Indiana Daily Student

OPINION: Sexual purity is so much more than stereotypes of ‘purity culture’

Sex is fun, or so I’ve heard. As someone who tries to be purity-focused when it comes to everything sexual, I’m still relying on secondhand accounts.

For me, being purity-focused means abstaining from sex until I’m married and trying my best to avoid things with overtly sexual content that may be available online or at events. There are many reasons someone could choose to behave this way, but my motivations are primarily religious. 

I believe attempting to keep sexual desires for the context of marriage is a way for me to honor God and protect plans he may have for me in the future.

This sex-restrictive mindset may sound a lot like the concept of “purity culture.” Purity culture is a broad term often meant to carry a negative connotation and used to cover a variety of views pertaining to sex. 

A 2020 School of Sexuality Education article describes purity culture as follows: “There is a heavy emphasis on the purity of women and their responsibility to keep male counterparts from ‘stumbling.’ They are both controlled by and the gate-keepers of this concept of purity.”

The article goes on to say that women who violate the standards of purity are wrongly viewed as “damaged goods; a used, impure woman unable to give her whole self to her future husband.”

An article titled “The Repression Olympics” published by The Link, a student-run media publication at Concordia University, in 2020 describes the way I try to behave sexually as damaging. The author suggests that “ending repression could help individuals live their lives more authentically, and in a religiously pure manner.”

With this in mind, I think it’s important to consider whether attempting to be purity-focused always falls within the negative realm of purity culture as described above and if the way I seek to handle sex is harmful and repressive.

First, it is unequivocally wrong to place a disproportionate amount of sexual responsibility on women. An integral part of sexual purity is personal accountability, leaving no room for anyone else to be my gate-keeper.

Also, a healthy emphasis on purity in the Christian context is not about being perfect in our own power and then feeling worthlessness when we inevitably mess up. This mindset acknowledges that Christ’s atonement for our sins is more powerful than our mistakes. There is a difference between feeling shameful and acknowledging there are certain behaviors you view as wrong.

So why is it that I and others have these strict standards sexually? For me, a lot of it has to do with the power of sex and my relational goals.

I believe one of the most meaningful things someone can experience is the love of family. Consistently and selflessly loving my future wife isn't something that starts on our wedding day. It’s something I need to be cognizant of in the present. 

Sex — due to its role in one’s life and in marriage — is integral to this goal.

I think everyone would agree that sex has tremendous power. Scientific and psychological research makes clear that sex creates strong emotional attachment whether or not that’s what you’re looking for.

Sex is undeniably a powerful force in life and in relationships, and selflessly loving my future wife in the way that every woman deserves is a primary goal for me. I want to ensure these two aspects of my life — sex and future family — interact in the wisest way possible for me.

My future wife deserves sex’s powerful bond to be formed with her alone. It is for this reason I want to avoid sexual behavior with any other source, whether that be another person, pornography, fantasies or anything else.

As with many worthwhile goals in life, keeping these standards is far from easy and requires discipline. The negative perceptions surrounding purity culture generally stem from an emphasis on one’s own failures and the shame they incur. Valuing purity, however, is so much more than that. 

My desire for purity is not focused on my personal faults, but is centered on a desire to respect the power of sex and honor my future family.

Charlie Willis (he/him) is a law and public policy major and religious studies minor. He is a member of Cru and a former member of IUSG Congress. Oddly, he maintains a community of 150-plus pet rocks with their own government.

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