Cult of purity
Running scared about teenage sexuality is part and parcel with the American mindset—especially among evangelicals for whom the cult of purity has reached an apotheosis in rings, pledges and formal dances. In Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence (Oxford University Press, $29.95), Sara Moslener provides a wide historical context for the conflation of virgin youth with a healthy nation, and points clearly to the rise of purity movements as a way to fight cultural change, even if it is occurring in nonsexual arenas (say, for instance, the Cold War, which created a panic about teen sexual morality among American evangelicals). Bottom line: Purity culture isn't about sexual and emotional health, or even about Biblical truth. Instead, it's about adult anxieties in the face of change.