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The dawn of the New Puritans Today’s repression will fuel tomorrow’s liberation

Is he dad or “daddy”? (David Magnusson)

Is he dad or “daddy”? (David Magnusson)


June 8, 2022   5 mins

It looks like some upsetting combination of a homecoming dance and a wedding. The teenage girls are dressed in polyester facsimiles of the big white poofy gowns they’ve fantasised about wearing since childhood, arm in arm with older men in suits that fit them when they bought them ten years ago. It’s the kind of coupling that, were you to spot them out in public, you’d wonder: is that her dad or a date and manifestation of her daddy issues? Is he dad or “daddy”?

The relief that comes with realising these are father-daughter pairings is short-lived, however, once the girls start to pledge their sexual purity to their fathers, and the men vow before God to shield their daughters from a fallen world. The feeling grows as the men place rings — cheap knock-offs with cubic zirconia and metal that will eventually turn their skin green — on the girls’ fingers.

They are called purity balls, and they emerged from Midwestern Evangelical culture just in time for the George W. Bush administration and the consolidation of Christian political power. If seeing Donald Trump groping at his daughter Ivanka made you gag, a purity ball is bound to make you heave. Grown men slow dancing with teenage girls, their arms wrapped around their waists protectively, promising to remain sexually pure for one another, taking portraits together that could easily be mistaken for prom photos.

The fathers receive rings, too, “symbolising my commitment to protect and shield you from the enemy”, as it’s put in a common version of the pledge. The “enemy” is a vague reference to secular culture, Satan, and boys, a mishmash of influences seeking to sully the virtue of good Christian girls. And it isn’t just an annual dance — it is an industry. True Love Waits was trademarked in 1993, and Evangelicals had made a lot of money from selling purity starter packs, from rings to books to workshops teaching girls how to be saintly young women.

When they emerged in the Nineties, purity balls were a reaction to what the Christians saw as an overly permissive, sexually charged culture. Premarital sex was not only seen as acceptable — it was the norm. Pornography was finding its way into the mainstream with widespread usage of the internet; girls were wearing pants with “juicy” written across the ass; MTV was a nonstop parade of scantily clad women in suggestive poses. (This sexually permissive culture was itself a reaction to the decades of sexual repression and conservative shaming, a time when sodomy was still technically illegal and teens were taught about sex through lectures about abstinence and doom-laden stories of how it will inevitably end in disease, pregnancy, and death. Aged 15, I was given a pamphlet that gave 101 alternatives to having sex: “bake a cake”, “hold hands”, “go on a walk”.)

Since their peak in the 2000s, spreading to almost every state in America, purity balls have largely died down. But while there might be fewer father/daughter dances and cringe-inducing photo shoots, virginity pledges are back, albeit in a different form and for different reasons. It’s not surprising that the deeply patriarchal ritual of the purity pledge — swearing an oath to your father to obey; he in turn praying to a heavenly father for guidance — didn’t survive waves of vigorous social justice movements over the past few decades. Celibacy culture has instead fused with a secular self-care culture that prizes autonomy and comfort above all. While a decent percentage of the TikTok videos making declarations of virginity are from Christian and Islamic influencers and creators, most are not.

One particular trend on TikTok has involved dancing to The Weeknd’s satirical song “I’m a Virgin”. It was originally created for the animated show American Dad as a way of poking fun of the singer’s playboy image, but for many members of the platform it was taken sincerely. (The lyrics in the videos include “I’m a virgin / never got close enough / cell phone blowin’ up, but I’m waiting / for the right person”, but cut off before getting to things like “inside I’m a 12-year-old boy” or “the power of God in my loins”.) There are still videos being made of men and women of various ages lip syncing to the camera, professing their desire to find the right one.

TikTok is not a great way to get information about anything, in general. The viral videos found under hashtags involving virginity include both diatribes about why the idea of virginity is a myth and the word should be replaced in the lexicon with “sexual debut” and people proclaiming that losing your virginity is so painful for women it is common to develop PTSD from your first sexual act. But TikTok has a well-documented contagion factor, with followers mimicking not just dances but behaviors, politics, language, and even mental disorders that they watch being performed on the platform. While not too long ago someone remaining a virgin past a certain age, say 20 or so, was seen as strange or pathetic, now virginity until marriage is roundly celebrated and normalised on social media.

Much has been made about the younger generation’s tendency toward prudery. Generation Z, or the Zoomers, have some of the lowest rates of sexual activity in generations. They wait longer to initiate sexual relationships, are more likely to have long stretches of celibacy, and, so far at least, have low rates of partnership. They’ve turned the stereotype of youths being the most transgressive and sexually active demographic on its head.

While they don’t share the justification for the celibacy — whether it’s patriarchal desires to control the female body or God’s commandments about morality — they do overlap with the religious Right in their desire to counter, and sometimes control, the oversexualised mainstream, which many view as harmful rather than liberatory. There is a worrying tendency when it comes to matters of sex to find these strange alliances between the far-Left and the far-Right, such as in the Eighties when several prominent feminists found themselves working alongside Evangelicals in their bid to outlaw pornography. Their reasons were different — the dehumanisation and objectification of women versus an unholy industry built on temptation and sins of the flesh — but their objective was the same.

With the new puritans, the concern tends not to focus on sexual deviancy but instead focuses on the ethics. They came of age when the culture had a libertine surface, awash in the sometimes violent imagery of online pornography, the legitimisation of sex work, and the proliferation of new and very specific sexual identities. But roiling alongside this were noisy and painful conversations about rape culture, sexual predators, and abusive romantic relationships.

So much of the online sexual puritans’ discourse can be understood as thinking out loud as they try to figure out how to be sexually active in a less harmful way. That they don’t seem to understand just how many previous generations have tied themselves up in similar knots to figure this out is just a problem of youth, not ignorance. The strange directions that online consent discourse take can certainly be off-putting. There is a popular idea on social media that movies should not have sex scenes, with people creating various justifications for why this is: from “it is potentially uncomfortable for asexual viewers”, to “asking actors to simulate sex is unethical” and even “we as viewers do not have the consent of the fiction characters to watch them engaging in sexual activity”. The logic was confusing to all who witnessed.

Philosophical musings about the meaning and value of human sexuality is one thing, and designing hard and fast rules that you expect everyone else to follow is another. Discussions about whether “age gap” relationships are harmful have turned into online harassment of celebrities and public figures who have significantly younger romantic partners. The perennial “should there be kink at Pride parades” conversation can lead to threats against queers from older generations for whom being public and open about their sexuality after decades of repression and shame is still freeing.

As long as these declarations of right and wrong come with condemnation and control, it’s going to be hard to differentiate their notion of “consent” from the Christian idea of “purity”. But this is just another chapter of the long struggle humankind has had with their own sexuality, controlling it, understanding it, sublimating it. For all the handwringing and panic, it’s good to remember that today’s repression will inevitably fuel tomorrow’s liberation.


Jessa Crispin is the author of three books, most recently Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto. 

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Jason Highley
Jason Highley
2 years ago

Consider that if anyone took anything approaching a puritanical vow seriously in our societies, we wouldn’t be anywhere near as f***ed as we are. The fruits of the sexual revolution and post-Christian society are there for everyone to see: mass mental breakdown, dim hopes for the future, libertinism dressed up as fulfillment.

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

Except that by all available measures, the general phenomena of the human darkside -violence, rape, cruelty – are actually historically low, and have lessened almost in lockstep with the spread if secular education.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic A

This is true mainly in cultures where women have a voice – something Ms.Crispin either doesn’t care about or is unaware of. Also, she lied about feminists wanting to outlaw pornography in the 80’s- they wanted women victimized in pornography to have the right to sue -similar to the FOSTA law which was recently passed in Congress, and which the Far Left would like to repeal.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Thank you! Just wrote that above. It’s so easy to look up, but apparently it’s a lot easier to just lump those pesky second-wave radical feminists in with the Reagan administration and be done with it.

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

I was making a point about religion, humanism and the source of ethical behaviour. I don’t understand your response.

Benjamin Dyke
Benjamin Dyke
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Are you sure about this? Is that the same secular education that oversaw 2 world wars and communism’s murder of million? I think it’s academically reasonable to think that public Christianity is what transformed the Western world into one where individuals now have ‘worth’ and ‘freedom’. P.S. as a personal aside on the actual post, I honestly regret any sexual activity I had before or outside marriage because what I’ve enjoyed in both my very normal marriages (my first wife died when we were 36) has been everything I hoped for with all it’s ups and downs (pun intended!)

Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
2 years ago
Reply to  Benjamin Dyke

Communist regimes were pseudo-religious, with their saints (Marx, Lenin), prophets (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot) and unquestionable truths revealed by a new God: historical materialism.
Christianity initially had revolutionary ideas: against debts and usury, slavery, privileges, forced marriages and polygamy. Jesus saw prostitutes and widows as victims that deserved kindness and to be treated as persons.
I do not regret any sexual activity before my marriage, as I learnt a lot through it. Pity that sexual education from films or books is so poor and limited. Too many films and books repeating the same boring views.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

So you’re saying that a philosophy that says “if it feels good, do it” turns out to be corrosive to society by destroying cultural norms and rendering a shared understanding of reality impossible? You bigot! 🙂 (Yes, I’m being facetious, as I share the same view.)

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
2 years ago

So, sexual behavior is entirely a matter of “control” by sinister “patriarchs”? And the solution to constraint is “liberation” from constraint?
Every human society known to historians and anthropologists has found at least some degree of sexual “repression” necessary, some societies more or less than others. This is not a conspiracy against women. Nor is it a puritanical revivalism (although wokism and some forms of feminism have indeed indulged in secular puritanism). It’s common sense. Throughout human history, after all–until the advent of reliable contraception and abortion on demand–sexual behavior has always led to the birth of children. And, notwithstanding those modern innovations, that possibility remains; otherwise, no one would care about the accessibility of either. Individuals vary a great deal in their desire for children, but every society must take seriously the need to perpetuate itself–and to do so in ways that provide the best possible environment for children. (Customs vary from one society to another but are absent from none.) Yes, we need desperately to consider the needs of children, not only of adults. The stats clearly indicate that children from broken families (that’s the correct word) and especially from fatherless ones, are at much greater risk than other children are of every social and psychological pathology. The problems created by hedonism and ideology affect children (if not during sexual intercourse then later on) and therefore affect society as a whole–not only adults.
In short, do we really need to ride on a pendulum that swings from one puritanical or hedonistic extreme to the other?

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I found that pretty confusing as well. “As long as these declarations of right and wrong come with condemnation and control”… but declarations about “right and wrong” are necessarily about control. So I take that to mean the author is refusing all societally enforced ethical and moral standards.

Aristotle said society exists to promote good and discourage evil. He also said that the definition of a civilized (educated) man is one who has mastered his passions and lusts instead of allowing them to control him. I guess Aristotle was a Puritan too.

Andrew Langridge
Andrew Langridge
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Allow me to make a correction to one of your sentences: The stats clearly indicate that children from unhappy and abusive families are at much greater risk…

Christopher Peter
Christopher Peter
2 years ago

A confused article which conflates an awful lot of different groups, ideologies and motivations and sticks the same “having less sex” label on them, which is apparently a Bad Thing. Perhaps many in the younger generation are rather more clued up than we give them credit for, and can see from the society around them that the fruits of the sexual revolution have been mixed to say the least. It may even have dawned on them that sexual “freedom” comes with its own price and its own risks – in other words, not really “freedom” at all.
As for the sneering anti-Christian vibe, that does the article and its author no credit. By all means critique Christian morality, but please explain what harm the “purity” movement has apparently done or is doing, and preferably make that evidence-based rather than based on your own prejudice. At least those young girls at the purity balls you appear to find so objectionable are much less likely to be contributing to family breakdown, the number of kids raised without fathers, the spread of STDs or the abortion rate. They are choosing to do something positive with their lives and to base them on a creed that teaches self-respect and care for others. If you don’t approve then I’d suggest that’s your problem, not theirs.

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago

Burn the strawman!

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic A

You appear to have read a different article. Go back and check.

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

I read the same, and re-read to check. My opinion stayed the same – to my mind CP chippily misrepresents the claims of the writer (just one example, I see no sneering at Christianity, just at a small subset of Americans, who happen to call themselves Christians – Christ-inanities).

The whole point of the article, that two outlying extremes – yes, extremes, not the center – actually rather resemble/mirror each other in interesting ways. I.e.an iteration of the horseshoe theory. It is not an attack on morality Christian or otherwise, but on rigidity and righteousness – so not surprising, actually, that this is upsetting to those whose morality/identity is built upon those qualities.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic A

This isn’t horseshoe theory. The bit that really took the biscuit was when the author says “Their reasons were different — the dehumanisation and objectification of women versus an unholy industry built on temptation and sins of the flesh.” It’s like she can’t see the root of both causes is the same – just dresses one up as objectionable because of her prejudice towards that group (Evangelical Christians, or christians in general). I am happy she writes the article as she does because at least she isn’t trying to mask her disdain for traditional morals. This is what a lot of people think but are too polite to say.

Last edited 2 years ago by Milton Gibbon
Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

 It’s like she can’t see the root of both causes is the same”
Or perhaps it is you making the mistake in thinking the root of both causes is the same. The right-wing religious/authoritarian position, (which is what she is talking about – not general Christian) is that morality flows from God’s word, sex before marriage etc is a sin against God [always], whilst the left-wing authoritarian position (ultra ‘progressive) is that immorality is a function of abuse of a human – sex before marriage, multiple partners etc is only wrong if people are damaged by it (which they may, or may not be) – ie humanist. Very different root causes, leading to very different view of outcomes (God is offended by you both vs we women are offended/damaged by male sexual aggression).
“just dresses one up as objectionable “

Actually, she clearly finds both objectionable. Why, I wonder did you notice only one side?

“her disdain for traditional morals.”

I think she would say that she is on the side of traditional morals, reasonably defined as – those practiced, in the main, by the (fairly quiet) majority, of any or no religious affiliation (in developed countries) over the last 60 years or so. Who believe more or less- sex before marriage is ok, even good, where there is love, car and respect; same-sex sex is fine; Porn and prostitution are best tolerated and regulated to ensure as far as possible safe, non abusive work practices (of course these are very often not in place); and that shame, repression, which is a defining feature of both the wings under debate, are often (not always) dysfunctional – can lead to sexual/emotional immaturity, and frustrated acting out – perversions and sex crimes.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Well done for recognising the difference between the extreme evangelical right and general Christianity which can also be evangelical and take God’s word seriously!

Chris Whybrow
Chris Whybrow
2 years ago

Oh look, someone else who didn’t know what the Puritans actually believed about sex. Puritans actually loved sex, within marriage, obviously. Marital sex was pretty much the only way to entertain yourself that they didn’t consider sinful.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

This is standard for social media. People write at length without going to the trouble of adequate research;.

Rosalie Clare
Rosalie Clare
2 years ago

This article was seriously painful to read. Disrespectful to every single party mentioned.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rosalie Clare
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Rosalie Clare

Why does the author have to be respectful if they find the ideas and opinions they’re writing about to be absolute nonsense?
Girls promising to let their dads protect them from stray tally whackers in a slightly incestuous ceremony does sound unintentionally hilarious, so why shouldn’t the writer be free to ridicule it? They’re not calling for them to be banned, but free speech does include the right to offend in my eyes

Jacques Rossat
Jacques Rossat
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Hi Billy, refreshing statements in an increasingly boring world of people feeling “uncomfortable”, “distressed” and “offensed” at the tiniest bump in their over-protected life.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I agree. Sometimes statements are genuinely offensive but more often than not people choose to be offended, often where none is intended!

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Rosalie Clare

“Disrespectful to every single party mentioned”. You asked them all? Or is it a case of omnipotence?

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Ah, omnipotence then – the narcissism of the the millennials and the entitled authoritarian:

“I, by which I mean my feelings (milennial position) or the rule book of my fathers (traditional authoritarian), are the measure of all things”.

Alastair H
Alastair H
2 years ago

Imagine looking at the fruits of the sexual revolution and lamenting its decline…

In a non-ironic sense, “think of the children“.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  Alastair H

The good news is I think the writer’s saying precisely that from 180 degrees away! “While not too long ago someone remaining a virgin past a certain age, say 20 or so, was seen as strange or pathetic, now virginity until marriage is roundly celebrated and normalised on social media.” Strange! Pathetic! Normalised! We need to get children (*children!*) OFF these websites where such horrific things are promoted. Who knows where it might end? [reaches for smelling salts]

Is feminism finally becoming cringe?

Philip May
Philip May
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Watson

We can only hope.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago

Jessa Crispin is one of those women who built her career on attacking other women. Her main concern is impressing the boys (always a smart career move).
I guess I’m a “Puritan” because I don’t think kids under 18 should have access to online rape porn; I think possession of child porn requires a prison sentence; I think sex buying should be treated as a felony because sex trafficking could not exist without sex buyers; I think the painful and dehumanizing sex acts portrayed on porn hub are turning kids off of sex; and I think swimming in the vomit of Porn Culture is what has created the “new puritans” as Ms. Crispin calls them.
Our society desperately needs a correction where sex can be clearly recognized as an act between two sentient human beings and not a drug administered by an objectified body.
If that makes me a Puritan, so be it. But I suspect it actually makes me a witch.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

What an excellent summation.
That y/our position and those of us who hold it appear to be the most demonized by all sides in the contemporary first world says a lot about what’s valued and what’s threatened when we try to protect children from sexual predators and adult women from being predated upon.
If we had a $100 billion international industry trafficking in staged photos of lynchings and slave plantations that white people conditioned their orgasms to on near daily basis, do you think those pesky Black people who suggested that this MIGHT be fueling racial hate would be accused of attacking the VISUAL FREEDOM of their fellow citizens?
I remember about two years ago when some antiques dealer was hounded because someone found a Jim Crow-era pair of salt shakers among a lot of other vintage items, and this was evidence of his horrible white supremacy. Yet we have boys from puberty conditioning their orgasms to documentation of females undergoing humiliation, beatings, torture, simulated drowning and electrocution (we hope), gang rape, and every disgusting paraphilia you can consider including killing animals, and that’s somehow NOT the public health crisis of the 21st century? It’s the leading driver of transactivism–the rage of autogynephiles, and the terror of young girls in not wanting to be the victims of pornography world.
But yeah, we’re the horrible TERF witch cat ladies who are invisible yet somehow all-powerful. Better to be a handmaiden, lest you be accused of witchery too.

Last edited 2 years ago by leculdesac suburbia
Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Female genital mutilation is carried out by women. Same women that believe sexually independent women deserve to be raped by men. Do not underestimate the role plaid by women in the exploitation of other women.
The dehumanisation of women you mentioned is a good point. Your sex partner is not an object, not a toy, but a person with feelings, rights and will. Sexual revolutions failed on that point.
Jesus did not attack prostitutes, adulterous women and widows. He said we have no right to judge them and that they should be treated with kindness and forgiveness. Puritans failed on that point. They dropped the tradition of Mary and the female saints, thus leaving women at the mercy of an all-men ideology.
Be a witch, as men called independent women. We have the right to be witches.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

These youngsters seem to be a mid life crisis waiting to happen.
Imagine spending your best years in sober abstinence rather than drunken debauchery, what are you going to look back on fondly when you hit middle age and stuck in the grind of work and kids?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Not sure if you’re being serious or not 😉 but I’m happy that I came of age in the extremely hedonistic 90s. Although now married, I indeed have many fond memories to look back upon.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I’m being deadly serious. Most of my twenties were a drunken haze but I regret none of it. I had a great time apparently

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Billy Bob, sincere or ironic? Just can’t tell, but would like to know, please.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

I’m being sincere. To not go mad while you’re young and free of responsibility seems a terrible waste

William Cable
William Cable
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Has it occurred to you that not everyone likes the same things you do and may not enjoy what you enjoyed in your 20s?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  William Cable

Of course, but those people are generally boring and grow up to be like Kier Starmer

David B
David B
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

At what points does being “free of responsibility” start and end? Maybe the blithe assumption that we can start at 16-18 and end whenever we choose (30? 40? Marriage? Kids?) is deeply irresponsible and antisocial towards our fellows.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  David B

I found responsibility tended to creep up on me, firstly by settling down a bit with the missus and then fully when the kids turned up.
However, I’d argue that youngsters going out and living it up is the polar opposite of antisocial, and I fail to see what’s irresponsible about it

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You don’t remember, remember?.

J Hop
J Hop
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I don’t see don’t see my kids as a “grind” and when work became so I found a different line of work that better interested me. When I look back on my more hedonistic years I feel a sense of emptiness and wish I had settled down sooner. I would have probably had more kids.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  J Hop

I love my kids, but you’ll never convince me that getting up at 2am to a screaming baby is more fun than drunkenly attempting to pull some fatty outside a dodgy kebab shop after a night out

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Thanks for starting this conversation: the parade of pious comments you’ve provoked has given me the best laughs I’ve had so far this morning.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

It always baffles me why people get so upset that others don’t live up to their puritanical ideals. A holier than thou attitude seems a recipe for unhappiness

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Perhaps it is what you are describing that has caused the vast numbers of fatherless children and people living wasted lives later on becuase they didnt take life seriously enough when they were young.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

Based on nothing but my own personal experience, out of my friends the ones whose families have separated are the ones that settled down very young, while the rest of the group were still out on the town each weekend. They then reached their thirties and while the rest of us started to slow down, their relationship fall apart and they found themselves out each weekend with lads ten to fifteen years younger.
Now I understand this could be a complete coincidence it’s worked out that way of course, but I think there is an element of those boys feeling like they missed out, and I wasn’t the same person at thirty as I was at twenty so you always run the risk of growing apart

Last edited 2 years ago by Billy Bob
Dawn McD
Dawn McD
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I argued with you above but also have some sympathy for this statement. I do see the problems that come from people taking on parenthood, especially, when they’re not yet ready to be good parents, and I wish they would have given themselves a bit more time to develop. Having said that, I just don’t believe that most people would look back on a decade of their lives spent in a “drunken haze” and not have any regrets about that.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Dawn McD

Mary Whitehouse or Keith Richards, whose life would you rather have lived if you were given the choice?

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There are so many alternatives!

Dawn McD
Dawn McD
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Oh, I don’t know. Dignity? Self-respect? Retention of brain cells? Normal liver function? More money in the bank? Just guessing.
I think the primary cause of the mid-life crisis is this culture’s worship of youth. But that’s not the topic today.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Dawn McD

I think you’re exaggerating there slightly. Very few people have destroyed their brain cells or livers because they used to hit the town at the weekend, that only comes about if you don’t grow out of it and descend into alcoholism.
Same with dignity and self respect, I’d like to think I’ve still got both. They come from your daily interactions and how you treat people, not from a few daft incidents when you were younger and legless. In fact I find a few funny drunken stories can be a good conversation starter.
The bank account I’ll give you, I could have probably bought a Ferrari with the money I’ve handed over to various landlords down the years, though a slightly portly middle aged man in Ferrari who missed his youth because he was hoarding his cash brings us back full circle to the midlife crisis that started the conversation.

Derrick Hand
Derrick Hand
2 years ago

The obvious truth is that societies that promote premarital celibacy, and family as a marriage of a man and a woman of culturally compatible background, bound by public affirmation, with two to three children, and relationships functioning with an efficient division of labor along gender lines is going to have the best chance of survival and a happy life in the long run. This type of behavior avoids disease, distrust, dishonesty and divisiveness from competition. Patterns of sexual behavior devolving into extremes in both directions are there to read in history as are their ultimate outcomes.
Virginity shouldn’t be denigrated. Quite the contrary. A woman’s purity is her highest card and usually directly correlated with her IQ. There is no shame in advertising it. It is respected by men of character. For you women who are, shall we say, wide open to the immediate pleasures of life, there are no shortage of cads available to please you. Men you can never trust. So, try to stay mentally and physically healthy and enjoy it while it lasts.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Derrick Hand

In what way is a woman’s virginity linked to her IQ? What is this rather obscure theory based on, and do you have any studies or statistics to back it up?

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Derrick Hand

“Quite the contrary. A woman’s purity is her highest card and usually directly correlated with her IQ”. Wow. Don’t have the words….

Peter Mateja
Peter Mateja
2 years ago
Reply to  Derrick Hand

This sounds like a completely made up theory… any post that starts with the phrase “The obvious truth…”, and then goes on to make a bunch of claims that aren’t founded in any evidence, simply because the author claims “obviousness” is at a minimum intellectually lazy.

Andrew Langridge
Andrew Langridge
2 years ago
Reply to  Derrick Hand

Why don’t you go the whole hog and take the vote away from women?

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Langridge
Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago

Yes now we live and vote almost completely guided by emotion…coinkidink?

Dawn McD
Dawn McD
2 years ago
Reply to  Derrick Hand

You were doing okay until you threw in the IQ bit. Unless you’ve got some research papers to show us, I would advise a little editing.

Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
2 years ago
Reply to  Derrick Hand

Somalians practice premarital celibacy, unlike their Kenyan neighbours. Guess which country is doing much better.

Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
2 years ago

Which?

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

Is it impossible for the UnHerd Censor to stop such cretins as Stacey Irwin & Co clogging up this site with their drivel?
It is becoming rather tedious.

Michael Taylor
Michael Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

I am glad they don’t. Censorship is a slippery slope.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Who are Stacey Irwin & Co?

Dawn McD
Dawn McD
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I second that question – ??

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Rather less tedious than the multitude of trite replies you feel the need to make.

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago

The moralization of sex never seems to end. The assertion of chastity is a means for some to control the young, through the old who only want power over the minds that have not yet learned that they are being manipulated. The idea that this has anything to do with the mental health of our society today will not win the argument, as this has always been the argument of every succeeding generation. The flower power generation of the 60’s and the evangelical puritans of the 60’s came up at the same time, a generation where both sides argued about what was morally right and wrong. There seems to be nothing new under the sun, just successive waves of the same ideas repackaged over and over again. Each new wave claims to be the ultimate end all and be all.

I am happy to answer anyone who wants to know what it is like to grow up in a fundamentalist, evangelical, puritanical organization. The list of people who ended up with mental health problems is just the tip of the iceberg of many other things these people do to others in the name of their faith.

Last edited 2 years ago by Raymond Inauen
Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

Probably no more than the prevalence of mental health issues of youth culture at large. You probably didn’t corner the market on that one…

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
2 years ago

“…Love may still beget a wonder, not unlike a summer’s frost or winter’s fatal thunder. He who holds his sweetheart true until the day of dying, lives of all that ever breathes, most worthy the envying.” T. Campion, sweetly ironic.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
2 years ago

Jessa, the anti-pornography legislation written & passed in the Midwest and ultimately overturned by SCOTUS in the 1980s didn’t “outlaw” pornography. Instead, it was a law passed for CIVIL remedies, and essentially gave people trafficked in the pornography trade the ability to sue their pornographers and claw back the images.
The monsters who made Deep Throat on the battering and rape of Linda Marciano actually had the gall to SUE HER when she wrote a book detailing how Chuck Traynor had basically kidnapped her, forced her to marry him at gunpoint, and then pimped her out while beating her and threatening her family throughout.
The legislation should have been more tightly framed according to the old “reasonable standard” law–but was basically a remedy for revenge porn, only 30 years earlier.
Most people treat pornography victims like non-humans, because they’re basically prostituted and those victims also are non-humans. The current awareness now about revenge porn means that people realize that being filmed knowingly or unknowingly across a range of situations and then having that disseminated against your will is actually HARMING another human being. This is precisely what most pornography has been and is, but that harm never mattered.
The legislation was about giving those victims a tool to fight back–just a civil tool, one that people have used at a McDonalds if hot coffee is spilled on them. But Linda and other victims just weren’t important enough.
I suggest to you that your broad brush about the history and power of “human sexuality” is covering up some seriously powerful dynamics, kinda like discussing the “power of democracy in Ancient Greece” or the “power of technological innovation in Ancient Rome” and neglecting to mention that it was built on the backs of a large class of exploited human beings.

Last edited 2 years ago by leculdesac suburbia
Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago

Other than the hints of disaproval towards religion,this was a great article – interesting to get more insight on the widespread sexual puritanism from non religious young people.  I recall back around 2018/19 when the “sex recession” story broke, when folk raised concerns on social media, they’d be ratioed by hordes of young people screaming ‘creep’ & ‘why does it matter to you?’

Jessa has probably identified the main causes, though just to throw my own theory into the mix. There currently seems to a great deal of anx out there concerning civilisational decline & even collapse. It;s been largely proven (though not often discussed in contemporary mainstream Accademia) that declining civilisation is associated with sexual liberation. Maybe part of the puritanism is the collective unconscious saying we need more prohibition so sexual energy is sublimated into driving much needed reform?  I’d guess there’s a chance (God willing) that our current civilisation could endure without needing sexual prohibition, due to the AI factor. But there are many good counter arguments to that.

Last edited 2 years ago by Adam Bartlett
Dawn McD
Dawn McD
2 years ago

My mother threw herself into the culture of the southern California divorcee of the early 1970s, and I became the inconvenient loose end left over after a disappointing marriage. As a teenager I was inundated with the messages from Hollywood and feminism, and the image of the “Cosmo girl,” the supposed modern woman of the late 20th century who would always be ready for consequence-free sex with a stranger, her one-night-stand bag of tricks ready to go. I found the whole idea disturbing, never went for it, but had no other role models in my own life to talk to. I rejected these pressures out of some kind of personal instinct, if nothing else, and have been married for 35 years.
What did I miss out on? Maybe something good, maybe something terrible. I keep forgetting who said that all the tragedy of humanity is people’s inability to sit quietly in a room for any length of time (paraphrasing). I would add to that the inability of many people to get through the night without doing something potentially destructive. Getting through the night seems to be a major hurdle for us.

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
2 years ago

Never quite understood the concept that you put millions of sexually illiterate and naive individuals together and made them pledge lifetime loyalty, allegiance and monogamy to one person and miraculously, you don’t end up with a society full of sexual problems, domestic violence, child sexual abuse etc etc which spill out into wider society.

There was never a nirvana of everyone happily married with fulfilling sex lives. There were countless lives of ‘quiet desperation’ where the wrong people slept together because of some holy writ imposed by mostly men who never engaged in sex with women and rather too often engaged in sex with prepubertal boys. About time that is was admitted that the priesthood was seen as the career choice for homosexual sons of the wealthy 200 years ago…..
Grown ups tend to think that the time to make a commitment to one person is when you are grown-up enough to make such a commitment. You aren’t sweet sixteen, nor are you 21 marrying your first boy/girlfriend.
You are probably 23-27, have had several sexual partners as a young person and have now met someone you wish to settle down and have kids with.

There is serious childish nonsense on both sides of the debate and it behoves all those people to either grow up or shut up.

Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
2 years ago
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar

Good point: millions of sexually illiterate and naive individuals put together. All the advertising world is mostly based on sex, yet we teach so little about it.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 years ago

I’ll tell you why these “purity balls” are kinda awkward and clueless. It’s because the “better sort” — that ought to be leading the way back to a culture about sexual relations that would be much less about “let it all hang out” — is missing in action. As the writer inadvertantly makes clear.
The fact is that males are sexual predators and women and girls need protection from us. Every society has to figure out how to do it, and it is up to the “better sort” to figure it out for the rest of us.
If you want to know what society looks like when women are not protected read “A Woman in Berlin” by Anonymous. It’s about life in Berlin in May-June 1945. Not for the faint of heart.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Interesting article. I’m a gay man, hardly a stranger to sex, and I have no first hand account of social media pressures and influences either way on sex.
However I have always thought the rather large amount of time spent on depicting sexual desire, the chase, and more and more graphic scenes, on entirely mainstream and even family media rather peculiar. I do find long sex scenes (in which the norm is the woman to jump up athletically into the standing man’s lap, and various items get knocked over) as extremely embarrassing! I would agree with the assessment of the sex scene in Nicolas Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now’ as one of the best and most tender ever.

Rick Abrams
Rick Abrams
2 years ago

Purity Pledges are particulay helpful for closeted male teens who need an excuse to remain pure

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago

Do they have an Orange Lodge and local branch of The UVF and a Rangers football fan club?

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago

Hmm. I had expected that the neo-Puritanism hook might have worked off of the the chiliastic idea of building a “City on a hill.” But, no.
If you were to ask me: Yes, this “purity ball” business sounds really creepy. But, no one is going to ask me. No one should feel compelled to ask me. What I think about that business means nothing.
Live and let live. Ok? What you think also means nothing. Embrace the nothingness.