I’ve composed a few pieces as of late on male sexual entitlement and how this finds its manifestation through harassment, intimidation and violence against women. Rape culture is one which is underpinned by a deep seated belief that women are objects and that men are entitled to a woman’s body in all circumstances, even through force. I wanted to focus on a subset of rape culture in today’s article which identifies the ‘sexual purity culture’ which leads to gender biased victim blaming after the onset of an attack.
Purity culture itself is described as bathing entitlement within holiness in which ‘God-given gendered roles’ are clung to. Unpacking this further would indicate to women only undertaking sexual acts in accordance to their roles as wives and child bearers. Anything outside of this function would deem a woman ‘impure’ and therefore bring into question every element of her character and decision making capacity as a result. As pointed out in a piece featured in the Guardian “women who exhibit a degree of sexual agency are labelled as sluts or whores”.
The conversation then shifts slightly to consider how this affects women who are raped or sexually assaulted. Societally we continue to operate within a model which promotes victim blaming as we call into question a woman’s ‘virtue’ both leading up to the event and thereafter. An unfortunate but common rhetoric which is expressed by survivors tends to be one of feeling tarnished and unworthy in society’s eyes after their assault. The notion of shame associated here absurdly focuses on a woman’s reputation for being raped as opposed to on the man for committing the incident.
Media narrative associated with reporting sexual violence only feeds into this rhetoric. In most occasions articles reporting assaults or attacks serve as an investigative piece into the virtue and character of the woman who was subjected to the incident. Thus promoting the notion that a ‘sexually impure’ woman has nothing to offer. Taking this one step further this then means that she is forever tainted or tarnished both physically and morally once she is sexually penetrated.
It’s needless to point out the hypocrisy involved in the fall out of a sexual assault towards smearing of a woman’s reputation. The underlying emphasis which purports virginity as purity is damaging in all senses of the notion. Sex and sexuality when measured against the lives of women is not a predeterminant of their standing in society or what they have to offer this world. In regards to women who have survived incidences of rape, sexual assault or any form of sexual violence, survivors should be supported and not judged.
For further reading click onto the following: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/09/elizabeth-smart-purity-culture-shames-survivors-sexual-assault
End – Day 4.