Parenting

The Rice Purity Test: Shaming Women For Nearly A Century

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rice purity test
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While our culture’s obsession with virginity and “purity” (whatever the hell that means) is entirely out of hand, it’s also nothing new — especially for women and girls. Like basically everything else that’s wrong with the world, the entire construct of virginity and “purity” was devised by men as a way of controlling women’s bodies, and essentially, their entire lives. As shitty as this is, it makes sense. In places like the United States, where straight, white men have enjoyed centuries of dominance over everyone else, of course, they’re going to want to do anything they can to retain that power — including using another person’s sexual past as a way to hold them down.

Oh, but also, women and girls are supposed to be sexy and alluring (but no one likes a tease!) and satisfy men sexually, but not actually do anything because then they’re labeled a slut. (And heaven forbid women actually enjoy sex themselves.) OK, this rant is getting out of hand, but it’s all here to set up today’s topic: the rice purity test. Never heard of it? Here’s what the rice purity test entails, and a look back at some of the other purity tests throughout history that inspired this one.

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What is a purity test?

Think of purity tests as the original BuzzFeed “Which Sex and the City Character Are You?” quizzes, except instead of the purpose being mindless fun or fighting boredom at work, it’s to stigmatize sexuality and contribute to the culture of guilt and shame associated with sex (which only applies to women). Basically, a purity test is a self-administered quiz that involves answering a series of yes/no questions about sexual activities, drug use, and other “taboo” things you’ve participated in. In the end, you get a score — usually, a percentage — where 100 percent is the purest a person can be and 0 percent is the least.

Though this sounds like something that originated in the internet age, purity tests have been around at least since the 1920s, with the most famous being the rice purity test, first published in 1924 in Rice University’s student newspaper The Thresher. Of course, female students were the ones asked to take the test, and out of the 119 that did, the average score was 62, the student publication reports.

Additionally, a 1935 issue of The Jester, Columbia University’s humor magazine, reported on a purity test supposedly conducted on the Barnard College campus. Other examples include a “virtue test” that made the rounds in Indiana University in 1939, and several from the 1980s, the most well-known being ones from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University, according to a 1975 book written on urban folklore.

What is the rice purity test?

Since its first iteration in 1924, the rice purity test has evolved with the times, now containing sexual acts its creators may not have heard of. In fact, only two questions from the original test remain: “Have you ever cheated?” and “Have you ever been drunk?” Though it never really went away, the purity test resurfaced in 1974, and again in 1988 — though the latter version had been heavily edited and updated: Including questions on child molestation and statutory rape, The Thresher reported.

By 1998, the child molestation and rape questions were gone, and instead of having a separate section for LGBTQ+ individuals, it was made more inclusive by asking questions about “members of the preferred sex” (MPS).

The current version of the rice purity test contains 100 questions that all start with “Have you ever…” and includes questions like:

  • Danced without leaving room for Jesus?
  • Kissed someone below the belt?
  • Seen or read pornographic material?
  • Gone through the motions of intercourse while fully dressed?
  • Showered with a MPS?
  • Kissed horizontally?
  • Massaged or been massaged sensually?
  • Ingested someone else’s genital secretion?
  • Played a drinking game?
  • Had the police handcuff you?
  • Had sexual intercourse in a swimming pool or hot tub?
  • Traveled 100 or more miles for the primary purpose of sexual intercourse?
  • Attended an orgy?
  • Been photographed or filmed during sexual intercourse by yourself or others?
  • Committed an act of voyeurism?
  • Committed an act of incest?
  • Engaged in bestiality?

While the entire concept of “purity” is utter bullshit, at least this one is more gender-neutral?

What is an Innocence Test?

Since the 1920s, the purity test has continued to evolve — most recently in 2021 on (what else) TikTok under the name The Innocence Test. Like other purity tests, the Innocence Test asks about so-called rebellious activities, but these situations are more up-to-date with the times and include examples that mention technology. Keep in mind, there is no test or survey of questions that can define your purity or lack thereof. You’re the person you choose to be despite your experiences and these tests are an archaic hold over from time and a culture that insists on policing women’s bodies and sexuality. That said, if you’re looking to learn a little more about your friends, stroll down memory lane, and just have a laugh, feel free to take the test below.I have:

  • Been on a virtual date.
  • Made out in public.
  • Played a game that involved stripping.
  • Sent nudes or received nudes.
  • Had virtual sex.
  • Hooked up with a person from Tinder.
  • Had car sex.
  • Watched porn.
  • Had period sex.
  • Paid for a premium dating site.
  • Had sex with a married person.
  • Pierced anything below your neck.
  • Had sex in a public place.
  • Had sex in a moving vehicle.
  • Used a vibrator or dildo.
  • Had a hickey or given a hickey on someone’s neck.
  • Been photographed nude.
  • Received oral sex from a person.
  • Masturbated to a picture.
  • Been caught masturbating.
  • Watched another person masturbate.
  • Engaged in bondage.

Virginity Is a Social Construct

Contrary to popular belief, when you have sex for the first time, you don’t lose anything from a medical standpoint. The concept of virginity is a social construct created by people and isn’t an actual medical term. Once you have sex for the first time, it does not affect your physical being or your identity because it’s not tied to your worth or goodness as a human being. Often virginity is used to separate people and shame them into thinking premarital sex is unclean. It has nothing to do with purity and is just one of our patriarchal society’s many ways to separate and control others.

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