to answer that. First of all, I’ve known my daughter’s friend for almost 10 years. I think she is a wonderful young woman. She is beautiful, kind, funny and a great friend to my daughter. That is simply how I view her – not by the clothes she wears. She’s a track and cross-country runner and I am guessing that she is comfortable enough with her own body to be responsible herself for the way she dresses.

    For what it’s worth, my daughter asked us this morning if we could see the shorts she was wearing under a dress. She is responsible enough to dress herself each day. She knows what she is and isn’t comfortable with wearing. She is respectful of the school dress code.

    Guys, let girls be responsible for dressing themselves and you be responsible for your own thoughts and actions toward girls. If a guy can first treat and respect a girl as a fellow human being, then there shouldn’t be any issue when they find a girl attractive.

  151. Of course there is, but I’ve discussed nuance and teens, and specifically the tendency to reduce a nuanced message to a binary message. Say you discussall the facts of sex…kids are still more likely to distill it into a “sex is bad” or “sex is good” binary.There’s a strong chance IMO that this tendency has helped them stay alive over the ages. So if Smart’s take-away from lessonson school was one tthing, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t told specific,correct facts with supporting reasons.

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