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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  3,336 ratings  ·  642 reviews
8 Hours and 58 Minutes

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
Audiobook, 9 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Simon & Schuster Audio
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Petra-X Off having adventures
I dnf'd the book. I'm left feeling, what kind of Christian cult is twisting women up like this? Why can't men take responsibility for their own actions? What world are they living in?

One minute the author is a preteen, next she is 15, then 26... no, she's 21. Everyone around her is busy reinforcing each other into the myth that a girl must protect men from their teenage hormonal selves or else be known as dirt, a snotty tissue, a slut, a slag, manipulative and evil. The Pastor obviously a major
Shame: [noun] ​A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.
~​Oxford English Dictionary​

​Linda Kay Klein was an evangelical Christian who endured the indoctrination of "purity" during her teens, leaving her with a feeling of shame over her body, her femininity, and her sexuality. She is not the only one. There are many, many young people who have been indoctrinated with this insane notion of purity over the last 30 years. The evangeli
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?
Touchstone Books
Wow. Shocking, deeply empathic, and meticulously researched, Pure exposes a terrifying phenomenon in this country—one that affects us all, evangelical or not.
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Christina Busche
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Ali Shaw
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Becca Younk
This is really, really hard to review. I am glad this book exists, I think it's important for people within the evangelical movement to speak out against purity culture. I genuinely hope women can read this and find some answers in it, or at least know they are not alone. However, I also think this book failed in a lot of respects.

I definitely have an interest in reading books about purity culture, as I grew up in a conservative, non-denominational evangelical church, and was subjected to many o
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
Elizabeth Brush
Adina Hilton
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jen Gray
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You don’t have to agree with her personal outcome (ahem evangelicals) to get that shaming women is epidemic in the evangelical movement. I applaud the author’s vulnerability and her fair treatment of her interviewees. I think this book starts an important conversation and can help some women begin to heal, if only in knowing they are not alone and not crazy.
Sarah Greene
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
Heather Yockey
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Janelle Janson
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
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Cara Meredith
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Welcome to the book that perfectly describes my late teens and early to mid-twenties. This needed to be explored and written and I’m so grateful for Linda Kay Klein’s diligence and insight.
Meaghan Lee
Dec 07, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituology
***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.
Pure was a very emotional and personal read for me. Full review to come!
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Positives: Kudos to this author for bringing light to an issue that gets very little attention. I absolutely agree that “purity culture” has had some very lasting and damaging effects on many people. I also appreciate her thoroughness in presenting various stories: she includes stories of singleness, homosexuality, abuse and more. I’m glad I read this.

Negatives: Like most nonfiction, this book was entirely too long and repetitive. The book is broken up into four sections, each with 3-4 chapters,
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
Wow... so much of this book was unfortunately very relatable to me, and I expect many of my friends could also identify with some of the stories told by the interviewees. While I didn’t grow up in the extremes of purity culture (True Love Waits, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, etc), its messages and expectations were still ingrained in me in ways that I’m just recently becoming aware of and healing from. I highly recommend this book to anyone who grew up in the purity culture movement, or anyone curren ...more
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made me cry.
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
J.C. Ahmed
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
About a decade ago, wearing purity rings was a big deal in young celeb circles. Celebrities like Britney Spears, the Jonas Brothers and even Miley Cyrus talked about their commitment to abstinence in interviews. At the time, I rolled my eyes at purity culture thinking of it as a fad. Over time I learned that purity culture could be damaging to the young people raised in it. I didn’t know how damaging, until I read this book. The revelations in it are shocking.

Klein is an insider, someone raised
Emily Polson
"The purity message is not about sex. Rather, it is about us: who we are, who we are expected to be, and who it is said we will become if we fail to meet those expectations."

This was a difficult read, but very helpful as someone who grew up in a church context that idealized purity to the point of obsession, idolization, and quite honestly, dehumanization of young women. Linda uses her own story as well as those of her many interviewees to unpack the psychological baggage associated with this sh
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
CBE Book Club: Mutuality and submission in Marriage 5 14 Mar 07, 2019 06:31AM  
CBE Book Club: What do you think of "the purity myth?" 3 14 Mar 06, 2019 08:26PM  
CBE Book Club: What do you think of the label "feminist?" 5 10 Feb 25, 2019 10:20AM  
CBE Book Club: Welcome! 7 17 Feb 19, 2019 08:42AM  

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27 likes · 2 comments
“The purity message is not about sex. Rather, it is about us: who we are, who we are expected to be, and who it is said we will become if we fail to meet those expectations.
This is the language of shame.”
“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,” 4 likes
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