Skip to Content
September 21, 2023

What is Purity Culture?

Purity Culture is a term that has become increasingly prevalent in discussions about faith, relationships, and personal values. As Christian parents of teenagers, understanding what Purity Culture is and how it impacts young people can be both essential and challenging. This exploration of Purity Culture aims to examine the various facets of Purity Culture, from its origins and symbols to reflections on its impact and ways to engage in meaningful conversations with our teens. Whether you’re familiar with Purity Culture or just beginning to explore this topic, we hope to provide insights that resonate with your family’s journey.

Key Takeaways

  • Purity as a Multifaceted Concept: Purity extends beyond sexual conduct, encompassing a lifestyle choice that aligns with moral and ethical standards. It’s taught and interpreted differently across various Christian communities.
  • Purity Culture’s Impact and Controversy: While aiming to uphold biblical values, Purity Culture has faced criticism for potentially leading to guilt, shame, and anxiety. Its symbols like Purity rings and movements like True Love Waits have both supported and challenged young adults seeking to develop God-honoring habits.
  • The Complexity of Navigating Purity Culture with Teens: Open communication, empathy, and understanding are vital in guiding teens through conversations relating to the Purity Culture movement. As parents we must balance sharing our beliefs with respecting our teens’ autonomy and individuality as we guide our young adults towards Christ.

What does Purity Mean?

Purity, in the context of faith and personal values, often refers to a state of moral cleanliness and integrity. It’s a concept that has been interpreted in various ways across different cultures and religious traditions. In Christianity, purity often relates to sexual integrity and living in alignment with biblical principles, emphasizing the importance of preserving oneself for marriage.

The idea of purity extends beyond just sexual conduct, encompassing a broader lifestyle choice that seeks to align thoughts, words, and actions with moral and ethical standards. This alignment often involves a conscious effort to avoid behaviors and influences that might lead to impurity.

In many Christian communities, purity is taught from a young age, with an emphasis on understanding one’s body as a temple and treating it with respect and dignity. Parents play a crucial role in guiding their children through these complexities, providing support, understanding, and a framework for making informed decisions.

For more insights on this topic, explore our Parent’s Guide to Purity.

What is Purity Culture?

Purity Culture is a movement within some Christian communities that emphasizes sexual abstinence outside of marriage, along with applying strict views on modest dress, and stringent dating rules. It often involves commitments, ceremonies, and symbols like Purity rings to signify a person’s pledge to remain sexually pure until marriage. Purity Culture has been both praised for its intention to uphold biblical values and criticized for potentially leading its subscribers to shame and even religious trauma .

The movement gained traction in the 1990s and early 2000s, with various churches and organizations promoting Purity pledges, events, and educational materials. These efforts were often accompanied by books, conferences, and media campaigns aimed at encouraging young people to make a public commitment to Purity.

While the intentions behind Purity Culture are often rooted in a desire to guide young people in making wise and moral choices, the movement has also faced criticism. Some argue that Purity Culture can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety, especially if individuals feel they have failed to live up to the standards set by their community.

What is a Purity Ring?

A Purity ring is a symbol often associated with Purity Culture. It’s a physical reminder of a commitment to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. Worn by some teenagers and young adults, the ring serves as a public declaration of their values and beliefs. While it can be a meaningful symbol for some, others have found it to be a source of pressure or judgment.

The tradition of wearing a Purity ring often includes a ceremony where the individual makes a pledge before family, friends, or a church congregation. The ring itself can vary in design and material, but it typically bears symbols or inscriptions that reflect the wearer’s commitment to Purity.

For some, the Purity ring is a deeply personal and spiritual symbol, representing a promise to oneself and to God. For others, it may be a part of a broader community or family tradition. The practice has sparked diverse opinions and reactions, reflecting the complexity of the subject within contemporary Christian culture.

What is the True Love Waits Movement?

The True Love Waits movement is a campaign that encourages young people to make a commitment to sexual abstinence until marriage. It began in the early 1990s and became a significant part of the Purity Culture movement. The campaign includes pledges, events, and educational resources aimed at promoting a biblical view of sexuality and relationships.

Originating in the Southern Baptist Convention, the True Love Waits movement quickly spread to other Christian denominations and communities. It has reached millions of young people through various initiatives, including conferences, books, and multimedia presentations.

While the movement has been praised for encouraging responsible and moral behavior, it has also faced criticism for its approach and messaging. Some argue that it may inadvertently contribute to feelings of shame or confusion around sexuality. The True Love Waits movement continues to be a subject of discussion and reflection within the Christian community.

Where Did the Purity Culture Movement Begin?

The Purity Culture movement began in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was influenced by various Christian leaders, authors, and organizations seeking to address societal changes and concerns about sexual behavior among young people. The movement spread through churches, youth groups, and Christian media, leading to the widespread adoption of Purity pledges, events, and symbols like Purity rings.

The rise of Purity Culture coincided with broader cultural shifts, including increased awareness of issues related to sexual health and relationships. It also emerged as a response to perceived moral decline and a desire to reinforce traditional values within Christian communities.

While the movement has had a significant impact on many individuals and families, it has also sparked debate and controversy. The interpretations and practices associated with Purity Culture vary widely, reflecting diverse theological perspectives and cultural contexts.

Reflections on the Purity Culture Movement

Purity Culture has been a subject of both support and criticism. Supporters praise its emphasis on biblical values and the promotion of healthy relationships. Critics, however, argue that it can lead to shame, guilt, and an unhealthy focus on outward behavior rather than inner transformation.

The reflections on Purity Culture often involve personal stories and experiences. For some, the movement has provided guidance and a sense of community. For others, it has led to struggles with self-worth and identity, particularly if they felt they did not meet the expectations set by their community.

Ways To Talk To Your Teen About the Purity Culture

Talking to teens about Purity Culture requires empathy, understanding, and open communication. Here are some ways to approach the conversation:

  1. Share your own experiences and beliefs about purity, creating a safe space for honest dialogue.
  2. Ask open-ended questions to understand their perspective, encouraging them to express their thoughts and feelings.
  3. Provide resources and guidance without imposing your views, respecting their autonomy and individuality.

The conversation about Purity Culture can be complex and emotionally charged. It’s essential to approach it with sensitivity and a willingness to listen. Encourage them to explore their values and make informed decisions, offering support and love along the way.

For more ways to support your teen, check out our resources on Dating and the Parent’s Guide to Pornography.

Bottom Line

Understanding and navigating Purity Culture can be a complex and personal journey. As parents, our love, empathy, and open communication are vital in guiding our teens through these significant aspects of life. The conversations you have about purity and related topics can shape their understanding of relationships, self-worth, and faith. It’s an opportunity to share your values and beliefs while also listening to their thoughts and feelings.

Embrace the opportunity to explore these topics together, fostering a relationship built on trust and mutual respect. Engaging in open and honest dialogue allows you to connect with your teen on a deeper level, providing support and encouragement as they navigate the challenges and questions related to Purity Culture. Remember, your approach and attitude can make a significant difference in how these subjects are perceived and internalized.

For more reflections on purity and related topics, you can explore some of our other resources like our Parent’s Guide to Modesty, Parent’s Guide to The Sex Talk, Sexuality Conversation Kit, and our podcast on  Identity, Sex, Purity Culture & Gen Z – featuring Dr. Juli Slattery.

For additional guidance and support, explore our collection of Parent Guides. These resources are designed to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to discuss vital topics with your teenager, such as mental health, technology use, bullying, and more. Tailored to address the specific needs and concerns of your family, these guides empower you to positively shape your teen’s understanding and approach to these significant aspects of life.

The Culture Translator

A weekly email to help you stay up to date on the music, movies, TV shows, and social media trends impacting your kid’s world.