Do Joshua Harris’s Books Contain “Valuable Advice”?

Several weeks ago I had a twitter exchange with fellow blogger Dianna Anderson:

After this exchange, Jessica of Faith Permeating Life, a blogger who defines herself as a Christian feminist, took issue with Dianna and my statements. She responded with a post called  “What I Learned from Joshua Harris” in which she argued that Harris’ books taught her many valuable things, and stated that she continues to recommend them to Christian couples. In this blog post I’m going to respond to Jessica’s post, and in my post tomorrow I will outline what I learned from Joshua Harris.

For those who didn’t grow up in evangelical culture, let me explain a little about Joshua Harris before I go any farther. Joshua Harris is the son of Greg Harris, an early and extremely prominent Christian homeschool advocate and speaker. Josh, like his siblings, grew up homeschooled. As a young adult – I believe he was only 21 – he became dissolusioned with the dating scene and wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which became an instant success among young evangelicals many of whom, like I did, approached the book like a Bible. With this book, Harris singlehandedly started the courtship craze among mainstream evangelicals. He followed the book up a couple of years later with a book called Boy Meets Girl outlining his own successful courtship and marriage. Insta-hit #2. He then followed that up with a book called Not Even A Hint, in which he discussed how Christians should deal with lust and sexual desire. Insta-hit #3.

With that out of the way, I turn to Jessica’s post. Jessica begins by stating that she read Boy Meets Girl in college, though she never actually read I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Then she says the following:

I am not a proponent of the idea that you must be right about everything or agree with me on everything to make a valuable contribution to people’s lives. … So while I don’t think Joshua Harris gets everything right, his books were valuable to me, and I want to talk about why.

If I had come from a conservative, evangelical background, then perhaps his books would have reinforced for me ideas like “men are the head of the family” or “men and women have unique and specific roles decided by their genitals.” But that’s not where I was coming from when I read Boy Meets Girl. I attended public school up until college and was raised by a very liberal-leaning mother. I spent far too much of my time trying to get guys to like me and/or bemoaning the fact that nobody was interested in me. By the time I started college I had decided to stay single forever. Then a group of girls on my floor freshman year decided to do a book club (that only had one meeting ever) and read Boy Meets Girl.

So with that introduction, I wanted to turn to the three things Jessica says Harris’ book taught her.

The Value of My Life Independent of a Partner

When I read Boy Meets Girl I was still fairly determined to stay single, and it was clear from Harris’s perspective that was a valid way to live one’s life. Harris reiterates that God loves every person whether or not they’re in a relationship, and that your value doesn’t come from being in a relationship. After wanting throughout all of high school to be in a relationship, this was a lesson it had taken me a long time to learn, and I appreciated having it validated by this book. Here’s part that I underlined: “If you’re single, I believe that God wants you to see that your story has begun. Life doesn’t start when you find a spouse. Marriage is wonderful, but it’s simply a new chapter in life.”

Yes, Harris does say that that a woman’s life is valuable whether or not she is in a relationship, and he’s no the only evangelical to say this. Given that there’s lots out there in the evangelical/fundamentalist world that tells girls the opposite – Debi Pearl’s books are a prime example – this is good. But I read a lot of regular feminist blogs, and this is something they hammer all the time. In other words, Jessica could have encountered this validation of her singleness from any of a number of places. Harris didn’t come up with the idea. So I’m glad Jessica took this message from Harris, but that doesn’t mean that this is an idea people need to read Harris to get.

The Value of My Time and Emotions — and Others’

I got in a fight with another girl the winter of my senior year of high school because I was talking about how I didn’t want to start dating anyone as I’d be going to college in a few months and didn’t want a long-distance relationship. She was trying to get it through my head that I could just have a “fling” with someone, that I was 18 and it wasn’t worth taking my relationships so seriously. Note that very few people at our high school “dated” in the traditional sense of going out on a first date — you got to know people as friends through school or clubs, and then if you were mutually interested you decided to start a relationship and be boyfriend and girlfriend. To me, it seemed wrong and deceptive to make that kind of a commitment to someone with the intention of breaking it off in a few months.

What Joshua Harris suggests is that it eats up a lot of time and emotion to “date” anyone you can’t envision being with long-term. Interestingly, what I took away from this is the opposite of the traditional Christian idea, as well as cultural message, for women that seeking a spouse is an important part of your life. Parents and friends will ask a single person when they last went on a date and exclaim that they’re “not even trying” to find a mate if they’re not dating regularly. I didn’t want any part of that. Even after Mike and I became close friends, even after I was pretty sure he was interested in me, even after I started to admit that I liked him, I had to ask myself whether there was a possibility that our relationship could lead to marriage. If there had been no way I could envision ever being married to him, then I wouldn’t have invested my valuable time and emotion in dating him.

There seem to be two ideas put together here: (1) You don’t have to be constantly dating people if you don’t want to be and (2) dating takes valuable time and emotional energy, so you shouldn’t date someone if there isn’t at least a possibility it will lead to marriage. I wholeheartedly agree with the first point, and like I said, you don’t have to go to Harris to find this idea. Every feminist blog I’ve ever read will tell women that they should be able to choose when and if they want to date. But then there is the second point, and that’s where I start disagreeing with Jessica.

While it’s true that dating does take time and energy, Jessica seems to think that this a priori means that it should not be done unless for the purpose of marriage. If that’s the choice that she wants to make – not to date unless it might lead to marriage – that’s totally fine with me. But she seems to assume that it’s some sort of universal truth. It’s not. The reality is that there are other worthwhile things besides marriage to be gained from dating: companionship, relationship skills, and, yes, sex. So yes, dating takes time and energy, but it does have a payoff even if it doesn’t lead to marriage. And even if Jessica doesn’t see this as a universal truth – even if she allows that not wanting to invest the time and energy into dating if it won’t lead to marriage is just her preference, and other women might assess the pros and cons differently – Josh Harris does see it as a universal truth. In fact, Harris teaches that in every relationship you have with a person you don’t marry, you give away a piece of your heart that you can never get back. In essence, he teaches that if you date around before finding the one, you will be compromised. The idea that Jessica could read this and simply come away with “it’s okay to choose if and when I want to date” is mind boggling.

The Value of My Body and Setting Boundaries

When people in high school would start “going out” (being in a relationship), it seemed to come with it some kind of implied consent: You are my girlfriend, so I’m allowed to hold your hand or put my arm around you or kiss you. I hated that because it seemed to strip me of my bodily autonomy and instead put me into a role with pre-set boundaries (or lack thereof).

I read Boy Meets Girl well before Mike and I started dating, and it gave me a needed opportunity to reflect on what I was and wasn’t comfortable with in a relationship. I made a decision at that point that I wanted to save my first kiss for marriage because I was fiercely protective of my body and felt that there were certain things I didn’t want to share with anyone who hadn’t promised a lifelong commitment to me. Mike read Boy Meets Girl around the time we started dating and it caused him to give much more thought to his body and to the physical component of our relationship than he had previously. It gave us a vocabulary to discuss our physical intimacy, and we regularly checked in with one another that our physical intimacy was growing out of our emotional intimacy and not outpacing it or being an end to itself.

Um. I know I’m starting to sound repetitive here, but read any feminist blog, talk to any feminist out there, and you will hear the importance of being able to set your own physical boundaries affirmed enthusiastically. No one can make you do something with your body that you don’t want to do, even if that someone wears the title “boyfriend.” In fact, feminists have worked long and hard to dismantle the idea that being boyfriend/girlfriend – or being husband/wife – implies consent. That’s why marital rape wasn’t criminalized – or even acknowledged to exist – until after the emergence of feminism. So that Jessica had to find the idea of “consent” (i.e. that she gets to say what she does with her body and when) from Harris and hadn’t ever heard it anywhere else – even from her “liberal-leaning mother” – is astounding.

The thing is, Joshua Harris does not teach that everyone should be able to set their own physical boundaries as they feel comfortable. I find the idea that he teaches women that they are in control of their bodies and can choose when to say yes and when to say no almost laughable. Harris’ goal is to teach people to say no. He teaches that sex before marriage is sinful, and that other acts of physical intimacy, depending on the couple, may make waiting for sex too tempting and should therefore also be put off, for those couples, until marriage. In other words, Harris says that you should set boundaries to ensure that you don’t slip into “sexual sin,” not that you should be allowed to set boundaries because it’s your body and you get to say what you do and don’t do with it. This is an extremely important difference!

In other words, Jessica says that Harris taught her that being single is okay, that she should be able to choose when and if to date, and that consent is important in boy/girl relationships. The idea that Jessica, raised by a “liberal-leaning mother,” first encountered these ideas in Harris’ books points to a real failure on the part of feminism in getting its ideas out. But Jessica also says that Harris taught her that dating without the possibility of it leading to marriage is a waste of time and energy and shouldn’t be done, and unless she ignored half the book she can’t have not come away without the idea that voluntarily choosing to have sex before marriage is sinful, even with total consent. More on these things tomorrow.

A couple more things before I finish. Some of Jessica’s paragraphs left me wondering if we’d read the same books. This one, for example:

I also appreciated Harris’s acknowledgement that different people have different comfort levels. Some couples who want to save sex for marriage can kiss without feeling that that tempts them to cross the boundaries they’ve set for their relationship. Some can’t. One is not morally superior to the other; it’s about being honest with yourself (as a couple) and making choices for yourself about what’s important to you and what works for you. Similarly, Not Even a Hint didn’t condemn masturbation in and of itself, but instead talked about particular issues with fantasizing about and lusting after another person’s body independent of the rest of that person. I took away questions more than specific commands: What effect does this have on you and your relationship? Are you being honest with yourself and your partner?

Seriously. The idea that Harris is simply suggesting that some couples choose to save sex for marriage, and that for those couples kissing before the wedding can sometimes be too much temptation … what? Even her description of Not Even a Hint doesn’t sound like the book I read. The idea that all Harris is combating there is the sexual objectification of women is just … bizarre. Especially when his definition of “lust” is “desiring sexually what God has forbidden.” Also, as for masturbation, in my memory Harris condemns any sex act not done with your partner, so unless we’re talking about two people masturbating themselves while naked in bed together, masturbation is out. Again, I’m feeling like surely Jessica and I must have read two completely different books!

Jessica finishes with this:

So for someone raised in a conservative Christian environment, Joshua Harris’s books may well be more of the same. But for someone like me, coming from a liberal, secular background in which my peer group and media told me my value came from being in a relationship; that I should always seek to date even with no intention of making a long-term commitment; that physical intimacy is dictated by social norms and not my own comfort level – Joshua Harris’s books were a breath of fresh air.

Here was someone telling me it was OK if I wanted to put very high standards on who was allowed to kiss me or have sex with me.

It was OK if I didn’t want to date anyone I couldn’t see myself being with for life.

It was OK if I wanted my spouse to seek sexual satisfaction from me alone, and wanted to keep porn out of our relationship.

Did I take his books as a word-for-word manual of how to conduct my relationships? No. Did I get validation I needed about my value and guidance for a healthy relationship? Yes.

Somehow Jessica read Harris’ books and came away with solely feminist messages about things like consent and choice. How in the world this could happen is utterly baffling to me. This is basically the opposite of what I got from Harris’ books! His books aren’t about “you can choose what you want and set your boundaries.” They’re about “here is what you have to choose and here are the boundaries you have to set.” Don’t date unless it might lead to marriage. Dating except as a vehicle to marriage is bad. Don’t have sex before marriage. That’s sin. Eliminate anything that might lead you to have sex before marriage, even if that means waiting to kiss until the alter. Also, girls, put on some more clothes. You wouldn’t want to make your boyfriend think sexual thoughts about you, because that would be sin. Oh, and in every relationship you have that doesn’t lead to marriage, you give that other person a piece of your heart, which will mean you have less to give the person you ultimately marry. This isn’t simply my interpretation of Harris. This is what Harris says.

Also baffling to me is how someone come from a “liberal, secular background” and not know anything about consent, or about the importance of being in control of one’s own body, or that who and when to date is a person’s choice and totally up to them. I get that Jessica says she got these messages from peers and media, but how could her “liberal-leaning” mother not work to counteract those messages? Was there nothing to counter those massages? Doesn’t sex education cover consent? How? How? How? I don’t understand!

Again, I’m glad Jessica somehow found feminist messages in Harris. However, she could have found these same messages from any feminist source, and without the baggage. And additionally, I and many others who grew up on these books came away with messages so different that they might as well have been the opposite. In fact, they were the opposite. I suppose Jessica’s post teaches us that once in a while it’s possible to read something toxic and somehow, miraculously, come out intact.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Anonymouse

    There seems to be urban legends growing up in conservative Christian circles about “liberal secular” everything. Much like the just-so stories told about those who were sinners until they Found God and Were Saved. For example, in a recent debate about abortion, someone made the claim that nine days after conception, there was a perfectly formed fetus, complete with everything it needed to be born, just tiny. When I refuted that with, you know, FACTS, the response was that the other person had been told that by “liberal college girls who were biology majors”. Not all college students are liberal, and I doubt a biology major would actually say something so obviously and quickly-proven false, but invoking the “liberal” boogeyman seemed to end the discussion. Similarly, it’s hard to believe that the mother in your story, a liberal, “Our Bodies, Ourselves”-reading woman, would not mention to her daughter that her body was her own and she should never do anything she doesn’t want to with it.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com MargueriteF

    Harris’ book SEX IS NOT THE PROBLEM (LUST IS) is one of the most appalling things I ever read. The advice in that book was horrifying. It was presented as normal and natural that in order to avoid the “sin” of lust, one should avoid watching television, or going to the gym, or looking at a swimsuit catalog that came in the mail. In short, he seemed to suggest that a normal human life was off limits if you wanted to stay pure. It was shocking to me to realize how wildly out-of-touch with reality evangelicals could be.

    I haven’t read anything else by Mr. Harris, but after that book, I really don’t want to.

    • Karen

      I realize that mileage may vary on this, but I go to gym three times a week. What I see are other middle-aged people sweating and making obnoxious body sounds while trying to stave off death. Lust is really not an issue.

    • Katty

      What Karen said is a perfect example of a point I was about to make more generally. To paraphrase Joshua Harris: Looking is not the problem, obsession is. There are so many every-day situation that have absolutely NO sexual context, unless I’m obsessed with sex and give them one. Seriously, if you want people to have less sexual thoughts, stop making them obsess over this topic! I bet people wonder more about what is hidden under a burqa than what is not-so-hidden under normal jeans and t-shirts.

      And I’m not saying people should stop having sexual thoughts at all. In fact, I believe a healthy sexuality is a good thing. What I’m saying is that trying to suppress this healthy sexuality can lead to an unhealthy obsession with sexuality which 1) creates a problem where none even existed previously and 2) can be very damaging to those influenced by it.

  • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

    So in other words, this guy is a more cuddly version of Jerry Falwell on sexual prescriptions.

    Works for Rick Warren, guess it can work for others.

  • Sarah-Sophia

    I think a big misconception is that feminism supports everything secularism and vice versa. Having a liberal secular backround is not the same as having a feminist backround. There are people who have liberal views on the economy, environment, foreign policy etc but have a patriarchal view when it comes to women and family.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      And even us feminists can easily fall into the same lines of misogynistic thinking that the rest of our culture teaches us.

      • wendy

        As a person who was raised in a secular home, I’m pretty embarrassed to admit that for years I found these kinds of ideas charming.

      • Rosie

        To say nothing of the occasional self-identified feminist (who would be marginal in the community, but not so marginal if you were being raised by her) who thinks that her relationship and sex preferences ought to apply to everyone. It’s possible that Jessica’s mother tried to teach her that “free love” (in the old hippie sense) was the only “right” way to do relationships. Which is just as twisted as Harris’s contention that waiting to kiss at your wedding is the only “right” thing to do. Both strategies have advantages and disadvantages, and the best course is to get informed and choose what works best for you, whether one extreme or the other, or somewhere in the middle.

    • Attackfish

      This. Some of the most misogynistic people I’ve ever met were otherwise liberal. Her mother may well have been secular and otherwise progressive, and taught her daughter some perfectly secular misogyny about boys being boys.

    • kisekileia

      I agree with this. My parents are centrist politically by Canadian standards, which means well left of the Democrats by U.S. standards, on political and economic issues, but I didn’t learn feminism from them. I remember approaching my mother about a scene in a novel that was seriously squicky (trigger warning: rape)–basically, a guy forces himself on a woman ‘for her own good’ and she ends up liking it and they fall in love and live happily ever after–when I was around 18, and she didn’t think it was rape. I’d learned enough about consent from other sources that I was skeptical of this, but even so, my mother’s (and sister’s) opinion was pretty gross. I also had comprehensive sex ed in school, although only up to grade 7 because I didn’t take phys ed past then (disability reasons), and I don’t think we learned anything about consent. It was mostly just anatomy, puberty, and birth control methods.

      I DID learn that “if you don’t like where a boy puts his hands, you move them” (direct quote from my dad when I was just shy of 13), which is quite possibly the single best piece of advice I have ever gotten in my entire life. That was because my dad has his head mostly screwed on straight and respects women, though, not because of major feminist awareness on my parents’ part.

      • sara maimon

        I don’t know if that is such great advice, because they generally try again a few minutes later. I’d reccommend open communication. 2nd time- walk out the door.

    • http://www.texannewyorker.com jwall915

      YES!!! Liberal does not equal feminism and secular does not equal feminism. Not at all. My in-laws demonstrate this perfectly. My husband was raised in a very politically moderate and liberal Christian church, but feminism was NOWHERE to be found. Parents had a very complementarian marriage and firmly believed in stereotypical gender roles. So Jessica’s story of her upbringing being liberal and secular but not being exposed to any feminist ideas is completely possible, it does happen.

  • Cldg

    “Liberal” here only makes sense if it means generally secular, so not keeping to Christian standards, and possibly voting Democrat.

  • http://tcrowne.blogspot.com ted

    I really appreciate what you have said about this and several other issues. I for one am deeply scarred and continually affected by Josh’s books. (i could say more but will leave it there)

  • http://mattiechatham.wordpress.com/ Mattie Chatham

    The interesting thing, to me, is that while he hasn’t publicly recanted any of this, he’s deliberately distanced himself from 90% of it in his sermons at his church (where my in-laws attend). I’ve interacted with him on several occasions, and he’s just the nicest guy, but he’s been deceived for a long time (I mean, he grew up in ATI and home church social circles) and is now obviously coming away from a lot of that crap (especially with the blow-up in SGM with CJ Mahaney and his issues). But he hasn’t been very vocal about it outside of his church, and so you would never know…

    [I think the reason for this is that his publisher still makes a bulk of their earnings on his books and his brothers' books, and he's not free to renounce them for various reasons.]

    • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

      If he doesn’t like his previous ideas but isn’t willing to forgo the money he makes from those ideas, I’m not sure I’d count that as “nice.”

  • Rosie

    I can’t speak to every sex-ed program, but in the States it seems pretty common for them to cover biology only (in an attempt to not offend any religious students), and to say nothing at all about consent or choice or what a healthy relationship looks like. Feminist sex bloggers lament this situation regularly.

    • JennyE

      I live in Texas (I know…), and for me, in public school, sex ed was one chapter in health in a seventh grade co-ed class taught by a male coach. No one wanted to ask questions and nothing was covered beyond basic biology and sensational STD info. In high school, health was also taught in a co-ed class by a male coach who had way more responsibilities than time. We skipped the sex-ed chapter entirely and just watched “The Band Played On” (about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic) with no discussion or follow up of any kind. Certainly no one covered anything about consent, rape, the actual mechanics of condom use or birth control, or anything actually, you know, useful.

    • kisekileia

      This was true of the sex ed I got in Canada. There were “no means no” and “ask first” campaigns at my (also Canadian) university, though.

    • kisekileia

      Except that we did learn a lot about birth control. But it was all about the effectiveness and STD protectiveness of various methods. We learned very little about consent or healthy relationships, although it’s possible some of that stuff was covered in grades 8 and 9.

    • AnyBeth

      Mine was worse. Never got real instruction on the human reproductive system since the “your bodies are changing now–or will soon” in 4th grade. Our high school bio textbooks had that section ripped out.
      The standard sex-ed before federal $ was only for those teaching abstinence-only was around 40 minutes one day with the school nurse. That was basically “don’t rush into things and if you have sex, use protection.” Nothing about bio (except maybe a mention of STDs?) , nothing about contraception aside from “use some” and absolutely nothing about consent.
      Abstinence-only was a class a week for maybe 6 weeks. Difference there is that there was no discussion of contraception and plenty of STDs, I think to scare us. Also a video that included some serial killers essentially saying porn made them do it (“doing it” in this case meaning killing women) and some little kid saying “Sex is better than chocolate milk!” Otherwise, it was all just “You’re too young and impulsive. Wait till your married or at least older. And the only safe sex is no sex!” Absolutely no mention of consent or boundaries.
      Is it a big surprise that not only did the school have a high pregnancy rate? How about sexual assault on campus? I don’t mean just among the students; I mean literally at the school. Later on, pregnant girls were sent to a different school in another city. Students that didn’t care about consent continued to get no more than a slap on the wrist.

    • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

      My school showed us a video about the “consequences of sex,” including HIV, pregnancy scares, and – this was the worst – abusive relationships (because the boy will surely become possessive and jealous if you give in!).

      We were taught about condoms and how to put them on, but with zero visuals, so for me, as a visual learner, all I had to go on was the picture in my head – which meant I thought of condoms and balloons as basically the same thing until an embarrassingly old age.

    • http://kagerato.net kagerato

      Yeah, I don’t remember any discussion of consent or boundaries in supposedly sex-relevant classes at any level of my public school education. They were far more targeted at trivial anatomy and biology lessons that anyone could have easily picked up elsewhere. There was some talk of birth control and STDs, but not with nearly enough detail.

      Ironically, I learned far more about sex in classes on completely unrelated subjects. There was one class in particular where the discussion topic somehow seemed to regularly turn towards sex regardless of whatever we were “supposed” to be doing. The kind of vibrant, informed talks we got there is really what should be present in the actual sex education courses.

    • Aurora

      My school had a pretty decent sex ed class. We learned about pregnancy and STDs, discussed contraception some (in retrospect, we probably should’ve discussed that a lot more), and spent quite a bit of time on “no means no” and how to make your own decisions, resisting peer pressure and whatnot. I remember discussing a bunch of ways people try to pressure someone into having sex (like “if you really loved me…” and such) and coming up with responses to them. We also discussed abusive relationships and had someone from women’s services come talk to us. We also watched a video of a woman giving birth, which was mostly just awkward. The class was twice a week for…well, the health class as a whole was a semester, but I’m not sure how long the sex ed unit was. It was required for everyone, but you could opt out with parental permission (hardly anyone even brought the paper home, so no one sat out).

      There was just one major problem–we did that in 11th grade. (We had a brief version in 9th, to be fair.) I never figured out whose idea it was to wait until half the kids were having sex to teach sex ed. But hey, at least they actually taught us stuff.

  • http://ryanrobinson.ca Ryan Robinson

    I read his first two, but hadn’t even heard of the third until now. They were like a lot of conservative books to me. There were glimmers of truth which I don’t want to deny, such as those things mentioned there. I agree with a lot of the general principles he starts with. Personally, the main thing that I did learn was that it was ok to be single no matter how many times people at church asked me if I had a girlfriend yet. But a lot of the specifics made me want to throw the book across the room like Dianna.

  • wendy

    I learned some valuable lessons from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:

    I have no obligation to family members who mistreats me.
    If someone appreciates me, it raises them in my estimation.
    Good sex is not an act of charity.

    LOL. But I would never recommend Atlas Shrugged to someone else to learn these things. These ideas are expressed in better books; it’s really just a coincidence that I found them here first.

    • smrnda

      Even an author who is wrong about almost everything will get at least a few thing right – I think the problem is realizing that it’s the points that are correct and not the author.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        Even a stopped clock is right twice a day?

        I’ve seen similar comments about some parenting guides. The general response seems to be that it doesn’t matter what good advice may be hidden in a book if the rest of it is dangerously bad.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    Ok, without having read the books Harris authored and only seeing Jessica’s words as quoted by this blog- here is one thought. Is it possible Jessica felt weird going against the ‘norm’ of dating and kissing and found validation from Harris saying it’s actually ok, even preferable? She then interpreted on her own that, her ideas were ok + Harris said so = because of Harris I get to choose. This sounds a lot like the Who Owns The Bible discussion in which we are talking (among other things) about the individual interpreting the bible. Jessica seems to do the same with these writings, seeing them in a positive way, even though they contains negative things.

    • Katty

      That is basically the point I was going to make, but you beat me to it. My guess would be that maybe the reason she could take away those lessons from Harris’ books is that what he expressed as a rule for everyone was what she actually wanted to choose for herself. So it served to validate her personal opinion/choice without seeming like a difficult or even counterproductive rule to follow.

  • MM

    I was in high school when “I kissed dating goodbye” came out and, since I attended an christian high school, the book was immediately adopted into the curriculum for our “Family Living” class, or whatever it was called. Being a horny teenage guy, I really only paid lip-service to the sexual purity thing and thought Josh Harris was a total idiot…my best friend and I even speculated that, based on the swoons Josh Harris elicited from the girls in class, that he wrote the book to pick up women and not because he actually believed any of that drivel.

    Looking back, I remember that no one in my class really bought into the book, at least as a guide to dating. The sexual purity stuff wasn’t anything new and by the time the book came out, most everyone in the class had started dating in some form or another and didn’t feel the need to make the switch to the whole courting thing. Subsequent classes, however, did have some folks that followed the Harris plan, either because of the book or because of their strict parents. One of my friends, who married at 21, didn’t kiss his wife until the altar.

    Even before I ditched Christianity, my take on sexual purity was “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission”. I mean, if you’re saved and forgiven, it’s not like you’re going to go to hell, right? So you might as well enjoy it and maybe make God a little sad, rather than live life in sexual frustration and misery. And Christians are so hypocritical on this point anyway, because even if you have sex before you’re married, once you actually get married, it’s all suddenly okay and your impurity is wiped away…or something.

  • smrnda

    I grew up with almost no exposure to Christian teachings, with mostly just completely and totally secular viewpoints and the notion that ‘you don’t have to be with someone’ and ‘you set your own boundaries’ was pretty much what I felt like I was getting from everywhere.

    My gripe with Harris is the same as everyone else’s – he tells you it’s okay to say No, but not Yes.

  • Dolorosa

    I was raised in a family that would probably fall under the heading of ‘liberal and secular’, went to public school and was as exposed to ‘secular culture’ as it’s possible to be, and I feel that I – and my peers – were utterly failed in terms of being educated about consent and bodily integrity. Yes, we had sex education classes, where we were taught ‘no means no’ (although we were separated into male and female classes, so I have no idea what the boys were being taught in this regard, and in any case I think that ‘no means no’ is woefully inadequate in terms of teaching people about consent), yes I was lucky enough to be raised by a feminist mother who answered any questions my sister and I brought her comprehensively and without embarrassment, yes the books I read and films and TV shows I watched depicted sex (for the most part) as part of a healthy, loving relationship. And yet I still somehow internalised the message that girls and women did not want nor initiate sexual contact, that they had to be persuaded into it by their male partners, and that specific situations where consent would be asked for were unnecessary, because everything would somehow magically happen at a pace that would satisfy the guy’s need for sex while also happening at a pace that would be comfortable for the woman, without any need for communication.

    Needless to say, those attitudes were profoundly messed up (and terribly heteronormative), and I’m still confused and angry as to how I came to hold them as a teenager and young woman. I wish I’d read feminist blogs at that age, as it would’ve saved me a whole range of problems. My point is, I sometimes think secular culture fails women just as badly as religious fundamentalism. (For context, I was a teenager in Australia in the 90s. Religion was so little a part of the culture in the city where I grew up that I would’ve been astonished to discover that anyone I knew had any religious affiliation that went beyond attending church/synagogue for the biggest holidays of the year.)

  • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

    It seems that there are an awful lot of very young “experts” within conservative Christianity. He became disillusioned with dating at 21? And then wrote a book on it and is considered an authority on why dating is bad? I’m not saying young people can’t express their opinions and write books–that would be hypocritical–but if I wanted dating and marriage advice I would turn to someone with more life experience.

    • smrnda

      My own take is that Harris was bitter about not being with anybody, and probably couldn’t stand that other people weren’t as miserable as him, so he had to declare them to be immoral and create some new standards. The ‘pieces of your heart’ is clearly a way that he’s trying to say “hey ladies! I haven’t given away pieces of my heart to other girls! I’m so much better than the guys who date!” or at least that’s how I’m reading it. In many ways, he’s a stereotypical “Nice Guy (TM)” – he doesn’t want to date since that would be using a woman, but he clearly wants to push marriage as fast as possible.

      Many people go through stages like this, but most of them realize that while they are young, single, and not happy about it is not a time to start giving advice to everybody else.

  • Ibis3

    I’d be very interested to see you do a break down of Josh Harris’s book like you’re doing for Debi Pearl’s, Libby Anne.

    A lot of secular, liberal culture is still tainted with patriarchal ideas originally stemming from religion. I grew up in a secular household with a feminist* mother and yet still internalised the idea that sex (penis in vagina intercourse that is) should be postponed until one was in a serious, at least moving towards marriage relationship–that it was somehow some super sacred romantic act. I don’t recall any specific lessons about consent until orientation week at uni, then got “No means no”. I’m single and 41 and feel…I dunno…shame? embarrassment? because I’ve never been married and don’t have kids. I was also naively pro-life in my early twenties.

    *though a feminist, she never really talked about reasons or arguments or philosophy; she would criticise, saying this or that was sexist (speaking to her now, I find she’s generally right, but at the time I thought she was making mountains out of molehills) and treated men generally as the enemy (there weren’t very many feminist men and a lot of misogynist, sexist men in her experience, plus a sexist, misogynist system run largely by men, so she’s quite cynical)

  • Louise

    I read his first two books while my children were teenagers and adolescents. I gave the first book to my son before he headed off to a respected Christian college. He hated it, casual dating was frowned upon. Many women were waiting for the guy to contact her out of state father that he’d never met to ask to court her. In my son’s case that wasn’t likely to happen. I never gave the book to my daughters. They attended public schools and dated. They survived but both of my daughters have emotional baggage from early relationships that did not last.
    In my opinion dating is a minefield especially for younger teens. We have all heard that children are going through puberty at younger ages both girls and boys. Dating in college is one thing as one usually has a stronger sense of who they are by then and what they are looking for in a partner. Dating beginning in grade school and middle school is a whole other thing and as a mom and now a grandma I think pairing up at those ages is unhealthy. Breakups are often devastating they can’t eat or sleep or study. Sexual experiences are confusing the younger the child is and more driven by wanting to fit in with one’s peers than being ready for it. Peer pressure is very very powerful and many bad choices are made when trying desperately to belong to some group. Parents lose influence at this time and their children won’t always listen to their voice of experience.
    If one takes a message from the books to at least delay dating or to be careful because relationships and sex can burn you, then that is not so bad. The secular sources for dating advice are horrible. In teen magazines and popular TV shows and popular music the emphasis is often on looking sexy and acting sexy and stereotypes of popular kids versus nerds and geeks abound. I think our culture is full of very unhealthy messages but I think Harris goes too far in the other direction. We need better messages to give our young people.

    • Sarah-Sophia

      The problem with starting to date at a late age is that people automatically assume that you have gotten over your awkwardness around the opposite (or same) sex. Flirting with someone you find attractive is harder than simply having a cordial conversation with them (especially if you’re not naturally a social person). Not to mention meeting someone and spending time with them requires one to have a social life, and that is not something a parent can help with (especially if your parents idea of a social life is going to church and other religious function, and you don’t like the idea of hooking up over the internet.) I think what is important is 1) You should not go out with someone you don’t want to just because you feel pressured 2) Do not make friends with people who try to coerce you to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing 3) Just because you agree to go out with someone does not mean that you have to have sex with them.

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      “Dating beginning in grade school and middle school is a whole other thing and as a mom and now a grandma I think pairing up at those ages is unhealthy. Breakups are often devastating they can’t eat or sleep or study.”

      But I’ve seen the same thing happen to people who have their first breakups in their 20s. Maybe that’s just the nature of the first date, first kiss, first love, and first heartbreak, no matter what age the person is when those things happen. While I’m certainly not saying kids need to experience all of this before they hit the double digits, maybe it’s better to get those “firsts” over with in your teens when you’ve got parents around to break your fall and you’re not yet swamped in adult responsibilities.

  • ScottInOH

    This is a great post, Libby Anne (with good comments, too), and it helps make sense of how Christians with liberal leanings can find themselves locked into some damaging teachings about sex. (This comment is from a het, cis male perspective. There are related points to be made about others, but I haven’t thought them through.)

    * As a liberal, maybe even a quasi-feminist, you care deeply about others and are particularly careful to make sure you aren’t treating women unfairly. (As a liberal Christian, you believe that living this way is what God wants you to do.)

    * As a Christian, you believe in a God who cares about your sexual activities and who approves of some and not others.

    * Overall, then, you believe that sex (or some acts) both violate God’s laws and damage your partner. You don’t want to make her give away pieces of her heart. You don’t want to ruin her eventual marriage. You don’t want to use her as a tool for your own pleasure. You don’t want to push her into something she doesn’t want to do (and there’s no chance she really wants sex if she’s thinking straight).

    This is how, by the way, Catholic and other Christian leaders can say with a straight face that they are more supportive of women than secular feminists are. They view the problem as sex, not consent or its absence.

    Finally, as others have mentioned, this damaging way of thinking doesn’t have to come from Christianity. The idea that there is something wrong with consensual sex is deeply embedded in American (and perhaps other) culture.

    If you’re trying to be a good person, and you think most sex is a bad thing (especially for your partner), the moral thing to do is suppress the desire. That can spell some serious trouble.

  • Tracey

    >>The idea that there is something wrong with consensual sex is deeply embedded in American (and perhaps other) culture.>>

    This is a very conservative American idea, but not prevalent in other countries. In Holland and Denmark, to use examples of cultures I know well, there is much more open talk about sex and no stigma for consentual sex.

  • Karen

    I was taught sex-ed by a bunch of uber-liberal nuns in a Catholic all-girls high school. The message was clear: your body is YOURS. YOU and only you get to decide who will do what with it. BTW, you should save sex for marriage. But there’s a lot of time until that happens, and you have to assert your own rights to your own body in the meantime. And afterwards, too! This was very liberating back in the ’70s. There was no shaming, no threats of hell, only a message to have a strong backbone and do only what you think is right, and not be swayed by what someone else wants.

  • http://www.faithpermeatinglife.com Jessica @ Faith Permeating Life

    Thanks for your thorough response, and also to Danielle @ From Two to One for sending me the link! I am quite amused by all the energy spent in comments here trying to define my mother. What I meant by “liberal-leaning” was more or less that she always voted Democrat and never tried to tell me what a “good Christian woman” should do. Although she would probably identify as feminist if asked, we never had conversations about consent or the like (probably because I rarely dated in high school), so I got most of my messaging about relationships from my friends and peers, which boiled down to “Your self-worth is determined by whether a guy wants to date you!” (Sex ed didn’t cover consent, they just showed us pictures of STDs and told us how not to get pregnant. Which is another issue in itself.)

    I definitely don’t think there are many universal truths around sex and marriage, and I try very hard in my writing not to imply that there are. (Even though I saved my first kiss for marriage, I have a post on why I think sex outside marriage is OK.) Joshua Harris does think everyone should wait until marriage, which I disagree with, but again, I manage to learn valuable lessons from people all the time without agreeing with everything they believe.

    Also, as Tracey commented above, these actually weren’t ideas I got for the first time from Joshua Harris — I prefaced the sections you quoted with “Joshua Harris’s books validated three main things for me:” However, I didn’t see his books as rulebooks or think I needed his permission somehow; my readers who responded that they’d had trouble with Harris’s books had tried to follow them to the letter as if they were the Bible, which is problematic to do with ANY book.

    The point of my post was not that everyone needs to go read Joshua Harris to have a healthy relationship or even that he’s the best source for learning these lessons. It was intended primarily to show that not everyone walks away from reading him with completely warped views of relationships, and in my case I actually found his books to be helpful in building a healthy relationship. I wasn’t reading feminist blogs when I was a freshman in college, so I happened to get these messages from Harris’ books. Plus, as Sarah Moon recently wrote, feminists aren’t always that supportive of voluntary abstinence.

    Also, as I explored more in the comments of my post, it seems like a lot of people take some of the bigger themes and messages in evangelical Christianity about sex and marriage and attribute them to Harris. But it’s true that he doesn’t take a hard line on saving your first kiss in Boy Meets Girl or on masturbation in Not Even a Hint, and I can cite passages if you’d like, but this comment is already quite long. I just noticed that you say things like “in my memory Harris condemns…” but I wrote the post with his books open in front of me and re-read large parts of them in writing my post. I get frustrated when people try to blame Harris for messages that come out of a much larger culture and which he even sometimes challenges directly.

    In essence: Do I think Joshua Harris’s books are the end-all be-all of relationship advice? Definitely not. Did I take away some valuable lessons from them? Yes.

    • ScottInOH

      Sarah’s post is very good–thanks for the link–and it seems that the lessons she thinks feminism should teach were the ones you were able to take from Harris’s books. The problem, I think, is when those lessons are coupled with the anti-feminist and anti-sex teachings that sex damages a person (especially a woman) and/or is a sin against God, that women don’t/shouldn’t want sex, that boys and men are barely constrained predators, and so on. I’m very glad that didn’t happen for you, but it happens for a whole lot of people.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Thanks for your reply here! I appreciate it. I think one thing I’ve realized is that it would likely be very different to read them as in an egalitarian and sex-positive environment from reading them in a patriarchal, sex-negative environment. As an egalitarian, sex positive person reading them, you might have moments where you would go “interesting, that’s a good reminder” or “oh, I hadn’t thought of that that way before” and yet still be able to throw out all the junk. I think where I really disagree with you is that you state that you still recommend them. I absolutely wouldn’t, to anyone. I think that even if I were to grant that there were valuable nuggets in there (and I’m not sure I want to grant that), there is too much crap in them to make wading through it worth it. There are better ways to get those messages, without all of the bad messages.

      I have a post tomorrow about what I personally learned reading Josh Harris’ books as a teen. You mention that you had the book with you while writing your post; I actually got the opposite impression since you didn’t offer any quotations. Anyway, regardless, I don’t have a copy of the book on me. My post tomorrow is more about the messages I got from the books at the time. I think it’s worth pointing out that even when Josh Harris only hints toward something but doesn’t actually say it, reading his book in the patriarchal, sex-negative culture in which so many evangelical and fundamentalist young people have read it means that the context affects how it is understood. Anyway, I may try to get a copy of his book and review it the way I’m currently reviewing Created To Be His Help Meet.

      Sorry to be choppy and short – I’m writing with a baby on my hip. Anyway, thanks for the reply!

      Libby

      • http://www.faithpermeatinglife.com Jessica @ Faith Permeating Life

        I think you get the main point I was making, which I appreciate. I agree when you say, “I think it’s worth pointing out that even when Josh Harris only hints toward something but doesn’t actually say it, reading his book in the patriarchal, sex-negative culture in which so many evangelical and fundamentalist young people have read it means that the context affects how it is understood.” Because of this, when I’ve heard criticism of him, it’s always as part of this larger context and not based on the actual words he wrote, and I wanted to offer the perspective of someone who read him completely separate from that context. I would not knowingly recommend his books to someone who had grown up in that culture, but then most people I know do not come from that background. My sister’s a teenager and while thankfully I think she’s learned a lot from me about relationships and is relatively mature in general, I see a lot of her peers who could use the message that it’s OK to set boundaries on who you want to date and what you’re willing to do with them (from whatever source is most likely to get through to them). I’d be interested in what you think upon actually re-reading them, in particular Boy Meets Girl — I still think there’s more good than bad for Christian readers who are able to read it with an open and discerning mind.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        My sister’s a teenager and while thankfully I think she’s learned a lot from me about relationships and is relatively mature in general, I see a lot of her peers who could use the message that it’s OK to set boundaries on who you want to date and what you’re willing to do with them (from whatever source is most likely to get through to them).

        My only issue with this statement is that I don’t think Josh Harris’s books would be a good way to give them that message. Harris doesn’t say “hey, here’s another option!” Instead, he tells girls they have to wait for marriage to have sex, that if they have more than one relationship they will give away “pieces of their hearts,” etc. I think that rather than simply fixing the problems you see, reading Harris would create new problems.

        You said you’d never read I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I’d be very interested in hearing what you have to say about it. I personally thought it had a lot more toxic messages in it than did Boy Meets Girl, which was designed for people already in relationships.

        I think we have this problem with extremes in our society. My parents saw the extreme you talked about – feeling like they had to date to be cool, seeing their bodies as something to be bargained for popularity or love, etc. – and they wanted something different for my siblings and I. The problem is that rather than simply correcting these problems by teaching things like consent and bodily autonomy and confidence and all the things I will teach my daughter, they instead went to the other extreme and taught me to never never have sex outside of marriage, or preferably even kiss anyone before marriage, to not date because that would tarnish my “emotional purity,” etc. – all messages they got from Josh Harris’s book, and then backed up in evangelical culture in general. And then they assume that if I don’t raise my daughter that way, she’s going to be out using her body as currency for love, ending up feeling worthless if guys don’t find her sexy, becoming emotionally dead because of terrible breakups, etc. They can’t understand that there’s a healthy middle, they only see things in terms of “our way” and “the hedonistic, destructive way.” It drives me nuts!

      • http://www.faithpermeatinglife.com Jessica @ Faith Permeating Life

        Based on your review of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, it does seem way more extreme than Boy Meets Girl and not something I’d ever feel comfortable recommending to someone. And it would probably be hard to read Boy Meets Girl after reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye and not see it as a continuation of those messages, even if they’re much more toned down.

        I hear you on the two-extremes mindset. That’s what I spend most of my time on my blog trying to give people a reality check about any sort of extreme view — there’s too much conversation out there (especially around sex and marriage) that says, “This worked for me, so it’s the only right way to do things,” and I try to counterbalance that as much as possible!

  • http://beautifuldisarray.wordpress.com Chryssie

    Josh Harris has actually recanted both of those dating, er, courtship books. He was 18 when he wrote I kissed dating goodbye, and he admits he didn’t have things right. That hasn’t done anything to stop people from believing that his way is the only way to have a relationship. Giving away pieces of your heart to each guy you might have feelings for and don’t marry is a bunch of BS. People have taken them as the gospel truth, and I have personally been hurt by people doing that. I will tear up those books and burn them before I ever let my children get their hands on them.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Good to know! Anything in writing?

      • http://beautifuldisarray.wordpress.com Chryssie

        unfortunately no. not that i’m aware of. I used to attend his church (we’re no longer members!!! yay!) and he said it in a sermon several years ago. I don’t think he’d recant them in writing because he still stands by them, in some way or another.

  • KarenH

    Jessica’s main argument here seems to be “hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day.”. It’s a theme I’ve heard before from conservative/fundamentalist/evangelical apologists, although my history has been in discussion forums debating Christian parenting books, like the Ezzos “Growing Kids God’s Way” series. And the underlying message among them is, get these incredibly flawed books even though they are flawed, because occasionally you might find something useful in them.

    My answer is this. Yes, a broken clock *IS* right twice a day. However, the only way to know when it’s right is to have a working clock to compare it to. And if you have a working clock, you don’t need the broken one.

  • lucrezaborgia

    My sister married her HS sweetheart. They were married over 10 years before they divorced. Watching my sister date was like watching an awkward teen even though she was in her mid 30s. Waiting till one is older is not a guarentee of maturity.

  • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Amelia

    Ugh, I read IKDG in University, when it was THE big thing around my church. It was pushed by the youth leaders, many of whom were sleeping together in advance of being married anyway, to the point that they wrote whole sermons about it for our uni-student camp.
    I was a virgin at the time because I hadn’t found a guy I liked enough to let them do “that” to me (yes, thats how I thought about it), and it gave me some stuffed up ideas for a while. Thankfully, after doing a Christian History paper (which dealt with the first 500 years, so meant I knew a LOT all of a sudden about how various books were selected to be in the Bible, which made me a lot more cynical about it all), I realised it was all bollocks. But by that stage, I was still single. I threw my virginity away on an ex, just to be rid of it, and when I met my now husband, I was really glad I had, because it got rid of my hang-ups, pretty much all of which I blame on Mr Harris and my churches response to his books.

    • kisekileia

      I lost my virginity to a guy I liked and trusted but wasn’t passionately in love with, and I’m honestly glad it happened that way. It’s important to me to only have sex with people I can trust, but I think that if I’d waited to have sex until starting to date my current boyfriend (with whom I am passionately in love), it would have made my current relationship feel like the stakes were even higher than they are, which would have been stressful and problematic for me.

      I Kissed Dating Goodbye came out when I was about fourteen or fifteen. I read the first couple of chapters in the local Christian bookstore and had very conflicted feelings about it–I wanted to date, but I worried that Harris’ ideas might be correct. I told my dad I wasn’t sure if I was going to date, and, not having heard of courtship (this was late ’90s Canada), he asked, “What are you going to do, become a nun?” It was pretty much the best response he could have given, because it made me feel like Harris’ ideas were ridiculous, which was exactly what I needed. I decided to date.

  • Noelle

    Mr. Harris is my age. I know any book I might’ve tried to pen in my late-teens/early-twenties on dating would’ve been more a desperate and confused pamphlet than anything else. (So the young man in the flannel caught your eye? Now what?) I still don’t know anything, as I married young and haven’t had a date with anyone but the husband since 1997. Are there good dating books out there? Whatever information I got when I was young was gleaned from Cosmo magazines, and didn’t fit my personality. Those stupid quizzes are worthless.

    • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

      Good grief: some 18yo kid (I’m sorry, but one of the privileges of age is being patronizing to the young) writes a book on dating and it becomes the bible for a whole friggin’ movement? That’s seriously screwed up, but I suppose it’s not surprising in a sub-culture that values authority over thought as a guide to conducting human life. Any fool with a gift of the gab and a Scriptural quote or two at the ready can become an instant expert!

      • Noelle

        Good to know, Eamon. I was planning to become patronizing to larger segments of the population as I aged. So far, GenY has been so appreciative pf my Gen X knowlege. I hope to live long enough to encounter even more cohorts and impar that wisdom combined with condescension everybody loves so much. :)

      • machintelligence

        But 18yo kids (and teenagers in general) know everything, at least in their own opinion.

  • Mogg

    Urgh, the memories. IKDG was the theme of a youth and young adults camp at my church when I was in my twenties, and the basic idea I think we were supposed to take from it was “See, there ARE other people who preach the same messages we do about relationships!” This was in Australia, where at the time I didn’t know of any other churches using the courtship model to control relationships as my church was somewhat isolationist, and being a churchgoer is and was very rare in any case. I was “The Christian” at high school (there were maybe six kids in the entire school of over 1000 who publicly identified as Christian, so I wasn’t entirely alone but close to it), so dating wasn’t something that was going to happen. I never really thought about it, but my sex-ed was really quite minimal. I was fairly well educated on puberty, the basics of sex, and was an adolescent during the AIDS crisis so I heard a lot about AIDS and nothing at all about other STI’s. I seem to recall that my Mum pulled me out of school on the day where we had the specific sex-ed, put a condom on a banana class, and there was a biology course on human sexuality but it was an elective at year 10 level (age 15-16) which not that many people did. Other than that, I had a lot of Christian culture influence – I recall going to rallies for teenagers where the message was Just Don’t, Say No, boys just want sex, don’t even think about dating until you’re ready to think about marriage, etc. Somehow out of that I developed a belief that I should dress as unattractively as possible in order to discourage the kind of male who only wanted sex. Just a bit messed up :( I then, at 18, ended up in the church that practised courtship, and through university was discouraged from thinking about relationships at all. Not that any potentials came my way! After university was when people started getting together, and I was not cool or popular or related to any important people within the church, so still no dating or courting, but because of the patriarchalist/complementarian teaching, being single was not the state anyone wanted to be in and women in particular who were not on the way to marriage were seen as not being there because of some sin or rebellion on their part which made them “unmarriageable” until it was dealt with. I therefore did all of my practical relationship learning – dating – with guys from outside of the church, whom the church and/or my family would have or did disapprove of depending on whether they knew about them, and at an age (late twenties and older) where I should have been emotionally mature enough to consider long-term relationships but wasn’t, and got into far deeper emotional disasters than I would have as a teenager as a consequence.

    I got over it all, eventually, but it took time. I consider that I’m about 10 to 15 years behind in life as a consequence, and may be too old to have children even though I’m now in a wonderful relationship which looks like it will be for the long run.

  • Lee

    No, consent is not covered in secondary school sex-ed, at least where I lived. I never received any formal education about consent until I got to college. (From lurking around the nicer parts of the Internet I figured it out, but not quickly enough.)

  • Lauren Smith

    Very well done. I tend to agree with your comments, so thanks. I just finished a really good book called, “The Power of a Virtuous Woman” by author Paula Penn-Nabrit. This a non-fiction book written for Christians, which explores Proverbs 31 and the issue of virtue for women with examples used from King David, Bathsheba and King Solomon. It honestly talks about the challenges of marriage from a woman’s perspective. http://www.telosinc.org/

    Author: Paula Penn-Nabrit

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  • sara maimon

    I didn’t read these particular books, but in general I don’t object to courtship and/or abstinence before marriage. My parents did that and have a great marriage, as did many of my siblings and friends. Although I personally did not choose this path, It is not an unhealthy choice.


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