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Now, almost 20 years later, even Harris appears to be questioning whether his advice did more harm than good.

Whatever the formula, the book became the catalyst for the resurgence of courtship and is often cited as the foundational book for purity culture — a movement that uses biblical principles to encourage men and women to stay virgins before marriage.

a book that was in part a warning about the harm that relationships before marriage could cause.

Harris evoked images of men at the altar bringing all their past partners with them into the marriage to reinforce the point that love and sex before marriage took pieces of your heart and made you less.

It inspired both praise—from the likes of purity matriarch Elisabeth Elliot and Focus on the Family—and book-length rebuttals.

Harris was already a popular speaker at conferences for Christian home-schoolers and had started his own magazine, but the book’s influence quickly outpaced its modest built-in audience—it has sold more than 1.2 million copies to date. You weren’t just not having sex, you were adopting “a revolutionary pattern of living” that would make you both a better Christian and, someday, a better spouse.