Hashtag Purity Culture

By Church standards, I am a successful product of church culture.

I’m straight. I’ve never been drunk. I only swear sometimes. I go to church by choice.

And, above all, I guarded my carnal treasure [Win A Date with Tad Hamilton reference, anyone?]

I did all of the things, and followed all of the rules, and at 31 years old I’m not scarred by my experience in the church.

I’m finding that last part is the real miracle. But in a lot of ways I’m an exception.

Last month I read through tweets that included the hashtag #PurityCultureTaughtMe. I wasn’t at all surprised by what I found.

#PurityCultureTaughtMe that men have no responsibility for their desires. The responsibility is all mine to keep their minds pure. — Alya Marquardt (@AlyaMarquardt)

#PurityCultureTaughtMe that I would only be valued or respected in equal proportion to how much of my skin was covered up. — Jessica Rackley (@imjessrackley) 

#PurityCultureTaughtMe to judge my fellow women by their wardrobe first and their character second.— Violinknitter (@violinknitter) 

Here’s what I tweeted:

#PurityCultureTaughtMe that it was normal to hold an all girls assembly centered on modesty while boys went to play basketball in the gym— Cindy Warren (@cindy_warren)

I’m not against teaching abstinence (although, that could be a whole other post, y’all). I’m not against teaching girls to respect themselves and their bodies.

I’m against creating a culture where girls are sexually assaulted, but somehow believe it is their fault or that it makes them less valuable.

I’m against creating a culture where girls get pregnant and are treated like outcasts. Often while the male in the situation is treated very, very differently.

I believe that we can teach guys from a young age that they alone are responsible for their actions. Will their hormones rage? YES. Will it be difficult to focus from time to time? YES. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that your teenage son is going to think about sex whether there’s a girl in a bathing suit or a girl in a full length head to toe covering.

It’s just, I’ve long felt that we focus so much on modesty from an early age that we create the thing in men where they don’t believe they can control themselves. And we create a thing in girls where they believe their body is the key to receiving attention wanted, and unwanted.

I remember in high school when we went to the previously mentioned all girls’ assembly. We sat for what felt like forever and they told us about modesty and about not causing the boys to stumble. They told us not to front hug boys. And I clearly remember asking the guys afterward what their meeting was about. They had literally spent 5 minutes being told something along the lines of “respect the girls”, and then they went and played basketball in the gym for the rest of the time.

Hey, teenage boy (or grown man, while we are at it), a female front hugged you? You saw a girl with a shirt on that didn’t reach her neck? CALM DOWN. She is not responsible for your morality. She’s not.

My internet friend, Tiffany’s response to my tweet made me laugh, but it was also really telling:

@cindy_warren The fate of every young man’s purity was resting on our well-covered shoulders.— Tiffany Dorrin Olsen (@NotThatOlsen)

Instead of teaching our daughters that they are responsible for the thoughts and actions of every single man, maybe teach them how valuable they are, wholly, as a person. A smart person.

Maybe we teach our sons about self control, and taking responsibility for their own actions.

I was having a conversation about this topic with my best friend from childhood, and she said some things that I thought were really great:

“…and what if we put more interest into girls minds instead of their bodies. Because self confidence will create more modesty than shame ever could”

and “instead of spending all that money on True Love Waits rally’s, let’s put that money toward finding strategies to boost teenagers self confidence and prepare people to be independent, productive citizens”

I think she’s pretty smart.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *