Purity Culture isn’t just a Christian thing

I spent my teenage years immersed in purity culture, in both evangelical and fundamentalist Christian circles.

If you were homeschooled, went to youth group, or wore a purity ring, you know what I’m talking about. Purity culture was an ideology, a movement complete with books like Dannah Gresh’s Secret Keeper and single women’s retreats.

One of my conservative Muslim Facebook friends often posts religious memes or quotes from the Quran. This week, he shared a few that seemed oddly familiar.

Here they are, along with their Christian duplicates.

1. You will only find a partner as you grow closer to God.

12033158_152575415095581_5812955716386275829_n  Jesus-husband-wife

Purity culture (almost) guaranteed that we’d find The One, if we obeyed the rules. Following the formula would bring you closer to God and, by default, closer to The One.

Eric and Leslie Ludy, authors of When God Writes your Love Story, said, “Girls, if you will learn to wait patiently and confidently for God to bring a Christlike man into your life, you will not be disappointed. And guys, learn to treat women like the Perfect Gentleman, Jesus Christ, If you do, you will not only be promoted out of “jerkhood,” but you will then be worthy of a beautiful princess of purity who is saving herself just for you.”

Apparently Islamic teachings are nearly identical, except you may be waiting for The One[s].

2. Wives should obey and submit to their husbands.

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Because complementarianism.

In this view, men and women are equally valuable, but serve different roles. Men are the leaders and women are their helpmeets. Any attempt to live outside of these scripted roles will result in a failed marriage.

The most spiritual women, according to this teaching, submit to their husbands and obey them even when they disagree.

3. Men who respect women will marry them.

12038001_151809495172173_6556620707179765941_n  0a23b04f1a30f8926e45160ede0e1aa4

Purity culture teaches that sex outside of marriage is disrespectful to the other person and stealing intimacy from their future spouses. A sexually active woman is used and no longer desirable, like damaged merchandise.

Again, this idea isn’t unique to evangelical Christianity.

4. Specific instructions on what clothing is pleasing / displeasing to God.

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The more covered, the better.

Long sleeves, long skirts to demonstrate that we’re women, and you better not show your midriff or have a neckline. In fact, it’s better if you avoid any clothing even suggesting curves. Shirts with V-necks are sketchy even if it doesn’t show cleavage, turtlenecks are safest. The goal is to become the least likely woman to make your brother in Christ stumble.

These ideas aren’t unique or special.

Conservative Muslims say the exact same thing. Purity culture isn’t exclusive to Christianity. We don’t have the inside track to something fabulous if we follow these teachings, it’s not a magical life hack formula that will fix everything broken in our lives. It’s more likely that we’re supporting an oppressive patriarchal system, but that’s a story for another day.

Most of this isn’t even in the Bible. Jesus doesn’t love you more if you wear the right clothing. I believe he lets you make your own damn choices.

Purity culture won’t make you a better person. It might just give you a superiority complex.

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4 thoughts on “Purity Culture isn’t just a Christian thing

  1. So, I’m guessing this was written because fundie culture states that this is specific to them?

    Thank you so much for all that you write. Those of us outside fundie culture get to learn more about the inner workings, and I’m hoping those in fundie culture get to understand it better themselves.

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    1. More or less. We were told that this was “God’s plan,” which meant only the Christian version of God. Because there was so much special, unique information anyway that only the “godly” people knew (since my fundie churches operated like cults), there was this idea that we do this thing that none of the rest of the world does. This is how we show the world that we are different, by dressing “modestly” because we are not afraid to live as a “peculiar people” as the King James Version of the Bible says.

      So purity culture was supposed to designate us as the ones, the example, a shining light to the rest of the world that we were living for God. I was never told that conservative Muslims are told the same stuff. I think too many people would have freaked out, since we also had the idea that all Muslims were terrorists. >.<

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  2. I find it refreshing to read your writing, the Eleanor. In the olden days-before my divorce, God forbid-I bought my children I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Yeah. They are all grown-ups now and seemingly contributing members of society. Two of them respectfully married. Hope I didn’t ruin them too much. Hard to say..

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