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Making Chastity SexyThe Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns$
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Christine J. Gardner

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780520267275

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520267275.001.0001

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From Abstinence to Purity

From Abstinence to Purity

The Changing Tropes of Chastity

(p.22) Chapter 1 From Abstinence to Purity
Making Chastity Sexy

Christine J. Gardner

University of California Press

This chapter considers the incongruity of the positive, benefits-oriented rhetoric of an evangelical abstinence campaign that is all about a prohibition. The message focuses on a positive call to a lifestyle of purity instead of a negative prohibition implied by the term abstinence. The campaign rhetoric is reconfiguring virginity too, constructing it as a choice that can be found after it has been lost. To a public audience, abstinence is portrayed as the healthy choice. The chapter considers the impact of this shifting rhetoric—from prohibition to admonition—on attempts to control adolescent sexuality, as well as how it defines the contours of evangelicalism as a whole. Evangelicals use rhetorical agency as a strategy of persuasion, constructing their audience as teenagers who have the power to control their bodies.

Keywords:   sexual abstinence, purity, adolescent sexuality, teenagers, evangelicalism, evangelical abstinence campaign, virginity, rhetorical agency

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