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Purified Part One: Podcast Transcript

Anita Rao
A few months ago, I read a tweet from former Embodied guest, Ev’Yan Whitney. It said, "The opposite of pleasure isn't pain, it's disconnection." It took me a second to feel the full impact of what they were trying to say — that when you're encountering something that could bring you pleasure, like a delicious meal or good sex, you're only going to experience that as pleasure if you're in that experience fully. That type of presence in my body is something I've been working on for the past five years in therapy. And I know I'm not alone in the struggle. We're all swimming against currents that encourage us more to disconnect from our bodies than to seek pleasure in them.

If you grew up in capital P Purity culture, you may have heard it straight from the pulpit: your sexuality is sinful, but you can control it if you follow these rules. If you grew up in lowercase p purity culture, which I think the rest of us did, you may have internalized messages about how worthy you were of pleasure from shame ridden sex ed, racism or diet culture. Purity culture, both the big and small p kind, teach us that our desires are to be controlled, not explored. That it's better to ignore the things our bodies want and need, rather than connecting with them.

On my own journey to unravel these messages, I found myself thinking a lot about what's at stake if we all keep moving forward like this. And I'm certainly not the only one.

This is Embodied, I'm Anita Rao.

Back in October, in partnership with The Monti, we hosted our first ever in person event. Hundreds of people gathered at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham for an evening of live storytelling. With music DJed by Quilla to set the tone, we heard from five people — each with a unique experience within purity culture. I'm so excited to share that event with you in a special edition adapted for the podcast. In this episode, you'll meet our first three storytellers, and next week, you'll get the rest of the show.

Up first is storyteller Indhira Udofia. Indhira is a therapist, consultant and coach assisting folks navigating spirituality, religious trauma and healing. They're also getting their PhD in Social Work. Indhira is the proud human to a cat named Besa and is a lover of bourbon, cigars, Marvel and mess.

Indhira Udofia
Good evening, everybody. So I was about 9 years old when I realized that I was a problem. It was 1998, Juanita Bynum was talking about no more sheets, T.D. Jakes was saying that "Woman, thou art loosed." And for the summer of 1998, I was sitting in a rec room, learning about the joys of my worth and value holding a little tiny blue booklet that was styled like a Tide label called "True Love Waits."

If you don't know, I am not the most delicate or fragile person. I've always been this bombastic, I've always been this shapely. I've always been this rough and tough. I love villains, I love the Cowboys and the Yankees and the Lakers with fervor. So imagine my confusion hearing about what women were supposed to be like. And hearing about a love that I didn't understand, because I was belching my ABCs and playing football with my best friends, who were all dudes. So I took in the information as I was supposed to — like a good youth group kid is supposed to do — but I didn't quite connect with the material. I found myself going through the motions, and at the end of the class, my dad, kind of, looked at me with pity and was like, "You know, you don't have to do the ceremony part." And I fervently thanked him because the thought of trying on dresses and picking out a sparkling ring really made me want to vomit.

So I took this information and didn't think it was going to apply to me. Until I started school, and I met Tulip. Now, before you might realize, Tulip is not quite some strong, forceful man that would wrap my imagination. Tulip was one of the coolest, prettiest, smart, edgiest little girls I've ever met in my entire life. I was stressed. I'm talking about, I just wanted to, like, be near her. I knew that she snuck eyeliner in and, like, it was like a crooked cat eye, and I, just, thought that was so cool. And her lip gloss was, like, super glossy. I just — I just wanted to be near her. And I did not quite understand, because these feelings were supposed to happen elsewhere. So I made a decision. I said, you know, maybe it's not — maybe, maybe it'll kick in later. But maybe if I, just, keep trying to go down this path, I'll see what all the hype is about.

About a couple of weeks later, we are attending Sunday service, and everyone's looking really solemn as our co-teachers for "True Love Waits" admits to the class that their true love did not wait. They were expecting. And I was very confused because there was no wedding. And I thought, well, if the teacher can't do this, I'm doomed. But like all Nigerian immigrant children, I was like, I'm going to try my hardest. So I tried, I put my head down. I, you know, did the things that I was supposed to do. I promised my mom I'd wear more skirts. I — I started to try to catch myself liking people. And I even — I even scammed someone into agreeing to be my boyfriend in high school.

And so, as I went off to college, I didn't think much about Tulip, and the stressful part of Tulip. And I moved in my freshman dorm — Dickey Hall, nonetheless — and I then met Iris. And then I became stressed all over again. I was — we were inseparable. We were soulmates, we napped together, we — I could just disappear in Iris. Kind of unfortunate, because I definitely had a boyfriend. And as folks started talking about sex, I had to sheepishly admit that I don't know what that's about. To which all of my friends said, "When you get home from winter break, when you come back on this campus, you better not tell us that you're still a virgin." So I said, "Agreed, you know, agreed. That — that's probably a good idea."

So very matter of frank, I would say that I did not follow the purity culture roadmap for my life. And I said, well, if I'm going to fail, let me fail in a line — in line with the trajectory. So I said, I'll just ruin this one man's life. So I could tell you that it was magical and intentional, but it wasn't. It started with a fight. It ended with chicken nuggets and a panic attack at Kroger. I remember sobbing uncontrollably, as I was confessing my sin to my aunt, who just told me, "You just need to take a shower and take a nap. I promise you'll feel better in the morning." And for the most part, I did, but the other part that I was told from that little blue book, just, never quite clicked in. That part where I was supposed to feel alive and connected, just, never quite landed.

So I took my villainy from one boyfriend, to the next boyfriend, to the next boyfriend, until I finally said, maybe I'm not — maybe I'm — maybe I'm not doing something right. It wasn't until I had graduated from seminary, where I was like, you know, I probably should, like, you know, be honest about myself. I mean, I'm learning how to teach other people and lead other people into authenticity and wholeness. You know, that — the whole thing you're supposed to do when you're, like, a minister, or whatever. So I probably should click in to myself. And I was asking myself, like, what is it? And it was, you never gave yourself permission. I never gave myself permission to lean into those spots where I was feeling alive. So I said, alright, I'm going to fail greatly now. Alright so, how do I do this? So, I assumed the uniform, cut my hair, got Birkenstocks, got a whole bunch of flannel, and I was like, I'm doing this. And I ran into Orchid. And Orchid was ruinous, temptuous — all the things that that little Sunday School warned me about. And I said, I am utterly ruined. And when we had our first kiss, it all clicked. And I said, you know what? I think I'd rather be ruined ever since. Yeah, that's my story.

Anita Rao
Indhira Udofia, what an amazing start to the evening. Our next storyteller is someone that we came across because he is an Embodied stan. And we found that out on Twitter. And we have just been loving each other from afar on Twitter for, I think, about a year now. And I just met him in person an hour ago. So you've seen as much of him as I have, but I feel like I know his whole story. And I know y'all are gonna love hearing from him.

Coming up next to the stage is Reverend Solomon Missouri. He is originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He completed his bachelor's in Business Management at Alabama State University, got a master's in divinity and an MBA from Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia. He lives in Durham now, where he is the senior minister of Kyles Temple AME Zion Church. Solomon Missouri, welcome to the stage.

Reverend Solomon Missouri
How y'all doing? Good. I remember — first time that I saw him — he had on this gray suit, tailored to perfection. These rimless glasses, polished shoes, a smile that could light up a room. He was the epitome of style: walking and talking and living, just, exuding charisma. As a child, I was always mystified by ministers and preachers — being a preacher's kid. He was climbing the stairs of my father's study in a little country church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We had watched him climb through the ranks, preaching revivals and special days. He was trusted by our lay leaders and bishops and all types of folks. He was on his way to be a pastoral success.

But then, I remember coming to one of the conference meetings and not seeing him there. I was looking for him, because he was my favorite. Upon closing the meeting, church leaders informed us that he was sick, but we were not to visit him. That was an odd instruction for me, even as a child. What was so different about this sickness that caused us not to be able to see him, to visit him, to extend sacrament to him? We're Christians, we extend the sacrament when someone is unwell.

In the late 80s, there were commercials that talked about HIV and AIDS, but we were in West Alabama and nobody has AIDS in West Alabama. Nobody's gay in Tuscaloosa. In retrospect, I've been nurtured by gay people my entire life. I've been loved well by gay people my entire life. From the faithful ladies who happened to share a home — "they were roommates" — to the brothers who taught me how to sing. Growing up in the South, you may have known people were different, but nobody called the difference homosexuality. Maybe it was our southern gentility or passive aggressive fence making, but we acted like gay people didn't exist. Silence and shame became essential for survival in the highly churched Deep South.

But this time — this time, we could not avert our eyes. We could not turn away this time. It affected someone that we loved. I remember the whispers of somber faces, the looks that were exchanged, the people that attempted to talk around him as they were talking about him. Then I remember coming to the meetings, and every now and then they would tell us to pray, pray, pray, pray. There would be whispers about T cells and viral loads. As a child, I didn't know what they were talking about — T cell.

For the life of me, I couldn't ration out what sickness could be so bad that we couldn't be light and salt to him. Why couldn't we talk to him? What was wrong with him? What was the matter? Why wouldn't anybody tell me? Meeting after meeting, they would bring up his name, and we would gossip about mysterious illness. He continued to diminish. I thought about him. He was charming, and he was engaging. I thought about him, and I thought about what our silence was doing to him. Thought about all the miracles of the gospel and how Jesus was never afraid to touch the afflicted, but somehow we were afraid to touch this issue.

Even as a child, I knew there was something wrong. I knew that what we were doing was wrong. I knew that God had not called us to shun nor silence. I knew that love didn't look like this. I was there when church ladies would come and care for each other after a death of a loved one. I was there when we would take a special offering for somebody that had lost a job. I was there when we held each other through tears and pain. I know what our love looks like. I know what it feels like. And this was not our love. This was our shame. This was our fears wrapped in a bubble, pressed into a peel, slammed down our throats. This is what Christianity looked like without Christ.

A few months later, I saw him for a final time. I remember how thin he had gotten. His face had become gray and rough. He couldn't walk on his own, but he had courage. Did his best to — he didn't sit in the back. He came to the front. He had the audacity to smile and the smile still lit up the whole room. That smile that publicly shamed us all. It shamed every person that lacked the courage to love him, shamed every person that lacked the courage to care for him. That smile shamed every person that lacked the compassion to educate themselves concerning this condition. That smile shamed every person who clung to a flawed reading of Scripture that said that they could not touch, love and care for.

Six months passed and he died. We stood around his grave, and we gave one last show. You know how we give that show. We say that he was so special to us, and how he was so unique and how we loved him. So we gave him one last show, and from his grave, he shamed us. We stood around and told one final lie. What is purity culture if not a broken set of ideas that we use to break other people? What is purity culture but the suggestion that the body is not honored by the Divine, and that the only bodies that are glorified are the abstinent bodies, the straight bodies, the heteronormative bodies? Maybe purity culture is the culture that tells us that our theological construction only glorifies God through straightness, and capitalism, and essentialism that our trans brothers and sisters cannot be loved of the Divine. Maybe purity culture is an ideological frame that communicates who is worthy of love and care and respect and joy. Maybe purity culture says that you can be welcomed if, and only if, you fit a thin sociological framework of the religiously rigid. Maybe purity culture is an expression of which bodies get to be loved and which souls deserve to be affirmed.

But friends of the Divine, I do not come from a community that necessitates shallow theological imaginations, or a flimsy framework, or the rigidness and regressiveness of thought. I come from a community that is curious, that is wonderous. That is lovely, that is gentle, and compassionate. I come from a community that knows when we have treated our bodies poorly, and we have abused our queer siblings, and we have abused those who have been impacted and affected. I come from a community that says, when you've been wrong, turn around and get it right. What is purity culture, but culture that deserves to end.

Anita Rao
Joining us as our last storyteller for this half of the show is Angie K. Hong. Angie is a writer, speaker and worship leader. I first encountered her work with a brilliant piece that she wrote in The Atlantic after the wake of the spa shootings about her own identity and how she was exploring it in this time. And realized what a powerful story that she had — what a great storyteller she is. She considers herself a critical convener of people. She loves to create transformative experiences through her company, Kinship Commons. She lives in Durham with her husband Harold, her two sons Hudson and Rowan, and her dog Miko. Angie, welcome to the stage.

Angie K. Hong
Growing up, it was really important to my Korean immigrant parents that I become a really good American. That I have all the opportunities that they did not have, coming from a war torn and poverty-stricken existence. My little brother and I would fulfill their hopes and dreams to become good people, which meant being a good American.

Around 13, I started to take my faith as a Christian more seriously. A part of that was to admit, confess your sins, to reform your ways. And the whole goal was to keep on becoming purified, so that you could become holy, and become good and become right. And I, just, thought this was a really good way to live. It's a really great combination. To be a good American and to be a good Christian was, just, like, this really great goal in life. I had it all figured out.

But as time went on, right, something, just, did not seem to add up. As much as I tried hard to achieve, all it took was a random encounter in the girls' bathroom, when random cheerleaders would, just, corner me and throw racial slurs at me. Just flattened me down. Or when people asked me, "Where are you really from?" Which is the worst question you can ever ask somebody like me — FYI. It just — all were reminders that I did not fit in, I could not become a good American. There's something in the way. And at church, I would sing my heart out to God — I lead worship, so I would play my piano and sing — but inevitably, somebody would come up and pinch my cheeks after worship service, saying that I look like a china doll. Or when a great Christian leader on a mission trip made a sexual advance at me — I had no idea it was coming.

So I just kept thinking, man, I'm trying to live this good life, and there's still all this bad stuff that keeps happening. And my friends, it was affecting friends that looked like me too. So if this life was so good, why was it causing so much harm? So I took these questions with me to seminary. I really wanted to read the Bible very, very closely to understand what it said. And I really wanted to interrogate the dominant ways of thinking about spirituality, and theology — just, something was not adding up. I really wanted to understand why. Words like exegesis, and double particularity, Orientalism, ornamentalism — these are words that, just, started to bring me to life. Not only was I suffering alone, there were words to what I was experiencing. I finally had the words.

And these words helped me, because in March of 2021, a 21-year-old white, male, Christian walked into two different Atlanta spas, shot and killed six Asian women. I knew exactly what he meant when he said that he was suffering from a sexual addiction. I knew exactly what he meant when he said that he wanted to go in there and kill all the Asians. I had the words for that.

So I wrote about it in an essay for The Atlantic. My editor and I were really shocked and stunned, because at the time of its release, it was the second most-read article on the entire website. Not only that, my inbox became flooded with messages from women all around the world. They related to my story. Some of them were saying that they resonated with my story, other people said that they — they told me their story. Other people told me their story and named all the people that were involved. I wasn't really overwhelmed by these stories, I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of them. There were so many.

I'm really thankful that nowadays it's becoming more and more normal to expose these sorts of spiritual abuses, and religious trauma and all the harm. I'm really glad to know that harmful leaders and people who propagate purity culture and all of its harmful effects — that they're being named. I'm grateful for that work. But I kept thinking back to my story, and how lonely I felt — how I thought I was alone. I kept thinking back to the messages that I received from all these women with a twinge of loneliness in each message. And I thought back to the women in Atlanta — their co-workers, their families. Who could show up for us?

So I started, kind of, looking around, very casually, to see if there were any resources out there to address this — who could really nuance it, who could involve words and healing that were specific. I looked around some more, because I didn't find anything. I looked around some more. And finally, I found one — just one. A workshop on the intersections of purity culture and women of color. In connecting with these two therapists who put on this workshop, I learned that they had barely advertised workshop, and yet it had been fully booked in less than a week. It was so successful that it ignited their dreams on what else they could offer. If there were cohorts, or communities or retreats, even.

And I thought, if my one essay made a difference for these people who wrote me messages, and if one workshop was that popular, what else could be done? What if there were a whole community of healers, and advocates, and educators who could talk about these nuances? Who understood, who had these words to say and the hands to heal? And what if it were readily available and easily accessible, so that I wouldn't have to, one day, do an internet search for weeks and weeks to try to find something? Finding them was enough for me to dream — to start dreaming. It was enough of a thread of hope. Hope for Asian bodies, for Black bodies, for Indigenous bodies, for Latinx bodies, for transnational bodies, for trans bodies. It's enough hope that is specific to us, that is for us, and that's given by us. Thanks.

Anita Rao
Incredible story. How are y'all doing? Good? You're done now, you're much better. Well, there were so many threads in the three of yours that I want to explore. And you're all faith leaders — involved in faith communities — and thinking through and talking through these things really publicly.

And Indhira, I want to start with you, kind of, in this question about authenticity. You have been on your own journey to figure out how to be your authentic self and be in a relationship with God. When folks who are recovering from purity culture come to you with that question of, so much of my understanding of faith has been based on this very particular version of what a relationship with God could look like. I still want to have a relationship with God, but I don't know how to get there and be my authentic self. How do you help them bridge that gap?

Indhira Udofia
I think there's two things, right. It's often the things that we are told are not the things that are written. And I think, being able to, one, reclaim certain things that loved us into being, like faith, right, without having the tapes. So I often ask people, what's behind that thought that God does not like you? What's the evidence of that? And often, if I can remove it from the party who named the offense, they can see all the other ways in which — when they felt good in their bodies. When they felt pure and aligned to who they are, that there was something that, deep down inside them, that felt like a yes. And it's about asking people to follow and connect with that psychosomatic response that says, yes. That says, beloved, that says, true, that says, real. And so, a lot of the work is body work. It's about learning how to retrain your relationship between intuition and alignment. It's also about learning how to retrain your mindset around, you know, desire. And thinking about, how do you frame things from this framework of, if God is a God that delights, right. If God is a God that desires, if God is a God that loves and is beloved, then what are the things that follow that call for you?

Anita Rao
I love that. How do you, Solomon, I mean, kind of, following up on that, you are acknowledging this hypocrisy that you see in Christianity about how we treat folks who haven't traditionally belonged in the Christian faith. And you are a pastor at an AME Zion Church, in which you're not allowed to marry same sex couples. So within your context, how are you talking about queer sexuality with your parishioners and acknowledging that hypocrisy?

Reverend Solomon Missouri
I tell my members to look to the left and look to the right — there is a queer person in this congregation, and we have loved them poorly. We have made them fold themselves under and hide, and they are serving us Sunday by Sunday. They are singing in choirs. They are standing at our doors, they are teaching our — yes, they are teaching our children. And our children are not harmed by them. We stand in that seat of hypocrisy and I, as a straight-ish person...

Background Voices
Yes, -ish. I know that's right.

Reverend Solomon Missouri
Force us into uncomfortable places. But my brothers, and sisters and friends of the Divine who are queer have always been uncomfortable. And if they can live in discomfort, surely, we can live in some discomfort. And so we talk about scripture in ways that are life-giving, and life-affirming and reflective of the Divine. Because not all ways that we talk about scriptures are reflective of the Divine and not reflective of the good. And so, we make choices in community that we will affirm the goodness in all of us. And we will no longer abide our fears, we will no longer make our prejudices the syllabus of our religious interaction and engagement. We will choose love.

Anita Rao
So you all are really doing the work within your faith spaces to acknowledge the harms that have been done and repair when possible. Angie what you talk about is, kind of, this extension of purity culture as something that is upholding all of these other systems of oppression. So how do you see Christianity as needing to take account for all of the other ways in which it has marginalized folks? And I guess, do you see that happening? Do you see Christianity — in the Christian spaces that you're, you're present in — being accountable for those harms?

Angie K. Hong
The things that are brought up — ultimately, purity culture, sort of, asks us to also interrogate white supremacy. And I think it's really impossible to separate things like homophobia from purity culture — from race — because they all are very, very intertwined. You can't really separate those. And I think the more that we acknowledge that those sorts of things, they all go together, the more that we can build solidarities, and we can go about the work together. Which is why, when I mentioned things that are specific to Asians — I mean, Asians tend to be very invisible. It's either super invisible, or super exposed. And this, like, middle area is really tough. So I love giving voice to some of our stories — which are nuanced — but I always bring in the effects of other people. It's very important to me, because that is how solidarity is built. We must do this work together, or else it will — it will not get done.

Anita Rao
Yeah. So I want to, kind of, turn and end with the really, kind of, like, personal threads in each of your pieces. And Indhira, you talk about these specific women and these roles that they have, kind of, held for you in your life as you've moved through various versions of thinking about your desire. When you notice those old patterns coming up in yourself that were ingrained in you for so long, how do you, in real time, kind of, tell yourself a new story that lets you connect with your desire? And then, connect with these people in real time, who you are feeling feelings about?

Indhira Udofia
Being queer is fun. I mean, look at the material, it's fun. And so, I think part of it, right, is learning how to, like, not take myself seriously. I read a text in grad school called "The Queer Art of Failure," by Jack Halberstam. And between that and Audre Lorde and leaning on queer elders' — especially Black queer elders' — wisdoms and voices, I just realized that, like, when I'm not aligned to who I am, when I, like, want to try, I'm miserable. Like, I — shame makes you miserable. Perfectionism makes you miserable. And so, when I delight in play, when I delight in, you know, connection, and when I feel like it feels good, that's what I need, right? Like I — I'm a grad student, I'm stressed. I don't have any other room for pressures that don't belong to me. So I give that stuff back to people where it belongs. It belongs to the people who gave that to me. And like I said, they're not even following the roadmap. So like, I'm not — I think it's part of, like, embracing the fact that to be connected in this way — with my romantic and platonic partners, with my queer family and community — that is where I feel Divine. That's where I feel sacredness. And so, it is about me being worshipful in these connections. To deny that is to deny God, because that's how God is reflected to me in these relationships.

Anita Rao
Angie, that thread of perfectionism, I feel like, really shows up in your story too. How — I guess what has releasing perfectionism done for your relationship with your own sexuality and pleasure, and — and where are you in that journey at this point?

Angie K. Hong
I have a friend who is a scholar, and she has this really great term that I've really — I've been playing with. She calls it "productive contamination." Just knowing that some people — because of the way that things work in the world, right, some people are always going to — never be able to achieve that sort of perfection. And who — who does? What if we just, kind of, embraced our complexities, and we play with this idea of productive contamination? There's work to do here. There's a lot more of us than we ever thought, we're not alone. So what if we got together, and we had a little fun? As Indhira was talking about, releasing a lot of that perfectionism. And when it comes to, like, sexuality — as you asked — that's also been really fun. Just to know that all of that stuff that — oh, man, that, just, nights of confessing, you know, times where I crossed the line. When boundaries were crossed, or keeping, you know, friends — their sexual sins or their abortion — those sorts of things, keeping them secret, just felt so oppressive. It just added to the silencing of our voices, added to all of that. And so yeah, by embracing, sort of, how we were born, our identities, our particularities, we can be productive in this space. We can have play, we can have — we can do so much stuff. It's been really liberating, really amazing.

Anita Rao
I love that. Solomon, I'm going to end with you, and — not to keep bringing up this Twitter thing — but I do feel like Twitter is a space in which you really play. And you play with your faith, and you play with your masculinity, and you play with the roles that you have been assigned. I'm curious about, kind of, what that feels like for you, and why you choose that space, and what kind of play it brings to your your life?

Reverend Solomon Missouri
There is a TikTok video that I saw a couple of days ago, it was a golden retriever. And in the background, it is voiced over by Ron White, who is a popular southern comedian. And Ron White says, "I have not been good, not a single day in my life. I have not behaved, and I am fine." And I take that to heart. I have not behaved a single day in my life, and I am fine. What I'm attempting to do is provoke the tabooed. Our bodies have been tabooed. Our sexualities have been tabooed, genders have been tabooed and love has been tabooed. And nobody gets free if everybody's silent. So, I'll be the first to go. And so yeah, I'm a pastor, and I'm sex positive, and I talk about sex. And I talk about my sexuality, and I talk about the sexuality, and the sex that people are having, because y'all ain't gonna stop having sex. And if you're gonna continue to have it, it might as well be good. And nobody gets free if everybody's silent. And our churches can't continue to be silent, because nobody gets free if everybody is silent. So if I can be uncomfortable as a Black man in America, who has a body and that body is deserving of love, care and affection. And I can open up my body to love other Black men in real and intentional ways, and we don't have to be on the basketball court for me to give you a hug. We don't have to play football for me to say, good job. Like, the little ways that we have denied ourselves affection. So yeah, I'm Twitter's pastor. Sometimes I'm make it weird, but I want to make it good. And so, I have not behaved a single day in my life, and I am fine.

Anita Rao
That was Reverend Solomon Missouri, who is now the senior pastor at Invitation AME Zion Church in Snow Hill, along with writer and speaker Angie Hong and therapist and coach Indhira Udofia. You can learn more about all of them at the links in our show notes. If you want to see some photos from the event, you can find those at the Embodied Radio Show page or on our social media. Coming up next week, part two.

Ryan Clark
Well our wedding was beautiful. Big steeple church, we had nine bridesmaids. And as we left the reception, we were nervous and excited. In a few short moments, I would be seeing the things and tasting the bits. I could not wait.

Anita Rao
Join us next week for more live stories of living through purity culture. Embodied is a production of North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC, a listener-supported station. If you want to lend your support to this podcast and WUNC's other shows on demand, consider a contribution at now. Incredible storytelling like you hear on Embodied is only possible because of listeners like you.

Our Purified Live event was hosted in conjunction with The Monti at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham. Jeff Polish of the Monti coached each of our storytellers, and Quilla was our DJ. She's also who wrote our theme music.

Today's episode was produced by Audrey Smith and Kaia Findlay. Amanda Magnus is our editor, Madison Speyer is our intern and Jenni Lawson is our technical director. The show was also made possible with engineering and mastering support from Al Wodarski, EJ Thorn, and Sean Roux.

If you enjoyed the show, share about us on social media and tag us. It's a great way to help new people find a new podcast right at the end of the year, and it means so much.

Until next time I'm Anita Rao, taking on the taboo with you.

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