A young woman raised as a conservative Evangelical Christian reflects on her community's sexual shaming and the psychological scars that it left.
By any normal standards, Klein's first relationship was about as good as it gets; her high school boyfriend was smart, good-looking, and respectful, and he made her knees buckle. But the author wasn't raised with normal standards. In her community, governed by a strict Evangelical church, not only was sex forbidden, but the onus was on women to enforce that nearly impossible rule. While men were forgiven for impure thoughts and actions, girls and women were blamed for "eliciting men's lust." After Klein and her boyfriend kissed, she panicked, worried that she had committed an unpardonable sin. Citing a message from God, she ended the relationship. Though she eventually distanced herself from the church, the community's view on women and sex left an indelible mark. (At hyperliberal Sarah Lawrence College, she was probably the only virgin on birth control to ask for a pregnancy test, just in case.) Klein examines the damage through an admirably candid look at her own personal life as well as extensive interviews with women (and one trans man) who were raised in similar circumstances. In between anecdotes, the author quotes a variety of sources, from feminist Jessica Valenti to the magazine Christianity Today. In a particularly mind-boggling passage, the author writes that some purity advocates suggest that women set aside "date nights" for Jesus. Klein's personal story is fascinating, but it is the larger context that makes the book important. Politics, religion, and gender are more inextricably linked than ever before; Vice President Mike Pence, for example, is part of the purity movement and doesn't allow himself to be alone with any woman other than his wife, to avoid temptation. In the context of this book, that fact becomes all the more harrowing.
Timely and relevant, particularly in the age of Trump and #MeToo.