Not Your Fault

true_love_waits_by_Oriel94 Jessica Valenti tweeted the above video earlier, calling it “fantastically hilarious.” And in the right light, I agree with her. A bunch of decontextualized “I wish” statements, cobbled together with poor lighting and dramatic music, is just begging to be parodied.

“I wish…someone had told me those pants didn’t actually look good on me.”

“I wish…I had eaten the last cookie before my brother did.”

“I wish…I’d bought that Ben and Jerry’s limited flavor when it was still in stock.”

And on and on.

I totally see why this appears ridiculous to a lot of people. But there was a line in the video that made me stop in my tracks.

A teenager girl comments, “I wish he’d stop texting me like that.”

That, right there, is a huge problem with purity culture.

I’ve addressed this problem before, but it deserves highlight yet again: when the emphasis is solely on keeping pure, no matter the circumstances, it opens the door for blaming the victim, for erasing the idea of consent, and making women feel guilty and ashamed for something that was outside of her control.

The fact that this statement comes in the midst of statements of “I wish we hadn’t gone that far,” or “I wish he didn’t know me like that,” it equates unwanted sexual advances with willing consent to sexual activity. There is no line between “I don’t want him to be texting me sexual things” (as can be assumed from context) and “I had sex with him willingly and now I regret doing that.”

The fact that, maybe, possibly, the guy who is sexting her is just an asshole who is ignoring her boundaries is not even acknowledged or considered. The statement is thrown in, without nuance, without consideration.

What’s more is that it (along with every other line in this two minute video) is said with an air of resigned regret, a “this is my fault but I can’t change it.” So when it gets to the “I wish he’d stop texting me like that,” the viewer has no choice but to read it as “It’s my fault that he’s sexting me without my consent because I did something with him.”

And that makes me want to yell, “NO. NO NO NO.”

To clarify for the people in the back: Unwanted sexual advances are NEVER your fault, regardless of your history with the person doing the advancing. Even if he is your boyfriend of two years. Even if she is your fiancé. Even if you’ve been married to them for most of your life.

They do not have a right to use your body without your consent.

They do not have a right to send you things that make you uncomfortable.

Just because you had sex with them once, or even multiple times, or even have an ongoing sexual relationship, it does not give them any kind of a right to do things to you without your prior consent or willing participation.

It is not your fault.

And this, this right here, is what infuriates me about purity culture and the purity movement: there is no concept of consent, of healthy sexuality in which people are willing participants. When it is a culture of no, saying yes once is read as saying yes every time. When you live in a culture of no, figuring out the line between consent and lack of it can be extremely hard to delineate.

By placing this statement about sexual harassment alongside the regrets of those who willingly participated in sexual activity and now regret it, Lifeway (the producer of the video) is sending the message that sexual harassment can make you impure, that your consent does not matter, that you don’t even have to be a willing participant to feel bad about being impure. It reinforces victim blaming. It creates an unhealthy culture unable to recognize harassment, assault, and rape. And it is wrong.