Deconstructing Linda Kay Klein’s testimony of her experience with the Purity Culture.
Readership: Christians; especially those who were involved in the “Purity Movement”;
Gunner Q’s post, The Purity Movement In Review (2020 January 5), tore apart an article at The Conversation, How the ‘extreme abstinence’ of the purity movement created a sense of shame in evangelical women (2019 December 11).
In the same post, Gunner also studied an author, Linda Kay Klein, who, like many X’ers and older Millennials, grew up in the Churchian “Purity Culture”, and eventually found herself to be the black sheep at the runt end of the litter. She interviewed other women who shared her experience to document how these teachings led to guilt and shame, as well as profound ignorance about sex and sexuality.
In this post, I want to further examine Klein and her testimony about her experiences with the Purity Movement, because it’s one that is resonating with a lot of people. Klein’s testimony may very well serve as a proxy to a large number of other churchian wimmin recovering from the so called Purity Movement.
Klein has a website with a quote from Gloria Steinem on the front page – NOT a good sign.
…and she has a TED Talk. It’s so warm and fuzzy, I couldn’t get through the first two minutes.
Gunner also cited an article he found at the New York Post (feat. Jane Ridley), How I broke free of the Evangelical ‘purity’ movement (2018 September 15), which featured Klein’s testimony.
One part of Klein’s story included the following.
Before Linda Kay Klein had a routine X-ray at the age of 23, she insisted the nurse gave her a pregnancy test so she would be “better safe than sorry.”
It was one of many such tests Klein had undergone over the previous few years because of her fear of having a baby out of wedlock.
Never mind that she was still a virgin.
I’m LMAO at the denial here. As Earl pointed out,
“…sex ed in Murica is about preventing a pregnancy rather than stating it’s a natural result of the act. And no woman is naive enough to think if they are still a virgin they need a pregnancy test… [She wanted a pregnancy test] because she was testing to see if the deed did what it can do.”
There’s no way for us to know whether Klein may or may not have been lying about being a virgin, but this request for a pregnancy test is good evidence to believe that she was in regular contact with semen in some way.
Even if we give her the benefit of the doubt, she may be technically a virgin, but comprehensively, not. So in effect, she was lying about being “pure”, and she wasn’t just lying to her church, to her family, and to the author of the article… She’s lying to herself. But why would she lie?
“The good girl/bad girl thing is our default way of thinking,” Klein said.”
Ahhh… of course! She wants the clear conscience and the social prestige that goes with being one of the “good girls”, whether or not she is actually a good girl.
She goes on…
“I want to draw attention to the dangers of sexual shaming and purity teachings.”
What might be these dangers, pray tell? Could it be that she has determined to explore her sexuality, but she’s afraid of being framed as a bad girl by the Choich ladies? Yes, that’s a real danger to both the Feminine Imperative and her desire to be seen as a “good girl”.
“Growing up, she’d been told by pastors and church teachers that she was a “stumbling block” of temptation for boys and men. This was largely presented as her problem, not theirs: It was made clear that she would be cast as a Jezebel — with her character corrupted — if she had sex before marriage.”
But this now begs the question: Why is this a source of shame? If they truly were pure virgins in waiting, if they truly were focused on preserving themselves for a husband, then why would they identify as a Jezebel?
I can see how they might feel afraid of succumbing to temptation. It might even be possible that they are experiencing a false sense of shame for some reason. But it’s easier to believe that they feel ashamed because they are NOT focused on preserving themselves for a husband. Instead, they are focused on the dilemma of how they can pursue the dicktates of the Feminine Imperative, while still maintaining the image of a “good girl”.
What no one is saying is the obvious – that the Purity Movement turned out to be, for some, a modern reiteration of the age old practice of S1ut Shaming. Of course, s1uts don’t like S1ut Shaming because it makes them Feeelz ashamed and pressures them to adjust their behavior.
“The message traumatized Klein and many of her peers, sparking fear, anxiety and, in the extreme case of one woman interviewed for the book, the symptoms of anaphylactic shock when she first had sex. (The woman started wheezing and breaking out in welts and wound up in the ER.)”
Perhaps it wasn’t the actual experience of no-holds-barred sex that shocked this woman. Maybe she was shocked because she realized that after a decade of diddling around just short of consummation, there was nothing new left to be discovered, and that she had been wrong about her concept of what sex is all about. In just the space of a few minutes, all the guilt and shame that was amassed during all those profligate years of pseudo-sex filled “dating” finally comes home to roost in the conscious mind.
“For Klein, the terror was enough that she broke up with her high-school boyfriend at the age of 16 because she was convinced it was God’s will.”
Because of her terror of being cast as a Jezebel, she breaks up with her boyfriend and eventually becomes a Jezebel. That’s definitely a knee-jerk reaction of fear. And she says “It was God’s will…” No, God doesn’t use that kind of fear as a motivator. Whenever someone says something is “God’s will”, I suspect that in fact, it is NOT – that they are taking God’s name in vain.
Instead, I would guess it was God’s will for her, not to break up with her boyfriend, but to begin preparing for a marriage to him. But of course, feminist culture has solemnly declared that a virgin getting married during a timely period of peak fertility is intolerably out of the question. As a consequence, her natural desire for a husband, sex, bonding, and children are only a source of temptation, frustration, and confusion. The real reason she broke up with her boyfriend is because she feels guilty about the idea of breeding outside of a proper marriage, and she knows her breeding instinct is going to overpower her sooner or later, because that’s how God created the natural order of things. But the problem with this is that it would upset both the Feminine Imperative lodged in her subconscious feral nature, and her desire to be seen as a “good girl”. Moreover, she is caught in the conundrum that modern Western society and the converged church has designed for the young, and she is confused as ћә11.
“We’d French kiss and every sexual nodule of my body would go off,” she recalled of the ill-fated three-month relationship. “But every shame module in my body was alive, too, because I had been trained [by the church] to feel like that.
Maybe she feels ashamed because French kissing has already gone past the line of integrity and propriety for her conscience. If not, we could presume that she’s lying, and that “French kiss” is a euphemism for jumping bones. This seems credible if we specifically understand the “sexual nodule” she speaks of to be her clitoris, and “going off” is a polite pretense for an orgasm.
“I would beg God to be the refiner’s fire and tear us down so that our sinful desires burnt to a crisp,” recalled Klein. “I wanted Him to remake us into something more holy and pure and some day I could be with [my boyfriend] again.”
The fake piety is pedantically cute, and no doubt won her some points as an innocent “good girl”. But if she really believes that, then she is sooo naïvely ignorant of what her sinful desires really are! She has a strong desire to merge with a man, and she thinks that is a sin. It is not. It is a doctrinal heresy to condemn sex and/or marriage. In actuality, her sinful desire is to conform to the Feminine Imperative and the dictates of Feminist churchianism – more specifically, to break up with her boyfriend, and postpone marriage and childrearing while she tantalizes her ego in the SMP and possibly the Carousel.
It’s not clear whether she was aware of the outcome of this choice at the time. She may not have known this inevitable outcome as a teenager, but she definitely did as a 20-year-old college student.
But when she was finally wizened in the ways of the world, and could see far enough ahead to know the final destination of the road she was on, do you think she would correct her path, resume her relationship with her first love, and with the intentions of marriage?
Let’s find out.
These issues continued into her 20’s when, still a virgin, she attended Sarah Lawrence College and, later, New York University. By then, she had turned her back on Evangelism after beginning to doubt aspects of its theology — and after a youth pastor at her old church was convicted of the sexual enticement of a 12-year-old girl.
It’s just as I suspected. She’ll reject God before she corrects her ways. A liberal education, and an anecdote about how Christians are hypocrites provides a sufficient psychological justification for doing so. Interestingly, this provides the impetus for becoming a hypocritical Christian herself.
Sadly, there is no one to speak truth into her life nor hold her accountable, or at least no one she’s listening to. It’s highly likely that she ignored any truthful admonitions because she’s already let the cat out of the bag, and is consumed with fighting fires.
So what happened next?*
At age 22, she’d been dating a man for three years without having had penetrative sex. She recalls how she would curl up into a ball of anxiety and cry uncontrollably while lying naked in bed with him. Often, she would break out in patches of eczema that she’d scratch until her skin bled.
She’s sleeping naked in bed with a man. But it’s okay, because she’s still a virgin! The rules of sexual purity have been dutifully observed.
We’ve already found good reason to believe that she’s lying to herself (and everyone else) about remaining “pure”. She has strong motivations to lie, so it’s all that much harder to believe these stories.
I find it very hard to believe that a woman could wait for marriage for 20 years, or even five, while remaining a virgin. She’s got to be tasting the action with some regular orgasms. How else could she be able to postpone marriage (and sex) for so long?
If a woman is really able to forsake sex, then she shouldn’t be getting married at all. But I doubt that is the case with miss Klein.
To what degree are the somatic symptoms she described directly due to teachings on purity? How much of this is a result of her own sin and transgression? I tend to believe it’s a result of her own sin, exacerbated by the acute knowledge that it is wrong, which was gained from her involvement in the Purity Culture. God chastens the child He loves, even though she’s still pursuing rebellion.
“The fictions I had learned in church haunted me,” said Klein, who was on birth-control pills at the time. “I thought if you were in a hot tub and someone ejaculated, [sperm] would somehow get over to you. Sex created such a sense of shame that not only could I not have [it], I had nightmares and constant nagging thoughts of how far we had gone sexually.”
Now she’s in a hot tub with ejaculating men, however, she is being “responsible” about her sexuality by taking birth control pills. But the problem, mind you, is that she Feeelz ashamed of this, not that she shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Do I need to point out (again) that if she had been obedient to God by marrying the love of her youth, then it would have prevented all this frustration and suffering. But given all this angst, now she will certainly need to talk about it with others.
“The cycle came to an end in her mid-20’s after she decided to discuss the damage that the purity ethic had done with female friends back in the Midwest, who admitted they struggled with similar issues.”
Here comes the Herd mentality…
“I realized… the problem wasn’t with me,” Klein said.
And this realization, fueled by the indignant moxie of her promiscuous churchian friends, provided the psychological justification to complete her rebellion by “going all the way”.
“She lost her virginity at the age of 26 to a man with whom she’d been in a long-distance romance for about a year.”
Finally, after years of antagonizing, Satan wins this soul game. Her first love would never want her defiled a$$ now, not that she would care by this point. And who will now volunteer to marry this liberally educated, debt ridden, carousel riding, post prime, damaged “goods” Churchian?
“The sex wasn’t traumatic, it was quite beautiful because I’d learned, by that point, to separate sexuality from spirituality,” she said. “It felt like a holy experience — as if God was in the room with us.”
I’ve heard this one many times before, and it’s confusing as ћә11. How can one separate sexuality from spirituality? How can one experience God while one is fornicating? Is this a spiritual deception?
Earlier in my life, I explained this phenomenon as such: Satan will let off the pressure when you do his will and bow down to worship him. You’ll also get a kick out of satisfying your base desires.
But as I’ve grown older, and experienced the same thing myself, I’ve developed a more sophisticated understanding of this phenomenon. I covered this in a past essay, How is illicit sex related to one’s spiritual state? (2019 May 22). I’ll summarize the conclusions as follows.
Having the experience of falling in love, bonding, and feeling accepted and blessed are not a direct result, or “reward”, of wrongdoing, but rather an inherent result of being humbled and opening one’s heart. Engagement in sexual relations is a strong catalyst of this same state. Most people don’t seem to be aware of this correlation because they make a reflexive fundamental attribution error.
When one can get out from under the umbrella of sin, one will naturally experience the showers of God’s blessing and grace. Churchians with a superficial understanding of sin would be tempted to conclude that the fornicating is the sin, but it is not. Fornicating is merely the fruit of the sin. Kline’s sin, in this case, was not fornicating, but was in postponing marriage while believing that her sexual “purity” is what made her righteous, worthy, and would bring her blessing. She compounded this sin by resolving to retain her purity under her own free willpower, instead of trusting in the provision of God (which came in the form of a high school boyfriend / potential husband whom she was originally crazy about). Unfortunately for the sap who became her future husband, it required a bit of whole-hearted fornicating to wake her up from her deception and idolatry.
Time goes on…
Now wed for four years (to a different man), Klein, who is still a Christian, is “very grateful not to have brought any sexual shame into her marriage.”
I wonder if her premaritally cucked husband would agree about that.
As the stepmother of a 17-year-old girl, she hopes her book will help other women who have experienced the shame she did.
“The shame we are creating in our culture is not about bashfulness and shyness,” she said. “It is equated with worthlessness and isolation.”
She has launched a nonprofit, Break Free Together, which guides people of all ages on issues of spirituality and sexuality.
“We need to start laying the groundwork for kindergartners to have healthy conversations later,” she said. “There is a need to begin talking about these things early.”
Kindergarten is pretty early! What does she want to tell them?
The article doesn’t specify, but I have to wonder about what solution she will propose. Here are some possibilities.
- Do not marry.
- Postpone marriage until after X happens, where X = education, career, (s)experience, baby rabies, etc.
- Dispense with the teachings of sexual purity as the Good Book prescribes.
- Go on crying about the aspect of shame and guilt that results from resisting God’s will for your life, and attract a following. Blame the church. Build a career out of it.
- Teaching children and adolescents how to separate spirituality and sexuality.
If Ms. Klein pursues any of these, I’m afraid that Satan will win again!
In conclusion, I should point out that Klein never really loved her high school boyfriend, who was probably her first. If she did, then she would have made a high priority of marrying him ASAP. But instead, she sacrificed her relationship with him in order to pursue her false notions of “purity”, which is reminiscent of a heretical “salvation by works” mentality. This is the real underlying apostasy of the Purity Culture – NOT the shame, and certainly NOT the admonition to remain sexually pure.
Klein will have to come away from her current emphasis on shame, which is a Feminist message, and start focusing on what her real sin was – thinking it was God’s will for her to remain single and sexless during her peak years of fertility, and failing (or refusing) to see real opportunities for fulfilling God’s will that were presented to her, namely allowing herself a timely marriage during her peak, and all the blessings that go with that.
* Gunner omitted this in his review, but I find it pertinent.
Image credit: The artwork shown in this post was created by the Lebanese artist, Kristel Bechara.