Purity – A good thing or a little bit weird?

 

 

This week channel 4 are showing a documentary about one of the 'Purity Balls' that are springing up around the US. It intrigued me so I thought I'd read up a bit about and having done so, to decide whether this movement is a genuine urge from parents to protect their daughter from going off the rails or a desperate attempt to retain control of them in a world where young girls don't stay young for as long as they did in their parent's generation.

From what I can see, the argument is that the bible laid the responsibility of taking care of a daughter on her father and so it is up to her father to ensure she remains pure for the man she marries. They also claim it is keeping their daughter pure in a world that is tainted. To an extent I can see the point, the world can be a dark place and protecting a child is surely a natural instinct but I'm also sceptical.

One article I looked at was this one. In it the father of an 11 year old girl says "It sounds unrealistic in our day and age, it's not the exact path I went down personally, but if it can work, how cool would it be to say I've been kissed by one man in my life? How special, how cherished, how set apart? Why not shoot for the fairytale?". Firstly he is openly admitting that he wasn't prepared to take this path, he didn't save himself purely for the woman who would one day become his wife but yet he is asking an 11 year old to pledge to do just that. 11 is young, at 11 you aren't yet rebellious, you still want to please and personally I believe it is too young to ask a girl to make a pledge that she may have to stick to for ten years or more. Secondly, I don't believe that only kissing one boy in your entire life makes you any more cherished than anyone else. You still have the same chance of marrying someone who turns out be a complete swine and who has the ability to make you feel 2 inches tall, probably even more so because if you haven't even kissed him it's doubtful you've lived with him and it's not till you live with someone that the moths come out of the cupboard.

The Purity Ball was set up by Randy Wilson of the New Life Church in Colerado. His belief is that "if girls get assurance about their beauty from their father they won't need to go outside the home to find out from other men. The father, he is convinced, is everything to a young girl.". Well yes, it's true that girls will always be special to their fathers. Despite the fact that my dad and me swear like troopers at each other and mock each other mercilessly, everyone knows that I'm still Daddy's Girl. My best friend is the same (although her family swear a lot less). However I believe that there are some things that are not the role of a father and deciding a husband, fulfilling all but the sexual roles of a boyfriend and deciding for a girl whether she will or she won't be taking the abstinence path are 3 that should not be done by daddy. Getting involved with boys, be it romantically or not, is part of growing up, it teaches you how to deal with the attentions of men, it teaches you how to interact, it teaches you to look out from behind the safety of your family and see the world, to take your first peek at the good things and the bad things that might be waiting out there. Getting your heart broken by some pimply little squirt whose name and face you won't recall in 5 years time is a rite of passage that most girls go through and I think should be a girl's decision whether she wants to experience these everyday teenage dramas, not her father's. Randy's daughter married the first man she had ever dated. She had known him for 8 weeks when they got engaged, their engagement was 6 months long and for 5 of them he was away with the military. They didn't kiss or even hold hands until they got married. Personally, I think that's bloody weird.

To be honest it would never have worked in our house anyway, from the age of about 12 onwards I would rather have removed my spleen with a rusty teaspoon than discuss sex with my dad, the very thought of him having any input into my sex life would have had me running screaming for the hills but that's just our family I guess. Maybe some teenage girls are less awkward than me but even if I hadn't been that way it wouldn't have happened because my dad was a believer in letting me make my own mistakes and decisions. Sure, my parents advised me, they had boundaries and limits but they wanted me to discover life for myself and this is my main issue with the Purity movement, is the decision to take the path of abstinence the decision of the girl or her father? Nine times out of ten it appears to be his and she goes along with it because young girls look up to their dad and want them to be proud. It must be hard being a father because at some point you know that you won't be the centre of your little girl's world anymore, another man will come along and take that place. These Purity fathers seem to me to be trying to hold on to their children, to keep control of them for longer than they would be able to under normal circumstances, they seem to want to delay the moment of losing their place for as long as possible.

So, I'll be watching the programme tomorrow to see if it tells whether it tells me anything I didn't know or whether it confirms my suspicions. Who knows, perhaps it'll change my perspective and show me that in a chaotic world this is the way forward but to be honest it'd have to contain some pretty compelling evidence to convince me that Purity Balls and all the related pledges are anything more weirdness and control freakery.  
 

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10 Responses

  1. I've only read about the programme and the odd article about it here and there so it will be interesting to watch. I agree with your take on it though – I grew up in a very protective Greek household where the only males I was familiar with were family members, plus I went to an all girls school, so my contact with males outside of my family before university was severely limited. It made being at a university with a ratio of 1 girl to 4 men excrutiating and I think definitely affected my ability to be around men for a very long time after that. I totally get that gut feeling to protect your child as much as possible and think that I'll have a constant battle with wanting to completely protect my kids to allowing them the independence necessary to have experiences that allow them to grow up into rounded, savvy adults.

  2. I went to all girls school as well and what I noticed was that a lot of the girls who were the most tightly controlled were the most rebellious, I suppose because they had more to kick against. I imagine that if I was a parent I'd struggle to let go too but I don't think that this obsession with keeping girls away from boys and making so sure that they never have ANY variety of encounter is healthy. Also, if they are never allowed control of any aspect of their life, how are they going to learn to stand on their own 2 feet?

  3. [esto es genial]

  4. The programme is on tomorrow so once I've seen I'll update with my thoughts but I can't imagine I'm going to see it as anything other than adult manipulation of children to satisfy their own feelings and fears.

  5. Purity Balls appear to me to be another way for men to control women, and women to think that their value is their body and nothing else.

  6. [esto es genial]

  7. Honestly, I'm always boggled by people who say that kids "grow up too
    fast" now. The average age for marriage (for women, anyway) is higher
    now than pretty much ever and teen pregnancy (and teen abortion) is
    down. Obviously I don't want my daughter to go out screwing like a
    rabbit in heat when she's 15 but I had sex at a young age (not with
    lots of people though, haha) and I think I turned out okay. They should
    be teaching their daughters to make smart decisions FOR THEMSELVES.
    What if a girl kisses a boy when she is 16 after she has vowed not to?
    Then she's got the guilt of breaking that promise on top of all the
    regular crazy issues that teens have got to deal with. It'

  8. I've not seen it yet. I set my DVD recordy thing to record it because I was out that evening. Unfortunately my hair straighteners tripped the power and I didn't realise until I got home so it didn't tape. Bloody technology. I'm now going to have to try and work out how to use the Channel 4 'On Demand' thing so I can watch it online.

  9. Not related to purity or anything much, but I seem to have been drinking from a ranting stream lately and I'm rather proud of this one: http://brennigjones.com/blog/?p=721 đŸ™‚

  10. You still have the same chance of marrying someone who turns out be a complete swine and who has the ability to make you feel 2 inches tall, probably even more so because if you haven't even kissed him it's doubtful you've lived with him and it's not till you live with someone that the moths come out of the cupboard.
    I have seen it happen. Also, New Life Church is another fundamentalist church, very near to Ted Haggart's former church if anyone remembers him. (I'm not gay,Gays are evil. I just have sex with male prostitutes…")

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