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Wait (for what?), Can We Talk About Sex, Love, and Purity Culture?

Youth Group Podcast Cast

This Valentine’s Day we begin a three-episode conversation about the history, theology, and personal impact of purity culture. Although rooted in socioreligious mores that pre-date the term, purity culture emerged in the 1990s as an evangelical Christian cultural movement. It continues to influence Seventh-day Adventist understandings of dating and marriage, sexual expression and gender identity as well as female modesty and male headship.

Purity culture hyperfocuses on doing whatever it takes—kissing dating goodbye to daddy-daughter purity balls—to enforce a defining moral ideal of virginity until heterosexual marriage. Steps toward biological and sexual self-awareness reveal a downward dance with the embodiment of sin itself.

This limited series, “Sex, Love, and Purity Culture,” introduces our next-gen video podcast called Youth Group which seeks “to look without prejudice at all sides of a subject, to evaluate the merits of diverse views, and to foster intellectual and cultural growth.” That is also a quote from the founding mission statement written on the opening page of the inaugural issue of a journal named Spectrum over fifty years ago. That commitment to creating community through conversation continues today, with:

Kendra Arsenault, who studied International Development & African American Studies at UCLA and earned an MDiv in Professional Chaplaincy from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. She has created several popular podcasts and works at Stanford University Medical Center.

Ari Bates studied film at Southern Adventist University and is the Creative Director of Aberration Film Studios in Portland, Oregon.  

Ezrica Bennett graduated with a BS in biology from Oakwood University. She recently received a Princeton University grant for her ministry work with young adults at Loma Linda University Church. 

Christina Cannon studied at Wycliffe Hall/ University of Oxford and graduated in 2023 in the Scholars Program at Southern Adventist University with a BA in History.

Sofia Lindgren graduated in 2023 with a BA in Business Administration from Pacific Union College. She is Spectrum’s Office Manager. 

Melodie Roschman earned her PhD in English from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her dissertation is on “Identity, Counternarrative, and Community in Progressive Christian Women’s Memoir.” She was editor of The Student Movement at Andrews University and graduated with a BA in English and Journalism in the J. N. Andrews Honors program.

Although it wasn’t planned, this conversation ended up mirroring the gender separation that happened at my academy on “sex talk” day. But I like the effect for this important conversation as it reminds me of the “real talk” among friends that happened outside of the classroom.

The first episode features Melodie Roschman, Sofia Lindgren, Ari Bates, and Kendra Arsenault and focuses on the emotional and intellectual effects of purity culture. Later episodes discuss the political history of the purity movement and explore healthier models for relationships.

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About the author

Alexander Carpenter is the executive director and executive editor of Spectrum. More from Alexander Carpenter.
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