Ten years after its founding, the celebration of abstinence at which fathers pledge to protect their daughters’ virginity is seen as either sinister or sensible.
In Colorado Springs this May, college and high school students and girls as young as four years old offered up their virginity into their father’s protection until their wedding day. The formal father-daughter dance known as the Father Daughter Purity Ball, co-founded by Randy Wilson and his daughter in 1998, is meant to reinforce fathers’ responsibilities as role models and protectors. Yet it has no shortage of critics.
Despite the controversy, however, purity balls have spread to 48 states and are ready to be launched abroad. Similar events are held for mothers and sons.
At the balls, fathers pledge to protect their daughter’s purity and to live their lives with integrity. The father-daughter pairs progress down an aisle and the daughter places a white rose beside a cross to signify their promise of, as college freshman Lindsay Anne Schell explains, “devoting your purity to God and to your father.”
Diane Glass of the Knoxville Sentinal is one of many who find the balls disturbing. “I’m not against promoting abstinence. I am against the troubling message at the core of purity balls, a chastity-belt ceremony dressed up as a prom date with Daddy,” she writes.
Glass’s co-columnist Shanti Feldhan, however, urges critics of purity balls to attend one: “I believe they will come away realizing that any movement promoting healthy, strong, caring women who value and respect themselves is something to applaud.”
The effectiveness of such events is up for debate as well. A 2007 study found that government-funded abstinence-only education programs aren’t stopping teenagers from having sex.
Headline Links: ‘The Pursuit of Teen Girl Purity’
At a Colorado Springs Purity Ball, 18-year-old Kylie Miraldi, daughter of former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Dean Miradli, admires the heart-shaped charm with a keyhole on her bracelet, a symbol of her promised abstinence. Her father holds the key. Time magazine’s Nancy Gibbs writes, “To mock or dismiss as unrealistic the goal of personal responsibility in all its forms may suit the culture, but it gives kids too little power, too little control over their decisions, as though they’re incapable of making good ones.”
In 2007, Dahleen Glanton, a journalist for the Chicago Tribune wrote, “In an age of ‘sex buddies,’ ‘friends with benefits’ and ‘sexual friendships,’ father-daughter purity balls have become an increasingly popular trend among conservative Christians in the campaign for abstinence instead of condoms.”
Source: Ventura County Star
Key Players: The Purity Ball’s founding family
Marie Claire magazine writer Amanda Robb profiled Purity Ball founder Randy Wilson and his daughter, Lauren Wilson Black, shortly after Lauren’s 2007 wedding. Robb was surprised to fine Lauren quite likeable, but nonetheless found some of her comments disturbing: “In their hotel room [after the wedding], the first thing Lauren did was get a basin and water pitcher and wash Brett’s feet. Come again? ‘My spiritual gift is serving,’ she explains.”
Source: Marie Claire
Opinion & Analysis: Constructive or creepy?
Amanda Marcott, a blogger for Alternet.org, is disturbed by Time’s article: “Time has decided to embrace a retrograde patriarchal agenda, and not of the soft patriarchal sense. … No, we’re talking the patriarchy of the anti-choice movement, the adulteress-stoning kind. The kind that treats the literal male ownership of women’s bodies as a cute, sentimental way to organize society.”
Diane Glass who co-authors the Woman to Woman column at the Knoxville Sentinel, says, “Purity balls perpetuate the message that girls are property, that their sexuality isn’t their own.” Shanti Feldhan counters that the events “are a way for fathers to tell daughters that they are special, precious and adored and that they will be supported in their difficult and countercultural choice to stay pure until marriage.”
In 2006, Salon’s Lynn Harris wrote about the male-equivalent of purity balls, called “Knight to Remember” events: “wishful-thinking moment—wouldn’t it be nice if, instead, everyone would quit fetishizing virginity and just speak frankly about why it’s way better to wait, but here’s what to do if you don’t?”
Related Topics: The debate over abstinence only education
According to The Washington Post, the U.S. government spends more than $175 million dollars per year on abstinence-only education. Unfortunately, the programs haven’t prevented teenagers from having sex. They’re also neither more nor less likely to use condoms. These were the findings of a national study authorized by congress in 1997 and carried out Mathematica Policy Research Inc. which followed 2,000 students in urban and rural areas, tracing their behavior until the age of 17.
Source: The Washington Post
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found an increase in teen pregnancy in 2006. This was the first increase in 15 years, prompting members of the House of Representatives to question abstinence-only sex education.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Reference: Abstinence education study
Read the full report on abstinence only sex-education from Mathematica Policy Research Inc