My Blog__ THE VIRGINITY PUZZLE
“Are you ready to war for your daughters’ purity?”
This clip below is a quick look into the Christian fundamentalist tradition of Purity Balls - social dances where daughters pledge their virginity and abstinence until marriage to their fathers. The young girls dress up in ball gowns, recite prayers and dance the night away hand-in-hand with their fathers all in the name of abstinence education, virginity and purity.
Wouldn't it be nice if "purity balls" were just a slang term for a dude who had good hygiene? Sadly, no. That washing technique is referred to as a "bird bath".
Purity Balls are a big, fat piece of the purity obsession puzzle. Besides the virginity movement's skewed version of women's issues, sexuality, sexual education and female social mobility, the "movement" - I have a hard time calling something so negative a "movement" - is trying to revert back to traditional gender roles where women are, in essence, silenced.
In her book, The Purity Myth, author and editor/founder of Feministing.com, Jessica Valenti talks about how America's obsession with virginity is hurting young women. Valenti argues that by placing so much worth in a woman's ability - or refusal - to be sexual we are teaching young women that "their bodies and their sexuality and what make them valuable". If virginity or purity is a stand-in for morality then what women think, create, work for, care about and accomplish takes a backseat to sexuality. This idea suggests that girls can't be moral actors, "instead we're defined by what we don't do - our ethics are the ethics of passivity."
And when it comes to the purity movement, fucking is for function, not pleasure. So, if sex is for function and that function is reproduction then where does lesbian or gay sex fit in? Surprise! It doesn't exist in the purity movement.
According to abstinence-only educational speaker, Pam Stenzel (Sex Has A Price Tag) sex before marriage is dangerous because taking birth control will leave you "sterile or dead". She also believes that abortion leads to anorexia and suicide. Yeah, that's what's going to happen. Have some healthy pre-marital sex and you won't learn about relationships, health, pleasure and your physical self, instead the Nueva ring will lead to your ultimate demise.
Teen pregnancy rates have been on the rise since the early 2000s when abstinence-only education programs in schools - which also prohibits by law discussions of the benefits of contraceptives - became the norm. Stenzel doesn't like to use facts like these, she'd rather use her experimental knowledge to inspire fear and shame about sexuality. She also says that poverty in the U.S has nothing to do with "race or where you live" but instead is caused by "single-parent households".
But back to the balls. Valenti notes that while abstinence education and pro-life empowerment often masquerades as pro-woman, purity balls are pretty clear about where they stand: men are in control of a woman's sexuality. At purity balls, girls promise their virginity to their fathers (sometimes symbolized by a ring or a little pink box... um... ew, get real) until the father approves it to be passed on to her husband. Don't forget that the programs that host these purity balls are federally funded.
Here's my question: is virginity really that sacred? Is it really that special that it needs to be deemed the o' mighty moral compass for a woman's worth? I say no.
To be honest, I don't really remember my first time. However, what I do remember is the totally illogical hype that surrounded it. I don't look back on losing my virginity as some major defining moment in my life because it simply wasn't. You know what I do remember? Learning about sex and pleasure through hilariously awkward moments with my first boyfriend. I remember how independent I felt to find a birth control that worked for me or how nervous I was first going to the gynecologist. I remember figuring out blow jobs. I remember all the relationships I developed - through sexuality - with people in my life and more importantly, with myself.
Sex is just one part of being a human and it should be able to vary in significance for everyone. If you want to stay "pure" before marriage, go ahead, just don't insist that the rest of the world live that way. This means having an open discourse about sexuality, gender, sexual orientation and health in the public education system - abstinence-only offers one option and it's not exactly a realistic one. Purity balls are just a piece of the puzzle, but it's the piece that showcases the ethics of the entire purity "movement". The tie between female value, sexuality and morality is hurting women and it deserves critical attention from the sane people who know damn well that a woman is worth more than just her body.