NYT takes on Purity Balls

purityball1.jpgThe New York Times has caught on to the daddy-knows-best-for-your-hymen horror shows that are purity balls.

The first two hours of the gala passed like any somewhat awkward night out with parents, the men doing nearly all the talking and the girls struggling to cut their chicken.
But after dessert, the 63 men stood and read aloud a covenant “before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.�
The gesture signaled that the fathers would guard their daughters from what evangelicals consider a profoundly corrosive “hook-up culture.� The evening, which alternated between homemade Christian rituals and giddy dancing, was a joyous public affirmation of the girls’ sexual abstinence until they wed.

Good times! I guess if your dad is going to be pledging ownership over your body, you might as well get some “giddy dancing” in! There’s also a creepy slide show to boot.
Picture from The New York Times.

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64 Comments

  1. ACfeminist
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    I was attempting to be sarcastic. I know that the conservitive right will not go away anytime soon but you never know. With all the media zooming in on the polygamy cases in Texas, Americans may find a parallel between the polygamy weirdos and this purity ball… probably not… But I can rest my head at night knowing I never grew up openly known that to my community, I was not a person, but an item to be bid on.

  2. GopherII
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    ” If the fathers are trying to protect their daughters, I would think a nice ankle-length-turtle-neck-long sleeve gown to be the best way to say, “I’m saving myself for God!” ”
    Or why not simply a freakin burqa? I’d like to jam all this “Dr.” Laura, Purity Ball, MRA, CPC, Focus on the Family extremist Christian crap down their throats!

  3. heller
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Every time I see one a post that really gets my blood boiling, like this one, everyone has already made the comments I wanted to make! I guess I should read Feministing earlier in the day. :)
    Anyway, I thought the picture with the dad dancing with his two young daughters ring-around-the-rosy style was adorable. Too bad it had to be at an event that was laced with sexual, and incestual overtones.
    The idea of a purity ball seems pretty gross in the first place, but at this one ONLY THE FATHERS MADE THE PLEDGE. What kind of bullshit is that?
    It totally doesn’t make sense to me that daughters would go to this kind of event with their fathers instead of their mothers. Aren’t most girls more likely to learn about sex from their mothers?

  4. larisa57
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    When I was a kid, I went to the Girl Scout father-daughter square dances with my dad, and we went the the father-child fishing derby our town held twice. We did a lot of other stuff, too, but the reason I remember these in particular is that my dad hates dancing and he’s scared of worms. (I had to bait all the hooks. I suspect he’s also afraid of live fish, but luckily, we never got that far.) He came home from work early or took a Sunday afternoon to spend time with me, doing stuff he hated. That means way more to me than this would have — these purity balls are based on what the father wants, and the girl is dragged along for the ride, rather than letting the girl figure out who and what she wants to be, and the father supporting her along the way.
    (For the record, I still like dancing, but I became a vegetarian a few years after the fishing derby. My dad now emails me whatever weird mentions of vegans he finds in the paper.)

  5. Posted May 21, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised that they keep using the “cover my daughter” line in the pledge, seeing as how one of its definitions is expressly ‘esp. of a male animal) to copulate with’.

  6. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I would not be caught dead defending a purity ball. That being said, I do not think all those accusing this event of being “incestuous” in nature are really accurate -I don’t think it’s that simple.
    Yes, it’s about the father owning the daughter, in a sense, or being her “protector” in lieu of a future husband. But there are a lot of child psychologists out there who /aren’t/ right-wing Christians, who say things about how teenage girls who have sex are really just looking for a “daddy figure” and don’t have a close enough relationship with their own father. This way of thinking is very popular in psychology, and I suspect is very freudian in origin. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but it’s hardly like these right-wing Christians invented it.
    Are some of these fathers fantasizing about their daughters, or even sexually abusing their daughters? It’s quite possible. Unfortunately, that kind of thing is not terribly uncommon in the population of America as a whole. But I think to keep calling this event “incestuous” is to miss out on some of the more incisive and less debateable criticism you can aim at it.

  7. Ismone
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Mighty Ponygirl,
    Yeah, I love horses too, so the first time I read it I blushed, and then went into an OMG fit to my guy.
    And not to be judgey, but yeah, I thought one of the dresses in the slideshow was risque for prom (ruffly, plungy neck). It was pretty too, but talk about your conflicting messages–be sexy without having sex!
    Argh.

  8. Posted May 21, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Nina: that’s just it though. It’s an entire ball constructed around a father’s obsession with his daughter’s virginity. To assume that a dad doesn’t want his little girl to get into trouble before she’s married is reasonable. To set yourself up as some sort of God-Appointed Hero Who Will Protect His Precious Daughter’s Hymen From The Roving Penises is something else entirely. And, as someone who has followed the purity ball discussions in the feminist blogosphere for some time, I can say I’ve read plenty of comments from survivors of sexual abuse whose fathers were ALL about the panty-sniffing that were really horrifying.
    Sexual abuse is such a hidden crime — I really don’t have qualms with looking at behavior like this and frowning and saying “y’know, this raises a LOT of troubling questions about the dad’s relationship with his daughter.” I’m not saying that every man there should go in front of a judge and prove he’s not molesting her, but if I knew a teenage girl whose dad was taking her to one of those things, I would do my damndest to be available to her if she needed someone to talk to about what ELSE he was doing to her.

  9. Posted May 21, 2008 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    The creepiest part of that slideshow was the girls placing roses at the base of the cross. Could it be more obvious that they’re symbolically placing their vaginas at Jesus’ feet?

  10. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    “Sexual abuse is such a hidden crime — I really don’t have qualms with looking at behavior like this and frowning and saying “y’know, this raises a LOT of troubling questions about the dad’s relationship with his daughter.” I’m not saying that every man there should go in front of a judge and prove he’s not molesting her, but if I knew a teenage girl whose dad was taking her to one of those things, I would do my damndest to be available to her if she needed someone to talk to about what ELSE he was doing to her. ”
    Well, I guess I speak from the perspective of someone who has parents, both mother and father, who felt like they had to “protect” their daughters. One time my dad brought up how a lot of men like to marry women who have a hymen -awk-ward.
    And my mom was always pushing my dad to hug us more and have various sorts of non-sexual touching, b/c that was supposed to lesson the chance we’d have sex b/c we were really craving male affection, or something. I don’t know. I think it’s a bit messed up, but apparently there’s a lot of people who think this way. There’s /certainly/ a lot of parents, especially in the midwest and south, who concern themselves with the state of their daughters’ virginity.
    And you can find plenty of liberal hippy dads who sexually abuse their daughters too, unfortunately. So I just wouldn’t be quick to jump to any conclusions regarding this ceremony.

  11. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    “To assume that a dad doesn’t want his little girl to get into trouble before she’s married is reasonable. To set yourself up as some sort of God-Appointed Hero Who Will Protect His Precious Daughter’s Hymen From The Roving Penises is something else entirely.”
    I don’t know. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. I’d be tempted to think they /were/ pretty much linked, but I haven’t really known these purity ball folks personally, so I guess I don’t have much opinion on that one.

  12. xJane
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    wow. If you look at picture #4, it totally looks like that cross is on fire. Talk about “homemade rituals”.

  13. xJane
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    wow. If you look at picture #4, it totally looks like that cross is on fire. Talk about “homemade rituals”.

  14. bluebluedress
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    And I’m sure these girls have never received a single bit of accurate information about sex, contraception, pregnancy, abortion, or STDs/STIs.

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