The Purity Myth

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This is beautiful. For a full transcript, see here. I think the very best part comes at the end: “The purity myth is the lie that women’s sexuality has some bearing on who we are and how good we are, because really I think we all know that young women are so much more than whether or not they have sex. We really should be teaching our daughters that their ability to be good people should be based on their intelligence, on their compassion, their kindness, not what they do with their bodies.” This is what I’ve been saying all along! The idolization of virginity makes what women do with their vaginas more important than how they treat other people or their skills and abilities. All that matters is what is between their legs. And seriously, how much sense does that make?

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com/ moonchild11

    Just finished this fantastic book! Having grown up in the purity movement at the height of it's popularity, it hit way too close to home.

  • Nathaniel

    It is for this very reason I find it so bitterly ironic that purity pushers keep on harping on how they want women to "respect" themselves.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12140629479094046853 October Rebel

    Libby, your blog is such a breath of fresh air. The principal behind this video is so true. That man at the end, "I love gender stereotyping…." Oi! I If I ever have children, I will try so hard to raise them outside of the prison of gender stereotyping.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    I'l have to see how I can get my ands on this film ^__^Luckily the purity myth isn't that widespread where I live and it's thought as a backwards idea.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17500128753102750833 Mommy McD

    I asked my husband if he wanted our daughters to swear their virginity to him. He was very disturbed by the idea. rightly so /shudder

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09779444962182438901 Enigma

    I don’t want kids right now, and i would definitely identify myself as a feminist. Oh and i also use 4-letter swear words sometimes… So obviously that means that I plan to drag my husband around with a rope around his neck. Good Lord.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Enigma – I know, right? That got me too! For people like these, feminism is about women subordinating men, not about actually supporting equal rights for ALL, women AND men. But then, for these men, anything that takes them out of the "in charge" seat is equated with "subordinating." Wha…?

  • JeseC

    But obviously women can't actually make moral choices on their own. See, they need to be given simple clear rules – they just couldn't make it out there in the world with all those different moral choices to make! That's why we tell them to just worry about what's between their legs and let the menfolk deal with all that other stuff. And we can't even really trust them to manage that, because we all know that women are dumb and if they're around men that aren't their appointed guardians, they'll be tricked into tempting those men with their sexuality.So you see, it's really all for their own good. We men have the much harder job, taking care of all the decisions for them.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    @JeseC I know all you just said was sarcasm but be careful of Poe's Law :)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe's_law

  • Anonymous

    "The Purity Myth" was the book that changed my life and made me start calling myself a feminist. I cannot wait for the documentary!Skjaere

  • Beth

    I live here in America and I do not see virginity being idolized or even embraced. I am having a hard time understanding where she is getting this idea from. Sure there are purity balls but all in all this is a very small % of people. 99% of Americans are not virgins when they marry.I enjoy so much of your writing Libby but you lost me on this one.

  • Nathaniel

    Ever heard the term "slut?" What does it mean? Is it positive, or negative in meaning? Why?

  • Anonymous

    @Beth – I grew up in a home that was not particularly religious (my mother later became born again), but my sister and I were still not allowed to take sex-ed at school, and it was understood that we would not be doing anything sexual until we were married. I got grounded at 16 for kissing my boyfriend. Yes, 99% of people in America may not be virgins by the time they marry, but there is still a lot of shame within the culture surrounding female sexuality. Girls aren't supposed to want "it", and they're supposed to keep the horny guys who "just can't help themselves" in check. These narratives are still powerfully influential in this country. If that was not your experience growing up, then count yourself as one of the fortunate few, because a lot of us got it blasted full in the face.Skjaere

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14097266657351609701 Jerusha

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14097266657351609701 Jerusha

    I just read this book last month and am still mulling it over. Excellent stuff, though few of my acquaintances would be able to stomach Valenti's feminism. A lot of my friends have suffered years of heartache because of the purity myth (an essential component of the whole courtship/patriarchy movement). I'm trying to find a way to use her basic arguments persuasively for my own audience. Wish me luck!

  • Beth

    I don't understand why anyone would promote having sex at age 14 as something that we should all completely accept as wonderful. Is she really saying there is nothing wrong with having sex whenever you want, with whoever you want-no matter how old you are and stating any moral judgment about this is somehow demeaning someone's sense of worth? Sex is such a deeply physical, emotional and spritual act that I am bothered by the thought that it is promoted as something teenagers should be doing without any regard for the serious issues like pregnancy and STD's. I know those are not a myth:) Both of my sisters had to deal with STD's-not an easy path. There is much more heartache in casual sex than there is fun in the moment of it. At least with all the women and men I have come to know who once lived the way the this book is being described. Perhaps you know alot of people who have had a different experience?I'm sorry some of you had to grow up with being excluded from sex ed and being grounded for kissing your boyfriend. There is an extreme to the purity movement. I've never been a part of it. Why not find middle ground instead of another extreme that say sex for 14yrs old is aok?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Beth – Have you read the book? She absolutely is NOT saying that 14 year olds should just go out and have sex or that there are no consequences that come along with that. What she IS saying is that we should stop idolizing virginity as this special special thing and judging women, including teens, by whether or not they have sex. Comprehensive sex education isn't about telling kids to go out and have sex, but rather about educating them about the risks and teaching them how to have sex safely. The author of this book and documentary would be just as upset about someone telling a young teen she needs to have sex as about someone telling her she has to be a virgin, and that's the point. Whether a teen has sex or not shouldn't be seen as so entwined into the core of who that teen is. As to the "deeply physical, emotional, and spiritual act" you say sex is, I would just point out that there are a LOT of people disagree with you. I personally don't see anything spiritual about it at all, and I think the only emotional thing about it is what you choose to invest in it. As for it being "deeply physical," so is a back rub or playing football or wrestling. You say there is "heartache" in casual sex; there are a LOT of people who would disagree with you, and speak from experience. I think the key is educating teens and letting them make their own decisions without pressure to either have sex or not have sex. They should have sex when they truly feel that they're ready, not before or after, and yes, they should know about the risks and know about how to have safe sex. I honestly think that if we stop making sex such a HUGE deal it would be an improvement.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    If one person is mature enough, sex at 14 is aok in my book. Of course, most people aren't enough mature or haven't had a good sex education. Also, if you have good sexual education and follow it, you don't get STDs or pregnancies except in a very very very low chance (you have bigger chances of having a car crash and no ones prohbits cars for example). Of course, most people aren't enough mature or haven't had a good sex education.I lost my virginity to my current boyfriend when I was 2 months into 15 and we've been togeter 9 years and some. I don't think it was too early and I haven't ended up pregnant or gotten an STD (although the fact my boyfriend was a virgin too helps in that XP). I know one example doesn't prove anything and I agree that there's middle ground for everything but instead of getting annoyed at 14 year olds having sex everybody should get their energy in teaching maturity and responsibility to children, a safe enviroment in whcih they can confide their doubts and insecurities without being judged, an awesome sex education and ripto threads this purity myth. That's my 2 cents.

  • Beth

    Libby,You stated, "As for it being "deeply physical," so is a back rub or playing football or wrestling." Since you view sex as no different than the physical contact of wrestling or football or back rubs I think I'll have to part ways on this conversation. I can't identify with this view and I am not able to understand it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12301770958254113165 fishfinder

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12301770958254113165 ucrezaborgia

    Why is it when anyone speaks out about the purity culture someone has to come along and accuse the speaker of wanting 10 year olds doing lines of coke off strippers asses while engaging in an orgy?

  • Anonymous

    ucrezaborgia,It's argumentum ad temperantiam, an often used logical fallacy. Deliberate avoidance the middle ground scenarios, only extremes.

  • Anonymous

    @Beth, I think what you're saying illustrates a key point that is important to disbanding the purity myth. We all have VERY different views on sex, and this variety is ignored by people who idolize virginity. It's wonderful to have a deep spiritual connection to sex, and it's important to find partners who have similar views. But other people view sex as simple a pleasurable act, at least in certain contexts, if not all the time, and don't attach emotions to it. If we're idolizing virginity and saying that all women who have sex outside of marriage are wrong in some way, or if we judge people who prefer to have sex earlier, more often, and with a wider group of partners, we're overlooking everything else they have to offer.Personally, my views line up with yours. Sex is very spiritual for me, but I acknowledge that other people don't share this view, and I don't shame them for it. It doesn't seem like you do either.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Anonymous – I like that point! Those who seek to end the purity myth aren't trying to dictate ANYONE's sexuality. Everyone is different, and everyone can approach sex differently, that's not at all a problem. Perhaps the idea that those trying to do away with the purity myth want all 14 year olds to run out and have sex has to do with the fact that those trying to uphold the purity myth think everyone shouldn't have sex until or outside of marriage – in other words, they purity mythers are trying to dictate everyone's sexuality, so perhaps the assumption becomes that the anti-purity mythers are doing the same, but in the opposite direction. It's simply not true. Making it so that the 14 year old who has sex isn't stigmatized as ruined or a slut is NOT the same as forcing all 14 year olds to have sex, or even advocating that all 14 year olds SHOULD have sex. Something I've said many times: Feminism isn't about forcing women down any one prescribed path or into any one prescribed option. It's about giving women MORE paths and MORE options and letting them make their own choices. Once again, perhaps it is because the other side pushes women down one path that people somehow get the idea that feminists are saying that every woman needs to be a high powered career woman. They're not.

  • http://jewelfox.dreamwidth.org Taryn Fox

    Not all women have vaginas, for one reason or another. >.>;

  • Lionel

    I have read your opinions (and posted on other topics of yours) and you have openly stated that premarital sex is in no way wrong or taking away from your future husband/wife. Well what about married people who have sex with others besides their spouse? Is there something wrong with that? What if your husband has sex with your neighbor. Is that taking away from your's and his marriage? What if your husband or daughter wants to have sexual relationships with your dog (say you have one) or a horse? Is that not taking away from your relationship, or in any way wrong? Or sex with children for that matter. Where do you draw the line? What is right and what is wrong? I would sincerely like to know your opinion.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you 100% on this, sex is intimate in a way that can not in anyway be compared to casual contact.

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