5 Problems with Christian Purity Culture

Purity culture seeks to forever infantilize women.

Taylor B.
3 min readApr 13, 2022
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

In 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her childhood bedroom in Utah. Elizabeth Smart’s captor held her hostage only a few miles away from her home and raped her repeatedly for 9 months.

At the time, many asked, “Why didn’t she just run away?”

Years later, Elizabeth Smart recalled that she felt “dirty and filthy” after being raped and was too ashamed to come home. Elizabeth Smart was raised in a traditional Mormon household and was brought up within purity culture.

What is Purity Culture?

Purity culture is a set of beliefs that promote that sex is only for marriage and pre-marital sex permanently damages a person. Purity culture is harsher on girls and women and is popular among Christian circles.

What makes this belief so problematic is that it adds additional trauma to girls and women who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

Not only does it teach girls and women that what happened to them was their fault but it also teaches them that they are now worthless to a future husband because they are no longer a “virgin”, an archaic and meaningless term that has been historically used only for girls and women.

Listed below are 5 additional problems with purity culture:

It Encourages Pedophilia

Purity culture values a female’s virginity above all else, so it prizes girls over women. It prizes girls because they are presumed to be virgins and are naive about their bodies. Purity culture discourages girls from understanding their own biology because their bodies belong to their future husbands only.

Purity culture also promotes modesty, the idea that girls and women should wear clothing that hides their bodies. This makes women ashamed of their curves so they try to hide them. Purity culture seeks to forever infantilize women.

It Makes Women the Property of Men

The core message of purity culture is that girls should “save” their “virginity” for their future husbands. This removes any autonomy that a woman might have over her own body. Girls and women never have the chance to explore their own desires because all of their decisions revolve around their future husbands.

Purity culture places marriage on a pedestal and teaches girls and women that marriage is the ultimate goal of their lives. Purity culture discourages girls and women from pursuing an education or having a career because being a wife and mother is more important.

This leaves women financially dependent on their husbands who are the only ones allowed to be educated and have careers. Without any means of supporting themselves, women raised in purity culture have no choice but to depend on men.

It Is a Major Component of Rape Culture

Girls and women raised within purity culture are encouraged to dress modestly. This is because, within purity culture, women and girls are held responsible for men’s actions.

According to purity culture, if a man sexually assaults a woman, it is the woman’s fault because she did not dress modestly enough. Purity culture will always shame women for being raped or sexually assaulted, it will never shame the men who commit these crimes.

It Makes Marriage All About Sex

The reason why purity culture was created in the first place was to combat teen pregnancy and other social problems by promoting the sanctity of marriage. However, instead of giving marriage value, purity culture does the exact opposite.

Purity culture over-simplifies marriage and makes it all about sex. Many of those raised within purity culture get married at a young age only because they want to have sex, not because they are in love.

It Invalidates LGBTQ+ People

Because purity culture promotes marriage within the context of heterosexual relationships, it completely erases the experiences of LGBTQ+ people. Purity culture also ignores the fact that there are other types of sex besides straight sex. Purity culture invalidates the very existence of people who are not cis or heterosexual.


Christian purity culture encourages pedophilia, makes women the property of men, is a component of rape culture, makes marriage all about sex, and invalidates LGBTQ+ people.

Please understand that this article is not meant to shame those who choose to remain celibate until marriage. I have no problem with that. It is possible to refrain from sex until marriage without engaging in the damaging beliefs of purity culture.



Taylor B.

I write about women's history and issues that impact women.