The Purity Myth: How It’s Damaging Teen Girls

“There is a moral panic in America over young women’s sexuality — and it’s entirely misplaced. Girls “going wild” aren’t damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity — the idea that such a thing even exists — is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they’re sexually active.” — Jessica Valenti, “The Purity Myth”

I love Jessica Valenti. Can I just make that clear? The founder and editor of and author of Full Frontal Feminism has a new book out this month: The Purity Myth. It’s about the confusing and dangerous messages sent to women and girls about their sexuality. Namely, if a girl has sex before she’s married, she’s a whore, but those same “whores” are the ones celebrated by the mainstream media for making money and attracting men. There are purity balls, virginity pledges, and government-subsidized abstinence-only education programs. Meanwhile, the Pussycat Dolls croon about pushing buttons and stealing boyfriends, while the “Girls Next Door” prance for an aging man-child. “So what are young women left with?” writes Valenti. “Abstinence-only education during the day and ‘Girls Gone Wild’ commercials at night! Whether it’s delivered through a virginity pledge or by a barely dressed tween pop singer writhing across the television screen, the message is the same: A woman’s worth lies in her ability — or her refusal — to be sexual.”

I can’t wait to read The Purity Myth, but in the meantime check out an excerpt on Nerve.