Purity balls: an American Christian phenomenon

May 26, 2015 • 1:30 pm

You may know this if you’re an American, but probably not if you’re from elsewhere. Conservative Christians in the U.S. have come up with the creepy concept of “purity balls,” in which young women, dressed in white, go to venues where the daughters make pledges of “purity” (i.e., virginity until marriage) to their fathers. Everyone’s dressed to the nines for Jesus.

As Saturday’s Independent reported, the Swedish photographer David Magnusson (who probably felt like an anthropologist encountering some alien culture) visited the US four times over five months, photographing the “couples” and interviewing them, which resulted in his book Purity, published in Sept. of 2014. For some reason it didn’t do well, and has only 3 customer reviews on Amazon. (The project’s site is here.)

Here’s how the balls go:

[Magnusson] told The Independent how the balls had a structure similar to traditional white weddings, with formal dinners, speeches, vows and dancing.

“To them the ceremonies were a very serious thing but they still seemed to have a lot of fun,” he added.

“The youngest girls I saw were one and four but they weren’t expected to make any promises about their sexuality. It was more about the fathers.”

The average age of girls Magnusson saw was around 12 or 13, the start of puberty.

One would think that a Swede, from a country of unbridled and rapacious fornication, would find these balls bizarre (as I do), but Magnusson seems to have come away with some respect for the ceremony.

“I wanted to take a series of portraits that were so beautiful that the girls and their fathers could be proud of them but that may provoke a completely different reaction from people viewing them,” he told The Independent.

Magnusson said he was “fascinated” about the marital symbolism of the clothing, vows and balls.

He was initially shocked by the movement but after meeting the families, he said it appeared not to be just about sex, but about father-daughter relationships.

He added: “The balls were founded in conservative, Christian circles where fathers might be the breadwinners and they have very traditional family roles.

“Kids might not see their fathers that much….fathers felt there was some kind of need to be more present in the lives of their daughters and be an example of the kind of husband they are looking for.”

. . . He said: “To me, Purity is a project about trying to understand how we are shaped by the society we grow up in and how we interpret the world through the values we incorporate as our own.”

Yes, well, that last sentence is simply trite, and you could apply it to any belief system, religion, or ritual that inculcates children with their parents’ values. I’m not opposed to some father-daughter bonding, but why the fathers and not the mothers? And why is this all about virginity?

Magnusson’s work has won several prizes, but to me the prizeworthiness falls in the same category as the photographs of Diane Arbus. Here are some of Magnusson’s:


From the series "Purity" by David Magnusson



If Freud were alive, he’d have a field day with this. The sad part is that we know these vows of purity don’t work: the half-life of those hymens is no longer than that of more licentious teenagers. And the pregnancy rate of the “pure” girls is higher. As the Washington Post reported in 2008:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a “virginity pledge,” but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

“Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,” said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. “But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.”

Here’s a video of testimony from “purity girls”:

h/t: Grania

163 thoughts on “Purity balls: an American Christian phenomenon

    1. LOL- I have to admit I found it curious too because I’d heard of purity rings, so I was wondering what in the world those people were doing with balls now…

  1. Knowing that they are father and daughter makes the first two photos very creepy. It’s the closed eyes, I think.

  2. If Freud were alive, he’d have a field day with this.

    My first thought exactly.

    It reminds me of a wedding I attended in Nebraska several years ago. At some point a song was played, I can’t remember the exact title, something to the effect of “daddy’s little girl is all grown up”.

    The song was accompanied by a slideshow of the bride at different ages and engaged in different activities. As it progressed and “daddy’s little girl” got older, I became worried about the pictures I’d see toward the end!

      1. I’m sure they would tell you that premarital sex is just as terrible for boys [wink wink] but, uh, hey look over there!

  3. The comment about Freud is right on the money. I live in TX, where these things are common, and they seriously creep me out.

  4. The expression on the girls’ faces reminds me of Victorian photos of the dead posed with their parent or spouse.

  5. This is weird, sick and creepy beyond words. Sounds like something out of a dream of a psychopathic incestuous pedophile. And what is this obsession with this thing “purity”? What has religion done to this girls?

    1. Apparently it’s made one of those girls wear that lacy black number instead of a long white gown. That’s a bit like hanging the bloody sheet out the window of the bridal bedroom, isn’t it?

      1. I’m reminded of a throwaway line from an episode of the ‘Frost Report’ from the 80’s –
        “The bride wears white to symbolise purity.
        The groom wears black.”

    2. Well from the statistics, it appears that the only thing its done is make them less likely to use safe sex practices.

    3. I agree about it’s being sick, creepy. If you want to know what these girls are being told about themselves in Xian nutjob real(ity) life, just look at this whole Duggar thing going on. Now that is sick.

        1. Remember,
          Creationists believe that humanity was started by one couple and their incestuous family!

    1. Strictly speaking, sir, it’s more correctly pronounced Beyonk… There’s only so many syllables in the world, when you think about it.
      (T. Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant)

  6. As a father this is definitely creepy to me. It seems born of male dominance, misogyny and sexual fantasy / abuse. Despite all attempts to portray it as beautiful, innocent and praiseworthy it nurtures and shelters those negative behaviors.

    1. My reaction entirely. I have three daughters (youngest now 25) and my missus and I have tried to be there to help them when needed (which it has been from time to time). But this ritual is very scary and, may I say, potentially manipulative and abusive.

    2. IMNAD, but this might just be about “she’ll always be a little girl and will never have sex” for some dads. Other dads, I agree, it’s about some weird dominance thing.

      But the “she’ll never grow up” thing is bad enough. I mean, the level of denial. And don’t these dads have memories of when they were their kid’s age?

      1. Oh, I agree. I’m sure many, maybe most, of the fathers are fairly decent sorts. I was talking about the root of this kind of tradition and how I think these traditions foster those same behaviors that gave rise to them.

        In that light, take a look at derekw’s comment downstream, which includes this.

        “As to the question why ‘fathers’ not ‘mothers’ while both parents I would think support the pledge I assume it is the idea of now the father transferring the responsibility of the care of his daughter to the ‘new’ male in her life.”

        Not horrible, but not good. A traditional attitude that infantalizes and disempowers women, born of selfish male dominance and cloaked, often honestly no doubt, in love. Society would be better off without it.

  7. The fathers appear to be angry and the daughters seem most unhappy. “Victorian-age creepiness” doesc seem to capture the sense (or nonsense) of the moment.

  8. What is it with religions and their obsession with female virginity?

    I mean, I “get it” from a primitive anthropological point of view. And I suppose then it becomes obvious why those following a religion with its roots in 6000+ year old morality end up with a rather primitive idea of what constitutes morality. I just don’t know how its adherents manage to square this with the modern world in which they live.

    Mostly, I guess, I feel sorry for the kids who get caught up in this. It leaves them so exposed and vulnerable, and it needn’t have been this way. Thank God (well, Al Gore 😉 ) for the internet. At least most kids have that as a sanity-check these days.

    1. I have the idea that the deeper (excusez le mot) intention is that girls who haven’t had sex also never have had any relationship at all, so no others who can claim ownership on your newly acquired bride. A bit like some people’d much rather buy a new car than a used one.

      Go ahead, kick me.

      1. Oh no. No kick warranted. I think that is exactly the attitude that is behind the ancient male dominated societies’ obsession with virginity. I think it is definitely all about male’s desire for shiny new, and exclusive, sex machines that are all “mine, mine, mine.” All the sophisticated anthropological explanations layered on top of that are dross.

        1. Notice that a car in mint condition is “cherry.”
          “She’s not very cherry, she’s an oldie but a goodie.”–The Beach Boys

      2. Oddly enough, thinking back to my misspent-as-much-as-I-could-manage youth, it’s the few ‘bad girls’ I remember most fondly, not the ‘good girls’ who, shall we say, were hard work. I obviously have a completely back-to-front and upside-down view of morality.

        1. You’re not the one who’s twisted. Remember, the Christians celebrate Jesus’s death in the springtime when the world is bursting with new life, and Jesus’s birth when the lays low in its grave in the bonds of death. Damned hard to get more perverted than that.


          1. Actually it’s the Resurrection that is celebrated as a spring ritual. Rebirth means first you have to die then you are born again.

            That the first birth comes around the winter solstice is a little harder–I would say it symbolizes the potential, the glimmer of hope for a world “in sin and error pining.” One can almost hear the opening strains of Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra.”

            One could also relate it to the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol, which shows Yin and Yang changing into each other in an eternal cycle. The Yang (white) has a black dot in it and the Yin has a white dot.

            Except the Christian myth isn’t a cycle–it’s a one-shot deal. At the Last Judgement, the sheep will be separated from the goats and the good people will enjoy eternity in Heaven.

            I can talk that stuff up pretty good!

            1. Yeah, that’s how the Christians try to spin it…but it really doesn’t wash. The resurrection part of death and resurrection was never associated with infant birth or springtime, but always with the Sun — and, especially, crops — dying in wintertime. And springtime for the infant birth is pretty obvious.

              You even get Christians obviously uncomfortable with this when they try to explain December 25 as Jesus’s birthday and have to deal with the fact that shepherds didn’t actually watch over their flocks at night that time of year….


              1. On that subject…I tried an experiment a couple days ago that was quite successful.

                For those who don’t know, traditional Fettuccine Alfredo isn’t a sauce you pour over noodles; it’s a dish with the sauce made in the pan with the noodles. Cook (ideally fresh) fettuccine, drain, and return the noodles to the pan. Toss with butter until the butter is melted. Add a generous splash of cream and a bit of nutmeg and heat (and stir!) until the cream is thickened and absorbed into the noodles. Add a generous amount of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and fold in the cheese just until it’s melted; too long and it becomes stringy.

                On an hunch, I tried the same basic thing, without the nutmeg…and with smoked gouda instead of the Parmesan.

                I suspect something similar might have been the original inspiration for boxed Mac & Cheese, but so much got lost in the translation.


              2. 😉 sprinkle some myrrh on the soles of my feet, too, after all that hot walking in the desert. Guess we could cool off by walking on water. Cheesus may teach us how?

            2. ” . . . the sheep will be separated from the goats . . . .”

              What is this bloody cultural thang agin’ goats? (Beyond it being in their nature to be a bloody pain to deal with)

              1. Good question. . . . Perhaps it has to do with the notion that sheep are better followers, whereas goats can be stubborn and independent. God rewards people for obedience, not for thinking independently.

                Goat symbolism is associated with the occult, but I think that came after the bible.

              1. Hmmm, the smoked gouda sounds like a plan (in response to above about mac and cheeze. Might even leave the nutmeg in??). Speaking of food, I made an awesome braised and grilled octopus last night (braised in soy sauce and mirin and water and ginger and garlic and some other stuff I forgot). Braise 275 for 2 hours, then grill maybe 5 minutes on very hot BBQ, after dipping in a little oil and ginger and garlic and sesame oil. Next time I’m going to do several octopodes – too much effort for just one -pus. Took off from a Momofuku recipe.

              2. When I was a teen, I had my mom buy octopus and cook it up.

                Neither of us knew how to prepare octopus.

                It was boiled, and put on a plate.

                Saltiest meal ever.

                It was only years later that I learned that there is an art to cooking octopus. I still haven’t had it since, would love to try though. <3 Calamari, however.

              3. Google momofuku grilled octopus salad. I kind of skipped the salad part. Like with calamari, if you cook them either too little or too much they’re like rubber. My octopus was super tender, but it did say on the pkg thst it had been tenderized ( with a mallet?? No idea). Good luck!

              4. I never did care for octopus, but that may be because I couldn’t tell it from the rubber bands it was wrapped in….


              5. mine you could cut with a butter knife. No rubber bands. Hope my first attempt was not just lucky. I have had good octopus tapas at an excellent Spanish restaurant in Toronto.

              6. “…which is 2300 miles away from Judea by air, 3600 miles by land….”

                Pfft, a few weeks gentle stroll…

                (Maybe longer for Israelites, considering it took them ??40 years?? to cover 400 miles to reach the Promised Land. If they’d just wandered around the desert at random they would’ve tripped over it quicker than that. You really, really don’t want God as your guide…)

          1. Very odd, I agree. It’s probably tied up with primitive dynastic ideas, that is, nobody wants their assets to be inherited by someone else’s bastard.

            That doesn’t explain where incest taboos came from though. (Apropos of which, or rather the spectacular opposite, I was just watching an old BBC comedy-drama ‘The Cleopatras’ which, sensational though it was, seems to be pretty closely history-based. It’s a good antidote to ‘purity balls’, anyway. But the Ptolemies’ preoccupation with ‘keeping the bloodline pure’ managed to justify a lot of marrying rather close relatives. While ambition prompted quite a lot of killing of close relatives, sometimes the same ones 😉

            There’s quite a good description here
            complete with a family tree that looks like the wiring diagram of my car, and replete with such gems as “Shortly after Kleopatra [II] bore her new brother-spouse their first child (Ptolemy ‘Memphites’), Ptolemy VIII either raped or seduced his bride’s daughter (his own niece, twice over) and fathered a son on her.”
            What a family!

              1. True. Though I rather think, as gods themselves, the Ptolemies were by definition incapable of lying or cheating. That is, anything they did was okay since they were gods… 🙂

    2. “What is it with religions and their obsession with female virginity?”

      Something to do with that “original sin” thing, I believe. Which has a lot to do with male insecurity, I believe.

    1. Or the Seventh Day Adventist joke:

      Q: Why don’t SDA’s have intercourse standing up?”

      A: Because people might think they are dancing.

  9. So…the study in the Washington Post article Jerry references isn’t quite what it seems at first glance. The study attempted to get an ‘apples to apples’ comparison of individuals of like-minded persuasion (conservative values towards sex, religious etc) and differentiate them by a pledge/no pledge checkbox. This article goes into the details http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/januaryweb-only/103-54.0.html . FYI never heard of the ‘purity ball’ concept though my daughter has taken a purity pledge. As to the question why ‘fathers’ not ‘mothers’ while both parents I would think support the pledge I assume it is the idea of now the father transferring the responsibility of the care of his daughter to the ‘new’ male in her life.

    1. “I’m not opposed to some father-daughter bonding, but why the fathers and not the mothers? And why is this all about virginity?”

      And why aren’t the boys involved, and why not photos of the boys with their fathers and/or mothers?

      Also, any talk of taking a purity pledge should be initiated by the girl/boy in question. But one has no doubt that those (resolved not to succumb to peer/community pressure) not taking such a pledge are duly noted by the local righteous, pious community.

    2. The father transferring the responsibility of care of his daughter to the “new” make in her life sounds downright 1st century. This was an Ancient attitude toward women in a society where they had little to no say in their lives. It’s time we moved away from this sexism now that we’ve recognized women are perfectly capable of looking after themselves.

      1. I think there are a couple of inter-related ideas here. One is that a daughter is her father’s property and if she be not a virgin the value of her as a chip in a marriage bargain is zero. A virgin? worth ten camels. A non-virgin – no camels and a bonus stoning at the city gate.
        Second is a concern over property rights. If women aren’t virgins on their marriage we don’t know who the father really is should they conceive. Same thing as adultery; if a woman commits adultery we don’t know who the real father of this child is and inheritance is all screwed up. It got very complicated in the middle ages and renaissance; e.g Henry VIII acknowledging some bastards but not others precisely because of inheritance encumbrances.
        Of course we’re not like that nowadays. Now it’s just sacred tradition i.e. we don’t exactly know why we do it but we’re afraid to stop in case it pisses off the doGs.

    3. I had to read your comment three times. Seriously, you let your daughter take a purity pledge? You are encouraging your daughter to not take part in arguably the most fun function of the human body until she marries? Man. I just can’t imagine only one lover. And this abstinence of hers is because the female,and presumably male, body needs to be pure for success in life. (Afterlife?) It’s nutty and terribly cruel.

          1. One commenter asks:

            7 hours ago
            Does oral sex mean that your mouth would be pregnant in the afterlife, too? What about anal?””


            Lulz. These imams, rather like evangelicals, spend a lot of time thinking about sex. I remember hearing about an imam who had been pondering if it was a crime against Allah for a young man to fall through a ceiling in an earthquake and land with his penis *inside* his aunty. I believe that he concluded that it would not be adultery in such a circumstance.

            1. That is such an incredibly unlikely circumstance that it could only ever happen if Allah guided his dick to its target like a homing missile. Therefore Goddidit therefore it must be okay.

      1. “Man. I just can’t imagine only one lover.”

        So agree. And how is a couple going to know if they’re sexually compatible before they take the big step of marriage?

        1. Seconded. And I’m convinced that a few years spent single before getting married is a great way to get the roamin’ impulse out of ones system, or at least show that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the street.

          Put another way, getting married as a virgin, there’s always the curiosity of ‘what are other people like?’.

  10. The girls sound blissed out (= brainwashed), and the photos of them with their dad are very disturbing. They leave you with a queasy feeling in your stomach – in some way it reminds me of David Hamilton’s photographs of young girls. At least his could be considered art, but there is always that unpleasant uncertainty that lingers like a bad aftertaste.

  11. “The sad part is that we know these vows of purity don’t work: the half-life of those hymens is no longer than that of more licentious teenagers. And the pregnancy rate of the “pure” girls is higher.”

    Will a christian please explain to me how praying and pledging over purity results in less purity?

    1. I’m not a christian, but I’d guess that it mostly affects their attitudes towards abstinence and contraception. They moralize the former as a test of moral character, which has the side effect of treating the latter as “cheating” or worse. Basically, sex and anything to do with enabling it are all avoided like sin. So if someone does eventually decide – for whatever reason – to break abstinence, they’ve been so sheltered from “sin” that they simply have little clue about it. Hence the higher pregnancy rate.

      1. But pledging to their fathers, and praying over it… and the result is the opposite!

        I suspect that talking about such a thing openly is in itself sinful, and so God is like, hey, I’ll make them less pure for that! And pledging’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

        1. But pledging to their fathers, and praying over it… and the result is the opposite!

          The thing about moral commitments is that results aren’t the point. The point is that you know where the lines are drawn, and you make a big song and dance over knowing where the lines are drawn. If you cross the lines, you don’t start thinking that maybe they were drawn in the wrong place; you hit yourself over the head and cry “I’m not worthy!”

          And that’s why it’s much easier to dismiss the pregnancies as failures in the face of temptation, rather than rethink one’s moral approach towards sexuality and personal autonomy.

          1. Moral purity and identity politics is more important to these folks than actual results.

            Which is why they stridently oppose contraception and sex education, which would *actually* lower the abortion rate.

            They claim to care about ‘the babies’ but what they really care about is policing people’s sexuality.

    1. I don’t think that was the intended message.

      OTOH, “my daughter means to me what oil means to Texas: a prized export” is a distinct possibility.

  12. Someone in my facebook network wondered why boys don’t take or make the same promises about being pure. I messaged to him and his facebook network that domineering people have insisted forever that others be held to a higher standard than they hold themselves. I thought everyone knew that.

    I hope all’s well or at least decent, everyone. Take care.

    All the best,


    Warren G. Richards
    Advocate, Socio-political Writer

  13. Several years ago I saw a story about a Christian group that had teenagers sign a card pledging not to have sex before marriage. One mother said, “It’s a load of my mind . . .I don’t have to worry about her getting pregnant.” Yes. It’s now impossible for her to get pregnant. Because she wrote her name on an index card.

    I was amazed at how naive people can be.

    1. Naive is the charitable interpretation. The uncharitable one is: its a load off their mind because now when she gets pregnant/an STD, they can treat her like crap and not feel bad about it because hey, she’s the one who broke the contract. Its a load off their minds because when she gets pregnant, they don’t look bad to their peers because they did everything they could (purity pledge! White gown! Dance!) and so hey it must just be a bad kid.

      What they should be signing is a love and understanding pledge: that no matter what you, my child, do, I will do my best to love you, support you, understand you, and forgive any mistakes you might make. Even ones I consider immoral. But no, instead they make their kid sign this.

  14. Here’s my encapsulation of the creepiness of this kind of thing – the extent to which it reflects fathers’ ideation of their daughters sexual activities.

    Just weird. Surely there’s a satirical Frank Zappa song about this.

    1. Brown Shoes Don’t Make It written by Zappa and performed by the Mothers of Invention!
      …If she were a daughter of mine,I’d…
      Smother that girl in chocolate syrup
      And strap her on again
      She’s my teen-age baby
      She turns me on
      I’d like to make her do a nasty
      On the white house lawn…

  15. I’ve come across this before but never seen the video. It is just sick. The thing is, if I’d had the opportunity to do this when I was 13/14 I would’ve loved it! Getting a beautiful dress made for me, and me being special and important. At that age I had pretty romantic ideas about virginity too.

    By the time I was 18, my biggest problem with my boyfriend was that he insisted asking my father’s permission to marry me was the right thing to do. My father not only thought the same, he thought he had the right to say “no”. (I never let my boyfriend ask.)

    Women are not chattels. Our bodies belong to us. We should be empowered so we have the confidence to make the right decisions for ourselves. The idea that virginity or purity should somehow make us more worthy or worse, more lovable, is disgusting. It’s one that’s destroyed the lives of countless women throughout history, and to see this idea celebrated is revolting. Just one example of this: think of all the women who do not, to this day, report being raped because of the shame. That shame comes from exactly the same place as these Purity Balls. The idea is that the woman as an object has been ruined, and that’s more important than what she’s been through. (I’m assuming here too you all understand that rape is about control and domination, not sex.)

    And those photos are sick too. They look incestuous. They are not nice father/daughter happy pictures. They are about sex and control, which is a pretty big part of Christianity (and most religions).

    1. I’m assuming here too you all understand that rape is about control and domination, not sex

      What does that mean? Sure, the attitude that a raped woman is dirt comes from a property-ownership attitude that’s about a family controlling and dominating their women’s sexual behaviour, but that’s not what the actual rape is about.

      A rapist is not a co-collaborator in that project. The rapist is usually just in it for the sex. If he can get away with it in the cultural climate, that’s just a bonus.

      1. I agree with you–actually, I’d say that often rape is a mixture of both urges–but to say so flies in the face of a particularly time-tested meme & feminist truism. (No offence, Heather. But tell me if drunk college guys aren’t in it for the sex.)

        1. A big part of it is that rape is a reproductive strategy. It’s cheating, to be blunt. A male animal can spread his genes for a little bit, or great bit, of risk, without having to provide for his offspring, which can be very expensive. If some of his offspring survive, that’s great news for his *selfish* genes.

          The female equivalent of cuckolding – having the babies of a male she wants, while tricking another male into expending his resources into raising them.

          Humans are part pair bonding, part tournament, as a species:


          The competition, over whose genes will be passed on to the next generation, even takes place on the purely genetic level, with maternal-fetal conflict:


          The fathers genese are programmed to wrest as many resources as possible from the pregnant female, to her detriment, while the female’s body seeks to ‘shut that whole thing down’ so that she can survive the pregnancy.

  16. “the half-life of those hymens…” – quote of the year professor. I still have a hard time not thinking of and adult accessory store when I read “purity balls”…

  17. i want my daughters to have full, vibrant sex lives and to make decisions about the partners that they want or don’t want. Morality is a load of old crap, especially when it is directed at your daughters. I don’t find anything touching or uplifting about this movement or these photographs. I find the men creepy and the women unfortunate.

  18. Here’s the message those young women are being given: You are worthless unless you are a virgin. It’s the only thing about you that matters. At all.

    Gee, thanks Dad. (And Mom.)

  19. OK, that can’t be serious. I REFUSE – R E F U S E – to believe such events are real. In fact I am already forgetting about this post… What was I doing here again?

    1. You were promising to send me…
      [pinky raised to corner of mouth]:
      One Million Dollars.

  20. It would seems that purity balls would be the domain of (probably only some) Catholic priests…

  21. I have known of this specific (mostly western) phenomenon for some years now. Whilst this particular edition of honoring virginity looks to be of a christian basis, it is actually quite a worldwide one, especially mimicking The Very Same as that of a family’s entire honor in the muslim – islamic deal existing inside the vaginal canals of its men’s women and girls; and it is millennially long in duration.

    This is the foundation under which adult males in any family (long ago and now) get, because of their property rights, to release any designated vaginal canal in particular (of their clan) over to its next owner by way of the religious rite known as patriarchal and androcentric (read that: religious) mawwiage, hence, the hauling down some (churchy) aisle and giving – over and – away of that particular vay – jay – jay.

    Such is the topic of Chapter VII, Ethics and Religion, of First – Wave Feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman in her y 1 9 1 1 treatise: Our Androcentric Culture: Or, the Man – Made World. Thereon pp 72 and 73: “But what do we see? All the old religions, made by men, and forced on the women whether they liked it or not. Often women not even considered as part of the scheme – denied souls – given a much lower place in the system – going from the service of their father’s gods to the service of their husbands – having none of their own. We see religions which make practically no place for women, as with the Moslem, as rigidly bigoted and unchanging as any other.”

    Angering to me is i) the child abuse of guilt – inculcation, especially over one’s sexual conduct which damagingly lasts for frickin’ decades, if not her entire lifetime and ii) the very clear intonation that one’s own body is not and will never be one’s own. No autonomy, much less, any boundaries!


  22. Don’t tell the Germans! “Prudish Americans” is one of their most cherished stereotypes. We could all be out fornicating in the streets and they would still nod their heads sadly about the “prüde Amerikaner.”

  23. OK…so…the creepiness is completely because the “purity ballers” are explicitly dragging sex into it, right? As Grania noted, it’s all about ensuring the daughter’s virginity, for the reasons Chris Moffat outlined above in reply to Diana.


    Because I’ve taken my daughter to a plain-old no-sexual-overtones daddy-daughter dance two years in a row now and I thought it was the sweetest thing. She got to dress up like a princess, get whisked away in a carriage and go to the royal ball. And she enjoys princessiness through no pressure applied by either my wife or me.

    1. Of course it’s about the unhealthy focus on sex. Anyone who goes to the other extreme and tarnishes innocent family activities with the same brush of suspicion is a friggin’ idiot.

      No one objects to some father-daughter bonding. Or mother-son bonding, or father-son bonding, or mother-daughter bonding, come to that. Why should a father feel guilty about taking his daughter to a fun event?

      But ask yourself if you’ll ever see any of those other iterations be the focus of the purity ball style get-together, which equates being a female virgin with being “pure”. It’s an anachronistic sexist attitude that was creepy even when it was historically culturally acceptable, never mind in the midst of modern progressive attitudes.

        1. I don’t blame you. There’s a depressing tendency in some people to read way too much into everything and anything.

            1. I’ve always liked Tom Lehrer.

              And it’s a great tactic for subverting pompous pronouncements.

        2. Ah, nothing wrong with ‘keeping it in the family’. If it was good enough for the Ptolemies…


  24. How. Incredibly. Creepy.

    Help me…make the dueling banjos stop…!!!

    As the father of (now in their early 20’s) daughters, I was very honest with myself and them. There were valid social and cultural reasons why, in the past, girls, and boys, married young (mid teens). In terms of evolution, the days of Little House on the Prairie was less than an eyeblink ago and back then it was not that long after young people started feeling the “urge” that they got married, so expecting them to fight those urges for a couple of years before marriage was not it was not totally preposterous.

    One need only walk through a rural cemetery dating back not much more than a hundred years to get a moving glimpse of the realities of life back then. In comparison to more modern graveyards, the number of headstones for small children and women in what we would consider their prime childbearing years is stark indeed. (This was actually an assigned project for an upper-level ecology course I took as an undergraduate.)

    Before the advent of modern medicine, life expectancies for women (and men) were low by modern standards and infant/childhood mortality was high, as was death in childbirth. Women had to start having children early and often in the hope of at least some of them surviving to reproductive age in turn.
    Thankfully it is not like that anymore, at least in modern, developed parts of the world. Sadly, our psychology and sociology has not evolved at the same rate as our material culture. Even before I was married, let alone a father, I knew that expecting any children I had (being the oldest of four boys, I wanted girls for some reason) to remain “pure” until their wedding night was just stupid.

    I freely shared the above with my daughters at various points as they were growing up. I also shared something from my own history that I am not terribly proud of in the hope that it may prove instructive. I lost my virginity much younger than I should have (14) and, at least for me, love-making or sex–call it what you will–did not live up to the hype until I was in my early 20’s. I told them this too (including my regrets) and that if they could possibly stand it, that it may be more a much more rewarding and fulfilling experience when do chose to be intimate with someone (of whatever gender) if they wait.

    I guess I did not screw things up too terribly as my girls will share with me things they won’t tell their mother (we are divorced, but still good friends).

    Just my two cents…

  25. Totally creepy.

    That said, I once went on a “dinner date” with my middle daughter who was earning her Etiquette badge for Girl Scouts. We got dressed up and went to a swanky restaurant where she had a Shirley Temple and I had a G&T, or 5, and a badly cooked steak. She got her badge.

    This was the same daughter who a year or so earlier was having a party in her room for her stuffed animals and I asked her if they were having tea. She replied, “No, Dad, it’s Spring Break. We’re having a kegger.”

    A portent that was.

  26. I’m reminded of that terrible chewing gum analogy the abstinence only crew go in for. As soon as anyone else touches it you don’t want to put the chewing gum in your mouth, by implication anyone who isn’t a virgin (women especially naturally) is somehow contaminated and repulsive.

    The counter argument I like to that analogy is the $100 dollar bill. It doesn’t matter how crumpled and grubby it gets, it still has exactly the same value as when it was pristine and new.

  27. He was initially shocked by the movement but after meeting the families, he said it appeared not to be just about sex, but about father-daughter relationships.

    Yes, a father-daughter relationship based on their stances towards sex. And the event isn’t called “purity” because of the spotless white dresses.

    How disingenuous can you get?

  28. Ack! I thought a ‘purity ball’ must be some sort of talisman, like a golf ball, probably decorated with virtuous slogans.

    I can’t help contrasting those strangely unrealistic vows of celibacy with the equally religious but quite different society of Pukapuka in the Cook Islands, where Xtianity has adjusted (or been subverted) into a distinctly local flavour, and parents would be getting a little worried if their daughter hadn’t had at least a couple of boyfriends by the time she was, say, eighteen.

    The conventional wisdom seems to be that young people should ‘play the field’ while they’re single in the hope that they’ll get it out of their system by the time they get married. It’s probably about as successful as any other approach…

  29. I am absolutely sickened by the entire concept. Having a father-daughter event that is entirely about her not getting any is so unhealthy on several levels. I could write a whole book about why it is messed up.

    Yet – here I was, giggling like an eigth grader at the “purity balls”. Does that make me a bad person?

  30. Why are the Christian Right in America intent on going back to the 17th Century ? though I doubt they had “purity” Balls then ,but it stinks of Puritanism, similar to the furore over Anne Franks Diary with one nutjob calling it Pornographic because of her descriptions of self examination, its all balls to me.

  31. Whose pics were bad but the video was even worse IMO. Hard to watch and listen to.
    I would have a lot more respect for these people if they were trying to sell the same message to their sons too but I guess it’s only a woman who is a chewed piece of gum if she has sex.

  32. The greatest irony comes here. As Maher says, adolescents have made what everybody does: they found lupos in the contract:

  33. These people should apply to join thr Mbaya tribe of S America who eschew sex, procreation being seen as a vulgar practice and beneath the dignity of this locally dominant tribe. Similar to the celibacy practices of certain Catholic orders and the Shakers.

  34. Youthful idealism?
    Out of context, but the following seems appropriate:
    “Ah! as the heart grows older
    It will come to such sights colder . . .”

  35. ‘…a Swede, from a country of unbridled and rapacious fornication…’

    So now you’re schilling for Sweden’s travel and tourist bureau?

  36. If Freud were alive, he’d have a field day with this. The sad part is that we know these vows of purity don’t work:

    I had Frank Zappa’s “Catholic Girls” buzzing through my ears for the first few minutes after starting this one.

    “with a tongue like a cow
    She will make you go wow!”

Leave a Reply