Why the "Sexually Pure Good Girl" Is a BS Myth That Screws Both Women and Men
This is one of the best essays I've read in a long time.
Yes, it has *language.* Toddler women, move along.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Valeriy Lebedev
I came across two things this week that hurt to read. The first was a dumb collection of dumb shit written by a dummy, entitled "Why Good Girls Have Become As Extinct As Unicorns" (NSFW). In it, the anonymous male author explains that modern women are disgusting sluts who deserve to be taken advantage of, so if you manage to find a "good girl" (ideally by grooming her from kindergarten onward), you should legally cleave to her and imprison her in your bungalow posthaste before some other dude snatches up "your" prize. You can always cheat on her later when she gets "boring," which she definitely will, because she's not a person, she's just a vagina. This is "the mindset of men in the 21st century." Deal with it, ladies.
The second painful thing I read today—an utterly gutting counterpoint to the first—was a speech by kidnapping and rape survivor Elizabeth Smart. Speaking at aJohns Hopkins human trafficking forum, Smart explained why she didn't try to run from her captors, or even cry for help when they took her out in public:
Smart said she "felt so dirty and so filthy" after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn't run "because of that alone."
Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.
"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.' And that's how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value," Smart said. "Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value."
Smart's reluctance to fight for her freedom isn't the cause of her rape or her harrowing 9-month imprisonment (her captors hold those distinctions entirely), but it's possible that she might have been rescued sooner had she not been socialized to believe dangerous ideas about female virtue and worth. Smart, understandably, internalized the things she had been taught all her life: that her value was inextricable from her "purity," that a woman without value had no reason to live, and, more obliquely, that her life and her body weren't really her own anyway. So what was the point? Why live? Why fight? The myth of female purity—the idea that "good girls have become as extinct as unicorns"—could very easily have contributed to years more sexual slavery for Elizabeth Smart. Or her death.
Fuck all of that.
Girls and women, if no one has ever told you this before, or if you just have trouble believing it: you are good, you are whole, you are yours. You do not exist to please men, and your value as a human being is not contingent upon your sexual capital. "Purity" is a lie. Do not even worry about any of this garbage, because it's about as real as a fucking unicorn. And like my Nana always used to say, "Never take life advice from a grown man who believes that unicorns are 'extinct.'"
And this "good girl" shit isn't just limited to odious ding-dongs like dude-who-doesn't-know-the-difference-between-extinct-and-fucking-mythological. I know plenty of progressive, liberal, adult men who openly say they're looking for a "good girl"—who prioritize some paternalistic illusion of "self-respect" over personality and chemistry. And to those dudes, I say, HOW DO YOU NOT SEE HOW CREEPY THIS IS. Can you imagine if women went around saying they were just looking for a "good boy" and sometimes they "jokingly" scout kindergartens for promising baby virgins?!?!?! Groooooooooss!!!!!
To clear up any confusion, let's take a comprehensive look at female purity and why it is bullshit.
You Can Tell Something Is Bullshit If All of the Justifications for It Are Bullshit
Okay, guy, so why do you feel like you want/need/deserve to settle down with a "pure" woman? I'm genuinely listening.
"Oh, it's because sluts are gross."
Too vague. Do better.
"Well, their vaginas are real stretched out and big."
"Ummmmm, they probably have a bunch of diseases?"
Easy fix! Setting aside the fact that plenty of women contract STIs from monogamous partners or during "safe sex," it sounds like your real problem here is with illness, not sex. So I assume you'd be fine dating a promiscuous woman who practiced safe sex and happened to be STI-free?
"No, because I want a girl who's traditional and family-oriented."
Having sex doesn't mean you don't want to have a family. It just means that you want to have sex.
"Yeah, but a slut is more likely to cheat on me."
Really? Then why do couples in the Bible Belt have such a high divorce rate?
"The devil, I guess?"
"I just can't stand the thought of her getting fucked by all those other guys."
So you're about to have sex with a woman you're attracted to, you really want to have sex with her, but all you can think about is her getting pounded by tons and tons of dicks? That sounds like an entirely different issue.
"No! I just mean that I struggle with the same powerlessness and insecurity that all human beings do, so as a coping mechanism I take advantage of our culture's patriarchal power structure and exorcize my feelings of worthlessness by perpetuating shame-based proprietary attitudes over women's bodies. Basically I'm obsessed with controlling women's lives because I can't control my own."
Oh, honey. I know.
Men Are Lying
Men can't actually care whether or not women are "pure," because there is no way for "purity" to be verified. It's just not a real thing, and chasing some phantom virtue for your entire life is a great way to ensure that you waste your goddamn life. By Professor Unicorn's own admission, above, even if you claim to be "pure" he will probably just assume you're lying, and even if you can somehow proveyour purity he will get bored with you eventually anyway, because boner. This entire "conversation" is just an effort to rig a system in which men get to determine female worthlessness no matter the input. There is nothing you can do to be pure. Meanwhile, they get to do literally whatever they want with anyone, to anyone, at any time. The double standard is so blatant it's almost too boring to point out.
If you spend any time at all browsing body-positive Tumblrs, you'll notice that they're constantly invaded by men determined to insert their big, throbbing, veiny opinions into women's personal spaces. Queer women, fat women, women in pain, women trying to practice very basic self-care and sexual reclamation—they're all subject to unsolicited male assessment and exploited for male arousal. Women can't even escape sexualization in the context of attempting to make a statement about their own sexualization. It's relentless.
I got catcalled outside the coffee shop in the middle of writing this article—my brain mired in thoughts about purity and sexualization and objectification. A dude drove by in a car, leaned out the window, and yelled "EXCELLEEEEEENT!" (I will concede that it's possible he just mistook me for Rufus.) So what is it—am I supposed to be modest and pure, or do I become a sexual commodity as soon as I step outside in a belted muumuu and janky flip-flops? Well, the two aren't nearly as incongruous as they appear. A catcall is entirely about reminding you that you are not yours. The purity myth is entirely about reminding you that you are not yours. The fetishization of female purity in a world where catcalls are an acceptable form of communication telegraphs one thing very clearly:
"Women, stop sexualizing yourselves—that's our job, and you're taking all the fun out of it."
The sexualization of women is only appealing if it's nonconsensual. Otherwise it's "sluttiness," and sluttiness is agency and agency is threatening and so, therefore, sluttiness must equal disposability.
Women's Unhealthy Choices Are Nobody's Fucking Business
Everyone makes unhealthy choices sometimes. Life is long and complex. Everyone has sex with partners they regret, and strays out of their comfort zone for the wrong reasons, and enters into self-destructive relationships with the best intentions. But those choices are unhealthy for the person making them, not for anyone else. And those choices have no bearing whatsoever on anyone's worth as a human being. Sometimes perspective, born out of pain, can actually make life richer. Your good choices are yours and your bad choices are yours too.
Would it be better for you in the long run not to send naked pictures of yourself to a manipulative sociopath? Probably. But that's not because sending naked pictures of yourself is an inherently "bad" thing to do. Nudity isn't bad. Sex isn't bad. Nipples aren't bad. Even chastity isn't bad. Literally all of this shit is arbitrary. The only "mistake" is placing your trust in the wrong person, and the culpable one in that scenario is the person who chooses to be untrustworthy—not the victim taken in by it.
Our culture deliberately socializes women to be taken in. We condition girls (explicitly! Not even covertly!) to believe that if they're not sexually attractive, they're nothing. They're garbage. They might as well not exist. We reinforce, over and over, that their attractiveness has an expiration date, so the only thing they can do is desperately leverage that attractiveness while they can. If they resist that conditioning, we sexualize them against their will, and if they give in to that conditioning—or worse, if they are raped by a predator—we reveal the trap: Now you're a slut, and it's your fault. Now you're tainted. Now you're worse than nothing. Now you might as well not even cry out when your rapist takes you to the gas station in a wig and sunglasses.
So, Girls, Fuck All of It
If you want to. Or don't fuck any of it, if you don't want to. Fuck women. Fuck men. Fuck no one. Point is, you get to fuck what you like, when you like, and your worth is not determined by some golden ratio of extreme boner tantalization vs. minimal boner touching. BONERS ARE NOT THE BOSS OF YOU. You are the boss of you.