Purity Culture Is Rape Culture

AP Photo/ Dar Yasin

Indian women offer prayers for a gang rape victim at Mahatma Gandhi memorial in New Delhi.

Her intestines were removed because the six men used a rusty metal rod during the “rape.”

That fact—the rusty metal rod—is what’s haunted me about the violent incident that has outraged India and the world. Six men held a 23-year-old woman and her male friend in a private bus for hours while they assaulted her so brutally that, after several surgeries to repair her insides, she died. What happened to this young woman was a gang assault. It can be called a sexual assault because among other things, they brutalized her vagina. Or it can be called a sexual assault because it was driven by rage at the female sex.

Since Susan Brownmiller first wrote Against Our Willthe landmark feminist reconceptualization of rapefeminists have worked on clarifying the fact that rape is less about sex than it is about rage and power. Too many people still conceive of rape as a man’s overwhelming urge to enjoy the body of a woman who has provoked him by being attractive and within reach. As is true in many “traditional” cultures, much of India still imagines that the violation was one against her chastity, as Aswini Anburajan writes at Buzzfeed. But conceiving it as primarily a sexual violation places the burden on women to protect their bodies’ purity. It means that the question that gets asked is this one: Why was she out so late at night, provoking men into rage by being openly female?

But seen from a woman's own point of view, rape is quite different: It's punishment for daring to exist as an independent being, for one's own purposes, not for others' use. Sexual assault is a form of brutalization based, quite simply, on the idea that women have no place in the world except the place that a man assigns them—and that men should be free to patrol women’s lives, threatening them if they dare step into view. It is fully in keeping with bride-burnings, acid attacks, street harassment, and sex-selective abortions that delete women before they are born.

I’ve now read a number of commentaries exposing India’s, particularly New Delhi’s, culture of street violence against women. The most memorable, by Sonia Faleiro in The New York Times, talks about the fear that was instilled in her during her 24 years living in Delhi:

As a teenager, I learned to protect myself. I never stood alone if I could help it, and I walked quickly, crossing my arms over my chest, refusing to make eye contact or smile. I cleaved through crowds shoulder-first, and avoided leaving the house after dark except in a private car. …

Things didn’t change when I became an adult. Pepper spray wasn’t available, and my friends, all of them middle- or upper-middle-class like me, carried safety pins or other makeshift weapons to and from their universities and jobs. One carried a knife, and insisted I do the same. I refused; some days I was so full of anger I would have used it — or, worse, had it used on me.

The steady thrum of whistles, catcalls, hisses, sexual innuendos and open threats continued. Packs of men dawdled on the street ... To make their demands clear, they would thrust their pelvises at female passers-by.

Such endemic street harassment is not about sex; it’s about threatening women for daring to leave the private sphere. It’s a form of control over women’s ambitions and lives. And when such a culture is widespread, it gives men permission to use women as the target for any excess anger they might have.

“Rape culture,” as young feminists now call this, isn’t limited to India. It lives anywhere that has a “traditional” vision of women’s sexuality. A culture in which women are expected to remain virgins until marriage is a rape culture. In that vision, women’s bodies are for use primarily for procreation or male pleasure. They must be kept pure. While cultural conservatives would disagree, this attitude gives men license to patrol—in some cases with violence—women's hopes for controlling their lives and bodies. In October, responding to Richard Mourdock's incredible comment about rape, I mentioned an absolutely essential piece by The Nation's Jessica Valenti in a way I want to reprise here, if you'll excuse the self-quotation:

As Tennessee Senator Douglas Henry said in 2008, “Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse.”

In other words, only virgins can be raped—sweetly white-gloved, white-skinned virgins. Any woman who ever wanted sex—yes, that includes married women who unconditionally give permission when they put on that ring—deserves what she gets. Valenti’s piece is a brilliant and absolutely essential manifesto on what still has to change to get from “What about 'no' don’t you understand?” to the more advanced concept that women have a right to enjoy and control our own bodies. In this "traditional" vision of sexuality, it's not rape if you've already had sex, ever—except if you're married and another man violates his property. Your only role is to protect your purity for its future owner. If you don't do, you're fair game. 

A culture in which women must cover up or be threatened is a rape culture. You're thinking of hijab and burquas, right? Think also of the now well-known SlutWalks, which were launched after a Toronto police officer told young women that they could avoid rape by not dressing like “sluts.” The protests, which have spread worldwide, make the point that no matter how we dresswomen are at risk; and no matter how we dress, our bodies are our own.  

Let me be clear that we have plenty of rape culture here in the United States. When I told my wife the prosecutor how shocked I was by the India case's rusty metal bar, her response disturbed me terribly: She laughed at my naïveté. She sees it all the time, she explained. She started telling me about one recent case in which a husband had shoved a broom up his wife so far it ripped out through her chest. I was so upset I stopped her before she could tell me more.

Or consider the recent rape in Steubenville, Ohio, allegedly by members of the football team, which was reported on in excellent detail by the Times—primarily because of the shocking way it was was celebrated via social media. Here's how Prospect contributor Amanda Marcotte summarized the case at Slate:

The alleged crime: Witnesses, some also on the football team, testified at a probable cause hearing that Mays and Richmond spent most of the night of Aug. 11 standing over, directing, transporting, and otherwise controlling the blacked-out drunk victim, who they carried to three separate parties. According to the New York Times, witnesses claim that Mays and Richmond tried to coerce the victim into oral sex, exposed her naked body as a joke to other partygoers, penetrated her digitally, and exposed themselves to her. Other Steubenville students on Twitter and YouTube say they witnessed even worse violations, including urinating on the victim and anal rape, though these are not official statements. (And sadly, these students were more delighted than upset by what they allegedly saw.) While it appears that multiple students taped and photographed the alleged assault, officials claim they haven't been able to turn up much in the way of evidence, because the evidence has been deleted. 

Football players like these two can almost always find young women who will have sex with them willingly. Taking a drunk and helpless girl and urinating on her, humiliating her, fingering her publicly, violating several orifices—that’s about rage and power, not sexual pleasure. That's sexual assault and enforcement of the rape culture's idea that a woman's job is to protect her purity.

At CNN Opinion, Lauren Wolfe writes that women are rising up against rape and rampant street harassment in places as disparate as Egypt and Somalia. I hope she’s right—and that the horror in India spurs genuine change, complete with international coalitions, like those that came out of the Beijing women's conference and that work across borders. We do know that protests have spread beyond India to Nepal. Slutwalks have spread around the world, as my regular google alert tells me, with recent incarnations in such places as Hong Kong, Lubbock Texas, Mandurah, Australia, and Plymouth, Massachusetts.

I can only hope that the response to the attack in India includes outrage at congressional Republicans' astounding refusal to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), one of the most effective tools to help prevent such violence, which the Prospect's Jamelle Bouie has already told you about. In its past 18 years, it has funded tremendously useful projects ranging from a stalking help line to statistical research to law-enforcement training in responding to intimate-partner violence. According to the National Organization for Women's reading of Bureau of Justice statistics, in the first 15 years after VAWA was originally passed, intimate-partner violence homicides dropped by 53 percent, and female homicides dropped 43 percent. While of course that cannot all be attributed to VAWA—homicide deaths in general have fallen during that period, for a myriad of reasons—VAWA has been an important tool in training, educating, funding, and helping to enforce new norms. If this were called "domestic terrorism," far more of the nation's budget would be dedicated to end it.  You’d think that their November loss at the ballot would’ve educated Republicans about the fact that women actually vote. But some people learn very, very slowly.

Here's the key point: It is not acceptable that more than 50 percent of the world’s population live in fear of violence solely because they are female. I do hope that India will turn around the male rage seething through its streets—and that here, we see an uprising against Congress’s appalling failure to reauthorize the bill that fights domestic terrorism—the terror that women feel at home.  


This is a much needed perspective and is powerful. However, the piece loses a bit of strength and significance when Graff states, "Football players like these two can almost always find young women who will have sex with them willingly." This assertion is appalling. It would be just as appalling if Graff asserted that cheerleaders are almost always willing to have sex. Ironically, Graff's overall argument regarding culture which enables certain behaviors, is diminished by this statement. Why? Because, there are football players and cheerleaders who, just like Graff, find people who have such lust for power or who perpetrate such brutality and sexual assault as reprehensible as anyone should. I am not sure if Graff finds it necessary to identify football players as if football is somehow complicit in a quest for power and control over women. In the least, this statement is troubling given the overall message of the article.

I disagree with Kolis comment above. The statement "Football players like these two can almost always find young women who will have sex with them willingly." would be equally true if it was about players of any other popular sport. It is a fact, popular university age athletes and this includes football players have no problem finding young women to have consensual sex with and it is unlikely they raped the victim to satisfy their sexual desire.

To me even more troubling is the complicity of the bystanders. Of course they should all be convicted. Also, what does this situation say about the cultural level of people at this "university"? It is a huge failure of education and it should be recognized as such. If it was just few sick criminals acting in some hidden location it would be different, but there were many people there who could have stopped it with one phone call - instead they chose to participate in the assaults by recording them. The victim was taken to multiple parties during the course of the night. Everyone at fault should face severe consequences and this includes whoever is responsible for the level of education delivered by this institution.

It doesn't matter what sport you choose. Graff's general point regarding brutality over sexual pleasure is not overshadowed.

The assumption that football delivers sex is inevitably a contributor to the culture Gaff wants to bring attention to. Thus, if I am a football player then by virtue of that fact, I should expect sex?

Kolis - you're being deliberately obtuse over an issue that is abundantly clear and incredibly important. Why people feel the need to respond to serious human rights abuses like this by posting grandiloquent nonsense is beyond me. But here goes, if you still can't fathom the point of the article. Certain social statuses afford ready access to adulation, and yes, sexual attention and opportunity. There is nothing particularly special about football in this regard. Being a celebrity - movie star, rock star, or prominent athlete of any popular sport - operates pretty similarly this regard. The article raises an absolutely vital point in this regard. For men who are generally perceived as highly desirable, and who generally have ample opportunities for consensual sex, why the fixation on orchestrating and executing such a violent and humiliating rape? It's a very clear demonstration that this is not about, and has never been about, "sex." It is about power, degradation, violation. Therein lies the raison detre for rape. It's a simple point. But I suppose it's more important to you to stage some bizarre sense of indignation at holy "football" having been somehow slighted... or in making some pointless abstruse argument to show everyone how smart you are.

I couldn't have said it better. Well summated. I always wonder why some people choose to nitpick and rant full out on the least significant part/detail of an article or account and choose to be outraged at that in preference to having any true concern for the main issue at hand.

I know right, the author was just totally exposing his resentment and cultural bigotry, why nitpick. I am sure it has nothing to do with the overall agenda he is pushing or anything. All that football players do is have sex (ususally some form of rape). None of them are shy or socially awkward themselves and I am sure absolutely none of them try to lead virtuous lives and abstain from sex. They are all basically just date raping sociopaths to a much higher degree than the genreal population.

Perhaps you have missed the point about football players and sex. Most football players are deemed to be popular and desirable in our culture, from high school and beyond. The young males implicated in Ohio were not looking for a sexual partner that night. They seized an opportunity to dominate, humiliate and brutalize a young girl who was utterly defenseless. The key point of the writer is that rape and other forms of sexual abuse are not about satisfying normal sexual desires--rather, they are all about the venal, destructive exercise of power and the dehumanization of girls and women. By focusing on what you perceive to be an unjust attack on the character of football players, you place the psychology of rape, for both victims and perpetrators, on the sidelines.

I didn't miss the point at all. Football doesn't automatically deliver sex. To assert this only perpetuates a stereotype that is generally not applicable. These individuals who are highlighted in the article, amongst other things, were football players. Had they not been football players, then what would Gaff point to a a path for pleasurable sex as opposed to satisfying a lust for power and control?

Furthermore, the assumption that football delivers sex is inevitably a contributor to the culture Gaff wants to bring attention to. Thus, if I am a football player then by virtue of that fact, I should expect sex?

Kolis the point he is making is not that football=sex
Is it not quite possible for anyone (sporty or not) to fairly easily find someone that is willing to have sex? If you honestly cannot find someone willing to have sex with you then for damn sure you can pay someone.
The point is rapists are not desperate and lacking sexual activity, those that are can't say that is the driving force behind their crime, but rather the power they feel and the control they gain when taking sex rather than being offered.
If these rapists weren't football players that argument is still valid.

In an ideal world, Kolis, no one would ever assume that they had a right to expect sex from anyone else. But in our current reality, certain subsets of both men and women make assumptions about their own general desirability, e.g., fashion models, movie stars and accomplished athletes. They are not wrong--experience proves that they are, indeed, desired by plenty of people. This is not the point and never was the point. Football is not the point. Perceptions of what football players are like as human beings is also not the point. The discussion here is meant to be about rape and about the forces in societies all over the globe which prevent over half the people in the world from feeling safe when they walk down the street or ride a bus. If your overriding concern is burnishing the image of football players, try commenting on a sports website.


Gaff wrote about football so why not admonish Gaff to write for a sports web site in this case? Stay up hembreesusan, you have no reason to be dismissive.

Your argument... "The discussion here is meant to be about rape and about the forces in societies all over the globe which prevent over half the people in the world from feeling safe when they walk down the street or ride a bus." ...and the perpetuation of such stereotypes have no relation. If you saw a group or football players walking down the same side of the street as you, given you buy into the stereo type, you would have no trepidation?

It doesn't just work for athletes. Rock stars, especially guitar players are expected to act like rock stars and I imagine an expectation of sex is a component of that. So when and individual guitar player decides that his expected sexual suitor is not properly playing the (expected) role and assaults this individual, did the cultural expectation of sexual performance play no part in enabling this incident?

This is not that hard to see. I am imagining young athletes buying into this stereotype because they desire sexual relations and then taking it too far only based upon the common expectation. This fosters a power trip which is exactly the kind of culture Gaff is pointing out.

I don't disagree with the sentiment of the article but this statement counters the intent.

First of all, the author's last name is Graff and the piece is quite a long one. Obsessing over the fact that football players are briefly mentioned, for factual reasons while discussing the Steubenville, Ohio incident, misses a whole truckload of points made by Graff which are of far more importance.

I have not made a single negative or disparaging remark about football players, so your contention that I have bought into a stereotype concerning them is fallacious. My late brother was a football player, I lived happily among football players in my college dorm and was a member of a school girl squad who cheered for the Rams many years ago when they were based in Los Angeles. A pack of them approaching me on the sidewalk would not reduce me to fear and trembling.

The piece written by E.J. Graff is about the dangers inherent in the "purity" movement under way in fundamentalist Christian circles, the ideologies in other cultures concerning female "purity" and the ways in which these ideologies intertwine with attitudes that rationalize and justify rape--at least in the minds of some men, whether they play sports or not.

In your most recent comments, you move dangerously close to rationalizing rape as a logical consequence of male entitlement carried too far. I doubt that this is your intention, and I ask that you carefully review your thinking on this. You don't appear to be a rape apologist but you're now making excuses for some of the rapists, some of the time. Maybe it would help if you could divorce the issue of sex from what is, admittedly, a very complex subject. That might sound crazy, but it really isn't, because rape is not about sharing a sexual experience with someone else, or satisfying a healthy human desire. It's about satisfying the urge to dominate and humiliate and control and damage someone. And that, tragically, works every time.

I have believed for a long time that the only single effective rape deterrent would be for decent men to stand up to the indecent ones and tell them, "NO. You will not get away with this. These are our sisters, mothers, wives, girlfriends, neighbors and co-workers and we, the good men of the world, will not stand by while you treat them like trash." In my fantasy about the good men, some of them would turn out to be football players.

I am done with this now.

Excellent article. I had a weird internal reaction to that sentence as well. However, I can't completely grasp what I found so unsettling about it. I think I agree with the sentiment though - rape isn't about, or 'just' about sex, it's about power, control, dehumanization, cultural expectations and roles, etc. and that sentence's purpose was to portray this idea. I just don't think it worked. Overall, a great piece.

I think the discomfort regarding the author's sentence about the football players, "Football players like these two can almost always find young women who will have sex with them willingly" is that the sentence itself is an example of the stereotypes that drive or underlie this power and rape culture in society. The expression of the sentence is itself a stereotype, the stereotype that football players (aside from other men?) can find women who want to have sex with them. Such a stereotype only helps to reinforce the power rape culture the author speaks of. Let me break it down a little more sequentially. The idea that the football player can almost always find women who want to have sex with him is just the other side of the coin, i.e. that women want to have sex with the football player. The promotion/acceptance of the stereotype promotes the belief among some football players that women want to have sex with them. Coincidentally, for the young man who has bought into this, it may not even enter his mind that a woman might not want to have sex with him, even if she is saying no. This level applies more to the date rape type of scenario than the heinous actions in the article. But the next progression from that is an entitlement to sex from any woman - because that is the belief, the expectation, and yes the power of the position. Coming back to the beginning, a stereotypical statement that a football player can almost always find a woman who wants to have sex with him is in itself reinforcement of the stereotype, and a stereotype that feeds into the rape culture in American society at least.
Of course, such things are not limited to football players and perhaps it would have been better had the author relayed the sentiment without referring to football players at all. I mean honestly, in today's oversexualized society what makes the football player special? I'm sure almost any college age guy can find women who are willing to have sex with him for free. The decision to take it and to humiliate and dehumanize is simply deranged. The fact that the guys were football players is irrelevant on every angle and including that tidbit like it mattered detracted from the point of the article. The inclusion of such adjectives - football player, athlete, fraternity member, etc. invites a comment about that group, thus detracting from the larger picture of the pervasiveness of rape and power and respect for autonomy and consent versus entitlement and abhorrent behavior.

Well said danny9313!

Sorry for the misspelling Graff.

Rape is rape no matter how the perpetrator gets their.

I played football and my mother was a cheerleader. Neither one of us would teach my son, who also plays football, to expect sex by virtue of his station. That is not the football culture we celebrate.

I guess if you'd like to perpetuate that way of thinking so be it. I imagine the six that violently raped the women in India could have paid a prostitute, maybe even a submissive? Would that have been a reasonable alternative to put forth as an illustration lust for power and control over sexual pleasure?

I never said that "you" buy into the stereotype. I said, IF you buy into it. I am pointing out that the culture of male entitlement IS a culture which we don't want to perpetuate because it can lead to rape, which again is NOT what we want, no matter what cultural path gets you there.



The author is not perpetuating a way of thinking, she's acknowledging a reality. Expecting sex by virtue of your station is not the author's point - she didn't say that as football players, they are entitled to sex if they want it, she said that if a football player wants sex, he doesn't usually have a hard time getting it.

Replace football player with "a well-built, traditionally handsome man." Do you get it now? It's a simple truth that you really can't deny. The point is, these were socially privileged football players, not ostracized "geeks". Your line of argument is false because it denies the basic truth that many people, especially many teenagers, choose their sexual partners based on surface qualities such as social capital and physical prowess.

I am not commenting on Kolis' s assertion that the claim that football players have access to consensual sex reduces the force of the argument. I am instead raising the question as to whether the assertion "a purity culture is a rape culture" is not an oversimplification, or perhaps should be appropriately nuanced.

I suggest a more accurate / helpful version of this would be something like this: "a culture in which women only (and not men) are expected to remain chaste until marriage is a rape culture".

My gut feeling is that it is precisely this


treatment of men and women in respect to a purity that is the problem. I see no reason to presume that purity per se is the issue - I suggest its is possible to imagine a world in which purity until marriage is embraced for


genders, without fostering a culture of rape.

I can imagine some counterarguments that might be put forth, but I will let others present them, if they wish.

Sorry for the formatting problems in my last post - still figuring this out. I intended to simply underline the words "differential" and "both".

Having grown up in the deep south, in a baptist purity-culture: yes it is rape culture. I watched as my older sister was repeatedly raped by the man she was married off to, because the bible told him it was his right to take her when he wanted. I heard as she was raped by a stranger for being out at night without her husband. Your idea of a purity culture applying to both (wrong by the way) genders can NEVER work when men control what women do and think.

Well, of course my idea won't work under the circumstances you described. But the case needs to actually be made that all forms of a purity culture would foster rape. I am very skeptical a convincing case could be made.

Well, of course my idea won't work under the circumstances you described. But the case needs to actually be made that all forms of a purity culture would foster rape. I am very skeptical a convincing case could be made.

Please read my post carefully - I never stated, suggested, or implied that anyone's particular culture was one where men and women are treated equally. The point is that I see no reason to believe that every conceivable purity culture would foster a rape culture.

Because in ANY culture that expected chastity until marriage, rape would be used to punish those that others view violate that tenet. Right now it is almost entirely women who get raped by purity culture because it is women who are expected to remain chaste. Have more purity just means more people getting raped and murdered.

You are merely asserting something, there is no supporting argument. How do you know, and please be as precise as you can, that an embrace of a purity culture, especially one where men and women are both expected to remain pure, would lead to increased rape. You are speculating when you merely assert that it would. Perhaps you are right, but we need a credible argument. Consider this: imagine a culture where people agree to not eat meat. Would you argue that this would lead to the use of rape as a means to punish those who violate this proscription? If rape is really about power and not sex (and I agree that it is about power) one could, using your line of thinking, argue that rape would be used to punish those who violate societal norms. Should we therefore not have societal norms?

Graff puts forth the IDEA that "Purity Culture is rape culture". I get that.

Did Graff mean to say that all men who believe in or practice the tenants of such cultures are rapists? No. Not in the least.

However, Graff's suggestion is that such a Cultural environment fosters a sense of entitlement, power, or control.

Does Graff intend to demonstrate that rape motives are driven by a lust for power and control over the pursuit of sexual pleasure? OBVIOUSLY this is Graff's intent.

If we are all on the same page so far, then please continue reading. Otherwise you might unfortunately get stuck somewhere.

Seems ridiculous to have to say I agree with the premise of Graff's article AGAIN but O.K.

For some reason, I can't challenge Graff by suggesting that a culture where football players are expected to find willing sex partners, because they are football players, is also Culture prone to fostering male entitlement, power, or control.


Thus, I can't challenge the use of the statement;

"Football players like these two can almost always find young women who will have sex with them willingly."

to demonstrate that power and control were the motives for rape as opposed to sexual pleasure, by pointing out that it runs counter to Graff's overall argument regarding Culture?

This is my opinion for sure but don't allow a defensive posture, your idea of football, or your assumption of my intelligence fool you into thinking that I don't understand or agree with Graff's overall message.

the article was well written. it pointed out the problem with women being kept virginal for the sole use and exploitation of the men who eventually marry them.

i do find it quite interesting the people commenting on this article seem to be mostly men. wonder how many of them have any clue what it is like to be raped, abused, controlled and manipulated in such a manner? probably not a one of them. that's why the reference to "football" players and what their status as a football player entails them caught their attention.

While I believe that male dominated culture where women are viewed as property fosters a rape culture (being that rape is about power and control), I don't think it's a purity culture that fosters it IF, as David Andrew pointed out, both men and women are expected to remain pure/chaste/virgins until marriage. If only women are expected to wait, then yes, rape culture can and often does foster.

I too am from the South, the buckle of the Bible belt as we say here in Texas. I am so sorry that Radiant Sophia's experience with the purity culture involved a husband raping a wife. That is not part of the purity movement- not in any way, shape or form. Rape is not a weapon nor is it a right.

I think the culture that fosters rape is the one that includes punishment for the non-virginal or who uses sex as a weapon. The Bible teaches that sex is a beautiful and wonderful gift to be shared between husband and wife. The husband is to wait for the wife, and the wife for the husband. The Bible also teaches about forgiveness and fresh starts by God's grace. Now, there are those who distort this message, and who think themselves the enforcers of God's rules, but they're not. I think the Biblical purity movement gets a bad rap and thrown in with those who want to use sex to control or punish. This is no different than judging all Christians by Westboro.

Here's the problem: If someone is going to claim that all kinds of purity cultures - including those where both men and women are expected to be pure - such a person would presumably need to explain why there would be such a connection. It appears that we all agree that rape is not about sexual gratification, it is about power. Therefore, the person making the claim that all purity cultures foster rape presumably cannot appeal to "sexual frustration" as the motive for rape in such a culture.

So what is the mechanism? What is it, other than sexual frustration, that would explain a causal link between purity and rape in a culture where both men and women are expected to adhere to the same standard. I can think of none. If, as some appear to be arguing, rape is used to punish people for violating a standard, that argument leads to the idea that people would rape to punish people for violating all sorts of other standards having nothing to do with sexual purity. Does that make sense?

Rape is torture. It is not symoblic. It is not a cultural means of controlling womens behavior. It has nothing to do with the sex impulse other than the obvious bodily function. The psychotic personality tortures in order to satisy twisted desires. The psychopathic personality tortures to maintain control over its victim. It has been the same story throughout all of human history and the only way that it can be overcome is the way our lord and savior jesus christ did it.

some people seem to have trouble facing facts. Certain men and women in any society find it easier to get willing sexual partners than do others. Footballers are among the chosen group in US society. Does anyone seriously deny either of these statements?
Some commenters appear to be claiming that there exists somewhere a 'purity culture' in which both men and women are equally expected to remain 'pure' (an absurd word for those who avoid sexual activity in my opinion, but the one being used here). This I do not believe.

I believe you are not reading carefully enough, as I am quite certain you are referring to me. I never stated, suggested, or implied that there exists a purity culture in which both men and women are expected to remain pure. I was simply using it as a thought-experiment to show the limitations of what I think is an over-simplification - the bald, unqualified assertion that purity culture is rape culture. I could not agree more with the notion that a culture in which women alone are expected to remain pure likely fosters rape. But there are reasons to suspect this is not the case with all imaginable purity cultures.

I would agree that, in point of fact, there probably does not exist a culture in which the expectation of purity is applied to both men and women equally.

Andrew David Herbst: I have been reading the comments to this powerful article, including all of yours. I understand the point you are making, but wonder why you consider it important to make at all.

What exactly is "purity," and why is it desirable? If it means, as I suspect it does, "zero sexual experience with another person, until after a religious marriage ceremony, and then only with the sanctioned spouse," I cannot see for the life of me what good it does, or why anyone would value it unless they were invested in the values of a highly patriarchal, intrinsically unequal religion such as fundamentalist Christianity or Islam, or ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

I am unimpressed by the often-offered, and quite disingenuous, argument that "sex is SO magical, you should only share it with someone you have already officially promised to spend your whole life with, but have also never laid a hand on until after the ceremony."

Why? Sex can be magical, or it can be just a part of life. So can many other experiences. Why single sex out, unless it's about how sex affects people of different status in life? Like men and women? And obviously, freedom from the judgment involve in the concept of "purity" completely changes the lives of women. . . and has always been taken for granted by men.

The world is full of joyful, transcendent experiences - just for one example, I will never forget the first time I heard the Brahms B-Flat Piano Concerto performed live, almost 35 years ago; I will never forget the people I shared it with. Similarly, I will never forget the first time I slept with a man, closer to 40 years ago - that was also a joyful experience, although not quite so transcendent, since it involved lots of giggling, some fumbling with condoms, messy sheets and a mighty embarrassing encounter with a cranky roommate the next morning. . . ah, memories!

Now, Mr. Herbst, I ask you: would you consider my first-ever live experience of Brahms to be a loss of my "purity," because I shared it with someone I didn't marry? I didn't think so. However, I bet you would consider my first-ever experience of lovemaking, when I was a 19-year-old college girl, with a fellow student my age, but of a different race (guess which I was and which he was, for extra credit) ruined my "purity" for F&cking-Ever. To be egalitarian, I'm sure you'd say my long-ago first lover also lost his "purity," but again, I ask: why is "purity" supposed to matter?

I have no particular opinion on the actual wisdom of a "purity culture" that is applied to both men and women. I was simply pointing out what I considered to be an unsubstantiated implication - that it is purity per se that fosters a rape culture. I believe that case was not really made. I have a certain degree of interest in the basic structure and quality of arguments, and I therefore will comment on what I consider to be "weak" arguments even if I do not necessarily have a well-defined position on the matter at issue. You ascribe certain beliefs to me - without evidence of course. Fine - its a free country, you can do what you like. But that's not really , in my view anyway, relevant to what I was trying to say. However, I really do appreciate the fact that you read my argument and could at least "get" my point.

Even though I believe I have been crystal clear that my posts in no minimize the seriousness of rape, some posters cannot accept this (I am not suggesting you are one of them). I probably won't post any more on this, as I have made my point about the problem with the initial claim. If someone wants to challenge me on that very particular point, fine.

Again, my "motive" is basically the promotion of solid argument, not a particular position on the matter of purity.

I joined this fray on the comment thread a few days ago. I abandoned it when faced with the inability of some commenters to face facts, think clearly, express themselves in clear, well-constructed sentences or even keep track of their own assertions.

I am back to say that I am disgusted and appalled by the refusal of the newer commenters (blubrd, you are excepted) to grapple with the actual, real-world problem of RAPE. Once again, boys, it ain't football, it ain't your particular brand of Christianity, it ain't some ridiculous fantasy of purity for both genders which will never be seen by any of us even if we live forever.

Could you please, I beg you, stay with what is actually happening. I know men hate to talk about rape. If you cannot bring yourselves to address the reality of it, if your egos and male entitlement somehow command you to post nonsense which is, at best, parenthetical to the critical topic of RAPE, then do the women of the world a huge favor and shut the fuck up. You are not helping., You are not enlightening anyone.

Man up before you speak on this topic again. Let's hear from some honest, real men who genuinely care about women and want to do something real and constructive.

You are idiots. Be quiet.

You are descending into the kind of character-assassination rhetoric that I came to this site hoping to avoid. Please address the actual arguments that are made. I cannot speak for others but I have, of course, never posted anything that a careful reader could take as an attempt to avoid the actual issue of real world rape. There are important ideas at play here, and for someone like me to challenge the implication that "purity culture leads to rape" as being an oversimplification, is entirely legitimate. Just because I challenge a point by appealing to a thought-experiment is hardly evidence that I do not appreciate the gravity of the fact of rape in the real world.

You should know that I will not respond to more posts that have this dismissive, abusive tone. No hard feelings.

Forget the football part. You're saying that if I choose to be part of a community that does not have sex outside of marriage that I ought to expect to be harassed and raped? Bull shit. That's as bad as saying if I'm sexually active I can't expect to say "no." Try walking around Temple Square in Salt Lake City, where the Mormons are. I can guarantee you that no [Mormon] man is going to cat call or thrust his pelvis at you. This isn't about "chastity." And there are plenty of good Muslim men in the world who would also never dream of acting that way, either. This isn't about religion. Don't appropriate victims' stories in order to not-so-subtly bash religion. It's insulting to men AND women of faith.

It is very careless for the writer to say purity culture is rape culture. You can not blame religion for what a man decides to do with or how man chooses to interpret what he reads in the Bible or Quran. Blaming religion for the perverse and debased nature of man is absolutely ridiculous.

I suggest that your argument here is open to the counter that the very content of these religions themselves as, for example, embodied in their sacred writings, fosters an unhealthy environment that contributes to rape. In other words, someone could challenge you by raising the possibility that it is not that the followers of religion X have perverted the "true" teachings of that religion, but rather that the content of the religious doctrine itself promotes these unhealthy behaviours. I am taking neither position, but simply pointing out a possibility.

I disagree, theretiredgoblin. Men abusing women due to purity religion stems from what their religion tells men what to do to women. Why don't we read about men getting abused, like women do? Why is it that the more religious a family or society is, the worse life is for women? This isn't just Christianity. Look at ANY religious culture, and you see women treated horribly. The world still has a really hard time with female sexuality. Just being a woman means I have to be careful, my clothing and dating history is taken into account, if I were to be raped, I would be on trial and questioned why I was there, and if I had been drinking, that would count against me. That is never the case with men. We pretend that Sharia law is far from what we have, and in important ways, it is. But in many important ways the thinking is the same. It depresses me that so many men (and quite a few women) don't see this.

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