It’s a mistake to think that every Christian, or even every Christian who believes in abstinence until marriage, thinks purity balls are a good thing. The reality is that there are purity-minded Christians who absolutely oppose purity balls and purity pledges, and they have their reasons. I think this is great, because let’s face it, someone who is into things like purity balls and purity pledges would be way more likely to listen to critiques from a fellow Christian than from a heathen like me.
On this note, I just found this fascinating post on the blog Biblical Personhood. The post offers a critique of purity balls by a self-described believer in maintaining virginity until marriage. She starts as follows:
Just to make sure you understand me right, I will tell more of myself than I usually find necessary. I am a few years past 30, and a virgin. I find it wrong in God’s eyes to sleep with a man who is not my spouse. Someone like me should probably be the heartiest endorser of purity balls, right?
The author then quotes the text of the purity pledges commonly used at purity balls:
I (Daughter’s Name)’s Father, choose before to God to war for my daughter’s purity. I acknowledge myself as the authority and protector of my daughter’s virginity, and pledge to be a man of integrity as I lead, guide, and pray over my daughter and her virginity – as the High Priest of my home.
I (Name) pledge my purity to my father, my future/husband and my Creator. I recognize that virginity is my most precious gift to offer to my future husband. I will not engage in sexual activity of any kind before marriage but will keep my thought and my body pure as a very special present for the one I marry.
For Secondary Virgins (those who have engaged in promiscuous behavior and wish to recommit themselves to lives of purity):
I (Name) re–pledge my purity to my father, my future/husband and my Creator. I now recognize that virginity is my most precious gift to offer my future husband. I deeply regret and will never again engage in sexual activity of any kind before marriage but will keep my thought and my body pure as a very special present for the one I marry.
The author next offers a list of thirteen critiques of purity balls, abbreviated as follows:
1) Purity balls worsen what they try to solve:
The message of purity balls is: You will be appreciated for your outward appearance, but for now, enjoy these compliments only from daddy and no other males. Your worth lies in how men perceive you, and for now, ask dad what he will perceive as good, and no other guys. Your hymen is the most important thing you can give a man. For now, don’t give it. But the reason you shouldn’t give it is so you can give it (to the man you marry).
If, instead, you showed the girl that her value does not lie in what men think of her, but in a God that designed her in His image, with gifts and talents to use, she could focus on developing everything that God wants her to be.
2) Purity balls do not focus on character:
It is relatively easy to keep a girl a virgin until adulthood. It could be done by the simple act of locking her in a tower. Or keeping her at home, schooling her at home, and not leaving her out of your sight, which is a more publically acceptable equivalent. But … character can only be developed in a world of free will, where girls and boys are taught what is right, and why it is right.
3) Purity balls are man-ian, not Christ-ian:
Incidentally, God’s desire for all Christians – male and female – to lead a sexually pure life, and men’s desire for a pure/ faithful wife, overlaps here. Therefore, the man-centered fathers could take their daughters to a ball where man’s desire for a pure wife God’s desire for her life will be celebrated.
If this was really about God’s will, purity events for boys would have been just as popular. God’s desire is pure men and women, and these events do not celebrate that.
4) Purity pledges are unbiblical
Jas 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
Pledging things before God? How anti-Christian!
5) Purity balls promote ideas like “a daughter’s heart belongs to her father until she gets a husband”:
Do I even need to comment on that? Eeeeeewwww.
6) The purity ball topic is inappropriate for little girls
In today’s sex-saturated world, it is essential to teach your children early to handle sexual topics. But it is not an appropriate thing to dwell on with a six- or nine- year old girl. It seems, to my mind, inappropriate to take little girls to events celebrating a topic they hardly could fathom.
7) The fairytale message of purity balls is a lie.
Marriages are imperfect institutions because two imperfect humans enter into it. Girls who learn that by keeping pure/ being submissive / whatever, she will have a fairytale marriage, are being lied to. Even princess Diana, who married an actual crown prince as an alleged virgin, had no fairytale marriage.8 ) Purity pledges put fathers and husbands above God
Look at the girl’s pledge wording again: Fathers first, husbands second, Creator last. Then it is the future husband again for two sentences: Her virginity is his sealed gift. Take two words (“before God”) from the father’s pledge, and three from the virgin’s (“and my Creator”) and God is not part of it at all. (This is why I call it God-on-the-back-seat religion.)
9) Self-respect is not mentioned once in the purity pledge.
If I told a girl to wait I would certainly focus on the girl herself as much as on other humans. After all, she is the one who live in that body 24/7.
10) The pledge is an uninformed and forced promise
Many of these girls do not understand what they promise, and the possible consequences. Even the older girls are often home-schooled and so isolated that they have no idea what normal relationships work like in the 21 century. Moreover, she often has hardly any choice in the matter. Everyone in the worlds of some of these girls pressures her to make this pledge, would treat her as a slut if she does not, and would later blame her if she does not keep it.
11) Fathers are not High Priests of homes
Unlike what the pledge claim, fathers are not High Priests (capital letters in the pledge, not mine!) of their homes. Neither the Old nor the New Testament call the man the High Priest of the home. In fact, the New Testament acknowledges only one high priest in Christianity – Jesus Christ, who made reconciliation for our sins (Heb 2:17). Do the men who pledge to be High Priest for their family say Jesus is not good enough?
12) Pledges promotes guilt
Some studies showed very little, if any, difference between purity pledged teens and other teens in terms of sexual behavior. A girl who breaks a pledge before God may feel very much guilty about it. Guilt about that which is against God’s will is acceptable (and should be sorted out in prayer with a forgiving God). Guilty feeling before God for breaking a pledge her father made her take – against what the Bible say of pledges - is not.
13) Purity balls promotes control by another
The fruit of the Spirit is self-control – making wise choices, not driven by your own passions but by the spirit, for yourself and your Christian walk. The message of the purity balls are man-control: Do as your father say until you start doing as your husband say. It replaces, not just in sexual choices but in everything, the control by the self, and indirectly by God’s spirit, into human hands. The father at the purity ball say that he cannot trust God with his daughter’s life, but has to make choices for her himself. Christ is not a sufficient high priest – he needs to step in.
Interestingly, while I am a sex-positive feminist atheist and the author of this piece is a Christian who believes in virginity until marriage, I would make all the same critiques with only minor adjustments. Of course, I would add at least one critique to this list: that there is nothing wrong with sex before marriage.
It’s not that I have a problem with someone personally choosing to remain a virgin until marriage – their bodies, their choice – but rather that I am adamant that it should be that person’s choice, not something forced upon him or her by the purity culture, a father, or a church. And in many ways, that’s what the post quoted from above points out, along with pointing out the blatant patriarchy going on in a ritual like a father/daughter purity ball.
I’m not going to add anything on the topic here, but I thought I’d offer my readers links to previous pieces I have written about purity balls and the purity culture: