Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity is the story of the break the author makes from traditional purity movements within Christianity. Instead of meeting premarital sex, gender fluidity, and short skirts with STOP IT NOW OR ELSE, Anderson braces sexuality ethics with far-reaching and textured concepts that include individual rights, consent, and a wider range of choices that can coincide with Christian beliefs.
The book’s narration trades off between a memoir-like tone and a more academic slant. There are times where the author brings the audience in with her own experiences growing up in the Christian purity culture, and the impact it had on her experience with virginity and sexual orientation. Other times she explores history and theories from other sociological and theological concepts to dissect the purity movement. Overall the narration was accessible and flowed well.
An early chapter explores the purity movement from the previous Century to where it is now, highlighting various political and social movements that had an impact.
In the chapter that focuses on scripture, Anderson uses scripture to debunk myths she asserts the purity movement treats as fact including the Biblical reasoning behind “One Man, One Woman” and the becoming of “One Flesh” in marriage.
I most appreciated her discussion on modesty and how the modesty movement seems to be targeted at policing a particular type of woman’s sexuality. Women who do not fit the image are left out, in particular women of color, women with disabilities, and women who are not thin. As a visibly disabled person, I appreciated this insight and found the discussion was a fair representation of my experiences. I did wish this section of the book were longer, perhaps a bit more in-depth.
While the book discusses more instances where purity concepts hinder women, the author gives an equal amount of weight to the experiences and circumstances for men within the movement, and I find that very important.
Finally, Anderson discusses concepts like consent, pleasure, and boundaries which are crucial aspects of sexuality that are often left out of purity culture discussions on sex. I think the author successfully serves as a catalyst for some very important conversations at the intersection of Christianity and sexuality.