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.
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.