Respectability Politics Belong In The Trash.

Art Credit goes to Rume (@ Yinkore on IG and Twitter)

It is with great disdain that I have to say this in the year of our Lord 2021; but I will say it regardless. You cannot shame women for expressing their sexuality. Women do not need to be sexually ‘pure’ — there is no such thing because purity presupposes the existence of shame and we do not do that over here) — for you to respect them and treat them with dignity.

Too many young girls and women are subjected to purity culture through their socialisation and indoctrination. We are told that we must keep ourselves ‘pure’ for men, that their value diminishes the more they engage in any sexual activities. Women are compared to chewed bubble gum, used cars and a host of other demeaning metaphors just because they have dared to express themselves sexually. All this is a steaming pile of horseshit (pardon me) and I will never ever let it slide.

I will always, always vehemently challenge purity culture wherever I see it because I am acutely aware of the damage it does to women, all through their lives. I see how it robs women of their youth, of their joy and of their pleasure. We do not deserve any of that.

I am particularly opposed to respectability politics which I refer to as the close cousin of purity culture. Respectability politics, loosely explained is an unfortunate notion whereby women are only deemed of worth and respect if they are modest, demure and pure. Conversely, any women who do not conform to this useless standard of purity are denigrated, disrespected and are seen as unworthy of leadership roles, achievements.

Respectability politics run amuck in the corporate, professional, academic and political world. What I mean to say is that women cannot seem to escape this horrible thing, no matter where they go. What I detest most about purity culture and respectability politics is the manner in which it boxes women into rigid categories that they cannot push themselves out of. Respectability politics insists that women cannot be multifaceted, when we very well know that this is not the reality. Respectability politics mean that if you tweet about sex and the deliciousness of nipple orgasms, then you are unable to comment about politics or other such ‘serious’ matters (a null point, since the female orgasm is a very serious matter, mind you).

How ignorant and archaic.

This is the 21st century. Here, women can be everything and anything that they want to be. In my world, women can tweet about backshots and then go on to lead multinational corporations. Women should be able to enjoy, and speak about all aspects of their lived realities, without being judges as ‘immoral’. We want to live lives that undo all the years of misogynistic and patriarchal indoctrination the world has caused us to undergo. And you can not ask us to stop. Because we will not.

You know who does not suffer from purity culture and respectability politics?


Like I have always said, if there is something that unfairly limits women and our chance at a full life, it is likely that there is no such equivalent for men. Who is judging men for sexual tweets or for daring to have a thriving sexual life? To make matters worse, men can even be accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour in the workplace and will still not suffer the level of shame and embarrassment that women endure because of purity culture. Who says that men deserve to live lives that are fuller than ours? Who says that women can only be one thing and should be mocked for deviations from misogynistic ideals of purity? Who says that because I talk about nipple orgasms I do not have a wealth of knowledge to offer in the Law, Literature or Politics?

You know who says things like this? No one worth listening to.

Although I know we should not hold women to higher standards than we do men, it is particularly pathetic that women who espouse sex-positive rhetoric under the guise of being progressive are the same ones shaming young women for discussing sex. How do you reconcile these two things? It just does not make any sense to me. As you foster conversations around sex positivity, how could you possibly ridicule women for discussing orgasms and insinuate that they know nothing else? When you discuss sexual pleasure in your work, does it mean that you are incapable of any other endeavours? How can you imply that sexually expressive women have no value to offer?

Like I said, pathetic.

Women have a right to enjoy sex and to talk about enjoying it.

Here we are undoing all the harmful years of indoctrination and here you are mocking us for it. How sad.

We want a different world for the little girls coming after us. We want a world where they are not ashamed of their sexual desires. We want a world where female sexual pleasure is not taboo. We want a world where women can be everything that they want to be. We want this world and we are well on our way to creating it. You can join us. Or you can keep quiet and watch.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store