The Rice Purity Test: A Deep Dive into Its History, Controversy, and Cultural Impact

Chances are you’ve encountered the viral “Rice Purity Test” at some point, a questionnaire that rates your supposed innocence by asking about your experiences. While it may seem like a harmless way to share stories …

rice purity

Chances are you’ve encountered the viral “Rice Purity Test” at some point, a questionnaire that rates your supposed innocence by asking about your experiences. While it may seem like a harmless way to share stories and experiences with friends, this viral phenomenon hides a troubling history steeped in sexism, racism, and other discriminatory ideologies. This article explores the origins, evolution, and current implications of the Rice Purity Test, examining its role in modern society and the controversies it has sparked.

The Origins of the Rice Purity Test

The Rice Purity Test was first introduced by Rice University in 1924. Originally, it consisted of only 10 questions and was administered strictly to female-identifying students. The questions, while seemingly straightforward, had underlying sexual undertones. For example, one of the original questions asked, “Have you ever done anything that you wouldn’t tell your mother?” This question, like many others, was designed to measure women’s “purity” at the university.

Early Reception and Gender Bias

After the first group of women took the survey, the average score was reported as 62. The university newspaper published an article titled, “Rice Girls Not Quite Half Bad,” which discussed how each grade of women scored and what that indicated about them. The article stated that freshmen “do come to college young and unsophisticated, and they become demoralized year by year.” This public scrutiny reinforced the idea that men could comment on and police the actions and choices of female students, thus perpetuating gender biases and the objectification of women.

Evolution and Expansion

By 1974, male students began taking the test as well, but the questions remained the same, rooted in harmful binary language regarding sex. The test became an integral part of Rice University’s orientation for freshman students. They wore their purity scores on their chests as part of a name tag, which became a method of public shaming and peer pressure.

The 1988 Version and Inclusion of Same-Sex Questions

In 1988, the test expanded to 150 questions, including queries about same-sex relationships. However, these questions were separate from opposite-sex ones, further isolating queer individuals. This separation implied that bisexual or non-heteronormative relationships were less “pure,” reinforcing negative stereotypes and further marginalizing the LGBTQIA+ community.

Inclusion of Questions about Crime and Systemic Racism

Following Rice University’s admission of students of color in 1963, the test incorporated questions about criminal activities. These included questions like, “Have you ever been arrested?” and “Have you ever had the police called on you?” For white participants, these questions may have seemed like a moral judgment, but for students of color, they highlighted systemic racism and discriminatory practices by law enforcement. This addition to the test perpetuated the notion that non-white individuals were inherently less “pure” due to systemic injustices.

The Rice Purity Test Today

The current version of the Rice Purity Test, accessible online, has not been updated since 2012. Despite its outdated content, the test continues to be a viral trend among teens and young adults globally. Although it presents itself as a fun way to get to know friends or partners, it carries deeply troubling implications that uphold sexism, racism, and oppressive moral puritanism.

Negative Implications and Controversy

The Rice Purity Test’s foundation is built on judging people’s “purity” and worth based on regressive ideals around gender, sexuality, and criminal justice. Reducing individuals to a number that supposedly reflects their life experiences promotes dangerous judgments, shames normal human behavior, and reinforces oppressive systems. Critics argue that it perpetuates purity culture and unhealthy self-judgment.

Defense and Popularity

Despite its controversies, some defend the Rice Purity Test as a harmless and fun way for students to learn about each other’s lives. They argue that it encourages introspection and deliberate decision-making by prompting participants to reflect on their experiences and compare them with others.

The Cultural Phenomenon of the Rice Purity Test

·       Social Media and Modern Use

In the digital age, the Rice Purity Test has become a cultural phenomenon, frequently shared on social media platforms. It has spawned various adaptations, including shorter or longer versions and questions tailored to specific populations. This widespread use underscores its impact and the way it resonates with modern audiences, despite its controversial roots.

·       The Role of Self-Reflection

One of the test’s more positive aspects is its potential to encourage self-reflection and good judgment. By answering the questions, individuals can evaluate their life choices and consider their future actions. This introspective process can be beneficial, fostering a sense of personal growth and understanding.

·       Peer Interaction and Community Building

The Rice Purity Test also serves as a social tool, allowing individuals to share their scores and experiences with peers. This interaction can build a sense of community and mutual understanding, as participants discuss their life choices and the reasoning behind them. However, it is crucial to approach these discussions with sensitivity and respect for diverse experiences.

Addressing the Controversies

·       Sexism and Gender Bias

The test’s origins in policing women’s behavior reflect deep-seated gender biases that persist today. Modern iterations of the test should be critically examined for language and implications that perpetuate sexism. Efforts to update and reform the test should focus on promoting gender equality and inclusivity.

·       Racism and Systemic Injustice

The inclusion of questions about criminal activities highlights systemic racism and the disproportionate impact of law enforcement on communities of color. Recognizing this bias is essential for understanding how the test can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and injustices. Reforming the test to eliminate these questions or contextualize them appropriately is a necessary step.

·       Inclusivity and LGBTQIA+ Representation

The separation of same-sex questions in the test’s history points to a broader issue of inclusivity and representation. Ensuring that the test respects and acknowledges diverse sexual orientations and identities without judgment is crucial. This change can help combat the marginalization of queer individuals and promote a more inclusive environment.

·       Moving Forward: A Call for Reevaluation

The Rice Purity Test, with its deeply rooted issues, requires a thorough reevaluation to align with modern values of equality and understanding. Here are some steps that can be taken to reform the test and its impact:

·       Updating the Questions

Revising the test to include questions that reflect contemporary values and experiences is essential. This update should focus on eliminating discriminatory language and concepts while promoting inclusivity and respect for diverse experiences.

·       Contextualizing Experiences

Providing context for the questions can help participants understand the broader societal implications of their experiences. For example, discussing systemic racism in relation to questions about criminal activities can foster awareness and empathy.

·       Promoting Healthy Conversations

Encouraging participants to engage in respectful and thoughtful discussions about their scores and experiences can help build a more understanding and supportive community. Facilitating these conversations with guidelines for sensitivity and respect is crucial.

·       Educating Participants

Offering educational resources alongside the test can help participants understand the historical context and potential implications of the questions. This approach can foster critical thinking and awareness of societal issues.


The Rice Purity Test has a complex history, marked by sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination. While it continues to be a popular social tool, it is essential to approach it with a critical and thoughtful mindset. By understanding its origins and implications, we can work towards reforming the test to promote equality, inclusivity, and respect for diverse experiences.

In an era where accessibility and immediacy are key, the Rice Purity Test’s continued popularity highlights the need for ongoing dialogue and reform. By addressing its controversies and promoting healthy conversations, we can ensure that it becomes a tool for self-reflection and personal growth rather than judgment and discrimination. We encourage readers to reflect on their experiences with the test, share their thoughts, and engage in discussions that foster understanding and equality.

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