Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pure Enough?

When I was just a little El I read a magazine article about purity balls and purity rings. Now this was back in a time before I was more open and I was a lot more prudeish.  I used to be very against drinking, smoking, doing drugs, and underage sex. As I got older I stopped being such a stick in the mud and realized that just because I didn't want to do something didn't give me the right to judge everyone else. I realized that drinking, when done in moderation isn't terrible. Weed will not make me a monster and smoking, which I still don't want to do, isn't the be all end all of whether a person is acceptable. I was such a little hypocrite though. I didn't mind my parents having wine or beer, or smoking, and I knew my parents were not virgins when they married, so why did I apply those standards to myself and every other kid around me?

I'm not sure why, but my inner voice was a totally self-righteous dickwhistle back then.

Anyway when I was about 12 or so I read this article...and I wanted one. I wanted a purity ball, I wanted the rings and dancing and pretty dresses and lights. I didn't give much thought to the whole purity aspect of it. I just wanted all the bells and whistles.I love my father very much and I saw this ball as a glorified father daughter dance which, up until that point, I had never had. I excitedly told my father about it and he completely refused the idea. I was deflated and confused to say the least. He told me that it was a little bit creepy that these fathers were so overly involved with their daughters sexual development and that I didn't need to go around broadcasting my status as a virgin on my hand.

I thought about it and realized he was right, so I no longer wanted the ring. I grew up, still with strong morals. See I don't think it was bad per se that I wanted to keep myself free of things like alcohol and drugs. As a young teenager I knew what was and wasn't acceptable for me to be doing. As I grew I realized that all these things would need to be done when I felt ready for them, if I ever felt ready for them. When I became an adult I realized how crazy it had been for me to hold myself for so many years to the standards I set when I was twelve.

Honestly, how many of you have the exact same opinions as your pre-teen self? I'm going to hazard a guess at "not many."

Anyway, purity rings were the subject of this. I was watching Taboo the other day and the episode was on teen sex. One of the things profiled were purity balls. As I watched I had a completely stricken expression of disbelief. My father was absolutely right. This was creepy. Some of these girls were so young! How awful for them to grow up afraid to explore the sexuality because of a standard they set before they know themselves. I hardly knew myself at age 12. Every time I discovered something new that I liked or could do I felt great pride at learning more about who I was and who I hoped to become.

I was even more creeped out at the involvement of the fathers. It was downright unsettling. My parents have raised me to be a strong, independent, compassionate, and well educated young woman. My father has always been my biggest hero. Never once did my father make me feel like my mind and body were not my own. Never once did he make me feel like he owned me, like I was property. Never once did he make me feel that I was a fragile feminine creature that couldn't protect her own body and would need my father and my eventual husband to do all that for me. In fact my father taught me how to fight. My father taught me how to stand up for myself.

I wasn't treated like these poor girls. These poor girls who are being taught that they need a man to have control over their body for them. That it is impure and unclean for them to think any sexual thoughts.

P.S. it's not.

But their fathers are so involved with their daughters vaginas. Ugh, I'm sorry but I really don't feel the need to tell my father every sexual thought that floats through my head and I'm sure he appreciates it. I don't need my father to tell me what I should or shouldn't be considering in terms of my sex life. What every girl needs is a father, like mine I suppose, that teaches them that it is ok to have questions. It is ok to think about sex. It is ok to want to have sex with someone and not be married to them. We all need parents who teach us how to have healthy relationships with everyone. Not relationships that are seemingly based on ownership. Not parents who teach you that your worth is measured by your purity.

We don't live in the biblical ages. Women and men need not be virgins before they get married. I noticed though, that these balls are only for girls. I don't hear so much about boys taking pledges and vows. I've heard of boys wearing the rings, but it never seems that as big a deal is made about their purity.

Why are girls worthless if they've had sex?

Does a hymen dictate whether you are kind?
Does a hymen dictate how smart you are?
Does a hymen dictate if you are passionate? Sympathetic? Athletic? Artistic? Good at listening? Charismatic?

Does a broken hymen mean you are a wicked and base person?

Of course it doesn't.

Does imagining kissing someone you find attractive make you unclean and nasty. Are you perverted? How about after you marry? These girls on the show were talking about making a pledge to keep their bodies pure until marriage and their minds pure after marriage. So is wanting to make love to the person you've pledged your life and love to make you a perverted trollop?

I like to think it doesn't.

Our worth should not be based on who we've chosen to love or how we've chosen to love. It should be based on what we do with our lives, the kind of people we are, the way we treat ourselves and others.

If you truly love someone and they love you as well, then the "purity" of your body should not be an issue. I believe an adult relationship encompasses so much more than sex, so why should a girl be taught that no man will want to marry her if he's slept with her.

If you love someone you don't go "wham bam thank you ma'am" It's someone you want to sleep with time and time again. You want to kiss them over and over and over. You want to hold them in your arms each night when you fall asleep and wake up each day to start your life together. If you would refuse marriage with someone you "love" based on whether they've had sex before, you obviously don't love them and you obviously don't know what it means to be in a mature loving relationship.


  1. Howdy. This is politicalmoderation, from tumblr.

    Pretty much everything you wrote rings true. I have noticed that, in the more fundamental circles of the Christian faith, a woman's worth is determined by her sexual purity, not by her faith, intelligence, personal achievements or leadership skills-- within most churches, women are still not allowed to teach or lead men, and this leadership structure affects what women think they can do outside the church as well.

    I always really disliked that the aspect of purity was the most defining feature of a woman. It's something that has been taught to you since you were old enough to have a libido. The notion that a guy won't want to date/marry you if you're not a virgin. Seriously? If the guy you're with actually thinks that, then clearly he doesn't understand the concept of God's grace or human nature.

    Moreover, I never noticed that guys were grilled for not being sexually pure-- in my 18 years of attending church, not once did I hear the pastor or youth pastor broach the topic of *gasp* masturbation. The word was never used. They vaguely alluded to 'pure thoughts' every now and then, but that was it for the discussion. Even if they did goof up (I know one guy got his girlfriend pregnant), it wasn't a big deal (for the guy). What I walked away with was the idea that men could do whatever they wanted with their genitals, and nothing was contingent on their 'purity' status.

    And like you said, purity deals with submission and repression: submission in that your worth is determined by an intact hymen, and this is what you ought to give your husband; repression in that you are vehemently fighting what is natural for your body. Christian dating-- if you're in a circle where dating isn't frowned upon-- so greatly downplays physical attraction, and it is VERY important.

    How do you know you're making a good decision for a partner if you've only dated one person, and you've never explored the physical? What if you get married with your virginity still intact, and find out that your partner doesn't satisfy you, and isn't what you want? You can't get divorced, so congratulations on an irreversible life decision you went into uninformed on.

    Bottom line, the entire purity craze seems to me like the overreactions of scared Christian parents remembering what THEY were like as teenagers, and trying to keep their children from engaging in all of the activity that they did. Your mindset changes a lot with age, and you'll always see your kids as that-- kids, not young people trying to come into adulthood through their own experiences and self-actualization.

    Sex is healthy. Sex is good. Sex is not something you MUST give to one person-- if you find 'the One' on your first attempt at dating, good for you! but I've never seen that happen. Abstinence just will not happen for 98% of young people. I would rather kids be taught how to have safe sex, rather than teaching them to fight their natural urges and then scratching my head when one of them ends up with an STD or pregnant.

    I read this article a while back, and I thought you may appreciate the points it makes:

    Thanks for writing this post. It does a good job encapsulating the absurdity-- and inherent sexism-- of the purity hype. It's a lot better if you're comfortable with your body, instead of feeling guilty while trying to outwardly impress a hypothetical future spouse.

    1. thank you so much! I seriously stopped breathing for a moment when I read your reply!