Content warning: sexual violence
The portion of men that spend their leisure time on 4chan, Reddit and The Daily Californian website shaming sexually active women certainly cannot afford to do so. Women in today’s progressive society don’t line up to date men who call them “used goods” for having sex, especially those who do it behind screens with a bottle of Lubriderm — but it is not my job or place to explain to the commenters their lack of appeal.
There are plenty of men who don’t respect a woman’s right to her own body and fear the disruption of the patriarchal structure they’re familiar with. On the other hand, there are also plenty of educated cookies out there who don’t think women exist solely to please men and don’t expect them to police their bodies accordingly. But it is not exclusively men who believe that impure women are inferior.
Some women, likewise, use their sexual purity to rank themselves above other women. Many women who are sexually pure leave their cherries unpopped out of their own comfort and beliefs, and do not slut shame. Yet, others convince themselves that their low body count “objectively” makes them superior.
Those women draw inaccurate correlations between the number of partners a woman has and her health and family values. Though sexual acts are what transmit STIs, someone who has casual sex does not automatically become a vulnerable STI host, because preventative measures exist and are readily available. In addition, some “statisticians” in the comment section argue that having lots of sex means that one will inevitably end up cheating in future relationships. Being pure doesn’t illustrate that someone is more family oriented, and having sex prior to a relationship doesn’t automatically make someone less caring and more prone to cheating.
Men would not be able to reinforce the notion that a woman’s worth is contingent on her body count if some women themselves did not uphold those male-established standards. Men use a hierarchy of purity to degrade women, and some women ignorantly support it because it seems to give them an upper-hand over sexually experienced women.
Not all women use purity for the purpose of seeming more appealing, and it is not a whole-gender problem. But when the dick is no longer seen as a tainting agent, some women realize they have to compete for men’s attention outside the lens of sexuality, which makes them insecure.
Yet, devaluing someone on the basis of purity has more detrimental implications than me not being able to date a misogynist and having a pool of men small enough that I occasionally have to pay close attention to Crave’s 50-percent-off sale on vibrators.
In the specific case of Elizabeth Smart, she stated she did not want to report her rape case because after the incident, she felt like a chewed-up piece of gum that no one wanted to re-chew, and that she no longer had value. She was reluctant to report the crime because she felt ashamed about what happened to her, as if this traumatizing sexual assault somehow took away her worth because she was no longer “pure.”
She is a survivor of assault within a culture that reveres purity.
Reporting rape crimes, like any other crime, can help prevent them in the future, but society puts purity on such a high pedestal that it makes the decision to report difficult for rape survivors such as Smart. While many women don’t report rape crimes because they refuse to relive the trauma and the complexities of the effects of assaults cannot be addressed in 800 words, the added social stigma around female impurity makes it harder.
Though one survivor’s beliefs do not necessarily reflect others’, the negative effects of valuing others based on purity are also evident outside of media reports. My own friend, whose gender pronouns are they/them, was triggered by my last article, because in their previous relationship, their ex-boyfriend pejoratively brought up their instance of sexual assault. When they were intimate, he would shame them for the assault, despite the fact that my friend was the victim of nonconsensual intercourse. As a result of the boyfriend’s own insecurity and twisted values on purity, my friend was forced to constantly think about the assault.
Women who compare themselves to one another on the basis of sexual purity do not realize that aside from creating unhealthy and unnecessary competition, the well-being of women in general can also be compromised. Our philosophy should not be “carpe diem for ourselves, and not give a fuck about others.”
As history shows, shitty people are only ostracized when equality becomes the “norm.” The responses I received on my previous article project the attitudes people have about how “life is unfair” so “get over it” — the same arrogance that prevented society from progressing toward equality in the past.
The jaded oppressors on 4chan only further validate my arguments and why it is necessary to address the concept of purity. Progress starts somewhere, which, in my case, means pissing off one unwoke commenter at a time.
Catherine Straus writes the Thursday blog on taking two sides. Contact her at [email protected].