Drawing from a study of courtship media and ethnographic work at purity retreats and home-school conventions across the Midwest, this is the first inquiry into modern Christian courtship, an alternative to dating that asks young people to avoid both romance and sex until they are ready to be married. Bridging sociological and historical studies of American Christianity with youth and girlhood studies literatures, Elizabeth Shively finds that the courtship system is designed to shore up the patriarchal nuclear family structure at the center of conservative Christianity and ensure predictability in the face of emerging adulthood: single young women work to embody ideals of "luminous femininity" and model themselves after archetypes such as the "Proverbs 31 woman," the "stay-at-home-daughter," and the "mission-minded girl," and courting couples strive to "guard their hearts" against premature emotional intimacy. Nonetheless, participants report that courtship, like other relationships, inevitably carries an element of risk, and it ultimately fails to offer a substantial challenge to the to the sexist realities of youth dating culture.
Elizabeth L. Shively is a lecturer in the Sociology Department at Sam Houston State University, USA.
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Kissing Dating Goodbye
Chapter Three: Luminous Femininity
Chapter Four: All the Days of Her Life
Chapter Five: Guard Your Heart
Chapter Six: First Comes Marriage
Chapter Seven: Epilogue