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Related: asexuality - censorship - decency - hygiene - puritan - pure - Victorian morality - virginity

Contrast: free love - hedonism - nudity

In slasher films, the virginal girl who declines all of the vices survives.

"Sex hygiene" is contrasted with "false modesty" in this frontispiece to an early 20th century book. (click source link to enlarge)
Image sourced here.

A beach censor arresting two women in Chicago in 1922 for violating the laws concerning proper beach attire. The image comes from the collection at the University of California at Davis housing materials collected by the late Roland Marchand. The precise date and the original place of publication of the image are not available.
image sourced here.


A prude (Old French prude) [1] is a person who is described as being overly concerned with decorum or propriety. They may be perceived as being uncomfortable with sexuality, nudity, alcohol, drug use or mischief. It can also refer to a person that has little sexual experience, despite the fact they may want to engage in such behaviour.

The name is generally considered to mean excessive modesty, and hence unflattering, and is often used as an insult. A person who is considered a prude may have reservations about nudity, participating in romantic or sexual activity, drinking alcohol or consuming other drugs, or participating in mischief. These reservations may stem from shyness or strict moral beliefs. Actions or beliefs that may cause someone to be labeled a prude include advocating or practising abstinence, advocating prohibition, advocating censorship of sexuality or nudity in media, disapproval of being topless in public, avoiding or condemning displays of affection, or exhibiting unusual levels of discomfort with sexuality, alcohol, drugs, or mischief.

Like modesty, one's perceived prudishness may vary according to who is present.

Sexually repressed or sexually repressive are other terms used to describe people who might be labeled prudes. The term Puritan is sometimes used in the same way, reflecting the stereotype image of members of the Puritan religious sect. [1]

Word history

Being called a prude is rarely considered a compliment, but if we dig into the history of the word prude, we find that it has a noble past. The change for the worse took place in French. French prude first had a good sense, “wise woman,” but apparently a woman could be too wise or, in the eyes of some, too observant of decorum and propriety. Thus prude took on the sense in French that was brought into English along with the word, first recorded in 1704. The French word prude was a shortened form of prude femme (earlier in Old French prode femme), a word modeled on earlier preudomme, “a man of experience and integrity.” The second part of this word is, of course, homme, “man.” Old French prod, meaning “wise, prudent,” is from Vulgar Latin pr?dis with the same sense. Pr?dis in turn comes from Late Latin pr?de, “advantageous,” derived from the verb pr?desse, “to be good.” Despite this history filled with usefulness, profit, wisdom, and integrity, prude has become a term of reproach. --AHD

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