What I call the “purity culture” encompasses the emphasis on virginity before marriage and on maintaining emotional purity that pervades fundamentalism and evangelicalism, made visible in purity balls, purity rings, purity pledges, and modesty teachings. These teachings are not limited to fundamentalism and evangelicalism, and can be seen in the culture at large with the slut/virgin dichotomy and the prevalence of abstinence only sex education in public schools. In its most extreme, the purity culture involves giving up dating for a return to parent-guided courtship, and even arranged marriages.
I grew up in the purity culture. I had a purity ring, made a promise to remain a virgin until my wedding night, practiced strict modesty standards, and committed myself to courtship. In college and the years that followed I began to question the teachings of the purity culture. I ultimately stopped wearing my purity ring, dumped my extreme adherence to modesty, and married without the parent-guided courtship I had been raised to expect. As I rethought the teachings of the purity culture I began to see them as not simply misled but actually actively harmful.
Key Posts on the Purity Culture
On Purity Balls:
On Modesty and Lust:
A Guest Series:
Resources on the Purity Culture
The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, by Jessica Valenti
How the Teachings of Emotional Purity and Courtship Damage Healthy Relationships, by Darcy. See also part 2 and part 3.
Why Courtship Fails: A Male’s Perspective, on No Longer Quivering
Courtship Covenants, on Recovering Grace
How Modesty Made Me “Fat”, by Sierra
How the Modesty Doctrine Hurts Men Too, by Sierra
My Problem with Purity Balls, by Amy Johnson
What’s Wrong with Purity Balls? One Virgin’s Perspective, on Biblical Personhood
I Don’t Wait Anymore, about purity rings
Sexuality: The Elephant in the Room, by Latebloomer
A Different Kind of Sexual Abuse, by Kylar
The Thing about Purity, on Recovering Grace
Listen for the Singing: My Courtship Story, by Melissa
Courtship v. Dating: Our Story, by Dulce
Courtship Promised to Protect Me, by Joy
The Joke Was On Me, by Lewis