Purity culture insists on the enforcement of rigid gender roles; this enforcement bestows on women and men specific responsibilities. This post will focus on three primary areas of responsibility: virginity, relationships, and marriage.
While the concept of virginity is socially constructed and heteronormative, excluding the myriad of ways people have sex, it is still an important (if not THE MOST important) aspect of purity culture.
Primary emphasis on remaining pure is always on women. Many abstinence campaigns discuss “knowing your worth” by not having sex, tying self worth to physical activity. There is also the importance of “guarding your heart” and not “giving yourself away” by engaging in physical activity or even casual dating. A woman’s virginity is viewed as a “gift” to give her husband on their wedding night. Purity is often disguised as empowerment and choice, but in reality women are only empowered to make one choice: abstinence.
Although they are also expected to remain pure, there is not nearly as much emphasis on their purity as women. In fact, they are believed to be “wired” to be more sexual, often painted as lust-filled animals who can barely keep their desires in control.
they still gotta stay pure.
Nope, no mixed messages here.
One way they must demonstrate purity is by not “defiling” women by having sex with them. However, their purity isn’t usually framed as a “gift” for their future wives.
Casual dating is highly discouraged; both men and women are encouraged to only date with the goal of marriage.
Women are to be pursued, led, and protected (since they’re more “emotional”). They are generally discouraged from initiating relationships, but rather should simply show interest and wait for the man to pursue them.
Men are the pursuers and “natural leaders” in the relationship (since they’re more “logical”).
Within relationships there are quite a few responsibilities that apply to both women and men, primarily not going “too far” physically.
How far is too far?
Too far could be holding hands or touching any way. It could be kissing. It could be prolonged kissing.
And so on and so forth.
The truth is, NO ONE really agrees on the proverbial line of physical activity that separates couples from chastity to drunken orgies in the streets.
But……..they DEFINITELY shouldn’t cross it!
There is often talk of couples “slipping” and “falling into sin”; usually this means having sex, but could include other physical activity.
But there’s hope!
If you slip, you can repent and ask for forgiveness, vowing not to do it again. But if a couple does “slip”, they tend to do so without protection or contraception. Deliberately buying condoms or taking birth control shows an intent to sin.
But again…if they slip, well, it was an accident! A moment of weakness, “giving in” to their desires.
Back to repenting.
Perhaps they “slip” again.
Back to repenting.
It’s important to stress here that within purity culture marriage is usually assumed to be the goal. Cause, you know, “guilt-free” sexy time.
Once again, they are discouraged from looking for a husband, but should instead wait and trust God will send them a husband.
Been waiting for awhile? Don’t worry, God will provide.
Impatient and tired of waiting?
In waiting they won’t be rewarded with just any husband, but THE Husband. One with whom you will be completely compatible, who will hold all your same beliefs, desires, and goals.
Wait, isn’t that the plot of like, EVERY rom-com ever made?
Just as in relationships, they are the pursuers. They also must trust that God will lead them to find their wives.
Another important factor of purity culture is the belief that having sex before marriage is “being unfaithful” to your future spouse.
Let me explain.
There is too much, let me sum up.
If a man is physical with a woman who ends up married to someone else later, he is essentially “defiling” someone else’s wife. Purity culture demands that men and women remain faithful to someone they have yet to even meet.
To deviate from your specific gender role is not a part of God’s plan, and will not end in the horse and the sunset and the riding off. Also, there is a key concept that is absent from all of these responsibilities: boundaries. It’s easy to see how a couple could “slip” if they have never been encouraged to communicate the boundaries they desire for their relationship. Purity culture thrives on the notion that men and women are *incapable* of determining what is best for themselves when it comes to sexuality. Instead, they are made to believe that if they simply follow the rules and stay in their gender lanes, they will be rewarded.
Essentially, purity culture robs people of their autonomy and makes them believe that misery and heartbreak are the consequences of not following a strict, legalistic way of living.