Purity's a Ball!

I caught a show on Vision TV last night about Purity Balls. In case you've never heard of this phenomenon, Purity Balls are gala events, usually put on by Christian churches and organizations, in which girls pledge to remain abstinent until they're married. A particular feature of the Purity Ball is that the girls attend with their father who also makes a pledge to her to be her authority and protector. The girls actually makes the pledge to their fathers and to God.

Okay, I am totally on board with everyone's right to have their own values around sex. Some people believe that sex should be reserved only for marriage. I don't believe that but I don't have a beef with it. But I think this whole thing is completely messed up.

First of all, the condescending sexism is so blatant, it makes me nauseous. Why are fathers authorities over their daughters? If you believe that parents are authorities over their children, where are the mothers? Why is just the dads? Why on earth should a girl have to make a pledge to her father about her sex life? It's really none of his business. And where the hell are the boys? These things are for girls only. Do boys not have to pledge to preserve their purity? Why don't they take their mothers to dances and pledge before them to remain abstinent? Apparently it's only the girls that have to be pure.

It's a throwback to a much older time when women really were considered property. The father is the guardian of that property and ensures that it's not spoiled. In this video, which shows the actual pledge. The girl says that she is waiting until she 'gives herself to her husband'. So here's my question about that - are women simply things to be given away? And is her virginity, her sexuality the whole of her so that when she 'gives that away' she is also 'giving herself'? Some serious questions here that I don't think these girls have a chance to really look at.

The other thing is that this is all just ever-so-slightly creepy and incestuous. It feels a lot like boundaries are being crossed here. I just don't think a Dad should have his nose so deeply embedded in his children's sexuality. yes, it's a great thing for parents and kids to talk about sex but I don't think kids actually owe their parents information. They shouldn't be obligated to stay 'pure'.

They seem to focus a lot on the fact that girl's need positive attention from their fathers and that this ball is a great way to do that. She gets to feel special and she gets the undivided attention of her dad. That's great. But why do these too have to be combined? Is pledging not to have sex the only way for her to get attention from her Dad?

One of the men in this video claims that girls who have strong relationships with their fathers don't need attention from men. Hmmm.......that sounds all nice and good on the surface. It's a little myth we all like to believe. "The reason I so f'd up about men is because my Daddy never loved me." But think about that one a little more - what he's really saying is that the only reason girls have boyfriends and have sex is because they need male attention. Did it ever occur to this guy and girls need sex too? They do! Sex is a biological need and women have it just as much as men. We don't just want attention from guys, a lot of us want some action too! But I guess we're supposed to believe that women are not sexual and have sex only because it's part of the deal of being married and that's the way to get a baby.

The show that I watched last night put these events in a positive light, listing all of the many great things that girls and families get from it - a sense of purpose, support, feeling special and loved - but noted there is no proof that the purity balls actually work in delaying the age of first sex. But there's where it's wrong. There is proof. A 2005 study of 12,000 teens found that those who took abstinent pledges participated in vaginal sex later than those who did not, BUT they were much more likely to participate in anal sex and oral sex than those who did not take a pledge. There were also much less likely to use condoms, resulting in STI rates almost exactly the same as non-pledging teens. Perhaps they need to have a 'terms' section of the pledge that defines exactly what sex is. Oh wait, that's not possible, because the word 'sex' is never used in the pledge.

This is the main thing that drives me crazy about this whole thing. There's a massive public event focused on pressuring girls into not having sex, and yet I bet the vast majority of these families, even though they will participate in this public event, will not have a candid discussion with their children about what sex actually is and how it works. Some of the girls in the video look like their 9 or 10 years old. Do they have any real understanding of what they are agreeing too? Have they even start to have any real interest in sex? How can you say you'll never do something if you don't even know what that thing is? At 10, sex is icky! It seems like the most bizarre and disgusting thing anyone could ever do. At 16, not so much - it start to become pretty appealing. It's just not fair to make these girls pledge this so early. And if you're going to do that, then the terms should be spelled out - is a blowjob okay? is anal sex actually sex? can you even kiss? Just saying 'keep myself pure' doesn't do it because everyone thinks they're pure.

After the girls say their pledge, they get a ring symbolizing their pledge. On the show, it was tiara rather than a ring. This is a reminder of their pledge. I have a better idea. Instead of a ring, each girl should get a vibrator. That way, when she is 'tempted' she will have not only a reminder of her pledge, but a useful tool to help her stay abstinent.