The Purity Myth

Jessica_valenti Over at TPM Cafe, a book club discussion on Jessica Valenti's The Purity Myth with Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, Lila Shapiro, Leora Tanenbaum, J. Goodrich, Hanne Blank, Emily Blazeon. Jessica Valenti:

The Purity Myth is a book that I've been thinking about for a long time; the sexual double standard has irked me since I was a teenager and the framing of sexually active women as “dirty” has fascinated me for just as long. But it was really the work I do on Feministing that led me to write this book. I started to notice a trend emerging in the stories we were covering – whether it was pop culture or policy, there seemed to be an obsessive focus on young women's sexuality. Not exactly news, I know. But this focus went beyond your run-of-the-mill objectification. Hundreds of moral panic articles about “girls gone wild” and spring break madness were popping up around the same time books about “modesty” and the dangers of “hooking up” were all the rage.

On the policy end of things, the FDA was holding up emergency contraception and conservatives were driving themselves into a frenzy over the HPV vaccine – all because of fears that young women would become promiscuous. And that's how The Purity Myth was born. I wanted to look at how the conservative movement uses the fear of young women's sexuality to promote a regressive agenda for women, and how cultural messages about chastity and virginity influence the way young women are perceived (by themselves and society).

In terms of what I'd like to cover for TPMCafe, I figure it's best to start with the purity myth itself – the lie that virginity and sexuality have some bearing on who young women are and how good they are.