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updated: 11/16/2012 11:04 AM

Gardner Receives National Communication Association Award

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  • Dr. Christine Gardner

    Dr. Christine Gardner
    Michael Hudson Photography

LaTonya Taylor

Associate Professor of Communication Dr. Christine Gardner was recently recognized with the Stephen E. Lucas Debut Publication Award by the National Communication Association.

The Stephen E. Lucas Debut Publication Award highlights groundbreaking contributions to the discipline of communication by first-time authors of scholarly books.

Gardner received the award for her book, Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns (University of California Press, 2011). The book explores rhetorical strategies used by evangelical organizations to promote abstinence, identifying contrasts between the rhetoric used to promote abstinence in the U.S. compared to that used in sub-Saharan Africa.

The book critiques strategies Gardner says use sex to sell abstinence. "Some campaigns use the very thing they are prohibiting to admonish young people to wait by saying, 'If you are abstinent now, you will have amazing sex when you are married,'" Gardner says. "The argument then becomes a promise of marriage."

Gardner argues that such messages do not address the challenges of singleness, or even of marriage. "If marriage isn't just about sex, then what is it for? The time is right for the church to begin speaking up and providing some answers."

The process of interviewing teenagers for Making Chastity Sexy reminded Gardner of the struggles many teenagers face in understanding their sexuality.

"I met dozens of young people who are struggling with their sexuality," she says. "Some see it as a gift, but many see it as a burden. In nearly all cases, the young people I met are trying their best to be obedient to God."

Gardner has been a member of Wheaton's faculty since 2004. She teaches courses on topics including gender and sexuality, public sphere theory, social movements, rhetoric of religion, and HIV/AIDS. Gardner will be presented with the award at the National Communication Association convention later this month.