Have you ever heard of, or even personally experienced purity culture? Although stemming from a biblical and religious origin, it has affected much of our society; religious or not. Unfortunately, one of the lasting effects is how purity culture affects pelvic health in today’s modern society.
Let’s break down how purity culture affects pelvic health, and examine how this has come to be.
WHAT IS PURITY CULTURE?
Purity culture has roots in religion (Evangelical Christianity to be specific). In the early 1900s, around the time period of the Sexual Revolution and AIDS epidemic, the American Christian church tried to encourage abstinence. Although many jumped on the “purity” trend, it was quickly shed by many people because of its negative impact.
People quickly realized this culture of purity was actually a culture of shame. People were made to believe their bodies were weapons of lust and temptation, and that they were fully responsible for the sexual reactions of others because of it. Adolescents were taught that sex before marriage is dangerous and horribly immoral. Things like purity balls, purity pledges, and even rings became popular and common.
Overall, it created a negative impact on sexuality throughout society, particularly in the case of people who present as women, who are often considered at “fault” in purity culture. In this culture, people who had sexual desires or took action on them while being unmarried were considered immoral.
Purity culture has been studied and shown to have opposite effects than intended. A 2016 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that sexually active teenage girls were more likely to experience early nonmarital pregnancies if they previously pledged abstinence for religious reasons.
This can be attributed to the lack of education on safe sexuality and contraception, and the use of abstinence-only education encouraged by religious communities.
HOW PURITY CULTURE AFFECTS PELVIC HEALTH
As you have read, people in our society have been heavily impacted by purity culture mentally, physically, and sexually. I bet you are wondering how purity culture affects pelvic health though. We first must understand this: the health of the physical body and the mind are deeply connected. Here are 4 ways purity culture can affect pelvic health:
01. The body can and will physically react to psychological issues. One example of this is vaginismus, an automatic tightening of a vulva owner’s pelvic floor muscles in the event of penetration. A possible explanation of this condition can be explained by the constant teachings to withhold sexual feelings or urges, and the immense shame felt if those feelings are acted upon.
02. Another example of how purity culture affects pelvic health is people in today’s age commonly experiencing dyspareunia. This term means painful intercourse; occurring before, during, or after intercourse. Again, this is often stemming from shame and suppression of sexual desires.
03. Although stemming from religion, this culture has actually affected society as a whole, creating a shameful mindset and lasting effects on people throughout America.
04. Other than physical sexual or pelvic dysfunction, there are also the traumatic psychological effects of shame stemming from experiencing purity culture that should also be noted.
HOW A PELVIC FLOOR PHYSICAL THERAPIST CAN HELP YOU OVERCOME THE PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF PURITY CULTURE
Although you are definitely not alone in experiencing the effects of purity culture, you shouldn’t allow it to further negatively impact your life. There are solutions!
Many of the physical effects of purity culture on pelvic health can be addressed with physical therapy. Pelvic floor physical therapy can have very positive effects in many cases when treating a variety of pelvic floor conditions.
Pelvic floor physical therapy helps address the neuromuscular factors that often contribute to pelvic floor conditions caused by purity culture; such as vaginismus or dyspareunia, as mentioned before, or cases of hypertonic pelvic floor muscles (a non-relaxing pelvic floor). In order to address the cause of the problem, you will want to consult with a pelvic floor physical therapist that can help you understand how to improve the function of your pelvic floor muscles.
I specialize in pelvic floor physical therapy, and am passionate about helping those with pelvic floor conditions learn more about their bodies, with no room for shame! I can help you restore pelvic floor function through physical therapy, education, and exercise.
If this is something you’re interested in, I would love to invite you to book a FREE 20 minutes consultation with me here: Dr. Laura Meihofer: Pelvic Floor Therapy Consultation
Do you have more questions on how purity culture affects pelvic health? I’m always on Instagram discussing pelvic floor physical therapy topics– such as sexual dysfunction, incontinence, evacuation disorders, postpartum & more!
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