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The Dangers of Purity Culture

The Dangers of Purity Culture

Purity Culture is a bit difficult to describe as it encompasses several things but to me, it is essentially a patriarchal societal construct which upholds that women are to be chaste and sexually inactive till marriage, as their worth lies in their virginity as that is the greatest gift they can give their future spouse.

Literally the only reason this exists is to police women.

Purity culture is only directed at women, it may not be so bad if men and women were told to keep their ‘virtue’, but the fact that this is something reserved for only women is the first indicator of how discriminatory this mentality is. It tells women ‘wait till marriage’, ‘your virginity is your virtue and the best gift you can give your husband’ but don’t women deserve gifts of virtue too?

Then comes the fact that not even female children are exempt from demonization.

Recently two men stated that to them,children are sexual beings, and as such shouldn’t be allowed to wear shorts in public. One of the men was severely berating the mother of a 5 year old girl for letting her wear shorts to the mall. I was appalled when I watched him vehemently defend his position, but what gave him the audacity to have such a mindset?

No one bats an eye when fully grown men walk out of their homes wearing boxer shorts, but when a toddler wears shorts it’s a matter of national security.

Purity culture also seeks to divide women into  two broad groups; Courtesan and Virgin.

This is also called the Whore/Madonna Complex.

Only one group gets sympathy in cases of sexual harassment, assault and violence.

It creates a perfect victim; an innocent, young virgin.

Several times when reporting rape cases, the victims virginity or sexual history is bandied about, almost like virginity validates the offence, and all that does is detract from all victims of sexual violence and ensure a large majority never open up about it or seek help, because they know they are not perfect victims and will only be further ostracized.

Recently, a woman was raped and then murdered on a yacht, when the case was reported by major news outlets, they were more concerned with the fact that she was stripping to pay for college. Not the fact that she was murdered.

Women are unjustly categorized into the former because of how they are perceived by the society. No one is safe from being called a slut, not even children.

Last month ‘Surviving R Kelly’ premiered, and a lot of women came out to talk about their experiences with older men in general. These women spoke of when were they were younger, and had been coerced into sexual activities, and raped by much older men, and while there was a tremendous amount of support, there have been a lot of people insisting they wanted it and they deserved what they got for being ‘fast’, placing the blame squarely at their feet.

Purity culture is an offensive social construct because it disregards the individual and leaves each woman with the crushing and often overwhelming expectations of the society.

 

Ayotunde Kayode-Dada

Ayotunde is a writer and an editor. She's a final year law student at the university of Lagos. She is passionate about feminism, sexual and domestic violence and mental health. She is currently the Head of Outreach at As Equals Africa - an African feminist network. She is also the West African Regional head, AfroIdea, an online publication based in Kenya that focuses on Inclusion, Diversity and Equality in Africa (IDEA). Ayotunde loves to read fiction and binge watch the greatest series of all time, F.R.I.E.N.D.S
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