The History and Impact of Purity Culture on Today’s Society

For Jesus and the culture

Dear Reader, 

I just want to take a moment to discuss purity culture, which has been the subject of many books in recent times. 

“Purity culture” is a term that is used to describe the movement in America during the late 1800s and early 1900s that promoted abstinence from sex until marriage. I don’t know if any of y’all have heard of “true love waits” jewelry but as a young Seventh-day Adventist woman I still wanted one of those rings, in spite of the fact that my family thought jewelry was against our religion. 

The purity movement was largely influenced by religious beliefs, and it had a significant impact on how Americans view sex today. While purity culture has changed over time, its effects can still be seen in our society. In this blog post, we will explore the history of purity culture and its impact on society.

Define purity culture and discuss its history

Purity culture is a set of beliefs and practices surrounding sexual activity, typically within conservative religious communities. The idea is that by abstaining from sex (or waiting until marriage), one can remain “pure” and avoid the emotional and physical consequences of premarital sex.

Purity culture has its roots in the Victorian era when strict social norms governed all aspects of life. These norms were based on the belief that women were the weaker sex, prone to emotional outbursts and moral failings. As such, they needed to be protected from themselves – and from men. The Victorian ideal of purity was codified in the social mores of the day, which dictated that women should be chaste, modest, and submissive. These ideals were further reinforced by the rise of the evangelical movement in the 19th century, which placed a heavy emphasis on sexual morality.

Examine the impact of purity culture on society today.

Purity culture has been around for centuries, with its roots tracing back to the Victorian era. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in purity culture, particularly among young people. While there are some benefits to participating in purity culture, there are also some potential drawbacks. It’s important to weigh all of the pros and cons before making a decision about whether or not to participate.

Some of the potential benefits of participating in purity culture include developing a stronger sense of self-control and discipline, gaining a greater appreciation for intimacy and sexuality, and feeling more connected to God.

 There are also some potential drawbacks to consider, such as the risk of developing an unhealthy obsession with virginity, feeling like you have to live up to impossible standards, or experiencing shame and judgment if you do have sex before marriage. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to participate in purity culture is a personal one. If you do decide to participate, it’s important to be mindful of the possible risks and rewards.

The worst part is there are many who despite having never had sex before marriage and having followed through with their principles, still feel dirty having sex with their husband… the one they were waiting for. Purity culture has warped their mind. The emphasis on it has caused such psychological damage that they cannot even enjoy the moment they waited 20-30 years for.  

For black Christians, the impact of purity culture is particularly significant. In a community that has historically been oppressed and marginalized, many millennials are searching for ways to assert their own autonomy and control over their bodies.

Discuss how individuals can break free from the constraints of purity culture and create their own definitions of sexual health and wellness.

There is no single way to break free from the constraints/ psychological damage of purity culture, as each individual’s journey will be unique. However, there are a few things that can help you on your path:

  • Talk to others who have also broken free from purity culture about their experiences and how they overcame challenges. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 
  • Seek out resources that offer information and support on creating healthy sexual lives outside of the traditional definitions of virginity and abstinence.
  • It also may be time for you and your partner to go to therapy if you are not having fun in the marriage bed.  Yes, I’m talking to you- married and feeling shame. 
  • Be patient with yourself; it may take time to unlearn the messages you’ve been taught about sex and sexuality.

It is important to remember that God wants you to have a healthy sex life. The key is to find what works for you (supports your principles and values) and to be honest with yourself about what you want and need. With time and effort, you can create a sexual life that is fulfilling, empowering, and affirming.