Purity Rings: Kristi’s Story

A guest post by Kristi

I didn’t know about purity rings until I was about 12 and attending an anti-abortion protest with my church. A young woman stood at the microphone and told the emotional story of how she was given a purity ring by her father and what it meant to her to remain “pure” until marriage. I was captivated. I’d heard the horror stories of STDs in my health classes, I knew I didn’t want a baby until I was married, so I figured I’d take a purity pledge myself and asked my parents if I could get a ring too. The summer after I turned 13, my parents took me to the local Christian retailer and we ordered a sterling silver ring with a heart and key design that cost thirty dollars. I picked it out myself. I loved it, I loved the symbolism of it, and I wore it proudly on my left ring finger and dreamed of the day I’d replace it with a wedding band.

The ring was more than just a symbol of purity to me. It was a symbol of my unshakeable Christian faith. I never took it off unless it was absolutely necessary, and it eventually conformed to the shape of my finger. It was my witness to the world of my faith and chastity. I used it as an excuse not to date, because dating might lead to temptation. A year after I got my ring, I went on a camping trip with a friend of mine and the youth group from his church. There was a girl in the group, about 16 or 17 years old, and about 5 months pregnant. I pitied her, and stated proudly that I wouldn’t do that and because I had “one of these.” I showed her my ring. She sighed and told me blankly, “I had one of those too.” I was shocked. How could she break a promise to God?

I wore my ring for nine years. It went with me on mission trips to Mexico and India, family road trips, I wore it camping and swimming and sleeping. I didn’t allow myself to enter into any romantic relationships, although my parents gave me permission to date when I was sixteen. I simply didn’t want the temptation in my life. I had plenty of crushes, though–and plenty of guilt as a result, thanks to my church’s rather strict interpretation of Matthew 5:28: “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” According to my church’s teaching, anytime I had a crush on a boy I was committing a cardinal sin.

Every time I looked at the ring, I felt so proud of my commitment. Then something happened that I never thought could happen: I lost my faith in God. I gradually began to doubt more and more until I came to the conclusion that all religion was untrue and I couldn’t live a lie. After I realized I was an atheist, I took off my ring because I knew I didn’t need that symbol of my faith anymore. I remained conflicted about my abstinence promise for a few years afterward. I did eventually become sexually active. (And I’m not married yet!)

I still have my ring. It sits in a jewelry box, somewhat tarnished with age. It’s a reminder to me of who I once was and where I came from. It reminds me not to make rash decisions based on a whim or to believe what other people say just because they’re older and supposed to know better. I have to define my own life and live it the way that is right for me. I don’t need to adhere to the dictates of an ancient patriarchal superstition that defines my worth by what I do with what’s between my legs. I don’t have to be ashamed to be a woman.

———

This post is part of the Purity Rings project, in which young adults who had purity rings as teens and have since come to question the rationale behind them share their stories. For more purity ring stories, click here

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.

  • http://thebrunettesblog.wordpress.com Ginny

    Thanks for sharing that story, Kristi. Mine is very similar, minus the actual ring. While many of my friends assumed I’d stopped being a Christian so that I could be free to have sex, it took me a few years after I became an atheist to actually become sexually active. Too much repression and anxiety built up from all those years.

    • jennifer luby

      Dear Ginny,
      my name is Jennifer Luby and I am a French journalist working in the US on a magazine story for a French program about the purity ring. Do you think I could call you too maybe – as I also asked Kriti after I read our moving story.
      I was wondering if I could call you to talk about it by the end of the week.
      My number is 347 781 6332
      Thanks for your interest in my project !

      Jennifer Luby

  • Stephanie

    That first part reminds me so much of how I used to be. I always was kind of smug and condescending toward those that had sex, but now that I am that person I cannot believe how things have changed. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Schaden Freud

    This is a beautiful story. If I had my way I’d make every kid with a purity ring read it.

  • Judy L.

    Your last paragraph gave me chills (the good, resonant, compelling kind). Thank you for sharing your story with all of us.

  • jennifer luby

    Hello Kristi,

    my name is Jennifer Luby and I am a French journalist working in the US on a magazine story for a French program about the purity ring. I really want to understand the reasons of your commitment and the consequences, good and not so good.
    I was wondering if I could call you to talk about it by the end of the week.
    My number is 347 781 6332 in case you want to call me back.
    Best regards and thanks for your interest in our project !

    Jennifer Luby

  • Georgina

    These stories are all so sad. Instead of teaching young women how their bodies work, exactly how contraception functions and how to avoid STDs and/or getting raped; they are given a ring and told that god would protect them – if they avoid lustful thoughts.
    No thought for self worth based on intelligence or talents,no individual responsibility for your own sexuality, just the idea that you are ‘goods’ , kept untouched for your future boss.


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