A guest post by Sarah of Sarah over the Moon
Losing my purity . . . ring.
My cousin gave me a purity ring for Christmas in 2005. She also gave them to several other young women in our Independent Fundamental Baptist youth group. I don’t think any of us fully realized what we were saying to the world by wearing them—“I have never had a penis in my vagina!”—but we wore them with pride. When another girl would get too involved with a boyfriend but still wear her purity ring, we would whisper, and when one of us misplaced ours, we would come to church and shock our youth leaders by announcing, jokingly, “I lost my purity….ring!”
Oh, it was fun. Fun being able to flaunt something that not everyone had. Fun to be a member of something special. Fun to be able to combat the feelings of inadequacy I had from being a victim of childhood sexual abuse. It was fun, until I became the subject of whispers. Until I lost my purity…ring, or rather, had it stolen from me.
A little over a year after the Christmas where I got my first purity ring, I was in a car with my boyfriend at the time. He wanted to go further and I thought I did too, but at the last minute I realized I was too afraid and said “stop, stop, stop.” He didn’t stop. Not at first, at least. It was so quick that I would sometimes wonder later if it even really counted, but those few seconds were enough to destroy my sense of “purity.”
Afterward, as I sat crying, overwhelmed by confusion and guilt, my boyfriend—now my rapist—took the purity ring off my finger and put it in his pocket. “You don’t deserve to wear this anymore,” he told me. And I believed him for years. The whispers at church started soon after and I took my place among the other “damaged goods” of the world. I was finally able to break up with my rapist a few months later. He never gave me my purity ring back. I never saw it again.
I went away to an evangelical Christian college the year after my rape. I still placed the blame for my rape on myself and did not yet recognize it as rape (my abstinence-only education didn’t do a very good job of teaching me about consent). I still did not consider myself pure. I remember feigning ignorance and naivety when my college friends would discuss anything sexual because I did not want anyone to know how “impure” I was. Eventually, I bought a new purity ring at the college bookstore as a finishing touch to the act I’d been constructing.
A couple of years later—still healing, still growing, still learning—I had sex with a boyfriend. It was awkward and a little uncomfortable, but it was sweet and, most importantly, it was consensual. And the world didn’t end. In fact, I didn’t feel guilty at all afterward. I continued to wear my purity ring for a while afterward, out of habit, but then I lost that one too.
This one wasn’t stolen from me. I took it off in order to wash my hands in a public restroom and I forgot to put it back on when I was done. When I got home and realized it wasn’t on my finger I contemplated going back for it, but then I realized that it wasn’t worth my time. I didn’t need it anymore. I had found worth in myself and that worth had nothing to do with the fact that I’d had sex. So, I lost my purity ring and I let it stay lost.
Those two purity rings represent the difficult journey—something stolen, something found, and something willingly let go—that has brought me to wear I am today. Though I now loathe the idea of purity rings, after I’d had my first ring stolen from me I needed the second. I needed to reclaim what had been stolen from me so I could let it go. Now that the second is gone, I finally feel free. I don’t need “purity.” I am valuable and I don’t need a piece of jewelry to tell me that.
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.