Your Virginity is YOURS – Not Your Daddy’s

I just came across this:

Golden Isles Father Daughter Purity Ball

You really should go to the link and look at the pictures. Let me give you some examples below:

Here’s the thing. I have nothing against a girl deciding not to have sex until marriage, but that needs to be her choice. It’s not her dad’s choice, not her pastor’s choice, not her mom’s choice, not anyone else’s choice. If a girl decides she wants to not have sex until marriage, it’s her choice. And you know what? If you decide you want to stay a virgin, your dad has nothing to do with it.

The whole father / daughter purity ball phenomenon preserves the idea that the father has some sort of special say or authority over his daughter’s sexuality. it is true that in the Old Testament men were to safeguard their daughters’ virginity, but that was because their daughters were, quite literally, their property. The thing is, it’s not 1000 BCE any more. It’s the twenty-first century, and today we recognize women as independent individuals who can make their own choices and decisions. Women are no longer property, and in that light, father / daughter purity covenants are just weird. Fathers do not own their daughters’ virginity.

I also have a problem with the fact that the purity ideal divides girls and young women into chaste virgins and total sluts. Purity balls put forward the idea that if you have sex, you are suddenly damaged goods. Your worth is tied to your virginity. This deserves repeating. In the purity culture created by purity rings and purity balls, your worth as a female becomes timed to your virginity. And you know what? Girls and young women are so much more than their virginity or lack of it, so much more.

There is a lot more I could say here, but frankly, I only have so much time. I’ll simply finish by pointing out that there are plenty of father / daughter purity balls, but no mother / son purity balls. Coincidence? I think not. It’s time we call foul and abandon this idea that fathers somehow own their daughters’ virginity for once and for all.

(Click here for a promo video for Vision Forum’s 2011 father daughter retreat.)

A Matter of Patriarchy
When Marriage Looks Like the Only Escape
The Cold, Unforgiving World of Geoffrey Botkin
The Modesty Rules---Not So Simple, Really
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Sandra

    even just the pictures here are just creepy. If we didn't know these were father/daughter couples, they would be sleazy. So knowing that they are father/daughter couples… eww!

  • Chris

    Um, a single red rose? Isn't that nuclear "let's have sex!" symbolism?

  • taradawes

    There is such pure creepiness emanating from those pictures. Seriously, why are these men so concerned with whats going on between their daughters legs and keeping them "pure". How about teaching your daughter self-worth and self-respect, not the puritanical notion of purity.

  • CLDG

    I have ranted about this many a time in the last several years. First of all, father-daughter relationship cast as a romance: can you get any creepier without actual incest? It is fetishizing –literally making a fetish object out of–the pure, untouched body of a young girl. This girl is innocent, pure, untainted, good. Unlike other girls who are carnal, dirty, ruined and bad. I remember literally thinking that way about a girl in 9th grade who told me she had lost her virginity. I thought she was ruined and dirty, and I felt terrible for her. This dichotomy is incredibly damaging. There are plenty of very good reasons not to have teenage sex and they can be presented without this.

  • happywoman

    "I'll simply finish by pointing out that there are plenty of father / daughter purity balls, but no mother / son purity balls. Coincidence? I think not."Exactly! It's all about reminding the girls that they are the gatekeepers, and leaving the boys out of it implies that they are not considered responsible for their behavior like the girls.Love your blog! :) I spent a good deal of my teens/ early twenties life in fundamentalist churches, and reading your blog is like therapy for me.

  • Anonymous

    Gross, my skin is crawling and i cant finish my breakfast – i'm disgusted things like this actually take place – those pics are disturbing. A girls virginity or otherwise is a private thing not something to be paraded about – its reminds me of a dog show or something – all the proud OWNERS showing off their pedigree dogs. yuk…creepy…

  • skjaere

    This all makes me so glad that my mother did not become "born again" until I was already mostly done with high school. I cannot imagine having to grow up like this, or having to shake off these ideas as an adult. I feel like my upbringing had enough conservative warping to it already, thankyouverymuch! I just feel so bad for these girls, because while this model may work for some of them, they will all *believe* it's supposed to work for all of them. Some will end up having sex and be weighed down by guilt. Some will save themselves for marriage, only to find that it's not necessarily a perfect recipe for happiness. Why can't we just teach our girls to be critical thinkers who can recognise their own needs and make smart choices about them?And everyone on earth ever needs to read "The Purity Myth" by Jessica Valenti. That book seriously changed my life. Cannot wait for the documentary!

  • Discordia

    How creepy! Those pictures are just… ewwwwwww.I'm so glad of having a dad who does think that my sex life is NOT his business.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    My highly articulate reaction to purity balls is, as usual…ew ew ew ew EW!Seriously, I can't look at those photos of those girls in their little coy princess outfits without just thinking "This is an entire event dedicated to minor girls genitalia." No getting around that. I am a Daddy's Girl–always have been. I can talk to my dad about a lot of personal stuff. However, I do not talk to him about my vagina. My dad does not ask me about my vagina. I don't think he particularly wants to THINK about my vagina. And if I had ever suggested to him that we attend an event that basically amounts to the consecration of my vagina to him, he'd have been embarrassed and grossed out. Which is A-okay by me.Also, although I know I've beat this drum before, I'd go so far as to say that my virginity was never mine either, because it didn't exist. I never possessed anything that I no longer possessed after I started having sex. In fact, I GAINED something–experience, mostly positive. I'm not less pure, less "virgin", I'm not adulterated in some way. It disgusts me that girls are taught to think this way–that all they've got to offer a guy as an ego trip over being "the first" and their self-worth is contained in how well they guard that "gift"–except they can't even do that, that's Daddy's job apparently, so they don't even have that agency. Ugh.Seriously, why don't we just start displaying the bloody sheets on the wedding night. Our culture is about one cut above that anyway.

  • Janey

    The whole concept of purity irks the crap out of me. I work with a very conservative Catholic who was proclaiming that the average age a girl loses her virginity in Australia today was 13 (which it isn't) and then complaining about how awful this was. Why is teens exploring their sexuality viewed as such a bad thing by Christians? She looked down on girls who KISSED boy at parties- I sure as hell wasn't going to tell her what I used to get up to at parties. How can we expect women to have a healthy attitude towards sex if we demonise it so damned much?I was raised to do things because I wanted to, not because someone else wanted me to and that was mostly what I did. I will confess that I didn't loose my virginity in a magical teen flick moment, ather in a slightly drunken peer pressured moment. You know what, though? I don't regret it. My worth does not come from my sexuality so who cares how I lost my virginity. I've also eaten at restaurants I haven't liked. Doesn't mean I can't enjoy eating out ever again.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Also, totally saddened by the fact that some of those girls in those photos look to be 8 or 9 years old. Kids that age should be running around and scraping their knees, not getting primped and paraded around and told to start thinking of themselves as some extra-special prize for some man far in the future. How is this not sexualizing little girls just as much as advertising and media which encourages them to wear age-inappropriate, sexy clothes? It's the same damn thing. "Remember, sweetie, you are not just some sex object that exists for the pleasure of men. You are a VERY SPECIAL sex object, that exists for the pleasure of just ONE man.""Huh? What? Daddy, I'm 8. I don't even wear a bra. I'm not even entirely sure how sex works and I really don't really want to think about it yet!""Well, get used to thinking about it, sweetie, beccause, as a female, it's the only identity you'll ever be allowed."Heartwarming.

  • Libby Anne

    Petticoat Philosopher – "Remember, sweetie, you are not just some sex object that exists for the pleasure of men. You are a VERY SPECIAL sex object, that exists for the pleasure of just ONE man."This. I'm going to write another post on this topic, but the argument essentially runs like this "girls are going to look for male validation because that's part of being female, so until they are ready for marriage they should get that male validation from their fathers, and that way they won't run around getting it from random boys." What about teaching girls that their validation doesn't come from boys? What about teaching girls to find validation and worth in their dreams, their talents, their skills and abilities? But no, silly, we can't do that! Instead we'll just tell girls to get their validation from their dads! And then, you know, when that girl someday does something to displease her dad, her entire world and self worth will come crashing down. Great idea!

  • Lola

    These things are just so squicky and I can't help but feel like the fact that wear white makes it even more so. Almost like a debutant or quincecera thing, only with such young girls, and even though those two traditions come from the idea that girls were now introduced to society and able to be courted, the purity balls feel more sexualized to me. Also, it's a sad bastardization of a loved tradition in my hometown, the Father Daughter dance, in which fathers and daughters got dressed up, had a nice dinner, and then danced/hung out with friends. Similar event, but no emphasis on purity, just a chance to hang out with daddy. There actually is a mother-son version of it too, which is slightly less popular, but I do recall several boys grudgingly putting on a suit and buying their moms a corsage.

  • Sheena

    I am so, so grateful that there are intelligent women (and men) who understand Christianity…And see this crap for what it is.These "purity balls" and the concept behind them (that little girls need to be aware that they are worth more as virgins than otherwise, and if they have the sex before they are married they are tainted and unworthy of a "good man") is disgusting and infuriating. This isn't "good men trying to be good fathers", this is a misogynistic culture perpetuating hate towards women in general and especially those who step out of line.

  • Janey

    Well said, Sheena.

  • boomSLANG

    Agreed on the, "see this crap for what it is", part. I get the feeling, though, that every Christian would claim that they "understand Christianity". 'Just sayin'.

  • Ophelia Benson

    Yikes. Creepy is too mild a word…

  • brokendaughters

    Somehow I'm thankful I grew up way too sheltered to even take part in something like this. Sure, my sexuality was my dad's, but he didn't need a prom to prove me that. His word was enough and quite frankly, scary enough for me to not even think about doing anything else.Looking at these pictures… they look like wedding pictures with a very pedophile touch to it. It's so disgusting, I don't have words.

  • Wendy

    I agree with Petticoat Philosopher (as usual!): I didn't lose something when I became sexually active, I gained something.(LOL My beta version of this comment included the phrase "lost my virginity." Dammit!)

  • April E

    I find all of that really uncomfortable and weird to look at!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your insightful commentary on this practice and on those pics. Creepy stuff to look at. Painful, too.

  • Anonymous

    Added to the fact that culturally your worth as a male involves losing your virginity. With these two ridiculously opposite goals boys and girls end up with a seriously f-ed adolescence.

  • colleen

    I saw a doc about this on TLC a few years ago. It was disturbing. So many of the girls were pre-school and early grammer school age, they had no idea what being a virgin meant. I felt these girls were being pushed into a form of sexual education way too young.

  • colleen

    Regarding the link for the VF father/daughter retreat – Did you know VF doesn't have any mother/daughter or mother/son retreats? I suspect this isn't odd, seeing women don't have a high standing in VF.

  • Meggie

    I find the whole idea that men are raging sexual beasts that women must protect themselves from strange. Purity balls – watch out, there are men out there waiting to take advantage of you. Trust Daddy instead. It also comes out in the Duggar family's 'Nike' and Joy-Anna covering the computer screen so that her little brothers don't see inappropriate images. Boy = bad. Girl = good but can be corrupted if not protected. Who protects them = Daddy. Daddy = boy and boy = bad. This argument has a serious flaw.

  • Anonymous

    "Gross, my skin is crawling and i cant finish my breakfast – i'm disgusted things like this actually take place – those pics are disturbing. A girls virginity or otherwise is a private thing not something to be paraded about – its reminds me of a dog show or something – all the proud OWNERS showing off their pedigree dogs. yuk…creepy.." Do not even associate this grotesque act with a dog show. You don't even know what you are talking about and we people who do particapate in dog shows do not need your un-informed slander. If you even knew half of the benefits registerd breeders provide for the health and welfare of dogs of all kinds, not just pure bred, you would be eating your own foot right now. That being said, this is beyond horrible and very disturbing.

  • Anonymous

    "You are cordially invited to the Twelfth Annual Father-Daughter Purity Ball. This special event exists for the purpose of celebrating the relationship between father and daughter, providing an opportunity for dads to show their daughters just how precious they are. The Father- Daughter Purity Ball provides fathers the chance to commit to the protection of their daughters and for daughters to commit to purity. The event includes ballroom instruction, dinner, gifts, and a purity commitment/rose ceremony. Enjoy a date night with your daughter for only $40!"I got this from their website, why does the father need a "date night" with his daughter??!!! EWwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! This is so wrong that I can't even begin to breakdown the perverted elements and overall horror in just this one statement alone!

    • Brightie

      Ok… I do see that it looks weird for a girl and her dad to be having a “date night” in the context of an event discussing romance and her father’s apparent ownership thereof (?), but I remember having nothing-to-do-withromance-in-sight “Daddy-daughter-dates” with my dad when I was younger. It would be something like a sunrise walk in the park, a nice breakfast, and his undivided attention away from work to talk about whatever I wanted to–good fun. “Date” connected with father and daughter, even in Christian subculture, doesn’t need to mean “weird.”

  • Anonymous

    Boy, if there was a prize for intentionally misunderstanding something, y'all would win it. Where in the world did you ever get the idea that we fathers were NOT "teaching [our daughters] self-worth and self-respect," or that we were NOT trying to help our sons stay pure, or that we don't help our daughters see they own their purity rather than us, or any of the hundred other ridiculous things that have been said here on the blog or comments? And why do "date nights" have to be perverted and sexual? I think that says more about the commenter than any reality.I'd say you were just ignorant if it it wasn't so clear you're intelligent but you WANT to misunderstand what you hate, which clearly starts with Christianity itself. (I'm signing anonymous because I don't want obnoxious hate mail.)

  • Anonymous

    That third picture down is really creepy! Little girls have their eyes closed and leaning back against their dads in poses that are reminiscent of high school couples at prom. EEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWW.

  • Jean

    Where are the mothers of these girls? Your husband had to discuss this ball with the wife didn't he and why did she say , honey, let's not do this right now until we find a ball that includes our boys. Are we as women that brainwashed by our husbands?

  • Libby Anne

    Jean – In my experience, the mothers of these girls are overjoyed that their husbands are living up to their duty in protecting their daughters, and in being involved in their lives. The mothers of these girls PRAISE their husbands for taking the girls to these balls, and in many cases, it's the mothers who talk their husbands into doing so in the first place. So I guess that's a yes.

  • Jean

    Libby Anne:You don't know the condition of each wife who goes along with this and you don't know if they are weak- minded or not. Many, not all wives, are so desperate to keep their husbands happy that they go along with any hogwash that comes their way. Why would a wife praise a husband for pledging his daughter's purity and not his son's purity? We should all remain chaste before marriage, not just females.We (my friends and relatives) men and women, discuss this and BOTH men and women, all seem to think it smells of another patriarchial rule: "father more important than mom and it's about me the man." This makes our girls think they need to be validated by father and then husband. This is why girls are so mixed up and fall to anorexia, bolemia, pregnancy, posing nude,prostitution, STDs,etc. Stop doing this to girls. Don't you get it? Our boys should remain chaste too. Any person with just an ounce of common sense, would realize that the whole reason we as a society, feel the need to protect the girl's innocence, is because the boy is out there just waiting for the opportunity to get his way. Common sense would help all you confused persons, realize that they should be having a father-son evening, where the dad talks to his boys and makes a pledge to keep his item inside of his pants and wait for his wife. Think about it Libby Anne.

  • Saturn500

    It doesn't really matter; it's still extremely creepy. Also, from the point of view of a normal person, the idea of a father taking his daughter out on a date is VERY incestuous. We only have your word for it that you aren't bumping uglies when your wife is asleep. Also, why AREN'T there purity balls for boys? Are they automatically, perpetually pure, or what?

    • Brightie

      I don’t think it works that way. Having been in a purity-emphasizing youth group, I’ve seen “Purity Retreats” organized for both genders. Also, I’ve known a couple of Christian guys of the saving-first-kiss-for-marraige school of thought. I think it’s more like, a “ball” it a pretty, elegant princess thing, so it’s just the girls–who of course all aspire to be pretty, elegant princesses and never warriors or adventurers–who are going to get one.