Pledges of purity or modern chastity?

A man withdraws from his pocket a beautiful gold ring. The girl next to him starts to well up, smiling. He pledges not to love, honor and obey, but to “Choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.”A purity ball is like a wedding with a bit of a twist. The girls are exchanging rings and dancing the first dance with their fathers. The pledge taken is for the fathers to protect their daughters’ virginity (although the word is never uttered here) and for the girls to abstain from sex until marriage. Some young women take it a bit further, though, and vow to abstain from kissing or thinking sexual thoughts, wanting to save those things for their future husbands, according to an article on glamour.com.

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In biblical times, a father owned his daughter – and her virginity – until she was married.

The husbands these girls will someday marry are likely to be boys from their churches, as they rarely go elsewhere.

Some of the girls signing the pledges are as young as 4 years old. It’s unlikely they know what the pledge they take means. Hannah Smith, a 15-year-old girl who was interviewed in an article on glamour.com, was quoted as saying, “I don’t actually know.”

While it is likely the older girls know just what they’re in for, it’s disconcerting that young girls are taking this vow before they start puberty and may not know what they’ve agreed to.

More and more purity balls are have popped since their creation in 1998. Randy Wilson, father of seven children (five of them girls), and his wife created the purity ball as a father-daughter bonding experience. Wilson’s wife cites her experiences without a father (he ran out when she was 2 years old) as a reason for wanting her daughters – and daughters around the country – to have this important time to share with their fathers.

Abstaining from sex until marriage is not a new idea, but Wilson seems to be re-energizing the concept. And while Wilson makes no money from these lavish balls, others are cashing in. People can buy extravagant rings to show their intended abstinence or even a T-shirt that reads “I’m Waiting.”

The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health states that more than half of the teens who pledge to remain abstinent at concerts or rallies have sex within three years of signing the contract.

These girls won’t be encouraged to stand up for their sexuality or to make their own decisions. If their marriages fail, they’ll be at a crossroads without a map. By holding off on learning what a terrible and wonderful thing sex can be, these girls never get to grow up. The girls are learning that sex is a shameful thing that becomes acceptable only after marriage.

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