Purity Culture is Also About National Purity: Anti-Asian Hate and Purity Culture [Audio]

The three and a half minute clip below, exclusive to RD, is from Bradley Onishi’s opening monologue of the March 17 episode of Straight White American Jesus, a podcast hosted by Onishi and Daniel Miller. RD will be collaborating with SWAJ to regularly bring you audio and transcripts on Christian nationalism, “conversion therapy,” purity culture, and more. — eds


Purity culture is about more than bodily purity. It’s about national purity. It’s about racial purity. It’s about ethnic purity. Okay. So if we bring all these things together, we have a man who seems like he was brought up in youth group purity culture in a church. That was probably—and I’ve tried to check this out and the sites are down because the church doesn’t want people looking at them.

But by all accounts, the church is predominantly white. So another aspect just quickly that the American church is segregated. And so most white people go to church with only white people. Most white people only socialize with white people. So we have a man who’s raised in purity culture, goes to a predominantly white church, and when he is sort of battling what he thinks… about sexual temptation, and gives into those temptations, he visits massage parlors, where he finds Asian women. These may be the only Asian people he knows. These may be the only Asian women he’s ever met. And they are the ones that he associates with his shameful sexual sin.

Let’s throw one more thing on top of this. And that’s the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic is attributable to and we can pin the blame on China. This has led to, as I’ve said before, just an overwhelming increase in violence against Asian people, especially Asian women. So we’ve now got a situation where this young man is feeling intensely guilty about what he considers his sexual deviance, where he has carried out that sexual deviance in his own mind with Asian women; these are most likely the only Asian women he knows. Asian women in his mind, through various channels, are likely seen through a hyper-sexualized lens, a lens in which they are seen as exotic sexual objects.

And then for the last year or 13, 14, 15 months, he’s heard nothing less than that the virus can be traced back to Asian people. And I’m sorry, bigots and violent perpetrators in these situations are not nuanced. And so do they care if the Asian people involved are Korean or Vietnamese or Japanese, et cetera? They don’t. What they hear is their president, Donald Trump and other leaders saying things like ‘Chinese Flu’ and ‘Kung Flu’ and so, or ‘China Virus.’ And so they lash out and they take their aim at Asian people. 

All of this leads me back to Christian nationalism. What I wrote on Twitter this morning was “Purity culture is not simply about sexual ‘purity.’ Sexual ethics is a way to slip racial, ethnic, and nationalistic purity into equation.”

As my co-host says, focusing on the purity of the individual body leads to trying to purify the national body. Purity culture is a step away from a pure national body. A body whose borders are not breached by foreign invaders, including sexual tempters and those of low morals. If purity culture puts undue pressure on women to remain pure, think about what it does to nonwhite women who are seen as hypersexual seducers not only because of their gender, but also because of their race and ethnicity.