The Longing Lab

Break Free Together founder Linda Kay Klein on the damage caused by purity culture and what recovery involves

September 28, 2023 Season 2 Episode 16
The Longing Lab
Break Free Together founder Linda Kay Klein on the damage caused by purity culture and what recovery involves
Show Notes

Episode 16 Purity culture recovery coach Linda Kay Klein explains how difficult it is to shed the teachings of purity culture. Using her personal experience and those of the many women she interviewed for her book, Linda discusses how purity culture encouraged longing for a perfect mate, how repression of emotions manifests in our bodies, and how to develop an endoskeleton of sexual ethics.

Linda Kay Klein is author of Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free. Today, she is a purity culture recovery coach, and the founder and president Break Free Together, a not-for-profit organization serving individuals recovering from gender- and sexuality-based religious trauma. Linda has spoken around the world from various TEDx stages to The Apollo’s Women of the World Festival. Her work has been featured by over 150 outlets, including the New York Times, NPR, CBS, NBC, and Elle Magazine. Linda is a trained Our Whole Lives (OWL) sexuality education facilitator, and holds an interdisciplinary Masters degree in gender, sexuality and religion from New York University. Linda has one daughter in diapers and another in college. She is married to a writer and social change agent who inspires her every day. 

Connect with Linda through her website

In this episode, (in order) we talked about…

*Ways in which purity culture encouraged longing for an ideal partner

*How “Letters to My Future Husband” set women up for disappointment

*What is virginity and what is sex (what we count and what we don’t)

*How even after leaving the evangelical church, she couldn't escape purity culture

*How purity culture encouraged perfect performance for reward

*To be wanted but not savored

*Why and how she wrote her book Pure

*How she developed a formula to help others heal from purity culture

*How repression of her emotions manifested in her body 

*An exoskeleton versus an endoskeleton model of sexual ethics

*Forms of purity culture (not just Christian)

“I had very specific expectations for what sex meant based on having grown up in purity culture…Not only was it penis and vagina, it was sex that was spiritual, deeply loving, and wildly pleasurable…with that man I’d been longing for—that perfect man, that forever man, that destined man.” 

"The whole time I was in purity culture, I was called a stumbling clock, a thing over which men and boys could trip. I felt like there were eyes on me all around assessing me, and I came up short."

“I would try to have sexual exploration with my long-term boyfriend, and I would break into tears. My eczema would come out from the stress, and I would be scratching until I bled. As we started to get anywhere close to having sex, I started taking pregnancy tests out of fear…”

"I no longer walk around with shame, fear, and anxiety…but it still lies there dormant waiting for it to be triggered." 

"As I’ve worked more on recovery work, I see it all the time: lots of back issues, lots of stomach issues, and other physical issues associated with repression of our emotions, choices and selves...those internal muscles tightening, saying, “Don’t let yourself come out!” 

"In order to have an endoskeleton sexual ethic, we need to have actual thought processes around our sexual decisions….and safe supportive places to talk about it with people who aren’t so ashamed they can’t look it square in the face." 

Resources mentioned:When the Body Says No by Gabor Mate and The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk