S/O: Sexual Abstinence vs Sexual Purity
IMO too many folks confuse these two.
Sexual abstinence is easily defined :
Sexual abstinence is the practice of refraining from some or all aspects of sexual activity for medical, psychological, legal, social, financial, philosophical, moral or religious reasons.
and while abstinence is required by many religious groups for single people outside marriage, it is not limited to religion. It does not specifically, by definition, require a certain religious/cultural basis or religious/cultural consequences. It simply is not having sex for whatever your personal reasons may be for that. Many other non-religious people also practice abstinence for a variety of reasons.
Purity and purity culture is much harder to define and includes cetrtain religious/cultural rules and consequences for breaking those rules. Purity takes abstinence to a very different level. Purity is a construct, brought up using the religious or cultural requirements of abstinence.
Purity is a curricula of abstinence that is administered by some starting at a very early age. These purity curricula exist in many cultures/religions around the world, including our own, can vary wildly in content and come with a vast array of social rules and consequences for the group that administers them. It is politicized abstinence. While the purity culture is in theory something that applies to both genders, it nearly always is focused much more on female sexuality and biology, especially when it comes to consequences.
Purity equates a value to virginity, as a commodity...something to be "saved" and "given away" to the right person, purity = self-worth.
Here is what Elizabeth Smart has to say about the purity abstinence training:
Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home in June 2002 by a drifter named Brian David Mitchell, who held the teenage girl hostage for nine months with the help of his wife, Wanda Barzee. Mitchell claimed that Smart was his “second wife” and raped her repeatedly until she was found by police in March 2003.
Citing her own experience, Smart, now an advocate for missing and exploited children, described why so many kidnappees, especially those who have been sexually abused, don’t attempt to escape their captors:
“I think it goes even beyond fear, for so many children, especially in sex trafficking. It’s feelings of self-worth. It’s feeling like, ‘Who would ever want me now? I’m worthless.’
That is what it was for me the first time I was raped. I was raised in a very religious household, one that taught that sex was something special that only happened between a husband and a wife who loved each other. And that’s how I’d been raised, that’s what I’d always been determined to follow: that when I got married, then and only then would I engage in sex.
After that first rape, I felt crushed. Who could want me now? I felt so dirty and so filthy. I understand so easily all too well why someone wouldn’t run because of that alone.”
Smart said she was raised to believe that her virginity was “the most special thing” and described how her childhood self viewed her rape as something that “devalued” her. “Can you imagine turning around and going back into a society where you’re no longer of value?” she asked the audience. “Where you’re no longer as good as everybody else?”
Years of abstinence-only sex education fueled her sense of unworthiness after she was raped, Smart said as she recalled a teacher who 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 easily it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” she 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.”
“That’s terrible,” Smart said as she remembered her teacher’s words. “Nobody should ever say that.”
The best thing we can do to prevent children from becoming a victim to sexual abuse, trafficking or kidnapping, Smart explained, is to teach them from an early age that they are worthy of love regardless of what happens to them. “You have value,” she said. “You will always have value and nothing can change that.”
What are your thoughts on Abstinence vs Purity?