My Introduction to Sociology class has brought many issues to my attention that I was completely oblivious to before college. One of the most obscure and extreme ones that got my blood boiling was the archaic practice of “purity balls.”
According to a New York Times article, the first purity ball, a dance where fathers pledge to protect the virginities of their unmarried daughters, occurred in 1998, in Colorado Springs, Colo., hosted by Randy Wilson. Wilson, who serves as the National Field Director for Church Ministries with the Family Research Council, has promoted purity balls, and thereby abstinence, across the nation and around the world through pamphlets and how-to guides. These balls have been held in 48 states.
The girls who attend purity balls, which are often held annually, can be as young as six or seven. The balls are also virtually exclusively tied to Christianity. Examples include situations where fathers would give the girl a necklace with a lock on it, and hold on to the key so he could give it to her future husband.
In this case, the daughter’s virginity isn’t her own anymore. She doesn’t get to give it away — that exchange is now between her father and her husband. The girl goes from being the property of one misogynist to the next. I’m all for abstinence, but there are ways to stay abstinent and live religiously without giving up rights to your body.
There was no mention in my research of an equivalent of purity balls for young boys, yet there is so much more pressure on women to stay pure than on men. This double standard permeates through all of society. Women are called sluts and judged by men and women alike if they have sex, but the same behavior is empowering to men, and they are congratulated.
This practice is dehumanizing and oppressive. If these girls are earnest about keeping their virginities, why can’t they stay pure by choosing not to have sex rather than being restricted by a pact with their fathers? Purity balls essentially say that women are not capable of handling or protecting their own virginities.
A 6-year-old girl is hardly capable of making decisions about her sex life. Nor is she capable of understanding what she’s relinquishing to her father. If I were 6 years old, I’d be too busy calling myself Cinderella to focus on signing a document and giving up my right to have control over my virginity.
Bottom line, there is no excuse for this oppressive behavior. This archaic tradition belongs in history books, not in today’s country clubs.