In the 1990s, evangelical teen girls were given a very confusing message: If you’re a virgin when you get married, you will have a much better sex life. Female chastity had always been an oppressive trope of Christianity, but in late 20th century America, a cottage industry of books, conventions, “purity rings” and creepy father-daughter dances emerged, celebrating the virtues of female abstinence—and the danger of female sexuality.
Known today as “purity culture,” it was a meticulously designed system of rules and mind-games aimed at curbing adolescent Christian libidos. One of the most popular books of this phenomenon, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, has since been acknowledged by its author, Joshua Harris, as contributing to a great deal of psychological trauma in its generation of readers.
When Linda Kay Klein was a teenager growing up in the midwest in the mid 90s, she was completely saturated in purity culture, where the simplest thought, sensation, or G-rated touch with a boy was not only destructive to her self-worth, but a threat to his.