Purity Culture Is No Laughing Matter

by | Jan 12, 2024 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 31 comments

The Babylon Bee on Purity Culture

So the Babylon Bee thinks purity culture backlash is worth mocking.

For those who don’t know, the Babylon Bee is supposed to be a Christian satire site, like the Onion, where they have satire news stories. I must admit I used to think they were quite funny. As one of my Patreons wrote in our private Facebook group (you can join here):

It was a lot funnier when they were writing pieces about, say, a worship leader ordering special carbon fiber skinny jeans to kick things up another octave, a youth leader miraculously subsisting entirely on leftover pizza and Mountain Dew for 13 years, or a pastor having to flee to Canada after failing to mention Mother’s Day (and making more money than usual working at Tim Hortons).

It certainly was!

But lately, instead of making fun of Christian culture as a whole, they’re punching down, making fun of those who are hurting. 

And that’s what they did with a recent article about purity culture:

The “joke” was that the only people mad about purity culture are people who just want to sleep around. And this “hussy” who is complaining about it was “interviewed” while she was on her way to pick up another prescription for penicillin, and says:

According to sources close to Vindman, the shameless floozy has found freedom in meeting different men on a dating app every night and splitting the bill at a local tapas place before sleeping with them and never seeing them again like the wanton trollop she is. “Thanks to escaping Christianity, Amy has finally been able to experience the joy and freedom of her 12th abortion,” said a close friend of the dissolute Jezebel. “Just look how happy she is now!”

The Babylon Bee, 'Purity Culture Was Really Destructive,' Says Local Hussy

This is so wrong I don’t even know where to start. I could talk about the problems with shaming women with sexual partners when they don’t similarly shame men (notice how this article is focused on a woman, just like purity culture was). I could talk about how over the top it is. 

But I’d like to focus on two things:

1. The article never distinguishes between “purity” and “purity culture”

And that was the problem with the Facebook comments, too, where umpteen men were deriding young women for just wanting to sleep around, while many thoughtful female commenters were trying to add some nuance and explain that there is a difference between purity and purity culture. 

I’ve written before about purity culture.

But I’ll highlight what one commenter, Karen, said, in response to a man who asked her to name just one thing that was harmful about purity culture:

There are too many to list them all but I will name a few.

  1. It is prosperity gospel for sex. It told young people that if they follow certain steps and rules, they would get married to a great person and have great sex. Marriage is not promised to everyone and the lack of education about sex actually greatly contributed to bad sexual experiences on the wedding night
  2. It made an idol out of virginity, especially female virginity.
  3. It made value judgments about people based on what they had done or what had been done to them. Girls were told that they were like used gum, a dirty cup, a crumpled rose etc if they had any sexual experiences. The biggest problem with that was there was no differentiation or disclaimer for assault or rape so victims were being told they were damaged goods and no one would want them.
  4. Shame. So much shame. Even around things that shouldn’t be shameful.
  5. This idea that girls are at fault if boys sin sexually.
  6. Telling boys that they were created to sin and are nothing more than sexual animals
  7. Shaming girls for having female bodies
  8. Treating girls as objects
  9. Blaming girls for the mistreatment and abuse that happened to them “well what was she wearing”

This list could go on and on. A simple google search will show you countless articles and resources about this. Please educate yourself.

The fact that so much has been written on the harms of purity culture, and people still don’t get it, is so frustrating to me. And I still see people defending “purity culture”, as if all it was was telling people that sex was sacred. Nope.

And, yes, shaming rape victims and making girls feel like their worth is in their hymen and making them feel like if boys assault them it’s there fault–that’s super hilarious. 

Just read She Deserves Better for an indepth look at what it was–and the harms done by it (and it’s on massive sale on Kindle right now for just $2.39!

2. Those who hate purity culture were often their biggest believers.

When Joanna looked at the data, she noticed something interesting. The people who are most likely to reject wholeheartedly purity culture now were often the biggest believers in high school. They are the ones that purity culture harmed.

And who still clings to the messages? Those who weren’t harmed.

This is what is called “survivorship bias.” If it didn’t hurt you, you likely still believe it and stayed in the same church circles. If it hurt you, you left. That means that the church circles where people still believe it become more and more cut off from people who were harmed by it–because those who were harmed have all fled.

The people who are writing about the harm done by purity culture are largely not writing it because they are “hussies.” They are writing it because:

  •  they have vaginismus; 
  • they married abusers; 
  • sex was terrible; 
  • they were sexually abused in church and no one believed them; 
  • they have huge body shame 
  • They were victims of date rape and didn’t realize it for years and blamed themselves for “losing” their purity

And so on and so on. We explained all of this in She Deserves Better, with data.

Purity culture stole something important from women. And to portray women who don’t like purity culture as “hussies” who are out for penicillin and abortions is not funny.

It is insulting. It is cruel. It is evil.

We need to get the word out about the difference between purity and purity culture, and that purity culture did harm.

She Deserves Better!

Because we all deserve a big faith.

Your daughter deserves better than what you likely grew up with in church.

What would it look like to prepare the next generation without toxic teachings about modesty, sex, or consent, and instead set her up for a big faith?

And so I’m glad that the Kindle version of She Deserves Better is on massive sale for all of January! It’s on for just $2.39 on Amazon right now, and it’s on sale at Barnes and Noble and more too!

Even if you already have it in print, now’s a great time to get it on your kindle so you can search for keywords and find things easily and text and email passages easily.

And while you’re at it, unfollow the Babylon Bee. They don’t deserve you.

Purity Culture and the Babylon Bee

Why do you think people still make fun of purity culture critiques? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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31 Comments

  1. Nessie

    “It made an idol out of virginity,”
    Exodus 20:3

    “Purity culture stole something important from women.”
    Exodus 20:15)

    “Telling boys that they were created to sin and are nothing more than sexual animals.”
    Exodus 20:16

    If purity culture is wrong, then it means they aren’t promised what they want. It means the foundation of the system that props men up over all else was wrong and it will crumble and they will collapse and be crushed by the rubble. It props the “ideal” marriage up, which, as it was taught to women, is our only real way of pleasing God. If we lose that, then how do we go about pleasing God??

    If these people can misdirect/distract with how “bad” the other side is, then it takes some of the heat off of them and the harm they have caused, too. They can push aside those icky feelings of shame and conviction.

    Paradigm shifts can make us reel, and we feel injured. If you’ve ever approached an injured animal, you know how they can lash out. Even the family pet can get downright hateful and aggressive towards those it loves. Pain, whether physical or emotional, can bring out the worst in us.

    I had a visceral reaction reading tBB’s words. My heartrate is coming back down now, but the headache and nausea will take longer. TBB didn’t step over the line: they long-jumped.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I completely agree. That one was unconscionable.

      But what really got me was the comments on the facebook post from so many men who just refused to get it or to see or to listen to the women who were spending so long calmly explaining it.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        Red-pilling at its finest. And “unconscionable” is the perfect word for this article.

        Reply
      • Angela

        Women don’t matter. We aren’t allowed to “teach” men. We are supposed to be silent and think what we are told. So they have iron-clad protection from having to even entertain the possibility that they might be wrong.

        However we can hope that some healthier lurkers were moved a peg by the conversation. People’s toxicity in the comments can be very eye-opening. “Not-the-Bee” and their comment section was the beginning of my journey into a lot of things…specifically because they were so awful about everything, so narrow-minded, so vicious. I spent a lot of time defending people who were being picked on/piled on and it ended up leading me to lots of rethinking and lots of good places. When I heard stories like Amy Byrd’s troubles I could easily believe them since I had seen the theobros’ attacks against everyone with my own eyes. I no longer believed the excuses of men about their bad behavior. Then when the explosion of news about sexual abuse scandals came out, I was primed to believe women, which I’m ashamed to say that I would probably not have believed a few years ago because of the evangelical programming.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, I think that is definitely happening! When people see the toxicity of this sort of thing so blatantly, then they start being able to see it in their own churches, in organizations that aren’t so blatant but are still harmful,etc.

          Reply
  2. Laura

    This here is why I do not read Babylon Bee.

    Survivorship bias is an excellent example of why some women are gung ho about complimenarianism. Some of the women I know who promote it do not really act it out in their marriages and they have not experienced an abusive controlling spouse. Since I had been in an abusive marriage and experienced harm from these teachings, I just cannot believe in them. Just like I cannot be okay with the message of purity culture though I used to believe a lot of that stuff.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very, very true. We should do a podcast about this to explain it more fully, because I think it’s a HUGE dynamic at play in so much of the teachings in the church, and why leaders often don’t “get it”.

      Reply
      • Angela

        Yes, do!

        Reply
  3. Codec

    You know this ties into something I have problems with when it comes to Redpill stuff.

    The focus the fixation on body count and previous partners.

    Redpill content talks about how if you marry a woman who has had previous partners that she won’t be able to pair bond. They bring up this idea that oxytocin production is limited after your first encounter. Red pill content will say women are hypergamous and hypersexual when they are young and that they only settle for security when they realize that youth doesn’t last forever. They want women if they want to marry them to be virgins.

    I have not seen much from Redhill content however thst tells men to avoid promiscuous behavior. Avoid promiscuous women sure but not promiscuity. They even try to justify it some of them by saying that men need sex or that evolutionary psychology predisposed men to want to have a lot of sex.

    It is absurd to me. From a biological, sociological statistical, and moral framework it just doesn’t add up.

    Reply
    • Jo R

      “They bring up this idea that oxytocin production is limited after your first encounter.”

      Maybe this occurs for women after the wedding night too? 🤔

      Reply
      • Codec

        See it is weird. You know what else inspires oxytocin production? Snuggles. It doesn’t even have to be with a human either. I get an oxytocin boost just snuggling with my cat.

        Reply
      • RB

        This is so crazy (and unscientific). If oxytocin production was reduced after a “first encounter”, it would mean that she wouldn’t be able to bond with any of her children as much as with her first. Obviously this is completely false. It would also make each subsequent childbirth experience worse than the last because oxytocin is a major pain reliever during childbirth as well as being the primary hormone for labour progression (the hormone used for induction of labour is the synthetic form of oxytocin). But we shouldn’t expect this guys to have any scientific knowledge or even common sense can we 🤷‍♀️

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Codec!

      Reply
      • Taylor

        Yes! After divorcing my promiscuous and abusive husband, I got two kitties. One of them loves to snuggle. Life is much better now :).

        Reply
    • Rachel

      Speaking of redpill, is anyone else annoyed that they took a really cool moment from The Matrix and turned it into this … dreck?

      Reply
      • Rebecca

        Yes. I complained to my teenager about that recently because we love the movie.

        Reply
  4. BL

    I quit watching Babylon Bee after they did an awful skit on what they thought consent was. I was so appalled!! In the skit it was a retake on Snow White (I believe—one of the princess stories) where the prince went to kiss her to save her, but she was unconscious, and obviously couldn’t answer him. They were 100% correct on the fact that she couldn’t consent so it wouldn’t have been ok for him to kiss her, but they made it so awkward as they were trying to point out how weird it was (in their minds) that you had to get consent from someone.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, YUCK!

      Reply
  5. Lisa Johns

    The Babylon Bee used to be funny. I stopped reading their materials a few years ago as I noticed that more and more often they were becoming viciously sarcastic rather than funny.
    That said, this was more than even viciously sarcastic: making a story about 10 pickups a night, lots of abortions, and more scrips for penicillin was some of the nastiest stuff I have seen in a long while, and the adolescents writing these articles really need to go home and grow up. Only the lowest common denominator of a society would find this amusing, let alone acceptable.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly.

      Reply
  6. Rebecca

    I fondly remember the BB article about a pastor getting possessed when he accidentally fell into a yoga pose. And they had some fun interviews for a while, like the time they got John Cleese to talk to them. But I unfollowed when they started interviewing and approvingly quoting vile patriarchalists like Douglas Wilson.

    Bought your book, can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, those were the days!

      Reply
    • Angela

      My exact story as well! I had been a huge follower but eventually unsubscribed and told them exactly why! Also I found the Not-the-Bee comment section horrifically toxic.

      Reply
  7. Bernadette

    Stopped following the Babylon Bee when they started celebrating misogyny.

    Reply
  8. Rachel Peachey

    I enjoyed Babylon bee for a while . . . But then I started to observe an increasing trend towards anti-women or maybe just dumb women type of attitudes getting slipped in when it wasn’t even relevant to the story line.

    I dropped them, it just got annoying.

    Reply
  9. Perfect Number

    Oh wow that Babylon Bee article is awful.

    (I realized the Babylon Bee is trash a long time ago- for one thing, they seem to always have at least 1 front-page article viciously mocking trans people. Like why? Why? Why be so mean to trans people?)

    The Babylon Bee is trashhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    Reply
      • Sarah R

        Oh, Josh Carlos Josh is so funny, one of my favourite online people 🙂

        I unfollowed the Bee years ago but even so, the tone of the article quoted above is so strikingly different to how it was when it started that it almost leaves me gasping. The misogyny just rolls off it like a sea mist now. I think I remember reading that it’s original owner sold it and the current owners might say they’re Christian, but made a deliberate decision to shift to more redpill/Andrew Tate adjacent content to get more likes and views.

        I wish I could say I’m not worried about this trend bc they’re all immature people whose opinions are so obviously wrong it’s ridiculous, but I am. Kids in school listen to this stuff. Half my little sister’s classmates in high school watch Tate content. It’s really worrying.

        Reply
        • Perfect Number

          gross, how will i explain andrew tate to my children?

          Reply
  10. Jeannie Miller

    So I went back to the original Facebook post, and the comments by the men there are astounding. Of course, purity culture benefited you, you were never at fault! It was usually, if not, always, the girls, and the women who were.

    That was one battle. I had to fight with my brother and my mom when I started coming forward about how purity culture had harmed me. They were insistent that I was never taught to be ashamed of my body, to hold myself responsible for men’s thoughts, and that I would have amazing sex upon getting married if I waited.

    Reply
    • Bernadette

      How would your Mom, or brother, know better than you, about what you were taught?

      If you attended religion class… Did your Mom and brother sit it on every class with you? And do the homework?

      If you read Christian books aimed at girls and women… Were those read by them, too?

      Did older members of the Church ever pull you aside for a conversation? If so, did your Mom and brother listen in?

      Children get taught lots of things when Parents and siblings aren’t around.

      So again, how could your Mom or brother possibly know what they are talking about?

      Reply

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