Hypocrisy of Purity
Photographed by Devin Ricks of Alison Settembrini
Styled by Jack Turpen
By Carmella Contesti
As a young girl there have been several phrases beaten into my mind. Pull down your skirt, brush your hair, sit up straight, wait until marriage, sit like a girl, and the list continues. I have always been infuriated by these small phrases. I hated being told to present myself in a way that did not align with my personal feelings. The concept of “purity” has long been associated with women, with the idea that a woman’s worth is tied to her virginity or sexual purity. This is harmful for several reasons.
The origin of purity in women is multifaceted and complex. Purity culture has been prevalent in some cultures and religious communities, where it is often linked to abstinence until marriage and strict codes of conduct around sexual behavior. These beliefs can have harmful consequences for women, perpetuating shame, and guilt around sexuality, limiting their freedom and autonomy, and contributing to a lack of education and awareness around sexual health and consent. Especially in marginalized communities’ purity culture causes harm. There are still many individuals and communities who continue to promote purity culture, particularly in conservative religious contexts. These communities often emphasize the importance of sexual abstinence until marriage and promote strict codes of conduct around sexuality and relationships.
Purity is used to control women. Many communities struggle to accept female sexuality, even in today’s world. Young women fail to recognize and act on their sexual behaviors due to this concept of purity. This often leads to feelings of guilt or shame while men feel the opposite. Women are expected to be modest and reserved with the idea that a woman who is sexually active is immoral. This idea of purity places women in a narrow, restrictive box where they are expected to conform to certain standards of behavior and dress. Women who do not fit into this mold may be ostracized or marginalized, reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes and perpetuating inequality.
Regarding dress, fashion is a place for self-expression. I have always challenged the concept of purity and femininity through clothing. The amount of skin shown or how short your skirt is does not have any connection to this ideation. Women do not need to be in skirts or dresses to be deemed appropriate. Wearing more masculine clothing is empowering for women. Personally, I feel most confident in a suit or oversized outfits. As women we must challenge the gender norms and expectations. We can and will express ourselves through clothing. Fashion is one of the best ways to fight the traditional concept of purity and women.
It is important to recognize that purity is a harmful concept that should be challenged and dismantled.
Everyone has the right to make their own choices about their sexual experiences and to express their sexuality in a way that feels authentic to them. It is also important to promote a culture of consent and respect, where individuals are free to make their own choices without fear of judgment. Women are not defined by their purity or lack thereof. Every person has the right to make their own choices and live their lives as they see fit. Rather than focusing on purity as a measure of a woman's worth, we should strive for a society that values women as individuals and respects their rights and freedoms. This means promoting gender equality, combating gender-based violence and discrimination, and empowering women to live fulfilling lives.
By challenging harmful gender stereotypes and promoting a more inclusive and equitable society, we can create a world where everyone is free to be their authentic selves without fear of shame or discrimination. It is time to erase the concept of purity in women. So, pull up your skirt, do not brush your hair, slouch in your seat, have sex before marriage, and sit with your legs uncrossed. Do whatever you want and refuse to be limited by societal standards. It has been far too long now that we have remained contained in such a restrictive society. It must be broken.