There has been a good deal of empirical social scientific research that has addressed the theme of purity and has indicated its social importance. However, few theoretical resources are available to scholars that explicitly attempt to analyse purity, in addition to Mary Douglas's structural-functionalist model. This model has many insights, but is not well adapted to considering issues of subjectivity or social power in contemporary Western societies. This article will attempt to take some steps towards filling this gap. It will be claimed that, through the way they appeal to an imputed essence and origin, purity discourses are often complicit in the consecration and occlusion of relations of power and processes of subjectivation. The argument will focus in particular on the operation of purity discourses in the discursive construction and practical negotiation of female adolescence.