how purity culture and raunch culture objectify women


I have another guest post up today at Convergent Books! I’d love to know what you all think of the argument I make here.

As a teenager and young woman I avoided looking in the mirror because I didn’t want to see my breasts, or my thighs, or my butt. I was ashamed of them. In the church culture of my childhood, those parts of my body were sexual, so I had to make sure no one could see them. My sexuality was to be hidden and feared.

Now I am learning to love my body and my sexuality, and I’m beginning to understand all the damage done to me by the shame I inherited for simply being a woman with a woman’s body.

So I get it. I understand the urge to throw off the shame and celebrate our sexuality. I can see why some women get a thrill from stuffing dollar bills into a stripper’s G-string, or the attraction of competing in a wet T-shirt contest. I can understand why women flash onlookers in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras, why it’s “liberating” to be a Bunny, why more and more women read Maxim and Playboy.

But is this “raunch culture” that Ariel Levy describes really liberating? Is Miley Cyrus “embracing her sexuality” when she straddles an eight-foot inflatable penis? Does any of this truly empower women?

You can read the rest here.

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  • Patrick Prescott

    Modesty and respect for yourself fall between the shame and show off.

  • As a cis straight man, I find it incredibly difficult to look at this stuff the correct way, unfortunately. I’ve managed to reject purity culture, but I probably still fall at least a little into the raunch culture trap. Great article Sam. Thanks.

  • Great article!

  • This is really interesting! I’ve definitely rejected purity culture, so I probably tend to lean more towards raunch culture, but I also see how it’s detrimental and I have concerns about it as well.

  • I find it incredibly sad that there really is no middle ground in this… it’s like it’s one or the other and I am getting to where I really hate these dichotomies in life. There has got to be a way to embrace our womanhood, our sexual nature without being owned by it and objectify *ourselves* as a result.

    By the way, I like the new look. Very nice.

  • Both purity culture and raunch culture assume that women’s most important asset is her sexuality. They only disagree about what is the most efficient tactic to extract maximum value out of that asset – give to all men or keep from all men but one.

  • I feel like I fall exactly in the middle, and I still hold a lot of fear about my sexuality due to both domains. In purity culture, my sexuality is terrifying because it could cause a man to stumble. In raunch culture, it’s all I’m worth and all I’m defined by. So if I choose to act in a way contrary to both, where do I end up? There’s not a cultural norm for that, and it’s tough sometimes.

  • Courtney

    I agree wholeheartedly. You articulated what I’ve thought for quite a while. I hate purity culture (and still suffer some of the effects from being raised with it), but I also don’t look at half-naked celebrities and think “empowered” or “liberated.” Purity culture produces porcelain dolls, and raunch culture produces blow-up dolls. Either way, you end up with a doll; just an object for others’ amusement.