Girls Are More Complex Than Their Virginity, Says ‘The Purity Myth’
I first read The Purity Myth by noted feminist Jennifer Valenti when I was a young independent lady making my own life in the Big Apple. But upon finishing, I thought that the core elements of this book should be shared with much younger girls. Some parents like to believe that their little girls won’t be divided into a whore/virgin dichotomy until high school, but as The Purity Myth can attest to, this “good girls” and “bad girls” split actually happens much younger.Even fast-paced metropolitan cities still float mythologies that virginity is a young girl’s most important attribute — above scholastic achievements, generosity, and other values that she chooses to pick up a long the way. Young girls abstaining from sex for other personal reasons is an entirely different issue from an entire culture that gleans a girls’ integrity from her sexual activity — while for boys, sex never seems to be a prominant factor in determining their moral character.
All these complexities are discussed and analyzed in The Purity Myth along with “purity balls” — organized parties in which daughters make promises to their fathers to remain virgins until marriage — and the actual definition of “virginity.” Spoiler: there isn’t one! According to Valenti and her research, there is no medical definition of virginity and the concept continues to be “riddled with ambiguity.”The Purity Myth has now been developed into a film with Ms. Valenti narrating her findings up on the big screen, pointing out that our girls are more than “virgins” and “whores.” Reducing girls to these tropes ignores the accomplishments that they’ll ultimately make in their lives and dismisses them as complex people.
Within the trailer is a clip from one of Jessica’s TV appearances in which she boils down the purity myth to this concise explanation:
The purity myth is the lie that women’s sexuality has some bearing on who we are and how good we are, because really I think we all know that young women are so much more than whether or not they have sex. We really should be teaching our daughters that their ability to be good people should be based on their intelligence, on their compassion, their kindness, not what they do with their bodies.
Jessica’s argument takes on new resonance in light of the recent decision to overrule the FDA in allowing Plan B for American girls, allegedly for safety.Pick up this amazing book for new insight into the pervasiveness of the purity myth, or purchase the film here.
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