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CATHOLIC ABSTINENCE EDUCATION PARTICIPANTS BY HANNAH BROWN A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Gender Studies Under the sponsorship of Laura Hirshfield Sarasota, Florida May 2013
ii Dedication: To anyone grappling with their desires, their bo dy, God, or what it means to be a good person.
iii Acknowledgements Thank you to my whole family for all of your love and support, especially my mom, Elise Kaplan, matters is loving to learn. Thank you to Professor Laura Hirshfield for working so closely with me since this was just a little content analysis ISP until it grew up into a whole thesis! And thanks for letting me show up in your office unannounced to have a thesis m eltdown or talk about how awesome my thesis is going to be, depending on the day. Thank you to my whole bacc committee: Professor Emily Fairchild, Professor Sarah Hernandez who, as my adviser, has been a constant support for all four years here, and Profes sor Heather turned into a thesis! grad payoff (you are worth the wait). And thank you to all the fourth years and honorary fourth years who have been in it with me since the beginning Tim Richardson, Will Kocsis, and Elliott Countess (your stirfries have kept my vitality up 10 00% for the long days of thesising); Lauren Bernier (you swooped in and helped me out so many times Michele Kostamo, Erin Jayes, Mallory Fenn, Kelly Dwyer, Liz Hampton, Ian Puttick, Nicole Noujaim and all of the soc bros who made me laugh whenever I was overwhelmed with thesis stress (including but not limited to Jake Paiva, Jasmine Brenton, Mia New e l l, Mar Etxebarria, and Lauren Brenzel).
iv Table of Contents: De Ackn Ab Introd Classical Theory on Effectiveness of Abstinence Differences betw An Inve
v AND CATHOLIC ABSTINENCE EDUCATION PARTICIPANTS Hannah Brown New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT of the messaging present in Catholic and Evangelical abstinence education programs. Preexisting literature focuses on gendered notions of sexual morality in the context of patriarchy and the effectiveness of abstinence education in terms of when and how participants have sex. This study investigates how gen dered notions of sexual morality are nuanced by the role of religion and individual interpretation, focusing on meaning making rather than sexual activity. Through qualitative analysis of 14 interviews with young adults who formerly were participants in Ch ristian abstinence education, this study identifies four major overlapping frameworks of 2. purity as emotional work ; 3. purity as a renewable state of freedom from sin; and 4 purity as a presentational accomplishment. The study concludes by suggesting that researchers focus more on lived experiences and ideology among Christian abstinence education participants and that sex education programs of all types s pend more time unpacking various gendered frameworks of sexual morality. Laura Hirshfield Sociology
1 Introduction Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ~Corinthians 6:18 22 ntil after ESTHER SMITH: Personally, I think I have too much bloom. ~Meet Me In St. Louis (film, 1944) The summer after my first year of college I read The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti (2009) and am ended my understanding of what sex and, by extension, virginity is I spent my spare time that summer perusing feminist blogs, fascinated by the problems I encountered I wondered, a queer person, and does there have to be a universal definition? Why are promiscuous men favored with social rewards, but promiscuous women subject to shaming? For the rest of my time in college I continued to explore these questions of what sexual morality and purity me ant in the context of Christianity, and how these spiritual ideas interacted with mainstream, secular discourses surrounding ge nder, sexuality, and virginity. Sociologists and feminist scholars have engaged with similar inquiries over the past three decade s, as abstinence only education both in schools and in churches became an increasingly hot button. The recent political discourse surrounding abstinence only began in 1981, when President Reagan passed the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) 1 which nation ally funded a series of abstinence education programs Federal initiatives for abstinence only 1 Challenged by the supreme court for funding Catholic programs, AFLA nevertheless remained in place until the Obama administration.
2 education continued to gain momentum particularly during both the first and second Bush administrations, funding both public schools and small, faith affiliated non profits 2 The number of states opting into abstinence only education dramatically decreased from 50 to 25 between 1996 and 2009, largely in response to five year evaluations published in 2002 finding these programs unsuccessful in pr eventing sex among participants (Hauser, Advocates for Youth). Coinciding with these federal initiatives was the increasing visibility of Christian abstinence only education programs such as True Love Waits, an international organization which professes on its official webs ite to have inspired over 2.4 million young people to sign abstinence pledges since 1993 3 Partnering with Evangelical churches and organizing massive regional conferences and rallies, True Love Waits has certainly influenced the live s of millions of youth How the influence of True Love Waits and similar programs has taken shape, however, has been subject to scrutiny and criticism by soc iologists and feminist scholars (Bearman et al 2001, Fahs 2010, Gardner 2011 Medical News Today 2005). Abstinence only e ducation in whatever form it takes such as church activity or the po licy of a public school -has largely been found to be ineffective in preventing premarital sex or the negative consequences thereof (e.g. teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.) (Bearman & Bruckner 2001, Clark et al 2007, Dailard 2001, Kaiser 2005 Me dical News Today 2005, Rose 2005 ), leading social scientists and much 2 Title V, a provision of the 1996 Social Security Act, offers federal funds to schools in states which institute absti nence only education. Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE), instituted in 2000, offers federal funds to faith based non profits which implement abstinence only education. 3 http://www.lifeway.com/ArticleView?storeId=10054&catalogId=10001&langId= 1&a rticle=true love waits
3 of the publ ic discourse to criticize its effectiveness. Feminist scholars, meanwhile, criticize abstinence only education on a more ideological level, arguing that values of virginity and purity are specifically gendered such that participants learn that sex renders women more so than men, dirty or impure (Fahs 2010, Freitag 2011, Tolman 2002, Valenti 2009). I ndeed, ethnographic evidence has consistently found that in Christian specific abstinence only education contexts, traditional gender roles tend to be enforced both in messaging and group enforced social scripts ( Armitage et al 2006, Miceli 2005, Rose 1998 Wulf 1984). While pre existing literature has exposed gendered messaging in Christian abstinence only education programs, little has examined how participants themselves interpret this messaging. Through qualitative analysis of unstructured interviews with young adults who have participated in these programs, this study investigates how participants perceive the values Christian abstinence only education teaches, which of these values they take on as their own, and why. Specifically, I will examine mean ings also focus on how these meanings of purity are gendered and how they differ between participants in Catholic and Evangelical abstinence only programs.
4 Literature Review Since 19 97, the U.S. government has poured over $1.5 billion into abstinence only sex education ( Gardner 2011 pg. 1 ) In conjunction with federal or state sanctioned programs, hundreds of faith based youth programs across the country have encouraged abstinence un til marriage for y oung people (Valenti 2009 pg. 10 ) Yet, s ociological research on abstinence sexu al behavior and its messaging. Moreover, t here is a distinct lack of ethnographic research on sex education in Catholic schools, and ethnographic research on Evangelical youth group dynamics focuses more on gender than on the role of religion in shaping ideas about sex. Whereas the Catholic church has been more widely criticized for being out of t ouch and old fashioned in recent years 4 Evangelical abstinence only programs such as True Love Waits have grown over the past decade. Major proponents of abstinence only or abstinence until marriage education support a positive lifestyle choice ty (Gardner 2011). Overall, t his study will address what purity means in the eyes of participants in religious abstinence only education: how they perceive its meaning in the context of institutional messaging, and what meanings they develop if/when they in corporate the idea of sexual purity into their own belief systems. This particular chapter will provide theoretical and sociological context as well as interrogate how much the pre existing literature accounts for the role of religion in shaping and nuanci ng gender nor ms. First, I address the origins of the concept of chastity and virginity in economic social theory, 4 Goodstein & Thee Brenan, The New York Times March 2013 ( http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/us/poll shows disconnect between us catholics and church.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 )
5 focusing particularly on Engels and Weber to argue that classical social theory defines virginity as an economic construction resulting from the economic instituti on of marriage. I then move on to feminist critiques of chastity and the sexual double standard which further gender these social constructions. I then discuss more modern sociological research on abstinence only education. Fina lly, I discuss differences between organizational structure and messaging in Catholic and Evangelical abstinence only education. Classical Theory on the Chastity Imperative Early sociological theories of capitalism propose an economic source of the concep t of chastity. In The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Engels theorizes that the chastity imperative rose out of the development of marriage as an economic institution. With the advent of the concept of private property, Engels (1884) ensure that property inheritance would go to legitimate biological offspring, celibacy was absence. prostitution and moral decay among t he bourgeoisie. The proletariat free from owning the means of production, were more likely to have true monogamous marria ges based on sex love; and Engels argues that with the advent of true communism and abolition of private property, true monogamy based on sex love would follow. The sexual double economic institution bo
6 for this property transfer then there exists a hierarchy of women based on their relative women) are most worthy of protection from sexual violence, or even capable of being victims of sexual vi olence A ccording to this logic, sexual violence is not so much a meanwhile, are less socially and economically valued, and viewed more as receptacles to protect socially valued (thus usually upper sexually experienced women are not considered capable of being victims of sexual violence (Abbott 2 000, Crawford et al 2003, Valenti 2009). into the sexual double Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalis m, however, discusses the role of religion in reinforcing industrial capitalism (1905) He argues that Protestant religious asceticism translates neatly into an ethos compatible with capitalism by valuing hard work, accumulation (but not expenditure) of ca pital, and abstinence from pleasure. In The Body and Society, Bryan Turner expands on this idea and applies it to the body and eroticism, arguing that the valuation of a disciplined body, hard work, and lack of pleasure lead to a taboo on eroticism inheren t in this ethos (1984) Yet, i the economic objective transitioned from fulfilling physical needs to creating desires and then fulfilling
7 them (Baudrillard 1970, Turner 1984). This led to wha to fuel consumerism (2005) In a form of c onsumerism where sexual themes are integral and widespread, eroticism loses its counter cult ural mea ning. To adjust to this the Evangelical abstinence until marriage movement frames itself not in terms of bodily discipline, but in terms of positive identity (Gardner 2011, Wilkins 2008 ). sing from marriage as an economic institution, Weber adds to this idea by framing chastity not only as enforced onto female bodies, but a function of the Protestant ethos of self discipline. Much later, theorists such as Baudrillard, Turner, and Levy discu ss the transition from industrial capitalism to consumerist capitalism, leading to the necessity for the abstinence only movement to shift frames from bodily discipline to positive identity formation and group membership. These theories make the important contribution of explaining how notions of sexual morality and purity formed through interaction with capitalism. However, they lack a strong focus on gender. Contributions of Feminist Scholarship: Feminist critiques of the chastity imperative provide an a nalysis with a greater emphasis on gender than economics. Starting from the present day rather than the birth of industrial capitalism, feminist theorists seek to deconstruct gendered notions of sexuality and virginity. Their contributions resist the tende ncy of non feminist social theory to they demand a women focused analysis, asserting that the sexual double standard and
8 ity are important enough topics to merit their own in depth scholarship. However, feminist scholarship erases the role of religious theology and individual agency in shaping the discourse of abstinence and allowing for more flexibility in individual interp retation of the ideology religious abstinence only organizations promote. Feminist scholarship sets out to debunk the idea of virginity as a physical reality in order to cast light on the reality that virginity is a social construction. For penis owners 5 first intercourse leaves no physical mark, and for vagina owners, the physical distinction that may exist is highly variable. A broken hymen is most often invoked as the telltale signal of a non bloody sheets hung outside a bed chamber after a wedding night), however, not all people born with vaginas are also born with hymens. Even among those who do, regular physical activity outside of first intercourse has been known to break a hymen ( Castlema n 2011 ) Furthermore, the notion that virginity loss occurs only through first heterosexual penetrative intercourse invalidates queer sexual identities and sex acts by capa ble of causing virginity loss. When 2007 201 1 pg. 58). constructed. 5 here as a conscious choice because, in my experience, they are the most often preferred terms in the trans* community; and in my opinion they serve best to denaturalize the sex binary and avoid excluding intersex individuals.
9 Sociological research furthers this assertion of instability in meanings of virginity loss. Survey research into which sex acts constitute virginity lo ss has revealed inconsistency. For example, t here is no social consensus as to whether cases of rape or incest constitute virginity loss, whether oral sex constitutes vi rginity loss, and whether non penetrative sex between queer partners constitutes virginity loss (Carpenter 2001) Some may define virginity loss by explicit sex acts performed while others may define it by how much pleasure was derived from a sexual experi ence (Carpenter 2001). This instability in meanings of sex and virginity loss reveals not only biological but also socially inscribed fluidity in definitions of virginity. Feminist scholars rightfully point to this instability in physical meanings of virgi nity and virginity loss as evidence of its oppressive nature. Jessica Valenti contends that: -the idea that such a thing even exists -is ensuring that young their 2009 pg. 9). to with the power to render them moral or imm oral. Indeed, the social construction of virginity is and has long been strongly gendered as female. I discussed earlier how the economic origins of the chastity imperative were such that specifically women -as wives and mothers -would be viable carriers f or exclusively their instability and genderedness. For example, i n a n informal content analysis I conducted of the definitions who has never had sexual
10 definitions supplied, none were gendered as male, four were gender neutral, and four were female animal that has never copulated (dictionary.com). The notion of virginity, then, is fluid but more likely to be gendered as female, and feminist scholars situate this point as central to the sexual double standard. Feminist scholars apply this analysis of a female gendered, pa triarchal meaning of virginity to religious abstinence organizations, which are read as promoting are not su Taken in the context of virginity as a patriarchal, agency denying social construction rooted in the treatment of women as property, this interpretation of a virginity centered movement makes sense. Through this same len 2010 pg. 117) which fetishizes sexual inexperience. 20 0 0 pg. 81 ) is rightfully identified as an aspect of mainstream media. Some of the most infamous sex symbols of pop culture in recent years have been self professed virgins, fro m Britney Spears to Miley Cyrus ( Levy 2005, Valenti 2010). Feminist interpretation of abstinence only educational messaging critiques the idea of sexuality as polluted, and damaged w 2010 pg. 134 135). The instability of what constitutes sex and in turn what constitutes purity situates the unattainable ideal of a
11 unattainable ideal of p urity justifies sexual violence against women who do not reach the Several aspect s of the argument put forth by feminist scholars are complicated, however, when the role of religion is brought into the equation. Wh ile deconstructing the idea of virginity as a static category is productive, it assumes that Christian abstinence narrative is a favorite of A fundam ental tenet in the movement is that (Gardner 2011). In addition to its renewable quality, purity is characterized by more than simply sexual abstinence. Rather, it is a f luid identity marker that is constantly maintained and reinforced by group membership (Gardner 2011). The feminist critique of an impossibly high standard of purity that serves to justify violence is further complicated by the role of Christian theology. F eminist set up for failure by a societal standard impossible for them to 2011 pg. 65). However, the idea that purity sexual or otherwise, is only achievable through a relationship with God recurs frequently in Christian theology. For example, the notion of original sin dictates that disobedience in the garden of Eden, all humans are born fundamentally impure and it is only through the salvation of God that they are able to restore their goodness ( Romans 5: 12 21, Corinthians 15:22 ). 6 6 This belief in a state of inheren t sinfulness certainly carries over in consideration of sex education. In a document released by the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome called Educational Guidance in Human Love, totality of
12 There is variation in terms of the relative levels of genderedness in Christian abstinence only organizational message. (Armitage et al 2006, Miceli 2005, Rose 1998 ). However, True Love Waits arguably the most well known and influential Christian abstinence only organization ( Gardner 2011 ), targets both boys and girls. While present, its gendering is not explicit ( lifeway.com ). Thus, while gendered messages do exist in religious abstinence only organizations, they are also made more flexible for individual interpretation of participants by the role of rel igion in shaping the ideology and discourse of purity. Without including the role of religion in shaping this ideology, we cannot attain a fully nuanced picture of how the ideology values, and worldview. Effecti veness of Abstinence Only Education: Quantitative research also fails to take into account the role of religious ideology in abstine nce only education. Instead, quant itative research measures abstinence only by how effectively it preven ts sexual intercourse or the potential negative consequences thereof (e.g. unwed pregnancy, STIs, etc.). According to that measurement, its effectiveness is inconclusive: while some forms of abstinence until marriage education substantiall y delay first int ercourse, these have been found to result in activities which do not align themselves with organizational goals (Bearman & Bruckner 2001, Clark et al 2007, Dailard 2001, Medical News Today 2005) Ultimately, it is necessary to problematize how social scien tists conceptualize success for sex education, Catholic Education, 1983).
13 particularly sex education aimed at a Christian demographic, in order to better reflect the mindset and goals of involved youth. Sociological research has established that abstinence only education does not de of contraceptive use and increases the likelihood of youth engaging in oral or anal premarital sex (Bearman et al 2001, Kaiser 2002). It has also been found that absti nence only education tends to include medically inaccurate or misleading information about emphasizing the non effectiveness of condoms and other contraceptives (Rose 2005). In contrast to abstinence only sex education, some research on abstinence pledges (more often connected to extra curricular, explicitly religious initiatives) has found that pledges substantially delay premarital sex -by an average of eighteen months (Bearman et al 2001). These results are telling. For example, the fact that abstinence only education leads to lower use of contraceptives seems to indicate either that legislatively dictated at spontaneous sex seems more forgivable to abstinence educated youth than premeditated sex. youth that does not ring true for many Evangelical youth, who view abstin ence as an ongoing, restorable process (Gardner 2011). A more holistic approach toward measuring success might take into account how the youth measure and frame their success, happiness, and goals.
14 Differences between Catholic and Evangelical Denomin ations Both Catholic and Evangelical institutions historically have been and remain politically engaged in regard to sex education ( Campbell 2004, Dagdigian 2008, Donovan 1984, Hopson et al 1999, Marshall 1985, Miceli 2005, Moen 1994, Rose 2005 ). However, Catholicism and Evangelicalism differ in their organizational structure. There is no central power structure to Evangeli calism, but a series of loosely organized political organizations and local churches promoting the same political causes and religious doctrine (Smith 1990 ). However, the international Evangelical abstinence only education monolith True Love Waits (which the majority of Evangelical respondents in this study were a part of) has a more cohesive structure, with organizationally produced, san ctioned, and distributed curricula they provide to participating churches for smaller local youth groups as well as larger regional rallies and conferences ( Gardner 2011 ). True Love Waits events have the feel of orchestrating a subculture, with a focus on entertainment and media, teambuilding and bonding exercises, and critiquing mainstream secular culture (Gardner 2011). Catholicism has a much more rigid, cohesive, and hierarchical structure ( Vatican.va ). The Church has a clear cut stance and specific gui delines for how sex education should be conducted in Catholic schools (which all of the Catholic respondents in this study attended). Documents released by the Vatican emphasize chastity, modesty, sensitivity to sex differences, and collaboration with the family in sex education (Pope Paul VI, 1965, Congregation for Catholic Education 1983). The Vatican requires Catholic high schools to separate boys and girls for discussion of sexuality, teach that sex should be specifically relegated to the marriage rela tionship, and modesty (or covering
15 the body) is necessary in order to facilitate preparedness for marriage (Congregation for Catholic Education 1983). These guidelines make it reasonable to assume that sex education in Catholic schools conform to a top dow n authority structure, although unfortunately there is no sociological or ethnographic research on sex education in Catholic high schools. Conversely, t here is an abundance of ethnographic research on Evangelical abstinence only education and youth group s. These studies show that o rganizations such as True Love Waits They are highly gendered spaces wh ere boys and girls are often segregated for discussions and workshops and, during mixed gender activities, boys tend to dominate discussion and occupy leadership roles (Armitage et al 2006, Gardner 2011, Wulf 1984). They portray male and female sexualities as essentially different, with men as bodily tempted pursuers of sex and women as emotional and passive (Armitage et al 2006, Burns et al 2004, Fahs 2010, Rose 1998, Wulf 1984, Valenti 2009). While co opting elements of mainstream media such as rap, pop, and rock music, comedy skits, or slam poetry (Arm itage et al 2006, Gardner 20 1 1), these organizations also make criticism of the mainstream secular world a focal point of their programs, positioning participants as e more fulfilled and happy than the secular Armitage et al 2006, Gardner 2011, Wilkins 2008). group vs. out Evangelical abstinence only education in the context of this study. Church youth groups and True Love Waits events are extra curricular, opt in activities with which participants
16 interact in their free time while generally occupying secular spaces for the purpose of school. Catholic schools are a more omnipresent force, co nstituting how students spend Considering that abstinence pledges are more successful when the number of participants is limited enough to form a subculture which defines itself in opposition to the norm (Bearman et al 2001), this puts Evangelical groups at a distinct advantage in successfully instilling the value of abstinence until marriage. To further investigate Christian abstinence only education and the role of rel igion in shaping sexuality, I examined been told about sex, gender, and purity. Previous research has contributed to understanding the role of capitalism and gender roles in shaping purity ideology and th e construction of chastity, as well as the effects of abstinence on ly education on sexual behavior and gender dynamics within Christian spaces. Yet, understanding of the role of Christianity in forming meanings of sexual morality within the context of Chri stian abstinence only education is missing. Thus, in this project, I ask how participants themselves perceive and interpret Christian abstinence only messages and how these programs have shaped their views on sexuality and morality. I will focus on gendere d messages and how this process of perception, interpretation, and value formation differs between Catholics and Evangelicals.
17 Methods This study examines participant interpretation of messaging in Catholic and Evangelical abstinence only programs/educa tion through unstructured interviews with young adults (ages 20 26). Respondents had all been exposed to Catholic or Evangelical abstinence only programs and were recruited through snowball sampling techniques. Interviews were conducted in person, over the phone, or via instant messaging, and were analyzed using qualitative techniques. During interviews, respondents discussed their perception of the values their abstinence only programs sought to promote, whether they agreed with these values, and why. Not all respondents still identify as Evangelical or Catholic, but for the purpose of this study, I will refer to respondents as Evangelical or Catholic in order to identify which denomination their abstinence only education prescribed to. Data Collection/Sam ple Demographics I hoped to speak with young adults in order to get input from people who had some distance and time between their participation in abstinence only education, but for whom it was not too distant of a memory. Given my goal of recruiting youn g adults, I began the process of finding respondents through personal networking via email and posting on the social media websites facebook and reddit. Postings asked for anyone who was over 18 years old and had participated in Christian abstinence until marriage education. One interview was obtained through reddit and two through facebook, but the majority of respondents were referred by other respondents. Participants connect ed me
18 with potential participants by either passing my email address along to ot hers or getting potential permission I also received some negative responses to my online postings: forum responses to public online postings: sometimes these flames were from Christians who assumed their values would be subject to harsh judgment by the study, but mostly flaming came from atheists who took a string anti religion stance. I ended with a sample of 14 participants: 8 Evangelical and 6 Catholic. Of the 8 Evangelical respondents, 4 are men and 4 are women. Of the 6 Catholic respondents, 3 are men, 2 are women, and 1 is genderqueer. The majority of the participant s grew up in Florida, but it is a national sample (the furthest point west a participant hailed from is Tex as and the furthest north is Michigan). All the respondents are white, which likely relates to both regional idiosyncrasies and that fact that the sample was collected through referrals. Only two are queer, which does n ot allow for investigation specifical ly into how queer people interpret abstinence until marriage messaging Respondents are quite varied in terms of their attitudes toward the abstinence until marriage education in which they participated (i.e. positive, negative, or neutral feelings toward it). They range in age from 20 to 26, with the majority clustering around the ages of 21 and 22. Although the original intent was to obtain a sample of anyone over the age of 18, the sample clusters around this college age due to snowball and network sampl ing. This allowed however, for a closer look at how adults in this age group, who participated in abstinence until marriage education approximately 4 to 10 years ag o, interpret their experience. Finally, t he majority still identify as Christian.
19 Intervi ews/Analytic Strategy From the outset of the interviews I was explicit with participants that the aim of the interview was to get a feel for their interpretation of the messaging in whatever Christian abstinence until marriage p rogram they were a part of. These were unstructured interviews, so I asked the same basic set of questions to everyone but would often ask participants to elaborate on certain experiences and ask clarifying questions. The set of questions I asked all respondents is as follows: Please summarize your experience with abstinence until marriage education. What is something that sticks out to you as being very convincing/persuasive at the time? Something you were skeptical of? Something that just struck you? Did they separate the boys and g irls? Why or why not? Did the concept of purity come up? In what context? What did it mean? Was purity different for boys and girls? Or the process of it? Why or why not? Did you take a pledge? How did you feel about it? What was a lesson or message that strongly resonated with you? Did you ever have to explain purity/abstinence in the secular sphere (e.g. public school, etc.)? What was the reception like? How did you feel about it? Is there anything else you want to add? The completed interviews were docu mented through word for word transcriptions except the 3 first ones for which, due to technical difficulties, I relied on detailed notes. I conducted the majority of interviews over the phone, except for two which occurred over instant messaging and thre e in person interviews. Although these methods differ, they all occur in real time, which was my highest priority during data collection
20 (along with actually recruiting respondents). Since respondents are all young adults, they are accustomed to having con versations over instant message. I used qualitative analytic coding without the use of software coding for the abstinence (e.g. invoking potential rewards or potential punish bodies, scripture, communicating with secular world, a nd future spouse. These themes by line exploratory analysis. I used this technique for four interviews -a Catholic man, a Catholic woman, an Evangelical man, and an Evangelical wom an before finalizing my list of targeted this specific set of themes. Positionality interests have any particular religious affiliation. Occasionally I meditate, attend religious services, or read about religion, but if pressed I identify as an atheist. While I recognize that this religious background renders me an outsider in Christian communities, I do not see myself as having anti Christian bias. Where I am wary of anti secular hate, I am equall y wary of anti religious hate. However, as someone who has never been a part of a
21 Christian community, much less grown up in a Christian environment, I recognize this as a bias and have done my best not to erase the religious aspect of this narrative. The Purit y Myth (2009) the summer after my first year of college. I became fascinated not only with the fixation on a gendered conception of purity in popular culture and institutions, but also in the fluidity of definitions of virginity, and purity and chastity mo re broadly. As someone with a strong association with queer communities, I am interested in fluidity in the socially legitimate sex act, so the concept of purity grabbed my interest as a similar fluidity of sexuality in a different light. As a self identified feminist, I am critical of both slut shaming and prude shaming I am cognizant of the fac t that each of these stigmas is more prevalent in different gendered and patriarchal spaces. Limitations & Future Research Because this is a small, referral sample these results are not generalizable. It should rather be taken as an exploratory study of themes that emerge in regard to meanings of purity and sex. The sample is entirely white, wh ich is a huge limitation in that there are very likely to be racial dynamics at play in regard to purity within for example, largely h ispanic Catholic communities or largely Black Baptist communities. Future research would do well to specifically engage w ith ideas of purity among women of color, whose sexuality is further stigmatized in main stream U.S. media and culture. Indeed, d ue to the cultural standard of whiteness as a default, my participants did not
22 bring up racialized notions of purity despite the strong likelihood that they exist with religious education (due to the fact that they surely exist within the wider social imagination). Additionally, w hile queer identified respondents are present in this sample, they are not well represented enough to d raw any particular patterns about queerness and purity. This is an important picture to gain in future research as queerness is an essential piece of the formation of sexuality and gender. There is also a lack of geographic continuity in the sample which may account for differences in the curricula and community reception participants from different area s reported Finally, there is a lack of continuity in this sample in regard to current disposition toward Christianity and abstinence ranging from agreeme nt to ambivalence to outright anger. H owever, it is significant to note that despite this lack of continuity, the sample was based on referrals, thus, despite differences in values, these respondents are still on good terms with one another.
23 Analysis P re existing literature about abstinence only education is largely limited to gendered dynamics within abstinence only spaces and the sexual activity of participants. Feminist and classical theory about the constructions of purity and virginity, meanwhile, make valuable contributions but miss the role of religion in forming these ideas. To gain insight into how religion plays a role in forming the meaning of purity, this analysis focuses on four distinct frameworks of defining and understanding the concept o f purity. Each of these frameworks is gendered and differs between the two denominations present in the sample. Before discussing frameworks of purity, however, I provide an overview of differences between participant reception in each denomination and the major meaning of sex which emerged from interviews. Framing, Reception, and Denomination: Tact ics of fear vs. tactics of love Catholic respondents, on the whole, not report less engagement with abstinence until marriage message s but also report dramati cally more skept icism among their peers than the Evangelicals. For example, in reference to the ideology of purity, Jacob 7 a 21 year old Catholic man says In c ontrast, a ny skepticism Evangelicals bring up to the ideology of purity is largely after the fact, and never among their religious peers. This is consistent with previous findings which report a higher rate of success of abstinence pledges when there is a substantial enough group of participants to constitute an in group, 7 ymity.
24 but a small enough in group to allow members to define themselves in opposition to the mainstream (Bearman et al 2001). Catholic respondents, with one exception, attended Catholic parochia l school between kindergarten and twelfth grade. All of their school peers were exposed to the same abstinence until marriage message, not allowing for an in group to define itself against the mainstr eam. Evangelical participants, meanwhile, discuss their experiences of extracurricu lar youth groups. They all speak to the challenges of mediating between their religious abstinence only community and the secul ar social sphere; and many speak to a sense of pride in their difference. N o Catholic respondents disc uss a sense of pride in their difference in regard to choosing abstinence. Catholic respondents critique a top down messaging structure that they feel was old fashione d and unrealistic. They refer contrast to realistic expectations. For example, Alex a genderqueer Catholic respondent, says : would always express their opinions, or I guess, the Catholic op think they we re really allowed to stray from that. Although certainly from the which was really ambiva 21, Catholic. Here Alex refers to a top Likewise, Jonathan a Catholic man, describes his perception of abstinence only messaging at the time as out of touch and overly simplistic : age seemed
25 Catholic man, 20. Catholic respondents, then, are skeptical of a perceived top down author In contrast Evangelical respondents tend toward high engagement with the ideology of abstinence until marriage, at least while it was being taught if not always after th e fact. This can be partially explained by their being participants in abstinence as an extracurricular activity, allowing them to situate themselves in a subculture defined in opposition to the secular mainstream (Bearman et al 2001 Wilkins 2008 ). Respon dents speak to this experience of mediating between their religious in group and the secular mainstream often, especially in regard to the True Love Waits ring 8 which seems to serve a function of publicly declaring group membership: True Love Waits ring and it stands for purity about it, but then also that doubled as a reminder to myself to say, hey, I am trying ~ Michael 22. In this description, Michael de fines himself in contrast to a mainstream version of explains how articulating that publicly helped messaging tends to frame abstinence as a more positive identity choice than a top down stance of an authoritative institution (Gardner 2011 ). This 8 True Love Waits left ring finger, to be replaced
26 positive motivation comes when they discuss the difference between secular abstinence only edu cation and True Love Waits : True Love Waits we were also told that our abstinence was...because that was what He desired for us whereas with the secular program it was all about o it more of a love tactic and this is for your best interest, this is for your future marriage and your future, you 22 Vanessa articulates here the positive mot ivation for abstinence which is absent from cular abstinence only classes. For her, a bstinence is a choice that has your future s related to a personal relationship with God To summarize, Catholic respondents reporting their experiences with parochial school view abstinence ideology as the out of date ideas of an external authority. In contrast, Evangelical respondents view it as a positive aspect of their identity and future. This differen ce results from two fa ctors: where for Catholics the ideology of purity is omnipresent, it is only present in a subcultural social group for Evangelicals, and where for Catholics the ideology of purity is framed as rules from a top down authority structure it is framed as a positive lifestyle choice for Evangelicals. This ure on a particular religious meaning of sex which transcends its definition as a physical act.
27 Meanings of Sex : Sex is an act of worship ( Michael E vangelical man, 22 ) Respondents report that within the context of Christian abstinence only education, sex is not merely a physical act, but a gift from God specifically intended for the marriage relationship. Although this framework i s more readily embr aced by Evangelical s Evangelical a nd Catholic respondents alike gi ve accounts of sex being framed as an act divinely designed for marriage better than any other sexual act possible outside of marriage: ~ Daniel 22, Evangelical man ~ Michael 22 Evangelical man me and we were going to have very special, mind blowing sex on our wedding Robin 21, Evangelical woman Sex, then, is seen as planned and designed by God concurrently w ith the marriage relationship. Further, these respondents describe sex drives as for the same express purpose. As a result, forms of sex which deviate from the marriage context and de Jonathan, 21, Catholic). Nathan explains, just sharing yourself with the other person, you were sharing yourself with God, Nathan 21, Catholic man
28 Here Nathan articu lates the model of sex as God Thus, if sex is an act specifically designed for marriage, and it is a spi ritual act, then forms of sex outside this model are seen as a misuse of the act and the biological drives associated with it. ( Daniel ) but a particular set of criteria that give w ay to a spiritual definition, other forms of sexual expression outside of this context are a misuse of the sex drive designed for the marriage relationship even without a partner. There was a biological dimension, then, to the classification of sex as God designed: an activity meant to help bond two people together and hold them there long enough to raise a child. I think disrespecting that bond wreaks emotional havoc on (Evangelical woman, 26) Not only is the act of sex designed by God, then, but the biological drives behind it are part of that same design. Misuse of these biological drives is seen as a breach of purity e. For example, Daniel (Evangelical man, 22) asserts that during his time in True Love Waits he thing compared to when you have sex on your wedding night with your heavenly more acts than constitute valid idealized sex according to the spiritual definition. Respondents discuss unders tanding m isuse of God designed sexual drives (even as create a strong, long
29 framework allows for the t heme of purity as a commodity that is, some tangible quality one might lose through sexual experience. Respondents sp eak to this commodity idea both implicitly and explicitly through the language they used to refer to first intercourse and in their account s of educational exercises used during workshops. Implicitly, reinforces the idea of sex as a finite commodity rather than a shared experience More ex plicitly, several respondents gi elical woman, 26 ) designed to teach participants the value of virginity In one version of this exercise, a rose stands for a sexually active young person, and a petal is removed with each sex scotch tape is used to represent an unlucky in spouse because of too many sex partners. In another version of the exercise, each ual partnership, and as Jonathan, Catholic man, 21 ). These types of exercises a re often explained by participants (especially those still involved in abstine nce until marriage organizations) as gender neutral illustrations of the way promiscuity can wreak havoc on the future ma rital relations hip. For example, Beth explains aid, if you try to re a
30 Beth (Evangelical woman, 22) However, these exercises do not exist in a social vacuum. Many respon dents (esp ecially those who say they no longer subscribe to the abstinence until ma rriage belief system) criticize the messaging they we re exposed to as sexist, slut shaming, or promoting a sexual double standard in which women more so than men, are losing some positive quality by virtue of having pre marital sex: significant thing a woman would ever do was save her virginity for her husband, that virginity was the mo tephanie (Evangelical woman, 26) conc (Catholic man, 21) u deserve a pure w (Evangelical man, 22) Thus, while the religious dimension certainly complicates the sexual double standard impact on socially inscribed ideas of purity, they do not become de gendered. They do, however, become more subtly gendered, or gende red in a nuanced way, when the something via sexual experience. That is, the influence of the secular idea of chastity wherein women, as property or conduits of propert y, are valued for their sexual inexperience seeps into the discourse about purity in religious settings. However, the narrative of losing not value as property but ability to bond sexual double standard to some degree. The res t of this chapter will examine the four major frameworks or me anings of purity and how each i s gendered or de gendered and static or fluid.
32 Meanings of Purity : The Nebulous C oncept of Purity (Nathan, Catholic man, 21 ) I spent time during each interview asking respondents to tease out the meaning of the word purity in terms of how they interpret its meaning within their organiza educational me ssaging as well as what it means to them personally. Four distinct meanings emerged: purity as defined by wh at one does not do, emotional purity, purity as a renewable state of being free from sin, and purity as a way one holds and presents oneself. Ea ch of these possible meanings i s uniquely gendered, and manifests itself differently with Catholic and Evangelic al participants Although these four meanings are d istinct from each other, they we re not mutually exclusive in interviews -within different contexts, at times, the sa me participant might frame purity in terms of two or three of these meanings. For example when asked whether purity means something different for boys and girls, many respondents said no and appealed to purity as meaning simply abstinence from sex the same definition for any gender However, when asked whether this presents the same challenge s for boys and girls, these same respondents would present purity as more emotion work for women and physical work for men. These f our meanings of purity, then, are unstable frames which allow for gender differentiation without mutually exclusive gender ca tegories. Where gender differentiation i s perceived as stable and discre te, participant reception tends to be much more skeptical. Purity a (Beth, Evangelical woman, 21 ) In The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti critiques t morality defined by lack of action rather than by action (2009) This i s most often the
33 initial definition of purity appealed to during the interviews. I would ask respondents what purity meant and get definitions alon (Vanessa sexuality, so it was taught that Catholic man, 20). Participants a re quick to note, howev er, that sexual abstinence means abstinence from any sex act, not just penetrative sex. For examp le, one respondent characterizes impure Evangelical m an, 21), and another specifies long periods was frowned upon, or really anything Robin Evangelical woman, 21). gendered. When asked whether purity i s different for men and women in their experiences with True Love Waits, Oliver (21, Evangelical man) says Beth (21, Evangelical woman) says e the fact that finition) respondents maintain that purity consists of the same expectations for men and wo men, they also maintain that the challenges presented to men and wome n in the pursuit of purity tend t o differ. When purity means simply abstaining from sex acts and sexualized behavior, then, the standards a re gender neutral and the challenges present ed do not create two mutually exclusive gender cat egories. Rather, purity entails a set of challenges whi ch exist on two axes: internal/external and physical/e motional. Internal challenges a re characterized as the struggle within oneself to resist temptat ion while external challenges a re the struggle to resist outside influences such as peer pressure and the medi a. Physical
34 challenges consist of sexual drives/hormones a nd emotional challenges refer to ections of these two axes, see Table A. Respondents maintain that both boys and girls struggle with internal and external challenges involved in purity as abstention However, they repeatedly emphasize that ore with physical urges, girls are more susceptible to emotional challenges. Among Evangelical respondents, these gendered tendencies regarding physical/emotional challenges a re not presented as discrete, mutually exclusive categories. The following quote s illustrate how respondents charac terize physical challenges as masculine and emotional str uggles as feminine but present these as tendencies rather than hard and fast rules: challenges we have as guys and girls, uh, but I think there are guys who can struggle emotionally and spiritually on a level that traditionally, normally girls would struggle with." ~ Michael (Evangelical man, 22) all myself a pseudo feminist or anything, but I hate to put men in one category and women in the other. The same thing Beth (Evangelical woman, 21). g with each type of challenge. Table A: Challenges involved in maintaining purity Internal External Emotional Internal emotions cause intimate emotional bond s Pressure from romantic partners to engage in impure
35 Intimate emotional bonds are said to be intended for marriage Women are said to struggle with this more often than men wrapped up emotionally, and they let themselves go away, and that can kind of cause a premat ure connection with ~ Michael (Evangelical man, 22). actions This pressure appeals to romantic emotions and insecurity Women are said to get pressure from male partners. n would always initiate sex and it was their job to resist this and women's job to ~ Jennifer (Catholic woman, 22) Physical Men were said to be wired with Jennifer, Catholic woman, 22 ) Purity involves kee ping physical urges in check. are more visual, they have to be careful...where they allow their minds to ~ Beth (Evangelical woman, 21) be more subject to physical urges Purity invo lves controlling which surroundings and social situations so as not to incite these urges. any sexual situations that might ~Stephanie (Evangelical woman, 26) It should be noted that Catholic partic ipants a re much more likely to interpret these categories not as characteristics or tendencies, but as discrete gender roles. Jennifer for example, a 22 year old respondent discussing her expe riences at Catholic school, says she got the impression t hat m en a a t s the always Nathan a 20 year old Catholic resp ondent, asserts always held to a entails nothing more than sexual abstention is not explicitly or initially gendered. It only beco me s g endered when
36 complicated by the challenges it entails -or, as it was often put during interviews, during the p rocess of purity. Where men are physical sense ( Michael Evangelical man, 22). This emotional stru ggle, when elaborated upon, beco me s its own independent fr ame of purity, where purity begi n s to be defined not by lack of physical action but by active spiritual and emotional work. Purity as Emotional Work : An Investment in Your Own Goodwill (Daniel, Evangelical man, 22) Th e emotional purity frame focuses more on the future spousal relationship, is gendered as feminine, and though harder to define, seems to center around preventing rom tainting a future marr iage. In this context, sex means the Daniel, Evangelical man, 22 ) specifically designed fo r the marriage relationship, a whom God orda ins Oliver, Evangelical man, 21 ). In order to implement relegated to the future marriage relationship. Within this particular frame, though not in othe rs, purity can not Michael, Evangelical man, 22 ). Sexual or emotional intimacy prior to the God ordained ma rriage relation ship is seen as something that will him [future husband ). The fear
37 s seen as a convincing motivation to abstain. This i s partic ular ly true for participants who see or example, when asked what memories of True Love Waits stick out in her mind the most, Robin (a 21 year old Evangelical woman) s ays : s about abstinence until marriage, and how if you have sex before marriage, or look at porn it will ruin you r relationship and sex life with your future spouse because it is all you will be able to think about when you have sex with them. I was pretty sho cked and disturbed at the Here Robin speak s to both internal (associating the sex drive with pornography) and external (pre that is, sex as God intends within the realm of purity. Catholic participants a re significantly less likely to bring up emotional purity. This could be because they a frame as a motivator for abstinence. Where positive motivation begi n s, so does discussion of emotion work. Mo st Catholic participants invoke negative motivation for abstinence, characterized by institutional authority rather than positive identity format ion Individual future happiness i Purity as a state of being free from sin: God renews you. ( Beth Evangelical woman, 22) Chr istian theology contends that fundamental sinfulness is part of the human condition, a ( Romans 5: 12 21, Corinthians 15:22 ) Thus, in the context of purity as defined by a state of being free from sin, purity is not only renewable in the case of asking for forgiveness after making
3 8 mistakes, but an ongoing process which requires constant maintenance a matter of earthly weaknesses. r egainable, all p articipants but one acknowledge that, in some sense, it is. When they discuss s within this frame of freedom from sin that they speak Among Catholic respondents, the method th rough which to reclaim purity i s confession. For t hem, cultivating purity involves a more internal struggle confessions are a private interaction with a priest, for example, rather than a public group display; a nd Catholic respondents report getting a s ense that masturbation (a solitary act) i s heavily emphasized in their schools as a sin The combination of several factors perception of purity as a rule imposed by a top down authority, more or as much emphasis on internal and external purity, and more o f an emphasis on peopl e as fundamentally sinful cause Catholic respondents to perceive the state of being free from sin as a near impossible goal: rituals that I could go thr ough that would bring it to me, that purity, but it would minutes at a time right after you got out of confession, or, like, after you absolve yourself of all your sins some Alex (Catholic g ender q ueer 24) Alex, then, does state is sinfulness They can through confess ion or ritual, but overall it i a process, but not a positive one of self awareness.
39 Evangelical respondents have a more positive framework for both the process of everyday maintenance of purity and the act of redemption. Stu art (Evangelical man, 21) sums sin does not characterizes ing that implies proces s and constant effort, and speaks centere d view of internal purity tends to come across more in respondents who characte rize themselves as stu dious Christians, and emphasize their attitude toward religion as a didactic process with scripture, community, faith, and individua l experience playing key roles. Participants report that within messaging, purity m ay be renewable because it is an ongoing process, or it may be renewable in the context of a more dramatic narrative: falling from grace followed by redemption Daniel (Evangelical man, 22) describes and awesome Robin (Evangelical woman, 21) speaks about getting caught up in the drama of this narrative in inconsistent and ultimately negative ways: the have the circle crying pow wows which was like a free form confessional. Girls would admit to having sex and everyone would cry and feel bad together. Her account speaks to an experience of being taken in by an outpouring of emotions in lacking the consistency which Stuart (Evangelical man, 21) and Stephanie (Evangelical
40 w oman, 26) describe as accepting a constant state of sinfulness and actively engaging in While this dramatic narrative, as Robin (Evangelical woman, 21) can attest, is easy to be taken in by, there i s a sense that rec laimed purity i s valid but no t complete. Respondents assert Beth, Evangelical woman, 21 re l woman, 21 ). However, in the context of sex as a finite commodity intended for use as a tool for intimate bonding in a marriage partner on their wedding night: I am a strong believer in teaching them that you can claim that second virginity emotionally and mentally you can stop where you are, you know, stop things where you are then and preserve yourself and ask God to heal whatever wounds, you know, are in your past and just renew y 21) relationship with God, it is an incompl ete renewal one is not able to restore purity in terms of the first framework of understanding it (passive morality purity Purity as a Presentational Accomplishment: In their clas sic West and Zimmerman (1987) articulate complex of socially guided perceptual, interactional, and micropolitical activities that cast
41 particular pursui ts as expressions of masculine and f urity pondents particularly, purity i s an omnipresent b ut never explicitly d efined ideology which influences their school experiences. Amon g Evangelical respondents, it i s a n accomplished identity which i s performed in contrast to the secular mainstream. Cat holic respondents speak of purity as some thing to aspire to even if it i s not explicitly defined: parents or hearing the priest every Sunday talk about how important it is but at the ~ Alex (genderqueer, 24) time that I was the Jamie (woman, 22) I Nathan (man, 21) Like g ender, then, purity is described as a subtle but omnipresent concept woven throughout the entire experience of Catholic school in various social, academic, and religious contexts. For women especially, doing purity ent ails covering the body. There i s a s ense of d with God given beauty which i s meant to incite the sex drive in men :
42 These gendered ways of doing purity are tied up in more basic aspects of doing gender. In the context of doing gender, where doing femininity involves perpetually the object of lust, doing masculinity involves lusting after female bod ies. In lust for female bodies under control. Whereas amon g Catholic respondents p urity i s an implici t but omnipresent concept, it i s much more focal for True Love Waits participants. For Ev angelicals doing purity involves presenting oneself as pure to the secular community against which purity is defined and reinforced. In an effort to Michael, Evangelical man, 22 ), the opportunity to share their faith and values with people who did not share them i (Vanessa, Evangelical woman, 21 ). This acco mplished, performative framework of purity comes across during discussions of the True Love Waits ring. It exists to serve as a of [your] pledge to purity or a pretense to represent purity to the secular socia l sphere: "I had people ask me all the time, why do you wear a ring on your wedding finger, and I'd say, well, this is a True Love Waits ring and it stands for purity and it's a reminder to be pure, and it would open up an opportunity to tell them about it but then also that doubled as a reminder to myself to say, hey, I am trying to be different than what the culture says you're supposed to be. Different from the world...so not only is it a reminder to self but it's a symbol to others as well I think." ~M ichael (Evangelical man, 22) As Michael explains, doing purity through the lens of the True Love Waits ring entails lustrate this point:
43 more than just a one time hit and woman, 21) as a pe Zim merman describe doing gender, purity is performed in distinct ways for men and women. For women, it involves covering the body and performing modesty whereas for physica l urges in check. Among Catholics, purity, like gender, is perceived as an un articulated but ever present social expectation. Among Evangelicals, it is presentational in terms of interaction with the secular world and perpetually accomplished in terms of personal identity and behavior. This analysis began with a discussion of differences in framing of the abstinence message and participant reception between Catholic and Evangelical respondents. Evangelical respondents tend to be much more enthusiastic abo ut abstinence than Catholic respondents during their high school years, and I attributed this to two differences. First, that Catholic respondents, as students in Catholic schools, have less position to than Evangelical respondents who participate in abstinence only education by choice in their True Love Waits implements positive identity based framing in their messaging, appealing
44 individuality and hope for positive future rather than acting as a hierarchical authority. I then moved on to the meaning of sex which emerged among respondents, discussing the marital relationship. I argued that this view of sex adds an extra dimension to discussion of sex and purity as finite commodities, and the gendering thereof. I then established each of four major meanings of purity wh purity (or purity as defined by lack of action), emotional purity, purity as a renewable state of being free from sin, and purity as a way of presenting and carrying oneself. While no one meaning is exclusive ly gendered as masculine or feminine, each one was more gently gendered, with the overriding theme being that boys tend tend
45 Conclusion In a n attempt to investigate what constitutes purity for participan ts in Christian abstinence only education, I have laid out the four major frameworks for understanding it which arose out of conversations with participants in Catholic and Evangelical programs The first and most common initial framework invoked by participants was purity as among Catholics as it did among Evangelicals, and participants maintained that the expectation to abstain from physical acts is gender neutral. However, I then described how this framework became gendered once discussion arose of the challenges involved in mainta s and girls could and often would grapple with both physical and emotional roadblocks, boys would tend to grapple with physical challenges and girls would tend to struggle emotionally. This line of thought is in keeping with the patriarchal idea that men a re unable to control their sexuality and women should be passive gatekeepers. Purity as emotional work is most often gendered as female and articulated by Evangelical respondents. This framework referred to preventing premature emotional connections from t to be ideally reserved for the spousal relationship. The positive motivation of sex as a True Love Waits me ssaging than in parochial schools, which accounts for Evangelicals bringing it up more often.
46 The third framework was purity as a renewable state of being free from sin. This process centered definition sometimes referred to the ongoing maintenance of pur ity through a relationship with God and sometimes referred to the act of redemption through forgiveness by God. accomplishment. For Evangelicals this involves presenting oneself as pure to the secular world, whereas for Catholics it involves conforming to an omnipresent but never explicitly defined social expectation. A clear implication of this study is that for participants in Christian abstinence only education, the word purity does n ot refer to a singular state of sexual abstinence. Pre existing research has interrogated whether abstinence only education is effective by measuring whether participants have premarital sex. As the respondents showed, engaging in premarital sex or any sor t of breach of purity does not necessarily mean failure on the part of the participant. Furthermore, these findings show that the role of religion nuances how notions of purity are gendered and obstructs their patriarchal implications For example, while respondents maintained that the standards of p urity are gender challenges it entails tend to differ between boys and girls. This indicates that faith based sex education programs might benefit by encouraging discussions that unpack these various frameworks of understanding purity more explicitly. Christian and secular programs, abstinence only and non abstinence sex education alike would all benefit from encouraging more explicit discussion of the gendered nature of social ex pectations regarding purity and sexual morality.
47 Feminist scholarship has maintained that virginity is a social construction not based in any biological reality (Valenti 2009 etc.). Taking this into consideration, social scientists might rethink operating between this false binary of sexually active versus not sexually active. This would better reflect the renewable, process centered way that some participants in Christian abstinence only education define purity. Finally, if a feminist ideal involves not ju dging women (or any people) based on their sexuality, then research which further humanizes participants in Christian abstinence only education, giving voice to their beliefs, rather than portraying them as passive recipients of oppressive messaging, shoul d fit within that goal. Future research should be conducted about abstinence only education in Catholic schools. There is a huge gap in the literature about them despite the Catholic Church being a hugely influential institution. They serve as a fantastic comparison to the True Love Waits model of appealing to positive identity formation and subculture creation. Future researchers should also consider investigation into queer identities and Christian abstinence only education to understand how these ideas a bout gender and purity are complicated by marginalized sexual and gender identities. Research on queer Christians has established that these two seemingly contradictory identities yield greater interrogation on the part of LGBT Christians, into the morali ty of each identity ( 2004 ). Thus, queer Christian abstinence only education participants would likely have different, and perhaps in depth, interpretations of meanings of purity and sexual morality. Finally future researchers should consider inve stigating the relationship between purity and race, as sexualized notions of race certainly fit into Western cultural scripts regarding purity and gender. For example, colonialist notions of Black sexuality which
48 carry into popular culture and media constr uct Black women as hyper sexual in an animalistic way (Collins 2004 ). For this reason, African American Christian communities 2004 ). These circumstances, unique to African Americans, likely result in unique meanings of purity as well.
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