The conversation — tagged #KissShameBye and hosted by the No Shame Movement — explored purity culture and its impacts on sex, dating, and marriage. Participants discussed one “source text” for purity culture in particular — I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a hugely popular book among young evangelicals, published 20 years ago, that advocates against dating before marriage and underscores themes of purity, defilement, saving oneself for marriage, and losing one's self-worth if engaged in anything other than hetero marital physical contact.
The author of IKDG, Josh Harris, has since expressed that he is “rethinking” the approach laid out in his book. In a recent interview with NPR, Harris said, “When I wrote ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ … I had not walked through that relationship yet myself. And I was — it was very speculative.” He was 21 at the time.
In June, some of the organizers of July's #KissShameBye hosted a roundtable at The Toast to discuss the impact Harris’ book had on their self-perception, communities, and faith. “In the wake of its publication, churches held purity conferences, purity balls, and had teens take purity pledges,” wrote host and facilitator Lyz Lenz. “The book had a larger impact that as an adult, I’m only now coming to grips with — damaging expectations of myself, men, and sexuality — beliefs that have cost me love, friendship, and given me a life of shame.”
In the Twitter conversation July 18, facilitators asked questions (“What key messages or rules did IKDG teach you about dating, courting, marriage, and sex?” “What or who is missing?” “What resources have helped you untangle the teachings of IKDG?”) and opened the forum to responders, many of whom shared unpleasant-to-tragic consequences of growing up within purity culture. Though experiences were varied, one trait was clear — the negative impacts of purity culture broadly, and IKDG in particular, have been lasting.
Read some of the most powerful tweets from #KissShameBye below:
grew up with the idea that girls were beautiful flowers and boys were flower ruining machines. #KissShameBye— Carolyn Parsons (@Bongoangola) July 18, 2016
Also attended a conference, 'Silver Ring Thing.' Girl gave pieces of her heart & had nothing left on wedding day (1/2) #KissShameBye— Sarahbeth Caplin (@SbethCaplin) July 18, 2016
He was abusive and it took forever for her to leave because purity culture that taught her she was his forever #kissshamebye— lyz lenz (@lyzl) July 18, 2016
Purity culture treats sex the way eating disorders treats food. It doesn't teach you how to have a healthy relationship w/ it #KissShameBye— Eve Volved (@EveVolved) July 18, 2016
I felt massive guilt because I felt no physical attraction, NONE, for an otherwise nice boy who wanted to court me.— Fledgeling Feminist (@fledgelingfem) July 19, 2016
#KissShameBye— Morgan (@MorganL666) July 19, 2016
A1: IKDG taught me everything I did sexually/romantically, even having crushes, would make me less able to love.
I think one thing that I feel is there is no place for me to bring my anger about the impact of purity culture #KissShameBye— lyz lenz (@lyzl) July 19, 2016
@lyzl Had a bunch of guys at Bible study praising the Billy Graham rule last week. Makes me sad.— Chris Hubbs (@cjhubbs) July 19, 2016
IKDG has robbed a whole generation of Xtians of autonomy by painting lust as a rabid monster we must constantly keep at bay #KissShameBye— No Shame Movement (@noshamemov) July 19, 2016
Purity culture lead me into a young marriage I didn't want to be in because I thought I was already damaged goods. #KissShameBye— Amanda Miska (@akmiska) July 19, 2016
I'll just say that purity culture kept me away from the OBGYN, and now I'm navigating thru reproductive health issues #kissshamebye— Miss Ann Thrope (@whimsikal) July 19, 2016
I remember being I dunno 10, 11, 12, something like that, and having my first sexual fantasy. I then prayed for forgiveness. #KissShameBye— Mark Duval (@MarkDuval) July 19, 2016
#kissshamebye they said i'd have to "confess" every single romantic/sexual experience/feeling to my future husband— Perfect Number (@pnumber628) July 19, 2016
dressed like a grandma until I was 18 because I was responsible for boys' sexual sins and my dad never let me forget it #kissshamebye— Meg Sutherland (@sutherlandmeg) July 19, 2016
Purity culture brought a man called Chastity Chad into my high school and called it sex education #KissShameBye— Audrey Manners (@mindyouraudreys) July 19, 2016
It's okay if you're mad at Joshua Harris. It's fine if you don't accept his supposed "apology." #KissShameBye— Sarah Galo (@SarahEvonne) July 19, 2016
Interesting how if you vary from vocal evangelical dogma, people assume you have no faith-based ethics at all. False. #KissShameBye— mackenzian (@mackenzian) July 19, 2016
Missing piece in the #KissShameBye convo rn: Sexual health and contraception ed being completely overlooked. Purity = "you won't need it."— Jo Rutter (@jo_rutter) July 19, 2016
IKDG taught me that each boy I dated would be my husband. When abuse began, I'd be unable to break up with them #kissshamebye (1/2)— Lisa Ritzema (@getmecoffeestat) July 19, 2016
for me & my fam the impact of purity culture has been abuse, molestation, & fear & it's supporters have a lot to answer for #KissShameBye— lyz lenz (@lyzl) July 19, 2016
If tonight's conversation stirred up old and painful memories for you, it's ok, you're ok, and you're no longer in that place. #KissShameBye— mackenzian (@mackenzian) July 19, 2016
The original version of this post did not include @seelolago as one of the organizers of #KissShameBye and has been updated to reflect the omission.