At this point in time, most resources for people processing and deconstructing purity culture are written by cis-white-straight women about cis-women experiences. It’s our intent to continue to find resources for individuals outside of that demographic. In the meantime, we hope these resources will help provide you with affirmation that you are not alone in your struggle and that there’s always hope and the potential for change.
Most books are available in print and audio forms to ensure wider accessibility.
There are affiliate links in this post. Read our disclosure policy to learn more.
Purity Culture Specific
The Great Sex Rescue by Sheila Wray Gregoire
Identifies harmful messages and the negative repercussions of them. Uses volunteer information from blog readers to create data and statistics around the prevalence of certain issues.
Sex, God, and the Conservative Church by Tina Schermer Sellers
Explores the religious and social history that led to how and why Purity Culture became what it was/is. She also provides specific steps on how to counter these messages as well as the implications of doing so.
You Are Your Own by Jaime Lee Finch
A combination of her own story alongside specific critique on the underlying ideas of Purity Culture and many Evangelical teachings. She identifies the long-term harm of theologies that preach redemptive violence, the mind-body split, and adherence to higher authority as leading to Religious Trauma Syndrome.
Pure by Linda Kay Klein
A combination of personal narrative and a collection of others experiences regarding Purity Culture, she provides insight on the social impact that led to the emergence of Purity Culture in the 1990s. This book does a good job of providing lots of examples of ways Purity Culture directly impacted individuals.
Shameless by Nadia Bolz Weber
A liberal critique on Purity Culture from inside the church. She addresses the specific role of the church in using Purity Culture to push people outside of the circle of God. She then argues for an inclusive, affirming, and sex-positive theology to replace the exclusive, narrow path approach.
Written for clinicians, this paper reviews the history of purity culture, core consequences of those teachings, and their specific impact on female sexuality and identity.
Talking Back to Purity Culture by Rachel Joy Welcher
Not recommended. A narrative/commentary from a more conservative perspective. She acknowledges many of the injuries Purity Culture and the church have caused, while still adhering to more conservative beliefs, specifically in support of abstinence-only-until marriage and a lack of full acceptance of LBGTQIA identities.
The Scarlet Virgins by Rebecca Lemke
Not recommended. A timid acknowledgement of some of the challenges Purity Culture has created around sex and sexuality without any direct critique or invitation for alternatives.
Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
Does a great job of expanding language around female sexuality and experience. A common challenge for individuals who grew up in Purity Culture is a lack of correct information regarding sex, sexuality, pleasure, and desire, and she does a great job of breaking all of that down.
Rekindling Desire by Barry and Emily McCarthy
More of a formal/educational read, it provides definitions around low/no sex marriages, potential causes, and specific step by step activities to explore. A slower read due to the specificity of content, but great specific and practical ideas on how to address low desire, sexual dysfunctions, and other challenges to intimacy.
How To Be An Adult by David Richo
An amazing job of distilling core concepts of how to know yourself and be in relationship to others in clear and concise ways. It’s a short read with deep content exploring challenging emotions, boundaries, and intimacy. Definitely one to have on the shelf and review frequently.
Mating in Captivity by Ester Perel
An overview on different types of relationships as well as some of the unique challenges they present. She explores the nature of topics dubbed taboo such as fidelity, gender roles and expectations, fantasy, parenthood, and erotica.
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg
He outlines an approach to communication that identifies one’s feelings, recognizes the underlying needs, and then makes specific requests of others. It is a great foundation for those who have been taught to dismiss, ignore, or repress their own feelings and needs as it gives step by step instructions on how to communicate in a kind and effective way.
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
She looks at the impact of shame in one’s life and ways to create a new narrative for oneself. She advocates for the power of vulnerability as a healing and courageous tool while normalizing the ups and downs of that journey.
Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw
A powerful and informative book on the harmful internalizations we learn to tell ourselves through unhealthy messages we are given about shame. Bradshaw unpacks what shame is, how we use it against ourself, and what we can do to heal those messages and find healthy ways of engaging with ourselves and others.
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
A deconstruction of what it means to be a woman according to scripture. She created a list of themes and tried to follow them as literally as possible for a year. It offers great insight on the gray spaces in the bible and practical ways to integrate big picture messages while challenging some of the specifics.
Jesus Feminist By Sarah Bessey
An invitation to reconsider gender roles found in the bible. She explores scripture passages to affirm that Jesus was a feminist and calls the church to catch up and follow his example.
When the Roll is Called by Marie T. Hoffman
This is an academic account of the history of the evangelical church’s aversion to grief and trauma. It explores foundational leaders in America who changed the narrative and advocates for a shift to identifying, affirming, and embracing grief rather than seeing it as a weakness. A good resource for the context of how sadness and suffering became “feminine traits” in the church to be expelled and ignored, resulting in a culture of isolation and silence of suffering.
Watch or Listen
The Principles of Pleasure on Netflix
A great overview on female sexuality, it is split into three parts: Our Bodies, Our Minds, Our Relationships. An easy watch alone or with a partner, it provides accessible information around sex-ed, anatomy, desire, communication, and toys, while actively deconstructing myths and false information.
A podcast hosted by Dr. Bradley Onishi and Dr. Daniel Miller who are former ministers and now scholars of religion which explores themes, historical context, and current events related to white, Christian nationalism in the United States including the pervasive messages of Purity Culture in our society.
Happy Whole Way
Two “Religion Recovery Coaches” who provide infographics identifying the challenges of having left religious institutions while providing alternative messages for individuals to connect with.
Dr Tina Shameless
Author of Sex, God and the Conservative Church, she highlights learning opportunities for individuals wanting to grow in their personal or professional exploration of sexuality.
Tell your story about the ways you have been impacted by messages from Purity Culture.
These nine week online groups are for individuals looking to replace the harmful messages learned from religious purity cultures. Individuals are welcome to join with others in deconstructing the underlying beliefs that have resulted in body insecurity, a mistrust of pleasure, and sexual shame. Time is spent both identifying hurtful messages and imagining compassionate alternatives. Trauma-informed sex ed is provided alongside opportunities to connect with others who understand. Due to the binary gender stereotypes enforced in Purity Culture, the groups are divided between male-focused and female-focused messaging to allow for individuals to attend whichever group most closely relates to their lived experience. Individuals who actively practice their faith and those who have chosen to leave it are both welcome.
$40 per session ($360 total). A commitment to attend all sessions is encouraged.
Virtual Male Messaging Group - Fall 2022
Virtual Female Messaging Group - Fall 2022
Our Reading List
If you have any suggestions please message us. We are always seeking to expand our own knowledge as well as to have a wide range of resources for clients.
Virgin Nation - Dr. Sara Moslener
Redeeming Sex - Debra Hirsch
The Body Is Not an Apology - Sonya Renee Taylor
Constructing the Sexual Crucible - David Schnarch
The Wisdom of Your Body - Hillary L. McBride
Your Brain on Birth Control - Sarah Chapman Hill