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Jessica Valenti – The Purity Myth

Posted in Book reviews, and Non-fiction

The Purity Myth, what a book! It challenges myth of purity, virgin girls being only white and middle class and unbelievable public punishments young girls are experiencing, while they should be taken care of. This nonfiction examines social prejudices against natural sexual development, including own experiences, but also incredible phenomena called abstinence-only education. Such education proves to be ineffective, providing misleading and false information, yet is being subsidized by the federal government. The element of purity appears in various contexts and Jessica simply demonstrates what is stated in the book title: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women.

Virginity isn’t a medical condition, but rather the state of being virgin. Dot. One loses their virginity once.. When exactly? To lose virginity doesn’t necessarily mean to have a sexual intercourse for the first time. It may happen during a gynecological examination or even using a tampon, if we want to stick to the old school definition of losing virginity as the rupture of vaginal hymen. There are many question and exlamation marks in such mindset. Why does piece of hymen carry value of a woman? What if woman loses her virginity unwillingly – does this event automatically reduces her value then? And why? What about transwomen? Does their lack of hymen mean they are not pure? When they have sexual for the first time in own body, does it mean they are not losing viriginty? Why is virginity almost exclusively female concept? Does male virginity has the same importance and if not why? And is having sexual encounters without penetration counting as loss of virginity or not? There are so many questions and no definite answers, yet there is very real pressure about mystical purity of women, while having real, negative consequences.

There is also sexualizing girls and their purity is the name of protection, oftentimes proving the contrary. This approach leads apparently to the wider consequences, where being and behaving in ‘girly manner’ equals the right kind of sexual attractivity, whereas any other attitude is perceived as cheap, attention-seeking, low self-esteem behaviour and is despised. Mostly from the reason saying “men are not interested in SERIOUS relationship with someone LIKE THAT”. This narrative lacks entirely the fact that one’s sexual expression doesn’t need to have as a primarily target to attract people into relationships; especially when definition of the ‘right’ relationship varies greatly from person to person. This issue has also visible and often very painful manifestations: to be sexually attractive, from the mainstream point of view, women should not become women and certainly not to age physically. Beauty industries are monetizing this approach by ‘helping’ women to reach absurd concept of beauty with everything from depilation, liposuction to vaginal rejuvenation. Don’t get me wrong here: I believe health should be always the first, looks is the secondary thing – when we are not healthy or separated from phycial pain, we are not able to fully enjoy our looks. So yes, there are cases when I’m 100 % supportive of seemingly beauty procedures when it helps. But I find ridiculous that girls who just reached teenage years feels the pressure of grooming, aka ‘being the beautiful woman everybody wants’, same as women undergoing a hymen replacement so her husband can feel like ‘the one’. It creates pathological environment for both girls, who want to become women, ad women who want to become girls again in some ways, because their looks are often presented as a negative example.

The Purity Myth simply blew my mind away. While reading, I was hoping it isn’t actually a non-fiction, but a lousy sci fi. Well, it wasn’t. For me, it doesn’t change a thing, except the fact I gained deeper understanding of this issue and started to value my own awarness. However, there are young generations out there who don’t believe in contraception, who rather have oral and anal sex than vaginal one, who pledge to remain sexually abstinent until marriage, who risk losing own life while being prohibited access to safe abortion. And this consciousness gives me creeps.

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