Life

Purity Obsession: Is it Good, Bad, or Part of Tamil Culture?

Purity

The global consensus is that purity is a monumental part of a human – especially for women. The main argument is that everyone would prefer a “new, unused toy” to a “used toy”. This perspective compares a woman’s body to an inanimate object, existing to pleasure its consumer (men). There is a myriad of things universally wrong with it, mainly that it places a woman’s value between her legs.

Invariably, this overlooks a woman’s academics and intelligence, her accomplishments and ambitions, her personality and attitude.

It might be difficult to believe that anyone in this day and age would hold these views. However, a quick visit to the comment section of certain TamilCulture articles can be very eye-opening1.

This is what one reader had to say:

Some girls don’t have hymens, some girls ‘tear’ their hymens by non-sexual means, and some actually tear it during coitus. But heck, someone with that mentality probably doesn’t distinguish between these factors. Women are just walking-talking hymens to them.

Furthermore, believing that making a woman ‘bleed’ is key to matrimonial success and satisfaction is frankly sadistic. It reduces a woman from a human being to an object.

Here is another comment from TamilCulture:

dradzi_ubova

Forget about the heart people, oh and the brain too – relationships should just be built on ‘virginity’ and ‘purity’. That is the most important ‘gift’ that you can offer. Your relationship must be pretty sad and shallow if sex is what matters the most.

Some people are actually serial monogamists. An individual may have been in several relationships, but if they had not cheated in any one of them – what makes you think they’ll start cheating now?2 Likewise, what guarantee is there that a ‘virgin’ who has never dated will never cheat?

NO body-part is akin to an object

I’m sure your hands have been in many obscene places but you eat with those exact same hands after washing them don’t you? What makes the ‘cleanliness’ of genitalia any different from other body parts?

“If you consider a woman less pure after you touch her, maybe you should have a look at your hands.”

Stigma and ostracism of women having pre-marital and/or recreational sex

Pre-marital sexual contact – consensual or otherwise – is disdained by Tamils from all walks of life. Do you realize how hurtful this culture is towards rape victims? It is adding insult to injury.

It is common to find Kollywood films that portray the parents of a rape victim grieving over rape. They are grieving over the victim’s “spoiled” (literally ‘kedutthal’) purity and how she is now unfit for marriage. They are completely overlooking the mental and physical trauma the poor victim went through. Chastising rape victims with this “purity” idealism makes victims less likely to report the violation they endured.

Eelam had been more forgiving towards female rape victims (and women in general). However, even that took a while to reach. Before the era of the LTTE, it was not unusual to find women expected to endow the “qualities of passivity and submissiveness” and to a certain extent “purity”. After living in constant fear of being violated, women quickly ditched these qualities to pick up weapons and fight amongst men on the battlefield3. The rape of Eelam Tamil women at the hands of the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) and SLA (Sri Lankan Army) was so rampant that it was impossible to ignore and no longer considered taboo to discuss4.

Conclusion

Now where does this place in Tamil culture? If you look at Sangam literature5, it did not have this fetish for purity. However, present day Tamil culture seems to be a far away world from it. If anything, this just tells us that culture is forever evolving: Tamil culture was different 1000 years ago to what it is today and it will inevitably vary from what it is today in another 1000 years.

Whether you like it or not or want to accept it or not, the concept of “virginity” is a social construct6 and just that. An intact hymen is in no way an indicator of virginity. But since it is a social construct, there are no boundaries for the imagination.

References

[1] An Open Letter to Young Tamil Men

[2] Shall I marry a girl who is not virgin? This is an arranged marriage proposal. The girl is good but she lost her virginity with her boyfriend. I’m not able to get this off my mind.

[3] Women and Political Violence: Female Combatants in Ethno-National Conflict

[4] Our Lost Dark Nights Of War In Sri Lanka: Women And Rape

[5] Hookups and dating dilemmas in the time of Sangam Poetry

[6] The Detrimental Obsession with Chastity