“Chewed piece of gum.”
The youth of my generation know these phrases by heart.
With them, our elders told us we were “dirty” for having a crush. They claimed we were “used goods” if we held hands with someone. They insisted our worth was measured by the extent to which we had “given our heart away.” They criminalized affection to keep us “undefiled.”
What happens when an entire generation learns that their worth is found in their “purity?”
Welcome to life growing up in Christian Purity Culture.
Our well-intended homeschooling, conservative, and Christian communities wanted to keep us safe. They didn’t understand the toll inflicted by the heavy-handed and legalistic emphasis on sexual purity above and beyond anything else.
They wanted to safeguard our sexuality. Instead, they broke it.
They wanted us to be spotless before God. Instead, they drove us away from Him.
The Scarlet Virgins takes a vulnerable look at the Christian Purity Culture movement through the eyes of someone who experienced it firsthand. It seeks to identify what went wrong, and bring peace to the hearts of those who were wounded so deeply, all by exposing the truth:
It is Christ who makes us pure.
~ My Review ~
Since my conservative Asian parents wouldn't have spoken to me about sex anyway, you could say that being friends with people who grew up in the Purity Culture impacted me directly. I too was familiar with the side hugs, the only watch PG or G rated movies and up until a few years ago, I owned a copy of Joshua Harris' I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I never wore a purity ring but I wanted to keep myself pure until marriage.
Fast forward until I was 23 and living on my own with roommates, I had a few eye opening experiences, though thankfully, my experiences were all with my now-husband. But it was the after that always stuck with me. The feelings that I was used goods. That God doesn't love me. That I was too "dirty" to be loved. By anyone. I remember crying about it over my Bible and for a long time, I felt so unloved that I committed the "ultimate sin" (in my eyes), that my world spiraled out of control and I stopped going to church. I know I tended to be dramatic but my college thought was, 'guess I'm going to Hell, might as well do things that I never got to experience, including drinking alcohol or going to my first club. Things that your normal average college girl would do, yes, but you'd have to understand how much the "Culture" molded me. I also believed that I had to marry this guy now since I sinned with him and thankfully, I'm still very much in love with my husband, but can you imagine?
I should have read this book 15 years ago. I should have been able to tell my 23 year old self that God loves you because you are His child. As a mother, I get it. But for someone who grew up with the Purity Culture -even indirectly- it would take YEARS, a lot of prayers to fully understand that in spite of everything, I will fall short, I will fail BUT GOD will continue to love me.
Rebecca takes some of her personal experiences and those of her peers, and the things learned in the Purity Culture and lays out its flaws and the effects. She speaks with grace and understanding.
I can't recommend this book enough, especially to MY peers who grew up in the Purity Culture and are now raising children in this current society.
I was fortunate to have received this book for free, but I will be purchasing a hard copy that one day, I'll get to share with both my son and daughter.
***I received this book in exchange for an honest review. However, these thoughts and opinions are my own. I'm not required to write a positive review.***
About the Author
Oklahoma native Rebecca Lemke grew up in a tiny conservative homeschooling community. She has learned firsthand that the manner in which we approach modesty and purity can be the difference between life and death, both spiritually and physically. As the result of her deep-seated belief in holistic living, which includes holistic spirituality and sexuality, she strongly advocates for Christ to be our ultimate focus.
Rebecca has written a book entitled The Scarlet Virgins about her experience with legalism, spiritual abuse, and Purity Culture. She also releases podcasts on the same subjects at scarletvirgins.com. Rebecca now lives with her husband and toddler, enjoying the simple things in life with them, like root beer and bacon.
Book Club Pick:
I use Goodread's rating scale
1 star – didn’t like it
2 stars – it was OK
3 stars – liked it
4 stars – really liked it
5 stars – it was so amazing, it's on my reread pile!