Purity Rings: Marian’s Story

A Guest Post by Marian of Values from Scratch

One day in 11th grade my English teacher assigned us a writing exercise in which we were to come up with five poems about everyday objects.  I think we’d been reading William Carlos Williams, specifically “The Red Wheelbarrow.”  I love to write, but I hate poetry, so it was difficult for me.  As I cast my mind about for objects special enough to write poems on (completely missing the point of the assignment) my eyes fell on my purity ring, always sparkling on my left ring finger.  So yes, I once wrote a poem about my purity ring.

I don’t have it anymore, thank God.  If I did, I’d want to include it here, because it was probably too freaking hilarious.  However, I’m sure it would also be embarrassing beyond words.  So on the whole; I’m thankful I don’t have to reveal it to the world.  My poor English teacher though…

Anyway, the poem was about how the heart shape of the stone symbolized my heart (real original, huh?) and the whiteness of the stone symbolized my purity, and the brilliant, ever shifting colors symbolized my… inner fire? Passion? Something like that.  The stone was an opal, hence both the whiteness and the colors.  In reality, it symbolized no such thing; opal is my birthstone.  But ret-conning symbolism into everyday things is standard practice for Evangelicals.

My mom gave me that ring on the occasion of my first period, which at the time made me feel all wonderful and symbolic.  “She’s giving me my purity ring at the time when purity starts to really matter… now that I am a woman and capable of bearing a child.” I crowed in my head.  First of all, ICK!  Second of all, though I may have started my period, a 12 year old child is NOT a woman and SHOULD NOT bear a child even if their body may technically be able to get pregnant.  Third of all, that wasn’t why she was giving it to me then.  I had been asking for one for months, my 13th birthday was coming up, and she’d found a great deal and had purchased it to lie in wait for my 13th birthday.  But when my first period happened it was traumatic (I was at my dad’s house when it started and was too embarrassed to tell him what had happened and he wouldn’t let me go back to my mom’s house unless I gave him a good reason so I ended up stuck there for like, two days with no pads or supplies of any kind.  I kept stuffing toilet paper in my panties and praying I wouldn’t leak through) and my mom thought the purity ring would cheer me up.

On the whole, my purity ring was a fairly innocuous thing.  Sure, I had way too much pride in it, but as far as I can remember, it really truly was my idea.  I wanted the ring, my mom bought it for me; I wore it every day on my left ring finger until I got engaged.  Then I moved it over to my right ring finger until I got married.  For the ceremony I put it back on my left ring finger so that my husband would have to take it off to put my wedding ring on, but I didn’t make a big announcement out of it, it was a private moment.  And by the time I got married, the ring was getting too tight, so I had to twist it halfway off my finger so he could remove it, a fact that in retrospect I like because it symbolizes that I was giving him my sexuality rather than him taking it, though at the time I wasn’t nearly egalitarian enough to think that way.  Okay, maybe I still retroactively insert symbolism.

So the ring is in my jewelry box drawer, and I don’t know what to do with it next.  I don’t regret having it or wearing it.  I really was a virgin on my wedding day, and so was my husband, and I still value that.  I’m happy that I will (probably) have only one sex partner my entire life.  But, I’m self-aware enough to know that that was partially because if monogamy could be a sexual orientation, that’s the direction I’d be oriented in, and partially because I was only 18 when I got married, and that if I’d waited until I was in my mid-twenties, it would’ve been a lot harder to stay “pure.”  Only, I don’t really think of it as “purity” any more.  I wasn’t any more or less pure than a girl that had had sex… I made the choices that were right for me.

My original plan for my purity ring was that I’d give it to my oldest daughter when she turned 13, and then she’d give it to her oldest daughter, and she’d give it to her oldest daughter… and it would become this priceless heirloom thing that would get passed down through the generations.  At the time, though, I fretted because “what if one of them sullied the ring I worked so hard to keep pure?”  Now my thoughts range more towards, first of all, ICK! And secondly, though this was the right choice for me and I still think it is a good choice for others, I don’t want to impose my choices on my daughters and granddaughters.  I want to teach them that their sexuality is theirs to own until they meet someone they want to share it with.  I want to tell them that even if they choose to share it, they can take it back entirely to themselves at any time.  I want to tell them that I hope the person they want to share it with will be their husband, but if it’s their boyfriend or even (I hope I’ll be open minded enough for this one) their one night stand that’s okay as long as it is their decision and as long as they are safe.

I think I have a healthier attitude now, but I still don’t really know what to do with my ring.  I value it but I have no use for it.  So it sits—a reminder of a different time and a different me—in my jewelry box, and for all I know that is where it will remain.

———

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://thegloriousliberty.blogspot.com TheGloriousLiberty

    I never had a purity ring, as I grew up in a much more progressive Christian denomination. But I did wait until marriage for sex, and I also am “monogamy oriented” as Marian says. (I got married having just turned 29.) I kept turning back to that one bit in the song from “Brigadoon”, where one woman says “The nights are long without a man” and the other replies “But they’re longer with the wrong one”, which, ick, but also is true enough that it helped. I certainly wanted to have sex- well, I wanted a relationship to have sex in, but I had no interest in having it with the wrong guy. I wish I would have dated when I was younger (just never worked out) but I’m perfectly happy only having sex with my husband.

  • http://omorka.blogspot.com/ Omorka

    A lot of us in the poly community *do* think of the monamory-polyamory axis as an orientation. For some people, monamory simply doesn’t work, and for some, polyamory simply doesn’t work, and there are some people in the middle who prefer one or the other but can live either way. So I think the comparison is quite apt, myself.

  • http://lyricalpolyphony.blogspot.com Mary

    You can still pass the ring on- it doesn’t have to be about virginity. :) Or not…. or you could sell it and give the proceeds to an entity promoting comprehensive sex ed?

  • Sam Grover

    I was thinking along Mary’s line. Maybe have it be a ‘first real jewelry for your teens’ type thing? You don’t have to tell them what you thought it was?? I think my DD was about 13 when she got her first ‘real’ gold/gemstone (and it was a heart shaped opal I think). It was her birthday gift. Opal is also her stone.

  • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

    I had the same thought as Mary and Sam Grover — that there’s no reason you can’t pass on the ring without the baggage. (I’m thinking “bat mitzvah gift” but of course wrong religion!)

    Unless, of course, your mother were to let the cat out of the bag.

  • Emily

    What to do with a purity ring that doesn’t have bad connotations? I had mine made into a necklace pendant. A jeweler did it for us – can’t remember now how much it costs. Or you could have it made into a pin that you could attach to a special quilt or other symbolic place if you didn’t want to use it as jewelry. I’m picturing a quilt or cross-stitch that honors your wedding – like a wedding sampler – but you may have other ideas. :)

    Or you could give it to your daughter NOT as a purity ring, but as a, “You’re special & we love you & we’re happy that you’re turning 13″ ring. You know, all the stuff we wish we’d been taught as teens. :) She wouldn’t *have* to wear it all the time, but she might want to at least for a few years if it represents her parents loving her unconditionally & cheering her on AS A PERSON not as an object!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rainie.flores.7 Rainie Flores

    I never had a purity ring but it would be nice to have one back then. I think it is okay to pass it on from generation to generation. I have a 9 year old daughter and i think it would be nice to give her a purity ring when she reaches that age too.

    - http://www.solidrockjewelry.com/

    • http://www.schonwan.com/ Jan Li

      lol. that is great, these rings may be given as gift, such as birthday gift. also it can be passed from Generation to generation, that will be a great memory for the families. for the springs

  • angel

    I think it’s okay if you give it to your daughter as a gift or you can just keep it. You had it for years and it would be nice to keep it as a keepsake of your singlehood. I never had one but i had a ring my mother gave me when i was 14. It wasn’t really a purity ring. I can’t use it anymore but i kept it safe in my jewelry box.

    SolidRockJewelry.com


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