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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White evangelicals cannot allow themselves to understand miscarriage
Shaking the dust from our feet
Postcards from the culture war (12.1.16)
Postcards from the culture wars (11.22)
  • P J Evans

     I hope that’s snark, because otherwise it’s really crappy trolling.

  • AnonymousSam

    It’s just crappy trolling. He’s done this before.

  • Fusina

    All due respect to Mr. Red, but I posit that people deciding to respect other people and not call them silly (mangina, really?? that’s what you go with?) is what has made us more civilized over the years. I’m sorry, but we may have had civilization of a sort for eons, but as short a time as 300 years ago some people didn’t have it. Some still don’t today–I’m thinking here of the people who have been displaced in the Sudan (women and children mostly, based on the news) the LBGT community in Uganda who may end up charged with capital crimes for loving someone else, women who have indeed “come a long way” but still have a long way to go to gain full “citizenship”.

    Err, and a friend of mine convinced me to watch Garrow’s Law. As one who is definitely a feminist, this show has some things that absolutely make me livid with regard to rights, specifically women, who had none, and black women who had less than none.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    *snorts at the poe troll’s claim*

    Hypergamy? Really? You keep using evolutionary psychology’s pseudoscientific jargon like that and your poeness will fail. ;-P

  • MaryKaye

    What I find really sad is that in the comments thread of almost all of the postings above you’ll eventually hit someone who’s all “But it’s *sin*.  I know that person after person is describing how this doctrine damaged her physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but the alternative is *sin*.  You just can’t have that.”

    At some point people have to realize that their concept of sin and sin-avoidance is leading to clearcut evil and needs to be changed.  Either that or acknowledge they worship a God who doesn’t want what’s good for people:  who is okay with the physical, emotional and spiritual damage described. 

  • Aiwhelan

     Read the post on “Damaged Goods” and one commenter kept on coming back to that, till he proclaimed that “SINNERS will not inherit the kingdom of God…” and I could almost hear the refrain from the Mass-

    You came to call sinners
    -Lord have mercy
    You came to heal the contrite
    -Christ have mercy

    I thought, that’s exactly who inherits the Kingdom. Sinners. Because there isn’t anyone else.

  • The_L1985

     You’d think more of these sola-scriptura types would recall Romans 1:28:  “ALL have sinned…”

  • other lori

    I don’t think the problem is the idea of sin, but treating sexual sin as something unique and apart from all other sin. Christian doctrine holds that gossip is a sin, but most people who have gossiped or continue to gossip don’t feel damaged by that. Christian doctrine holds that greed is a sin, but I don’t know anybody who is just wracked with guilt because of it (and I don’t believe for a second that greed is less common than lust). There are plenty of things that are considered sin in Christian teaching that Christians do all the time, maybe say a quick prayer of forgiveness for if they recognize it, and then move on without any damage done.

    But we treat sex differently. Nobody feels as if a person is forever tainted the first time they gossip or covet, that they are somehow no longer pure and that that particular episode of sin will define them forever. Nobody proudly boasts that they are still a gossip-virgin or greed-virgin. And yet those things are considered sins. Why can’t sexual sin be thought of the same way?

    I do think that sex outside of a committed, monogamous, loving relationship is a sin. But, I don’t think it’s a special sin or a particularly bad sin or that it being sin means that we’re terrible people if we do it. It just means that it’s not consistent with fully loving God and neighbor, the way that gossiping isn’t or greed isn’t or jealously isn’t or hard-heartedness isn’t. But just like we don’t define people by those things, we don’t need to define them by their sexual behavior, either.

  • Lunch Meat

    I don’t think the problem is the idea of sin, but treating sexual sin as something unique and apart from all other sin.

    I agree. Even assuming for the moment that sex outside of marriage is always and undeniably sin, it would be one thing to gently and respectfully correct those who have done or do it. It’s another thing entirely when the entire culture related to sex is such that even those who haven’t sinned by those standards are paralyzed by guilt and shame, so that they can’t even have “good” sex. It’s another thing entirely when the misinformation about sex leads to pain, terror and crushing disappointment on the night that’s supposed to the best of your life (so far). I was a virgin on my wedding night. That didn’t stop me from crying through half of it.

  • Elric the White

    Silly vaginaphobe, the historical control of male sociopathy is what kept civilization afloat for all these millenia.

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

     The unchainedfaith entry about masturbation reminded me of Diogenes the Cynic, who had this to say to people who saw him masturbating in public: “I wish it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing the belly.”

    If you could banish avarice by rubbing the wallet, the world may well be a better place.

  • http://twitter.com/mikailborg Michael O’Brien

    It’s all about ownership. “How can we be properly said to own these women as we should if someone else has tasted such joy with them?”

    Oh, sure, men should be pure too, wink wink. But honestly, don’t worry about that. Boys will be boys. The women however must understand that they are property and must keep themselves showroom new until their owner arrives in their life.

    It’s disgusting.

  • http://unpublishedforareason.blogspot.com/ Hannah M

    It’s fascinating to read all this – I had a sudden realization last summer of how the concept of “emotional purity” warped my view of relationships, and though I managed to figure most of it out on my own before I entered into a relationship (thank goodness), I have many friends who have not been so lucky. Not to *entirely* plug my own blog, haha, but I did blog about that experience, back in August (http://unpublishedforareason.blogspot.com/2012/08/emotional-purity-when-you-use-up-all.html). It’s pretty specifically about the emotional purity concept, rather than physical purity, but it all ends up being tied together in a very sticky fashion.

  • LL

    Damn, that “damaged goods” story is appalling. I’ve never been to a “Christian youth” convention or whatever they’re called, and I’m glad to be reassured that I haven’t missed anything. What a terrible thing to do to impressionable young people. Way to go, evangelicals, for telling young women that if they’re not “pure,” they’re worthless. Yep, that sounds exactly like What Jesus Would Do. 

    If it makes the evangelicals here feel better (well, OK, it won’t, but just to get it on the record), the secular world (the popular culture part of it, anyway) is currently only slightly more enlightened regarding women’s sexuality as the evangelical world is. They don’t focus so much on virginity (because girls who won’t have sex with you are a total bummer), but they don’t particularly care to hear about how badly women are still treated in America and how the “hookup culture” is not a particularly awesome deal for women (often). They just wanna get laid, and any “feminist” message (you know, like women can do stuff besides show their tits) is not greeted warmly. At least on some of the other sites I frequent. Maybe I need to stop frequenting them. They’re not all like that, but many of them are. It’s really quite depressing. Stripping and porn are now considered by many to be “empowering” for women. 

    I don’t blame evangelical parents at all for wanting their children to hear a different message, I just think they’re going about it the wrong way. Really wrong. 

  • other lori

    I’m mostly troubled by the feminist movement simultaneously celebrating “hook up culture” as liberating and awesome, but then declaring any such sex that doesn’t meet really strict criteria (the female is totally sober–as if going out drinking when you are planning to hook up isn’t really common for both males and females and have a couple of drinks renders women incapable of making sexual decisions but men who are just as or more drunk are completely capable of that kind of decision making, the guy gets enthusiastic verbal assent at every point–the woman might be totally into it but she’s got to give an enthusiastic spoken yes for each moment of sexual escalation, that a woman can only consent to sex with a man her own age, and even small age differences mean the man is a predator and the woman is a victim–a 20yo who has sex with a 16yo is a pedophile) is rape. 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, so instead we have to use the only language we have available for bad sexual experiences (“rape”) because we can’t acknowledge that all sex between two consenting adults isn’t harmless.
    And I know I’ll be vehemently disagreed with, but that’s fine. I do think more feminists need to start speaking out against a feminist culture that is increasingly  making rape the default sexual encounter (at least for PIV sex) by saying that sex is rape unless certain conditions are met (which is what the idea of “enthusiastic consent” is), rather than saying that sex is only rape if certain conditions are met (like a woman’s no or lack of ability to say no being ignored). I didn’t like the idea that women can’t consent to sex with men when it came from Dworkin and MacKinnon, and I don’t like it when it’s fancied up a little bit and made to seem “empowering” (because it allows a little wiggle room, where women *can* consent if they do it in exactly the way that Hugo Schwyzer or Jessica Valenti tells them) today.

  • LL

    I agree with you, if that means anything, except I don’t think feminists are necessarily celebrating the hookup culture. I think “post feminists” are doing that. Because they apparently think (and I disagree) that any sex is good now, even if it benefits men (hey, free sex! all the time! boobies! sexting! 24/7 porn! yay!) way more than women. Even if it makes women feel kinda used and unappreciated for anything other than blowjobs and any other sexual act they feel compelled to distribute because they want to prove they’re not a man-hating feminist or a prude. If you feel a little used by someone who thinks “friends with benefits” is the most awesome thing ever, you’re just inhibited and old-fashioned and you don’t have a healthy, sex-positive attitude. Many men (and boys, I guess, among the teens) often ask other males for advice on how to convince a female acquaintance to agree to have sex with them regularly with no expectation whatsoever that there will be anything but sex. They want women to have sex with them on demand and then go away, basically. Because girlfriends are so labor-intensive, I guess. They express dismay that the girl might get “too serious” (ie, expect girlfriend stuff) from them. To be fair, some of them do also express concern that they don’t want to hurt the female in question, but mostly, they just want the sex with as few “strings” attached as possible. 

    I do agree the rape label gets thrown around a little too freely, but I don’t think it’s nearly as much of a problem as actual rape. 

    The character played by Ryan Gosling in the movie (which I haven’t seen) “Crazy, Stupid Love” says:  “The war between the sexes is over. We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise.”

    He’s right. And I think that’s sad. I think it’s sad that it is always seen as adversarial. It’s the 21st century. We should be past this crap by now. It doesn’t have to be this hard. It really doesn’t. It’s such a waste. 

  • Carstonio

    Whatever the flaws of the hookup culture, it’s a mistake to base one’s criticisms on the old sexist idea of females as sexual gatekeepers, with males assumed to be looking for just one thing. The real issue with the hookup culture is that it does away with only one part of the sexism equation – the double standard, the virgin/whore dichotomy. It doesn’t address male entitlement and the commodification of female sexuality. Any approach to sexual ethics has to involve gender egalitarianism, with entitlement for both limited to bodily autonomy.

  • LL

    Sure. 

  • banancat

    What if I don’t feel used after sex though? What if I don’t want to spend the night? What if I don’t want a relationship right now but I also don’t want to be celibate? Don’t you see how you are playing into stereotypes by assuming that women just of course want relationships more than men so of course we must all feel used if we give away sex (which we certainly can’t enjoy for it’s own sake) without getting a relationship out of it?

  • Carstonio

    I had that point in the back of my mind but didn’t know how to articulate it. What you rightly condemn is a pseudo-feminist version of gender essentialism, one that assumes what women want or what’s best for women. The same attitude in the repulsive pop hit I’ve Never Been to Me from 30 years ago, which claims that women who pursue dreams other than motherhood are dooming themselves to unhappiness.

  • LL

    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. 

    It’s amusing how reflexively defensive people are when someone expresses something less than full-on endorsement of something they like. I guess almost everybody does it to some extent, but it’s no less annoying coming from younger people than it is coming from older, purity-loving, Jesusy types. Just because somebody doesn’t express enthusiasm for everything you like doesn’t mean they think you shouldn’t like it, either.  

    If you’re happy with however your sex life is going, cool for you. And that’s really all you need to say. I didn’t call you (as a sexually active young woman) a slut. I simply pointed out that (based on stuff I’ve read and heard from younger people), not everybody thinks “hooking up” just to have sex and nothing else is the greatest thing ever. 

    If that offends you, maybe “hooking up” isn’t working for you as well as you think it is.

    Saying that sexual activity has some possible pitfalls is not “playing into stereotypes.” It’s acknowledging reality. 

  • AnonaMiss

    People who would rather not participate in hookup culture don’t have to. I don’t.

    The fact that some people don’t want to participate and might be pressured to participate by others is no reason to condemn the culture itself.

    I dislike eggplant. But I’m not going to start publicly regretting how damaging Eggplant-Eating Culture is because of all the Possible Pitfalls of eating eggplant.

  • LL

    Not condemning it, just pointing out the less-than-awesome parts of it. Again, just because somebody doesn’t offer a ringing endorsement of something doesn’t mean they think other people shouldn’t do it. 

    I hate cilantro. I don’t care if other people eat it. But if somebody asks me how I feel about cilantro, I’ll tell them. And if hurts their feelings, oh well. I hear stuff I don’t like all the time. I don’t take it personally. Grownups can like or dislike different things and still be OK with other people liking or disliking them. I’m not a Republican member of Congress. I don’t think everybody needs to be just like me.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • The_L1985

     She’s not.  She’s just pointing out that those individuals who do feel used after a casual hookup shouldn’t be forced to play along with the whole “hooking up” thing.

    Some people are happy having casual sex.  Those particular individuals who can’t be happy that way, shouldn’t have casual sex, or feel in any way obligated to do so.  That’s what I got out of LL’s post.

  • banancat

    Why is it automatically bad for me to have sex with no emotional or relationship commitment? Why is it bad for me to sometimes have sex for the fun of it? And how the fuck does any of this make men more likely to rape me? Surely you realize that rape happens frequently in the context of committed relationships. In my own experience, men who are part of hook up culture are the ones who care most about my consent and enjoyment and actually listen to what I want. It’s the tourists who are usually monogamous that give me the most trouble to the point that I don’t even bother with them anymore, because they all these ideas about what sex should be and how it has to go.

    I’m on my phone and won’t have access too a proper keyboard for a couple days so I hope one of our intelligent commenters here explains to you exactly why your attitude and condescending hand-wringing do more to further rape culture than hooking up does.

  • The_L1985

     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.  But hookup culture–the idea that absolutely everybody MUST enjoy hooking up or be condemned as a prude–is toxic.  I don’t believe that I’m anybody else’s sex toy to be used at their whims, any more than I believe that I’m some sort of temple that is automatically defiled by intercourse.  Choosing of your own accord to hook up is awesome, if that’s what you want to do.  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.

  • 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,

  • 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. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    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.

  • Baby_Raptor

    “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…”

    That’s fine if you choose to believe that, but you really need to stop trying to push it on everyone else. You’re no better than the people we’re discussing in the OP when you do that, you just have a wider range of what “purity” means.

    There are lots of people, me included, who have/have had sex with people while lacking commitment or an emotional connection that have never had problems with it. We don’t see the same things as problems that people who hold your view do. And, really, our right to do so needs to be respected without people like you shaming us and implying that we’re lying to ourselves.

  • The_L1985

     “the woman might be totally into it but she’s got to give an enthusiastic spoken yes for each moment of sexual escalation”

    To be fair, I don’t agree with that idea.  If it’s really obvious that she’s into it (leaning into touches, moaning, holding your hand in place, using her hands to stimulate you right back), then a verbal “yes” isn’t necessary.  But if she’s saying “no” at any point–verbally OR nonverbally (cringing, pulling away, complete lack of enthusiasm or sexual response)–then I count that as a big, fat NO.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    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’.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    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’.

    Hm.
    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?

  • EllieMurasaki

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

  • MaryKaye

    Hannah M., the link you provide doesn’t work, and I’d like to read your article–any chance you can repost?  Thanks.

  • http://unpublishedforareason.blogspot.com/ Hannah M
  • other lori

    I liked Bessey’s post the best, and had shared it on FB last week. What I really appreciated from her was the recognition that premarital sex can be something that women actually enjoyed, something they did because they really wanted to or were in love with the person they slept with. I did feel that some of the blog posts came too close to the idea that women only have premarital sex because they have low self-esteem or are looking for love in the wrong places or are somehow damaged. It just reinforces the idea that women have no sexual agency, an idea that seems really prevalent in both Christian and secular culture.

  • Hallie

    I have to say I was kind of disappointed by a few of these articles, particularly the one by Amy Mitchell that used the phrase “I’m a human, not a robot” and Libby Anne’s “Idolozing my Inexperience”. I’m asexual. I’m not a robot. I’m no more immature than your average 22-year-old. It’s not that I don’t know what they *meant*, it’s just that what they said was kind of hurtful, even inadvertently. 

    Purity culture is bad, and it would be nice if we could talk about it without accidentally implying that people who don’t experience sexual attraction or take place in sexual activity are damaged goods, or not really people at all.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    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 http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/02/07/an-asexual-map-for-sex-positive-feminism/ 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 http://norah-liath.dreamwidth.org/10411.html 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.

  • 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. 

    Hmm. 

  • Ennid

    The really bizarre thing about the whole “purity” fetish is that it has nothing to do with the biblical reasons for not having sex outside of marriage and doesn’t make any coherent sense.

    If you think it’s super important that you be a virgin until you marry because otherwise you’re defrauding your future spouse of something really precious and blah blah blah…then it seems like you must also think a woman whose husband dies, and then remarries, is “damaged goods” and ought to feel terribly guilty for the fact that she can’t offer her new husband her virginity. Most of the reasons evangelicals give for why not to have sex as a teenager would apply equally to why it’s bad to have had married sex with one person and then remarry if widowed. But that’s not on anyone’s account of it a sin.

  • stardreamer42

    I cannot even begin to describe in words how much I hate the phrase “damaged goods”. They might as well admit straight out that they want to take away women’s right to vote, and to own property or make our own money, and to marry who we choose, because we are nothing but the property of our fathers until we are sold to our husbands. They say “damaged goods”, but I hear the “chattel slave” hidden underneath.

    When my father found out that I was no longer a virgin, I had to listen to him howl and rant and sob for hours about how his ENTIRE LIFE HAD BEEN WASTED because I was now “damaged goods”. (No, he wasn’t an Evangelical, but he was born in 1920.) You know what that got him? He didn’t get to walk me down the aisle when I got married 10 years later, is about all. It wasn’t just about that — by that time I was 31 years old and had been living on my own for years, and it just felt weird to pretend that I couldn’t make that walk by myself — but that was definitely part of it.

    And then I think about how much worse it is for women who have been sexually abused, often by members of their own families, to have that flung at them — to be told that they are worthless forever because of something that someone else did to them that they didn’t have any control over — and I just want to have 20 minutes in a room with these assholes and a horsewhip.

  • Carstonio

    As a father of daughters, I’ll volunteer to carry the horsewhip for you.

  • LL

    For the love of cheese, I thought I’d heard all the dumb things that could be said about this subject, but HIS life was “wasted” because you weren’t a virgin? 

    Does it not occur to fathers how icky and creepy it is when THEY become so invested in the virginity of their daughters? Was he hoping to marry you off to a Kennedy or something? Or use you to procure a herd of goats? WTF?

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    i’m cheering. thanks, fred. i love how you wield light to expose and illuminate. i’m grateful for what you do here everyday.

  • Jessica_R

    The National Review scold taking to her fainting couch over Beyonce showing her knees like some Flapper was almost a note perfect parody of those “think of the children” moral panic pieces were it not actually on National Review’s site.  I loved Beyonce’s performance and I can see why it got the right/purity culture hackles up. It was sexy and bold and Beyonce was utterly in control of it. It was her show, it was her body, it only females on stage, she was not doing a damn thing she did not want to be doing. You watched, but you watched with the clear understanding she is a performer and you are not entitled to an inch of her. Of course the “my daughter’s vagina is locked up next to the semi engine in the old shed” crowd hated it. 

  • Carstonio
  • vsm

    I’m not entirely sure that defence holds water. The basic argument seems to be that sexual objectification means reducing someone to nothing but their attractiveness, denying other aspects of their being. If so, is it even possible to sexually objectify a talented non-pornographic performer? For instance, Marilyn Monroe is funny in her comedies, Lara Croft is capable and strong, and pole dancers are most agile. Are these all completely unproblematic?

    (Just to clarify, I’m not calling Beyoncé a stripper, just trying to find out if the argument for what is sexual objectification works.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bobby.herrington.1 Boze Herrington

    “There are lots of people, me included, who have/have had sex with people
    while lacking commitment or an emotional connection that have never had
    problems with it. . . And, really, our right to do so needs to be
    respected without people like you shaming us and implying that we’re
    lying to ourselves.”

    Who is doing the shaming, exactly?

  • Baby_Raptor

    Please point out to me where in my comment I shamed anyone. Unless you’re implying that the fact that I don’t adhere to your views on sex makes me shamed, in which case you need to reread my comment and and apply it to your own attitude. 

    Or, on the off chance Disqus is being a butt again, my comment was addressed to Other Lori. 

  • banancat

    So I’ve been thinking about this and I need to articulate why this hand-wringing about hookup culture is harmful. I’m female and I like sex. I also don’t want a relationship right now. I have felt this way since I was a teenager. I have always known that people exist who would believe I am “damaged goods” because the premarital sex damaged me, and for the most part it’s easy to ignore those people because they would surely disapprove of me in general for one reason or another. I get that this attitude is more harmful to people who grow up surrounded by it, but for me I was mostly exposed to the reasonable idea that sex before marriage isn’t inherently damaging.

    However, there is a second, more subtle narrative that a woman who wants uncommited sex, especially a teenager, must be damaged anyway. Not because of the sex itself, but something must have happened to make her want something that is more stereotypical of men. I think this idea started among the purity crowd and spread elsewhere, but in any case it is going strong even among feminists and progressives. There’s the assumption that the woman or teenage girl is just desperate for male attention or that something messed up her brain and sexuality. I sometimes wondered if I had been sexually abused in the past and repressed the memory, or if I was just scared of relationships because my patents divorced. I frequently wondered if something was seriously wrong with me. I do have plenty of issues but none of them cause me to like sex or not want a relationship. Wanting to hook up doesn’t imply that I’m damaged goods from some other cause.

    As I got older I realized that most women like sex and that it’s not even that uncommon for some other women to want sex without wanting a relationship. And since I’m no longer a teenager I don’t see quite as much hand-wringing. But I still get people insisting that I can’t possibly benefit from this, and it’s still implying that I’m lying about what I want, even to myself.

    It doesn’t make sense to criticize hooking up because it benefits men more than women. First of all, it’s just not true. Men aren’t a monolith and they don’t all want uncommited sex. However, marriage and live-in relationships do benefit men more than women and yet we still view those as good things. In any case, I can benefit from something even if someone else benefits more. It’s not zero-sum and I don’t lose when someone else gains.

    So what exactly is a woman like me supposed to do, if not hooking up? Should I lead a man on and pretend I want a relationship just so I can have sex? That doesn’t seem particularly feminist. Should I just be celibate until I have a sexual preference that you hand-wringers approve of? Or do you just wish that women like me would Dtf existing our at least hide ourselves since we don’t fit into your little boxes of what women want? Well, I do exist and that doesn’t imply that I am damaged in some way.

  • Carstonio

    there is a second, more subtle narrative that a woman who wants uncommitted sex, especially a teenager, must be damaged anyway. Not because of the sex itself, but something must have happened to make her want something that is more stereotypical of men.

    Rigid gender roles seem to run deep in our culture, transcending many religions and ideologies, and the roles include the idea that there’s something wrong or bad with female sexual desire. I suspect that many people who otherwise believe in equality of the sexes still harbor that idea and often don’t recognize it. The subtler narrative you describe may be their subconscious attempt to reconcile the two ideas.  Reconcile because doing away with gender roles inevitably means doing away with the double standard for desire.

    It doesn’t make sense to criticize hooking up because it benefits men more than women. First of all, it’s just not true. Men aren’t a monolith and they don’t all want uncommitted sex.

    And men benefit far more from the double standard because it means male entitlement. The Slate article I mentioned emphasizes that objectification of women is not just sexual.

    However, marriage and live-in relationships do benefit men more than women and yet we still view those as good things.

    How do these benefit men more? I could see if these relationships were patriarchal, what fundamentalist Christians call male headship. But I would think that a relationship between equals would have benefits shared more or less equally, even if the benefits may be different according to gender. At the least, one gender wouldn’t be expected to trade obedience for sustenance and shelter.

  • banancat

    Marriage increases life expectancy for both men and women, but the increase is higher for men.

  • Carstonio

     That may be due to sociological factors and not biological ones. I would be more concerned if marriage decreased life expectancy for women while increasing it for men. You and I probably agree that male headship marriage benefits the husband mostly at the expense of the wife.

  • banancat

    I was only using it as an analogy to hookup culture where the other lori disapproved because it benefits women but (allegedly) benefits men more. My point is that if that reason is enough to consider hooking up bad, why does that same reason not also reflect poorly on an analogous situation which is more socially acceptable?

  • Carstonio

    Exactly. Just about every case I’ve heard for male headship, religious or secular, has boiled down to gender essentialism and complementarianism. The claim of unequal benefit from hookup culture involves the same assumptions about gender. It’s the modern (?) version of urging girls to wear longer skirts to avoid giving boys an eyeful or avoid the impression that they’re “easy.”

  • LL

    Men do get an “unequal” benefit from “hookup culture.” I’m not saying it’s fair or right or good that women who have lots of sex are still stigmatized by lots of people, including, often, the people they hook up with. It isn’t any of those things. If banancat wants to hook up with a different person every night of the week, fine. Doesn’t matter to me. I don’t think any less of her as a person. What she does with her naughty bits is no business of mine. I don’t have to approve of it. I assume she’s an adult. She doesn’t need my permission to have sex with whoever she wants. 

    But a lot of these men seeking to benefit from the hookup culture aren’t interested in helping the women they have sex with feel empowered. They just wanna get laid. And often, they’re not very complimentary towards the women they’re having sex with. I’m sure they say most of the right things when they’re actually having the sex, but among their friends (other men), they don’t really sound like they have any respect at all for the women they’re having sex with. They are happy to encourage this “sex is awesome and great and everybody should have sex” thing, while saying a lot of the same shit men have always said about women who have sex outside of marriage or a committed relationship. 

    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 I just don’t see how that’s any better than the Jesusy types calling someone a whore for having sex without benefit of marriage. Both of those groups have no respect for women as people. I’m not sure why being regarded with contempt by sexual partners is considered empowering. I’m not sure why you’d want to reward someone who has no respect for you with copious sex. I mean, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t care about being treated with respect, fine, I guess, but I’m going to decline to endorse that. I don’t think anybody should let other people treat them badly. Or take advantage of them. Or use them without regard to their feelings or welfare. 

    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. And maybe the best way to do that is to get to know what kind of person somebody is before you let him put his penis inside you. Telling somebody to maybe use just a bit of care in selecting the people they’re having sex with is not shaming them or telling them it’s their fault when they are treated badly. 

    I am less interested in making women feel good about the “hookup culture” than I am in keeping them from being harmed by it. If you want to see that as paternalistic or insulting (keep in mind I am also a female), fine, I can live with that. I actually give a shit what happens to other women. They can take my advice or ignore it. Whatever. But I will offer it. And it’s meant sincerely, not some sort of back-door, regressive, faux feminist bullshit disguised as acceptance. I’m sure there are plenty of concern trolls out there who do that, but I’m not one of them.

  • Carstonio

    Obviously there are plenty of men who have no respect for women as people, and I share your contempt for their attitude. I also condemn women who have no respect for men as people.

    While I have no direct experience of hookup culture, what you describe sounds like a straw woman. It’s a good idea for both sexes to use care in selecting the people they’re having sex with. My point is that you’re placing the burden for this on women, implying that their sexual activity is helping to perpetuate the lack of respect.

    While I don’t doubt that you care what happens to women, your argument sounds very much to me like victim-blaming. Or else it casts men viewing women as “dumpsters” as simply an unavoidable reality of life. Either way, the real problem is male entitlement.

  • 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.

  • http://twitter.com/sejones101 Sarah Jones

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. :)

  • 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

    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. 

  • http://twitter.com/MAGuyton Morgan Guyton

    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. http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/do-you-read-the-bible-for-ideology-or-discipleship/

  • 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!