Purity Culture - What About It?
By Catie Oidtman
Due to the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, recent news has been buzzing with conversations about toxic masculinity, people’s reproductive rights, and bodily autonomy. This has brought the topic of “purity culture” to the forefront of my mind. Purity culture is when dating is discouraged and virginity before marriage is promoted. The result is people who live within strict gender binary roles, where men are seen as being strong, ‘masculine’ leaders and women are expected to be doting, sweet and docile wives and caretakers. The idea of purity culture is often thought of as being associated with religious settings – most notably in white evangelical communities where the term was coined – but in reality can be applied globally across diverse cultures and religions.
Within purity culture, sexuality is restricted and the responsibility falls upon women. Women are expected to be virgins, cover themselves, and remain “pure” for their future husbands. Furthermore, women are seen as temptresses, and as such, it is their responsibility not to attract the attention of men, not that of the men whom may fall “victim” to these temptations.
This unfair double standard has lasting impacts among everyone subjected to it. Further, the misogyny, racism, and white supremacy that build the premises of purity culture have dire consequences for those subjected to it. Purity culture assumes heterosexuality and does not leave room for inclusivity among varying gender identities and sexualities. It assumes all people identify as women and men, and then puts an enormous amount of pressure on women to be a “pure” being. While white women are seen as needing to maintain purity as they are privileged with being born “pure,” BIPOC women are often seen as needing to attain purity adding additional pressures.
These very strict rules create an environment in which abuse can thrive. Purity culture does not teach about consent as it assumes abstinence and puts all responsibility on women. Additionally, women are the ones that have everything to lose if they are no longer “virgins.” This toxic masculinity becomes even more problematic in cases of sexual assault and rape. Ultimately, the strict gender roles and assumptions create harm and breed unhealthy situations that have lasting effects on the people subjected to it.
This blog post draws upon definitions and information found in the following sources: