All Our Little Messes

Episode 8 - Purity, Modesty, and the Burden of Responsibility: A Critical Examination

September 14, 2023 All Our Little Messes Season 1 Episode 8
Episode 8 - Purity, Modesty, and the Burden of Responsibility: A Critical Examination
All Our Little Messes
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All Our Little Messes
Episode 8 - Purity, Modesty, and the Burden of Responsibility: A Critical Examination
Sep 14, 2023 Season 1 Episode 8
All Our Little Messes

Ever wondered how purity culture, a phenomenon that traces its roots back to the Victorian era, continues to influence society and women's sexuality today? Join me as we pull back the curtains on this complex and shadowed aspect of our society. We'll trace back its origins, from the Victorian era's suppression of female sexuality, to the advent of abstinence-based purity culture that emerged in reaction to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. We'll critically examine the roles of the White Cross Society, the American Purity Alliance, and authors like Joshua Harris in propagating purity culture within Christianity.

Imagine growing up in a world where you, as a woman, constantly feel the burden of responsibility for the sins of men, and how you express yourself, even in the slightest, can be judged harshly. That's the reality for many impacted by the damaging effects of modesty culture, an experience I too have lived. We'll dig deep into this culture, exploring how it places undue responsibility on women, leading to a distorted understanding of modesty and policing of women's bodies and behavior. The impact of this restrictive culture doesn't stop there, often leaving a profound impact on mental health and self-image. 

Purity culture doesn't stop at affecting personal experiences; its ripple effects can be seen in how it hypersexualizes women and contributes to feelings of shame and guilt. Join me as we delve into how unrealistic expectations of purity and insufficient sex education within traditionalist circles lead to distorted views of sexuality. This is an open, honest, and enlightening conversation, aimed at understanding and healing from the harmful effects of purity culture. Get ready to question, reflect, and engage as we attempt to untangle all our little messes.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered how purity culture, a phenomenon that traces its roots back to the Victorian era, continues to influence society and women's sexuality today? Join me as we pull back the curtains on this complex and shadowed aspect of our society. We'll trace back its origins, from the Victorian era's suppression of female sexuality, to the advent of abstinence-based purity culture that emerged in reaction to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. We'll critically examine the roles of the White Cross Society, the American Purity Alliance, and authors like Joshua Harris in propagating purity culture within Christianity.

Imagine growing up in a world where you, as a woman, constantly feel the burden of responsibility for the sins of men, and how you express yourself, even in the slightest, can be judged harshly. That's the reality for many impacted by the damaging effects of modesty culture, an experience I too have lived. We'll dig deep into this culture, exploring how it places undue responsibility on women, leading to a distorted understanding of modesty and policing of women's bodies and behavior. The impact of this restrictive culture doesn't stop there, often leaving a profound impact on mental health and self-image. 

Purity culture doesn't stop at affecting personal experiences; its ripple effects can be seen in how it hypersexualizes women and contributes to feelings of shame and guilt. Join me as we delve into how unrealistic expectations of purity and insufficient sex education within traditionalist circles lead to distorted views of sexuality. This is an open, honest, and enlightening conversation, aimed at understanding and healing from the harmful effects of purity culture. Get ready to question, reflect, and engage as we attempt to untangle all our little messes.

Support the Show.

If you like this show and believe in its message, please consider supporting our Patreon. For as little as $3/month, get access to behind the scenes content, early access to podcast episodes and more!

Send any questions or comments to allourlittlemesses@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you guys!

Subscribe to the newsletter here to get periodic updates on blog posts and more!

Buy Me a Coffee!

If you liked this episode, consider buying me a coffee! It'll help keep me awake during late night editing sessions. Thank you!

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for behind the scenes content and everyday posts about parenting and marriage.

Sounds from Zapsplat.com

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to All Our Little Messes, a podcast focused on healing through intentional conversations about parenting, relationships, religion and more. I am your host, veronica Winrod, and I'm so happy to have you here listening in on my thoughts today. I hope you enjoy this episode. Hello and welcome back to All Our Little Messes. This is episode number eight and today we're going to be talking about the origins of purity culture and its impacts on society over the past century. So we're going to start with basically the mentality of where it started and, as far as I can tell with the research I've done, it looks like really the origin of the movement started in the Victorian era and when people think of the Victorian era they think of the tiny waist, big skirt dress that Queen Victoria made popular back then, which the era itself started in like I think it was the 1870s, and extended into oh goodness, I think it was as far as like the 1910s, 1920s, I think, is when, like typically they talk about the period that the Victorian era extending Anyways, but yeah, that was when the movement itself kind of started and it was definitely. It was a definitely a development of moral standards more than anything else, and the biggest thing was the suppression, I guess you could say, of female sexuality, where even things like pregnancy were hidden, so like the term confinement. When they talked about women going into labor or giving birth. They didn't talk about birth and giving you know going into labor, they talked about a woman going into her confinement, she's going into her confinement and everybody kind of knew what that meant but nobody would actually talk about it because you know, a woman going into labor and having a child, you know, meant that she had had a sexual relationship with a man. So and you know that was not something that was ever talked about because it, you know, again, it was a very, it was a very prudish area era. So nobody ever talked about that and it was never a knowledge thing, especially for women. Like with a man it was kind of it was acknowledged a man had relationships even outside of marriage and it was just a generally accepted thing. But women just didn't, like it was a very, very limited attitude towards the sexual relationship with the marriage. It was a taboo subject, like you just do not discuss it.

Speaker 1:

And so that was kind of the origins of peer purity culture because like they had this, this image in their mind of what a perfectly virtuous woman was. And it was this, this idea of you know innocence, and you know she of course remained a virgin until marriage. But then, even after marriage, she was still perfect and, you know, perfectly chased, perfectly pure, perfectly innocent, which you know kind of feeds into the whole she's going into confinement thing. We don't discuss the fact that you know she's having a child or she's even pregnant, like women had to hide their pregnancies because and if once you got up to a certain size, most women didn't even really leave the house because you don't show that you're pregnant, and if women did did go out in public, like there are I've read a couple biographies and stuff where they would talk about the fact that women and other people would look away from them in public if it was noticeable that they were pregnant. Like it was such a taboo thing that you couldn't even acknowledge the fact that you were brought to bring life into this world. So the fact that so they had this, this movement in society basically of treating sex as a taboo subject like sexuality, was taboo. You do not acknowledge it, it does not exist, we don't talk about it, and it was mainly geared towards women, like I said so that those, those moral values, I guess you could call them kind of made their way into like the big revival movements in in the 19th century, especially during the 1960s. And, like you know, everybody talks about the big 10 revivals, right like where they would set up the big 10. So, you know, people will come from miles around to to worship and hear these pastors, these speakers, speak, and like.

Speaker 1:

This kind of movement started in like I think it was the late 1870s, 1880s, and they became extremely popular after, like, during and after the 1960s, after the big sexual revolution that mainly occurred in the United States, from what I can tell. You know everybody talks about the hippie era, but mainly after the 1960s, during the big, you know, sexual revolution. There was this huge reaction to that movement and part of that was a the emergence, basically, of an actual official platform for purity culture, because a lot of these people in the 20th century started promoting, you know, purity culture as as something that women needed to aspire to and so it became popular with, with people that were like. They were organizations that started popping up in the 20th century, like the white cross society, american purity alliance. You had authors like Joshua Harris, organizations like true love weights, and you know groups and people like that, authors who started promoting this idea of, you know, sexual abstinence until marriage and just the general importance of, of purity within like Christianity. And so also because of like this huge cultural shift where, like they had this big sexual revolution, where people just and I mean in my opinion the 1960s were just crazy and I think anybody will agree to that there was this huge cultural shift and in my opinion it was like a general decline of morals and a result of that was purity culture starting to gain momentum within, especially within the United States, and Christian, various Christian denominations like latched on to it and there were actually a couple of not even just denominations but more of just groups like Bill Gother and the IVLP kind of emerged out of. They were like a reaction of the sexual evolution in the 1960s in the feminist movement and groups like that, people like him, various denominations, christian denominations they started promoting this abstinence based purity culture and part of that was extreme modesty and to these people modesty was the way to achieve purity. And so you had this huge popular popularization of like purity culture and and extreme modesty and it was, it was basically taught as a way to to fix what had happened in America in the 1960s and 1970s and so, like a lot of people, they just absolutely latched on to that and it became. It became a way of life for a lot of people. People started raising their daughters to follow this, this, this way of living, and one of the things that people started doing and this is always I mean looking back, and I did this when I was younger looking back at it's a very odd thing, but one of the things people started doing, especially in it it was mainly so mainly started in the 1980s, late 1980s, early 1990s is when it started becoming popular was the emergence of purity rings.

Speaker 1:

The concept of purity rings was basically a promise. Some people actually would take vows, but it was basically a promise to remain pure and modest until marriage and the ring was a like a daily physical reminder of the promise that you had made to God and to your future spouse, yourself, to your friends, your family. When I, when I made the promise, my mom bought me the purity ring and I made the promise along with two others of my friends and like we both had all of our families there, like extended family, like grandparents and stuff. We were Catholics, so like the priest kind of overlooked the entire, the entire process and like the prayers and everything in the promise that we had like these little placards that had the prayer on them. And then we had a card that had the purity promise typed out on it and who we were making the promise to and why, and then we had to sign our name to it and then they were laminated and I kept that until I was in my late teens and I honestly have no idea what happened to that card or the purity ring.

Speaker 1:

Like I took off the purity ring the night before I got married. I took it off and I thought I'd put it inside of one of the pockets of my suitcase before my wedding night. And when I went back to get it, because I had this plan, I was gonna save it, because it was like this black, sapphire, silver ring and I had this plan that I was gonna save it for my oldest daughter when you know she became a vage to make that same promise and I can't find it like it is just gone, like I distinctly remember putting it inside that suitcase, but it's just gone, which is probably for the best, but anyways, yeah, so this there was this huge like surge in popularity when it came to like purity rings and it was actually people like like Joshua Harris and people like him, authors like him, who they actually like really encouraged and really pushed people to commit to purity pledges. So, yeah, they were like these, these physical reminders of this promise that we had made to remain sexually pure into a marriage, and like the concept behind remaining sexually pure until marriage and maintaining chastity and purity is a concept I stand 100% behind. I just want to put that out there. Okay, I am 100% behind the virtue of purity.

Speaker 1:

I think it is extremely important thing and I think our culture in general, society in general, treats the concept of sex and everything entails. I think they treat it entirely too flippantly. I think it is a very sacred union and should be treated as such, but hookup culture has completely destroyed what sex is supposed to be about. So, like I said, I 100% stand behind remaining sexually pure until marriage. That being said, purity culture and the concept behind it I believe it had good beginnings, but it has. It has changed into something that is just. It is very, very sad and extremely damaging and extremely harming, especially for girls, especially for girls. I have not met a young girl yet who has come out of purity culture with without any like mentally damaging ideas or trauma and like.

Speaker 1:

Part of that is the fact that in purity culture and the way, the way it's been twisted, is that girls, because because purity culture it focuses very heavily on physical modesty, right. As a result of that, girls basically become the gatekeepers of everyone's sexual morality. So, based on how you dress, you affect, you know, the sexual morality of the men around you is the premise of this. So if you wear a skirt that is a little too short, say like right above your knees, and a man, like, according to most people, evangelical Christians and traditionalist Catholics who embrace this whole concept, you know, a skirt above your knees is considered in modest because I don't know why, but it's considered immodest. So if a man, you know, lusts after you while you're wearing the skirt that was above your knees, you are responsible for that man's sin. And so you know, going through life being told that you are responsible for the sin of lust of every man that you know has ever walked by you and looked at you and you know thought you were sexually attractive in any way like that is so incredibly damaging and it completely twists sexuality in a girl's mind.

Speaker 1:

Growing up, like from a very young age, I viewed myself as a sexual object, because I was always told I had to dress a certain way so that men didn't lust after me, so men weren't tempted by me, because if they did, then I was responsible for their sin. And so I was constantly like hyper aware of what I wore and how it was going to affect the men around me, even down to, like, the way I walked. Like I had to be hyper aware of how I walked, because if I walked a certain way, if my hips swung too much, that was also considered tempting the men. If I wore a skirt that was, you know, cut a certain way to where it hugged my hips a little too much, that was also considered tempting the men. If I wore a shirt that was a little too tight on my hip, on my not my hips my waist or on my bust, that was considered tempting the men. I couldn't wear sleeves that were shorter than halfway between my elbow and my shoulders, because, again, that would be tempting the men around me. And so I was always hyper aware of everything I wore, because if I wore something that others deemed to be immodest and a man lusted after me because of it in their mind, then I was, you know, I was liable for his sin, I was going to be punished for his sin.

Speaker 1:

And so going through life with that twisted concept of sexuality and modesty because, again, like there was no, there was no teaching of modesty with impurity, culture of of like true biblical modesty, and that also is an extremely problematic thing, like not being taught what true modesty is Without the Bible. You look up any quote on modesty. There is only one quote that you can find that actually talks about the outward appearance of someone and that is the quote where they say they talk about not wearing a man's garment and a man not wearing a woman's garment, and that is the only that is the only quote that I could ever find talking about the outward appearance of the woman. And beyond, beyond not adorning ourselves with the costly jewelry or gold or pearls or the costly apparel or something like that, they always talked about a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised, or a beautiful woman is one with discretion. In one Samuel 16, seven, they talk about the Lord not looking upon his appearance or the height of his stature, but the Lord looking upon the state of the man's heart. They they talk about the woman adorning herself with good works and self control and godliness and things like that.

Speaker 1:

They the only verse, the only verse that I could find where it talks about a woman wearing a specific type of garment is in Deuteronomy 22.5, where it says a woman shall not wear a man's garment. No shell, a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is in a combination to the Lord, your God, and that is actually generally accepted to be talking about transvestites and which, in today's culture, we'll be talking about transsexuals. That is the only verse that deals with women putting on a man's clothes, which, you know, in modesty culture they're generally talking about women wearing jeans, women wearing pants and things like that. And so, yeah, this whole idea of modesty being an outward, being entirely about your outward appearance has been like and you being responsible for a man's sin because of it is just so, so twisted and so damaging and just so hard to grow up with, because from a very young age I'm talking like eight or nine years old this was what was taught to me, and so you know, from from as far back as I can remember, like I was always hyper aware of how I walked and how I dressed and even how I spoke to men because, like, even even being overly friendly, you could be accused of being flirtatious, which would be then construed to be tempting the men. And so it was just.

Speaker 1:

It was difficult to to come from from that to where I am now, where I'm just like you know, modesty isn't all about what you put on the outside. A lot of the most immodest girls I knew growing up. You know they had sleeves to their, you know their, their wrists and skirts down to their ankles. Modesty has nothing to do with your outside appearance and it has everything to do with the virtues that you have inside. Now, the virtues you have inside, you know, if they're practiced properly, will be exhibited by your outward appearance and by how you carry yourself, how you treat others, and you know how you worship God and how you, how you speak to children and how you regulate your emotions and like.

Speaker 1:

All of that is that is the outward appearance of modesty. That is what modesty is and, like I mentioned earlier, it is. That is what is talked about in the Bible. A beautiful woman is one with discretion. The Lord looks upon our hearts. You know things like that, like do not let your adorning be external. Like they said, do not let your adorning be external. We adorn our souls with, with purity we we adorn our souls with chasteness and things like that. And here's a verse I actually really love is 1 Timothy 2, verse 8 through 10. I desire, then, that in every place, the men should pray, lifting holy hands, without anger or quarreling. Likewise, also, that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness, with good works. And so even then it's saying that modesty is self-control and is godliness and is good works. It is not braided hair, gold, pearls and costly attire. So it has nothing to do with our outer appearance.

Speaker 1:

Our outward appearance is a result of what is inside, and so purity culture focusing so heavily on, you know, the outward appearance of modesty as being the remedy to the sexual revolution of the 1960s was just, it was insane. It was insane because that's not going to fix it, as we can see, because evangelical Christians and traditionalist Catholics, they will deny this till they're blue in the face. But it doesn't take a whole lot of research to see that this is a problem. But you know, sexual sin is a huge thing. It's very much covered up and swept under the rug, but sexual sin is huge in these circles. It's huge because a modesty being pushed, as you know, an outward appearance and as the remedy to sexual sin, has hypersexualized women to such a point that that's all we're seen as. That's all we're seen as. We're seen as the gatekeepers to a man's sexual morality. And you know, if a man sexually sins, then we didn't gatekeep properly and it's our fault. So, yeah, it's, it's, it's very harmful and and and there's a lot of like shame and guilt that women have to deal with on a daily basis as a result of this.

Speaker 1:

And you know another another thing that has been a result of purity culture is and this is, you know, goes back to its origins in a Victorian, victorian era is the fact that, you know, we talk about women in tempting men, we talk about us being responsible for a man's sexual sin and All that stuff, but we don't actually talk about sex. We never talk about it and, as a result of never talking about it, like there is a huge lack of actual sex education within traditionalist circles, and that's a problem because so we already have this unrealistic expectation of purity, we already have this hyper sexualization of women, and then you throw on top of that this lack of sex education. Kids are curious, kids are gonna, they're gonna want to find out what's happening to their bodies, why it's happening, and they're gonna go looking in places that aren't the best you know internet. They're gonna talk to their friends, they're gonna, they're gonna read books they've checked off in the library or whatever, and they're going to, as a result of all of this, are going to have a very twisted idea of what sexuality Really is, which is also going to feed back into the problem of this hyper sexualization of girls and women and this, this unrealistic, realistic expectation of sex and purity within, within fundamentalist and traditionalist circles. So this is something that it needs to be talked about more. It needs to be worked on like this is not, this is not a small problem and it's not going away Anytime soon unless people actually start discussing it.

Speaker 1:

And I'm talking about, I'm talking about people within Christianity and within Catholicism. Like this has to be talked about. This needs to be discussed. People need to start being more open with their children. They need to start actually looking into what the Bible says about modesty. They need to start actually practicing true purity and true modesty within themselves and within their families, not just, you know, forcing unrealistic standards of dress and modesty on their children. This needs to be done like. People need to actually start living a true Christian lives.

Speaker 1:

This is because periodic culture is not what it's turned into, is not, is not true Christian, truly Christian. It is not in any way, shape or form. Women should not be forced to be the gatekeepers of a man's Sexual purity. It is not our job to make sure that you maintain self-control. That's not my job. My job is is my soul. My job is my sexual purity. Your job is yours. And the fact that purity culture Basically forces women to gatekeep men's sexual purity is just sick and it needs to stop.

Speaker 1:

I hope you enjoyed this episode on Purity culture and its origins and just a brief introduction into my experience with purity culture. This is basically the start of a short series I will be doing on Purity culture and I'll be interviewing different people throughout the course of the next month or two, who have had experience with purity culture, its impacts on their lives and what their thoughts are and how they're trying to break the cycles of purity culture within their families and how they're introducing like sex education to their kids, and so on and so forth. Like I said before, this is something that is a huge problem. It's a generational problem and it needs to stop, and it starts with how we introduce Sexuality to our kids and how we are teaching true purity and modesty to our children. So I hope you enjoyed this episode and I will see you guys all next week.

Speaker 1:

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