Date of Award

August 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Member

Cynthia Haynes

Committee Member

Michelle Smith

Committee Member

Victor Villanueva

Committee Member

Elizabeth Jemison


This dissertation argues that rhetorical strategies of contemporary evangelical purity movements create and perpetrate systems of sexual violence, heterosexist ideologies, and reproductive violence in the US. Purity culture is a term that references a recently public movement to declare one’s dedication to sexual abstinence before marriage. In 1994, over 210,00 young adults participated in a nationally broadcasted True Love Waits purity rally hosted on the Washington Mall, where they signed purity pledges in front of national news organizations. Altared Bodies: Evangelical Purity Rhetorics in the Age of Sexual Politics maps the shifting popularity of purity culture in public political discourse through three distinct genres: purity self-help texts, purity rallies like True Love Waits, and purity covenants and pledges. My archival research on purity rhetoric explores how the rhetorical reframing of purity and abstinence shape political and cultural values in both secular and religious contexts, specifically illustrating how evangelical purity culture informs public policies regarding bodily autonomy. Rooted in corporeal feminist theory, religious history, and queer theory, the broader scope of my research examines the effects of evangelical purity rhetorics at the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Taking a rhetorical feminist approach to the project, I interrogate the methods used by evangelical purity rhetorics that shape political discourses concerning reproductive rights, the “ex-gay” movement, and rape culture.



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