By Catherine Woodiwiss 7-19-2016

On July 18, a group of writers and activists set up shop on Twitter for a vulnerable discussion about purity culture. 

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:

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. 

Catherine Woodiwiss (@chwoodiwiss) is Deputy Web Editor at Sojourners.

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