Worthwhile Reads: Purity Rings

This post is a little different. I just came upon a listing of three positive posts written by dads about giving their daughters purity rings. I obviously very much disagree with essentially everything involved in what I call “the purity culture,” but I thought these posts were interesting in that they give some insight into the minds of the fathers of the purity culture, especially as relates to their daughters and purity rings.

Celebrating Another Milestone: Purity Ring for My Daughter

Dads 2:7 – Another Ring for Another Daughter

A Father’s Worst Fear – Part II

And for some reading to clear your brain afterwards, I offer this:

Purity Balls, and All They Represent, Are Absurd

Nine-Year-Old Sluts and Masturbating Dinner Guests
What Courtship Was for Me
Be Pretty, but Not Too Pretty
The Cold, Unforgiving World of Geoffrey Botkin
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.

  • alr

    Okay…those posts make me vomit in my mouth a little.
    Small thing regarding the first one: if that’s the Zio’s in my area…we classify that as a pizza joint (a very good one) not a “really nice restaurant”. I so love the QF/Fundy versions of nice restaurants. Reminds me of the lowbrow, crocs on the wall place that Josh Duggar proposed in….

    • AnotherOne

      That’s kind of mean. Besides, he never said he thought Zio’s was a “really nice restaurant,” it’s just where his daughter wanted to go. Liking it has nothing to do with them being QF or Fundy. Not everyone has the money or the background (or the desire) to be highbrow, and when I was his daughter’s age I was super excited to be taken out to Shoneys, which I thought was a really nice restaurant. So what. And I have to hand it to my parents. For all their fundy crap, they are way too kind to bash on people for their restaurant choices.

      I do agree that the Zio’s post was disturbing, though. Not because of restaurant choice, but because the dad is so convinced that fathers are responsible for their children’s sexual behavior.

  • cass_m

    I have to say that on my 16th birthday my dad took me for a nice “grown up ” dinner at The Keg (the steak equivalent of a pizza joint) because he felt this would be a chance to get to know the adult I was becoming. A concept that didn’t always stick as I made my way through the rest of my teen years but at least we tried:)

    The ring thing is just weird.

  • Minnie

    These men are perverts! Trotting around for all their christian buddies to see what all abrahamic men covet, hymens.

    Hey, look over here, I am a christian man, and I have ownership of three hymens, I will be giving to wife beating, pro-forced breeding, pro-female submission to men, christian boys in the future.

    I envy girls who did not grow up with christian fathers.

  • Ken

    Fathers obsessed with their daughter’s purity seems a little creepy. Four year old with a purity ring: call children s’ services.

    • Butterfly

      Isn’t four a little young to know anything beyond “where babies come from”? Yyyyyuuucccckkkkkkkk!!!! Can we say covert incest?

  • http://www.AprilLineWriting.com April Line

    Thanks so much for the link! Interestingly, I just discovered this bank of patheos blogs the other week, and am working on a post for the week after next about faith-based emotional abuse from an article I read called “Happily Abused: How to Use a Woman’s Faith and Trust to Make Her an Accomplice In Her Own Abuse” on RH Reality Check (.com) by a writer for No Longer Quivering. I meant to check in at this blog b/c I write about feminist stuff a lot–as much as I write about anything. So thanks for he invitation and for the traffic!

  • Sue Blue

    All of those posts, besides being nauseatingly saccharine, gave me creepy-crawly incest vibes. Those dads spend way too much time thinking about their daughters’ nubile young vaginas…way, way too much time. Makes you wonder what they fantasize about when having sex with their wives. Not to mention the fact that this puts all the focus on the physical, telling the girl that it’s only her body that matters, not her intellect – after all, she’s not going to be a physicist, she’s going to be a WIFE! Yippee! Way to encourage your daughter to be nothing more than a sperm receptacle and incubator. And a household appliance.

    • AnotherOne

      I can’t believe I’m playing devil’s advocate on a post about purity balls, since i agree completely that they’re creepy and wrong. But I think it’s a mistake to play up the incest factor too much. There’s a big difference between having really wrong ideas about sex and authority, and thinking about sex with your daughter when you’re having sex with your wife. I’d say the vast majority of these dads fall into the former, not the latter category, and that criticism of them needs to reflect that distinction.

      • Ken

        Let’s see — obsessive interest in a young girl’s sexual activity sure sounds like someone to keep an eye on. And if it’s her father, I’m more than a little worried about the incest issue. Whatever happened to doing God’s will — as in girls’ and boys’ hormones kick in at puberty and are designed to be used. If there’s any perversion of God’s intent going on, it’s the fathers’ denial that their children are sexual beings and not daddy’s property to be traded or given away with conditions.

  • John Small Berries

    So much apostrophe abuse going on in the first and third posts. I guess it’s kind of fitting, though, as one of the things an apostrophe signifies is possession.

  • Anise

    I think there were quite a few interesting things to be seen from those three positive blog posts.
    1. The link of purity to the expectation of marriage for women.
    2. A constant reminder for a young women in the form of a ring (but not for young men).
    3. The idea that young people are not in charge of themselves or their sexuality (it’s either parents or outsider who will ruin everything).
    4. That children can be ruined, particularly by sex. If they don’t measure up to the purity ideal, all the parents’ work has been lost.
    5. That children are projects to be worked on.
    6. That Proverbs was from a male perspective and consequently it’s never mothers talking with and giving rings to their daughters- then again, women never have power over their sexuality in this system.

    And many more I’m sure.

    • Sue Blue

      Exactly. You hit every nail right on the head. Nothing says “patriarchy” like the “purity” concept.

  • Aimee

    I think my dad was creeped out by this stuff to, and the idea that he was expected to do it. The other teen girls at our church had purity rings and everything (they were also home schooled, unlike me). I wasn’t a virgin by the physical technical definition anyhow and I felt like a broken and useless dirty unworthy thing – I would have hated having a purity ring to remind me of what I wasn’t and couldn’t be. Since our family wasn’t homeschooled and didn’t overly enforce these ideas (thanks mom and dad!) my brothers and I were looked down on a lot. All good things in retrospect, though it felt shitty at the time.

    Course my parents went the other way – didn’t talk to us about sex or relationships at all and acted freaked out whenever I possibly tried to bring it up. I know it is hard to strike the good balance but being the oldest I think I got the most awkward moments. My youngest brother gets way more info from me than he ever wanted hehe.

    Another narrative that bugs me a lot is the idea that God has a special specific person designed for everyone (which will just happen to be the person you marry, probably before getting to know them very well natch) and everything will work out perfectly as long as you trust in god. This occurs in Mormonism a lot and a friend of mine was pressured to marry a man who turned out to be an abusive, controlling asshole. At least Mormons divorce.

  • Nimue

    Ha. I grew up conservative Christian, and when my dad gave me a purity ring I threw it in the trash and told him I’d lost it. He didn’t like it, but had already written me off as practically satanic, so I don’t think he thought I could get much worse. Someday he might realize that I’ve always been Christian all along, but I’m not gonna hold my breath for that! My sister, on the other hand, who is a master of manipulating our parents, kept her purity ring but never wears it. The idea is squicky.

  • Len

    Do boys also get rings?

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      Some boys do get rings but that’s pretty pretty rare.

  • Lys

    I went to a very large, non-denominational christian highschool. This was during the 90s and the fad of purity ring,s as far as my experience goes, was just coming into fashion. Several of my classmates got rings but definitely not the majority. And probably half of the people that had them were boys. I asked my parents to buy me one. They were both hippie, theologically conservative christians (if that makes sense) and had always been extremely open about sex from the time I was young. In fact most of my friends came to them for knowledge and advice on all things sex-related. They preferred I did not become sexually active til marriage but they never made me feel like my virginity defined me at all. So, when I asked them for one they let me pick out a ring and that was the extent of it. No ceremony, absolutely no talk of my heart belonging to my father (disgusting!!), and no dinner out or anything like that. In my memory it pretty much only involved me. The only role my parents played was paying for the ring. Very different experience. This trend nowadays is extrmely creepy, gross and very unhealthy.

  • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Lara

    My response to the first dad:
    Um actually, you are not responsible for your daughter’s purity. SHE IS. I grew up very conservative Christian, but my dad didn’t buy me a ring. When I was 16 I bought myself my own purity ring. Even within that value system I knew that it had to be MY decision. My dad wouldn’t be there at 10pm in my boyfriends car at the beach when I wanted NOTHING more than to have him touch my boobs. I had to be the one in that moment to decide if I wanted to save that for my husband or not. Only I could decide if I wanted to be “pure” for my husband or not. Sorry dad-in-the-first-post, your daughter is actually her own person now and will make her own decisions.
    Second. What if she never gets married!!!! Why is there an assumption that this will happen? Such pressure. Geez.
    Third. Now that I’m either not a christian anymore or a super liberal/progressive one (I’m not sure yet), I kinda wish my husband and I had had sex before marriage. I got married really young and we had a super short engagement because I could NOT wait for sex even a second longer. I missed out on some really important processing time because I was in such a hurry. I suppose we also avoided other consequences, but…I don’t know.

  • allytude (@allytude)

    One thing that struck me about these posts was that these dads think that they are doing the right thing. they really really want to take care of their kids the best way possible. The scary thing is that “the best way possible” or the way they know it is going to mess up these darling daughters for a long long while. They are well meaning parents, but their actions are so wrong. I wonder how such ignorance can be educated away.
    that said, the whole exercise is so creepy, but these people have grown up with “the outside world is evil”- little realizing how dangerous their insular patriarchal communities are and how much more harmful to their darling daughters their own world is. How would an adult who lived in this atmosphere deprogram themselves and learn to fear the real world less?

    • AnotherOne

      “The scary thing is that “the best way possible” or the way they know it is going to mess up these darling daughters for a long long while. They are well meaning parents, but their actions are so wrong.”

      So, so true. It’s sad, and scary.

  • Jenna

    About the Dad’s Worst Fear article – I went back and read part I. He made his daughter listen to “Preparing for Adolescence” before her school sex ed. That book scarred me for life. I had to learn what intercourse was for the first time in my 6th grade Sunday school class from James Dobson’s creepy voice on an audio cassette.

    • piny

      How could this man’s worst fear for his daughter be her losing her virginity as an unmarried teenager? That would be worse than rape? Worse than drug addiction? Worse than a serious illness? What are this man’s priorities?

      • Sue Blue

        I worried about many things happening to my son AND my daughter, but their “purity” wasn’t even on the list. My son was born in 1979, and was a toddler during the early ’80s when child abduction and murder was a huge thing in the media. I worried about them being abducted, raped and killed. I worried about bullying, their self-esteem, their grades, their future careers, their happiness. I never worried about their virginity. Not even once. They got all the sex ed available, they were able to talk to me about anything and everything (I’m an RN), they had access to condoms and birth control, and that was all I needed to worry about. The rest was up to them.

  • Musical Atheist

    After reading this post I went back to the documentary you highlighted a while ago: http://www.atheistmedia.com/2011/03/cutting-edge-virgin-daughters.html . I was really struck by the scene in the purity ball where the girls dance around the cross. It’s so pagan! Maidens in white dancing round a phallic symbol of death and rebirth, pledging their loyalty to the symbolic phallus until it’s time to meet a real one. Maypoles, Beltane, ancient (and not so ancient) European fertility symbols and rites… Do you think the men who create these rituals and put these events together have any self awareness about this at all?

    • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

      You have just totally redeemed purity balls for me now! LOL!

  • Dianne

    Wow. Talk about creepy! That first link especially: the father told his daughter that he was putting this ring on her and only her husband could take it off? Why not just brand her and be done with it? It’s not even about sex or chastity any more, it’s all about ownership.

    • http://pslibrary.com MrPopularSentiment

      I think that branding is the next step, once purity rings are too mainstream to appeal to those trying to “out Christian” everyone.

  • mostlylurking

    I have bad news for these fathers. Purity pledges has close to no impact on whether teens have sex or not. 90% or more break that pledge. And when they do break it, they are less likely to use condoms or birth-control than kids who didn’t pledge. Fundamentalist teenagers are more likely to get pregnant young, get STIs, and get divorced. The “protection” is worse than useless, it causes real harm. I realize theses fathers are sincere, but you can really be sincerely wrong. I pity those girls :(

    • Sue Blue

      So true. If they want to give their daughters REAL protection, they’d make sure they got decent sex education and access to birth control. They’d empower their daughters to think for themselves, to value their health and their intellects, and to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem and independence. They’d teach their sons to respect women and themselves. These are the things that protect children from sexual exploitation and poor life choices, not contracts and jewelry.

  • http://pslibrary.com MrPopularSentiment

    The “dad’s worst fear” one really gets my goat. He’s in a huff because his 10 year old will be learning about menstruation? In part I, he says: “Apparently the curriculum developers don’t know that she’s still my little girl, and that I don’t want her to learn about hormones, monthly cycles and peer pressure – please, not just yet.”

    Please, not just yet? Excuse me, sir, but your daughter’s biological clock is ticking with absolutely no regard for your personal wishes or emotional readiness. At 10, she probably has at least one or two classmates who’ve started menstruating, and one or two who’ve had nocturnal emissions. Neglect to tell her about these things before she gets them will lead to a MAJOR FREAK OUT.

    What a tool. Daughters aren’t dolls. They are real human beings with bodies that they need to be informed about.


  • Jonny H.

    I didn’t read the article, but I did read the comments. I have a daughter that is 16 that I love very much. I know saving yourself for marriage is uncommon and often made fun of.

    My family believes in Jesus Christ, I pray my daughter desires to live for His truth and promises. I want to be there to encourage and help her during life’s journey. She is such a blessing and I praise God for her every day.