An Inside Look at Purity Balls November 1, 2008

An Inside Look at Purity Balls

You know you’re freaked out by Purity Balls — the dances where young girls make a solemn pledge to their conservative Christian fathers that they will be sexually abstinent until marriage.

Tomorrow night, you’ll have a chance to learn more about them. A special on Purity Balls is airing on TLC.

You’ll win a prize if you can sit through the whole thing without making any snarky remarks 🙂

(Thanks to Melissa for the link!)

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  • Tao Jones

    For a minute there I thought Purity Balls were a male’s counterpart to a purity ring. Bad image.

  • What’s the prize? Because I think there should be a prize for sitting through the freak show, let alone doing it without making any snarky comments.

  • Kate

    If the prize is that these sick “parties” disappear forever, then sure – I MIGHT be able to sit quietly. But not without throwing up.

  • noodleguy

    For a minute there I thought Purity Balls were a male’s counterpart to a purity ring. Bad image.

    I am now scarred for life, thanks.

    Difficulty levels:
    Easy mode: 5 minutes without sarcasm
    Medium mode: 10 minutes without sarcasm
    Hard mode: 15 minutes without sarcasm
    Uber Super Delux “OHGODTHISISSORIDICULOUS!!!” Insanely Hard mode: 20 minutes without sarcasm.

    I failed easy mode just by looking at the WEBSITE. Arrgh fail…

  • Actually, I thought the Purity Balls were events where the father pledged to use his efforts to protect his daughter’s purity for her. He also promises to not read pornography and stuff. It’s not so much about the daughter as it is the father. And yes, it’s very, very creepy.

  • Adam

    Did any one els think a “purity ball” was an object? like a snow globe or something…

  • Diana

    I thought they were some kind of internal chastity device – like a “dam.”

  • Indigo

    @Adam: That was the thought that first flitted across my mind. I was thinking Christmas tree ornament.

    @Diana: Ouch.

    In general: what a weird idea. I also find it pretty telling that there’s no male equivalent, no official event where mothers sit down with their sons and tell them the importance of keeping it in their pants. Funny how that works.

  • Christophe Thill

    Yes, this is just sick. It shows the relationship between fathers and daughters in a very weird light. Why is it supposed “normal” that those girls make a promise to their fathers, not to both their parents? Doesn’t this sound like engagement vows?

  • Jesse

    Purity balls sound pretty funny. We had something in my AG church that was kind of like that. I can’t remember what it was called, but I’m sure it had some “hip” name. Word.

    I also recall that my dad had me go to our nearby Church of Christ that was holding a sex ed class. Abstinence only, of course, but it worked for me. I understand that abstinence only doesn’t work for everyone, but the tales of venereal disease led me to abstain until I got married.

  • It looks like in the father-daughter balls, kids as young as four get involved. has a quote from a father:

    “How can you measure the value of your eleven year old looking up into your eyes (as you clumsily learn the fox-trot together) with innocent, uncontainable joy, saying, ‘Daddy, I’m so excited!’ wrote Wesley Tullis in a letter describing his grateful participation. ‘I have been involved with the Father-Daughter Ball for two years with my daughters, Sarah and Anna. It is impossible to convey what I have seen in their sweet spirits, their delicate, forming souls, as their daddy takes them out for their first, big dance. Their whole being absorbs my loving attention, resulting in a radiant sense of self-worth and identity. Think of it from their perspective: My daddy thinks I’m beautiful in my own unique way. My daddy is treating me with respect and honor. My daddy has taken time to be silly, and even made a fool of himself, learning how to dance. My daddy really loves me!”

    Ick, frankly.

  • laterose

    I also find it pretty telling that there’s no male equivalent, no official event where mothers sit down with their sons and tell them the importance of keeping it in their pants. Funny how that works.

    They’re not nearly as popular, but there are “integrity balls” for the boys. The mothers take them. The boys pledge not to ruin unmarried girls’ purity. It’s funny that even when they *try* to equal things out between the genders they still make it all about the girls’ mystical “purity” that is so easily destroyed by male touch. I guess boys don’t have any purity to begin with or something.

  • Gullwatcher

    Why is it supposed “normal” that those girls make a promise to their fathers, not to both their parents?

    Because although it’s been a while since it was legally the case, in the back of some men’s minds (guess which ones) their women are their property. Why make a promise to another piece of property?

    There’s a very interesting article in the New Yorker about why evangelical girls get pregnant so often, and it mentions a problem with the purity vow concept. From the article:

    Bearman and Brückner have also identified a peculiar dilemma: in some schools, if too many teens pledge, the effort basically collapses. Pledgers apparently gather strength from the sense that they are an embattled minority; once their numbers exceed thirty per cent, and proclaimed chastity becomes the norm, that special identity is lost. With such a fragile formula, it’s hard to imagine how educators can ever get it right: once the self-proclaimed virgin clique hits the thirty-one-per-cent mark, suddenly it’s Sodom and Gomorrah.

    It’s clearly a doomed effort, but again, feeling like a martyr is obviously much of the attraction. No doubt they will continue to push it for that reason alone.

  • Pamela

    Yay, women as property and womens’ virginity as a commodity!

    It really makes a lot of sense. Girls/women are whores if they enjoy sex or have sex before marriage. A woman’s virginity is something to “guard” because she is unclean and filthy and worthless w/o it. It’s also *really* appropriate for a father to force a pre-pubescent child into a sexual promise she doesn’t understand….how is that not absolutely disgusting.

    Aside from everything else wrong with that, it reeks of classism. I am glad these people can afford to throw a virginity party complete with expensive dresses and the whole shebang for something that doesn’t matter and is statistically not likely to happen.

  • Christophe Thill

    In the TV report I saw about this “purity” craze, a video clip illustrating their way of thinking was shown, a kind of ad for abstinence. In it, a young guy was given a water bottle to drink from; but as soon as he opened it, a bunch of other guys took it from his hands and drank in turn before giving it back to him. And of course, he didn’t want it anymore but asked for a new one. The morale of the story was so blatant it didn’t even have to be spelled out clearly: girls, you’re an object to be consumed by the boys, and if you want respect from them, you have to be “brand new” or they’ll reject you. Charming isn’t it?

  • Beijingrrl

    Despite the fact that I decided at 13 that I wasn’t going to wait until marriage to have sex, I was 18 the first time. Take that chastity pledge proponents!

    What held me up? It certainly wasn’t a purity ball or my Catholic mom’s expectation of my abstinence. It was actually… reading “Forever” by Judy Blume. It’s not stellar writing, but it does portray a very realistic teenage relationship. It made me realize that I probably wasn’t ready for the likely consequences of a sexual relationship at that point despite having a strong physical desire for one.

    I also expected a lot of maturity from a potential boyfriend, but didn’t want to date older boys (I didn’t like the control dynamic I observed in other couples), so that took some time, too.

    My first time was lovely and, although the relationship didn’t last, I was mature enough to deal with it. I’m really glad I waited as once I started I didn’t want to stop, but I was able to make good choices about how to meet my needs until I met my husband 6 months later. We’ve been together 20 years this month and the fact that we are so sexually compatible is a huge factor.

    I’ll encourage my own kids to wait until they are older and explain my reasons, but in the end I’ll support whatever choices they make.

  • Jen

    I am weirdly excited about watching this, though I may actually die from the grossness of it all.

    I have a fine relationship with my father, and I have to say its because he never asked me to pledge my hymen to him .

  • Brian E

    Ugh…I came across this last night while flipping through channels. It is so creepy it borders on sexual misconduct and mental cruelty. I couldn’t even imagine doing this one day with my daughter; it is such an incorrect method for teaching young girls about their sexuality and responsibility that I do think these things should be outlawed.

  • Brody

    This can only lead to feelings guilt for having natural sexual thoughts once puberty sets in. I’m not sure how it works for the female gender, but as a boy growing up feeling attracted to other boys, i felt nothing but guilt and shame for what I later realized where natural biological responses. I could def. relate to the one woman they interviewed who “broke” her chastity pledge and what she experienced as a result. I wished they gave a little more airtime to the flip side though.

    By the way, the one family that had 9 children and 5 miscarriages… they had to be “quiver full,” right?

  • Jen

    Saw it last night, and it was interesting. And by interesting, I mean horrifying. There was one girl, a former purity person, who got pregnant with her purity-movement boyfriend. She did not marry him, and they broke up, and she is now living with another guy. Her parents barely speak to her. Lovely. And many of the little girls seemed pretty brainwashed. What 11 year old says she wont have sex because of future anguish? What the hell? I also loved the 13 year old who thought not kissing till the alter was one of the Ten Commandments. Hilarious.

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