Purity Balls: Why is our viriginity anybody's business but our own?

I’d be surprised if this is your first time hearing about

Purity Balls. The issue has been beaten to death - both by Christian conservatives who think they’re the keenest thing since toilet paper, and liberals like myself who think they’re a huge infringement on the rights of young girls - but if this truly is your first time hearing the (slightly suggestive) term, let me explain:

Purity Balls are pretty much like weddings. They’re held in big, fancy hotels with elegant finger foods, butlers with bad comb-overs, and the occasional violinist in the corner. But instead of a bride and groom coming together to pronounce their love to the world, the fathers and daughters attending these things make vows of their own. In well-rehearsed, cult-like chanting, the daughters promise to stay “pure” (i.e. abstinent) until marriage, and their fathers promise to help protect said purity. As an added bonus, sometimes the fathers give their daughters purity rings, or more disturbingly, keys (to their virginity) that can be stashed away until their future husbands come along.

I think wanting to save yourself for marriage is extremely commendable - and smart on some levels - but I just can’t get past how Purity Balls take notions of celibacy to the extreme. Here’s my beef:

1) I don’t like that in the Christian view “sex” is seen as the antithesis of “purity” and "righteousness." That makes it sound like all girls (yes, only girls ) who have pre-marital relations are dirty, unwholesome, and unjust - sinful people who should be punished. Whether parents like to admit it or not, this is a new era and kids are "gettin' jiggy with it" much earlier in life. Do I think that's okay? No. But having a hateful you're-going-to-Hell-if-you-do-this attitude isn't going to help anything. We should teach kids the truth about sex and its consequences, not automatically slap "I'm Abstinent" stickers on their foreheads.

2) It kind of freaks me out that girls as young as ten (and in some cases, way younger) are attending these things. Girls that young haven’t even experienced puberty - or any of the sexual urges that go along with it - so how could they fully understand the concept of abstinence (or sex, for that matter)? Their parents are making decisions for them before they’ve lived long enough to understand their situation.

3) These dads aren't giving their "little darlings" enough credit. If you watch a lot of the videos and documentaries on this subject, you'll see that most of the fathers have very skewed ideas of what it means to be a "little girl." They basically think that all young women are self-conscious until their fathers step in and tell them how beautiful they are - one man was even quoted saying “females were created to feel accepted by men,” and “even though we want to think we’re the same, we are different . . . A woman needs to feel loved and accepted by her father. She was created by God to feel that.” Heck, fathers should compliment their daughters (and sons). Not because we're delicate little things that need constant reassurance, but because that's what familydoes. (And another thing, what's with all the emphasis on "beauty"? I don't know about you, but I'd rather be praised for my smarts or kick-butt nunchuck skills . . . )

4) Last time I checked, I’m not carrying a club or wearing a leopard-skin loin cloth. So that must mean we’re past the age where “fathers own their daughters until they can be passed onto a husband.” But that’s exactly what’s going on here! These fathers are assuming their daughters are too "emotional" and "irrational" to make their own decisions, so they have to "take control" until another man comes along. Is that a huge insult or what?

5) Purity Balls exclusively promote "heteronormativity." I can't imagine a bi- or homosexual girl walking in with confidence to one of those things, and that is discrimination.

6) Purity Balls are sexist and promote a ridiculous double-standard. They’re meant for fathers and theirdaughters - because it’s crucial that we protect girls’ virginities at all costs. But what about young boys? Why aren’t people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure their sons stay pure until marriage? Well, this is going to blow your mind, but there are balls for sons and their mothers. But instead of promoting purity for themselves, the boys are told to “refrain from soiling girls' virginities."

Here's a barf-bag. You might need it.

I guess I just don’t understand why our virginity has to be anybody’s business but our own, or why (as women) it’s completely tied to our worth as people. It’s a horrible double-standard that’s almost completely irrelevant in this day and age.

Danielle blogs about this and other teen feminist issues at her own blog, Experimentations of a Teenage Feminist.

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Danielle B
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