The revolution will be blogged: Evangelical women challenging purity culture

I don’t have any special insight or commentary to add to the posts listed below, other than to say Amen.

Here I just want to catalog, to highlight, to bear witness, and to amplify what these women are saying.

It’s important. It’s important due both to what is being said and to who is saying it.

This conversation is gaining momentum and I want to see it continue and spread.

• Elizabeth Esther: I Kissed My Humanity Goodbye: how the evangelical purity culture dehumanizes women

• PerfectNumber628: The Story of Me and Modesty

• Elizabeth Esther: Virginity: New & Improved!

• Sarah Bessey: I am damaged goods

• Rachel Held Evans: Do Christians idolize virginity?

• Emily Maynard: The Day I Turned in My V-Card

• Elizabeth Esther: Am I being ‘soft on sin’?

• Libby Anne: Notes on Virginity: Idolizing My Inexperience

• Suzannah Paul: Beyonce & policing female sexuality

• Amy Mitchell: Oh my gosh! You said the ‘M’ word!

• Joy Bennett: News Flash: You Probably Won’t Marry a Virgin

• PerfectNumber628: Purity for the Sake of Purity

• Amy Mitchell: Breaking the rules

(This list is not complete. I’ll add to it as I find/remember/am reminded of other recent posts on the topic.)

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  • The_L1985

     I didn’t feel she was condemning hooking up.  I felt like the only idea she was condemning was the perception on the part of some women–individuals who don’t like hooking up–that it is expected of them to have sex, otherwise they’re “frigid” or “leading them on”–even if they make their lack of desire to have sex clear from the get-go.

    I’ve seen this idea.  I’ve come across men (especially in YouTube comments, which are a hive of scum and villainy to rival 4Chan or the Mos Eisley cantina) who seem to have the impression that the only women worth having anything to do with at all are the “easy” girls who’ll put out for losers like them at the drop of a hat, because they can’t imagine doing anything non-sexual with a girl.  (Some of them even made comments to me, as if I were male, that I should totally go “hook up with some slut, you’ll feel better.”  I think I made their brains explode with the response of “I’m female.”)

    THOSE are the people I think LL was condemning–the kind of man who views a woman by whether or not she’ll have sex with him, and the kind of woman who feels like having casual sex that she doesn’t actually want* is somehow necessary.

    * I’m not saying YOU don’t want casual sex, I’m saying SHE doesn’t.  Please do not accuse me of saying that women don’t want sex–I want it quite often, so I certainly know better than that!

  • Isabel C.

    As with Halloween costumes and marriage and all of these issues: there’s a difference between saying “and some people don’t like that, and that’s fine too” and saying “and this is totally harmful and bad.”

    Yes, some guys treat the women they hook up with badly. Some guys treat their girlfriends or wives badly. Any way of living has its dangers.  Likewise, some people in  FWB arrangements end up feeling used and unfulfilled; other people in significant monogamous relationships end up feeling trapped and unfulfilled. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other–it means that not everything is for everyone, and you generally pick up a few bruises while figuring out what works for you.

    For what it’s worth: I’m thirty, I’m not in a relationship other than FWB arrangements, and I don’t want to be. “Hookup culture” works pretty well for me.  Sometimes I sleep with guys who are kind of assholes, but I know they’re assholes, and they’re cute, and that’s a decision I make when fully informed of the facts: it’s like going to see the second Fantastic Four movie because it’s August and there’s nothing going on and the theater’s air-conditioned.

    As far as guys talking shit goes, I think the best way to combat that is to call the guys on it, and not to clutch your pearls about how women let themselves be taken advantage of when they don’t wait until the third date or Twu Wuv or whatever arbitrary standard you want. If some guy refers to “cum dumpsters” or “slam pieces” or “whores” around you, tell him you’d rather not hear that, if you’d rather not. Otherwise? Sometimes girls who “put out” get taken advantage of, and we learn from the experience like any other; sometimes, we go in with our eyes open, just like people do in all sorts of situations.

    Also, the cilantro analogy doesn’t work.

    If I ask if you like cilantro and you say it’s not your thing, cool. Likewise, I have plenty of friends who’ve said they get too emotionally invested to do casual sex, and that’s fine.  What you and other lori are doing is the equivalent of responding to a discussion of cilantro by talking about how horrible and gross it is and how you don’t think people should ever eat it and what the hell is wrong with us, which…dude, I don’t even have strong feelings about cilantro, and I’d think you were asshats for that.

  • Isabel C.

     That’s what I got out of her first post, but the subsequent ones not so much.

  • Carstonio

    But hookup culture–the idea that absolutely everybody MUST enjoy hooking up or be condemned as a prude–is toxic.

    I would agree if people were actually advocating that. That sounds like a straw person of indeterminate sex. Even if someone were seriously pushing that attitude, it doesn’t resemble anything Bananacat advocated.

    But for a man to expect a woman to hook up with him, regardless of her own feelings on the matter, is bad.  That’s what we’re talking about.

    That’s not what I’m talking about, even though I condemn anyone who has that expectation of a partner. My point is about the double standard. Pursuit of casual sex or relationship sex, or pursuit of no sex at all, should be up to the individual regardless of gender.

    Those particular individuals who can’t be happy that way, shouldn’t have casual sex, or feel in any way obligated to do so. 

    While I agree, I read LL as saying that women should avoid casual sex because it rewards men who have no regard for them.

  • Beroli

    Nobody’s saying that you shouldn’t hook up.  No one’s saying anything about casual sex being a bad idea or part of rape culture.

    Oh, really?

    It’s like we can’t acknowledge that may, just maybe, having sex with people you don’t have any emotional connection to or relational commitment with is not a great thing, but we see that in practice that it’s not a great thing,

  • To be fair, I don’t agree with that idea.  If it’s really obvious that she’s into it () then a verbal “yes” isn’t necessary.

    I was going to say “You can accept a non-verbal ‘yes’, but you need to be confident enough in your assessment that you accept the risk that if you’ve read it wrong, you’ve committed rape.”  But thinking about it more, I consider that true even if you do get a spoken ‘yes’.

  • banancat

    It’s nice that you’re happy with whatever “hooking up” you’re doing. Not
    everybody finds that arrangement as awesome and fulfilling as you do.
    That’s all I was saying.

    Maybe that’s all you were saying, but the other Lori said that hookup culture is antifeminist and it just gives her all kinds of sadfeels that women are doing it while thinking they’re feminists or something.  She also made the claim that it causes men to rape more, which is pretty serious and also damn near victim blaming.

    Also, it’s rich that you accuse me of being reflexive defensive.  Yeah, maybe when I get a constant stream of messages that what I’m doing indicates that I’m damaged or is damaging me without me knowing or causing men to rape more.  It’s easy for you with your presumably standard sex life to accuse others of being defensive.  As a general rule, whenever you are about to call someone defensive, you should consider why they might be so.

  • banancat

    Just in the past week, I’ve read a query from some dude (not sure of the
    age, early 20s, maybe) who was seeking advice from other men in how to
    convince a female acquaintance to become his “slam piece” (he did say
    that he would not be using that term when speaking to her, because
    chivalry isn’t completely dead, apparently). I’ve heard/read other men
    numerous times referring to women who “put out” as “cum dumpsters.”

    And these are frequently the men who go home alone.  Do you think maybe it’s possible that men view sex this way are lying about how often they do it?  Maybe like in high school when the most vocal guys were the least experienced?  Also, do you really think hookup culture is the cause of men viewing women this way?  Do you really think this never happened in the 50s?

    I’m just sayin’, when women are having no-strings-attached sex, they
    might want to have it with people who don’t compare them to garbage.

    You’re right, but what the hell does this have to do with hookup culture?  Plenty of men think their wives or long-term girlfriends are garbage.  Even with casual sex, most women have enough sense to find the obvious ones and stay away with them.  Hooking up doesn’t mean we have no standards and just fuck whoever walks by.  Geez, even if I have 100 partners I’d still need to be pretty selective because there are millions of men I could potentially have sex with.  And among my generation and social group, the vast majority of men don’t automatically look down a woman who has sex without wanting commitment. 

    You are extremely misinformed about hookup culture.  You’ve bought into all the stereotypes that the hand-wringers and pro-purity crowd and moral panic crowd want you to believe.  Maybe this is a time when you should examine your assumptions, stop telling people who’ve experienced it how it really is, and try listening to what others have to say.

  • banancat


    But hookup culture–the idea that absolutely everybody MUST enjoy hooking up or be condemned as a prude</blockquote.

    This is not hook-up culture.  You are wrong. This is the type of misinformation that happens when you only listen to the moral panicers instead of the people who are actually part of that culture. 

  • ReverendRef

     We’ve got one of those pro-life Crisis Pregnancy Centers in town that also is the main sponsor for an annual event called The Silver Ring Thing (if you don’t know, think of it as a gender-equal purity ball), and they’ve been after me be one of the supporting congregations.

    I’m bookmarking this particular post so I can use these links in the future as to why I’m not willing to help them out.


    But hookup culture–the idea that absolutely everybody MUST enjoy hooking up or be condemned as a prude–is toxic.

    For what it’s worth, I am part of a sexually permissive, polyamorous subculture where the default assumption is that sex is always a negotiable possibility, and I’ve been in a monogamous relationship with the same man for twenty years within that subculture, and I can’t remember ever having been condemned as a prude.

    That said, I do agree that in both my subculture and in the broader culture, people pressure and coerce one another to have sex in all kinds of problematic and outright evil ways.

    If that’s what you’re talking about, then I agree with you that it’s toxic, though I recommend you find a way of talking about it that causes less confusion.

  • I was going to say “You can accept a non-verbal ‘yes’, but you need to be confident enough in your assessment that you accept the risk that if you’ve read it wrong, you’ve committed rape.”  But thinking about it more, I consider that true even if you do get a spoken ‘yes’.

    So if I’m unwilling to accept that risk, does it follow that I can accept neither a verbal nor a non-verbal “yes”?
    Does it similarly follow that if I’m sexually active at all, I am necessarily accepting that risk?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    This isn’t the first thread that’s had a conversation about culture X, with the claim that, notwithstanding that some individuals may have positive experiences, the culture as a whole is a problem.

    Does anyone support a universal statement–for or against–this argument?

    Often the conversation is about a culture within conservative Christianity, and in those cases the weight of the commentariat strongly comes down against the culture, not individual experiences.

    Is there a difference here, or is it just that different people are choosing to talk on this thread?

  • Water_Bear

    The difference seems to be either factual (“We’re not/You are like that!”) or doctrinal (“According to my interpretation of 3rd wave Feminism, this is okay/inexcusable”), but I don’t think there are many people who are willing to suspend the idea of a culture being problematic. 

    I personally don’t see anything inconsistent about saying “this culture is, in the aggregate, a moral evil” while arguing that others are benign. It’s rude and not likely to convince people who don’t already agree with you, but it’s not hypocritical.

  • banancat

     But I don’t agree that the culture as a whole is a problem.  All those who are claiming it is a problem are very misinformed about it, and are ascribing things to it that are not caused by the culture or more common in the culture.

  • Nenya

    I’m really glad a lot of evangelical female bloggers are standing up and talking about how damaging purity culture is. I have to say that for me (raised in that purity culture), I didn’t start to heal until I could begin to believe that it was possible for sex outside marriage to be a completely fine, moral, rational, healthy, and on occasion even sacred choice. So I kind of had to backbutton out of a few of those essays whose comment threads are full of, “But we must remember that sexing people you are not married to is WRONG! Don’t forget that! Moral relativism, eleventy!” 

    But hey–progress! These bloggers would give the church elders of my youth conniptions, and I think it’s fantastic that more Christian women are out there questioning purity culture. 

    Also, banancat and Izzy, thanks for speaking up in favour of casual sex. I’m way too damn shy to pick people up myself (seriously, I’m dating an awesome girl who, among many even more excellent points, is willing for me to see other people when she’s not in town, and I still can’t bring myself to do it), and I do tend to get too emotionally involved for casual stuff to work well for me most of the time, but I’m really happy to hear other women saying positive things about how their sex lives work for them. Hurray for enjoying yourselves. :)

  • I’m asexual as well and I know exactly what you mean. 

    It’s part of an ongoing problem with society’s reaction to women (male asexuals rarely get the same treatment).

    If you don’t want sex you’re a frigid prude who’s been damaged by society and needs someone to have sex with you and fix you, or your a dupe of purity culture and are lying to youself. (Demisexuals are particularly prone to being called purity culture dupes. I still remember one particularly awful article that accused demisexuals of being anti-queer hetronormative repressed women which led to a comment from one person amounting to “I’m a biromantic, polyamarous demisexual – your argument is invalid”).

    If you do want sex (especially if you’re poly or into hookup culture) you’re a slut who’s been damaged by society and is either unworthy of love or needs someone to restrain them in a monogamous relationship. (And again the men rarely get troubled by this just the women).

    The real problem is that the insults fly not only from what we call the normative (for want of a better term) but from the people on the other extreme. People feel very threatened when people don’t feel like they do.

    It’s got so bad that a lot of asexuals feel actively unsafe in sex-positive spaces (and it wouldn’t surprise me is sex-positive people feel the same in asexual spaces).

    Some people are trying to address this An excellent article that also touches on the issues a lot of asexual persons have with the enthusiastic consent model. This post has an even better discussion of that which cracks me up every time I read it “I would really like to just be able to tell my partner: “Want to have
    sex?” and then read a book while we’re at it…” *snorts*.

    Goodness me, that was a babble. I shall shut up now.

  • May have already commented but I just wrote something about whether we appropriate the Bible as disciples or ideologues. Disciples want the heart of Christ; ideologues want to have ownership of the truth. “Feelings” are often the intuitions of a disciple while “truth” is often the proof-text of an ideologue.

  • Isabel C.

    Thank you!

    And in actuality, I don’t often do really-truly-casual sex myself,* which I’m mentioning because one of the things I forgot to say before SNOWPOCALYPSE was that I also object to conflating friends-with-benefits with “sex with no emotional connection.” While I do occasionally have casual sex and am happy with that, I am and have been emotionally connected to the majority of the people I’ve had sex with; I would even say that I love a good number of them, just as I’d say that I love my platonic friends. 

    In fact, one of the things that really frosts my…thing that gets frosted, in a negative sense?**…is when people get into FWB relationships without recognizing the F aspect. Just because you’re mutually uninterested in a romantic partnership doesn’t mean you don’t have to treat the other person kindly and respectfully. And that’s one of the reasons I get kind of steamed about the “hookup culture sucks” model: the problem isn’t casual sex, it’s the cultural expectation that casual sex or FWB or anything but hearts-and-flowers-and-Barry-White “doesn’t count” in terms of emotions, or obligation to be a decent human being, or whatever.

    *Mostly because picking up guys is way more work than it is reward, and sometimes you get them home and find that they wear tightie-whities or like Ayn Rand or whatever and then there’s a whole awkward conversation.
    **I’m hearing “frosting” and thinking of Cinnabon, mostly, right now.

  • Nenya

    It’s got so bad that a lot of asexuals feel actively unsafe in sex-positive spaces (and it wouldn’t surprise me is sex-positive people feel the same in asexual spaces).

    Huh. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but you’re right: I think one reason I’m often a little leery around outspoken asexuals (which is not their fault) is that my damage comes from being forced to perform asexuality when I am in fact an extremely sexual person. I can see how conversely it would be equally damaging for asexual people to be expected to pretend to be sexual. 


  • Nenya

    Just because you’re mutually uninterested in a romantic partnership doesn’t mean you don’t have to treat the other person kindly and respectfully. And that’s one of the reasons I get kind of steamed about the “hookup culture sucks” model: the problem isn’t casual sex, it’s the cultural expectation that casual sex or FWB or anything but hearts-and-flowers-and-Barry-White “doesn’t count” in terms of emotions, or obligation to be a decent human being, or whatever.

    I’m just going to quote this and say EXACTLY. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    That is why the ‘enthusiastic explicit consent’ standard, not the ‘explicit consent’ standard. Ethically. Legally, the latter should suffice, I think.

  • This is an excellent comment that quite eloquently states everything I’d have to say about the matter. I have been in no way damaged by my decision to have consensual sex. I resent the implication that I’m psychologically handicapped by my sexual activity, or that I’ve destroyed my chances at a healthy long-term relationship. These implications have exactly zero resemblance to reality.

  • Amy

    I know this is an old post, but it’s an important topic-

    I’d like to add another reason that Purity Culture is
    harmful, that I didn’t see addressed in any of the links:

    It perpetuates and promotes a culture in which rampant
    sexual abuse goes unacknowledged and unpunished.


    I never signed a pledge or wore a purity ring, but I grew up
    attending ‘King James Only’ Baptist churches.  In the KJV “Virgin” is a synonym for “young woman.”  Because apparently the whole concept of
    virginity only applies to females.   It’s not something the boys ever had to worry about,
    but for us girls, our entire value as a human being is based on not having
    sex.  In the Old Testament,
    non-virgins are literally worth less. 
    Brides who were not believed to be virgins could be executed.  etc.  (this could be a long list, I’ll keep it short.)


    In this culture, victims of rape and abuse are shamed and
    silenced.  The more “purity” and
    virginity are emphasized, the less likely it is that victims will ever come
    forward.  I was 15 when my parents
    found out I’d been raped by one of our pastors. They never called the police;
    they were too ashamed that other members of society might find out that their
    teenage daughter was no longer a virgin. 
    They couldn’t bear the humiliation.  They told me to beg for forgiveness for what I had done to
    them.   He committed a
    felony.  They hushed it up because
    they were ashamed of ME.


    Maybe you’re thinking ‘Oh, that hardly ever happens!’ but
    the four years I spent in a support group for abused women (2 decades later) taught
    me otherwise.  Not just abuse by
    clergy, plenty by family members too, because in this culture every man is the
    king of his castle and no one has the right to question his authority.


    This would be way, way too long if I listed all the ways
    these experiences have harmed me and I don’t really feel like going there today
    anyway.   Lets just say that
    life got really bad for a while and it hasn’t been an easy road.  I’m 43 now, and I still really don’t
    know if I’ll ever feel “normal.”  Whatever
    that is…

  • Amy

    p.s.  I have no idea why my comment got formatted that way, sorry it’s hard to read!