It sounds so nice.
It sounds noble.
The goals sound godly.
So what could be the problem?
The rules of purity culture go like this: it is up to a woman to keep a man from stumbling because of her clothing choices, and she is not to meet with a man alone.
I had thought, like any sane human being would, that these rules were espoused to protect the young from sin or wrongdoing and to keep them along the straight and narrow path.
I was wrong.
I have witnessed too many times to count that these supposed safeguards from impurity are used to blame victims when something untoward (read illegal) happens to them, and it goes like this.
What was she doing alone with him?
Boys only want one thing. She should have known that.
Look at her clothes, she was asking for it.
She participated, she's not a victim.
She seduced him. She needs to apologize and repent.
So, all an abuser has to do is blur the lines slightly, and he or she is golden? Invite a girl to his dorm room or keep her out past her curfew?
This means that the system is not only set up to protect rapists, pedophiles, and molesters, but it also provides a ready excuse for them. Blame the women! It's their fault. They're not real victims! It becomes a veritable cry to burn the witch at the stake.
Respectable women in this system feel often it is their job to toe the line, because everything is set up to protect those with the most power. Nevertheless, these same women sometimes make the choice to add to the pile-on of guilt directed at victims. The least of these are at the bottom of the heap, and as such, are left unprotected.
I've watched as purity culture proponents on social media have railed against the stories now brought to light, clearly angry that women would dare speak about what had happened to them. I've read stories of churches that subjected victims to church 'discipline' and who never contacted authorities.
In purity culture, the focus clearly is not on protecting women and girls and is oddly aligned with protecting rapists.
I'm suspicious of that, and I don't trust them around my daughter or me for that matter. I'll be blunt. I think they protest too much, because they identify in some way with these molesters.
Think that is too harsh?
I think they have some explaining to do.
When money-launderers are caught on television and sentenced to prison, I don't find an immediate defense for them, because I can't identify with that. When people are caught breaking and entering and get in trouble, I don't identity with that either. I am not vocal about blaming victims of theft and robbery, because I don't identify with robbers.
So why do some folks defend rapists?
And why do they re-victimize people by putting them through hell after they come forward?
In the news and on social media lately, we are hearing a lot about the #metoo movement and about the allegations involving men in power and sexual harassment or assault. Because of this, we are also hearing much commentary from the purveyors of all things sexually pure.
And there is cause for concern.
I don't trust that they want things sexually pure. I think some want an easy breeding ground for the types of abuses they're into. And God does not smile on that.
And if I'm wrong and leaders are not perpetrators themselves, perpetrators are surely listening to the rhetoric and see a clear coast for them to do their work.
Either way. I'm not interested and plan to stay far, far away.
For the rest of us, our theology needs to accurately portray what scripture says: that a man who lusts has already committed adultery with a woman in his heart. There is no mention of her clothing, whether they were alone together, or any other thing that could possibly be construed to mean that it was her fault.
The responsibility for controlling one's eyes belongs to the one doing the gazing. Job recognized this when he said he made a covenant with his eyes not to look upon a maiden.
I even read in a book written by a large organization that Tamar's rape was her own fault for not anticipating that that could happen. Our girls deserve better than this, and purity culture is dangerous.
Imagine for just one minute that you have been raped. Imagine being told it was your fault. Imagine that someone guilty of rape was allowed to operate in a leadership capacity in your midst. Imagine how worthless you would feel.
It is not, therefore, hard to see how 70% of victims spiral into depression. 94% of victims will experience PTSD. 33% will contemplate suicide. 13% will attempt suicide. They are between three and a half to ten times more likely to use drugs than the general population. 84% experience moderate or severe distress and problem at work or at school.
But purity culture isn't concerned about that. They've sent that message loud and clear.
One last note. Many churches are lax at reporting crimes, because they follow the admonition not to sue one another. People sue for civil matters, no?
The Bible also says that we are to obey magistrates and have nothing to fear if we have done nothing wrong. This has to do with criminal matters.
Assault and rape doesn't fall under the first category. These are crimes and must be reported. Enough said.
As it is, purity culture can only continue for so long before its rotten fruit will be obvious to all. Until then, you don't need purity culture to avoid having premarital sex. If that were the case, there wouldn't be so many leaders in the movement involving scandal.
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About the Author
Rosa A. Hopkins has hosted radio shows on 11 Christian stations, is a writer of gospel songs, has promoted Heartbeat legislation, and is a singer and songwriter. Her writings can also be found on her Facebook page. Join 18,000 other readers here.
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