I decided to give a few books a re-read that shaped my teen years and my views on dating and sex. “Pasion and Purity” by Elizabeth Elliot and “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” I decided to start with Pasion and Purity as I’m pretty sure that was the first one I read as a child. Both of these books were provided by my parents, and I was steered away from more culturally normal models of teaching about sex ed and dating.
I’m pretty sure I will have to do this in multiple chunks so I will leave this as part 1 for now, and work my way through the book commenting on issues as I see them now. I tend to lean towards direct quotes so I will discuss portions of text and place the section of text that I am talking about below each discussion.
Part one will be Preface, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2
The author starts the book with a preface about the “changing culture” around sex and sexuality. She also gives her reasons for writing the book.
The first glaring issue is the author’s clear homophobia. Stressing the emphasis on the wrongness of sex with the same gender.
“The word love has fallen on bad times. To many people it means nothing more that nor less than going to bed with somebody, never mind what sex the other may belong to.” p7
Then there is the many issues regarding virginity in the book but at least she gives a warning soon into the book. Giving a glimpse of the idea that true “passionate” love has nothing to do with sex. Though the argument that “I did it so you can too” is a rather weak one.
“It is, to be blunt, a book about virginity. It is possible to love passionately and to stay out of bed. I know. We did it.” p10
Then she acknowledges then dismisses the issue of those that have already “been in bed.” I’m sure she will touch on this again, and I’ll address it further there. But this is a decent display of the attitude of shame and dismissiveness towards the “fallen.”
“Those who have given away their virginity write to me, too, some of them in despair, feeling they are forever banished from purity. I write to them to say that there is no purity in any of us apart for the blood of Jesus. All of us whiteout exception are sinners and sinful, some in one way, some in another. If I can help some to avoid sin, I want to do that.” p10
The book also perpetuates the idea that a Christian marriage and love life is something noble and better than that of the world. Why are anyone’s ideas of an ideal relationship so venerated? The ideal “Christian Marriage” was taught and stressed to me, but no one I ever talk to in a Christian home speaks highly of their parents marriage. Christian marriages may sometimes stay together for fear of a loss of testimony, or a fear of g-d’s punishment of sin. But I rarely see a Christian couple who is in a happy marriage.
“The love life of a Christian is a crucial battleground. There, if nowhere else, it will be determined as to who is Lord: the world, the self and the devil, or the Lord Christ” p10
She really starts off with a great attitude of self worth rolls eyes.
“If I couldn’t do much with my hair, I couldn’t do less with my face. Like most girls, I wished I were pretty, but it seemed futile to tamper much with the I had been given.” p16
The idea that “g-d’s way are always best” is very clearly laid out. Her plans are very clearly second to anything that g-d lays out for her. Whether that be danger or poverty she must be willing to face it.
“The struggle was not over any unwillingness to cross an ocean or live under a thatched roof, but over whether this was my idea or God’s and whether I was meant to be a surgeon (I loved dissecting things) or a linguist. I came to the conclusion it was God who called and the call was to linguistics. I asked for assurance from the Lord and got it, so that was that.” p16-17
Ah the classic when we had values life was so much better argument. Though it is almost humorous she mentions polygamy as well in this section. And apparently laws that would make you think twice about sleeping around. Maybe she’s referring to Leviticus 20:10, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Though at the very least, she doesn’t seem to care about the welfare of the men who “mess around.”
“Now, however, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, times have changed, they tell us. For thousands of years society depended on some semblance of order in the matter of sex. A man took a wife (or wives) in some regularly prescribed manner and lived with her (or them) according to recognized rules. He “messed around’ with other men’s wives only to his peril.” p18
She continues this same argument but now applies it to women. And brings up the “priceless treasure” of virginity. I would like to point out that she doesn’t even mention men at this point in the book, just singles out women. How their virginity is bought with a lifelong commitment. This idea is twisted and no wonder women struggle with their sexuality in conservative circles (while loudly denying any problems). A women is given no control over this; the man gets to decide when to initiate the relationship and then “pay” for her virginity with a long term commitment. As if that was the only reason to marry or stay committed?
“A woman knew that she possessed a priceless treasure, her virginity. She guarded it jealously for the man who would pay a price for it – commitment to marriage with her and with her alone.” p18
Casual homophobia yet again. Mixed in with some sexist stereo types of “the world” as she rants about the changes in culture.
“Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that we can forget all the regulations and get away with it…….Women can be predators if they want to, as well as men. Men aren’t men unless they’ve proved it by seducing as many women as possible-or as many men, for we may now choose according to ‘sexual preference.’ We can go to bed with those of the opposite sex or those of our own. It doesn’t matter. A mere question of taste, and we all have a ‘right’ to our tastes. Everybody’s equal.” p18
She also is quick to dismiss any non-virgins from her marriage plans. As are most conservative Christians unfortunately. Or even bring up the idea that some do not have their first sexual encounter willingly (rape or sexual abuse).
“I knew the kind of man I wanted. He would have to be a man who prized virginity – his own as well as mine – as much as I did.” p19
The same idea continues. But she tries to argue that there is no happiness to be found in a “permissive” lifestyle. I feel it’s a very poor argument, and all this actually does is increase shame when a person “messes up.” She assumes the need for purity culture and then completely dismisses the current cultural attitude towards sex.
“In forfeiting the sanctity of sex by casual, nondiscriminatory ‘making out’ and ‘sleeping around,’ we forfeit something we cannot well do without. There is dullness, monotony, sheer boredom in all of life when virginity and purity are no longer protected and prized. By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.” p19
I know my editing and grammar is lacking, but the author’s use of commas is appalling. Sorry forgive the rant back to the book.
This mentality is particularly confusing to me. That g-d will take care of your love life. Any desire you may have before you meet your chosen partner is to be suppressed. So in a sense you have no idea how long you should suppress your desires for a spouse and therefor for sex. What signal is g-d giving to these people that this is the “chosen one?”
“‘I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake love until it please.’ He interpreted this to mean that no one, man or woman, should be agitated about the choice of a mate, but should be ‘asleep’ as it were, in the will of God, until it should please Him to ‘awake’ him. p20
When I read the following quote all I can hear is that “g-d own’s me.” God made me and sacrificed his son for me (to himself….yes it’s ridiculous) and now he claims full ownership of my body. I don’t get to choose what to do with my body. G-d does. Anything you do with or to your body either brings g-d glory or shame. This attitude takes all free will away from a person.
And the bit at the end of the quote “moment’s hot desire.” Ugg, it gets under my skin. The idea is that every time you have a thought of sex or “lustful” thoughts you will be able to rid yourself of them by thinking of g-d’s sacrifice and love.
“Have you forgotten that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and is God’s gift to you, and that you are not the owner of your own body? You have been bought, and at a price. The sense of destiny: Someone has paid for me with blood. How the knowledge lifts my sights beyond the moment’s hot desire!” p22
My parting thoughts on Preface – Chapter 2
Yeah, there is a lot there to unpack; but I am starting to get a pretty clear idea of the ideas taught by the book. God owns your body or at least claims ownership of it. Sex before marriage is completely wrong. And virginity is sacred above all other factors when considering a spouse. Oh and don’t even try to step beyond these limitations because you won’t find happiness there.
There is also a general distrust of the way “the world” develops and handles relationships. This is often handled in a very dismissive tone. Honestly, she never seems to actually answer or confront any of the “worldly” behavior she so loudly condemns.
I know I’m generalizing and grouping ideas together. But my purpose of this readthrough is to help me get an general idea of what I was taught in regards to purity culture. And this has been quite eye opening for me so far.
2 thoughts on ““Passion and Purity” part 1”
Oh man. That last quote. You can think of someone who was brutally tortured whenever you have lustful thoughts. Because that won’t backfire when you’re finally “allowed” to have sex. That’s a sure way to make sex unappealing, unappetizing, and honestly, revolting! Being that this is her advice, I’d find it hard to believe that she has a healthy and satisfying sex life.
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Yeah, I totally agree. Telling someone to turn off their sexual desires and thoughts. And to associate them with negative mental imagery with those very same thoughts is bound to cause issues. It’s not like those learned behaviors will just disappear when you are married and now suppose to be enjoying them.