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Purified Live: Stories of Living Through Purity Culture

Four people sitting on a stage with a graphic behind them that reads "Purified: Live Stories of Living Through Purity Culture." A South Asian woman sits on a yellow love seat speaking into a mic and looking at the folks next to her: a Black woman, a Black man and an Asian woman. Those three are sitting on a blue couch.
Amanda Magnus
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Three of our storytellers in conversation with Anita during our event "Purified: Live Stories of Living Through Purity Culture."

In October of 2022, hundreds of listeners gathered in the pews of the Hayti Heritage Center for Embodied’s first in-person event: an evening of storytelling about life beyond evangelical purity culture. Produced in partnership with The Monti, Purified Live featured five storytellers, each with a distinct perspective on the lasting impact of the abstinence pledge and the experience of reclaiming their bodies and sexuality. This episode of Embodied features the five stories from that evening, now adapted for radio.

Indhira Udofia, a student in the joint program of social work at UNC Greensboro and North Carolina A&T, opens the show with her experience of embracing her queerness after participating in True Love Waits. Reverend Solomon Missouri, senior pastor at Invitation AME Zion Church, shares how purity culture presents a double standard when it comes to the Christian mandate to care for the sick. Writer and speaker Angie Hong expands on an essay she wrote for The Atlantic about the connection between purity culture and the March 2021 spa shootings in Atlanta.

In the second half of the show, poet and educator Ashley Lumpkin tells a story about “the talk” she didn’t have with her parents, and Ryan Clark of “Touch Podcast” shares what it’s been like to work through the harms of purity culture in the context of his marriage.

Special thanks to Jeff Polish of The Monti, who coached each of the guests through the process of developing their story for the stage. Thanks also to Rylee Ennis of The Monti and Nathan Novero of Touch Media for their work to film the event, and to Jenni Lawson, Al Wodarski and Sean Roux from WUNC for all their work to make this event possible.

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Audrey Smith is a writer, educator, and temporary producer of "Embodied" based in Greensboro, NC. She holds a Master's degree in Secondary English Language Arts Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2018) and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Nonfiction Writing from Oregon State University (2021).
Kaia Findlay is a producer for Embodied, WUNC's weekly, live talk show on health, sex and relationships. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.