The Assault of Purity Culture


The house was quiet and dark. I nestled into the couch cushions beside my friend. He was talking but I was barely following. I looked out the window to the stars twinkling down on their reflection in the lake. My other friend was asleep and I knew I should go join her in the bedroom but I was so tired. So sleepy.  


 As gradually as I had drifted off, I slowly awoke. Something woke me, but at first I wasn’t sure what it was. My friend was close. He was touching me. Stroking my breasts. Was he really? This was new. It wasn’t unpleasant. My mouth fell open. I was starting to wake up now and realized that parted lips would look like an invitation for more.


For more touching. And, I didn’t want more, did I? Maybe?  No! This was wrong!
I opened my eyes, horrified at myself for being so stupid as to have fallen asleep on a couch next to a boy. Without a word I ran off to the bedroom where my girlfriend was sleeping. I lay down beside this girl who had never kissed anyone before. She was so pure. I was so disgusting. That is the opposite of pure, right? Disgusting. Putrid.
I didn’t sleep well that night. I was too ashamed. I didn’t talk to my guy friend about what happened at all. I was the one who had breasts after all, and was so foolish as to fall asleep and be vulnerable. And, even more troubling than that his fingers felt like they were staking claim to my body, the actual sensation of touch had felt nice. That made everything worse. It meant it was all my fault that my body wasn’t clean and pure and worthwhile to offer my future husband. I must have asked for it or it wouldn’t have felt good. There was something wrong with me.


 I stopped talking with my guy friend for months until a poem showed up in my inbox. A poem describing my breasts in several stanzas. I was expecting an apology, not an ode. Finally I asked why he would do that while I was sleeping.


He didn’t know I had fallen asleep. He thought I was awake and inviting him the whole time and was hurt that I had stopped talking to him.


 The main damage here wasn’t really that my breasts were groped without my consent or even, initially, my awareness. That broke trust, but it wasn’t the issue that caused me to see myself as degraded. The damage was the idea that my worth as a person was less because some part of my body had come into contact with someone else’s.


 The problem was that I didn’t see my body as my body. I saw it as a shell that was owned by god and would later be owned by a husband. I was responsible for following the rules that I thought these two owners would expect of me. I was a steward and I had failed. I deserved punishment.  


 Because of the ideas about worth and virginity that I subscribed to, this incident caused a lot of self-loathing. It turned a miscommunication between two immature young people, one with entitlement issues and the other with boundary issues, into an assault of the spirit. * 




Purity culture- you stole my innocence, my body. And I’ve taken it back 🙂


* I’m not excusing his behaviour.  Consent is an enthusiastic yes, not the absence of a no.  I see this mostly as a failure of our culture.  If I hadn’t felt so guilty I’m sure I would have just told him I was uncomfortable and he would have stopped.  No issues.








3 thoughts on “The Assault of Purity Culture

  1. ... Zoe ~ says:

    I’m always amazed at how we women (young girls) pick up the mantle of blame so easily. Naturally, we had help in learning that role but still.

    • prairienymph says:

      Scary, isn’t it.
      I remember hearing so many stories of how premarital sex ruined married sex lives, but I’m sure most of them would have been fine without all this guilt and blame.

  2. jen says:

    I just wanted to say, “Thanks!”
    You explained the problem with purity teaching very succinctly.
    And I’m glad you’re taking your body back!

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