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Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free
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Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  588 ratings  ·  136 reviews
From a woman who has been there and back, the first inside look at the devastating effects evangelical Christianity’s purity culture has had on a generation of young women—in a potent combination of journalism, cultural commentary, and memoir.

In the 1990s, a “purity industry” emerged out of the white evangelical Christian culture. Purity rings, purity pledges, and purity b
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Touchstone
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Canadian Reader
Klein’s book about the “purity movement” and sexual shaming of girls within the powerful evangelical community in the U.S. may focus on a worthy enough subject, but the writing is so pedestrian and hyperbolic that I felt no desire to persist beyond the very lengthy 34-page introduction. I’ve read my share of undergraduate papers and this book put me in mind of them in spades: clumsy prose, unnecessary repetition, and the sloppy use of quotations from witnesses and supposed “experts” (Brené Brown ...more
Thanks to Touchstone and Netgalley for this ARC.

I grew up on the fringes of purity culture. It wasn’t part of my religious upbringing, but I was pretty well acquainted with the movement as a teen in the 90’s. Mostly I mocked it, as I did most things associated with the Christian Right in those days. Only after reading Klein’s compassionate and empathetic book do I realize how wrong I was to write off purity culture as some innocuous chastity craze. It has left deep scars on thousands? Millions?
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: misc
This book is sad on two levels.
1. The traumas experienced by so many women and the fact that distortion of Christian doctrine led to their abuse and/or struggles, in many cases driving them away from the church.
2. The fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity demonstrated by the author.

Reading this, my heart hurt for the women who were physically and emotionally manipulated and abused, even as I winced through the unnecessarily graphic details of sexual exploits that indicated their "freed
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I didn't grow up evangelical, but I completely understand this purity culture and I'm glad people like Klein are writing about it. The purity myth is another great book on the same theme.

I did not love the format of the book--I wanted to hear more in Klein's voice, more history of the movement, and more data or commentary. Instead, Klein just interviews a lot of ex-evangelicals and then reproduces the interviews almost verbatim. Some are very interesting and some just felt too long.

I really li
Touchstone Books
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Shocking, deeply empathic, and meticulously researched, Pure exposes a terrifying phenomenon in this country—one that affects us all, evangelical or not.
Ali Shaw
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was raised in an evangelical community that HHS’s subscribed to purity culture. I lost count of the times while reading this book I felt relief and horror that other people had the same feelings and experiences I did. The book is well written, well researched and well paced. Highly recommend. I couldn’t put it down.
A timely, relevant, harrowing, and eye opening memoir about the purity movement.

If you’re anything like me, you find it fascinating to learn about a person’s life that is so different from your own. I was not raised in any sort of strict upbringing so the idea that a movement such as this can leave such deeply seeded scars filled me with emotional empathy. Klein was raised in a strict Christian evangelical church that shamed women and girls for enticing men. Not only is sex forbidden before marr
Julia Graf
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The subject matter is interesting but the writing is so stiff and basically just a transcript of her interviews. I was expecting more insight and conclusions from this book.
Robert D. Cornwall
As I finished reading Pure, the U.S. Senate was concluding a day long hearing pitting the memories/claims of a previously obscure woman and the nominee for a life-time appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. The two may be different at one level and yet related at another. In the Senate hearings, the question was, who will you believe? Too often down through the ages, we believe the man and not the woman. Could it be that we have different expectations for women than men. If a woman is found to b ...more
Adina Hilton
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a tough read for me. As someone who grew up in the Evangelical church, and went through a similar "breaking" from religion, a lot of Klein's experiences and traumas were familiar to me. I absolutely think a religious focus on purity is damaging to young girls, and to young boys as well. The messages sent to young women about their sexuality may scar them in ways that will never heal (and many women interviewed in this book have experienced a lot of religious trauma).

Klein writes the boo
Heather Yockey
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A weekend read. Once I started, I couldn’t put down. Mainly because of the stories, each page reminding me of a world that’s a long ways back in my rear view mirror. Wondering if 12 years ago, when I was much more a part of these circles would I have had the guts to read this book. If you are a white woman who has grown up in this subculture, chances are you’ll find yourself in one of the many stories included in this book. Strict home? Hippy parents? Obedient? Rebellious ? The writer noted all ...more
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received this book as an advanced reader's copy due to the requests and reviews from our patrons and from goodreads and this book was very powerful in the message that it conveyed. This "movement" impacted a lot of people and made a strong difference in not only that community but worldwide. I was hit hard with a whirl of emotions and disbelief that this strong view had such a strong impact on people. The book displayed some heartfelt stories, shocking revelations and important life lessons th ...more
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you grew up evangelical, or in any kind of religiously-based purity culture, your psyche probably really needs this book. It gets a little repetitive now and then, but the perspective is invaluable.
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've never been a particularly religious person, but I did go to a Presbyterian (USA) church with my parents every week growing up. My youth group did discuss sex and taught us that we should remain virgin until marriage, but it was never the purity message that evangelicals adopted wholesale in the 1980s and 1990s. The author and I are of the same age, and I do remember the big push for abstinence-only education, but I was never a victim of the purity movement, for which I am incredibly gratefu ...more
Sarah Greene
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
The best part of this book is the lengthy introduction, which is available on, so you don't have to bother with the rest of it. I grew up with a youth group similar to Klein's and received much of the same well meaning but ridiculous education. She does an amazing job exposing the problems with the cult of virginity and pointing out the long lasting shame that this kind of education can induce.

My biggest take away the the importance of sound doctrine and a biblical foundation for these
Stefanie Merrifield
(more in-depth review available at

The cover of this book says it all, "Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free." Linda Kay Klein grew up in the evangelical church during the height of the purity movement. She spent 12 years interviewing friends, and strangers, who grew up in the same environment. During this time she was able to confirm her belief that she wasn't alone in, to be over-simplistic, sexual shame
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the best book I've read about the purity movement. I've read a few memoirs from ex-Evangelicals during the past year or so, and many have touched on the purity movement and the damage it caused, but this one does a lot more--Klein tells her own story, as well as the story of many people she's interviewed over the course of many years, and she sums up some research and other writing on the topic. Strongly recommend.
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
I grew up in the independent Christian church/Church of Christ, and though I managed by a combination of luck and apathy to never attend a True Love Waits retreat or sign a single purity pledge, I was well-versed in purity culture. It has deeply affected me and the other women I grew up with; I have seen it contribute to and cause sexual dysfunction, self-esteem issues, relationship struggles, and religious identity problems. This book tells many of those stories, giving voice to a generation of ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book moved me to tears numerous times, as I read the stories of people whose lives were profoundly harmed by the Purity movement. But the book really speaks to cultural shaming of all kinds, even outside Christianity, and its message can be appreciated by everyone regardless of a person's faith tradition. The journeys told in this book are often harrowing and sad, but they often are also redemptive and hopeful, in that people who have been damaged by cultural shaming can find their way to a ...more
Carrie Surbaugh
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
At points this was painful to read, seeing my experience of purity culture reflected in the stories of so many other people. However, the book was structured well and offered some hope for redemption of the evangelical church’s (really messed up) sexual ethic.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very difficult to get through,but I think it's important for anyone raised in religion to read this. As an atheist now, the author's apologies for religion and the church sometimes made it hard to relate to the book; however, the content is important and necessary to read. This book is for anyone raised in or anyone who loves someone raised in purity culture.
Dec 27, 2017 added it
Shelves: for-work
Difficult to read because, even having been raised Catholic, it hit extremely close to home. I've heard similar stories from several friends. Linda has uncovered something huge and real and devastating here, and we should all pay attention.
Molly Sanchez
This is a secular look at how the church has handled the purity movement and has testimonials of how it has affected women in their sex life.
Although I think there are things identified in this book that I agree (the way man has wronged some in their incorrect teaching on handling sex in the culture of the church) the author does not draw any biblical principles from any of the things she addresses and the realness of Sin that the bible teaches. It was a very interesting read from a Christian p
Meaghan Lee
Dec 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
***Only read about 100 pages***

I was really disappointed that this book was so terribly written. The topic is so relevant and personal, I was hoping for great things. The author generalizes things that her friends tell her through interviews and applies that to the entire culture. While it may be true, she needs to interview people besides her childhood youth group friends. Either write a memoir, or do a qualitative study.
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is incredible. It is a book that should have been written years ago, but it comes at such an appropriate time in the culture right now. For any woman who grew up in the purity culture of the 90s, the stories will feel familiar. My emotions were triggered so much when reading Linda's own story, and those who were brave enough to share their alongside her. I cannot recommend highly enough to any woman in the church.
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rough read, but I really appreciated the stats and the data Klein uses alongside people's stories. I've read a lot from other purity culture survivors, but it is always good to hear more of this message: we are not alone, we aren't broken, what we were told about ourselves was wrong. Being free of this "really heavy, heavy weight [of purity] to bear all the time" is one of the best things that's happened in my adult life.

A point I really appreciated: Klein points out that if you are given all th
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A look back on the fallout from the 1990s evangelical "purity movement" and where it has left many people today. (e.g., a recent apology from Josh Harris for convincing millions of teenagers not to date: )
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A little rambling, but there are stories to tell. The effect of the purity culture in the church on women. This is about women and for women, but the culture has adverse effects on me as a father and a man in the church. How I raised my children esp. my daughters and the effect it had on their lives. This is an important topic for parents to consider.
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, netgalley
Thanks to the publisher, via Netgalley, for an advance e-galley in exchange for an honest review.'

While I have no personal experience with the community being profiled in this book, I still found the stories of those who spoke about their experiences in this book to be powerful. It's possible that those who are members of the Evangelical Christian community will feel differently, but I didn't think that the book felt scathing- rather it reflected the wounds of the individuals and the systemic is
Emily Hanson
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, feminism
Absolutely incredible. Most impactful book I’ve read in a very long time. Should be required reading for every woman who grew up Christian/part of the purity movement.
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“Valenti argues this myth is as present in religious sexual shaming as it is in secular sexual exploitation: Abstinence-only education during the day and Girls Gone Wild commercials at night! Whether its delivered through a virginity pledge or by a barely dressed tween pop singer writhing across the television screen, the message is the same: A woman’s worth lies in her ability—or her refusal—to be sexual. And we’re teaching American girls that, one way or another, their bodies and their sexuality are what make them valuable.1” 1 likes
“Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS), defined as “the condition experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination,” 1 likes
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