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Evangelical Sexualization of Pre-Teens

1 July, 2009

One of the joys of my life has been watching my babies become toddlers become preteens become teens become adults (with some (in (((Girl)))’s case) some stopoffs in ‘bitch’).  At every stage, there were difficulties, there were challenges, and there was growth.

And the toughest part about growth was trusting.  I trust myself.  I trust (((Wife))).  Trusting (((Boy))) and (((Girl))) to make the right decision when needed can be a little trying at times.  All (((Wife))) and I can could do is teach them, help them recognize what destructive decisions can do, and, most of all, understand cause and effect relationships.  It has made for a rather roller-coaster ride but, for the most part, the kids have made pretty damn good decisions.

(((Wife))) and I did not lock them up in a convent (though it was (on occasion) tempting (though I’m not sure a Unitarian convent would have had the desired effect).  We did not fill their heads with fairy tails about birth control or the risk of disease.  We did not subject (((Girl))) to a Purity Ball.

What is a purity ball, you may ask (as I did when I first ran across the term)?  A purity ball is (and this is from PurityBall.com so you know it cannot be biased):

The Christian Center is once again thrilled to host the Father-Daughter Purity Ball. It is our pleasure to hold high the banner of purity in the midst of a culture that destroys it.

We hope you will join us as we encourage young women to commit to moral purity and help them understand the beautiful and righteous life God offers them.

The Bible lays the responsibility of protecting daughters at the feet of their fathers. We desire to charge men to take up this mantle of responsibility!

God thinks the protection of a woman’s purity should be extravagant and so do we! We look forward to this formal evening and hope you will join us.

and, if that isn’t enough (from Generations of Light):

As all the dads stood to read the covenant over their daughters, I felt the power of those words sink right into my heart. My father promised to lead a life of integrity and purity for me. He signed his name and I signed as a witness to his words. And as he escorted me to the dance floor I felt empowered by his promise to war for my heart through his life of purity, and I knew my life would never be the same again.

Ah, can’t you just feel the Christian narrow-mindedness love just coursing through the dance hall?

purity_ball

So they encourage Dad to take his daughter to the ball and, as he stands there in his tuxedo and she in her evening gown (or, as in the photo above, tutus), she pledges her virginity to her father. The father sees her as a valuable possession which he can not allow to be tarnished.  His property.  His possession.  His honour which might be sullied by the grubby hands of a teenage boy doing exactly the same things he most likely did as a teen.

The Progressive Puppy has an excellent take on it, including quotes from 

Glamour Magazine:  … the balls are all part of the evangelical Christian movement, and they embody one of its key doctrines:  abstinence until marriage…  The majority of the girls here are, as purity ball guidelines suggest, just old enough to have begun menstruating…

Oddly, the fascination with purity and the attempted de-sexualization of pre-pubescent and pubescent girls has the opposite effect — by emphasizing sexual purity, the father is emphasizing sex.  And by emphasizing the solemn agreement between father and daughter (not, by any stretch of the imagination, an equal relationship), it emphasizes the father’s ownership of the daughter’s sexuality.  It has the effect of sexualizing the child.

One of the most memorable highlights of the ball is when the fathers stand in the middle of the ballroom and form a circle around their daughters standing all aglow in their lovely ball gowns. The fathers place their hands on their daughters, and together we pray for purity of mind, body, and soul for generations to come. (from Generations of Light, my emphasis)

And I think that we all know just how effective substituting authoritarian jingoism for an actual human to human relationship, right? (from the Washington Post):

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.”

This whole Purity Ball strikes me as yet another way to avoid treating children like actual human beings.  It avoids the development of a real relationship between father and daughter.  And it virtually guarantees that, when a decision needs to be made based upon rational and critical thinking, no rational or critical thinking will be used.  Will she knuckle under to the next authoritarian figure who thinks he owns her sexuality?  Or will she make a decision based upon what is best for her future?

(I also suspect that, had I ever tried  to take (((Girl))) to a ball, I would, most likely, have had them kicked into my, well, you get the picture.)

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41 comments

  1. I can’t help but notice that there’s no mention of the mothers having any role in any of this. So it’s also preparing a girl for the eventuality that, when Daddy finally cedes her to a husband, she should dutifully pop out children, and step out of the way and shut up.

    As a daughter, she will be valuable. As a wife and mother, not so much.


  2. Mutzali: Oddly, in my (admittedly brief) search for Purity Ball information, I saw no mention of the mother — apparently a healthy female role model is not necessary.

    And, once again, as soon as I publish, someone comes along and points out the important missing piece. Damnit. And thanks. Damn.


  3. The whole thing is creepy & the pictures at Progressive Puppy’s look like snapshots taken at an old school mormon wedding, but isn’t it weird & revealing how these men promise to be “faithful” to their wives & sexually “pure” not because they love their wives as life companions that they wouldn’t ever want to hurt but instead as further indoctrenation (sp?) that sex is bad?


  4. As a fierce advocate of comprehensive, reality-based sex education for 35 years now, I’m absolutely horrified by the influence the religious nuts have had on teens. Anecdotal, I know, but amongst all the families I’ve known through the years it seems the bible-bangers’ kids were the ones having babies in high school; not the pagan, atheist or otherwise non-Christian kids. Coincidence? I think not.

    This is just one more creepy ritual of the most popular death cult on the planet, controlling and oppressing sexuality (women’s especially) as it has for centuries. It’s disturbing how easily such ideas have been integrated into popular media… to the extent that tweens get sucked into religious indoctrination just because their favorite teen idols are enthusiastically endorsing it (Jonas Brothers, anyone?).

    Glad you posted this. If I get the (somewhat related) dilemma I’m currently pondering out of my head and onto my blog, I’ll be linking back here!


  5. Eaten: Sex is only bad for girls, but good for men. That’s why dad has to make sure that the girl knows that the hole between her legs is much more important than her whole being. Protects his investment.

    Rox: Thanks for stopping by. Near as I can make out, religion does three things: transfer wealth, give people a reason to put up with shit on earth, and give a few people massive control over others. If it were not wrapped in religion, this shit would never be tolerated.


    • I couldn’t agree more!


  6. So shouldn’t there be a purity ball for the guys, too?

    There are so many levels of weird and crazy with this shit, but I couldn’t help but think they’re celebrating a huge phallus in that picture.


  7. I find the whole “Purity Ball” thing creepy beyond compare. As if these kids of fundamentalist parents aren’t fed enough malarky, this just furthers the indoctrination in absurd and unrealistic (and potentially harmful) ways.

    I think girls would be much better served by learning about their bodies, sex, birth control, human relations, and boys. That way, they’ll have all the information they need to make a rational, and safe, decision.

    I’d much rather have my daughter know when to kiss a guy and when to kick him in the nuts than I would have her make a bogus promise to never have sex until marriage.


  8. I can understand wh6 you hate this idea. Your like Hussein Obama who is not even president because hes and illegal alian a Kenya citizen and a Moslem to boot. Obama when he was in Chicago forced sex ed on kindergartners. He is like all liberals in that he forces children to learn about sex and then when they learn about sex they want to do sex and you have all the pregnant teens. What is wrong with a girl promising to stay pure so that she can get married? You make no sense. Liberals want 5 year olds to be sex active and real Americans know that sex before marriage is always a bad thing every single time even if you marry the person you had premarital sex with.


  9. I’ve been reading your blog, Billy, for about a month and haven’t commented yet. I like your writing, but I feel a little overwhelmed with the ideas — that’s meant as a complement, btw. I’m not going to comment on your post and if this is inappropriate, please just delete this comment but I really feel like I need to say something. Type something.

    Ascot7: SHUT THE F–K UP YOU FLAMING A–HOLE!


  10. You really need to do something about rude commenters on your blog. Some of the thins they say rea erally offensive.


  11. Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, meet pot.


  12. Well I’m offended by rampant ignorance and failure to correctly spell. I think “real Americans” should be able to spell in their own language, especially since they generally are in favor of legislation making English the only officially acceptable language for the US.

    Speaking of spelling, there’s no surcharge on letters so don’t feel like you have to leave any out, Lurker. 😉


  13. Trying to be polite. Still not sure of all the rules.


  14. *chuckle*

    Lurker, when you leave out UC and SS, I don’t know that it makes much of a difference. 😉

    Ascot seems to be grossly misinformed about a number of topics which he addresses (in addition to the spelling issues that PhillyChief pointed out. Ha!), so really there’s not much you can do. Giving a rational response makes you feel good… until the reply comes and you realize that it had no impact at all.

    When you come across someone who spouts off that liberals want 5-year-olds to be sexually active and that sex before marriage is always a bad thing… really all you can do is point and laugh. 😉


  15. See this. Good cartoon about that which wear are talking.


  16. Philly: If you check out the PurityBall.com website, there is a section about boys including giving them a sword and a ring when they become adults — age 12.

    Dan: But actually teaching children real facts and educating them in reality is not the Christian way. Faith trumps all.

    Ascot7: The sky is not plaid. Really.

    Lurker: Glad you commented. You are now no longer a lurker. And its okay to fucking swear around here. Except for the ones like Ascot7, we’re adults here.

    Dan: I can’t figure out why so many conservatives are against the idea of teaching ‘good touch/bad touch’ and ‘it is okay to tell.’ Actually, I can (partly) understand it and it has to do with the incredible number of preacher, ministers, priests, you name ’em, who keep getting caught in kids knickers.


  17. A sword and a ring? What, so they can play with those instead?

    I wonder if they’ve ever considered the possibility that with the girls pledging purity and the girls’ dads being fierce defenders of this purity, that they could inadvertently be driving the frustrated boys towards each other. I hear they don’t call it gay in prison, just an act of necessity.


  18. Philly: No, they just use an unfit orifice — anal sex isn’t real sex, so the girl is still pure. But for boys to do the same thing? That’s just liberal.


  19. I dated a girl once who had male friends who, well, gave each other a helping hand from time to time. She tried to explain that’s not gay. I would beg to differ. I got reminded of that recently when I saw Zack and Miri make a porno when Jason Mewes explained what a “Dutch rudder” was.


  20. Damnit, Philly, now I have to ask: what is a ‘Dutch rudder?’


  21. I second (((Billy)))’s comment. Inquiring minds want to know!


  22. PhillyChief “I think “real Americans” should be able to spell in their own language, especially since they generally are in favor of legislation making English the only officially acceptable language for the US.”
    Why the heck would Real Americans vote to make a foreign language the US’s official language?

    {{{Billy}}} “…there is a section about boys including giving them a sword and a ring…”
    Fundy boys are hobbits?

    “Damnit, Philly, now I have to ask: what is a ‘Dutch rudder?’”
    Lester: I even tried to talk her into givin’ me the fuckin’ Dutch Rudder… shot me down on that, too.
    Zack Brown: And a Dutch Rudder is…?
    Lester: You don’t know what a Dutch Rudder – alright, you grab your dick, and then you have somebody else work your arm. Here, lemme show you. Grab my arm, I’m grabbing my dick, you’re grabbing my arm… now work it. Work it. Work my arm. See that shit? Now work it up and down. See that? It’s like somebody else is jerking you off.
    via Wikipedia’s page of quotes from Zack/Miri


  23. If they made a movie of these balls all the fundis would be waving placards in front of the theatre protesting the filth. Silly fundis.


  24. A sword and a ring…hmmmm… could there be a bit of phallic and other symbolism here, or is it just me? It’s too damn tempting.

    Indoctrination only works so far. Over the weekend I was invited to take part in an activity which I knew would cost me later in pain and discomfort, but I did it anyway, had a great time, and gladly paid the toll. (We were participating in the Gettysburg reenactment)

    That night, as expected, I wound up getting out of bed and sitting by the campfire, and a young lady who had to get up saw me sitting there watching the fire and sky and came over to kepp me company. I’ve known her for years, her family is fundie, she has just graduated, and will be going to college this fall.

    She confided to me as we sat there, that her parents thought that she was going to some christian establishment (she’d been accepted), would Get A Degree and a husband, and then participate in the “full quiver” thing as others in her family. She is one of ten children.

    She will be going to that town, but, unknown to her parents, she has also been accepted at another secular school and will attend there instead for a degree in civil enginering. She made the money to put herself through school, and she wants her wings to spread.

    She is also a great believer in chastity, not because of anything like a chastity ball, but because she has been helping to care for her siblings all her life and she’s had quite enough of that, thank you very much. She doesn’t regret or begrudge it, but she wants NO chance of having to do this again, until she is good and ready. And that ain’t gonna happen for a long, long time.

    I suppose we could call this an unintended consequence?


    • That’s a great story, Sarge. I really hope that all works out for her.


  25. speaking of fun sex terms, you’ve heard of “saddlebacking”, right?


  26. It’s one thing to have that on your site, but it’s something else entirely to actually go through the trouble of registering the domain name.


    • huh? …. This is something Dan Savage at The Stranger does every once and a while (names sex acts after right wing politicians, etc), sorry, I did not mean to take credit for it!


  27. Sarge: Never thought of that angle. Of course, all it takes is one of the ten deciding that popping out puppies by the dozen is the right thing to do and there’s still a net gain in the next generation. They all have to openminded or it’s like roaches.

    Antistokes: I’ve used the term a couple of times when writing about AOSE.

    Philly: You can tell, though, that it is not a fundie site: no mispellings, only two fonts, no bizarre graphics or nauseating colour combinations.


  28. we were participating in the Gettysburg reenactment

    The deacon and I drove through Gettysburg yesterday. I saw a sign about the reenactment and said, “I bet Sarge is there.”


    • I was, indeed. We played before crowds of over a thousand, and a friend of mine had me go out on the cavalry event, hence my later discomfort. I also fell in with some friends for the Pickett’s Charge scenario. The main group, our band was in the “Petting Zoo” (living history)but it’s nice to go out in the field as well. You passed by our friend (((Billy))) and me, that close.
      The weather was actually liveable for a change at the event. Funny, as hard as I work, as tired as I get, and as hot as it usually gets, my blood pressure always goes down to pretty much normal when I’m doing this sort of thing.

      If you get to the Cedar Creek event this fall, drop by the “Petting Zoo” and say “Hidee”.

      Our band always plays for the church service, and it is always interesting to hear what is said in the service and watch people’s reactions to it. Sometimes “primitive” discribes more than one aspect.


  29. Sarge: Last year, on July 3, I was driving home from the Great Dismal Swamp fire. Took me 14 hours to get from Suffolk, VA to WB. The traffic jam started around Fredericksburg and ended north of Harrisburg (I was stupid and took route 15 up past Gettysburg).


  30. not much know about this but i like read this information


  31. i think that the idea of a purity ball is great because it recognises the strength it takes to push aside the temptations of sex. because our societys youth are more involved in sex now than ever its a great way for young girls to show how they embrase their religion and wait till marriage to give away something that is only worthy of someone who will love you and cherish you forever. the promise doesnt signify your a christian but it stand for not having sex before marrriage. i myself have a promise ring and mine stands for no sex before marriage and no dating while in high school and it was my idea to get it. A promise ring from the parents show that they trust that you will not break this promise… i think its a wonderfully awesome idea


  32. i have a promise ring and mine stands for no sex before marriage and no dating while in high school and it was my idea to get it. A promise ring from the parents show that they trust that you will not break this promise… i think its a wonderfully awesome idea


  33. margaret/Meg (same IP address, same phraseology, same grammar and capitalization (or lack therof)): And the promise ring also shows that Mom and Dad do not view the girl as a person, but as a commodity. A commodity which will lose all value if she is not a virgin at marriage.

    If it works for you, great. But, in my opinion (and in the opinion of others), it teaches the little girl that she is not a human being, she has no intrinsic worth beyond the hole between her legs.


  34. It is hard to envission the life of a teanager in 2010. We are soo self centerd and into money, we have no solutions but we do critize all of those that know their is a problem for our young future woman.
    Fair or not, social standars want them to be barbies, sexy,smart, atletics, carrer, mothers, providers educators etc.. goes on and on. Hellooooo! are u all insane??? anal or both???
    and please faith in God is really the only fare arms they have, and you want to take that too away???? you are suisadal sorry


    • Lordy, lordy, lordy! Is there some kind of correlation between reading the KJV Bible and deficient spelling?


      • Chappie: Well, at the time the KJV was written, spelling and punctuation was quite malleable. If anything, the KJV Bible helped to create ‘Kings English’ — which most likely sounded like the heavy accents of the Southern Appalachians.

        That said (and keeping in mind my occasional spelling idiocy) it is mindblowing.


  35. Mother of Four: I fully understand the difficulties of raising teenagers today. My daughter is 17. I have not, however, told her that her sexuality belongs to anyone but herself. (((Wife))) and I have talked with her. She and her boyfriend are not ready (which is a good thing). but she also is prepared with two forms of birth control should she and her boyfriend make that decision. And it is her decision to make. No matter how dominating, controlling, biblical male I go on her, it will still be her decision. No way am I going to teach her that she belongs to me until I give her to her husband. I treat her like a human being.

    I am not suicidal, nor am I creating in my daughter such a sense of guilt for being human that she becomes suicidal.

    And I have to assume that the last ‘sorry’ is for the spelling and grammar. I don’t accept.



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