Feminism | Posted by Danielle B on 09/13/2010

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

purity ring

purity ring

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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  • Anna @ at 11:34 am, September 13th, 2010

    As a young, feminist, Christian pastor, I find the idea of purity balls revolting for most of the same reasons you do.

    The one issue I have is that not all of Christianity (read: Christians) view sex as the antithesis of purity. I believe that sex is a beautiful and wonderful (and really enjoyable) thing, that women should choose for themselves with the opinions of their fathers aside.

    I hate (yes, HATE) that a large portion of Christians tell young people that sex before marriage is dirty and condemnable, but as soon as you get married, it transforms into this fabulously perfect experience. What about the women who have sex before marriage and LOVE it… or what about women who find themselves in marriages where the sex is terrible?

    Oh I could write a book…

    But as a Christian leader, I am working as hard as I can to change not only the way that Christians view sex, but also the way people other than Christians think Christians view sex.

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 11:49 am, September 13th, 2010

    Well, first of all, I would have to ask whether or not the girl is consenting to this “Purity Ball.” Because believe it or not, there are some girls that are totally into broadcasting their virginity all over the place. Believe me, I used to be one of them. And while the concept now makes me gag to think about, about six years ago I would have been all gung-ho to have a big party in which I publicly declared my intent to remain pure and had my father declare his intent to help me in that endeavor. If a girl is choosing this route, I see creepy symbolism but still a choice.

    As for the age of the girls, you’re assuming a rather outdated average age for puberty. It used to be considered “normal” for a girl to hit puberty about age fourteen, and sometimes as late as sixteen. Now, though, girls can start puberty at pretty much any age after five. It’s not that uncommon for a girl to have hit puberty at age eight.

    Still, I’m in basic agreement with you on most of this. The concept of purity balls (heh heh) seems to indicate a strong desire to cling to old-fashioned systems of morality and romance that just don’t exist anymore. What’s next, marriage arrangement parties?

  • Liz @ at 3:11 pm, September 13th, 2010

    My friend’s friend’s parents made her go to purity classes or something when she was in high school and when it came time to order the ring, she made sure to order it about 5 sizes too big so that she wouldn’t ever have to wear it.

    Too creepy.

  • Katherine C. @ at 4:15 pm, September 13th, 2010

    Nice breakdown!

  • Sarah @ at 7:29 pm, September 13th, 2010

    Vomit. My virginity is nobody’s business but my own, and I sure as hell am NOT gonna broadcast whether or not my hymen is in tact. Purity balls (chuckle) are a bad idea all around, I can’t believe they still have such a strong holding with people. They’re creepy, and just…ick. That is all.

  • Ryan @ at 12:20 am, September 14th, 2010

    Virginity and female selectivity of who she has sex with was from a time when exclusive access to her was sanctified by marriage. This is no longer the case. In matriarchy it is not uncommon to not know who the father is. Such is the case in the matriarchal black community where 70% of all births are to single women.

    If a woman sleeps with many men it means she has little standard as to who she sleeps with. Naturally women are more selective. I think less of a woman who is indiscriminent as to who she has sex with, I think most men do.

    However these things are of little consequence to men in a matriarchy as long as men refuse to have paternal investment in the offspring. Accordingly, males do not engage in paternal investment in all known matriarchies in human society and in nature. The propensity fades away. Likewise marriage is on a drastic decline. The U.S. now has a 40% single woman birth rate.

    The best thing men can do is withdraw from commitment to women and their offspring. Withdraw from chivalry and the old social contract. Independence for men is independence from female dependency. This will make females truly independent and self supporting as they promised they could be.

    Under the matriarchal paradigm men really don’t care how many men you have slept with, we have no reason to care.

  • Ren @ at 1:31 am, September 14th, 2010

    As a Christian, it saddens me that this has become what it is. If it wasn’t clear enough, we Christians are an imperfect people, and one of the things we as a group tend to mess up on is getting caught up in our own christian ritual fads.

    I haven’t done a large amount of of research on purity rings, but I do know this didn’t exist during my parent’s teen years, and in fact my peers and I at my christian college have almost unanimously expressed distaste for it.

    I’m sure someone thought it would be sweet and good, and it snowballed, and became gradually more extravagant and, consequently, more obviously sexist. While I could probably talk for hours about how I don’t think my religion is inherently sexist, and is in a lot of ways the opposite, it’s also the case that Christians do mess up, and they are not exempt from doing bad things. Sexism is a trap that far too many Christian groups fall into.

  • goldsmith @ at 2:57 am, September 14th, 2010

    I think that it’s all about happieness. Fathers want their daughters be happy. When fathers were young and stupid, they used to try to seduce girls to have sex. Now as they are big and wise they still remember how they related to each other with those girls. And so fathers naturally don’t want the same type of relationships to repeat in their daughter’s life ever. Fathers do want their kids to be happy. They do understand that now their kid is way to stupid to even cope with her own desires. So fathers try to make new ways to make their daughters value virginity.

    Ofcourse, in some cases egoistic motives may prevail in fathers’ behavior. But in most cases that’s love and it’s all for the sake of the child’s happiness.

    You stick to this idea of purity ring? It’s just a game for themselves. But the meaning for everyone is different. All people are different. So don’t make big judgemental generalizations like you do.

  • Jane @ at 5:37 am, September 14th, 2010

    Okay, just to clarify, have there been cases where a non-heterosexual girl or someone who doesn’t necessarily fit into the the common mold as most of the girls who go to these balls has been discriminated against?
    Or was that just your opinion?
    I thought that angle was interesting, and wanted to find more information aobut that.
    Oh, and I’m a Christian, and although others may believe otherwise, but I don’t think one is punished for having premarital sex. I think God would want us to save it for marriage, but wouldn’t PUNISH us if we didn’t, besides, all the verses from the Bible that “supposedly” condemn premarital sex, but those verses I interpret differently. I agree with you on the part that we shouldn’t offer sex education (if this is education at all) just on abistinence. (Like at my CHristian school.

  • Anastasia @ at 8:10 am, September 14th, 2010

    If girls are apparently too immature to be having sex, how come they’re considered old enough to make decisions about their future sex lives? Hmm…
    Ryan, this has nothing to do with matriarchal society, and everything to do with people viewing non-virginal, unmarried girls and women as ‘damaged goods’ or ‘impure’.

  • Nyxerebos @ at 3:56 pm, September 14th, 2010

    Novelty product idea: vibrating purity balls. In stainless steel or silver with ‘Jesus is love’ or your choice of bible verse engraved on the side.

    For an extra ten dollars: vibrating purity balls you can brush your teeth with (batteries not included).

  • Natalia @ at 2:26 am, September 16th, 2010

    What the hell is so great about being a virgin anyway? It adds to sexual frustration in the end. Young girls are only getting married now to have sex! Really sad actually. I’m too tired to keep writing. You guys get my idea. Love the post!

  • laura @ at 12:50 pm, September 16th, 2010

    I think that going as far as the purity balls if the girl wants to do it, then so be it. If you are judging it, then it’s exactly like you saying “why should anyone care about my virginity” you’re doing the exact same. And for the Christian pastor up there no one said sex was a bad thing God created it and it’s natural, it’s human…but are you really agreeing that sex before marriage is good? If you are an adult or even a Pastor then you know what risks go with sex before marriage and what the Bible says about it. I just think that yes VIRGINITY is everyone’s own choice, and to some it is very special to give to one’s husband once they’re married. So please don’t bash what’s important to some just because you think it creates a double standard…because if you hadn’t noticed you’re creating one too.

  • Natasha @ at 1:22 am, September 17th, 2010

    Anna i loved your comment! I am a christian feminist and it’s great to hear another christian who sees how messed up purity balls are. I had a teacher at a christian school who told me I’d go to heck if i ever had sex outside of marriage, no exceptions, no forgiveness no matter how repentant i might be. I just don’t believe that could be true though it was really scary that day!

    Plus, in biblical times, I’m
    pretty sure people married young, they didn’t spend time dating and it’s only in recent history that teenagers are actually given more time to grow up before they get married. So it’s really unrealistic to put all this pressure on young women to wait until marriage, especially if you find the person you want to be married to, but you want to wait about seven years before you actually get married, what do you do then as a christian?! And the idea that a teenage girl’s virginity isn’t hers, but her father’s, so obnoxious.

    This to me actually feels the same as slut-shaming in the way that people feel the right to dominate a woman’s sexual choices which seems to be the same way with sexual objectification (just on the opposite end of the spectrum.) It always comes back to the same thing, in my opinion, controlling a woman’s choices and body.

  • Marie @ at 10:49 pm, September 23rd, 2010

    TRUE LOVE WAITS

  • firefly @ at 9:28 pm, October 13th, 2010

    The subtle implications, the fact that the girls are passed from fathers to husbands, the sometimes fanaticism-it all freaks me out, especially the fact that…the father is taking control of his daughter’s sex life. Creepy.

  • Jazzi @ at 8:58 pm, February 10th, 2011

    @The Raisin Girl: The issue of consent is a valid one, but I tend to disagree with your viewpoint on this issue.

    Can a girl of 10 really consent to abstinence until marriage? It seems to me that if she is too young to consent to sex, she is also too young to consent to abstain from sex for the foreseeable future.

    In addition, I think that the notion of consent in this situation is not as clean-cut as we would like to make it. Are girls who grow up in households where this sort of thing is encouraged (and potentially enforced, to whatever extent) consenting of their own free, unencumbered will, or rather in submission to internalized patriarchal values?

  • Amy CT @ at 11:56 am, April 12th, 2011

    …these things really exist?

  • Catelyn @ at 9:44 pm, June 8th, 2011

    You rock Danielle! I feel that I don’t need a symbol (such as a ring) saying that I will keep my virginity until I am married. I didn’t know there were such balls even for guys. Thank you for enlightening me more on this subject.

  • Kelsey @ at 3:54 pm, July 11th, 2011

    I’m a Christian and sex should never be viewed as an unforgivable sin, but it is still a sin. Christians are not perfect, and that’s why Jesus died on the cross so our sins CAN be forgiven, not to be punished – that is wrong.
    I have never heard of purity balls before, I’m still not sure about my opinion on it though.

  • Patty @ at 1:32 pm, February 8th, 2012

    Did I read correctly? Is the ring presented by the father and then stashed away until marriage? Interesting metaphor, there, huh? No phallic object shall poke through the hole until the husband’s phallus does? Also, when I read “purity balls”, I thought it had something to do with testicular cleansing. Goes to show how much I know about such rituals…

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