Teenage Daughters and Their Fathers

I recently wrote about a group called “Bright Lights” that focuses on urging girls to abstain not only from sex and dating but also from male friendships—until marriage, of course. One of the conference topics, according to their website, is “Giving Your Heart to Your Father.” One of the commenters responded to that as follows:

I think the “Your Father” in the title meant God, but I could be wrong since there is the creepy incestuous vibe in the purity movement.

I replied and let her know that actually, giving your heart to your father really did mean giving it to your biological father. The idea is all through the purity culture literature I grew up reading as a Christian homeschooler, and yes, it gets incredibly creepy. Let me start by describing some of the most extreme rhetoric and ideas about father/daughter relationships, promoted especially by Christian homeschool organization Vision Forum, and then move on to the more mainstream ideas that suffuse the purity culture and make father/daughter purity balls so common.

First there are the Botkins sisters, who grew up in a Christian homeschooling family and now tour the country with their father speaking at homeschool conventions and conferences. They are closely associated with Vision Forum, an extreme Reconstructionist and southern apologist homeschool company popular among the more conservative of Christian homeschoolers. Let me offer some quotes from their book and website:

Firstly, you must love and honor and cultivate respect for your father. Second, you must seek your father’s heart and vision. Third, you must be able to come up with ways to use your gifts to make your father’s vision a reality, without him telling you what to do. (Visionary Daughters)

I realize that it is most likely God’s will for me to be married someday, and I desire and have the responsibility to be prepared, as much as possible, for this role as God sees fit. I want to be a true helpmeet to my husband, and what an excellent opportunity I have to practice this with my own father! (So Much More)

That’s right—the Botkins teach that teenage girls and young adult women are to serve as helpmeets-in-training to their father, preparing for marriage—practicing playing wife in every way except for sexual, of course. And indeed, the Botkins sisters also use the language Bright Lights uses, arguing that daughters must give their hearts to their fathers for safe keeping and protection.

And then, of course, is pastor, author, and Christian homeschool speaker Voddie Bauchamwho had this gem to offer:

A lot of men are leaving their wives for younger women because they yearn for attention from younger women. And God gave them a daughter who can give them that.

After this comment sparked a bit of an outcry, Buacham posted a followup, which is now wiped from the internet along with the original video, explaining that he never meant to imply a sexual relationship between father’s and daughters. But the context around this quotation had to do with men leaving their wives for their secretaries, meaning that Baucham really was suggesting that for middle aged men teenage and young adult daughters should fill the same needs that sometimes drive them to have affairs with youthful secretaries. To put it simply, this is disgusting. And seriously, just where are these men’s wives supposed to fit in this scenario? Do they have an expiration date they pass at forty?

And now let’s turn from the Botkins and Voddie Baucham to Vision Forum’s Father Daughter RetreatHere is a description from their website:

God’s Word speaks volumes to the relationship between fathers and daughters: His most sacred duty is her protection and preservation from childhood to virtuous womanhood. He leads her, woos her, and wins her with a tenderness and affection unique to the bonds of father and daughter. Success in his life mission is directly related to the seriousness and compassion with which he seeks to raise her as an industrious, family-affirming, children-loving woman of God.

She, in turn, looks to her father as a loving picture of leadership, of devotion, and of care. Her relationship with her father will help to define her view of the worth of a woman, the meaning of fulfillment and contentment, and her vision for virtue. When these relationships are realized and cultivated, the generational mission of the Christian family is secure.

I can even give you a video to go with this one:

Now let me move away from the more conservative circles of Christian homeschooling and speak to more mainstream evangelical purity culture more broadly, because all of this is there as well, albeit less bluntly.  Almost two years ago I wrote about part of what is behind the purity culture focus on fathers and daughters. The basic summary is this: Teenage girls need male attention, and they should be getting that from their fathers. If they don’t get it there, they will turn to teenage guys for that attention, which will of course end up destroying their purity and happiness. Here is how I described this idea:

Yesterday I posted about about purity balls, and pointed out that fathers should have nothing to do with their daughters’ virginity, unless they’re reverting to some sort of Old Testament “fathers own their daughters virginity and women are property” mentality. Since then I have watched this documentary and done some thinking. See, the argument is more sophisticated than “your virginity belongs to your father.”

In the documentary, Randy Wilson of Generations of Light Ministry states that females will always seek male validation and that they especially have a burning desire to be viewed as beautiful by the men around them. Randy explains that because so many daughters today are not validated and told they are beautiful by their fathers, they look for that same validation and affirmation from young men their age, and end up with STDs, teen pregnancies, and broken hearts.

The solution to this problem, Randy says, is for fathers to be there for their daughters, to validate their daughters, have a special relationship with them, and tell them that they are beautiful and valuable. Then daughters will no longer need to seek those things from young men their age, and will no longer bear the physical and emotional consequences of dating and sexual activity. And that, quite simply, is the goal behind the purity balls Randy’s ministry runs.

My response? If you’re worried about your daughters looking for validation from teenage guys, how about you simply make sure to teach them to respect themselves and not find their value in what someone else thinks of them? But then, I suppose that isn’t complicated enough. But really, it’s this idea that undergirds the purity balls and Bright Lights’ call for daughters to give their hearts to their fathers—it’s this same idea that no teenage boy can be trusted with your heart, so you should give it to your father for safe keeping until the time is right.

Let me finish with a couple of points. First, the relationships this sort of teaching sets up are often extremely unhealthy—sometimes the term “emotional incest” is used to describe these patterns. One especially disastrous result is that the a woman can end up playing second fiddle to her young adult daughter in the quest for for her own husband’s attention. And besides that, what happens to this relationship when the daughter eventually moves away to live on her own, or gets married? And if you’re not supposed to give your heart away, how is it that giving it to your father—whatever that means—is safer? Let me put it this way: I did what I was supposed to do and gave my heart to my father, and it still ended being broken. It’s just that wasn’t some teenage guy who broke it—it was my dad.

Anyway, these are all the things that come to my mind when I hear that the Bright Lights group urges girls to “Give Your Hearts to Your Father.” It’s not meant to be hypothetical, and it really is talking about biological fathers.

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.

  • AndersH

    The link to the documentary from your old post is dead, but the documentary can be found here:
    http://documentaryaddict.com/The+Virgin+Daughters-1874-documentary.html
    (warning: some NSFW pictures/links to other documentaries about sexuality at the bottom of the page)

    • AndersH

      Whoops, might as well link directly to youtube:

      http://youtu.be/4fZyuLtH4X4

    • LizBert

      I just watched the whole thing. It comes across as ill informed at best and unbelievably controlling and creepy at worst. The guy who founded the purity balls seemed the creepiest, it’s like he really believed himself the hand of god on earth or something.

      • Sally

        I know! The part where the kids kneel before him and get his blessing was interesting. At another point it’s clear he considers dads to be the “high priest” of the family. Where’s that in the Bible? Then apparently because Mom can’t kneel, she sits in a chair and he stands over her. So clearly the position was important. What?
        Now, I do appreciate the idea of an intense moment where someone in leadership looks you in the eyes and tells you how valuable you are. That was done informally by a wonderful man I once knew. He’d take a moment when saying goodbye to people -everyone, not just people “below him” somehow in stature – and just heap some appreciation and love on you that was personal and meaningful.
        But to kneel and get the blessing from your own dad? Yikes.

      • LizBert

        I think it’s wonderful for parents to take the time to tell their children that they are valuable, but doing it in a ritual way weekly just seems weird. I was kind of uncomfortable with mom kind of being grouped in there with the kids under dad too.

      • The_L1985

        Women essentially are kids under this system. You’re either a little girl under Daddy’s care, or you’re the little woman under Hubby’s care. You don’t get to be your own person–that would just be silly. The very idea of us women being human!

      • The_L1985

        I wanted to scream at the mother who seemed to think that having had a normal breakup was somehow this deep, permanent scar.

        Well, yeah, breakups hurt, but they don’t cause permanent pain unless you let them.

      • LizBert

        It’s just one more way to shame the women and control them. If you make them feel like you’re doing them a favor by marrying them in spite of their terrible pasts they’ll feel indebted to you.

        Normal adults don’t feel like they lose a part of themselves by loving somebody. My love well is self renewing.

  • ako

    They do know it’s possible for a girl to have close relationship with her father without deliberately creating a creepy pseudo-romantic vibe, don’t they? Because I can tell you from experience, it is.

    (Of course I’m an atheist lesbian career woman, which many of them would probably blame on my father. And to be fair, he did encourage me to study, use my brain, have the self-confidence to pursue my dreams, accept my sexual orientation, participate in serious conversations with men, see the world, feel good about my academic and professional accomplisments, and generally consider myself a capable person not limited by my gender. Tragic, really.)

  • lucifermourning

    this just feels like such a horrible distortion of the importance of the father/daughter bond.

    fathers can absolutely model what a healthy relationship means – by treating their daughters’ mothers with respect and love, by treating their daughters with respect as individuals and teaching them to be an independent young woman who values who own accomplishments. teaching them to respect their own judgments, expect to be treated as an equal by their partners and not freaking out about mistakes.

    dads can be so valuable in a daughter’s life and this really does twist that bond into a kind of creepy dependence that’s more about dad’s ego than the daughter’s needs/

    • alwr

      This is what fundagelicals seem to do all the time…take an idea that at its most basic roots is good–teens who have healthy strong relationships with their parents navigate adolescence more easily–and overemphasize it until they warp it into something creepy.

      • brbr2424

        I think you are right. Fundamentalists take a nugget of a good idea and then take it to the extremes and often end up in a sexual place. It’s hard to put your finger on what is wrong. I commented that Debbi Pearl had some good advice for both sexes. She was advising one of her made up people in her anecdote who kept harassing her husband for not being religious enough. Her advice was to lay off or the husband would leave her for a younger woman. Debi went off the rails and took it to the extremes in her story. I commented that it is good advice to not nag or harass your spouse continuously or he or she may end up leaving. I got a lot of down arrows on that comment.

      • Helix Luco

        i think that probably a lot of people who took issue with your comment felt that “don’t do X or your partner might leave” is an unhelpful thing to say. frequently a breakup is a good thing in the long run, and there are lots of more important things to consider when discussing the possible negative consequences of a course of action.

      • Kagi Soracia

        Because there is no interpretation of a good thing that is too much# and if it has a right spirit at the heart of it, how can it be a bad thing, ever? these are mostly subconscious questions, but they are being asked. They are being fed by an unending desire women have to being the ones to ASK the questions, to doubtthe oppresor, to be given a Voice where they will not immediately and bluntly shut down

        Therefore, speaking to the asbuser –mine, or anyone else,— about them willl only be used to question and inviolidate evertything we know to; but if our words can read just one vicitim, and came make jjust one survivor question her reality- then we have done itl

  • The_L1985

    “Build the bonds of a lifetime?” Isn’t that what marriage is for?

    I seriously didn’t think the emotional incest thing got that explicit. There is just so much wrong when that’s the way you express an idea like “Get close to your family members and celebrate the parent-child bond.”

    That said, as repugnant as the “giving your heart to Daddy” idea is, I have to admit that the idea of a high tea with one or both parents is utterly adorable. But then, I’m the sort who would have had tea parties as a tot if I’d had hot tea at that age.

    I wholly agree that the idea that girls should look to their fathers to meet the emotional needs that they would usually have fulfilled by an SO is deeply disturbing and doesn’t actually solve the heartbreak problem at all. For all the emotional issues I have around my father, at least he always made it clear that he viewed me as his “precious baby girl” and not some sort of surrogate for Mom.

  • Sally

    All teens, give your heart to your family. Keep your heart safe until the time is right. Guard your heart.

    Even, Daughters, stay under your father’s household leadership until you’re married (although I hate it).

    All those could work. But teen daughters giving their hearts to their fathers. Now it’s gendered, and if it didn’t originally have a sexual undertone, it sure does in translation. -At least an emotionally sexual undertone, if not physically. And what of those situations where all the father needs is “permission” from the church for it to become sexual and the daughters who hear this message and don’t realize this isn’t permission (and what Dad is doing is wrong). What a mixed up mess.

    It’s really icky.

    And it’s just not necessary. There’s no reason to give the father/daughter relationship this tone.

    From an excerpt above: “Randy explains that because so many daughters today are not validated and told they are beautiful by their fathers, they look for that same validation and affirmation from young men their age…”
    To me this implies that it was different in times past. Really? Do we think fathers were going on lovely father / daughter retreats & picnics and reaching out to their daughters to affirm them while their daughters practiced being their father’s wives in almost every way? Can we picture a dad in say 1850 doing that? 1750? Roman times? Bronze age? Tell me about one father/daughter picnic in the Bible.
    I find this incredibly creepy. They’re taking what should be a “Dads, having a healthy relationship with your daughters is important” message and turning it into a “let’s play house” relationship. Yuck.

    • dj_pomegranate

      “Tell me about one father/daughter picnic in the Bible.” Bahahaha! This gave me a hilarious mental image of King David leaving the palace with a picnic basket, wearing a tiara, holding a few stuffed animals under his arm. “We’ll be back in a bit, honey! Just going to have a picnic with our little sweetums out in the desert. (Turning to his daughter) Yes, honey, I’m wearing the tiara! No, I don’t have Mr. Snuggles. Did you leave him in your room?”

      • Sally

        LOL!

      • The_L1985

        I like this idea of little Tamar a lot better than what actually happens to her in the bible.

  • Mel

    This leads in to something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

    Premise 1: Teenage girls and their fathers should cultivate a relationship that fulfills romantic and emotional needs until marriage.
    Premise 2: The father is the gateway to a marriage.

    I’m thinking this might be a main cause to the ‘drought’ of marriages in the C/P/Q second generation. Let’s say a family pulls off Premise 1. This makes Premise 2 nearly impossible to complete. Since the father is relying on his daughter(s) for validation, marrying them off would be extremely painful. Agonizing, really. For this reason, I find it funny every time the Botkin sisters are trotted out. The Dad has made a lot of money telling that story of how he prayed over his daughter’s ovaries when she was born and hoped for an early marriage. His daughters are now in their mid-twenties and early thirties which counts as a very late marriage if you want to have a billion babies.

    • Christine

      I think it’s a little more indirect than that. A lot of the CP/QF theology seems to reinforce the hyperindividualism (bear with me, I know that sounds incredibly wrong) that is actually common in Evangelical circles. It’s just done by family, so it’s not quite individualism, but it’s the same idea – my ideas are not only ok, they’re the only right ones. It’s why you get families who start a home church because they couldn’t find a church that had good theology. So when the daughters are that closely tied to the dad, and dad controls marriage, he wants to marry someone who will be a good protector & leader for his baby girl (now 30). So he’s going to wait until he finds someone who has perfect theology, political views, work ethic, etc. And unless he can find a time machine, it’s really hard for him to find himself to marry his daughter to.

      • dj_pomegranate

        There are flavors of this throughout mainstream evangelicalism as well. In 11th-ish grade at my Christian school, we were assigned homework which involved making lists of our personal requirements for marriage.

        Obviously a lot of those ended up being like, “Must love dogs,” but the class discussion was focused on things like: If he doesn’t believe in _____ is he still really a Christian? Can you marry someone who (has one drugs, once had sex, was raised a Catholic…)? Can you marry him if your parents don’t approve?

        We weren’t given “the right answers”, but everyone knew what the right answers were. You definitely wouldn’t want to marry someone who didn’t believe in spanking, for instance. You would want to pray real hard before marrying someone whose family weren’t Christians. If someone preferred a different church worship style, you would want to discuss that in depth before engagement. It was all very cautious and boiled down to: Our ideas are the only right ones. You think you love him, but if he doesn’t meet all these important standards, is it really worth it–is it REALLY love? Better wait for someone with more ideal political views, the perfect doctrine, a nice Christian family…and needless to say, if your parents don’t approve, well…why are you even considering it?

      • Things1to3

        I also attended a private Christian school and we had to do similar assignments. I find it ironic that the girl in our class that MOST wanted to be married and have kids just got married last year (age 33.) She had turned down every guy in High School and college because they didn’t fit her requirements. She finally loosened up about three years ago and compromised her beliefs enough to find someone.

        What I find really interesting is neither her family, nor mine taught this kind of purity. We were both taught independence and self respect, but the school and church teachings convinced us that we had to have these standards. In the case of my friend, she had a very nice boyfriend around senior year in High School, but she dumped him. She had gone to a church retreat based on Harris’ book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and when she came back she decided that they had to renounce all kissing and holding hands until they had properly courted and were married. He tried to work with her to understand her changed feelings, but she decided that he didn’t respect her purity enough so she had to end the relationship. Ironically she ended up marrying a divorcee.

      • The_L1985

        What you just said is why I am strongly against the way my folks tried to make me “well-rounded.”

        We had lots of educational books and watched tons of PBS–but at school, where a child spends most of zir waking hours, I was “educated” with A Beka. Somehow my parents expected me to be immune to the crazy that hit during middle school, or at least to still feel troubled enough to come to them with questions.

      • Christine

        Let me guess. Your church would have allowed your parents to give you away at your wedding. (And the idea that someone NOT believing in spanking would be a dealbreaker is so messed up to me, coming from a professional, middle class family.)

      • The_L1985

        Allowed? I’d be surprised if they didn’t make that a requirement!

      • Mogg

        If I ever marry my partner my father will be offended that I won’t allow him to give me away, despite the fact that I’ve been supporting myself for close to two decades, and haven’t lived in the same house as him for over a decade. He’ll be equally offended that I won’t be promising to obey my partner, either.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Heh. My husband walked down the aisle with his parents, then my parents walked with me for my wedding. There might have still been some “giving away” imagery in me going second, but really it was for the parents’ psychological benefit and they were more handing us to each other. Also that last minute support and hugs were nice; I was more than a little nervous, for all I was (and still am) happy with how things were/are.

        There was definitely nothing about obedience in the oaths, though!

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

        lol, we were the same. I was a nervous wreck on the way to the church, and needed my Dads strength to calm me before I walked in. We also said nothing about obey in our vows.

      • Leigha7

        Are there places that don’t allow that? I thought that was part of the traditional wedding ceremony (you know, the one everyone can recite word-for-word whether they’ve been to a wedding or not, because it’s on TV/movies all the time).

        A trend I’ve noticed: On TV, when they have outdoor weddings, the bride walks up the aisle by herself. If it’s an indoor wedding, especially if it’s in a church, her father walks her and they do the whole, “Who gives this woman?” “Her mother and I do” thing. I’m not sure why this is (besides the church part, but most people on TV aren’t particularly religious).

      • Christine

        The Catholic Church wouldn’t allow it at all. I think this is one that’s actually generally enforced (various churches are more or less strict about what they allow – I’ve been places where the groom wasn’t part of the processional, and where the parents walk the bride up.) Which wedding ceremony is the one that’s shown on TV? (I don’t have the attention span for TV, so I’m really out of touch).

        I do know that pop culture shows a lot of things that are completely made up when it comes to weddings (although a lot of these things have come back to be picked up by people for their weddings it’s impossible to tell. It’s like how a lot of Evangelicals have very secular ideas about how to celebrate Christmas.)

  • ZeldasCrown

    The idea that the appropriate kind of attention from one’s father could make one not develop crushes/want attention from men/boys their own age is ludicrous. What I desire from my father (in terms of attention and emotional support) is completely different from what I want from men my age. I can’t substitute one for the other-being close to my father doesn’t make me not want a relationship/friendship/etc from other men (nor did it have any effect on my feelings in this matter when I was a teen). The only way I could see the two being interchangeable is if there’s a real emotional/sexual attraction between a girl and her father (i.e. she thinks of her father in the same way she would think about a boyfriend), which is just creepy and wrong. No wonder many outsiders to purity culture find this concept to be so off-putting.

    • grindstone

      Thank you. The thing that struck me about this: “they look for that same validation and affirmation from young men their age”, is that this should be normal, not transferring your affections to your father. They are subjugating what is the normal process of young women to channel it into this lifetime subservient role…..no, just yuck.

      • Sally

        Right, and if we go the other way and insist the “giving your heart to your father” is in no way romantic or sexual, and yet it’s a substitute for giving your heart to a boy, then we’re sort of desexualizing at least the woman altogether. She just wants male attention and to be told she’s pretty. It’s not sexual for her either way.

      • ako

        I think desexualizing the woman is part of the selling point here. Many parents are uncomfortable thinking of their kids, particularly their daughters, as having a sexuality and sexual desires. For some people who feel that way, an easy “No, she just wants to be taken care of and told she’s special, and she’s still my innocent little girl!” out has to be tempting.

      • Hth

        And there’s certainly *some* validity to the idea. Lots of teenage girls acquiesce to sexual activity that makes them nervous or uncomfortable because they want validation and approval. Or to put it the other way, girls who tend not to feel validated and question their overall worth are by and large not going to have the emotional skills to set their own boundaries and hold them against the threat of peer disapproval.

        It just strikes me as weird that the purity movement thinks that it’s remotely good at validating young women. Everything about it is conditional: you are loved and worthy IF you are well-behaved. UNLESS you are ruined/spoiled/sullied. UNTIL you disobey and break your father’s heart. I don’t care how many picnics you go on with your dad. Girls know the difference between a parent who loves and supports them and a parent who rewards them for compliance.

        The purity movement talks a lot about love, but rewards compliance.

      • ako

        I think teaching a girl that she has the right to say no and doesn’t need to give in to sexual pressure just to please people is good and healthy. But some people seem to think that’s all there is when it comes to teenage girls and sex (or that and emotional entanglements with no sexual aspect on the part of the girl). That’s taking things too far, and creating skewed ideas.

        They’re incredibly conditional, but it’s often the same people who think “You deserve to be tortured forever, and you might be, but if you intellectually assent to this particular set of propositions, you can be rewarded with endless niceness!” is both just and merciful. So unconditional validation doesn’t seem to be on their radar.

      • gimpi1

        “The purity movement talks a lot about love, but rewards compliance.”

        This, a thousand times this. That sums it up, Hth. Well said.

      • ZeldasCrown

        I also think that the idea that all women are the same and all men are the same plays strongly into this. If all men are the same, then the nature of the relationship between two men is the same, regardless of the men in question. Likewise, the nature of the relationship between two women or between a woman and a man are always the same, regardless of what the specific two people involved are like. The nature of the relationship depends on the genders of the two people, not the qualities of the people themselves. So father vs teenage boy=same relationship. Hence courting. Dating doesn’t matter, since any woman is compatible with any man.

        My relationships (whether they be romantic, friendly, familial, professional, etc) with each of the people in my life are as different as those people themselves are. I look for different things in each relationship, and thus get different things from each of the people in my life. One relationship isn’t interchangeable with another.

      • Sally

        Hmm. I don’t know if that’s really the message. Even Debi Pearl says a young woman should ask her intended tough questions and move on if she doesn’t like the answers (it’s on one of their Youtube videos. I can dig it up if needed). Even she has 3 types of girls (again, Youtube) and 3 types of guys (Helpmeet book).
        I have a relative who started courting and soon broke it off because the guy wanted her to make some changes she wasn’t comfortable with (no idea what). And the documentary cited in the original post (I watched the whole thing) involved someone deciding if a possible suitor was right for the girl to court or not. Unfortunately it sounded like the dad said no and the teen never got the chance to decide for herself, but that’s not the same thing as viewing every male and female as interchangeable.
        I do think these dads and teens know there is supposed to be a different kind of relationship in marriage than with one’s father. (Thus the whole point of distracting the girl until she’s ready to get married.) But I do agree that whether we’re desexualizing the girl altogether, getting creepy with romanticizing an otherwise appropriate father/daughter relationship, or otherwise confusing things, it’s a mess.

      • Scott_In_OH

        Just wanted to point out that I think “distracting” teens (both boys and girls) from sexual feelings is a big part of this mindset. Or if that’s impossible, getting teens to resist those feelings for a while.

        The underlying premise is that those feelings will go away, or at least subside, so you just have to make through the dangerous year. (Edit: “dangerous yearS”)

  • BobaFuct

    The bible actually gives an example of this type of relationship, taken to its logical extreme. Keep an eye out for the harsh judgment doled out to Lot and his daughters here…oh wait, there was no judgment, this was basically NBD as far as god was concerned:

    Genesis 20:30 “Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

    33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

    34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

    36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab[g]; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi[h]; he is the father of the Ammonites[i] of today.”

    • Sally

      I take your point. But as bizarre as this story is, it’s not really held up as a model to follow even in the Bible itself. There’s no, “Go and do likewise,” message. The Bible doesn’t convey the kind of “give your heart to Daddy instead of to a boy your own age” message conveyed in this modern movement.
      I don’t think this modern message comes from this passage. I think they’re (the leaders of this movement) just making stuff up and pretending its biblical. I’m sure they have random scriptures to back it up, but there’s no sentiments in the Bible that convey this twisted almost-but-not-quite romantic father/daughter relationship.
      But I do concede that the Bible is not void of many very twisted stories and your example is a prime example.

      • BobaFuct

        I wasn’t really holding it up as a real example, or implying that they use it as any kind of example…I was just being snarky.

        But I agree that there really isn’t ANY biblical basis for what they’re talking about. I’m pretty sure that neither Jesus nor Paul (the only two people that really matter for most Christians) don’t specifically address the father-daughter relationship AT ALL. Most discussion of fathers and daughters are of the Laban-Rachel/Leah type, where the daughter is portrayed as little more than the father’s property to be given away at his discretion. And look at Ruth and Esther, two of the most celebrated women in Judeo-Christianity…no fathers in sight.

      • Christine

        Neither of them was making her own decisions though. The which never occurred to me until just now. Interesting.

      • Sarah-Sophia

        The Bible says that a woman’s life is suppose to be centered around a male, be it father, husband and/or son, and since Bright Lights is centered around teens, it is the father that gets all the attention. (Although if it was biblical times that teen would already have a husband and children). I think their using modern language to carry on an ancient idea.

      • Sally

        Sarah-Sophia wrote: “The Bible says that a woman’s life is suppose to be centered around a male, be it father, husband and/or son…”

        I was raised in an evangelical church and went to an evangelical college where we had chapel several times a week. I never got this Bible message. I’m trying to think where someone would get this message directly from the bible. I know there’s the wives submit to your husbands stuff. And obviously Bible women didn’t have “careers” outside of their husband’s. I also know that people like Debi Pearl twist many Bible verses to support the “husband-centered” life, but I’m not sure the Bible actually teaches this idea explicitly. Did I miss it somewhere?

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Well, there’s plenty of places in the bible that you can get the “daughters belong to their fathers” message, both implicitly and explicitly. (Which is not surprising because that’s how most societies worked until, well, recently in the grand scheme of human history.) I think the purity ball etc. stuff is sort of a way to soften that concept and make it seem sweet and nice and about love and devotion and “protection” instead of about possession–which is what it is at its core.

      • Sally

        Yeah, this is interesting. I guess modern American Christian men and women who are not part of the patriarchy movement have to ignore only a very few verses because it really isn’t taught explicitly except in those few verses. The fact that it’s woven into the Bible indirectly seems to be entirely cultural to the modern mainline woman, imo. That’s why in order to teach this idea, Debi has to so often twist things. Yet it is there indirectly as part of the culture, giving backing to the patriarchal movement. I think it’s shocking and controversial to Christians not in that movement because it seems so uncentral to the early Christian message (which was about getting ready for an impending apocalypse, not marrying, not focusing on family, etc…) even if modern Christians also ignore the urgency of that message and the fact that it didn’t come to pass.
        This just reinforces that fact that you can get just about anything you want out of the Bible.

      • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

        Where does the Bible say a woman’s (not a wife’s) life should be centred round a male? (I know of the verses on wives submitting to husbands, and think they are translated rather badly as the Bible makes it clear our lives should be centred round God, not man, and the word translated submit had a milder meaning in non-military use.)

    • KarenJo12

      Considering that Ammon and Moab were enemies of the Israelites and eventually completely conquered by them, I don’t think that story exists to approve incest so much as insult Ammon and Moab by showing that their origins were icky.

      • Sally

        That’s what I was thinking but was too lazy to look it up to confirm.

  • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

    My dad tried too late to start this kind of relationship with me. By the time I was 18 and he was linking his fingers in my pant belt loops to get me used to being touched in preparation for my upcoming marriage, I wasn’t groomed well enough as a submissive daughter to be okay with that. ‘Fortunately’ around that time they had another girl and promised to raise her right to love her daddy. Now they have two little girls and i worry it will turn out very unhealthy.

    • Angela

      EWWW! I just threw up in my mouth at the idea of preparing your child to be touched by a sexual partner.

      • The_L1985

        Sadly, this kind of nonsense isn’t restricted to Christian fundamentalists…Don’t google the Frosts’ “Wiccan Bible” unless you want to become very, very disturbed and angry.

        There’s a reason why few Pagans read their work anymore.

      • Whirlwitch

        Wiccan-ish Pagan here. Yep, I loathe the Frosts. I’m not a fan of No True Scotsman, really I’m not, but I deeply believe the Frosts have no claim on the word Wiccan, albeit for many different reasons having to do with essential beliefs, philosophy and practice, not just because they’re utterly revolting.

      • The_L1985

        Well, I believe people like Mark Driscoll are Christians, but that people like him do not get to define what the word “Christian” means for everybody else. I don’t think that’s a “No True Scotsman” at all. :)

    • Whirlwitch

      That is disgusting and I am sorry you had to experience that. My own father was inappropriate in “small” ways that led to my childhood being overshadowed by the fear that it would get a lot worse. In my case, not for religious reasons, or indeed any reasons I know of other than his own proclivities. But I know very well that it doesn’t take a whole lot from a parent to be very icky and very damaging.

    • Kate

      Wow, I am so sorry you had to experience that. How incredibly WRONG and AWFUL. I can only imagine how worried you would be about the younger ones after what you experienced.

  • Sarah-Sophia

    I think a big problem is many people believe that as long as there isn’t anything sexual going on there’s nothing wrong with fathers and daughters having unusually close relationships. When you say the word “incest” they automatically think of the sexual kind and become offended.
    An good example of emotional incest is a picture I saw of a little girl dressed up as Cinderella and her father was dressed as Prince Charming. The man is suppose the be the “Prince Charming” to his significant other, and the girl is getting the message that the best way to get approval is the be pretty. There’s also the fact that Purity Culture automatically assumes that the girl is straight so she is suppose to be paired with a Prince.

    • NeaDods

      I waffle on calling that picture emotional incest, because the SF geek culture I’m in shares a lot of pictures called “Parenting – you’re doing it right” showing a very young child dressed as a superhero and the parent in some complimentary costume. A tiny Doctor Who being watched by a full-grown companion. An itsy Indiana Jones with a father dressed as Indy’s father. Ect, ect. As a certain age, I think that’s support of the kid’s imagination, to be willing to play a part of that imaginary world.

      It’s when she’s over eight and beyond the tea parties and daddy still wants to be her Prince Charming that it gets creepy. But a fully grown Prince Charming holding a little Cinderella strikes me as perfectly innocently playing her make believe.

      • Christine

        Prince Charming is a slightly different case, though. Parents normally dress as sidekicks (I’m supporting you) rather than as the rescuer (I’m in charge). I can see that a really young child might not understand that Prince Charming is different and less appropriate than the characters that other daddies play, but it is the parent’s job to watch for that sort of thing.

      • NeaDods

        I’ll agree that it’s the parent’s job to watch if that sort of thing ends up being “rescue me all the time, Daddy!” but just playing Prince Charming a few times doesn’t strike me as wildly inappropriate. Mostly because I’ve watched my friends’ daughters want to be Cinderella rescued by Daddy Charming one day and then play Merida and “slay” him as a bear the next. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that he should have to tell them that only one of those two games was okay to play even though both movies were okay to watch.

        Edited to add: the girls I’m thinking of are redheads, so they’ve glommed particularly on to passive Ariel and active Merida as role models less because of what they do than because there is someone who *looks like them.*

      • Sally

        I agree that if no one is putting any weird ideas into anyone’s heads, little girls of a certain age may want to have Daddy play any number of roles in play acting and even say they want to marry their daddy when they grow up. That’s because the whole thing is utterly asexual at that point and there’s no reason to bring sexuality into it by acting like there’s some kind of taboo line being crossed. If that’s not obvious to an observer, I think it’s very obvious to those who have been raising the child since she was a baby. She just has no concept and why bring it in?

  • Makoto

    My ex-fiancee was raised in the purity culture. She’s still one of my closest friends, it’s often remarked upon by others that we seem to have a nearly psychic connection based on how often we finish each others’ sentences (or type them out before the other can even finish online), and is otherwise a person I enjoy being with.

    But she felt she had to break off our engagement after a year because sex == bad, marriage == sex, therefore marriage == bad for us (but not for her parents, of course). Mid-30s, and still this kind of stuff eats away at her. I doubt she’ll ever be able to get married or have any kind of physical relationship, to be honest. This is the kind of result I’ve personally seen of the purity culture, along with the stories here and on other blogs. It’s terrifying and saddening.

    • Scott_In_OH

      I’m really sorry to hear that story.

      Another way this can go, as Libby Anne has described and as Sally suggests above (7/15/13, 10:52am), is that the person raised in Christianity just never gets past the sex == bad stage. This can be as true for boys and men as for girls and women, and it doesn’t require being raised in a particularly conservative or isolating version of Christianity.

      To put it in the context of the previous thread, this is a subject where there are infinite opportunities to make people feel dirty and unworthy–God doesn’t like you to have sexual thoughts, but I bet you’re having them, so you’d better ask God for forgiveness and for help in suppressing those thoughts. Until you’re married, of course, at which time there are a handful of appropriate ways to feel excited about your spouse. Enjoy!

  • onamission5

    I find all the purity culture shit completely infuriating because it denies girls and women any form of emotional intelligence or agency. So infantilizing. Not only are we not supposed to be trusted with our own bodies, we can’t be trusted with our own feelings, thoughts, or needs, either, no, those must be managed by our nearest adult male relative until such time as we meet our fully heterosexual and cisgendered future husband.

  • kraut2

    This whole culture of purity makes my skin crawl…it is utterly creepy.

    We raised a daughter and a son, and we raised them to be able to stand on their own two feet and have a feeling of self worth – achieved not be talking about it, but by actions. Both children left our house to follow their own way by age 18.
    Both can be relied upon when help is needed.

  • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

    as someone whose father sexually abused her, i’m really mad that these girls are being set up for that. for me it started with “daddy/daugther time”. i was his princess, and a daddy’s girl. i always wanted to be with him, wanted to help him. and then it went too far, but i didn’t realize that it was wrong for many years later.
    who is going to stick up for these girls if their culture tells them “whatever ‘affection’ your daddy shows is proper; reverence him for it!”

    and i feel bad for the mums. how can they compete?

    • onamission5

      I am horrified that your father betrayed your trust by abusing you. You are absolutely right that the dynamic Libby Anne described leaves abused daughters with no recourse and no way of knowing if their abuse is normal aside from their own instincts for self-preservation that they have been groomed to view as sinful, and consequently ignore.

      • Sally

        This is my biggest concern, too. At best, this is a confusing message that will mess with the girls’ heads and confuse things when it is time to have sex in marriage, imo. At worst, who can distinguish these messages from the words and some of the actions of sexual abuse? To a girl that wouldn’t know better, it even looks like whole groups of girls have almost marriage ceremonies & wedding receptions via these father/daughter balls. I know that’s not the intention, but just a few behind the scenes “explanations” to the girl about what it all “really” means, and how would she know the difference? Who could she tell since the whole family is in on the ball?

  • Things1to3

    I have huge problems with this because it ignores and invalidates single parent households. My mom was raised in one (her father died, mom never re-married) and by all these sorts of teachings she should never have made it. But she did, and she and my father are coming up on their 30th anniversary. Every time I hear these kinds of teachings I wonder what it’s like to be slapped in the face with them, as she is, ever time you turn around.

  • Trollface McGee

    Ugh, the more of this kind of thing I read, the more I’m convinced that fundamentalism is some sort of awful cult what worships the phallus. A father’s importance isn’t that of a parent, it is because he is the penis-bearer and daughters need to grow up knowing they are the property of the penis-bearer in their life, that they are to obey the penis-bearer in their life and that they are to worship the penis-bearer for no other reason than that he has a penis.

    A good father is a wonderful thing in a person’s life. But any good parent generally is whether that parent is a father, mother, second mother, second father, single parent, grandparent, and every other of the myriad family combinations. What makes a good parent? Love, attention, good parenting skills – none of that requires a penis.

    Expecting to be worshipped and obeyed because you have functioning genitalia – not good parenting. Expecting your child to be a house servant because she was born with two X chromosomes – bad parenting. Essentialising your child to the stereotyped characteristics of their gender – bad parenting.

    And the horrible creepy incest vibe – terrible parenting. My father would be horrified at the thought he should “own” my sexuality until I marry and that’s the way a normal father should react.

    • Beutelratti

      I feel horrible … but everytime I read “penis-bearer” I thought of some weird knight yielding, well … a penis. Vivid imagination rocks, or not.

      • Kat

        If I had the time and the skills, I would absolutely take a shot from Monty Python and and the Holy Grail and Photoshop dildos in place of swords in honor of this comment. And it would be the best thing ever. I think I would put it on my phone so whenever I encountered religious patriarchy bullshit I could pull it out and giggle at it. At least I have the mental image now, so thank you for that. You have made my inner 13-year-old very happy.

      • Trollface McGee

        I admit, it was not easy writing “penis” that many times in a post without my inner-12 year old kicking in :)

      • Beutelratti

        I’m glad I’m not the only one with an inner child. Even if I might come off as immature sometimes, I still plan to keep that child alive for a long, long time, haha. ;)

      • Stev84
  • butterfly5906@yahoo.com

    “His most sacred duty is her protection and preservation from childhood to virtuous womanhood”

    Unless you read the Old Testament, where Lot is praised for offering up his daughters to be gang-raped.

    • The_L1985

      To say nothing of what Lot’s daughters do to him later on. Incestuous rape isn’t any less despicable when the usual roles are reversed.

    • anon

      The obvious moral of the story of Sodom is not to be gay and that gay sex is icky and gross. The moral problem is not the rape! Stupid Atheists!

      (Sarcasm mode on, because you never can tell with the internet when something is a parody and when someone is just genuinely stupid.)

    • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

      Lot is never praised for that. He is praised somewhere in the Bible, but not for that.

  • http://www.asmashingblog.blogspot.com/ D.L F

    I’m reading It’s Not That Complicated by the Botkin sisters and the book is seriously creepy and disturbing. I’m only in the sixth chapter and came across a quote that seems to approve of the return of stoning women.”If we lived in a time when we had to watch people we know be stoned to death for letting those little compromises lead all the way to adultery(Deut 22) we would take this kind of thing-even the little first step sins-much more seriously than we do”

    • The_L1985

      Well, yes, that sentence is technically correct. But that doesn’t mean that the “little step” of smiling at another man, or viewing him as a friend, is at all wrong.

    • NeaDods

      Ewwww! It’s like Debi Pearl – the woman’s speaking, but you can hear the voice of the man drilling it into her.

    • gimpi1

      That just chills the blood. Yes, by all means, lets torture people (mostly women) to death for consensual sex, to terrorize all women and girls out of ever talking to a male they aren’t related to. I think they are advocating for terrorism, aren’t they? Or is it not terrorism if it’s women you’re trying to terrorize?

  • j.lup

    This has to set up teenage girls to be in a position that they’re competing not only with their siblings for their father’s attention, but also with their own mother. It’s just a big, emotionally incestuous mess.

    And why doesn’t a teenage boy have to pledge his heart and purity to his mother for safe-keeping? Oh, right, because the sight of a boy dressed up in fancy clothes and attending a fairy-tale ball as his mother’s ‘date’ and the thought that a mother is supposed to be her son’s outlet for ‘female attention’ and affirmation is creepy.

    • KarenJo12

      This. The Q/P sorts believe that a close relationship with his mother makes a son gay. So, not only does Mom compete with her daughter, she can’t be close to her sons either. Mom has no emotional resources at all. Given this I completely understand why Nancy DeMoss and the Botkin sisters never married.

      • j.lup

        Yikes! So a girl without paternal attention will turn to boys her own age (or older men) for affirmation, and a boy without paternal attention will turn gay later as he ‘seeks a father figure’. And boys with close relationships with their mothers are made gay, but girls with close relationships with their fathers are made straight as arrows. Logic has never really been a strong feature of the Q/CP/Purity Movement mentality.

      • Leigha7

        Girl with no/bad dad? Likes men.
        Boy with no/bad dad? Likes men.
        Girl with good dad? Likes men.
        Boy with overbearing mom? Likes men.
        Boy with good dad and aloof mom? Likes women.

        Women must be really difficult to like.

  • Sophie

    I am really close to my dad. After my partner, he is the first person that I want to call when I have news, good or bad. We live a couple of hundred miles away from one another now, but we talk at least once a week often for over an hour. His opinion matters a great deal to me, and I always consider his advice even if I don’t follow it. We are both very cuddly people and I have been known to hold his hand. We do fight sometimes, we both know how to push each others buttons! But we always make up very quickly. I know that a lot of people find our relationship strange, but they get it once I explain that my dad is my father and mother rolled into one. As a baby I bonded with my dad, because my mother could barely tolerate touching me. My dad took care of me for my first 6 months, and even after he left my mum he still came and took care of me everyday. The relationship a lot of my friends have with their mum, I have that with my dad. He tells me that I’m beautiful and intelligent and he mopped up my tears when I got my heart broken. But the way the CP/QF movement twists that relationship makes me feel ill.

    Having a good relationship with your dad is important, but the love you feel for him should be very different to that you feel for a romantic partner. It’s your dad’s job to teach you self-confidence and self-respect, not to ‘guard your heart’. I cannot even begin to describe my revulsion at the ideas behind the father’s role in purity culture, I just don’t know how to put it into words. So I shall go for lots of ick and ewwww instead!

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

      Its so awesome that you have a great relationship with your Dad. And also that you know that his place is behind your partner. That speaks of healthy limits.

      And I totally agree – Fathers should be teaching independence, self-respect and self-confidence. They are three of the best things a Dad can teach any child.

  • Space Blizzard

    So much of what comes out of the hardcore evangelical world is like this bizarre parallel universe where theoretically good ideas are taken and twisted beyond all reason. If you look only at he surface level rhetoric on display you could easily be mistaken for viewing it as healthy and positive (closer parent/child relationships? sounds neat!). It’s only when you scratch below the surface- not very far below, either- that the horrifying truth is revealed.

    A lot of what the Perls write about is the same- “aw, family togetherness and happy domestic fun times! That sounds- wait, WHAT?”

  • kisarita

    i would not use the word “emotional incest” unless there is a sexual tone to it. Incest is a very specific word and i would not load it to other contexts , because doing so could trivialize true incest. This being said, the whole purity-father cult to me seems clearly incestuous by which i mean a violation of SEXUAL boundaries within the family.

    • The_L1985

      “Emotional incest” is defined as an emotional relationship between family members (usually parents and their children) that is unhealthy and much more like the emotional relationship between spouses or romantic partners ought to be.

      It’s just as damaging as “real” incest, but without the sexual assault. I feel so sorry for all the girls in the documentary (link is earlier in this comment thread) and just want to give them a hug and some moral support.

  • John Kruger

    The whole thing really begs the question about how the males are supposed to guard their hearts, though I suppose the thought is that if you can steer them clear of lustful temptation they will be fine. I also expect that nearly the entire burden of purity is set upon the females in any event. “That wicked harlot led my innocent boy astray” types of statements would be used to unfairly potion out the blame.

    • KarenJo12

      They aren’t. If a man feels lust it’s because he saw a immodest woman. It’s always her faul for any and all values of “it.”

      • Sally

        Speaking of that, I thought it was interesting that some of the older girls’ ball gowns wouldn’t pass the modesty test in some circles. I wasn’t concerned so much because of the dads in the room, but there were older brothers there too. (Well, *I’m* not concerned about the boys, but I’m surprised the organizers weren’t.)
        So I guess purity and modesty don’t always look the same in every circle. So many various rules, so little time!

  • Kagi Soracia

    My father used this for his own abusive ends, to aid in isolating, controlling us and erasing our individual identities. We were supposed to be completely focused on him and what he wanted, learning how to be little wives in every way but physical.

    And some of them certainly have taken it too far and made it physical, but fortunately we never had to deal with that. The emotional damage was far and away enough. Those of my sisters who have gotten married are still dealing with wrong ways of thinking and behaving in their own marriages that they learned from a young age, and it is so messed up.

    I turned out a lesbian, and because it is so common to blame that on the father, he turned it around on me and claimed that I did it on purpose to hurt him and make him feel guilty. Umm, no, I did it because I am attracted to girls and it feels good and right to me.

    But regardless, this strand of thinking that runs through purity culture is 100% abusive, and plays right into the hands of any fathers who are already abusive in other ways, they will latch on to this and use it to further isolate and control children who are already emotionally battered and beaten down. They don’t need to hand him another club, but that’s exactly what this whole thing does. It’s insidious and sick and wrong.


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