culture / Jordan Upshaw / October 2018

A Review of Traumatizing Christian Dating Books

Written by Jordan Upshaw

Illustrated by Grace Monahan

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“…You have the power to save yourself [from depression] by walking away [from sex] now. Trust God to fill that empty hole you might fear will be left. He is ready and waiting.” —Hayley DiMarco, Technical Virgin: How Far is Too Far?

I had very limited access to the internet during my early teens in A Very Christian Household. But I was still curious about dating and sex because I was a human being going through puberty. Even though these books helped my teenage self develop an unhealthy complex about sex and relationships, they were all I had to work with at the time.

So grab your purity rocks (you hold it in your hand to keep yourself from touching your boyfriend/girlfriend while kissing), sit back, read, and realize your childhood probably could’ve been worse.

Disclaimer: These books are written by and for cishet Christians so no mention of any other groups are made.

Men are Like Waffles — Women are Like Spaghetti: Understanding & Delighting in Your Differences By Bill & Pam Farrel

The married authors of such titles as Red-Hot Monogamy: Making Your Marriage Sizzle, bring you food-based metaphors that count as progressive because they acknowledge sex exists and married cishet couples are allowed to have it. “Did you know that the best sexual experiences are enjoyed by married couples?”

The title of this book comes from Bill and Pam’s views on the fundamental differences between men and women. According to the book, men are “waffles” because they’re logical creatures who compartmentalize everything like the boxes in a waffle. Women are “spaghetti” because they’re incapable of compartmentalizing and every thought is mixed up like a bunch of long, tangled spaghetti noodles.

Throughout the book, Bill and Pam succeed in portraying men as impulsive idiots who are incapable of multitasking or communicating—unless properly motivated by their wives. They apparently need the type of reward-based system one would use to get a young child to behave. On the other hand, women are just so darn emotional they’re in a state of perpetual confusion and are incapable of making decisions. They’re nagging creatures who just want to cry and talk about their feelings.

This was one of the more progressive books I had access to since it acknowledged that women could be mothers and have a job. (No, the mother part is not optional.) Then again, it also described child molestation as “the mistakes of a man” basically equating it to forgetting about dinner plans. Also adult women who have been victims of sexual assault have “ripped off” their husbands by suffering from PTSD. Not to worry, once she forgives her rapists her marriage will recover.

But what do Bill and Pam want you to take away from this book-length, edgy Christian soccer mom blog post? The “secret ingredient” to a happy marriage is God.

Technical Virgin: How Far is too Far? By Hayley DiMarco

As I recall, I really hated this self-hating, slut-shaming woman. Some gems just from the table of contents: “Abstinence—everyone is doing it; Guys will lie to you to get what they want, and what they want is sex; Losing your emotional virginity; Sexual activity leads to depression.” Sex apparently also leads to suicide in teenage girls and if you stop having sex your depression will be cured.

“Sex = depression”

The introduction to this book is titled: “Two Roads to Sexual Destruction.” What are the two roads? “Romance” and “Recreation.” Having sex because you’re in love versus having sex because you enjoy it. (No, they can’t go together unless you’re joined by the bonds of holy heterosexual matrimony.) The fact that Technical Virgin acknowledges female sexual pleasure exists is what earns it the award for Most Progressive on this list. But the best cure for lady boners is reciting Bible verses to yourself. On that point, I have to agree.

For women, having any sort of premarital sex (or even just kissing someone who isn’t officially your boyfriend) causes you to “lose some of your value. You cheapen yourself… You are spitting in [God’s] face… You aren’t that special; you are just someone who is willing… No matter how much [guys] beg and plead, they like you more when you say no.” Rape culture and religion are really the peanut butter and jelly of the patriarchy.

So what’s the takeaway? “This book can help you start over with a clean slate if you’ve already ‘messed up’ and keep your purity intact if you’re just starting to get physical with guys. Because purity doesn’t have room for compromise.”

Dateable: Are You? Are They? By Justin Lookadoo & Hayley DiMarco

Hayley DiMarco and her entire series of books was the bane of my teenage existence. Also Justin Lookadoo sounds like a horrible porn name or a Law & Order: SVU peeping tom character and no one can convince me otherwise. Dateable is pretty similar to Technical Virgin with approximately 200% more mansplaining.

Table of contents gems: “How Much You Put In = How Much It Hurts; If I Will Do It for You, I Will Do It to You; If What You’re Showing Ain’t on the Menu, Keep It Covered Up; Boys Will Be Boys; Girls, Shut Up.”

On the scale of Completely Traumatizing to Kinda Funny, this book is closer to funny. Think every meme you’ve seen of youth pastors trying too hard to be relatable. The page design is even stylized with doodles and margin notes that are meant to look like they were written by a rad, abstinent teenager.

Somehow Hayley and Justin manage to be even more regressive with gender roles than Bill and Pam. “…Don’t kid yourself, the guy will get bored with you. Wait on the guy. Let him make the move. Give him the chance to be the man (check out Girls, Shut Up and Be Mysterious)… Easy girls are not keepers. They are a temporary fix ’til the right one comes along.”

On one page they’re telling boys they are capable of self-control and shouldn’t try to pressure girls into things they don’t want to do. Then another page contains advice for girls: “A guy’s hand never ‘slips.’ He always knows exactly what he is doing.” Okay. Well. That’s assault, my dude. Thanks for continuing to normalize it.

But hey, at least the takeaway is that high school relationships won’t last and teenagers should wait until they’re 25 to get married.

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