Wednesday, September 24, 2008

#45 Purity Rings


A purity ring is a ring given to an adolescent girl to show that she has made a vow to not have sex before she's married. It's sort of a public statement of virginity and also reminds her of the commitment she made to "remain pure" until marriage. These rings are also worn by guys, but they're way more common among girls. The ring is ideally given to a girl by her dad, but if he isn't on the scene or is otherwise apathetic then she might get one herself or ask her mom for one, either because she really does want to make this commitment or possibly because the Jonas Brothers wear them. (Bristol Palin had one too.)


Sometimes the purity ring is accompanied by a Vow of Purity. This certificate is signed by the girl (and ideally her dad) then is framed. If they never get around to framing it though then it is eveutally folded up and kept in her embossed white naugahyde bible with the gold-edged pages. A Purity Ball may be attended, for which the girl and her dad will get dressed up and pay $85 each to participate in a formal event where pubescent girls in white dresses stand on a stage with their fathers and promise not to bang anyone without getting a marriage certificate first.


The father's involvement is an interesting factor in the purity quest. Even the psychological (i.e. objective and scientific) community acknowledges that a father's presence has a profound effect on the sexuality of both their sons and their daughters. Both boys and girls innately look to their father for the basic formation of their sense of self worth and if he isn't emotionally attentive then girls will get male attention somewhere else. This isn't really by any fault of their own.


Purity vows and purity balls that require fatherly involvement are indirectly addressing this psychological fact. The implication is that the father will "guard" his daughter's heart and emotions (and her virginity, by proxy) until she is married. The scientific, nonreligious community might be hard pressed to find anything wrong with this. (But who knows.) Still, things start to feel a bit creepy with the tangible display of this highly personal sentiment. The point starts to become skewed. Maybe all this virginity talk is actually sexualizing girls when they are still too young. Girls may want to wear a purity ring as more of a means of joining a club or being part of a movement bigger than themselves, so in other words, it's trendy. The dad feels peer pressure too. "Dads, men of faith, fathers in Christ: we're taking our preteen daughters to the purity ball." What churchy dad is going to refuse to ensure their daughter's purity? Nobody really talks about how much time he is actually emotionally present for her, which is the crux of the entire thing. His involvement with her and protection for her are an allegory for how God loves and watches over her but this is barely implied, much less outright discussed and emphasized. There is the wearing a cute dress and signing the vow with her dad present and the taking of a white rose and kneeling at a wooden cross to seal her vow alongside dozens of her friends. The dads all shake hands and congratulate themselves that their daughters won't grow up to be whores. The ceremony perhaps takes on a bigger meaning than the sentiment. It's easy to get caught up in. It is the hallmark of Christian culture: Doing Things and Avoiding True Relationship. (And nobody talks about this aspect, but it's sort of gross that a dad would attend a public event on behalf of his daughter's cooch. This smarminess is partially obscured by his good intentions in "protecting" her which makes the whole thing difficult to criticize.)


For all this talk about purity, the grey areas are not discussed. We all feel much more comfortable with the black and white so we try to stay there. Black and white means only two things here: Doing It and Not Doing It. The grey area is everything in between. Oh crap, the bible doesn't say if we can make out. So where should we draw the line? It's just kissing, right? Okay we can. Then...hey where did my shirt go? Well, it's okay because I'm still totally a virgin cause I have my jeans on. he doesn't. Stopping sucks. Well, as long as we're not doing IT then it's okay, right?

The Bible doesn't talk about the exact details so we have to struggle with them. WWJD? Not sure exactly, it's a grey area. Great, now we actually have to deal with this because we don't have our black and white guidelines.


When a girl who has worn a purity ring gets married, this detail is almost always announced at the altar on the day of her wedding so that no soul present is unwitting to the fact that her hymen is intact. While the pastor talks at length about this priceless gift she will give her husband, the wedding guests fight to get the vagina visual out of their minds. Hymen Bride's parents beam with pride at their daughter's alleged morality. And even if she IS very pure, is God pleased? Has she entered a struggle to get there and has she wrestled with God thereby entered into true relationship, or has she played it safe and stuck to the churchy rules so she can feel happy with herself because of this good work she's accomplished? And if she has wrestled with God and anguished and cried and pitched a fit about it, could God be more happy about their interaction than he is about the technically pure bride who white-knuckled it there totally on her own? What IS purity? What IS true love waiting? Not being sure is difficult. It's easier to make a ceremony out of it and focus on the symbols.


Unknown said...

Great post. Love your comments. Having been a youth pastor and done a number of these events, I can honestly there is more to it than just being a virgin. The baggage a lot of kids carry into marriage because of sexual activity is pretty damaging. And I think it's an amazing and incredible thing when someone holds on to their virginity until marriage. In fact, it's pretty honorable. And, from a Biblical point of view, a father should feel it's his responsibility to guide his kids, male and female, through the quagmire of social promiscuity, and hopefully help keep their keeds purity in tact.

I appreciate that you blogged on this without totally dismissing it.

Simone said...

Here I come. I think for the most part, this ceremony and all the big commotion is sick. Just plain sick. Like you said, there are just way too many people obsessing about a girl's kooch here.

While I don't subscribe to any of the precious gift stuff, I can accept and understand it within the Christian faith. I haven't a problem with the preservation of virginity, but just all the obsessing. It seems like the public declaration is an effort bully people into remaining pure because you made this commitment in front of all these people. Same with a marriage ending, it's kinda embarrassing to split up after making all these people dress up, come out and buy you gifts only for you to piss it away.

If virginity is precious and sacred with God then why not keep it between you and God? I think there are better ways for parents to discourage their kids from having sex and making them aware of its importance without a sick obsession over it. Dad's just aren't supposed to be thinking about their daughter's vagina, I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

Bristol Palin wore one? What's your basis for saying that?

David Rudel said...

There are two separate components of the focus on virginity, the theoretical/theologic component and the pragmatic one.

On the side of what is actually sinning or outside God's will, I submit that the idea of a slippery slope with no clear demarcation of what is "too far" is a fiction that comes from an understandable misconception that pre-marital sex is somehow sinful in and of itself.

Biblically, it is hard to make a case for fornication to be sinful [in and of itself]. For example:
i) The Mosaic Law, which goes into great detail regarding sexual restraint, does not forbid fornication. In fact, you will be hard pressed to find much mention of fornication in the Old Testament at all...and those places where it does crop up do more to suggest it is not a sin [in and of itself]. (Example, the laws against having sex with your sister, etc. would make no sense if fornication in general were disallowed.)

ii) The Mosaic Law actually describes exactly what to do when one is found to be in fornication with another...and no suggestion of any sin or penalty is suggested.

iii) Biblical Christianity understands that there is a severe a significant difference between adultery and fornication, a difference that modern Christians do not fully appreciate.

iv) Those instances in the New Testament where fornication is forbidden, upon examination, actually appear to refer to sex with prostitutes and/or sex with non-believers.

So, what is going on here?

The answer lies in Scripture. Exodus 22:16 [treatment of unmarried people found in fornication], Leviticus 19:20 [description of pseudo-adultery with a slave], and Deuteronomy 22:28 [punishment for raping someone who is not engaged] all point to a much more understandable perspective.

Pre-marital Sex is not sinful because [for Christians] there is no such thing.

When you have sexual intercourse with someone, it marries you to them in God's eyes. The act is not sinful, but the commencement of a bond.

So, the woman in Deuteronomy 22:20-22 who is not a virgin when she marries is stoned not because she had pre-marital sex but because she was essentially committing adultery. She was already married in God's eyes to whomever she first had sex with...and then she was playing the harlot by switching her allegiance.

This perspective makes far more understandable the whole topic [since otherwise you have the sweating philosophical acrobatics of trying to explain how fornication breaks the summary of the it in and of itself does not act against love of God or neighbor.]

To answer other parts of the blog, I do think God is pleased by someone who maintains virginity for God's sake....this is pretty close to Jesus' own remarks in Matthew 19:12.

I do agree with the general problems all this focus on Virginity [and the vicarious righteousness that comes from it...wherein parents somehow gain regard for the restraint (often imposed with a heavy hand, and hence no restraint at all) of their children.]

We should instead be focusing on encouraging compassion, forgiveness, and love while discouraging greed, selfishness, and pride... in other words we have become very much like modern day Pharisees...taking one aspect of God's law, placing a great deal of emphasis on a warped version of it, and missing the greater point of God's command. [Matthew 23:23]

Anonymous said...

I wish I had an equally nuanced treatise to contribute... other than to say putting "purity rings" and "purity balls" next to each other in the same sentence was very confusing for me.

the Reverend boy said...

I'm sure the people who thought this up only had the best intentions but as this plays out in real life is just kind of creepy, not to mention cultic, and tends to objectify women.

If I didn't know better i'd say it's sexist.

Pamela Joy said...

You forgot my favorite part: Sometimes boys don't want to wear purity rings, because that would be gay. So there are purity WATCHES for boys. But really, we had two ceremonies of these for girls at my church, and none for boys. I think more than anything else, that's the part that's always bothered me the most.

Anonymous said...

So,,, are there purity balls for the boys,,, oh,, uh,, never mind.
I could never get, how god created them man and woman and pronounced it "good" could devolve into an abstinence based theology. How could this be healthy? When will we be honest with our children, oh I guess we need to be honest with ourselves first, huh.

I find the whole father role in this VERY disturbing, Is it up to the mother to give their sons "purity balls" ? Would the father giving his son "purity balls" smack of,, well,, lets not go there. Wouldn't purity chastity belts be much more secure?

conrad said...

fantastic blog - your thoughts and ability to communicate them are greatly appreciated.

another ramification to consider: what of the wedding night/honeymoon for the couple who has not engaged in premarital sex, let alone making out and all its evil companions? a friend of mine in college was determined to walk the path of purity until he was married (the latest fad being the couple would not kiss until the "you may kiss the bride" moment) but he was bewildered by the notion that, once marriage was 'accomplished', he might be premature in expecting intercourse the same night. i imagine many young christian couples experience dismay, awkwardness, pain, disappointment and utter confusion on that blissful night due to unspoken expectations and the sudden onset of 'acceptable' physical intimacy.

stephy said...

Hi Conrad! I did write about that recently actually! :)

conrad said...

brilliant - thanks!

also, i meant to say your questions regarding what pleases God more (a 'perfect' performance or wrestling with God over these issues) is fantastic. it was always drilled into my head "no matter what you do, you can never make God love you less" but i wish i had been taught first "no matter what you do, you can never make God love you more".

David Rudel said...

With regard to the "no matter what you do, you can never make God love you less" and "no matter what you do, you can never make God love you more" ideas, do you find any basis for that in Scripture, or would you consider as possible that they are just mottos modern Christians say because it fits in to their theology and makes them feel more secure?

God's love for King David, for example, was so great that it inspired an entire Covenant... if that love was not predicted on what David did, then what was it predicated on?

When God speaks of loathing and hating Israel in Jeremiah 12:8, it would take a rather dexterous mind to show it was due to something other than Israel's actions.

stephy said...

When God loathed and hated Israel he also loved them know how the opposite of love is apathy, not hate...I think that's why he wants us to be either hot or cold but not lukewarm. Because in the lukewarm there is absence of relationship, because there is no struggle there, no give-and-take. The struggle and pain are in the grey, and the beauty and relationship are in the grey too. The black and whiteness of Christian culture takes the focus off that, because obviously it is easier that way.
Dissecting scripture also can be a way of avoiding relationship with God. It's kind of our nature to want to find an exact way and exactly what God meant and what is in context and what's not and it can go on and on forever. Not that you are trying to dodge God here, it's just can be a way, like anything can be a way, of maybe unwittingly stepping away from true intimacy with God where you have to sit in the pain of not knowing everything and not being positive about something, where you have to cry to him and feel your heart almost physically ache and you have to entertain the fact that maybe he won't come through. But maybe there is where true faith lies.
These are just things I'm thinking about in the wake of my Christian culture upbringing..

David Rudel said...

It's interesting you bring up the "luke-warm"edness idea...because it reminds me of just another connection between post-Christ and pre-Christ worship.

Jesus' warnings against being lukewarm in His epistles [recorded in Revelation] are eerily similar to God's lament of Judah worshipping idols and oppressing the poor at the same time that they sacrificed to the Living God and believed they were impervious to attack.

In any event, whether or not God still loved Judah, to suggest God does not love anyone more or less based on their actions really is [IMO] a fiction that rails against so much of Scripture as to be laughable if it were not so tragically interleaved within certain traditions of the modern church.

Geoff said...

So are you saying that God loves us less if we don't behave? Just asking.

conrad said...

hey david - thanks for your questions...

yes, those sayings are born of christian culture, and yes they make me feel more secure, but....they also screw things up for me: if i can't earn/lose God's love, where does that leave me, or my faith? if God is love, how do i resolve my own feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness (much less my feelings of 'why doesn't everyone realize how totally awesome i am?') if i can't measure it and therefore keep tabs on how i'm doing? i totally agree with stephanie that the opposite of love is apathy: God's response to our actions isn't a question of whether or not He loves us, or how much. i respect your opinion that this isn’t true, but i still disagree….and I know this is based in part of my experience with the very culture you say is responsible for suggesting this fallacy, as it is also the culture that has done much damage to many people with the idea that you must earn God’s love via performance.

i suppose to answer your question of a scriptural basis, i can only point to Jesus: he surrounded himself with the ‘scourge’ of society with an oft-repeated command “go sin no more”. so yes, he demanded repentance and ‘good’ actions from them, but what would motivate him to reach out to these already unworthy people if not love? (yes – i’m genuinely asking your opinion).

unfortunately, this isn't the easy button i want it to be (i must still resolve scriptural references to faith without works, obedience to the law, etc.) and maybe that is exactly the point? if God is real, and is a person (of some sort), i'm left with a twisted relationship with an unsafe-yet-good 'something' that i can't see or touch…i have no choice but to pursue this, or wallow in apathy.

David Rudel said...

Putting aside the ineffability of God's love [for what else can we do with that?], if we accept that God has shown a greater measure of Love toward those who pursue righteousness (which is established by any number of passages [Deut: 7:11-13, Proverbs 8:14, 1 Kings 11:13, Isaiah 55:3), one is forced to accept the contrapositive as well.
Indeed, God eventually disowned all of Israel due to their evil. On Mount Sinai, God describes a desire to disown and destroy the entire nation and start over with Moses...and again in Numbers 14.

It's hard to talk about God's love, but it seems ill-concieved to believe that it is something as simple as some would have it based purely on "Natural Theology" when the Bible really doesn't support such a claim.

Of course, the whole question comes down to "What do you mean by love."

If one were trying to defend the notion that "The degree of God's love is not influenced by anything we do," the most generous definition would be "Love is the desire for another's good."

Of the top of my head, I cannot think of a definition that would come closer to making the "it doesn't matter what you do" viewpoint tenable.

But even so, on an individual basis God's desire for people's well-being is not independent of their deeds. And here's why:

Anyone attempting to defend a "God loves us all equally" position has as their "trump card" that God desires good for all of us, but this manifests itself in God's yearning for us to repent. In this way, punishments are not seen as a lack of love but either a part of God's justice or part of God's general love for others to learn from another's regrettable mistake.

For example, under such a viewpoint, when God destroys whole nations or strikes down individual leaders, it does not show a lack of love but merely that those people did not respond to God's love by doing what was right.

The problem, even if one adopts such a generous position on the definition of love and a generous interpretation of Biblical events, is that God does not show equality even in longing for others to repent.

We are told that God "hardens" some peoples hearts, and the prophets indicate that several generations had to go by before God instigated repentance among Judah.

For a direct example of this, consider Cornelius in Acts chapter 10. Cornelius was clearly given much more "help" toward coming to God than others...and why, because of his heart and behavior.

This is not just an isolated event. Jesus declares this as a general principal in John 14:23, which now that I read it directly links God's love to our keeping of Jesus' commandments.

So, regardless of how you choose to define what God's Love is...or what the statement "God loves you more" even means...whatever definition you pick, the Bible just does not support the idea that it is independent of our actions. Such a belief is a security blanket Christians give each other.

Security. Now there's another example of "stuff Christian Culture Likes."

David Rudel said...

If I might plug a website...I am in the midst of writing a book on the very topic of faith, works, salvation, judgment, etc.
You can download the first chapter at

stephy said...

David, I think you already put your first chapter in this comments section. :)

conrad said...

thanks david - i'll definitely check out your book.

as for the security blanket - well, to follow stephanie's example using narnian quotes in the context of discussions on christian culture, one of my favorites has to be "safe? who said anything about him being safe? but he's good."

i don't necessarily feel secure by believing that the quantity of God's love is independent of my actions. if anything, it troubles me more as it raises all kinds of questions that you touch on (justice, equality, consistency, etc).

thanks for provoking this stephanie - i definitely did not expect to engage in a theological discussion of God's love after reading about balls of purity.

Rye said...

The purity balls could be a great show on MTV, kinda like Sweet 16 only the girls get chastity belts instead of BMWs. I'd tune in.

Anonymous said...

I love the twin conversations going on here-- one wrestling with the Armenian Schism, the other wrestling with... purity balls.

I might just inquire of David: if I happened to sleep with my high school girlfriend, and said consummation enacted the sacred bond of marriage, does that mean I'm married to her? And does that thereby mean that I'm actually committing an act of adultery with my wife?

And...not to pry... are you married?

David Rudel said...


I'm assuming your question lives within the context of modern, gentile, Christian marriage [it is unclear to me how much God really cares about sex-practices of non-believers...though many Christians are happy to yell to the contrary.]

In that case, then your marriage to your wife is essentially a divorce from any divine connection you had with your high school girlfriend. After all, you say "forsaking all others," etc. Though my guess is that, once again speaking in the odd world of "God's eyes," the two of you were essentially divorced earlier...either from your mutual casting aside of the relationship or when she slept with another man, etc.

In theory I would think that this would make it worse to sleep with someone and then decide to "move on" when the other person wants to maintain a relationship. In that case you have essentially made a commitment (by having sex) to a relationship that you are now unilaterally backing out from.

In older days, this would be a terribly harmful thing to do to a woman. In Israel it would mean she could never be married again and her very livelihood would be in question.

There are, of course, myriad circumstances that might affect how bad this effective divorcing is...for example whether your high school girlfriend was a Christian...whether you were a Christian, fidelity issues, etc.

I tell people that they should only have sex if they are willing to be married to the other the same way that you should not drop a glass tumbler unless you are copacetic with it shattering on the floor.

If a man or woman I shared a fellowship with was habitually having sex with people and then moving on to new people, etc. I would probably mention that this behavior was outside the will of God in a theoretic sense, but I would mostly convey how unwise and damaging such behavior is (outside of any notion of sinfulness).

To answer your question regarding whether I am married: yes and no. ;)

Micah said...

Why David, you're so very systematic in your approach to might even say mathematical. ;)

stephy said...

Formulaic, even.

Anonymous said...

Lord alive, Stephy, this is a hot-button topic, eh?

One can't help but think of the historical context of these things. That women were, perhaps are, chattel in the marriage equation makes sense of them wedding them selves to their father; sorry -- scratch that -- their virginity in this highly symbolic (and, one can only imagine, deeply binding and disturbing way) before their "father" gives them away.

What a profound way to rob a woman of her sensual and sexual self -- before she even HAS such a thing. Pre-pubescent girls signing oaths in front of (nay, WITH) their fathers, saying that they will ignore their inclinations; no more -- that they will ignore the way that God has made them (in his own image?), until such time as a culturally-condoned moment dictates they may be free to express this side of their humanity. What does that do but stunt and confine them?

Who needs foot binding?
Who needs genital mutilation?
We have all the binding we need to keep them in line (and keep the patrilian line clean and clear -- because that's what all these rules are about, making sure we have them girls in line and KNOW FOR SURE who the daddy is ('cos, face it, we know who the mama is)).

Just a couple of cents from your most-assuredly ex-catholic friend. No scripture; all culture. Sorry.

shelly said...

Biblically, it is hard to make a case for fornication to be sinful [in and of itself]. (David)

It's interesting to note that the meaning of the Latin root word, "fornicati", has nothing to do with two unmarried people having sex. The word has to do with the location where ancient prostitutes plied their trade. So, at its root, you could say that "fornication" really means "having sex with a prostitute"...which you note in your fourth point. *nods*

And here's another way to stump those who advocate that "sex is meant to be enjoyed within the confeins of marriage": Ask them when Adam and Eve got married. ;) (They didn't...not in the modern-day sense of the phrase, anyway. I would definitely say they were "married" when they first had sex.)

Anyhoo, the whole purity ring/ball thing is just tacky, IMO. I mean, yeah, I think it's a cool thing if you opt to remain a virgin until you find "the one" or get hitched (FWIW, I'm a virgin myself). But does one really need all the pomp and circumstance of a purity ring ceremony, or a purity ball? I say no.

David Rudel said...

I do not shy away from putting a fine point on those topics for which there is such a fine point to be had. Indeed, this entire blog highlights the shorcomings of using a vague and unclear paradigm, In this case for pre-marital intimacy. Christians struggle with interpreting "no sex before marriage" because it's never clear what really counts as "sex." This principle presupposes there is a line somewhere...but gives no clue as to where that line is or why...the result is a great deal of angst inside the church and a great deal of criticism from outside (both of which have been shown well in the blog.)

Is there anything wrong with putting fine points on things where Scripture allows it?
The label "formulaic" could just as easily be attached to any number distillations. For example, Christ's pronouncement that not only all of God's law, but the entirety of salvation's history hangs on loving God and your neighbor [Matthew 22:40] could be called "formulaic," as could His admonishment " For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." [Which, I hasten to add, He said to all people, not just believers or non-believers...indeed such labels would make no sense at the time.] (Matthew 6:14-15)

I don't see people labeling those as "formulaic," likely because people are generally not inclined to disagree with them.

I'm just as interested in attacking "formulaic" principles that are not Scripturably tenable. For example, I have already done so in my comments on "The degree of God's love is unconditional: it can neither be increased or decreased by anything you might do."

But in general putting fine points on things is the only way to make any real progress in understanding. Indeed, the Christian church uses all manner of vague terms specifically because it allows us to talk a lot without saying anything precise enough that someone could question [and questioning is definitely a no-no in church.] "Gospel" "Salvation" "Saved," "New Covenant," and "Faith in Christ" are all thrown about because they can get across general ideas without saying anything in particular.

Micah, nice insight must have read my bio ;)
It is true that I see a lot of my training as a mathematician [for, contrary to what most believe, mathematics is really nothing at all to do with numbers. A mathematician is really just someone who reasons from a given set of beliefs. In other words, theologians, philosophers, and mathematicians only differ in the timbre and presentation of those fundamentals.

Sidekick said...

Hi, I'm fairly new to this blog, but really like your topics! Last night in the UK we had a Channel 4 programme on this subject called The Virgin Daughters (you should be able to see it online via

I was left with very mixed feelings about it. There was something very disturbing about it, as well as something very sweet! I think it's a good idea for girls to be encouraged to see themselves as beautiful without there being a sexual obligation attached. However, there seemed to be a lot of mixed messages about this. The girls were often really young (prepubescent and probably not naturally thinking about dating) but they were dressing up in sexy ball gowns and wearing makeup to go to a purity ball! The people involved didn't seem to be able to recognise that our culture's definition of beauty is sexualised, and so the recognition of their daughters' beauty was actually to encourage them to look more sexually attractive. Their point would have been a lot more authentic/powerful if they had encouraged the girls to look their age and be appreciated for who they were naturally.

I think when it comes down to it, it's really about patriarchy and paternal fears!

However, it also seems more sensible than the Christian culture I grew up in, if you actually want to make sure that women are virgins at marriage (this isn't something I agree with btw, I agree with the points above about the Bible not actually saying it's a sin to have sex before marriage/marriage is created by the sex!). The Christian culture here is more that you date like non-christians but you're expected not to have sex. This means people often/usually do have sex and then feel guilty. It seems more realistic to say 'don't even kiss' if you value virginity so highly... It's actually much more similar to how Muslim families would approach the issue.

The Religious PĂ­caro said...

I'm with Simone, at least partially. There seems something unwholesome in using the father-daughter relationship to ensure virginity, as if the father were a substitute for a boyfriend. Yech.

I don't think Christianity needs all this. Somehow, Orthodox Jews and Muslims manage to convey the idea that virginity is important without vows, or daddy and his little girl having the first dance.

Anonymous said...

I find the very concept of "purity" troubling. The implication that sex, a natural act, is in itself unnatural and dirty seems like a very unhealthy attitude. Of course nobody should have sex before they're ready, but purity rings seem more like a fashion statement; the unecessary publicizing of a personal choice.

I dislike purity balls even more. The very idea that a father "owns" his daughter's sexuality until marriage, at which point he gives away his daughter's sexuality to the husband is incredibly patriarchal. While it is ostensibly her decision to stay "pure," the woman has zero sexual agency.

stanford said...

Very compelling blog. I appreciate your insights

I have a 16 month old daughter and another one on the way. I can agree with the dismissal of these kinds of practices as sexist rationally, but existentially...I want to do anything I can to keep my daughter from the sexual exploitation I know her generations representatives of my gender are capable of. If she were to find some sort of ceremony helpful, I'm in.

But I totally agree with your basic premise, that my general availability would be far more helpful. If I have rightly interpreted this as your point, I think it is a very good one.

E.Louise said...

I'm still laughing about 'purity balls'. Your blog is very very funny.

Billy said...

Pastor Steven Furtick, who seems to be the photographic butt of many of your jokes on here is a good role model here. When he began dating his future wife in college, they discussed what barriers they could set up to prevent themselves from crossing the line. They decided that they would not even kiss until their wedding day, and they didn't. Virginity has more to do than just vaginal sex. Virginity is purity. I have a church friend whom he and his wife tell people that they were both virgins when they got married. I had an immense amount of respect for him until he told me in confidence later that they had done about everything else while dating (oral on each other and so on). Where's the purity on that?

a.b. said...

Wow....such a good post.

OJ said...

My many years of experience in the Christian culture lead me to believe Purity Rings = Waste of Money.

That 15 year old pure as fresh snow little girl somehow loses that pretty little ring somewhere in college after dry humping her boyfriend for hours on end. Then they decide since we are both getting off here we might as well not have rug burns after all is said and done and just get down to business.

Or this leads to the two 18 year olds getting married so they can have sex and not be sinning... typically a bad idea in my opinion. But hey the 1930's were cool why not get married at the same age as our great grand parents.

I realize these are wide sweeping generalizations... but they are based on personal experience. I remember when me and all my Christian friends were going to wait until marriage... either our church was miserably mired in sin, or I am more right than wrong on this issue.

Anonymous said...

My problems with purity balls are;

1. why is the father the keeper of a daughters 'purity'? Why not both parents together? It reeks of the idea that the father should be the spiritual and moral leader of the house. It also seems like the daughter is 'married' to (or at least owes obedience to) her father until her real wedding day when her promise to her her father becomes a promise (of faithfulness) to her husband. It is like the good old days when a daughter was property of her father and then of her husband, and her father would choose her husband for her. I am a 22yo woman and I would listen to my mother more than to my father if both were telling me to remain a virgin until marriage. I would listen to my mother because she is a woman like me and therefore is better able to advise me.

2. purity balls for boys don't happen as much as balls for girls do. I don't like the assumption that girls necessarily loose more than guys to by having casual sex.

3. Calling the balls "purity" balls upsets me. Connecting "purity" with "virginity" seems wrong. 20%ish of girls are sexually abused, and I wonder if those girls sort of think, "too late for me", when faced with a 'Purity' ball. "Purity" is the wrong word. It also gives the wrong impression to non-Christians that Christians dislike sex.

Perennial Gadfly said...

Excellent post. Really highlights the creepiness inherent in the whole thing.

Does it make me a bad person that, at 18, I feel somewhat superior to these people in that I can have safe, responsible, non-marital sex with a man I love and not feel guilt, anger, etc.?

I'd take a father like mine any day. He only asked me to tell him when I wanted to start having sex, so he could get me on the Pill and inform me about the subject. These fathers are either sheeplike followers of a ridiculous trend or creepy bastards who should never have procreated in the first place. Furthermore, they prefer to make their daughters take "vows", rather than teach them how to make intelligent decisions for themselves. Oh wait, they could never make such decisions; they're female!


David Rudel said...

I'm not sure that there such a thing as "safe, responsible sex" if you are having it with someone you do not want as a life-time partner.

I'm not talking about guilt or sin here. I'm just saying that there are pretty significant emotional and psychological consequences that come with having that kind of relationship with someone and then having them with someone else. I still feel certain attachment [not interest, not desire, just attachment] to women I slept with in my past.

Anonymous said...


considering your last sentence, i think you can only be sure of this:

"[DAVID is] not sure that there such a thing as "safe, responsible sex" if [DAVID is] having it with someone [DAVID does] not want as a life-time partner."

in other words, you speak from _your own experience_, which does not necessarily portray others experience.

IMO, i find that the sex my husband had with someone else before me to be no big deal. i'm having him _now_. (he would say the same thing about me-and he has.) as for the men i had sex with before my husband- even the one i lost my virginity too- i don't feel any attachment to them at all.

there's a _security_ in where i am _now_ that doesn't necessitate any concern for those outside of it.

perhaps working out _why_ you have "a certain attachment" to those women in your past could lead you into a fuller and more secure experience in the future.

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David Rudel said...


My experience is a pretty common one, and a reason commonly given for remaining celibate. In fact, when I heard these warnings earlier, I thought they were just cheap scare tactics employed by evangelicals to persuade people against pre-marital sex. [I was celibate at the time, but not out of these concerns.]

Perennial Gadfly said...


Notice I said "a man", not "men". I do not plan to leave the man I am with, nor does he plan to leave me.

I am not a Christian. Far from it, the both of us are atheists who protest publicly in the face of aggressive preachers.

However, I know of the pain that you speak of. It's hard at first. But I think that the rewards of being with this man that I love dearly are much greater than if I kept myself celibate just to avoid pain. And we love each other enough that whatever came before can be (and has been) overlooked, in time.

I prefer to enjoy life and all it offers, and to accept the potential pain that may come with it. I agree with amywithlemon, that it really speaks more of your own tendencies than it does of anyone else's.

David Rudel said...


If you don't plan on leaving him and he does not plan on leaving you, then why not get married?

Note, I do not tell people they should have no sex before marriage. I just tell them the biblical view is to see sex as a consummation of marriage in God's eyes. Thus, it is not an issue of naughtiness or sex being dirty...rather it's a matter of whether you want God to see you and the other as married.

Perennial Gadfly said...


Because we simply see marriage as a ridiculous institution and meaningless as a legal and religious gesture.

It should be obvious to you from my previous post that we don't have any gods to please regarding the matter. And as neither of us find the practice relevant, why do it?

Shizzle said...

David, I would say I'm pretty much on board with most if not all of what you've posted here.

So really, I could have sex with my girlfriend/fiancee and that would be a perfectly biblically sound thing to do if she remained the only person I would ever have sex with....hmmm. I'll definitely have to run that one by my fiancee when I get one!

David Rudel said...


I would say, rather, that after you have sex with her, she is not really merely a fiancee/girlfriend least not in God's eyes.

So, rather than think of it as "It's okay as long as we will eventually get married" or "It's okay as long as we aren't going to go have sex with anyone else," I think a more accurate way of saying it is "Do I want God to see us as married? Is that something I think I'm ready for/okay with."

Shizzle said...

Yes, that is a more accurate way to put what I was thinking. You are a well-spoken, or should I say well-written, man, Mr. Rudel.

HappilyMarried said...

As a preacher's kid who had sex with several guys before I found my husband, I gotta say that saving oneself for marriage is one of the worst ideas still kicking in our culture.

We don't spend nearly as much time trying to get guys to keep it in their pants before marriage as we spend on lauding girls special untainted vaginas. In fact, it is a point of pride when a man is more experienced and not-quite-so-pure as his wife.

Too many of my friends got married at a young age to people they had no business being married to. Why did they get married? They wanted to have sex and it be "pure." Well, several divorces later, I think everyone's tune has changed.

Purity is overrated anyhow. I had some fantastic sex and some lame sex before I met the man I ended up marrying. If I hadn't had any previous sexual experiences, how would I have known how great my husband is in the sack? How would I have known what I really enjoyed?

Why are we so afraid of women enjoying sex? It isn't like we live 2,000 years ago when there was no birth control or preventative measures against STDs.

I say purity be damned. It's a farce anyway. Humans enjoy touching each other, and fucking, and they always will. Teenagers should be able to explore the sensual side of themselves without mountains of guilt from adults who are freaking out only because they did the exact same thing when they were young.

The Nerd said...

Holy commenting threads, Batman!

"While the pastor talks at length about this priceless gift she will give her husband, the wedding guests fight to get the vagina visual out of their minds."

I remember when I got married my mom asked me if I was a virgin still. I lied and said "yes". Then my mother told the "good news" to everyone in my extended family. Right in front of me. Followed by five minutes of everyone staring at me in awkward silence.

David Rudel said...

I suppose the lesson of that is "Don't lie to your mother."


The Nerd said...

I't could be the lesson, but then I know my mom: she'd tell them either way. The only difference is she wouldn't do it in front of me, so I wouldn't know until my grandmother patted me on my hand with pity and gave me some "you poor thing" platitude.

I just went for the option that makes her feel like she didn't "fail" as a mother. The point is, she should never have asked to begin with, because it's irrelevant. ...Oh wait, I forgot about item #21, haha!

Anonymous said...

Economics, pure and simple.
A way of maintaining an economic unit, that would be the "family", by restricting mating rights. The accession to mating rights is dependent on the establishment of a new similar group that should be a distinct economic entity. Abuse of mating rights is not desirable/tolerated/acceptable as it is disruptive to the proper functioning of the economic group and can strain resources. Of course for young males the consequences are lesser, and they compete for mating rights and this also encourages them to leave the unit when reaching maturity to form a new one.

Very commonly occurring in wild animals which organise in familial and social groups.

Anonymous said...

This whole "purity" and "damaged goods" thing is really sick. Like sex is filthy, or people are merchandise or something.

brian said...

I do believe in purity but this post had me laughing out loud!

Gem said...

OMG, (you can read that as "Oh my goSH" if you wish), please, please read "The Purity Myth" by Jessica Valenti. PLEASE.

While not many people would agree with the notion that giving it up to just any ol' guy is good for girls, there is a whole lot more here at stake. A lot of this movement is really doing a serious disservice to our next generation of women. PLEASE read this book. It will open your eyes, especially if you have daughters, I hope it will lead you to a better way to "protect" them without taking away their personhood or disrespecting their intelligence.

Seriously: "The Purity Myth" by Jessica Valenti. It's at your local library.

The Nerd said...

I second that, Gem. The Purity Myth did a good job to illustrate how we all could do a lot better job to value girls and women for their moral character and their intelligence rather than their supposed purity.

Anonymous said...

It is like the good old days when a daughter was property of her father and then of her husband, and her father would choose her husband for her.

It's not "like" that, it is that. That's exactly what this is. Those people are still around, and this is what it looks like.

rachel said...

wow, steph.
very thought-provoking...

Anonymous said...

There was a girl who I was committed to in High School and we had a very active sex life together. I became a Christian and so did she and we felt like something was wrong when we made love. We didn't equate this with bad sexual performance and reassured each other it wasn't anything wrong with each other's lovemaking and that we were both still in love with each other! It just didn't seem as good as usual emotionally. We decided to write Billy Graham and ask if we were married in God's eyes. An apologist from him wrote back and said we were not married in God's eyes because Romans 13 says we need to follow the law of the land and we didn't have a marriage license! He said if we were living on a desert island we would be the govt. and we would be married! We planned on getting married and then she broke it off and married someone else and it really hurt me! We were all ready for our wedding and she married someone else just three months later. An Ethics Professor said it was a case of divorce like Joseph and Mary would have gone through even though not technically consummated they were married because of the covenant made between them by their promise. We promised and had consummated! The Billy Graham fellow did not denigrate or call dirty what we had experienced in our sexual life together for the years before but he did stand on Romans 13 to tell us we were technically or legally not viewed as married in God's eyes. In that regard we were not but we were betrothed so when she left she violated our vow and covenant. The Prof said she was a "runaway wife". I had prayed and asked God to take away all feelings for me in her if we weren't suppose to be. A week later she had called me crying and saying she didn't know why but she hadn't had any feelings for me for the last week and that she wanted to call it all off. We both had large families with other spouses so God blessed anyway!

Anonymous said...

The story I told before about being with one girl in High School occurred over about five years!

Elisa said...

I loooooove this

Katie said...

Great post- I totally agree. Coming from a totally not evangelical Christian background, learning about these traditions is very strange to me. The idea that my father would have any sort of say/feelings on/ knowledge of my sexual promiscuity (or lack there of) is very disturbing. Also, the obvious gender equality is just irritating. Like of course a woman's worth is limited to her virginity, I mean, that's the way God intended it, right?! -_- Anyway, those are just my thoughts on it. Thanks for another great post!

Anonymous said...

Love it, church concentrates SO much in the black and white areas that some of us get really confused when it comes to facing the situation itself. I am the child of a pastor and I struggled with masturbation in the past because yeah, "I'm not doing IT" and then i had a boyfriend who would tell me it was okay to touch because "we were not doing IT" as if virginity itself was only about an untouched hymen.

thanks for adressing this

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