Tonight at 9:00 (ET) on Nightline Prime, ABC will be broadcasting a program about so-called Purity Balls. They’re like debutante balls (gowns and tiaras are everywhere) except that the central event is a virginity pledge that teenage girls swear to God — and to dad.
Last fall, the ABC team attended “the Super Bowl of Purity Balls” at the Regal Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There, five dozen dads signed a purity covenant, promising “before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.” But of course it’s really the girls who pledge — abstinence.
As the father of two pre-teen kids (both girls), I hope that, when they’re old enough, they’ll be very choosy — that is, discerning — about their sex partners. But I can’t imagine being involved (and invested) in their virginity to the extent that the parents attending the Broadmoor affair are. To each his or her own, but the notion that a young woman is somehow diminished in value once she’s had sex seems pretty misogynistic to me.
And what some of the fathers tell their daughters sounds downright skeevy to my ears. Watch the video here and try not to cringe when you hear the dad say to his little princess, while placing a ring on her finger,
“At this point you’re married to the Lord and your father is your boyfriend.”
There’s little that could creep me out as much as that line.
Purity pledges have a very spotty record of success. Leave it to hormonally charged teenagers to find the, um, loopholes. One study found that five years after the pledge,
… pledgers have similar proportions of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and at least as high proportions of anal and oral sex as those who have not made a virginity pledge. [The researchers] deduced that there was substitution of oral and anal sex for vaginal sex among the pledgers, although the data for anal sex without vaginal sex reported by males did not reflect this directly. This study also estimated that male pledgers were 4.1 times more likely to remain virgins by age 25 than those who did not pledge (25% vs. 6%), and estimated that female pledgers were 3.5 times more likely to remain virgins by age 25 than those who did not pledge (21% vs. 6%). The study also noted that those who pledge yet became sexually active reported fewer partners and were not exposed to STI risk for as long as nonpledgers.
That second part might still be a desirable outcome for those who guard their daughters’ virginity like a precious family treasure. I wonder, though: If pledgers are more likely to come from conservative Christian families, as seems almost self-evident, and non-pledgers are predominantly from more permissive nests, does the pledge itself still make a difference? Given their upbringing, if the pledgers hadn’t swore their oath, wouldn’t they still be more likely to be virgins by age 25 despite a possible flurry of oral and anal sex?
Another peer-reviewed study concluded that
… adolescents who make an informal promise to themselves not to have sex will delay sex, but adolescents who take a formal virginity pledge do not delay sex.
I’ll be tuning in tonight, and I fervently hope the ABC team asks the parents about the annoying double standard: Why is virginity demanded, amid much social hoopla, from daughters, but treated as an afterthought when it comes to sons? To right that wrong, I propose that the boys get fancy purity parties of their own, and that we’ll call those ‘Blue Balls.’
P.S. Photos worth seeing.
(Image via Shutterstock)