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Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free

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From a woman who has been there and back, the first inside look at the devastating effects evangelical Christianity’s purity culture has had on a generation of young women—in a potent combination of journalism, cultural commentary, and memoir. In the 1990s, a “purity industry” emerged out of the white evangelical Christian culture. Purity rings, purity pledges, and purity b From a woman who has been there and back, the first inside look at the devastating effects evangelical Christianity’s purity culture has had on a generation of young women—in a potent combination of journalism, cultural commentary, and memoir. In the 1990s, a “purity industry” emerged out of the white evangelical Christian culture. Purity rings, purity pledges, and purity balls came with a dangerous message: girls are potential sexual “stumbling blocks” for boys and men, and any expression of a girl’s sexuality could reflect the corruption of her character. This message traumatized many girls—resulting in anxiety, fear, and experiences that mimicked the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—and trapped them in a cycle of shame. This is the sex education Linda Kay Klein grew up with. Fearing being marked a Jezebel, Klein broke up with her high school boyfriend because she thought God told her to, and took pregnancy tests though she was a virgin, terrified that any sexual activity would be punished with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. When the youth pastor of her church was convicted of sexual enticement of a twelve-year-old girl, Klein began to question the purity-based sexual ethic. She contacted young women she knew, asking if they were coping with the same shame-induced issues she was. These intimate conversations developed into a twelve-year quest that took her across the country and into the lives of women raised in similar religious communities—a journey that facilitated her own healing and led her to churches that are seeking a new way to reconcile sexuality and spirituality. Sexual shame is by no means confined to evangelical culture; Pure is a powerful wake-up call about our society’s subjugation of women.


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From a woman who has been there and back, the first inside look at the devastating effects evangelical Christianity’s purity culture has had on a generation of young women—in a potent combination of journalism, cultural commentary, and memoir. In the 1990s, a “purity industry” emerged out of the white evangelical Christian culture. Purity rings, purity pledges, and purity b From a woman who has been there and back, the first inside look at the devastating effects evangelical Christianity’s purity culture has had on a generation of young women—in a potent combination of journalism, cultural commentary, and memoir. In the 1990s, a “purity industry” emerged out of the white evangelical Christian culture. Purity rings, purity pledges, and purity balls came with a dangerous message: girls are potential sexual “stumbling blocks” for boys and men, and any expression of a girl’s sexuality could reflect the corruption of her character. This message traumatized many girls—resulting in anxiety, fear, and experiences that mimicked the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—and trapped them in a cycle of shame. This is the sex education Linda Kay Klein grew up with. Fearing being marked a Jezebel, Klein broke up with her high school boyfriend because she thought God told her to, and took pregnancy tests though she was a virgin, terrified that any sexual activity would be punished with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. When the youth pastor of her church was convicted of sexual enticement of a twelve-year-old girl, Klein began to question the purity-based sexual ethic. She contacted young women she knew, asking if they were coping with the same shame-induced issues she was. These intimate conversations developed into a twelve-year quest that took her across the country and into the lives of women raised in similar religious communities—a journey that facilitated her own healing and led her to churches that are seeking a new way to reconcile sexuality and spirituality. Sexual shame is by no means confined to evangelical culture; Pure is a powerful wake-up call about our society’s subjugation of women.

30 review for Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra may have a boyfriend - or two, lol

    I dnf'd the book. I'm left feeling, what kind of Christian cult is twisting women up like this? Why can't men take responsibility for their own actions? What world are they living in? One minute the author is a preteen, next she is 15, then 26... no, she's 21. Everyone around her is busy reinforcing each other into the myth that a girl must protect men from their teenage hormonal selves or else be known as dirt, a snotty tissue, a slut, a slag, manipulative and evil. The Pastor obviously a major I dnf'd the book. I'm left feeling, what kind of Christian cult is twisting women up like this? Why can't men take responsibility for their own actions? What world are they living in? One minute the author is a preteen, next she is 15, then 26... no, she's 21. Everyone around her is busy reinforcing each other into the myth that a girl must protect men from their teenage hormonal selves or else be known as dirt, a snotty tissue, a slut, a slag, manipulative and evil. The Pastor obviously a major player in this rigged game, married his wife when she was carrying his twins, for which she has never ceased to be ashamed. He isn't, he is of the mindset, do as I say not as I do. There's another myth they all seem to believe in, that God whispers to them what to do and that they must do it. Couldn't be a product of their own imagination? So God tells the author that she is to finish with her boyfriend of many years despite the fact that they have done no more than kissing. (For which she felt so guilty the (view spoiler)[stupid cow (hide spoiler)] teenager bought a pregnancy test). I got bogged down after her operation for Crone's disease leaving her with an ileostomy bag and a smug expression. She's suffered. And everyone is nice to her now and not critical of the same clothes she wore before she got the 20" disfiguring scar she welcomed. What world is this from? Why can't men take responsibility for their own actions? What kind of Christian cult is twisting women up like this? _____________ What has purity got to do with sex? Purity is for foods, metals, fabrics and gems. For people it is something in someone's head that is a purely imaginary judgement on someone else. Women are the receivers of sex. No matter what they do, they must wait until the man has an erection so penetration of her can take place. So why then is she the person expected to guard his virtue by her clothes, attitude, behaviour in just about all religions and cultures? And if he has sex with a woman why is this a forgiveable sin (if not actually laudable act) for him, but she is now and forever, the lowest of women deserving at the minimum of public shame, and the maximum being murdered by her father or brothers and probably not marriageable. What man, after all, would want to marry a woman that allowed a man to have sex with her? Who set up these rules of purity? Men. Men are at the root of almost all religions, and all of them are designed to put men on top and women to have strictly limited 'praiseworthy' roles that support men. Why is so much of the world brainwashed, women included to the extent they will cut off a girl's clitoris and sew up her vagina themselves to ensure 'purity' by all this imaginary crap? Stockholm syndrome describes it but doesn't go far enough. The chapters I read of this book, before I dnf'd it for bad writing and seemingly non-existent editing, didn't give me any answers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenna ❤ ❀ ❤

    Shame: [noun] ​A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour. ~​Oxford English Dictionary​ ​Linda Kay Klein was an evangelical Christian who endured the indoctrination of "purity" during her teens, leaving her with a feeling of shame over her body, her femininity, and her sexuality. She is not the only one. There are many, many young people who have been indoctrinated with this insane notion of purity over the last 30 years. The evangeli Shame: [noun] ​A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour. ~​Oxford English Dictionary​ ​Linda Kay Klein was an evangelical Christian who endured the indoctrination of "purity" during her teens, leaving her with a feeling of shame over her body, her femininity, and her sexuality. She is not the only one. There are many, many young people who have been indoctrinated with this insane notion of purity over the last 30 years. The evangelical church teaches that sex outside of marriage is a sin, and even having sexual thoughts or urges is sinful. Many do not even allow hand holding between a female and male, even if they are dating or engaged. Girls are taught that their bodies are a temptation to men, and as such they should take every precaution to not show parts of her body and thus lead a man astray.​ (Apparently, even seeing a knee is enough to set a man on a wrong and dangerous course, in some of these churches, including the ones I was brought up in). It is the woman's responsibility to ensure the man does not have evil sexual thoughts, and she certainly should never feel them or she is a whore, a Jezebel. Females are taught that they should only have sexual thoughts for her husband, after they are married. It is her duty as a Christian woman to give the gift of virginity and a "pure" body to her husband. Unfortunately for many women, by the time they are married, they have been shamed so much by their own bodies and sexuality that they are unable to even have sex with their husbands (let alone anyone else) without a feeling of deep shame and guilt. They are left with anxiety over the sex act, unable to enjoy it and even finding it painful to endure. Instead of teaching young people how to respect their bodies and others and how to protect themselves against STDs and pregnancy, they are taught the abstinence-only method. Indeed, even the US government has allocated over 2 billion dollars to the "purity" industry over the last couple of decades, promoting this agenda in many public schools across the nation. The effect is not that young people have less sex and less teenage pregnancy. They actually have the same amount of sex and beginning at the same age as their peers who are given a healthy, well-rounded sex education. The effect the purity movement does have is more teen pregnancy, more STDs, and more shame, especially on the part of females. In Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free​, Naomi Kay Klein recounts her own indoctrination in the purity movement, how it affected her, and how she eventually came to see how dangerous it is and to break free from the clutches of indoctrination. She tells not just her story, but that of several others who were raised this way. At times it felt a bit monotonous as the stories were all similar. I disliked her saying people have PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) because of the shaming​. As explained by the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD "can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.​"​ Being shamed does not put the person at bodily risk and does not trigger PTSD. It does leave it's mark on the individual though, and some of the symptoms are the same or similar to PTSD. However, just because they share some symptoms, does not mean they are the same. There is a move to create a new psychiatric disorder, coined by Dr. Marlene Winell as Religious Trauma Syndrome, and defined as: "the condition experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination”​. This would be helpful for mental health professionals to identify and treat the symptoms brought about by such indoctrination. Another instance of mis-identified disorder in this book is that of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). The woman Ms. Klein spoke with may indeed have it, but the symptoms she described it as are not those of DID​. If you are going to name psychiatric disorders in a book, you need to first know what they are and present them accurately. That bitch aside, I did mostly enjoy this book. I think it is an important one, to bring awareness to the enduring effect of the Purity Movement. I think it could be helpful for those who were brought up this way to see they are not alone in their struggles and shame. Perhaps reading this book can help them identify and heal their own issues that developed from being brought up this way and taught to be ashamed of their femininity and sexuality. It could be of interest to those raised outside of the movement too. One thing is clear -- this system does not work and does nothing but harm young women. It is only about control and about making women out to be objects, not people, an object that is first owned by her father and then by her husband. It is outdated and cruel and has no place in our modern society. ​ ​“It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they’re sexually active.”​​

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Thanks to Touchstone and Netgalley for this ARC. I grew up on the fringes of purity culture. It wasn’t part of my religious upbringing, but I was pretty well acquainted with the movement as a teen in the 90’s. Mostly I mocked it, as I did most things associated with the Christian Right in those days. Only after reading Klein’s compassionate and empathetic book do I realize how wrong I was to write off purity culture as some innocuous chastity craze. It has left deep scars on thousands? Millions? Thanks to Touchstone and Netgalley for this ARC. I grew up on the fringes of purity culture. It wasn’t part of my religious upbringing, but I was pretty well acquainted with the movement as a teen in the 90’s. Mostly I mocked it, as I did most things associated with the Christian Right in those days. Only after reading Klein’s compassionate and empathetic book do I realize how wrong I was to write off purity culture as some innocuous chastity craze. It has left deep scars on thousands? Millions? Only God knows how many lives. As a practicing Christian, I am appalled by the lack of love shown in this movement, just as I have been appalled when reading about the experiences of former Christian culture “insiders” like Vicky Beeching and Jennifer Knapp. There is this attitude of “us” versus “them,” an exclusivity I cannot reconcile with the Gospel Jesus preached. And the shame that haunts so many adherents of this movement! It is unfathomable to me that this guilt and shame has its roots in a cultural phenomenon that is supposed to be about waiting for “True Love.” Maybe it’s maturity or maybe after reading story after story of how negatively True Love Waits etc have impacted the lives of so many of my generation, I do not find this chastity craze funny anymore. It angers me. It disappoints me. It disheartens me. But it doesn’t make me laugh.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I didn't grow up evangelical, but I completely understand this purity culture and I'm glad people like Klein are writing about it. The purity myth is another great book on the same theme. I did not love the format of the book--I wanted to hear more in Klein's voice, more history of the movement, and more data or commentary. Instead, Klein just interviews a lot of ex-evangelicals and then reproduces the interviews almost verbatim. Some are very interesting and some just felt too long. I really li I didn't grow up evangelical, but I completely understand this purity culture and I'm glad people like Klein are writing about it. The purity myth is another great book on the same theme. I did not love the format of the book--I wanted to hear more in Klein's voice, more history of the movement, and more data or commentary. Instead, Klein just interviews a lot of ex-evangelicals and then reproduces the interviews almost verbatim. Some are very interesting and some just felt too long. I really liked the way she identifies a sort of post traumatic stress syndrome or a neural wiring that links sex with shame in these cultures and how that can effect girls for their entire lives. I would have loved more data or expert commentary on that than what is provided.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ali Shaw

    I was raised in an evangelical community that HHS’s subscribed to purity culture. I lost count of the times while reading this book I felt relief and horror that other people had the same feelings and experiences I did. The book is well written, well researched and well paced. Highly recommend. I couldn’t put it down.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Touchstone Books

    Wow. Shocking, deeply empathic, and meticulously researched, Pure exposes a terrifying phenomenon in this country—one that affects us all, evangelical or not.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Becca Younk

    This is really, really hard to review. I am glad this book exists, I think it's important for people within the evangelical movement to speak out against purity culture. I genuinely hope women can read this and find some answers in it, or at least know they are not alone. However, I also think this book failed in a lot of respects. I definitely have an interest in reading books about purity culture, as I grew up in a conservative, non-denominational evangelical church, and was subjected to many o This is really, really hard to review. I am glad this book exists, I think it's important for people within the evangelical movement to speak out against purity culture. I genuinely hope women can read this and find some answers in it, or at least know they are not alone. However, I also think this book failed in a lot of respects. I definitely have an interest in reading books about purity culture, as I grew up in a conservative, non-denominational evangelical church, and was subjected to many of the same lectures Klein writes about, like how your body is chewing gum and no one wants to chew gum a bunch of people have chewed (ugh I hate even typing out that garbage). Klein starts out the book strong, with an introduction where she explains her biases and how she went about her research, including who she picked for interviews. Unlike Text Me When You Get Home, a book about female friendships that virtually only contained interviews with white women but pretended to be about all female friendships, I appreciate that Klein lays out exactly why her research was primarily about white women, instead of pretending it was universal. Klein is strongest when the book is most like a memoir, in fact, I think it would have been better to throw out the idea of scholarly research and just write it as a memoir with interviews from people in her past (also an avenue I think Kayleen Schaefer should have pursued with Text Me). The interviews Klein does are heartbreaking, and show exactly how horrible purity culture is and how much it damages women. It's uncommon for me to read critiques about purity from someone who lived it; most of the time it's from feminists outside of the evangelical religion. But the interviews start to get tedious. Every woman has her own story, and I fully believe it's incredibly important for them to feel they have a voice and deserve to be heard. But after a while I started to think, what is the point of this? The women's stories might have been better put in a blog format, because having to read the intense suffering of each women is emotionally exhausting. Every woman also appeared to be still suffering from the effects, and yet, still involved in the church in some aspect and still had faith in god... which is interesting, to say the least. There's really no hope shown in the individual situations for these women. The last section of the book was where I really ended up getting upset. I can excuse the depressing factor of the interviews as just needing a bit more editing, but I don't feel I can excuse how much Klein advocates for continued faith in the evangelical religion. At no point whatsoever does Klein hint that anyone might gain some peace by leaving the religion that torments them. I am truly happy for Klein that she has been able to reconcile her hatred of purity culture with her faith that says the opposite, but it's quite irresponsible to act like the only option for women who reject it is just more church (albeit "progressive" church). She never entertains the notion that perhaps, for some women, getting out of the religion completely may be the healing that they need. I just find it incredibly disappointing that she decided to spend the last few chapters proselytizing. I'm not going to go into a lengthy theology debate in a Goodreads reviews, but it's laughable how Klein refuses to acknowledge that the Bible is sexist. She acts as if the blame for purity culture rests solely on individuals in the church, claiming that the Bible verses church leaders will quote are all taken out of context. Oh, honey, no.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christina Busche

    This book is sad on two levels. 1. The traumas experienced by so many women and the fact that distortion of Christian doctrine led to their abuse and/or struggles, in many cases driving them away from the church. 2. The fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity demonstrated by the author. Reading this, my heart hurt for the women who were physically and emotionally manipulated and abused, even as I winced through the unnecessarily graphic details of sexual exploits that indicated their "freed This book is sad on two levels. 1. The traumas experienced by so many women and the fact that distortion of Christian doctrine led to their abuse and/or struggles, in many cases driving them away from the church. 2. The fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity demonstrated by the author. Reading this, my heart hurt for the women who were physically and emotionally manipulated and abused, even as I winced through the unnecessarily graphic details of sexual exploits that indicated their "freedom" from the twisted vision of sexuality promoted in their evangelical upbringings. The author repeatedly presents a false dichotomy between an oppressive, legalistic, and unbiblical view of women with a self-gratifying, love-is-love view of women that is even more unbiblical. It's a lose/lose situation. True Christianity is lost in the tug-of-war between the author's unfair depictions of "conservative Christianity" and "progressive Christianity." However, I do think it's important that we discuss sexuality in healthy, God-honoring ways. Treating it as dirty, unnatural, shameful, etc. is harmful and wrong. It's important to understand how the overemphasis on purity has hurt people (especially women) and distorted the Gospel. While I never experienced half of what is described in these pages, I grew up in a church that devalued women in practice, leading to my own difficulty understanding femininity and accepting the role God placed me in as a woman. I appreciate the author's honesty and openness is discussing a deeply personal topic; there are many quotes I noted for "relate-ability" or for further thought. There is definitely a conversation to be had here, but it needs to be set within God's framework instead of our own.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    Klein’s book about the “purity movement” and sexual shaming of girls within the powerful evangelical community in the U.S. may focus on a worthy enough subject, but the writing is so pedestrian and hyperbolic that I felt no desire to persist beyond the very lengthy 34-page introduction. I’ve read my share of undergraduate papers and this book put me in mind of them in spades: clumsy prose, unnecessary repetition, and the sloppy use of quotations from witnesses and supposed “experts” (Brené Brown Klein’s book about the “purity movement” and sexual shaming of girls within the powerful evangelical community in the U.S. may focus on a worthy enough subject, but the writing is so pedestrian and hyperbolic that I felt no desire to persist beyond the very lengthy 34-page introduction. I’ve read my share of undergraduate papers and this book put me in mind of them in spades: clumsy prose, unnecessary repetition, and the sloppy use of quotations from witnesses and supposed “experts” (Brené Brown, for example) that illustrate no particular point very well. From the little I read, was convinced that investing any more time in warmed-over social science thesis material would be foolish.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Brush

    WOW DO I FEEL VALIDATED

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robert D. Cornwall

    As I finished reading Pure, the U.S. Senate was concluding a day long hearing pitting the memories/claims of a previously obscure woman and the nominee for a life-time appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. The two may be different at one level and yet related at another. In the Senate hearings, the question was, who will you believe? Too often down through the ages, we believe the man and not the woman. Could it be that we have different expectations for women than men. If a woman is found to b As I finished reading Pure, the U.S. Senate was concluding a day long hearing pitting the memories/claims of a previously obscure woman and the nominee for a life-time appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. The two may be different at one level and yet related at another. In the Senate hearings, the question was, who will you believe? Too often down through the ages, we believe the man and not the woman. Could it be that we have different expectations for women than men. If a woman is found to be sexually "impure," which might mean simply being at a party and drinking, then we shouldn't be surprised when something untoward occurs. In other words, if something happened, then it must be her fault. If she flirts or wears a particular kind of clothing, then she might be "asking for it." Time after time we've heard that line, both from politicians and from pulpits. "Pure" takes us inside a movement that is widespread within evangelicalism that elevates sexual purity to such a high level that it ends up damaging women's lives. The author of this book, Linda Kay Klein grew up within this context. The books is part autobiography, but just as important it is based on multiples of interviews both with friends and others who were directed her way. They tell their stories to the author, who then relays them to us. The book is at points graphic, but how can we deal with issues sexuality and not expect to encounter rather graphic stories. She tells of a movement that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s that taught in youth groups and from pulpits the importance of remaining sexually pure. The goal was virginity till marriage. The message given to young women was that if they failed to live up to this standard they would be unwanted by men. Their marriage prospects would be damaged, because -- and this was a common metaphor -- who wants chewed gum. Not only should a young woman not engage sexually, but she should not engage in any sexual thoughts. These are unbecoming to woman. There was another message given. Young women should beware of being "stumbling blocks" to men. She confesses that this warning, about being a stumbling block, was annoying to her as a junior high student who wanted desparately to please God. The message she heards was that she and her friends "were nothing more than things over which men and boys could trip." (p. 3). Over time the Purity movement became big business, with purity rings, books, clothing, and more. Among the buyers of these products was the government, as apparently $2 billion dollars of federal money has been expended to support abstinence-only programming. She notes that this money has been distributed to "community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, local and/or state health departments, and schools." Only California did not accept federal funding for abstinence-only education programming. Churches, of course, made use of this material as well. The movement has had a listing influence on the lives of women, for as Klein writes "the purity movement teaches that every sexual activity---from masturbation to kissing if it elicits tha special feeling--- can make one less pure" (p. 12). In other words, if a woman becomes aroused, that is inappropriate. As for guys, well it's a different story, I guess. The book is composed of four movements, three of which have four chapters. The final movement has three. The first movment focuses on the four purity culture stumbling blocks: First, if the purity culture doesn't work for you, then you must be the problem, not the movement. Second is that girls and women must conform to particular gender roles to be acceptable to men. Third, unmarried girls and women are to "maintain a sexless body, mind, and, and heart to be pure." This becomes difficult once a woman marries, because now she is expected to turn on her sexuality to please her husband. Fourth, there is the "systematic mishandling of sexual abuse cases and survivors (the topic of the current Supreme Court nomination process). These chapters are challenging and unsettling, but those of us who have some experience within the evangelical sub-culture recognize elements of this story to be true to our own experience. Movements two and three focus on the stories that emerge out of these four stumbling blocks, both inside and outside the church. Klein brings to us stories of women who faced shame and some ultimately leaving the church. She also shows how some broke free of the messaging both inside and outside the church. The fourth section brings some closure, showing how people have moved beyond these stumbling blocks. As she notes, in each section she begins with her own story. Although I came of age within an evangelical subculture that predates the Purity Movement as it emerged in the 1980s, I can see many of the precursors emerging in my own experience. I remember the messaging we got. We were told to be sexually pure, but we struggled with that. Keep your minds clean and clear. While we were told masturbation was wrong, apparently it was widespread among my male friends. As for my female friends, that wasn't a topic to which I was privy. I do know that the girls were constantly told to be careful so as not to be a stumbling block. Apparently we were of weak minds and spirits, and thus the girls in our group needed to be careful with how they dressed. I remember going to camp and the girls had to wear t-shirts over their swim suits, even if they were one-piece suits. Our experiences might have presaged what came later, but it does appear that the messaging became more unbearable and destructive as it became not only a religious thing, but a business. There were no purity rings that I remember. I believe that Linda Kay Klein has done us an important favor by telling this story. Not only because it uncovers an evangelical subculture, but uncovers a culture that holds women to a different standard from men, and seems to encourage disbelief when women share stories of embarrassment, abuse, assault, and rape. After all, they must have done something to warrant it. By shining a light on this subculture, she shines a light on our culture as a whole. Women are not stumbling blocks. They need not feel shame about their bodies or their sexuality. It's time for us to have the difficult conversations that might enlighten us all. I say this as one who has struggled myself with these questions. She writes stories about women as a way of liberation from shame. She calls the church to account, not to destroy faith, but to restore it. Thanks be to God.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Adina Hilton

    This was a tough read for me. As someone who grew up in the Evangelical church, and went through a similar "breaking" from religion, a lot of Klein's experiences and traumas were familiar to me. I absolutely think a religious focus on purity is damaging to young girls, and to young boys as well. The messages sent to young women about their sexuality may scar them in ways that will never heal (and many women interviewed in this book have experienced a lot of religious trauma). Klein writes the boo This was a tough read for me. As someone who grew up in the Evangelical church, and went through a similar "breaking" from religion, a lot of Klein's experiences and traumas were familiar to me. I absolutely think a religious focus on purity is damaging to young girls, and to young boys as well. The messages sent to young women about their sexuality may scar them in ways that will never heal (and many women interviewed in this book have experienced a lot of religious trauma). Klein writes the book as mostly a memoir--but supplements her own experiences with many interviews with other women who have experienced similar religious purity messages. It's important to note that the experiences detailed in this book are from a white, middle-class, Christian Evangelical demographic of women. It's a VERY SPECIFIC subset of the population, and Klein's book should not be mistaken for a representative look at this issue. I found this book helpful for myself, and my own experiences, to show that other people have experiences similar to my own. I think this book can be read an enjoyed if it's viewed as a memoir only (with some supplementary interviews) and NOT as a nonfiction/authority on religious purity messages.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jen Gray

    You don’t have to agree with her personal outcome (ahem evangelicals) to get that shaming women is epidemic in the evangelical movement. I applaud the author’s vulnerability and her fair treatment of her interviewees. I think this book starts an important conversation and can help some women begin to heal, if only in knowing they are not alone and not crazy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karyl

    I've never been a particularly religious person, but I did go to a Presbyterian (USA) church with my parents every week growing up. My youth group did discuss sex and taught us that we should remain virgin until marriage, but it was never the purity message that evangelicals adopted wholesale in the 1980s and 1990s. The author and I are of the same age, and I do remember the big push for abstinence-only education, but I was never a victim of the purity movement, for which I am incredibly gratefu I've never been a particularly religious person, but I did go to a Presbyterian (USA) church with my parents every week growing up. My youth group did discuss sex and taught us that we should remain virgin until marriage, but it was never the purity message that evangelicals adopted wholesale in the 1980s and 1990s. The author and I are of the same age, and I do remember the big push for abstinence-only education, but I was never a victim of the purity movement, for which I am incredibly grateful. This book is quite disturbing. It's hard to imagine, though I know it's true, that a church would teach half of its members that they could be the downfall of the men around them just by existing, that their bodies could tempt men to have impure thoughts, that how they acted and spoke and dressed would endanger their own salvation and that of the men around them. What a huge burden to put onto young girls! It's no wonder that after spending years and years tamping down any kind of sexual feeling or expression, something natural and normal and, one could argue, God-given, that these women have such a problem trying to be enthusiastic in the bedroom with their own husbands. I can understand why churches would promote virginity until marriage, but telling their teen members that even impure thoughts, let alone masturbation, will ruin them for their future husbands is beyond the pale. This book is so very important for the women (and to a lesser extent the men) who are victims of this movement. Sex is such a taboo subject in so many ways that to read stories of people who have experienced the same thing as you have must give so much relief. I can only hope that these victims can find some healing. Highly recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Greene

    The best part of this book is the lengthy introduction, which is available on NPR.org, so you don't have to bother with the rest of it. I grew up with a youth group similar to Klein's and received much of the same well meaning but ridiculous education. She does an amazing job exposing the problems with the cult of virginity and pointing out the long lasting shame that this kind of education can induce. My biggest take away the the importance of sound doctrine and a biblical foundation for these The best part of this book is the lengthy introduction, which is available on NPR.org, so you don't have to bother with the rest of it. I grew up with a youth group similar to Klein's and received much of the same well meaning but ridiculous education. She does an amazing job exposing the problems with the cult of virginity and pointing out the long lasting shame that this kind of education can induce. My biggest take away the the importance of sound doctrine and a biblical foundation for these issues. Without that, we are left with a wrong understanding of God's purposes and our bodies, scare tactics, shaming, and bizarre object lessons with chewed pieces of gum and roses stripped of petals. And no wonder an abstinence only education among evangelical youth hasn't proven to reduce STDs or sexual encounters when compared to other forms of education. The church often does not teach what it should regarding why we believe what we believe about sex. I truly sympathize with the author and those she interviewed, especially those who were truly wronged or abused by the church and the purity movement's teachings. I also hate the fact that so many evangelical churches have very little foundation for what they teach, so when it back fires, there is nothing to fall back on. My real problem with this book are Klein's conclusions and suggestions for how to fix these problems. The solution for all of this is not changing to an all inclusive, universalist church like the author suggests. Real hope and truth is found only in one place, and no true healing can come apart from it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heather Yockey

    A weekend read. Once I started, I couldn’t put down. Mainly because of the stories, each page reminding me of a world that’s a long ways back in my rear view mirror. Wondering if 12 years ago, when I was much more a part of these circles would I have had the guts to read this book. If you are a white woman who has grown up in this subculture, chances are you’ll find yourself in one of the many stories included in this book. Strict home? Hippy parents? Obedient? Rebellious ? The writer noted all A weekend read. Once I started, I couldn’t put down. Mainly because of the stories, each page reminding me of a world that’s a long ways back in my rear view mirror. Wondering if 12 years ago, when I was much more a part of these circles would I have had the guts to read this book. If you are a white woman who has grown up in this subculture, chances are you’ll find yourself in one of the many stories included in this book. Strict home? Hippy parents? Obedient? Rebellious ? The writer noted all interacted with the teachings differently, but all were affected. I appreciated the straightforward, fair approach and uncovering how the internalization of the message mattered. Be prepared for PTSD or perhaps it’s RTSD. Every page is true. While the stories are epically sad, I am so glad this author took the long road, and stayed with this project. Every time I invest time in looking back it’s exhausting as I unearth something that may take years to mine. She gave a sense of the cost in this book. I appreciated how she shared the truth of her family interactions. She didn’t sugar coat living present day - as though it’s all magically worked out. She didn’t “evangelicalize” it - which is rare even when writing a book about leaving.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    The subject matter is interesting but the writing is so stiff and basically just a transcript of her interviews. I was expecting more insight and conclusions from this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Janelle Janson

    A timely, relevant, harrowing, and eye opening memoir about the purity movement. If you’re anything like me, you find it fascinating to learn about a person’s life that is so different from your own. I was not raised in any sort of strict upbringing so the idea that a movement such as this can leave such deeply seeded scars filled me with emotional empathy. Klein was raised in a strict Christian evangelical church that shamed women and girls for enticing men. Not only is sex forbidden before marr A timely, relevant, harrowing, and eye opening memoir about the purity movement. If you’re anything like me, you find it fascinating to learn about a person’s life that is so different from your own. I was not raised in any sort of strict upbringing so the idea that a movement such as this can leave such deeply seeded scars filled me with emotional empathy. Klein was raised in a strict Christian evangelical church that shamed women and girls for enticing men. Not only is sex forbidden before marriage but girls are blamed if a violation occurs and it is on them to enforce it. For example, Klein panicked and punished herself for what she thought was an unforgivable sin: kissing her high school boyfriend. It’s an unfair and an incredible responsibility to bestow on anyone, let alone a teenage girl. What I enjoyed most about this memoir is that not only did I learn about Klein’s life, I also learned about the people she interviewed. I love nothing more than to read several different perspectives on a single subject. Although the common theme of these accounts is devastating and traumatic, it is a diverse spectrum of stories. And even though I couldn’t personally relate to Klein’s story, I found it powerful, interesting, and important.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cara Meredith

    Welcome to the book that perfectly describes my late teens and early to mid-twenties. This needed to be explored and written and I’m so grateful for Linda Kay Klein’s diligence and insight.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    ***Only read about 100 pages*** I was really disappointed that this book was so terribly written. The topic is so relevant and personal, I was hoping for great things. The author generalizes things that her friends tell her through interviews and applies that to the entire culture. While it may be true, she needs to interview people besides her childhood youth group friends. Either write a memoir, or do a qualitative study.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    Pure was a very emotional and personal read for me. Full review to come!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Positives: Kudos to this author for bringing light to an issue that gets very little attention. I absolutely agree that “purity culture” has had some very lasting and damaging effects on many people. I also appreciate her thoroughness in presenting various stories: she includes stories of singleness, homosexuality, abuse and more. I’m glad I read this. Negatives: Like most nonfiction, this book was entirely too long and repetitive. The book is broken up into four sections, each with 3-4 chapters, Positives: Kudos to this author for bringing light to an issue that gets very little attention. I absolutely agree that “purity culture” has had some very lasting and damaging effects on many people. I also appreciate her thoroughness in presenting various stories: she includes stories of singleness, homosexuality, abuse and more. I’m glad I read this. Negatives: Like most nonfiction, this book was entirely too long and repetitive. The book is broken up into four sections, each with 3-4 chapters, but I didn’t see any differentiation between them. It was simply one long collection of personal stories interspersed with quotes and “research” from outside sources. The writing itself made me feel like I was reading an undergraduate research-paper-slash-essay. After a little digging, I discovered that Klein’s education includes a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing & Theater, and an Interdisciplinary (two-year) Masters in Religious Studies & Creative Writing. Her lack of experience with research is painfully obvious. This book would have been much more successful had it been written simply as a memoir or collection of personal stories. Klein is not in any way educated or licensed in psychology, therapy or counseling. She therefore attributes ALL issues described by her interviewees as the direct result of “purity culture”; never mind that many of their issues could just as easily be traced to underlying problems with their specific churches, families, or undiagnosed clinical issues. I am absolutely not denying that purity culture had a negative long-term effect on these women (I think it did), but I believe Klein is so eager to draw a straight line between church purity culture and issues with sex/shame that she fails to consider that correlation does not always equal causation. Finally, I didn’t feel that Klein really offered much in terms of how churches should practically approach teaching sex to teenagers. She gave an example of one church she felt was doing a good job, but otherwise, there’s not a lot here. The undertones of the book seem to imply that the best alternative to teaching “purity” is to encourage teenagers and young adults to openly explore their sexuality in whatever ways they feel fit. She implies that any negative emotional or physical consequences of sex can 100% be attributed to church teachings, and in order to remove shame from the equation, the church should encourage complete sexual freedom. There has to be a middle ground! We should be pursuing ways to promote positive sex education in healthy church and family settings. We should be encouraging honesty and acceptance so teens feel comfortable asking questions and standing strong in their own sexual identities. We should listen to and believe women when they bravely come forward with stories of sexual assault and abuse. We should educate teens on the very real benefits and consequences to sex within and outside of marriage. I admire what Klein has attempted to do, and I really appreciate the way she has opened the door for more conversation and exposure on this topic. It’s her execution that I just didn’t love. I think she could have found an equal number of women who could say that they grew up in youth groups that promoted some form of “purity culture,” and today they have healthy sexual identities and strong, loving marriages. The big question is: are those women healthy because of purity culture, or in spite of it?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    I received this book as an advanced reader's copy due to the requests and reviews from our patrons and from goodreads and this book was very powerful in the message that it conveyed. This "movement" impacted a lot of people and made a strong difference in not only that community but worldwide. I was hit hard with a whirl of emotions and disbelief that this strong view had such a strong impact on people. The book displayed some heartfelt stories, shocking revelations and important life lessons th I received this book as an advanced reader's copy due to the requests and reviews from our patrons and from goodreads and this book was very powerful in the message that it conveyed. This "movement" impacted a lot of people and made a strong difference in not only that community but worldwide. I was hit hard with a whirl of emotions and disbelief that this strong view had such a strong impact on people. The book displayed some heartfelt stories, shocking revelations and important life lessons that we all tend to forget. Very influential and our readers will benefit which is why we are giving it 5 stars!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Rough read, but I really appreciated the stats and the data Klein uses alongside people's stories. I've read a lot from other purity culture survivors, but it is always good to hear more of this message: we are not alone, we aren't broken, what we were told about ourselves was wrong. Being free of this "really heavy, heavy weight [of purity] to bear all the time" is one of the best things that's happened in my adult life. A point I really appreciated: Klein points out that if you are given all th Rough read, but I really appreciated the stats and the data Klein uses alongside people's stories. I've read a lot from other purity culture survivors, but it is always good to hear more of this message: we are not alone, we aren't broken, what we were told about ourselves was wrong. Being free of this "really heavy, heavy weight [of purity] to bear all the time" is one of the best things that's happened in my adult life. A point I really appreciated: Klein points out that if you are given all these impossible rules, but you realise that the way you are deeply and intrinsically doesn't fit within those rules, then logically, either the way God made you is wrong, or the rules are wrong. Hearing it put that way meant a lot.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Makenzie

    Wow... so much of this book was unfortunately very relatable to me, and I expect many of my friends could also identify with some of the stories told by the interviewees. While I didn’t grow up in the extremes of purity culture (True Love Waits, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, etc), its messages and expectations were still ingrained in me in ways that I’m just recently becoming aware of and healing from. I highly recommend this book to anyone who grew up in the purity culture movement, or anyone curren Wow... so much of this book was unfortunately very relatable to me, and I expect many of my friends could also identify with some of the stories told by the interviewees. While I didn’t grow up in the extremes of purity culture (True Love Waits, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, etc), its messages and expectations were still ingrained in me in ways that I’m just recently becoming aware of and healing from. I highly recommend this book to anyone who grew up in the purity culture movement, or anyone currently working in youth ministry or raising kids.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    This book made me cry.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

    (more in-depth review available at stefaniethelibrarian.wordpress.com) The cover of this book says it all, "Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free." Linda Kay Klein grew up in the evangelical church during the height of the purity movement. She spent 12 years interviewing friends, and strangers, who grew up in the same environment. During this time she was able to confirm her belief that she wasn't alone in, to be over-simplistic, sexual shame (more in-depth review available at stefaniethelibrarian.wordpress.com) The cover of this book says it all, "Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free." Linda Kay Klein grew up in the evangelical church during the height of the purity movement. She spent 12 years interviewing friends, and strangers, who grew up in the same environment. During this time she was able to confirm her belief that she wasn't alone in, to be over-simplistic, sexual shame. Klein presents a group of individuals who all struggled with aspects of their sexuality and its relationship with their ideas of themselves, Christianity, and God. Initially I was surprised by Klein's inclusion of the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris in her research. IKDG wasn't pushed in my church like it was in Klein's and some of her interviewees' churches, but it had a lasting effect. And not a positive one. It was eye-opening that so many had been damaged and broken by people using this book as some sort of all-encompassing rule book. True Love Waits is the movement/culture/program I remember most vividly. Not only do I remember, I bought myself a TLW ring to wear after one overly devastating breakup in my late teens, early twenties (at least as devastating as it could be for a 19-20 year old). I was all "I'm married to Jesus now, y'all," as I held my left hand up like I had some fancy engagement ring.  The church differentiates between regular sin and sexual sin. Regular sin is something we do that is wrong, sexual sin is something we do that makes us wrong. The first causes guilt ("I did something bad"), the second causes shame ("I am bad"). By the time a Christian female is allowed to have sex (as she is now married...to a man), her brain has been rewired to view sex and shame as the same thing. Klein discusses this concept with one of her interviewees, Jo, who is quoted as saying, "Somehow you have to be a lamb - chaste and pure as the driven snow until you're married. And then you have to be a tigress in the bed. The vows make that instant transformation somehow." She goes on to say, "...if you don't satisfy him, he will have an affair, or he has a right to chastise you for not being amazing in bed...because you are responsible for his sexual satisfaction and whether his eyes wander." I could go on, but I want you to read the book, I want you to see what's wrong and strive to change.  Overall, I chose to give this book a 4/5 because of writing style - not because of subject matter. It read more like a dissertation than a standard book. The introduction was too long for my taste - though I enjoyed the subject matter. Klein's use of dialogue and magazine-esq interview surrounding descriptions often pulled me away from the content, rather than keeping me focused. I changed from reader to writer in these circumstances, using my imaginary purple pen (cause red is so blah) to strike through unnecessary and distracting text. 

  28. 4 out of 5

    J.C. Ahmed

    About a decade ago, wearing purity rings was a big deal in young celeb circles. Celebrities like Britney Spears, the Jonas Brothers and even Miley Cyrus talked about their commitment to abstinence in interviews. At the time, I rolled my eyes at purity culture thinking of it as a fad. Over time I learned that purity culture could be damaging to the young people raised in it. I didn’t know how damaging, until I read this book. The revelations in it are shocking. Klein is an insider, someone raised About a decade ago, wearing purity rings was a big deal in young celeb circles. Celebrities like Britney Spears, the Jonas Brothers and even Miley Cyrus talked about their commitment to abstinence in interviews. At the time, I rolled my eyes at purity culture thinking of it as a fad. Over time I learned that purity culture could be damaging to the young people raised in it. I didn’t know how damaging, until I read this book. The revelations in it are shocking. Klein is an insider, someone raised in the culture, who is still a devout (although, no longer conservative) Christian. In Pure, she discusses the damage done to her and also to others she interviewed. She said she had irrational fears of being pregnant even though she was a virgin just because she kissed her boyfriend. She interviewed women who rushed into marriage desperate to have sex only to find neither they nor their husbands had any idea what to do. Even worse, the idea that sex was shameful and that their bodies were shameful had been drilled into them for so long, these women often had panic attacks when they tried to have sex. “purity culture has turned a pornographic fantasy about a virgin turned vamp into ‘morality,’ so that now both a woman’s nonsexuality before marriage and her hypersexuality after marriage are required for her to be considered good.” The inability of women raised in this culture to “please their man” often leads to depression and failed marriages which helps to explain the high divorce rates in the Bible Belt. Klein also addresses how the same purity movement that shames consensual sex often excuses sexual abuse. Men in these cultures are seen as naturally predatory. It’s considered the responsibility of women to protect themselves from sexual abuse by not tempting men. “...internalizing that men are predators” doesn’t just excuse sexual abuse in the minds of the predators. Others justify their behavior as well. After all, if boys and men are sexually weak and unable to control their impulses, it isn’t their fault when they rape someone. It’s the victim’s fault for not doing enough to guard her modesty. For this book, Klein “contacted young women she knew, asking if they were coping with the same shame-induced issues she was. These intimate conversations developed into a twelve-year quest that took her across the country and into the lives of women raised in similar religious communities.” I’d love to see Klein follow up this book with another that also includes the perspectives of men raised in these cultures as well as the perspectives of people who grow up in non-Christian religions that have similarly destructive messaging. While Pure does focus on the impact of purity culture on LGBT youth, there’s a lot more on that issue to be explored.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emily Polson

    "The purity message is not about sex. Rather, it is about us: who we are, who we are expected to be, and who it is said we will become if we fail to meet those expectations." This was a difficult read, but very helpful as someone who grew up in a church context that idealized purity to the point of obsession, idolization, and quite honestly, dehumanization of young women. Linda uses her own story as well as those of her many interviewees to unpack the psychological baggage associated with this sh "The purity message is not about sex. Rather, it is about us: who we are, who we are expected to be, and who it is said we will become if we fail to meet those expectations." This was a difficult read, but very helpful as someone who grew up in a church context that idealized purity to the point of obsession, idolization, and quite honestly, dehumanization of young women. Linda uses her own story as well as those of her many interviewees to unpack the psychological baggage associated with this shame-based teaching. Parts of this book gave me visceral flashbacks to my adolescence, but if you weren't raised in this culture, I imagine you might think some of this is exaggerated--it's not. As Klein puts it, "We went to war with ourselves, our own bodies, and our own sexual natures, all under the strict commandment of the church." I have so much respect for Klein, who is still a Christian but is also unafraid to critique the church for the ways it's failed women and girls. She states: "Though evangelicalism offered me many gifts--a deep spiritual life, mentors I could rely on, leadership opportunities that boosted my confidence, and more--the purity message was not one of them. Intended to make me more 'pure,' all this message did was make me more ashamed of my inevitable 'impurities.'"

  30. 4 out of 5

    Valli

    I grew up in the independent Christian church/Church of Christ, and though I managed by a combination of luck and apathy to never attend a True Love Waits retreat or sign a single purity pledge, I was well-versed in purity culture. It has deeply affected me and the other women I grew up with; I have seen it contribute to and cause sexual dysfunction, self-esteem issues, relationship struggles, and religious identity problems. This book tells many of those stories, giving voice to a generation of I grew up in the independent Christian church/Church of Christ, and though I managed by a combination of luck and apathy to never attend a True Love Waits retreat or sign a single purity pledge, I was well-versed in purity culture. It has deeply affected me and the other women I grew up with; I have seen it contribute to and cause sexual dysfunction, self-esteem issues, relationship struggles, and religious identity problems. This book tells many of those stories, giving voice to a generation of women who were systematically silenced and shamed under the guise of religion. I appreciate Klein's personal story, as well as her sensitivity as an interviewer. I was affected by the bravery of the women who told their stories; I was grieved that these toxic things happened to them, happened to us. And buried deep in there, I was comforted to know: There were adults who recognized how toxic it was, and they stood up for their beliefs. Many of them aren't in ministry any longer, ousted by other adults who had the power in their churches. This book is a needed step in dismantling purity culture and demanding better for our children.

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