Purity: Male Entitlement

Reading Purity in the wake of everything that is happening in the media and the news over sexual assault/harassment allegations made me examine certain scenes in more depth than I might have before.  For instance, Pip, the heroine, remarks that the only reason that Igor hasn’t fired her yet was because he wanted to sleep with her, yet she is more worried about how she would be embarrassed by the encounter because he was handsome and wealthy. Later on, there’s a scene where he flirts with her for fun and he clarifies that he only did it for fun, but that he was happily married. Regardless of Pip’s own insecurities and issues, the framing of this thought is troublesome because of the power dynamic it lies in, where Igor is in a position of power over Pip as her employer.  On another note, Martin and Annagret’s relationship seems to use misogyny as a funny point, where Martin’s hang ups over Annagret having female friends is used as an excuse for Martin to watch porn, and while it is viewed humorously in the text, the act of blaming the woman for a man’s actions made me uncomfortable. While these are only a few scenes and don’t take into account the eccentricity of the individual characters, it was interesting to note how differently such scenes reflected in context of the news happening right now.

2 thoughts on “Purity: Male Entitlement

  1. I couldn’t agree more! And this got even worse in the next section of the book. Andreas’s justifications of his sexual actions are so twisted, and the abuse scenes with Horst were extremely disturbing. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the way so many of these characters – both men and women – think about women, sex, and love. If the current media coverage doesn’t make it clear that we are living in rape culture, then reading novels like this does. Franzen demonstrates the sick ways that women are objectified and dehumanized in men’s minds, such as in Andreas’s “coitus ledger,” in which the women he’s slept with are reduced to numbers. As Eri notes, Andreas claims male entitlement to sleeping with these women (or, more often, girls): “he felt entitled to the one small luxury that his vestigial privileges afforded” (84). Similarly, his “pussycentrism” and ethic of conquest is extremely disturbing, especially in an extremely well-educated and privileged man whose job is to council at-risk youth. Depictions of this way of thinking about women make us extremely uncomfortable, but they are essential in helping us understand how “heroes” and “good guys” (Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K.) nonetheless participate in rape culture.


  2. I too was struck by the disturbing depictions of women, sex, and love. As Morgan wrote,” If the current media coverage doesn’t make it clear that we are living in rape culture, then reading novels like this does” and I could not agree more. The second part of Purity is driven by sex either directly or indirectly. Andreas’ whole being seems to be constantly fighting and accepting his sexual desires. His relationship with young women, all 53 of them, is complex and central to his character as a counselor for “out risk youth.” I agree with both Eri and Morgan that current media is thriving by covering alleged sexual assault and sexual abuse. In ways, it is because of the media that sexual assault and rape has become popularized (for the better?). This mass coverage is hopefully spreading awareness and hammering the point that sexual abuse is prevalent in our society and should no longer be swept under the rug. This leads me to question the role of Franzen’s novel as possibly another platform to showcase the disturbing problems in our society. As explained by Time Magazine, “Jonathan Franzen shows us how we live” and his sex driven character’s in Purity do just that.


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