Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


Meet Mr Smith – The Wiry Little Guy

Today is the day we finally meet the first member of the League. Chapter 4 describes Eric’s meeting with “the wiry little guy”.

So, Eric’s sitting at his favorite café waiting to meet the first member of the League (after getting an anonymous note with the date). He has no idea who he’s waiting for, but at some point, the waiter whom he seems to know well tells Eric that a man is waiting for him at another table – a ‘geeky dude’:

I looked over toward the bookcase and saw a large, muscular man sitting snugly in a tall, wingback, leather chair only ten feet from where I sat. “You mean the big guy?” I asked Deuce [the waiter]. “No, the wiry little guy with big glasses and high water pants, sitting right there. And beware, my friend, he’s toting around a most awful smell.” (p. 33)

It turns out they are talking about the exact same man, and Eric walks over to find out what’s going on. The man tells Eric that he was the one who sent the note. Eric is puzzled – he has no clue who this guy could be. But:

The more I studied this man, the more familiar he seemed. His manner was reminiscent of something, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. He was hulking. His clothing covered it well, but as you looked at him more closely, it was obvious that this man was not just big; he seemed to be cut from marble with a Greek chisel. He was beyond Hollywood handsome, and his presence was truly statuesque and awesome. He smelled of Tide laundry detergent with a hint of peppermint. His jaw was square, his silvery-blue eyes were intense, and his grip, when he shook my hand, squashed my fingers. (p. 34)

Wow, talk about admiration! On a side note, am I the only one who is reminded of Christian Grey? Either way, this guy doesn’t sound like a wiry little guy. He sounds downright awesome, the kind of guy the other men want to be like, the kind of guy women want to date. Right?

Have you guessed who this guy is? I’ll tell you right now, it is (drumroll) Mr Purity.

Now, what we see here is a stark contrast between Eric’s perception of this guy and Deuce the waiter’s perception of that guy. Eric’s (supposed) authority in matters of faith functions here as an expression of the fact that worldly culture’s view is distorted. The reader is faced with an image of ‘purity’ that they have probably encountered before – after all, people might have pointed out their ‘nerdiness’ or at least ‘weirdness’ before. Eric’s authority allows him to say “It’s not you who’s wrong – it’s society failing to see the beauty and strength in you.” In this way, Eric tries to lift the doubts young people encounter if they try to follow purity teachings. While I agree that some people might see some things differently, I find that this stark contrast – especially in this context – is something very dangerous. After all, there aren’t just different ways to look at things, there are wrong ways and right ways, Eric’s way obviously being the right way because it is the (supposedly) biblical way. This right-wrong distinction makes it very difficult for any person to reevaluate personal convictions – the fact that Eric’s tale here mentions that Mr Purity is a messenger of the actual, real God of the Bible, and that Eric, as a believer, sees what he really looks like makes it almost impossible to reevaluate anything without being blamed of some sort of ‘sin’ causing a change of mind. That is, anyone who sees something that differs from Eric’s perception is by necessity mislead and suffers from a distorted view of ‘truth’.

Also, I want to add this one fragment of thought to this: Eric’s description here is very reminiscent of ‘secret knowledge’ type of groups and societies. Eric implies that certain things can only be seen if you follow XY or Z. That is, followers of his teachings can see things the average person cannot see, or only in a very distorted version. Apart from the fact that in this way, Eric excludes a large number of people from his group, it also creates a feeling of community and superiority. ‘Seeing truth’, in its most literal sense, becomes an ability that is exclusively given out to a chosen group of people, a sort of supernatural ability.

This also ties in with a statement that can be found at the very bottom of Leslie’s girl magazine homepage (Set Apart Girl): “In Every Generation There Are a Few” is what this little, sneaky line reads. Again, this is along the same lines of a selected group of people who share knowledge that is inaccessible to others. But back to Eric.

The two of them chat some more about Mr Purity’s appearance, but it’s just more of the same old, until we get to the point where Mr Purity gives the following remark:

“I know you contacted Great Sex. That was a bold and brash move on your part. I realize you and Leslie have a special relationship with him in regard to your marriage; however, Great Sex is very private, and God has very strict authority over his public presentation. He called me into his office last week and told me you are writing a book that aims to prove his existence. I don’t need to tell you how delicately this must be handled, Mr Ludy!” (p. 35, emphasis mine)

Note the bolded parts. Why would God be concerned over people knowing that Great Sex exists? Why does it need to be handled delicately? Again, is this some sort of secret knowledge? Secret society? Is knowing about the existence of Great Sex something that unbelievers must be barred from? If so, why? So they don’t… become believers? I mean, if you knew that you would have Great Sex if you were a conservative Christian… wouldn’t you convert or something? Become a Christian? Isn’t this completely illogical and weird? I honestly have no clue what to say about this other than the fact that I believe Eric is trying to imply that this is a very secret knowledge, and that even believers have to (secretly) work to get it. Of course, I realize the God of the Bible wouldn’t be too hyped if you presented great sex in public – the act, that is. But in Eric’s tale, it wouldn’t be an act that is being presented – hence there wouldn’t be a display of, say, naked bodies or defrauding images. It would be an actual, living person, waving at the crowd saying “Hi guys, I’m great sex, look at how awesome I am!” I really can’t see why this must remain so secret, and why Great Sex would be so concerned that his existence stays a secret.

Also, why would Eric want to prove the existence of Great Sex in the first place? Has anybody ever doubted that he exists? It’s not like unbelievers think sex sucks – in fact, most people would probably say that they’d had great sex at least once. The distinction between what unbelievers think of as great sex (that ugly, mean guy, the Imposter) and what believers think of as great sex (Great Sex) has already been made earlier in the book. I thought Eric wanted to expose the Imposter, who, by the way, was admired by all unbelievers in the café in the first chapter. So, obviously, it’s totally unnecessary to prove that it exists. But again, I can’t help but think of this as a tool to form a secret society/community type of feeling.

Continuing with the conversation Eric has with Mr Purity, Eric learns that Mr Purity is the bodyguard of the League:

You see, Mr Ludy, I am the official bodyguard of the inner life. My responsibility is to protect the ever-maturing Christ-life within the hearts of God’s children. (p.39)

Now here, purity is about more than just sex. It’s about the whole inner life of a believer. That, in turn, implies that sexual purity (which is not present in unbelievers) ties in with the entire inner life (of an unbeliever). So… a lack of sexual purity weakens your entire inner life to attacks from evil forces. Sounds a bit far out? Well, this is actually what I believed in. There is no real difference between sexual purity and a purity of the entire being. It’s pretty much the same mechanism. This is one of the reasons why sexual impurity is such a big deal: It opens you up to all kinds of attacks on your spiritual life.

Now, Mr Purity doesn’t want to let Eric meet the rest of the League until he taught him a lesson or two (what what, Eric needs lessons in purity? no way!). Next up: The Deal!



The Ludys: An introduction

Can I get a B-U-S-Y to describe my summer? Phew. I’ve been feeling inspired for a long time but I simply could not find enough time to actually write a full post. Today’s the day! So let’s get started.


I know most of my readers follow a large number of similar blogs (I follow the same ones!). Now, a ‘trend’ on these other blogs is (and has been for months and months) a focus on certain teachers from the P/QF movements, often closely linked to book reviews and the likes. One blog may be very strongly involved in the Godhard-side of things, another may be more focused on Vision forum. I really really enjoy reading these condensed views, reviews and collections. I personally never felt compelled to focus on any specific leader in my writings, simply because I don’t know that much about them (e.g. their personal histories, affiliations etc.). Another factor is that I never got deep into reading their materials, so I can’t really speak in such a knowledgable way about Godhard & co. What I’m trying to say is that I always thought that I never followed a specific leader religiously in my past life, and that means to me that I should not be spreading pseudo-knowledge when there are so many good (and knowledgable) resources.

Recently, however, I have noticed that I did follow a specific group religiously. I did soak up materials like a sponge. I did listen to sermons and talks and all that, took notes, marked their books, etc. And that group is – Eric and Leslie Ludy. Funny I never noticed how obsessed I used to be (and still am, avid reader of Leslie’s magazine here!). Additionally, I find that the Ludys take very much a backseat in the discussion of hurtful theologies and ideologies. Seriously, it’s very hard to find a critique of the Ludys on the webs. Why is that? Here are some thoughts:

As opposed to many other leaders in the evangelical community, the Ludys are a couple. Now, obviously Mr Phillips is also married, but his wife never played a major role in his projects. When she did appear, she very much seemed in the role of a supporter. Godhard was never married, so there’s that.

Finally, we got the Pearls. Now, the Pearls are also a couple, but the constellation is very different from the Eric-Leslie Ludy constellation. The Pearls enforce the exact same values and ideas, the only difference being that Debbie’s books are labelled “For women” whereas Michael’s books are labelled “For men”. At the end of the day, they talk about the exact same stuff, the exact same ideas. Michael and Debbie Pearl are not so much a couple as they are the same person (at least concerning the books they produced) in male and female respectively. This is a huge difference to the Ludys, and I think it is this difference that sets the Ludys apart from the majority of ideological leaders in the evangelical world.

Eric and Leslie Ludy populate vastly different spheres. Their books are very different: Their styles of writing differ greatly, so it’s actually possible to guess very easily who of the two wrote a text (as opposed to Debbie and Michael, you would probably not be able to tell who wrote a piece of text in a blind test). Most importantly, however, their topics differ greatly. Leslie Ludy has a strong focus on clothing, style, make up, family life, children, housekeeping and all things “feminine” (eg. gossip, texting, Internet, etc). Eric Ludy, on the other hand, has not published as many books as his wife to begin with (possibly due to the fact that Leslie’s books have a different target audience which happens to simply consume more books of this sort), and those that he did publish are on topics such as missioning, theology, religion in daily life, etc.

I think this short list gives you a pretty good idea that there is very little chance of the two getting in each other’s way, meaning, they will never repeat what the other one has stated before because they do not intrude each other’s spheres. This also means that the Ludys come across not only as very complementarian (“perfect match” anyone?), it also gives them a quality of respecting each other and each other’s roles in life without reflecting a pattern of “submission” of the wife. In fact, Eric never talks about submission at all – that is entirely Leslie’s job (though she does not like to use the term “submission” at all; Leslie has developed a whole array of terms to cover for it). That may make Eric look like the perfect husband, but whether this reflects his actually state of mind or if this is simply a relatively smart way to solve the problem of a man telling a woman about her place in life is a completely different story.

The very few hints Eric’s writings and sermons give us is his usage of terms like the anecdotal “warrior-poet” (I’m serious, direct quote). This is something I will go into in more detail in a follow-up post, for short a warrior-poet is a man like King David: A brave warrior as well as the shepard who write poems and plays on the flute. Now, warrior-poets are leaders by definition, and, because they are not just brave but also incredibly romantic (the poet part), women are to trust the warrior poets to lead the relationship. I think this very short description gives a good glimpse into the idea of “letting a man lead”. The whole point of this is, though, that the idea represented by the Ludyesque warrior-poet differs in no way from the man in the good old purity/courtship culture. Not one bit.

Eric Ludy hardly ever talks about relationships outside of this warrior-poet-symbolism, and that is, in my opinion, what distinguishes the Ludys from everybody else and ultimately makes them seem extremely liberal while extremely complementarian – this sounds like a contradiction in itself, but it is not, as I hope to show a bit clearer in the next few posts.

Now, Leslie, as opposed to Eric, is very much into the strong representation of female qualities in her writings. Leslie has published a number of books on beauty, style, love, relationships and the like. In her writings, Leslie often takes a very critical approach towards women who fall out of the line of what she deems “godly behavior”. In fact, without ever stating this specifically, she often implies that a woman truly saved will look just the way she expects you to. Everyone who does not meet this ideal of the perfectly made up and styled woman fails to do so because they lack faith. In a sense, Leslie differs very little from other leaders in this field, except for the lack of involvement of her husband in these issues. This lack gives her an authority on these issues that is unmet in the evangelical circles: She speaks truth without her husband being involved in this at all. She speaks truth because she herself does not need her husband’s input on it. This makes her believable and uniquely authentic. She undermines this seemingly god-given perfection of the feminine sphere of Christianity with her magazine “Set Apart Girl” (available for free online, just google set apart girl), in which she uses beautiful layout, beautiful photos and beautifully arranged texts. You may say I’m overinterpreting here, but as a matter of fact, Leslie manages to publish and honestly beautiful magazine, while looking beautiful herself, sitting in her beautiful house, with her perfectly clean kids (rosy cheeks and all) – this is what attracts the young female reader. Leslie turns into the perfect role model because she has it together (or so it seems), because her husband is so immensely proud to have a perfect wife (and he didn’t even have to publish a book on how to be a perfect wife because his wife already is perfect).

These things are exactly what drew me towards the Ludys (and still does), so bear with me while I go into more detail on a number of the things I mentioned (and some others). I think it’s going to be interesting, and I also think it’s going to be a nice addition to the rest of the “evangelical leader” publishing field.

By the way, since book reviews are so popular, I went through the small stack of christian living books I still own (They are all Ludy books). I came across “Meet Mr Smith”, which is a book on sexual and emotional purity in relationships, written by Eric and Leslie together. I thought I’d offer this up for a review because it’s one of the least-known Ludy books and it’s actually a very interesting read. Thoughts?


In which we get a mention

We got a mention in one of the fanciest magazines in the world of purity cults: Leslie Ludy’s Set Apart Girl (July/August issue, Article on page 27ff). Well, it’s not actually Leslie writing about this. It’s an “Anonymous Warrior Poet”, which is a Ludy term for a man who resembles King David, I believe.

The fact that this is written by an “anonymous” person is problematic to me. Now, I do not want to point fingers here, but… I read the set apart girl magazine every time a new issue comes out. I read all of Leslie’s articles. I read all of the “Warrior Poet” articles. The styles resemble each other strongly. I do not believe that this series of articles is written by a different person each time. I also think that Leslie’s writing and the Warrior Poet’s articles resemble each other in respect to style. Just throwing that out there.

Anyway. This months’ warrior poet (following “WP”) is concerned, very concerned. Why? Blogs. Let me quote him:

“And now – I have observed – many of my peers, who were once zealous advocates for purity, restraint, holiness, and waiting on God for their future spouse are now throwing in the towel on the whole idea. Numerous blogs have been written by young men and women who “believed the lie” of the whole “purity thing.” They rant to high heaven that all the purity rings and courtship lectures ruined their ability to interact with the opposite sex. They cross their arms in a teenage huff when they hear certain relationship books or authors mentioned. They write blogs expounding their angst and how they “removed their ring” because it was just a fuddy-duddy way of dealing with sexuality, and, with rolling eyes say, “it doesn’t work anyhow.”

What WP is doing here is far from an objective description of the ex-purity cult blogging scene. He uses several ways to label these bloggers as teenagers at mind. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s not a very “loving” thing to do for a christian. Labeling us teenagers is the equivalent of calling us unreasonable and immature – he blames the way we feel on the fact that our hormones are raging and we don’t know what’s good for us anyway. Teenagers! *eyeroll*

I don’t know how well-read you are when it comes to ex-purity cult blogs. Most bloggers are well past their 20s. Many are married and have children. Calling grown adults teenagers degrades us into a position in which we are considered to be unreliable, blabbling out of pure spite. Actually, the quote above denies us that our negative emotions towards the purity cult are reasonable.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being called unreasonable in such a flowery way when I complain about serious and real hurt. I don’t think my feelings about this issue come from one single experience.

By the way: Certain books and authors? Who could that be? But let’s move on:

“They make viral youtube videos that accentuate all the ridicoulousness our parents told us about these matters.”

He did it! He’s talking about the parents! What he’s basically doing here is telling all those good, pure girls “Look! These guys are making fun of YOUR parents and the values THEY believe in! You have to honor your parents! If you believe anything they say, you are one of these people who makes fun of YOUR parents!”.

“They say that it ruined their ability to have healthy guy/girl interaction.”

Here, he actually mentions an important aspect: Many feel that the purity teachings ruined their ability to interact with men/women. So far so good. But where is his argument against this? I read the article four times now, and I cannot find a single sentence in which he explains why this isn’t true. Please, go read it yourself and comment if you find it. It kind of feels like WP wants to make sure that his readers know this isn’t so, but he can’t go into detail. Why? Maybe because he himself has very little experience with women. Maybe because he doesn’t know how to relate to them. Maybe because the definition of “healthy” is very subjective – what is normal to me may be weird to you.

“I have a hunch that what is behind all this angst, and all this disgruntled blogging, and all this huffiness is an attitude of self-justification.”

The worst sin of all: Selfishness! Of course that’s what it is. We are selfish. We failed, and because we are selfish, we need a good reason for our selfishness. Everything we say is to justify our failures. Especially in Ludy-ism, selfishness is high up on the sin scale. Basically every sin is in some way based on a person’s selfishness (including, for example, homosexuality, masturbation, physical contact before marriage – I read the books and listened to the sermons).

“My concern, as a Warrior Poet in the making, is that a whole generation of young women will be led into a compromised and self-justifying lifestyle that is based wholly upon the sarcastic cynicism and bad experience of those around them.”

WP is in fact concerned that this pattern of relationships, which can be so convenient for men, will collapse due to women starting to think for themselves. The counter-culture the christian fundamentalists develop stands and falls with the participation of women. Ultimately, it is women who have to give up their entire identity in this pattern. If a woman refuses to become a mere extension of the man’s existence, none of the beliefs and patterns would fall into place anymore. The obsession to fix the problems people have, always have had, by following a certain pattern is very clear in this article.

In the end, I think the fact that our blogs got a mention in such a popular magazine among young conservatives is telling. There obviously has been some effect, some change, just something going on. Are they scared of us? No, probably not, but they feel they need to address the issue in some way, so I guess there is some progress.

Whatever it is, it seems as if the blogging scene is opening up to them as a new battleground for their “war of cultures”. Maybe we will see and hear some interesting articles and speeches about the blogging scene in the future. Let’s wait and see.


Guest-post: A man’s words on sexual attraction and failed courtship

One of my (male) readers recently left this comment on one of my posts on sexual attraction. I wrote about the fact that men are taught to fear sexual attraction – how the different notions of beauty and sexual attraction are taught in a way that causes men to flee from what is sexually attractive to them, and instead go for what (their environment tells them) is ‘beautiful’.

After asking for his permission, I wish to share this as a single post with the rest of you. I think his words are very important and very precious – they need to be heard. It is unfortunate that we have so few men among us when it’s a known fact that they suffer just as much from growing up in these destructive teachings, so I did not want to miss the chance to share that men are just as much devastated by the purity and courtship culture as women are.

“This was difficult for me to read, only because it hits me so close to home. I don’t even know where to begin. How about the “self blaming and guilt”?

But first, I appreciated reading a woman describing how we men learn to avoid attractive women like the plague… We’re taught to feel so guilty about sexual attraction that we really do avoid being around you… I was touched somehow by even reading that bit.

The Courtship movement, fundamentalism, submission to pastoral authority, allowing other people with the “right answer” tell me what God’s will is, as if they knew… well… I allowed myself to go with other people’s ideas of God’s will for my life in the choice of a wife.

Long story short, I married a woman 13 years ago to whom I’m not sexually attracted, and I’ve never lusted after.
I knew it before I married her. I knew it the day I married her. I’ve known it for 13 long years in a passionless marriage.

She’s a really nice girl, and I’m devesatingly ashamed that I’ve ruined the woman she could have turned out to be… I see her as the true victim in it all… lack of passion has done that to both of us.

Warped by church teachings, I literally convinced myself that God was going to bless me with sexual attraction for her, by being obedient to marry her… like some magic wand of his would tap me on the head and “poof” …. Happily Ever After.

And, no, I’m not gay… I can sense you all wondering.

I had cold feet right up until the wedding, but had convinced myself that it was “just lack of faith.” … so I suppressed it.

The night before the wedding, I got no sleep. I had no peace of mind. I don’t remember too much about that day…. and we left the reception early during the festivities… I was too tired to continue. But the full force of what I’d done hit me during the week… like a cold chill of death running down my spine… I was married… marriage is forever, and I’m unhappy…. forever … the exact opposite of what i’m supposed to be… I can’t get a divorce… divorced people go to hell in the express lane or the handbasket, or something. There may even be a reserved section in hell for divorced people, I thought… like maybe even a VIP entrance.

I felt so ashamed of myself. In a foreign country… surrounded by my new fundamentalist in-laws (still my neighbors today after all these years)… I vowed to just stuff it… all of it… just repress it and forget and go through the motions, and to never say a word to anyone. Too ashamed to admit what I’d done. Just put on a happy face… smile…. go to Church… and pray like hell.

Within two weeks I was being confronted by the father in law… something was wrong, since i was obviously not happy, not sleeping with his daughter…. emails were being sent back home to the pastors in the states… who also flew over eventually to meet me and my wife… I was ashamed, alone, and scared … I still believed that I needed to believe in the “right answer” … so I lied to them, and told them that my marriage was God’s will (besides, who wants to go to hell for divorce.) so I tried really hard to “do the right thing…” … and just stuff the negativity and the lack I was feeling….

My married life became one of fear, obligation and guilt.

Well, I don’t have to tell you, that women aren’t stupid. It’s been hard on both of us… and I didn’t become honest until several years and several children later.

I wish I’d never stepped foot in a Church.
I wish I’d never been so easily guided by other people. As a man, there’s nothing more debilitating than that.
I wish i’d never made my wife a victim. She doesn’t deserve this kind of a non-marriage.
I wish I’d stood up for myself, and just spoke the truth to the people pressuring me … Fear, Obligation, and guilt are no way to live.
I wish I’d known that I’m not “evil” or “damned.”
I wish I’d learned to be myself, rather than another cookie-cutter religious dude, prideful of beliefs that aren’t even my own.
I wish I’d learned to have a personal Relationship with MYSELF early in life, before it was too late… to really know myself such that other people’s opinions mattered less to me.
It wasn’t a personal Relationship with Jesus i needed. I needed to know myself… intimately.
I wish I’d learned to trust my intuition rather than to doubt it or repress it… as if it were sinful somehow.

My blood boils sometime with the desire blame others for their influence over me… but I know that I can only blame myself.
Wanting to “please God” led me to not trust my own heart… I allowed myself to believe the Bible literally when it says :”The heart is desperately wicked. Who can trust it.”…

I think that must make me the ultimate people pleaser, or passive aggressive, or something horrible like that.

So I threw my heart away a long time ago. Tragic that it should be the necessary ingredient to the rest of my life… to make me a “Real Boy.”

Your post just reinforces the feeling that everything you said with regards to sex… all these points you brought up about sexual attraction… is entirely beautiful. And entirely right.

I think deep down, I just wish that I had someone in my life that I was attracted to… someone I can’t stop thinking about, someone I would like to do things with, who I get along with, someone I can mutually fantasize with, … someone who is a safe haven for my ever-expanding imagination… not to mention sexual attraction at any age.

I only hope there’s another man actually lurking on the site who reads this, and can learn something from it for his own life.”


Relationships after the purity cult

There are so many thoughts on the damage of the purity culture out there that I decided to evaluate some of my behaviour.

I think one of the major problems with purity culture is not necessarily that it suppressed sexual feelings in general but rather how these sexual feelings are ignored, and how that leads to devastating results.

Feeling sexual attraction toward someone is actually pretty bad in the purity culture. Of course they’d never admit that – they don’t tire of stressing how important physical attraction is, but what they actually mean by that is not necessarily sexual desire but beauty. Men are encouraged to look for someone they find beautiful. Women are encouraged to make sure their match is handsome, physically and characterwise. And that is exactly the problem. Beautiful and sexually attractive are not synonyms.

I don’t know about you, but there’s plenty of people I find beautiful, but not all of them are sexually attractive to me. And it works the other way around too; people whom I find sexually attractive aren’t necessarily beautiful to me.

Hence, while it may work out for some, marrying someone whom you deem beautiful does not tell you whether you will find him/her sexually attractive in the long run. As a matter of fact, I feel that sexual attractiveness is something that is systematically labelled a ‘bad thing’ in courtships.

As both men and women are encouraged to flee from sexual immorality, they actually flee from those people whom they find sexually attractive. A woman will do her best to kill all her desires for a man they sexually desire and end up rejecting them on a regular basis. This goes as far as interpreting advances by those men as attempts of the devil to succumb to sexual immorality. Likewise, a man will try to keep his ‘lust’ out of the picture, systemically avoiding women who cause him to lust – which is nothing more than a clear sign of sexual attractiveness. Instead they will seek for a woman whom they might find beautiful, but who also draws them closer to Jesus – a popular euphemism to avoid those women who are actually sexually attractive to them.

Of course, a sexual desire may be present in all of these people initially, considering that those are their first chances to gain sexual experience, the feeling of new and unknown, of absolute intimacy and, not to forget, the promise that everything will work out heavenly because they waited and fled from all sorts of sexual immorality. But initial attraction needn’t always last for years to come. When, after a few months of marriage, this promise of perfect sex is not fulfilled and the spouse loses the initial sexual attractiveness of the opposite gender in general, they may end up hitting rock bottom with the realisation that while their partner is beautiful, he or she could not keep the promise of ultimate sexual attraction.

Back to myself – I do not think that I would have ended up with a man like my boyfriend if I still followed the purity culture. He causes me to do things which are generally only permissible if you are a man. Fantasies, undressing him in my thoughts, looking at him and not seeing the (obvious) beauty of his face, his eyes, his expression, but instead lusting for whatever lingers a few inches lower, which is a body which many people might not consider objectively “beautiful” but rather as an average man. A body which I would not have permitted myself to find beautiful because it is tightly packed with tattoos. No, he might not have that objective perfect beauty of a six-pack and a flawless body, but neither have I and that’s something I can totally live with. Because I know that this person is extremely sexually attractive to me, and so am I for him despite my obvious flaws of a small chest and a body so skinny you might just mistake it for a boy’s. And fyi, I don’t even feel bad about it because I know that when he looks at me, he doesn’t see those flaws, neither does he think “well she has a beautiful face” like a good courtship boy should. No, I know that he lusts, and to be quite honest with you, I like it. I like seeing in his eyes that he can look at me and lust despite what I consider imperfect. I learned to appreciate the difference between being told “You’re beautiful” and “You’re hot”.

That doesn’t mean that you always feel this way, and it is by no means a guarantee that it will always stay this way. Of course I can still see all the other great things about him, and likewise he can see whatever makes me special to him. But I feel a good deal safer knowing that I am not with someone who has to kill all sexual desires for me in order to even deal with my presence.

I guess that the moral of this story is that if you put a ‘sin’ label on sexual attractiveness, don’t be surprised if you end up with a spouse you do not desire. I feel a lot of anger towards those in the purity movement who withhold this information from young couples, setting them up for a lifetime of self blaming and guilt.

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why would someone want to keep their courtship secret?

As I went over my blog stats, I saw this question pop up in the search engine list. I thought it was kind of self-explanatory, but obviously not everybody understands why a courtship might be kept secret (in certain groups/families).

First off, not every girl (or family) feels the need to keep a courtship a secret. As you can imagine, some girls are so happy about being courted that they just can’t keep it to themselves. Openly talking about courtship is something you’ll see in the more “liberal” groups of the P/QF movement. It’s especially important to differentiate between P and QF here – strictly patriarchical families are more likely to keep it secret than families with a strong emphasis on the QF theologies.

And yes, there are families who aren’t patriarchical but live quiverfull. Others again are full-blown patriarchical families, but don’t believe in the quiverfull theologies (aka NFP and sometimes condoms are allowed, but it’s the man who decides when the wife will get pregnant).

The thing is simply that the patriarchs feel very much like they have to use the (successful) courtships of their daughters to show off how well they filtered potential suitors before hand. A failed courtship can imply that the father did not pick well and this might reflect back and his authority and leadership skills – at least in the public eye of the movements. Of course this isn’t true for every case, but the motto is usually “better safe than sorry”.

And it’s not just the fathers. In very strict groups, a girl turns into “damaged goods” faster than you might think. Even a failed courtship might label her as damaged goods and have a negative influence on the range of future suitors. It’s all about the “value of the bride”.

Imagine you’re in a store for soft pillows. The shelves are full of soft, handmade, expensive pillows. Lots of people come in to buy pillows. Now, some pillows might have attracted more customers in the past – they look a tiny bit “touched”, there might even be a little stain. They’ve never been slept on (no pun intended), but one or the other customer already picked it up to inspect it more closely. Now, if you do want a flawless pillow, you won’t even buy the “inspected” ones – you’ll go for the ones in the back, the ones nobody ever inspected, fresh from the storage room – if possible still wrapped in plastic.

It works very much like that in strict courtship movements. If a girl has one, or, even worse, more than one, failed courtships, there’s something “wrong” about her. A girl breaking off a courtship is something rather “wild”. The idea is that the girl will certainly like the man her dad picked out because, well, her dad knows her best. If you hear of broken courtships, the general idea that comes to mind is that the guy broke it off for some reason (or the dad, which then would be kept secret again because dad doesn’t pick “the wrong guy”). The girl’s value decreased with every courtship she goes through. She’ll be labelled damaged, easy to get, high maintenance and so forth. And simply because of that, it’s so much easier to keep courtships secret until the day of engagement.


Courtship – engagement – weddings (1)

It’s time for another courtship – engagement – wedding post.

There is something weird about courtship I realized. I never read anything about this particular issue and it doesn’t exist in every family, but in some (or many) it does.

Why do so many families keep it a secret when a daughter is starting to court? And it’s not like that for men – at least, not that I know of! When a man starts courting, he will say that he “has a feeling” or that “he thinks God is showing him something”. He might not directly admit “Yes, I’m courting”, but he won’t say no either. With girls, it’s different. A lot of fathers tell their daughters not to talk about it until the biggest deal breakers are out-of-the-way. Why is that?

I think it’s got a lot do with 1. the image of female purity and 2. submission of the female part in a relationship.

About the first: While evangelical circles deny that there is such a thing as a difference between purity in women and in men, we all know these differences exist. It’s got a lot to do with the image of how each gender “loves”. While women tend to get emotionally involved very quickly – and therefore give pieces of their hearts away – men love more on a physical level, physical attraction and sex are the major things a man will crave when he is in love, and not the emotional aspect of a relationship. Hence, once a courtship starts, the woman is much more likely to lose her purity and pieces of her heart while the man is only looking for sex and by that, won’t give away pieces of his heart. The emotional attachment comes much later (if it ever comes!).

And I see this as a major reason why so many families are eager to hide a new courtship of a daughter. This might go on for just a week or two, it might take months for the parents to allow the daughter to admit to it, depending on a large number of circumstances. But it is done on a regular basis.

I think for many families there’s a huge fear of  their girls being “damaged goods” as soon as she enters a courtship relationship. To avoid this, the rules on courting seem to get stricter and stricter, and likewise, the girls seem to pick up a “holier than thou” attitude that wasn’t there before.

While holding hands or even kissing wasn’t “as bad” a few years ago – many fundamentalist couples admit to kissing before getting married – the younger generations, particularly the girls who are just getting into the age of being eligable for marriage. Kissing seems totally off-limits these days and the view of holding hands before marriage is changing as well. There are plenty of people who do not hold hands these days but instead hold a stick on each end to “imitate” holding hands. If you look around in the blogosphere of this group of girls, you will find an awful lot who are against any form of physical contact before marriage – we’re talking actual marriage here, not engagement. It goes as far as even the man not putting the engagement ring on the woman’s hand – he will give the ring to her father, who then will put it on her finger – to avoid physical contact.

I find this behaviour to lead down dangerous streets. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with purity, but the fact that you would avoid every form of physical contact in a way like this goes beyond my understanding. While only acts of sexual sin made you physically impure a few years ago, we’re already at physical impurity when it comes to sliding on that engagement ring.

But back to the discussion of keeping a courtship a secret. The second reason why I think it’s kept secret was submission. This might sound strange to you at first, but –

If a women went out to tell any of her friends, anybody really, about her courtship with a man, and even if that’s all she would tell them, she would put a sort of pressure on him. We all know about expectations from your environment and as soon as you’re in a courtship, certainly thing are expected from you. While many say that a courtship might as well fail, this is hardly ever the case. A courtship is typically only allowed once the father of the girl has already thoroughly inspected the suitor. The biggest deal breakers after starting a courtship would be coming from the girl or the boy, such as not getting along or wanting totally different things, feeling different callings. But that almost never happens. Most courtships are broken for reasons such as sexual sin and rebellion.

Now, once a woman goes out to talk about her courtship, the environment expects them to get along, to make it work. A courting couple in the mind of the people is almost engaged, and engaged is almost married. The simple act of telling others about it might be understood as a way of pressuring the man into taking further steps. But, as we know, that isn’t allowed. Even in courtship, a woman is expected to submissive – let him take each and every step in the relationship, the only thing you’re really allowed to do is follow quietly. Every form of trying to push a man are understood as a sign of a lack of submissiveness. And this, in fact, can be a deal breaker for young men.

Due to the fact that my next issue differs greatly from this one, I’ll split it into another post.