Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Freedom of Choice, Freedom of Voice - How "Purity Balls" Inhibit Both

When reading this article, which is an excerpt from Jessica Valenti’s book The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, I was baffled by the mention of a recent phenomenon called “purity balls”. Started by a Christian pastor and his wife, Randy and Lisa Wilson in 1998, they have since become quite popular, with 1,400 purity balls held in 2006. These ceremonies integrate the notion/promise that “True Love Waits” with Daddy-Daughter Dances.

The purity ball is a formal affair. The fathers pledge to protect their daughters’ purity, and, in turn, promise to be men of integrity. The daughters, however, make no verbal commitment; they sign the pledges, and lay down a white rose as a symbol of their commitment.

I am bothered by the fact that the young women don’t verbally pledge their dedication to chastity at the purity ball. It reeks of a “women should be seen, not heard” mentality.

Jennifer Baumgardner attended one of these purity balls and wrote an article entitled “Would You Pledge Your Virginity to Your Father?”. She says of the young women who participate: “These are girls who may never find out what it means to make decisions without a man involved, to stand up for themselves, to own their own sexuality”. Part of growing up and becoming an adult is exploring one’s identity, and part of exploring one’s identity is developing and defining one’s sexuality. If your father signs a purity pledge which can only be “broken” by your husband, where is there room to create and shape your own sexual identity?

Choosing to wait until marriage to have sex is a fine choice, if it is indeed based in an individual woman’s choice. Young women should be given room to make those decisions themselves, and be free to form their own sexual identities. Fathers should not strip young women of their voices and agency as they develop their sexual identities.


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