Purity Portraits

Purity Portraits May 2, 2014

Photographer David Magnusson took an intriguing series of portraits of fathers and daughters in their Purity Ball finery. They are posted at Flavorwire – Striking, Creepy Photos of Christian “Purity Balls”

America: land of the free, home of the… thoroughly fucking weird? It’s hard to know what else to say about these striking and frankly terrifying portraits by Swedish photographer David Magnusson, which capture the institution of the Purity Ball: a religious rite wherein girls pledge not to have sex until they’re married. All the photos (which we spotted at Feature Shoot) depict the girls and their fathers, who glow with pride at the thought that their little girl won’t be despoiled until someone puts a ring on her finger.

Flavorwire has ten of the portraits up on their website. What do you think: touching moments or creepily intimate?

Comments open below

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession by M Dolon Hickmon

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  • I think the most disturbing thing about those pictures are those middle-aged guys and their teenage daughters posed the way that romantically-involved couples usually pose. I counted at least two pictures with the dad’s hands on his daughter’s hips … BELOW THE WAIST. Ewww.

    And what is it with all those white dresses?

  • Othelie Moor

    When I first saw these pictures I didn’t read the headline and thought they were wedding photos. Then I noticed one with really young girls, and that all the girls were, you know, girls. And then it got really creepy.

  • Jason Pearson

    Every parent should want their children to make intelligent sexual decisions, but making a public spectacle out of it is pretty weird. We don’t all want to know. And like someone else observed, what about the sons?

  • Mel

    The number of hands resting on a daughter’s thigh was disturbing to me.

  • Mel

    Those poses seemed oddly familiar and it took me a minute to get why – I have pictures of myself in similar poses with boyfriends at dances and with my husband at my wedding.

    I do have pictures of my dad and I from my wedding, but we’re side by side, or looking at each other and laughing – even in the dad/daughter dance at the reception.

  • Easy – if they have sex, it’s always the girl’s fault. Foul temptress!

  • Jenny Islander

    Well, if men having sex with women is synonymous with men owning women, and men who father girls own those girls . . .

  • I feel like the expressions on the girls’ faces say a lot–they all seem dejected and resigned.

  • Nea

    I think they’re meant to look solemn, but I agree with you. All the trappings of a marriage ceremony, none of the joy. And another generation of women taught they have no worth outside a hymen.

  • I agree–I think they were trying to send out one vibe but wound up sending out a different one. The echoing of the wedding ceremony minus the celebration aspect is disturbing too.

  • The thing that creeps me out the most is how none of these girls are smiling.
    The appeal of the purity ball would be the chance to dress up and play pretty pretty princess, right? (At least, that’s what it was for me…though I never went to a purity ball) So why do none of these girls look like they’re thrilled, and more like they’re in mourning? Admittedly, the editor probably chose the creepiest pictures he could find…but you’d think even ONE of these girls would have a great big “HEY PARTY WITH GLITTER AND MUSIC AND LOOK AT MY DRESS” hyperactive grin on her face.
    All of ’em look uncomfortable, and that one with the two little girls has ’em looking downright scared.

  • Allison the Great

    Emotional incest at its worst.

  • Jason Pearson

    Right? I had a horrible thought. Swap the sexes in the pictures: Mothers protectively cuddling their teenage sons.

  • I now have a picture in my head of that weird, crazy queen from Game of Thrones whose 8-year-old son was still nursing.

  • LisaP

    I may throw up.

  • mayarend

    I also counted at least 3 pictures that look like the girl is pregnant (dad from behind, holding the tummy).

  • Independent Thinker

    I can gladly say I own no photos of my fathers crotch touching my bum. These young ladies are not so fortunate. That part was extremely disturbing for me.

  • *shudder*

    Pass the brain bleach, please.

  • Nea

    I swear, he’s defending the uterus. That’s what I get out of those shots. None shall touch the uterus until I sell it to its new owner!

  • Astrin Ymris

    Technically, Lysa Arryn isn’t a queen. Well, she wasn’t in the books, anyway.

    Weird and crazy? Definitely!

  • Saraquill

    They spend money and time fussing over their daughter’s vaginas, commission commemorative photos, and then call US depraved?


  • Saraquill

    I think the white is ostensibly for purity, but really to show that their daughters are married to them, hence their rightful property.

  • Saraquill

    The protective hands over the uterus pictures, and the one with two prepubescent girls, were the most disgusting for me.

  • brbr2424

    Not just the hips. That is a very sexual place to put the hands. I always liked it when an unrelated male, who I was sexually attracted to, held me like that.

  • brbr2424

    The photos do indeed speak for themselves. The girls look unhappy and totally creeped out. It’s like a wedding photo where the bride is being forced into the marriage. It looks like the wedding portrait for when the FLDS round up a 12 year old girl and serve her up to a 55 year old church leader.

  • brbr2424

    I think the girls are just a little chunky. They do look like a very sexual coming from behind position.

  • Mirella222

    The purity culture in general is creepy, but these pictures are just down right disturbing. The girls all have the same desolate, brow beaten expressions. They don’t look serious or respectful; they look, well, like a person who has discovered that her parents think of her as an object and that their ‘love’ for her is inversely proportional to how much physical contact she has had with boys….instead of the love being unconditional, as it SHOULD be. And that is just so, so sad.

  • brbr2424

    These girls do end up having sex at the same rate as girls who don’t wear purity rings, they just don’t use birth control when they do because nobody prepared them to be safe.

  • brbr2424

    I hadn’t considered that they were trying to look solemn. They failed to pull it off. They just look very uncomfortable and unhappy.

  • brbr2424

    Agreed. I’m 55 and my dad is still around. I don’t think I’ve ever had his crotch pressed up against my bum either. He doesn’t go anywhere where he has to wait in line, so not even accidentally smooshed up against me in line.

  • Hannah

    I have to say in some of them, even the fathers look seriously uncomfortable with it. Like they know they’re being weird with their daughters, but it’s what’s expected of them because Jeezus. Some of the dads look creepy… but there’s a few that look creeped out for sure.

  • brbr2424

    I do cuddle my 14 year old son. I like to tell him that when he gets therapy when he is older, I want him to get his money’s worth.

  • The photo reeks of incest. After looking at the photos, the first thing I noticed is how unhappy the girls were. I do like the word: S – I – C – K.

  • Laura Turner

    I don’t think the photos look incestuous at all. Rather, the fathers look protective and the girls look like weak “flowers” that need Daddy’s protection from the wolves who will try to take their purity. The girls almost look afraid of the tragedy that will be theirs if they leave Daddy’s protection. It’s just dishonest and unnecessary and plain wrong to treat girls this way. What a head trip!

  • tulips

    I would have guessed pregnant too if I didn’t already have a heads up wrt what I was looking at. This close >< to making the finger hearts over the lower abdomen in at least a few of them.

  • Independent Thinker

    I can assure you if a photographer tried to get my husband in a creepy pose with his child he would tell him that it wasn’t going to happen. All this talk about being a man and they can’t assert themselves to a photographer.

  • Astrin Ymris

    The vibe I got looking at the one with the little girls was that one of them was afraid of the photographer, and was huddled up to her father hoping for protection. Maybe he was one of the few strangers she’d ever seen?

    The question is, why would little girls who haven’t even reached puberty be at a purity ball? THAT’S very creepy in itself– and it seems extreme by even CPM standards. Was the little girl was scared because she’s being raised to view every male outside the cult as a potential threat to the “purity”, without which she’s worth nothing?

    At least the body language in that photo wasn’t overtly sexual. That’s one mercy.

  • Bodhisvaha

    Creepy! The first of them (copied here) could almost be mistaken for a giving-away-the-bride picture, but it’s the most innocent. 4 of 10 girls look like they’re sleeping or dreaming, and 5 of 10 men seem to be sleeping or dreaming. Sometimes they’re both sleeping/dreaming. 4 of 10 men look actively hostile. 8 of 10 poses hold the daughter in a way that either actively traps her or could quickly turn into a restraining grip. 8 of 10 fathers seem to think they’re really boyfriends/husbands, and at least 6 of *those* pictures contain sleepers/dreamers. 0 daughters look happy or confident or adoring or any kind of positive emotion. 1 looks distinctly sad. 4 look critical, resigned, or hostile.

    Increasing the creepiness factor, many of the girls have a strong resemblance to the father, especially the one with red hair and a blue dress. So some of them have this Jungian or Freudian-in-reverse vibe. (Freud claimed that sons want to sleep with mothers, and daughters with fathers. Here I feel it’s the fathers who want to sleep with the daughters as a way to sleep with themselves because of the resemblances…)

    Bonus: without context, the one with the two small girls is the least creepy, because it looks something like an ordinary photo might, but with context, it’s one of the creepiest.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Or they just take awkward photos, like a lot of people. Honestly, I feel like a few of these would be right at home on awkwardfamilyphotos.com, except they, of course, take awkward to a whole new (creepy) level.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Maybe the idea is for them to look all meek and submissive? They just look heavily sedated to me, which is revealing of what these people think “femininity” is all about.

  • Oh she wasn’t a queen? Silly me, I just assumed woman on throne = queen. Lol.

    Thanks, though!

  • Catherine

    Wow…my prom photo was less sexual than these.

  • Catherine

    The one with the girl staring straight ahead reminds me of the cover of a VC Andrews novel.

  • tulips

    Lol! I had to read that twice before the last bit clued me in after all this incestuous purity depravity.

  • Sara Lin Wilde

    Man, are these ever depressing. The ones who wouldn’t look out of place with tears streaming down their faces look utterly devoid of emotion, like they’re already dead inside. Some of the pictures look like fathers comforting daughters who’ve been abandoned at the altar on their wedding day. I found myself trying to picture them dressed in colour for school on Monday and chatting with their friends, just to lighten the relentlessly depressing mood.

    I’m gonna go look at pictures of kitties now.