By Abigail Rine, at The Atlantic:
One of the issues here is that sex is devalued when women (not so often men) are seen as damaged goods, impure, contaminated, deflowered, defiled… so Richard Beck, and others, are exploring new metaphors for sexuality.
Denunciations of purity culture are beginning to emerge from the evangelical ivory tower as well. Richard Beck, Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department at Abilene Christian University, an evangelical school, expounds on the deeper implications of purity obsession both on his website and in his book Unclean, taking particular issue with the words and metaphors Christians use to frame sexual sin, especially for women. Beck argues that using the metaphor of purity imports a “psychology of contamination into our moral and spiritual lives,” and this contamination is viewed as a permanent state, one beyond restoration.
Moreover, while women are subjected to the language of purity and seen as irreparably contaminated after having sex, the same is not true for men. According to Beck, a boy losing his virginity is seen as a “mistake, a stumbling,” a mode of behavior that can be changed and rehabilitated. This, he argues, exposes a double standard at work in the language of sexual purity: women who have sex are seen as “damaged goods,” but men who have sex are not.
Beck’s analysis reveals how evangelical critiques of purity are increasing in nuance and complexity, but what remains all but absent in these accounts is a fleshed-out alternative. While these writers clearly advocate abandoning the language of purity, they seem reluctant to relinquish the abstinence ideal entirely—which creates an interesting tension. What, exactly, does a post-purity sexual ethic look like for evangelicals?