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Russell Brand: Sexual Freedom and Purity Obsession

Updated on April 14, 2015
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I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.

Russell Brand

By Brian Solis - - (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Brian Solis - - (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Russell Brand is an English comedian whose fame in the U.S. became prevalent after hosting the MTV Video Music Awards in 2008. Many of his remarks about issues going on in the states caused controversy, but not many bothered to explore his reasons behind them. One of the most well-known comments he made was about the Jonas Brothers' chastity rings. Well-versed in Michel Foucault, Russell saw a connection between the impact of the purity rings on the American public, and Foucault's theories on sexuality in the Victorian era.

Purity/Chastity Ring

Rlmabie at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
Rlmabie at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons | Source

Purity/Chastity/Promise Rings

A chastity ring or purity ring is part of the Christian movement of chastity. The wearer of the ring takes a vow to refrain from any sexual activity until the ring comes off, and is replaced with a wedding ring. This serves as a reminder of the vow to God to stay a virgin until after the wedding.

Do/Would you wear a purity ring?

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The Victorian Era and Foucault's "The Repressive Hypothesis"

Sexuality was forbidden in Victorian society: The way sex was talked about had to be monitored, wardrobe covered most of the body to avoid suggestion, and so on. In The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault's "The Repressive Hypothesis" theorizes that because sex was always under observation by authority it was always on everyone's mind; therefore, rather than convincing society not to think about it the opposite was accomplished.

"...Michel Foucault who said in Victorian society the repression of sexuality was just another way of bringing sexuality to the forefront of our consciousnesses..."

- Russell Brand, Russell Brand in NYC

Jonas Brothers at the Grammy Auction in February 2009
Jonas Brothers at the Grammy Auction in February 2009 | Source

By the Jonas Brothers wearing a ring symbolizing virginity it causes them, and the public, to think more on the topic of sex. While wearers of chastity rings are trying to make a statement about their lack of sexuality they are also adding to society's curiosity in their sex lives as well as thinking more frequently about their own sexual choices or lack their of.

Do you agree with purity rings?

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" saying that the Jonas Brothers are virgins, you can't help but think about them having sex: 'The Jonas Brothers are not having sex. The Jonas Brothers are not having sex. The Jonas Brothers are not having sex.'..."

- Russell Brand, Russell Brand in NYC

"Russell Brand in NYC - Death Threats" [6:15 - Jonas Brothers & Michel Foucault]

"'s not bad to wear a promise ring because not everybody -- guy or girl -- wants to be a slut."

- Jordin Sparks, VMAs 2008

Jordin Sparks was also at the Video Music Awards, and is a promise ring wearer. When she went on stage, she defended the choice of wearing a purity ring. Her opinion of being in favor of promise rings is acceptable; however, her defense was offensive because it implied that anyone who does not wear a promise ring or does not choose celibacy is a "slut." Russell Brand used this in his stand-up in 2009 by pointing out how this labels anyone who has sex, for any reason, to be a prostitute.

Purity Balls

A common ceremony for young girls being given purity rings is called a "Purity Ball." In the ceremony, fathers take their daughters, walk them down an aisle, and give them a ring. The girls vow to remain virgins for their fathers. To those involved it seems a beautiful event; to others it's disturbing. A young girl usually doesn't have plans for her sex life because she isn't thinking about it, yet; therefore, to reenact something as serious as a wedding, to their own father, can be interpreted as nothing more than a control method, and symbolic incest.

Everyone makes mistakes in life; however, fathers are so terrified of their daughters being in charge of their own bodies that they would rather make the decisions for them. While in their minds this may be "the best solution" it doesn't help them as much as oppress them. What may seem to be the wrong choice for one person, may be the right choice for another. The issue here is that they are not actually given a choice. They are manipulated into following their father's.

Dating As Experience

People learn through human interaction with more than one person. One does not need to sleep with every significant other to be in a relationship. A relationship is about the connection and the way both people are treated. These girls are not being given an opportunity to learn about the reality of human relationships because they have been limited to one -- their father. They are being taught that imperfect relationships happen because of the physical aspects of a relationship occurring before marriage; rather than because people change, nobody is perfect, some deceive, etc. It sets their hopes so high on their husband that once they start to learn how complicated relationships truly are with those who aren't their fathers they will be devastated, and probably blame themselves -- not to mention they'll be trapped in an unhappy marriage.

Do you think purity rings are successful in their purpose?

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One can make the connection between this ceremony, and actual weddings in places such as Africa and Afghanistan where child brides are common. Some may see this as a jump, but the message for young girls is the same: your body is the property of your father. Neither of these lifestyles gives young girls the option to make their own choices about their own bodies. In fact, it leaves them entirely unprepared for the world because they haven't even begun to understand their own sexuality.

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