How She Grew Out of Her ‘Purity Ring’ Phase

Libby Anne wrote a whatever-the-opposite-of-a-love-letter-is to her purity ring:

… Even when I left for college I kept you on my finger, broadcasting my purity to the world.

You set me apart as different, special, pure.

When I started dating my first boyfriend he told me that he didn’t care whether I was “pure” or not. He told me that what I’d chosen to do with my body before meeting him didn’t matter to him at all. And he was perfectly serious. I had thought when I put you on my finger that I was keeping myself pure as a gift for my future husband, but here was this young man and I thought the world of him, and he of me, but he didn’t see my purity as a gift in any sense. He didn’t care. He liked me for me, for my unique talents and quirks, and didn’t give a fig for my purity.

And it was at that moment that you betrayed me.

I had poured everything into you, and for what? It felt like a farce. It felt vain and pointless. I felt betrayed and confused. I realized that I had valued my purity more than my intelligence, or my creativity, or my love for others. I had elevated my purity above everything else. I had boasted of it, flaunted it, cherished it. And suddenly I found myself questioning the value of “purity.”

The end of the letter is fantastic. It shows that you can break free from the spell the ring puts you under, that “purity” isn’t necessarily a value worth cherishing, and that there are so many other qualities about a woman that matter more than whether or not she’s “saving herself” for her future husband.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Gwen

    It is disturbing, almost incestuous the way these fathers present this to their daughters. What about the sons? Did HE remain a virgin until marriage? What exactly does wedding night virginity prove, and why is that more valuable than any other part of her being?As in; is she a kind and loving person toward others, is she curious, willing to learn more?…and so much more. We are so much more than our vaginas.

    • Don Gwinn

      But . . . it’s tradition!

      Yeah, I know.  But that really is the answer, if you keep pushing for an answer long enough.

      • CelticWhisper

         Ahh, “tradition.”  Just another fuzzy, cuddly word for tyranny.  And christians do so love it.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=813165390 Annika Raaen

          Isn’t THAT the truth?

    • kenneth

      “We are so much more than our vaginas.”Not to Christianity, you’re not. 

    • Artor

      Hey, you’re a uterus too. Don’t feel bad. /snark/

  • Justin Miyundees

    I have a friend who once had to leave a party because she got intensely upset that another party guest had remarked in a casual conversation about a female student at his school (it was a high school) saying, “yeah – I know who you’re talking about – she was a late bloomer”.  She actually ran out the door to keep from erupting and making a scene.

    As off color as that remark may or may not be aside (though I will say in the man’s defense children do physically mature at different times and communities have assigned colloquialisms to various aspects of sexual maturity and “late bloomer” is used for male and female – it was a fairly innocuous remark even if we want to call the man a “dinosaur”), but my point is that my  friend strangely had no qualms when her daughter began wearing a purity ring at her church’s prompting.  That seems weird and I’ve always found her reactions to be at odds especially since her husband, my best friend (who has passed, sadly), was a cattle farmer.  Cattle farmers tag their cattle to keep earnest records on which heifer or cow has been bred, when she was bred and to which sire she was bred.  

    If someone calling your daughter a “late bloomer” upsets you, isn’t a youth pastor tracking the disposition of your daughter’s vagina far more offensive?  We let the church get away with shit that would make our jaws absolutely hit the floor in other situations – that’s really curious.  There seem to be allowances granted to “holy men” that would land a “commoner” in jail – call it the Sandusky effect.

  • kenneth

    Back in my day, my friends and I didn’t need purity rings. I hung out with the role playing game crowd. Our chastity, unfortunately, was never in any danger…..

    • Pisk_A_Dausen

      Plus, there’s a limit to how many rings you can wear. :D

      • Sindigo

        Damn you 2nd edition and and your encumbrance rules!

  • Octoberfurst

     I have never really understood the obsession with “purity” that most conservative religious people espouse whether they be Catholic, evangelical, Orthodox Jew or Muslim.  And it is much more focused on women than men.  (Even though men are supposed to remain “pure” too.)  They seem to believe that God will get really, really upset if you have sexual relations without being married.
      I grew up in that culture. I was expected to remain a virgin until my wedding night.  It was all part of “God’s perfect plan”.  My virginity was to be a “gift” I gave my wife as her virginity was to be for me.  But try as I might I never saw what the big deal was. So I ended up having sex with my first girlfriend and the world didn’t end.  We eventually parted and I have had a number of other girlfriends over the years. And not one of my girlfriends ever asked me if I was a virgin before we slept together. No one cared.  I think this whole “purity” thing is much ado about nothing.  

  • welltheydo

    Independent of Christian/traditional and modern/progressive social mores, most men do find virginity, or at least a relatively low number of sexual partners, to be an attractive quality, especially for long-term relationships.  

    • EivindKjorstad

       Your “at least” part is key. If a person has shown a long history of many short-term flings, then it’s not unreasonable to assume that you may also be only a short-term thing. And this, of course, is a negative if you’re looking for long-term commitment.

      If someone have had a lot of short-term partners, they might have to work somewhat harder to convince me that it’s somehow different with me. I don’t think that’s unreasonable, but how often you’ve had sex isn’t relevant here, infact a person who’s had one steady boyfriend for 5 years likely had sex more often than anothother person who’s had 20 short-term sexual partners over the same period.

    • PietPuk

      Where did you find these statistics?

    • Gus Snarp

      Define “relatively low”. And virginity attractive for a long term relationship? I’m with PietPuk, show me the statistics.  Even if you’re right, that reflects on a problem with the way men in our culture view women, nothing more. And I don’t think it’s in any way independent of “Christian/traditional” social norms. I don’t think you can begin to make it independent. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      I wouldn’t say most men. There are definitely many men that want that, but that’s nothing more than a double standard.
      Many men also want women who will cook, clean, and raise the kids for them, but that doesn’t mean that expectation is okay for them to have.
      I would argue that even if it’s outside of Christianity, Christianity has influenced Western tradition a great deal. Preferring women to be more sexually “pure” is definitely a result of that tradition and the stereotypes that circulate when women do not conform to it.

    • Michael

      Relatively low?

      You mean like less than a thousand?

  • Emma

    I did give my virginity to my husband, it just happened to be ten years before the wedding!

  • Tainda

    I wouldn’t want to sleep with a virgin.  I like a man who knows what he is doing.

    • CompanionCube

       This.  My boyfriend has been an atheist since childhood, but he has some… “quirks” when it comes to social/emotional things… he remained a virgin till the age of 30, simply because to his mind, the risk of pregnancy/std’s had to be weighed against the likelihood that this woman was “the one”.  Well, he decided I was the one (for my part, I had a dozen partners in the 10 years prior to him).
      Six years later, we are still together (but not married, he rejects the whole thing), and our sex life is terrible. He is so used to going solo, that he has completely disconnected “sex” from any connection with a partner – he does it to relieve stress, he does it while reading, whatever… paying absolutely no attention to me… also he prefers *that* sensation, since it’s what he’s most accustomed to.  I truly wish he’d lost his virginity at a younger age, and learned the role of sex in an emotional relationship.

      • Tainda

        That’s very rough.  Maybe counseling?  I know it’s not the only thing in a relationship but sex is very important to me in one.  That would make me a sad panda :(

  • Gus Snarp

    Wow, I’ve heard people describe the father/daughter relationship with regard to purity rings as creepy, I’ve heard it described as patriarchal, and I’ve known intellectually those descriptions were accurate. But it wasn’t until I read Libby Anne’s first paragraph that I really felt it. I happen not to have had daughters, but I could not imagine taking my daughter out to a special dinner to present her with a purity ring. Ugh. It’s just wrong on so many levels, even if I imagine the father I might be if I were still a Southern Baptist – no, just no.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      It is incredibly creepy.
      I guess I understand promising to your parents that you’ll be a good girl, but why not have both the parents more involved then? Why can’t it be an agreement between the mother and daughter? That would at least make the concept a lot easier for the two of them to talk about.
      And guys are supposed to remain virgins as well, but I don’t see them having to make some sort of agreement with their mothers. And if they do have sex, then I’m sure they still feel guilty, but it’s not like they felt like they betrayed their parents and all the people that were there at their purity ball or anything.

  • freemage

    The flipside of the “purity” thing is just as disturbing (if not moreso) as the more obvious message.  There’s a strong tendency among the advocates of “purity” to regard any girl who does not 

    • Tainda

      I’m not a slut, I’m experienced lol

  • C Peterson

    Good job to all for maintaining quotes around “pure” and “purity” in this discussion. In this context, the words are so distorted from their actual meanings that emphasizing that distortion is important.

  • JWH

    The whole “purity ring” thing skeeves me out.

    I can think of a host of good reasons to abstain before marriage, starting with “Because I damn well feel like it” — and ending with “because I damn well feel like it,” for good measure.  But fetishizing “purity” is unhealthy.  


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