The “Purity Culture”

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

How the Purity Culture Made Me Afraid of Men

The Purity Culture and Sexual Dysfunction

“Love Virginity”

Critiquing the Purity Culture

The Perfect Relationship Secret: Virginity?

Sex Miseducation

On Courtship:

Sexpectations: Purity, Courtship, and Dating

Courtship, Dating, and Regret

What about Love?

Whose Choice?

On Purity Balls:

Your Virginity is Yours – Not Your Daddy’s

Purity Balls: They’re Barking up the Wrong Tree

Frozen Promises: Or, Life is Not a Journey

On Modesty and Lust:

Who Are the Real Babies? House-Proofing and Modesty

The “Problem” of Lust

I Wear a Bikini (Gasp!)


A Guest Series:

I Hugged Dating Hello


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

Modesty: A Response to Common Misunderstandings, 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

Courtship Stories

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


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