Picture this. A fifty-something man takes a teenaged girl out on a date to a formal event.
Feels awkward, doesn't it? (Not to mention blatantly illegal if the girl is under 14...)
What if the man is the girl's father? And what if he says things like this:
"This was a great event to teach your daughter how a gentleman conducts himself with a young lady."
Eewww... Doesn't that scream "incest" or what?
The statement above was made by one of the thousands of Conservative Christian American fathers who took a daughter to a "Purity Ball" over the last few years.
For those who are not familiar with the concept, it's a formal, high school prom-style of gathering where girls as young as 7 pledge their virginity to their fathers until the day they marry, and where fathers pledge to "war" for the hearts, purity and honour of their daughters.
Yuck. Many things ire me about purity balls.
First and foremost is the fact that it basically indoctrinates very young girls with the idea that she will never own her sexuality. These events effectively tell girls and young women that their sexuality is something that first belongs to their fathers, and that will be, upon marriage, passed on to their husbands.
The older girls at the Broadmoor tonight are themselves curvaceous and sexy in backless dresses and artful makeup; next to their fathers, some look disconcertingly like wives. In fact, in the parlance of the purity ball folks, one-on-one time with dad is a “date,” and the only sanctioned one a girl can have until she is “courted” by a man. The roles are clear: Dad is the only man in a girl’s life until her husband arrives, a lifestyle straight out of biblical times. “In patriarchy, a father owns a girl’s sexuality,” notes psychologist and feminist author Carol Gilligan, Ph.D. “And like any other property, he guards it, protects it, even loves it.”
“When you sign a pledge to your father to preserve your virginity, your sexuality is basically being taken away from you until you sign yet another contract, a marital one,” worries Eve Ensler, the writer and activist. “It makes you feel like you’re the least important person in the whole equation. It makes you feel invisible.”
Secondly, Purity Balls in particular, and abstinence-only sex ed in general convey the message that virginity has a material value. They speak in terms of "value," "treasure," and "gift." When you think about it, this is not so far from such backward practices of being sold into marriage, or of arranged marriages.
And guess what? That's exactly what those wackos do.
When I point out to Christy Parcha’s father, Mike, that experience with relationships, bumps and all, can help young women mature emotionally and become ready for sex and marriage, he warily concedes that’s true. “But there can be damage, too,” he says. “I guess we’d rather err on the side of avoiding these things. The girl can learn after marriage.”
“I am not worried about that. She is not even going to come close to those situations. She believes, and I do too, that her husband will come through our family connections or through me before her heart even gets involved.”
(Thanks to MJ for the links!)