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Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity Hardcover – February 10, 2015

3.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dianna Anderson is a freelance writer who writes for and manages the popular blog Faith and Feminism, where she examines questions of women, sexuality, and progressive political issues within the American church. She also writes for various feminist websites and tweets @diannaeanderson. She has a master's in English from Baylor University and a bachelor's in theology and philosophy from the University of Sioux Falls. She currently lives in Sioux Falls, SD.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Jericho Books (February 10, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455577391
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455577392
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #472,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This provocative book could play a constructive role in catalyzing dialogue about sexual ethics among progressive evangelicals. Its thesis is that traditional Christian "no sex outside of marriage" norms (so-called "purity culture") are both misguided and damaging. The author (Anderson) challenges traditionalist interpretations of relevant Biblical passages (with varying levels of persuasiveness) and advocates a much more liberal sexual ethic in which one-night stands, polyamory, same sex encounters, and "friends with benefits" relationships are all potentially viable and God-honoring sexual expressions, provided they are pursued "ethically, consensually, and safely" (pp.50-51).

I welcome the boldness and clarity of Anderson's proposal, and her critiques of extreme purity culture and evangelical sexism are convincing and devastating. However, if we shift our attention away from this critique of purity culture and toward Anderson's own proposed sexual ethic, we find a position that is virtually indistinguishable from that of pretty much any educated, non-religious, socially liberal American in the 2010s. How is this a distinctly Christian sexual ethic?

I offer the following as impressions rather than citation-backed arguments, and I invite others to read the book and determine for themselves whether these concerns resonate.

1) Selective and Ad Hoc Interpretation of "Proof Texts."
Anderson's approach to scripture is to identify and undercut key "no sex outside marriage" proof texts by appealing to mitigating contextual factors. She is fairly convincing in subverting OT texts, but her readings of the NT seem strained and, at best, suggestive.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I used a quote from Dianna Anderson's important work as the title of this review because I think it best encapsulates the core message of this book. But it works so well because, like the scriptures that serve as the foundation for all her writing, here and elsewhere, it can be understood to mean different things depending upon your viewpoint or interpretive frame. And after all, this book is very much about interpretive frames.
Damaged Goods is not an easy book to categorize. It is at times a very personal and brutally honest memoir of one woman's life, particularly in terms of her own sexuality, her life growing up in the Evangelical culture of the last three decades, and how Evangelicalism's embrace of purity culture impacted her and others as they tried to live faithful Christian lives at the same time that they matured and had to deal with their sexuality as they grew from girls to women. Anderson tells us about her own experiences, including her eventual realization that her own sexual orientation was that of bisexuality. But she also interviewed a lot of other women in researching this book. She tells us some of their stories, and sometimes lets them speak for themselves by quoting them. If these stories don't tug at your heart, you don't have one.
But Damaged Goods is also about history writ large, at least over the last couple of hundred years, as that history impinges on our experience of human sexuality. Anderson is right to point out something that not enough people understand: the real “sexual revolution” began much earlier than the 1960s, and occurred in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. As she correctly notes, the nuclear family that only really came into its present form in the 1950s was something completely new, not the “traditional family” at all.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Having grown up in the purity movement, although I was not as heavily involved as the author, I was quite familiar with a lot of the rhetoric and ideas she was deconstructing. Although I didn't agree with everything in the book, I believe it is important that we start conversations about the damage purity culture has done and this is as good a place as any to start.

Anderson covers many problems I myself have had with purity culture for quite some time. The idolization of virginity, the denial of a female sex drive, the animalization of men, and the overall shame and misinformation that comes with discussing sex are critiqued here. I especially loved that she addressed the issue of consent and how victims of rape end up being shamed by rhetoric that is basically "either/or". Either you are a virgin and thus godly and better than everyone else or you are not a virgin and it doesn't matter what happened, you are less and dirty. This is an extremely damaging logical fallacy that we Christians need to stop espousing because it shames victims of sexual abuse, something God would never do.

She also dealt with comparisons that, while well-intended, end up communicating worthlessness and fear. For example: you are like a piece of gum. If you are involved with a boy (even just dating) and break up, you have been chewed. And nobody wants a piece of gum that has been chewed. While I don't think the people that came up with this had evil intentions, the reality is it breeds fear of the opposite sex and leads women to believe they are worthless if they made a "mistake" or were raped or molested. It also isn't biblical. Where does God say to not love others and if you do it diminishes your worth?
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