So, I don’t mean to flog a dead horse by singling out I Kissed Dating Goodbye (IKDG), but I almost inevitably will. The wildly popular Christian anti-dating guide has come under a great deal of scrutiny in the last few years, as those who entered adulthood at the height of its popularity have started to assess its impact and legacy. Its author, Josh Harris, has apologised for the damage IKDG caused to a lot of young people, and is currently undergoing a process of listening to criticism and examining the ways the book caused harm to its audience. Its failings have been widely brought to light and discussed. However, I’m writing about it here because, thanks largely to IKDG, the themes and theories of the what has been called the “courtship” movement (or the “purity” movement), had an impact on lives far beyond its birthplace, the US conservative Christian subculture, even making their way across the pond and into some relatively mainstream UK churches. It’s hard to separate the book from the movement it played a massive role in promoting. Besides which, the story about Anna’s nightmare from IKDG, which I relate below, serves as a vivid encapsulation of the thinking behind the courtship/emotional virginity movements.
So from here on in, there is going to be at least some small amount of horse-flogging. I can’t help that. Because between blows, I wanted to reflect on my own experiences, from my own perspective, having grown into adulthood listening to the rhetoric of the purity movement. And I wanted to write about three concepts promoted by IKDG and the broader courtship movement, (even if the terms they use differ from what I’ve used here): emotional virginity, courtship, and the heart as a finite resource that can be given away.
It was a warm summer’s day and all the girls of the youth group were sitting on the front steps of the church, listening to two women, the youth group leaders. We were receiving a lesson about sex, sexuality, and dating. The boys were somewhere inside, listening to a similar talk from the male youth leaders, except their lesson was tailored towards boys.
I don’t remember much of what was said except from one little story that must have made an impression on me. The youth leader talked about how careful we should be about dating. She told the following tale: Read More