Smart might be the most famous figure to speak out against her conservative religious culture's sexual ethos, but she's not alone. Increasingly in recent weeks, prominent evangelical writers and bloggers have also decried the emphasis placed on sexual purity in conservative Christianity. While exposés of evangelical purity culture are hardly new (see, for one, Andy Kopsa's recent article in The Atlantic), what is noteworthy is that these criticisms are beginning to emerge from within conservative religious circles themselves.
The central thrust of these evangelical critiques is a rejection of the "damaged goods" metaphor. On her high-profile website, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Held Evans calls out the "horrific object lessons," like the one described by Smart, which aim to convince young people that "premarital sex ruins a person for good." Sarah Bessey, author of the forthcoming book Jesus Feminist, shares her own story of feeling condemned by the "true love waits" rhetoric of her church, which conveyed the message that she, as a non-virgin, was now "disqualified from true love."
Prodigal Magazine, an up-and-coming online publication that caters to twenty-something evangelicals, recently featured a candid piece on abandoning the concept of virginity. While deliberately keeping her own sexual history private, Emily Maynard, the author of the article, proclaims that she is no longer going to think of herself as a virgin or a non-virgin. "I'm done splitting my sexuality into pieces," Maynard writes, "I'm done with conversations about 'technical virginity' and couples who 'win the race to the altar.'... I'm done with Christians enforcing oppression in the name of purity."