Wednesday, 25 January 2012
After reading a friend's blog on The Purity Myth (a documentary), I started thinking about my own experiences with this whole "purity" thing. I have watched the documentary, and I'll say straight up -- it scared the crap out of me.
The documentary presented the idea of "Purity Balls" as being something essential to society. Girls would come, accompanied by their fathers, and have a great dinner, and then dance with and for their fathers, and would "give" their purity to their fathers. Their fathers would then commit to taking care of it and treasuring it, and that they would commit to helping their daughters find their Prince Charming. They would also be given roses which they would lay at the foot of a wooden cross -- oh yes, did I mention this is an extreme Christian view?
While some of the views presented were valid, it was very much an extreme take on purity and slightly scary as young girls would pretty much pledge themselves to their fathers. They gave their fathers the right to their purity, and the right to give it away -- essentially saying that their fathers would pick who they dated and ultimately ended up marrying.
While there is a grain of wisdom in this, in that your parents -- provided they are good parents, something we can save for another post -- should approve of your future husband/wife, this documentary definitely took it to the extreme.
In addition to valuing women mainly because of their sexuality and thus reducing them to mere sexual objects, it promotes unquestionable obedience to their authority figures -- namely their fathers. Girls as young as 5 or 6 participate in this ball and believe it is just a part of life. They even go as far to say that kissing someone while dating them would be breaking the 10 Commandments, the one concerning adultery.
While I'm all for waiting for the right guy to come along -- and by all means, please do not throw yourself at the first person with a third leg, and I'm all for physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries -- I wouldn't go so far as to say that is breaking one of the 10 Commandment. The problem with this is that once someone "breaks the commandment" they are ostracized and, as one girl experiences, shamed, unwanted and not trusted by anyone in the community. Essentially, there is very little mercy or compassion in this extreme form of "purity" and there is no room for error if you grow up knowing what is "right."
One of the guys also said that he was waiting for his first kiss to be at the altar, and he said that he was very physically driven and he didn't want it to throw him over the edge (I'm paraphrasing here). While that's all fine and dandy, what happens when he does meet that girl? What happens if he does kiss her before the altar? Is his life going to be over? I don't think so -- but he might. What he is doing admirable, for sure. He was also of an age where it seemed like he had thought it through, and he seemed to know why he believed what he did, and that is a great thing.
Nevertheless, he just watched his sisters get ready; if purity is as equally big of a thing for guys as it is for girls as they claim, then why isn't there anything special for guys? What if girls don't want to be streamed into this idea of femininity -- ball gowns, dancing and flowers? I hate dressing up, I hate dancing and I'm meh about flowers; does that make me less of a woman in their eyes?
However, that doesn't mean that all those who partake in this cultural phenomenon are crazy. One of the fathers at the end was very rational and said "Will this stop them from having sex? Of course not, but hopefully it will give them something to think about" (or something like that).
That was pretty much my response when my parents asked if I wanted a purity ring: "Uh, you know if I want to have sex, I'm not going to look at the ring and be like 'crap! I forgot about the ring! Sorry, no can do.' You know that, right, mom?" Needless to say, my parents weren't so impressed.
Ultimately, to me this movement seems to be one born in reaction to the culture around us, and largely born of fear. Like many extremely conservative Christians, the idea is "Let's isolate ourselves" instead of "Let's teach our kids how to stand for what they believe in, in a culture that has very different values."What are your thoughts on "purity balls"? Have you ever been to one? Do you think that there is really a purity myth in America? If things like purity rings aren't working for our children, what can we do to encourage them to remain abstinent?