Is Purity Culture Oppressive to a Woman’s Sexuality?
I recently read an article on articlebuffet.com (also known as facebook.) It was called “Naked and Ashamed: Women and Evangelical Purity Culture.” The article was a condensed master’s thesis by a woman who was arguing that purity culture is oppressive to a woman’s sexuality and causes long-lasting emotional and psychological devastation. She felt that the purity movement makes a woman feel like her body is sinful and a stumbling block to men, that the burden of purity rests on the woman and men get off easy, and that any sexual desire is shameful. All of this causes a woman to be repressed and hate her sexuality. Her case is corroborated by testimony, and by the number of likes by evangelical females the article received, I would say she has uncovered a serious problem in this movement.
So the short answer to the question in my title is “Yes, elements of purity culture have been oppressive to some women.” As a man, I am limited in how much of this I can address, but I have a mother I greatly respect, three sisters I adore, a wife that I love with everything I have, and a precious little daughter that I would die for. I also have a very strong protective streak. Anything that oppresses women or damages their emotions or sexuality makes me irate very quickly. I read her article with concern and I hurt for the women who have suffered because what they’ve been told about purity and their bodies. But I need to ask, “Is it the purity culture that is to blame? Or is it the purity message?” A culture contains fallen humans and so any “culture” can become oppressive. I need to know if it is the purity message itself that is causing the harm. I want to address the factors that I think are causing the pain, but also look at the alternative. If we throw away purity culture, what will take its place and will the alternative be any better? Continue reading…
T Lipp • March 7, 2014
Thanks for the good thoughts Jesse, I’ve had several conversations about this topic lately. Specifically with colleagues who love Jesus and are from cultural backgrounds were there is less “purity culture” and see how demeaning “purity culture” is to sexuality. I think you made a good distinction between the message and the culture, that’s an important distinction to make.
What I’m starting to ponder now is, how can you foster a culture that encourages both purity and sexuality. Is that even okay to say? Maybe I should have put “God-given” in front of sexuality, but then again I didn’t feel it necessary to put “God-given” in front of purity….
Chris • April 1, 2014
Guys suffer from religion-induced sexual dysfunction too.I was at work several months ago and thinking about the depression and anger that plagued me throughout much of my teen years, and I think much of it can be linked to Jesus’s words about lust in Matthew 5. I often felt guilty and angry when I felt any kind of sexual urge, and since adolescence is a time when we guys feel that frequently, there was a ton of anger and guilt. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I saw a minister on TV teach that the purpose of those passages wasn’t to make us feel guilty or repress our sexuality, but to emphasize God’s grace, to make us realize how much we need Him in our daily lives, and the fact that Jesus was “showing up” the Pharisees by telling them that they weren’t nearly as good at following the Law as they thought they were.. It was like, “Gee, NOW someone tells me.”
Some women who’ve blogged about being indoctrinated into this lunacy describe having thoughts and feelings that are classic symptoms of childhood sexual abuse and many of them pertain to me. The fact that I haven’t pulled a Columbine is proof that God is indeed merciful, so I can only hope that something good can come out of this. He’s got His work cut out for Him; this is a person who’s spent nearly as of his adult life under incomprehensible turmoil.