Many people have heard of the Rice Purity test. It is a self-graded survey that attempts to assess one’s supposed purity or innocence in matters related to sex, drugs, encounters with the law, and other “naughty” activities. It is graded on a 0-100 scale, with 0 being the least pure and 100 the most. Questions start relatively innocently, asking questions like, “Danced without leaving room for Jesus?” and “Been in a relationship?” It then segues into slightly more sexual questions, like masturbation and fondling of a member of the preferred sex’s (MPS) bodies. The farther down you get, the more immoral the questions become. For example, questions 45-65 intensify from asking about drinking alcohol in a non-religious context to getting convicted of a felony. The test then transitions into explicitly sexual questions. In fact, question 69 just has a question mark. The last 5-10 questions are obviously the most questionable, ranging from anal sex to bestiality.
This test was created by Rice University in an attempt to gauge how much college students mature their freshman year. It is encouraged during Rice’s Orientation week as a bonding experience among new students. The original version created in 1924 was only given to women. Many more versions have been created over the years, each more risqué than the last. The test has warped and changed with the times, now offering a wider variety of activities than it did in 1924, but the general message stays the same. It intends to gauge purity and assigns a dehumanizing number to those who take it.
The Rice Purity Test might seem like a harmless little quiz one might take at a sleepover, giggling, and sharing stories. However, the effects of such a test are widespread. The test ingrains into its subjects that a lower score makes one less pure, meaning that someone more sexually experienced is inherently immoral and promiscuous. It reiterates the age-old slut-shaming messages that women have been subject to for centuries. Women with scores in the 60s or below are seen as dirty and used, whereas women with scores in the 90s are too angelic and need to “lighten up and let their hair down a little.” Most offensive is the fact that people’s complex lives and experiences are reduced to a number.
I first took the Rice Purity test at an academic summer camp in the summer before my senior year of high school. I was more experienced than some, but I was still mostly pure, at a score of 75. Now, as a freshman in college, my score is 52. Like most first-year college students, being away from my parents has allowed me to branch out and have new experiences. But just because I have ticked off a few more boxes than someone else does not mean that I am less pure, less worthy, less anything. I refuse to be judged by a misogynistic numerical system created to humiliate women for their sexual experiences.