Purity Rings: Danielle’s Story

A guest post by Danielle

I grew up in a fairly moderate Christian home.  It was an interesting dynamic with my mother being more politically liberal but strict on religious issues.  My father was the other way around, having been an adult convert.  He was a genuine “believer” but more laid back about “Christian lifestyle” kinds of issues although very politically conservative.  I was a teenager in the 90’s and so our church was into all the evangelical youth group culture stuff.  I read Brio magazine and sat through “WAIT Training” and “Sex Has a Price Tag” presentations at church.  I was a little late getting my purity ring.  I think my father felt pressured by the other fathers getting these rings for their daughters and he finally got around to it when I was 16.  Dad told me to pick out a place to go to dinner and so I researched and found a Cajun restaurant downtown that looked interesting.   We went out so that he could have the “talk” with me and give me the ring.

The most positive thing about that dinner that I will always remember is that my dad made my purity commitment consensual.  He awkwardly talked a bit about the “waiting until marriage” thing and then said that I could wait until marriage and wear this ring “if I wanted to.”  My mother always automatically presumed that I would be pure until I could get married, in an evangelical fairy tale kind of way.  However, my father always respected my autonomy and did not own my sexuality. He would make cliché “I’m going to beat guys up who aren’t nice to you” kinds of statements.  However, I have always felt that my dad would respect my freedom to make my own adult choices, even if he disagreed.  My father has a quiet personality, like mine and I cannot imagine him ever pulling the “biblical authority” card on me.  My parents heard of courtship and idealized it, but never pushed that on me and I was allowed to date.

I was sort of premaritally “pure.”  When my husband and I got together, after being friends for years, we were both on the gradual path out of evangelicalism.  We had both had experience in relationships with “ non-intercourse sexual activities.” (Yes, I see the hypocrisy.) At that point in our lives, it felt natural to follow that same trajectory until we got married.  In an odd twist of irony, I got pregnant without having intercourse (yes, it is possible) because I did not think I needed contraception.  I absolutely regret the abstinence only decision and do not advocate for it, but I am happy in the relationship that I am in now.  I cannot remember when I stopped wearing my purity ring.  I gradually wore it less often and then I got engaged when I was 22.

Overall, I grew up with some fucked up views about gender and sexuality, but I think that more of the negative came from church/Christian culture than my family.  I was fortunate enough to have a fairly egalitarian relationship modeled in my parents, despite the submission teachings from church.  Although my parents are still very strong in their evangelical beliefs, I feel that they ultimately chose family over religion when it came to their relationship with me.  I was never “held accountable” for my purity ring commitment and my parents eventually treated me as an adult.  I have mixed feelings when I look at the ring now.  On the one hand, it is a symbol of the negative patriarchal construct of women’s sexuality.  At the same time, it was a gift from my father.  I love my parents and respect that they love me and had the best of intentions raising me.

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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.

  • Rilian

    How do you get pregnant without having intercourse? I have never heard of that before.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      It’s not that unusual really, the sperm just needs to make it one way or another to the vagina so you just need to be really careless or really unlucky. It’s one of the reason sex education is very important because many people think if there’s no PIV, they cann0t get pregnant and rub against each other for example and the sperm leaks into the vulva and with bad luck you can get an “immaculate conception” (pun intended).

  • Elise

    It’s the worst, isn’t it–finding a way to respect your parents and yet really really really dislike their religious world view.

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    While I understand the gripe about the purity movement and how idealistic the movement wishes its people to be I don’t understand why it has to be knocked so much. I was not a Christian in a teens and the only thing that kept me from having sex then was that I had a fear of girls. It was a psychological thing that affected me greatly. When I became a Believer one of the things that I was delivered from was this very thing yet I decided not to engage in it because of the risk of std’s and pregnancy plus how it affects the girl on the inside. For guys it can become a conquest of sorts especially if it is a one time or a few times type of thing while for the girl it has more consequences. So, to this day I can say that I don’t have to worry about having had or getting herpes, any form of std’s and wondering if a girl out there is carrying my kid that I don’t know about plus the fact that a kid doesn’t have to wonder where their daddy is in their lives.

    Although I think the purity movement is a bit extreme I get ‘offended’ (for you progressives) at the thought that my choosings and decisions may have screwed me up somehow when what I reaped I sowed in good faith and good conscious and have a clean heart to show from it. Is there something really wrong with that?

    JW

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Although I think the purity movement is a bit extreme I get ‘offended’ (for you progressives) at the thought that my choosings and decisions may have screwed me up somehow when what I reaped I sowed in good faith and good conscious and have a clean heart to show from it. Is there something really wrong with that?

      When has anyone said that you personally choosing not to have sex is not okay? I think this is something a lot of conservatives don’t understand. Conservatives are generally in favor of endorsing one specific mode of behavior – don’t have sex till marriage, don’t have abortions, don’t wear XYZ clothing. In contrast, progressives are in favor of letting people choose, not endorsing one specific mode of behavior – letting people choose whether or not to have sex, letting people choose whether they want to carry a pregnancy to term or have an abortion, letting people choose whether they want to wear skinny jeans or shapeless jean skirts. I think that conservatives assume that progressives want everyone to act in a specific way because they want everyone to act in a specific way. Newsflash: we don’t.

      When it comes to the purity movement, what concerns progressives is not the choice of whether or not to have sex but rather the attitude – we don’t see anything wrong with waiting to have sex, but we do think it’s harmful to teach a girl to attach all of her self worth to the state of her vagina, we don’t see anything wrong with wearing a baggy jean skirt, but we do think it’s harmful to teach a girl to see her body as something to be ashamed of. When I attack the purity movement, I don’t attack people’s choices of whether or not to have sex. You can choose what you want, I don’t care. What I attack is the way the purity movement deprives girls of choices and teaches them to see sex as dirty, to see themselves as worthwhile based on the state of their vagina rather than their individual talents, and to be ashamed of their own bodies and their own womanhood.

      You stated that you freely chose whether or not to have sex based on reasons you yourself developed and are completely happy with the results of your choice, and then you asked “Is there something really wrong with that?”: No, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s exactly what I want for everyone – to be able to make their own choices for their own reasons and end up confident and happy in their choices.

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    I would agree that everyone should have the right to choose what they want to and I get your point. I think what happens, especially in some fundamental circles is the expectation becomes very high and guilt tripping comes to the forefront. Some families may tell kids that God hates if they were to do those certain things and so it makes God look like a hater when the total opposite it true.

    I am reminded of something my mom told my brother and I when we were teenagers. She said if we go to jail for anything she will get out out only one time. After that we are on our own. This was said to us after a friend a few doors down got into crack and ended up in juvenile and we watched as his life deterioated to the point in which one evening his dad shot at him while he ran down the street. In this case it was modeled to us why we shouldn’t even want to do something that would cause us to go to jail. In the same way fundamental teens need to be taught about sexual relations and have it modeled to them about what could happen if they ‘cross those lines’. Meaning the possibility of getting pregnant, getting an STD, possibility of getting emotionally hurt and the consequences thereof and how to make these decisions in a very smart way.

    I can tell you that from my perspective it pains me when I seen teenagers engaging in sex because I know that it stems from media and peer pressure and the torrent of emotions they are experiences and chances are they have had no guidance to help them make smart decision and often times think the bad consequences will not happen to them.

    Am I rambling?

    JW

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      Not all damn teenagers have sex for peer pressure or lack of information or role models. You want wanmt example, I am an example of that, I was completely ostracised from my school classmates because I was different, a nerdy bookworm who liked all different things than them what would be your junior high and the start of high school. I was very informed because we had comprehensive sex education but I still had the typical hang ups with masturbation than many girls have because damning stereotypes but my mother was pretty sex positive. I had sex with my boyfriend (my first real boyfriend) 3 months after being together at 15 years and a bit in a slow progression were I marked the rythm and he respected what I said. I was a much more happy person when I found him, my marks improved from average to the best of my small city by the end of high school and went to Med school and I’m still with my boyfriend 10 years later without STDs, abortions or anything bad apart form the normal disagreements of troubles of any normal couple living together. Do I not exist?

    • Ashton

      I think the most important thing to teach teens is to respect each other. When I was growing up in conservative religion, they always used “respect” as a euphemism for not having sex. This left a giant gap in our education as to what respect really meant.

      As for me, I didn’t have sex in high school mostly because I was very shy and self-conscious, though I had a very high sex drive that I made sure no one found out about. I never could tell any guy when I liked him and if anyone tried to drop any hints about liking me, I didn’t pick up on it or I dismissed any possibility that someone would be interested in me. If I had dated at all, I would have had sex provided that my hypothetical boyfriend would have wanted to as well. There was someone really nice that I liked a lot when I was 17 and I regret not going for it. I bet I could have dated him and probably would have had sex with him. As it was, I ended up having sex at 19 with someone that I wasn’t all that interested in, the main reason being that I felt like I’d been waiting around forever and who knew when the opportunity would next present itself (well, also it was a basic human instinct for sex). Anyway, my point is that given the choice, I would have liked to have had sex at an earlier age. I think that for me, anything over 16 (maybe even 15) would have been plenty old enough age-wise.

      Also, despite growing up in conservative religion that says the best (or only) way is to have one sexual partner for life, I couldn’t imagine that for myself even at the age of 11. I hadn’t even been exposed to sex in media at all. It’s just who I am. Phew, now I’m the one rambling.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        I was pretty awkward and shy as well. The day I met my boyfriend was the first time ever I went out at night with friends (and I probably said yes because I was feeling advenrurous after spending 2 weeks with a british family in Guildford learning English) and after spending 3 hours talking with him non-stop but I had to ask him his name again 15 minutes in… T_T Next time I met him after a series of mishaps when we couldn’t communicate I was so comp’etely oblivious that when my friends disappeared to give us more privacy to speak, I thought either them or us had gotten lost and didn’t stop until finding them while he thought it was that I didn’t want to stay alone with him because I didn’t like him. Other time he kissed me on the cheek for being awesome and I still didn’t realise he was interested in me at all. On the other hand, it was pretty awful how he asked me out. Him: “I think… you know… what I’m going to say…” Me: “Yes and yes I do want to go out with you” and three steps later I kissed him for the first time and our teeth clanked a bit. Oh, the awkwardness of teenage love!

        It’s rambling contagious? II¡ think in my case it’s congenital more probably.

    • Danielle

      So in this hypothetical story, it is the kid’s fault for being shot at by his father because he used crack?

      • Attackfish

        Yeah, this. I got addicts in the family, and somehow, their use of drugs doesn’t justify hunting them down and shooting them. Strange, I know.

  • Steve Noolan

    Thanks for sharing that with us. I am a lot like your father (I hope) and while I never had to choose between religion and my family, I would have chosen family every time.
    God is so much bigger than the boxes we try and put Him/Her in.


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