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How Men Used Religion to Shame Women Into Submission

How Men Used Religion to Shame Women Into Submission

Julie Ingersoll

Religion, Americas

The ‘extreme abstinence’ of the purity movement was used as leverage over evangelical women.

Millennial evangelicals are speaking out about the heightened emphasis on sexual purity that characterized their upbringing in that subculture.

Joshua Harris, a former pastor who became one of the most public faces of the purity culture movement in the United States with his 1997 book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” recently renounced his views and very publicly left evangelicalism. When his book came out, it was widely read and led many evangelicals to believe that the best path through adolescence and to a fulfilling happy marriage was the embrace of purity culture.

So, what exactly is the purity movement all about?

Culture of abstinence

The label purity culture has a range of meanings. Many use it in its most literal form to refer to efforts, especially in conservative Protestant Christianity, to promote sexual abstinence prior to marriage.

But beginning in the 1990s some groups within conservative U.S. Protestantism began promoting an organized strategy to convince young people that the Bible requires a much more restrictive code, what one author has called “extreme abstinence.”

In 1993, for example, the Southern Baptist Convention launched its “True Love Waits” campaign, seeking to promote sexual abstinence among Christian youth with conferences, concerts and purity pledges. These are reminiscent of 19th-century evangelical temperance pledges, in which people signed a pledge to abstain from alcohol.

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