Outrageous and Outdated: When Purity Culture Shapes Evangelical Beliefs about Women and Sexuality




Vernon, Kylie

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Foundational to Western culture are both the Judeo-Christian tradition and Greek philosophy. From the outset, these ancient cultures have contained models of masculinity and femininity that have shaped ideas of maleness and femaleness that persist to this day. Ancient Greek scholars talked frequently of the female body’s inferiority as well as its dangerous sexual propensity to not only men, but even to the state. In the modern era, furthermore, the taboos and strict regulation of the female body may be observed in methods of economic consumerism, medical principles, public policy, and of course, religious beliefs. Focusing on an apt and timely example of the often uneasy alliance between women and theological doctrine, my paper explores evangelical purity culture. Here, I discuss the rhetoric and transmission of purity and modesty, disclosing how evangelicals dichotomized male and female sexuality to the detriment of women. This strategy has served to create a male identity of sexual insatiability whereas women have been held responsible for gatekeeping sexual activity. Such beliefs promote ideas of female moral culpability in all sexuality leading to a system of blaming and shaming towards women that has persisted throughout a millennium to the detriment of men and women alike.



History, Psychology, Religion, Women and Gender Studies