The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
The United States is obsessed with virginity — from the media to schools to government agencies. In The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti argues that the country’s intense focus on chastity is damaging to young women. Through in-depth cultural and social analysis, Valenti reveals that powerful messaging on both extremes — ranging from abstinence-only curriculum to "Girls Gone Wild" infomercials — place a young woman's worth entirely on her sexuality. Morals are therefore linked purely to sexual behavior, rather than values like honesty, kindness, and altruism. Valenti sheds light on the value — and hypocrisy — around the notion that girls remain virgins until they’re married by putting into context the historical question of purity, modern abstinence-only education, pornography, and public punishments for those who dare to have sex. The Purity Myth presents a revolutionary argument that girls and women are overly valued for their sexuality, as well as solutions for a future without a damaging emphasis on virginity.
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It's not just wedding traditions or outdated laws that name women's virginity as a
commodity; women's virginity, our sexuality, is still assigned a value by a
movement with more power and influence in American society than we'd
probably like to admit. I like to call this movement the virginity movement.c And it
is a movement, indeed—with conservatives and evangelical Christians at the
helm, and our government, school systems, and social institutions taking orders.
Composed of ...
(Of course, chastity and purity, as defined by the virginity movement, are not just
about abstaining sexually so much as they're about upholding a specific, passive
model of womanhood. But more on this later.) For women especially, virginity has
become the easy answer—the morality quick fix. You can be vapid, stupid, and
unethical, but so long as you've never had sex, you're a “good” (i.e., “moral”) girl
and therefore worthy of praise. Present-day American society—whether through ...
How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women Jessica Valenti
. this inaction with morality not only is problematic because it continues to tie
women's ethics to our bodies, but also is downright insulting because it suggests
that women can't be moral actors. Instead, we're defined by what we don't do—
our ethics are the ethics of passivity. (This model of ethics fits in perfectly with
how the virginity movement defines the ideal woman.) Proponents of chastity and
SELLING VIRGINITY Unfortunately, this morality model of virginity—in which
women's morals and ethical ability are defined solely by their sexual status—isn't
the only type the virginity movement is pushing. Viewing virginity as a commodity
—as it was seen back in the days in which daughters were exchanged as
property— lives on, just in less obvious ways (though, arguably, much more
insidiously). Now fathers participate in purity balls and virginity pledges to 30 the
Make no mistake about it—these efforts are at the heart of the virginity movement
and its goals. And they've been successful. To a large extent, the virginity
movement is the new authority on sexuality. It's in our schools, telling our children
what sex is (dirty, wrong, and dangerous), and in our homes, creating legislation
that violates women's privacy and bodies (more on this in Chapter 6). In addition
to promoting the virginity-as-morality model, the virginity movement is working
hard to ...
What people are saying - Write a review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - RavenNight - LibraryThing
"The lie of virginity - the idea that such a thing even exists - is ensuring that young women's perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is ... Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - Pretear - LibraryThing
Witty and insightful, Valenti makes a powerful and convincing argument for why the paternalistic concepts of purity and virginity hurt women and girls. Read full review