The Misguided Backlash Against ‘Purity Culture’ by G. Shane Morris

The Misguided Backlash Against ‘Purity Culture’ by G. Shane Morris

I agree with most of this editorial by Morris, but I have one slight area of disagreement, which I will discuss below the link and excerpts.

All in all, this is an excellent editorial, so you will want to click the link below to go to Patheos, where it’s hosted, to read it in its entirety, but please remember to come back to this blog post to read some of my comments much farther below.

(Link): The Misguided Backlash Against ‘Purity Culture’

by G. Shane Morris
December 2018

[Author Morris discusses an anti-Purity Culture, anti- I Kissed Dating Goodbye editorial by Abigail Rine Favale, and refutes some of her arguments.]

…But one thing I’ve noticed is how many of those complaints come from people who admit they never took Harris’ advice in the first place. Favale is one of them.

She confesses: “I opted for more conventional forms of kissing and bade farewell to my virginity instead.” Nevertheless, she claims, “the ideas in Harris’ book influenced me—if not my habits, certainly my sense of self.”

It’s not clear what she means by this, except perhaps that she felt guilty about having premarital sex. No one needs Joshua Harris to experience the prick of conscience, though. Which is why one detects in recriminations against “purity culture” by those who openly engaged in impurity more than a hint of sour grapes.

…Secondly, the claim [by Favale] that an emphasis on virginity is new or aberrant in Christianity is dumbfounding, particularly coming from a Roman Catholic. Favale asserts that “the purity culture conversation is rife with fear-and-shame-based rhetoric…”

I can only wonder if she has ever cracked open the church fathers, whose views of sex make Joshua Harris sound like a Cosmopolitan columnist.

… [Church father] Jerome (347-420), likewise, could easily be accused of using “fear-and-shame-based rhetoric” when he suggested that the man who is “too ardent a lover of his own wife is an adulterer.” Augustine (354-430) concurred, arguing that in the husband-wife relationship, “that which goes beyond [the necessity of reproduction] no longer follows reason but lust.”

[Later, Protestant Christians would rebel against that anti- sex view and elevate marriage and married sex]

… But Joshua Harris didn’t invent the link between purity and virginity. It’s been around since the beginning of the faith. …

… Favale charges ahead, accusing Harris of introducing a happily-ever-after theology for those who save physical intimacy for their wedding night. In her telling, “purity culture” offered a kind of carnal bargain with God—i.e., “keep yourself for marriage and you will be rewarded with hot sex.”

… [There is a difference between a proverb, truism, or a promise]

The same is true of non-inspired wisdom. “Lock your car door if you don’t want thieves to steal your things” is no less a prudent saying because burglars sometimes break windows!

Critics of Joshua Harris don’t seem to understand that when he pointed to better marriages as a reason to avoid unwedded sex, he was offering a proverb, not a promise.

And he was empirically right. A (Link): new study from the University of Utah found that Americans who have only slept with their spouses are the most likely to report having “very happy” marriages.

They’re nearly divorce-proof, too. Just six percent of marriages involving a bride who was a virgin end within five years, compared with 20 percent for brides who had engaged in sex before marriage. (Link): Similar studies from Western Washington University and (Link): the University of Virginia bolster these findings.

[Casual sex can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, heartbreak, and abortion]

…Sex outside of marriage is a recipe for personal misery and social destruction. It eats at the core of what makes us civilized, it promotes exploitation and murder (in the form of abortion), and trains young people to see one another as conquests, rather than as potential lifelong lovers and family members.

….Likewise, the charge that “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” persuaded a generation of young believers to idolize virginity is comically out-of-touch with reality.

Research over the last decade (Link): has found that between 60 and 80 percent of self-identified “born-again” Christians have sex before marriage, taking Harris’ call about as seriously as Favale did. And among the general population, (Link): just five percent of new brides in recent years have been virgins.
—-~~~—-

You can read the rest of that editorial (Link): here on Patheos

I have not read the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” book by Harris myself, but I’ve read plenty about the book, including a lot of critiques.

Christian Promises of Hot Married Sex Is A True Thing

One of my areas of disagreement with the editorial by Morris is this portion:

… Favale charges ahead, accusing Harris of introducing a happily-ever-after theology for those who save physical intimacy for their wedding night. In her telling, “purity culture” offered a kind of carnal bargain with God—i.e., “keep yourself for marriage and you will be rewarded with hot sex.”

… [There is a difference between a proverb, truism, or a promise]

The same is true of non-inspired wisdom. “Lock your car door if you don’t want thieves to steal your things” is no less a prudent saying because burglars sometimes break windows! Critics of Joshua Harris don’t seem to understand that when he pointed to better marriages as a reason to avoid unwedded sex, he was offering a proverb, not a promise.
—-~~~—-

What I find objectionable about this is that Favale’s assertion is not untrue here – not for all of Christendom.

I was brought up in a Southern Baptist Church background in the 1970s and 1980s. Also during that time, and a bit into the 1990s, I read a lot of books, magazine articles, and so on, by Christians, and some of that material discussed sexual purity.

In the material I read, or sermons I listened to during those years, most all Southern Baptists and conservative Christians did in fact promise, and some strongly implied, that if one remained a virgin until marriage that the married sex would be hot, steamy, satisfying, and regular.

The Christians that taught kids staying a virgin until marriage is a good thing never discussed that first-time sex for a woman can be physically painful, the sex can be unsatisfying or awkward for one or both of the couple, or, there may be a time when the marriage turns sexless (I have many examples of that on this blog, such as (Link): this one).

It is absolutely true that some Christian purity culture advocates do in fact teach or imply that staying abstinent until marriage will result in great sex. And that is false advertising that Christians need to stop.

Some Things that Purity Culture Gets Correct

As far as purity culture is concerned – I am in disagreement with some aspects of it (for one thing, most Christians who teach it emphasize female virginity, while, it seems, males are not expected to sexually abstain) – but I do believe that the Bible teaches that sexual behavior is to be reserved for marriage only.

The (Link): Bible does teach the sex outside the marital parameters is a sin.

The Virginity-Until-Marriage concept is not a “patriarchal construct” meant to punish or police women – this is how secular (and some liberal Christian) feminists try to spin it, so they don’t feel as though they have to be held accountable for being sexual prior to marriage.

Even in the much-maligned, well-intentioned “having sex prior to marriage makes you like a wad of chewing gum” lectures delivered in Sunday School classes in years past, there is a grain of truth, or, the analogy is attempting to teach a truthful lesson.

One of those lessons is discussed in this older post on this blog:

(Link): Slut Shaming and Secular and Christian Culture – Dirty Water / Used Chewing Gum and the CDC’s Warnings – I guess the CDC is a bunch of slut shamers ?

It is a fact of life that if you engage in a lot of sex with a lot of different people, your chances of receiving a Sexually Transmitted Infection go up. That is not something invented by purity culture Sunday School teachers.

It’s astounding that many who rail like banshees against the negative, or truly harmful portions of Purity Culture when they are on Twitter, abuse survivor blogs, and so on, want to toss out the entirety of the message, even the “both men and women should abstain from sex until marriage” portion of the message.

The Anti-Purity Culture groups want to toss out Virginity as irrelevant, “mean-spirited,” unrealistic, or as an out-dated, “old fogey” type message.

The anti-Purity Culture people I see posting online usually don’t respect adults who choose to remain virgins until marriage, either – they feel just fine insulting or mocking adult virgins.

However, these same individuals totally expect you, if you are an adult virgin, to not just respect, but to celebrate, their sexual choices and behavior, even if that includes homosexual sex acts.

They will deem you antiquated, or a “homophobe,” or insult you with any number of other derogatory terms if you don’t totally agree with or accept all their sexual behaviors and choices.

Purity Culture Can Act as An Obstacle to Marriage-Minded Christian Singles

I do think that the purity culture’s assumptions of men and women, borne of gendered stereotypes, can be detrimental to marriage occurring.

It’s another fact of life that in the United States, most people date various people to find someone to marry. Americans do not follow the practice of arranged marriages. Dating in American culture is necessary for most; dating prefaces marriage.

For the majority of us in the United States, one cannot get married without dating first.

But purity culture teaches, among other things, that men and women should ultimately be paranoid of one another, or, some purity culture advocates, such as Harris in his reviled book, flat-out told kids not to date at all.

If you’re telling Christian singles they cannot meet with someone of the opposite biological sex, because that opposite gender person will “cause them to stumble,” and that sexual intercourse is always inevitable (even when meeting at a Starbucks for a cup of coffee!) then, not much dating will happen – and consequently, no marriages.

On the one hand, yes,  I recognize that some Purity Culture teachings are damaging to people, but that does not mean, contrary to the blog posts, tweets, and attitudes I see from progressive- or ex-Christians, that every single thing that is taught under that label is sexist, abusive, or detrimental to women (or to men).

Some of the (Link): anti- Purity Culture proponents can claim that Purity Culture teachings messed up their sex lives or damaged how they view sex ’til the cows come home, but that is not an indictment on the concept of “virginity until marriage,” but has more to do with how the concept is clumsily taught by some Christians.

Naturally and Of Course the Fornicators Hate All Purity Culture Teachings – Since They’ve Already Broken Some or All of Those Teachings

I’ll end by echoing, or jumping off one thing Morris said in his essay, a point I posted about well over a year ago: often times, those who bray, scream, yell, and complain about “purity teachings” are themselves not virgins until marriage.

I suspect, as they are fornicators, they want the rest of the church to applaud their pre-marital sex, to affirm it, to celebrate it, or to at least stop viewing fornication as being sinful, because they don’t want to have a guilty conscience.

These anti-Purity Culture advocates want, demand, and expect all other Christians to lower their sexual standards and to give a rubber stamp of approval to any and all sexual behavior. And I don’t see that as ever happening, (but god knows, in today’s culture, values have eroded quite a bit, so maybe we’ll one day arrive there).

My post on that subject is located here:

(Link): I Notice It’s the Fornicators Who Want to Ignore or Downplay the Bible’s Teaching that People Are To Stay Virgins Until Marriage

Growing Sexual Purity Backlash Among Church Too, GC2 Summit, Exvangelical, and Empty the Pews Tweeters

There has been a significant portion of anti-Celibacy, anti-Virginity (anti Purity Culture) rhetoric going on by ex-Christians and progressive Christians this past week on Twitter under the “#GC2Summmit” hash tag I may want to blog about separately later.

For now, I have this to say:

For anyone who thinks I sound angry and bitter on this blog (and yes, in years past, I’ve had a person or two tell me I sound angry), oh no.

If you think I sound angry, just spend five minutes skimming the  “#GC2Summmit” or “#Exvangelical” or “Empty The Pews” hash tags on Twitter to see a bunch of people who are perpetually bitter, hostile, angry, and who hold grudges for years. I’m no where near that level of anger.

Many of the individuals posting under those hash tags, by the way, will deny to the hilt being or sounding bitter or angry (see for example, (Link): this person’s tweet, that was quoting someone else) – because they view those labels as an attempt to silence them, which I am not doing here; I sure cannot stop them from Tweeting – but honestly, yes, many of them are very hostile.

On Twitter:

You can view the #GC2Summmit hash tag (Link): here on Twitter – which will show you the “Top” tweets related to that issue.
Click on the word “Latest” right next to the word “Top” to view the most recent tweets under that hash tag, or try (Link): clicking here to view the most recent #GC2Summit tweets.

(Link): Top “Exvangelical” Tweets | (Link): Latest “Exvangelical” Tweets

At any rate, that Josh Harris may have gotten some issues wrong in his dating book, or that Purity Culture teaches a few “off” things here or there, does not mean that absolutely everything taught under the umbrella of sexual purity in Christian morality (or in the Harris book) is incorrect or should be avoided.


Related Posts:

(Link): Is Premarital Sex a Sin? Bible Scholars Respond

(Link): Sexual Immorality and Five Other Reasons People Reject Christianity by D. Johnson

(Link): CDC Report: Virgin Teens Much Healthier Than Their Sexually Active Peers (2016 Report)

(Link):  Abstinence Groups: New Sex-Ed Study Misses Point of Urging Teens to Wait

(Link): A Day In The Life Of An Abstinence Ed Teacher by S. Gomez

(Link):  Teenagers Given Condoms at School Likelier to Become Pregnant and Get STDs / STIs: 2016 Study

(Link): Slut-Shaming Is Bad—But The Overreaction Against It Also Hurts Women by J. Doverspike

(Link): Marcotte (secular, leftwing feminist) on Anyone Choosing To Be a Virgin Until Marriage: “It’s a Silly Idea” – What Progressive Christians, Conservative Christians, Non Christians, and Salon’s Amanda Marcotte Gets Wrong About Christian Views on Virginity

(Link): Why People Rationalize Sexual Sin – You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours

(Link):  Some Researchers Argue that Shame Should Be Used to Treat Sexual Compulsions

(Link):  We’re Casual About Sex and Serious About Consent. But Is It Working? by J. Zimmerman

(Link): No Christians and Churches Do Not Idolize Virginity and Sexual Purity – Christians Attack and Criticize Virginity Sexual Purity Celibacy / Virginity Sexual Purity Not An Idol

(Link): Did Hell Freeze Over?: Liberal Rag Promotes Idea that Celibacy is Acceptable, and a Valid Life Choice / Re: 2016 Study Says Millennials Aren’t Having Much Sex

(Link): The Christian and Non Christian Phenomenon of Virgin Shaming and Celibate Shaming

(Link): Study (from 2016) Claims Pre-Marital Virginity is Now ‘Antiquated’ – Is Virginity No Longer Virtuous?

(Link): Confusing Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse with Consensual Sex and Then Condemning Sexual Purity Teachings – and other, related topics

(Link): Why Are Christian Guys Silent About Abstinence? by C. Hill

(Link): People Were Asked to Guess A Virgin From A Group Of Strangers. The Results Were Unexpected

(Link): Why Are Young Feminists So Clueless About Sex? by M. Wente

(Link): Secular Liberal Feminist Marcotte on Anyone Choosing To Be a Virgin Until Marriage: “It’s a Silly Idea” – What Progressive Christians, Conservative Christians, Non Christians, and Salon’s Amanda Marcotte Gets Wrong About Christian Views on Virginity

(Link):   I Shouldn’t Need An Excuse To Be A Virgin – (Secular Editorial Defends Virginity – More Rare Than a Unicorn Sighting)

(Link): Are You Ashamed of Biblical [Sexual] Purity? by J. Slattery

(Link): When Adult Virginity and Adult Celibacy Are Viewed As Inconvenient or As Impediments

(Link):  An Example of Mocking Adult Virginity Via Twitter (Virginity Used As Insult)

(Link):  Self Control – everyone has it, is capable of it, but most choose not to use it (New Study Says Conservatives Have Better Self Control Than Liberals)

 

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