Winner's full circle: Do as I say, not as I did


Lauren Winner can make a splash. Girl Meets God documented her conversion from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity, and Mudhouse Sabbath (yes, that's a reference to her favorite Charlottesville caffeine dealership) explored the bonds between the two faiths. These days, though, her name is turning up in sex-themed Internet searches. And she couldn't be happier.

Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity hasn't hit bookstores yet, but it has already started a buzz– including a major piece in the New York Times.

"Younger readers are hungry for books about this topic that are honest," says Winner, a lecturer at UVA while she's completing her Columbia Ph.D. "I don't think I've written the perfect book," she says, "but in some ways this was an effort to write the book that I wish I'd had to read."

To the relief of many of her readers, Winner, now 28 and married, is not really in a position to preach. After all, she lost her virginity at age 15 and continued to have premarital sex even after converting to Christianity.

"One of the reasons why the book took me so long to write was that finding an idiom to talk about something so personal that also has elements of shame was very difficult," she says.

"The core message of my book is quite traditional and Biblical, but the idiom or tone of the book is really much less euphemistic," she says. "On some level I'm sitting back and I'm just curious to see if the lack of euphemism scares off some readers," says Winner, obviously amused at the thought.

She'll be touring heavily to promote the book in the months to come, with a large percentage of the scheduled stops at colleges. "I don't think that this is a book only for college-age readers, but I do think that's one place where sex is very much a live issue," she says.

John Portmann, an assistant professor in the Religious Studies department at UVA, is pleased to see Winner step forward with a modern take on the topic, but isn't sure it will have any effect on campuses. "I don't expect many UVA students to be persuaded by the argument that chastity is a really good idea," he says. "I don't think that chastity is 'in' at UVA."

We'll find out soon enough. Winner will appear at the Center for Christian Studies, near the Corner and in the heart of Wahoo territory, on Thursday, April 21, to talk and sign copies for anybody who's interested– regardless of whether they're students, Christians, or virgins.

"This is probably not the book for everyone," Winner admits, "but I think it will find both a Christian and a non-Christian audience."

Lauren Winner