Monday, January 22, 2007

Saving It For Daddy

My wife majored in Philosophy, which means that we talk a lot.

Everything in our lives, from toilet paper to food to how we raise George is a major topic for discussion, and we endlessly go over the pros and cons, long-range consequences and short-term benefits of every action. We consider the hidden meanings of our decisions, and the broader relevance of our preferences.

In other words, we talk a lot.

I really like this. My own tendency is toward thoughtfulness and consideration, and I try to live a deliberate life. I don't like to take things for granted, so our endless talks are very important to me.

One of the most important long talks we've had involved planning our wedding. Although we endlessly discussed every aspect of the wedding, one of the biggest sticking points was the engagement ring. On the one hand, I wanted to give her a ring, and she wanted to get a ring. On the other hand, we both recognized that engagement rings are a thinly-disguised business transaction. In short, I was spending money I didn't have on a piece of jewelry with which I was purchasing exclusive drilling rights to my wife's vagina.

Honestly, this grossed us both out. The same went for her wedding escort. While my wife wanted her father to walk her down the aisle, we also recognized that this signified that her father was literally "giving away" control and ownership of his daughter. Given the rocky nature of her relationship with the old man, not to mention our own anti-slavery leanings, the undertone of this tradition was more than a little uncomfortable.

Ultimately, we decided that, given the feminist rejection of these traditions, our decision to embrace them was actually revolutionary. More to the point, she wanted a ring and a part for her father; I wanted to give her a ring and had no real opinion about her father. It was our own damned wedding, Andrea Dworkin wasn't kicking in for the cost, and we were going to do what we wanted to do. Screw the underlying meaning!

Recently, she came across an article in Glamour magazine that reminded us of these discussions. Apparently, so-called "Purity Balls" are becoming an increasingly popular trend among fundamentalist Christians. These events, at which daughters pledge to their fathers that they will preserve their virginity until their wedding night, are sponsored by churches, crisis pregnancy centers, and non-profit groups. The young ladies dress up in prom dresses, and their fathers dress up in tuxedos and suits. At some point in the evening, in the words of Mark Morford of the San Francisco Gate:

The daughter stands up, her pale arms wrapped around her daddy, and reads aloud a formal pledge that she will remain forever pure and virginal and sex-free until she is handed over, by her dad (who is actually called the "high priest" of the home), like some sort of sad hymenic gift, to her husband, who will receive her like the sanitized and overprotected and libidinously inept servant she so very much is. Praise!

The daughter's pledge states, in part:

I pledge to remain sexually pure...until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband...I know that God requires this of me...that he loves me, and that he will reward me for my faithfulness.

The fathers then recite this pledge:

I, (daughter's name)'s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband, and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide, and pray over my daughter and my family as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.

I'm not sure that I can even convey how much this disgusts me. The image of "high priest" fathers "covering" their daughters is creepily incestuous, not to mention very Old Testament. Seriously, haven't these people read the story of Lot's daughters? It's even worse that these pledges occur at "Purity Balls." Why don't they call these events "Purity Dances" or "Purity Retreats" or something? "Purity Balls" sounds like something that dangled off Howard Hughes' overly-sterilized frame.

In Glamour, Jennifer Baumgardner notes that these events encourage the purchase of items like "a $250 14-karat pearl-and-diamond purity ring; for $15, you can buy a red baby-doll T-shirt with I'M WAITING emblazoned on the chest, its snug fit sending a bit of a mixed message." This reminds me of the sexy red chastity league scarf that Julia wears around her waist in 1984. There's something disturbingly cruel about clothes that proclaim chastity while encouraging lewd thoughts. More to the point, why are these fathers fetishizing their daughters' sexuality? Why is it such a huge concern? And why are they buying their daughters slutterwear if they want them to save it for marriage? What's next--shirts that say "my vagina is a temple of the Lord, but my hands are the Devil's playground"? How about "Chastity? You said a mouthful!"?

I understand the desire to protect one's daughter, to shelter her from harm, and to lead her to make the best possible decisions. However, I'd like to think that, when George is in her late thirties, and is ready to lose her virginity, I will be supportive and understanding.

All kidding aside, I've been through this with my little sister. When she lost her virginity, I knew about it. It made me nervous, on a variety of levels, but I had spent a lot of time with the boy that she was dating, and I trusted him. I realized that he would treat her well, and would give her a gentle and respectful introduction to sexuality. I also knew that my sister was intelligent, thoughtful, and capable of making decisions about her life. Ultimately, I realized that I had raised her well; in other words, a large part of my (relative) comfort with this whole situation lay in the fact that I had faith in my sister and my own child-raising abilities.

It seems odd that these people, who base so much of their lives on religion, have so little faith in themselves and their daughters.

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  • Guh-ross! That is the creepiest thing I've heard in a long time. Are these the same Christians who dry-hump to the point of climax as teens? There's a name for that, too, but I can't remember what it is now.

    Incidentally, I was similarly conflicted in terms of engagement ring/father walking down the aisle decisions myself. We did a sapphire engagment ring and both my parents walked me down the aisle.

    By Blogger Mrs Pinchloaf, At January 22, 2007 at 8:37 AM  

  • Great post today.

    I, too, hope to be understanding and accepting when my teenage daughter makes the transistion—sometime around the year 2020.

    I share your abhorance of this Chastity Ball phenomenon. Truly creepy.

    By Blogger Mystic Wing, At January 22, 2007 at 9:08 AM  

  • Makes me think of Joe Simpson. Gross. I doubt many of them will follow through. If they do, they'll probably be married very young.

    By Blogger Claudia, At January 22, 2007 at 10:40 AM  

  • Urghh What a creepy 'cult' this is - thats what pisses me off about 'christians' you know the extreamists - reading this it sounds sooo unhealthy and dysfunctional. Again with the double standards 'Im waiting' t-shirt - youre waiting perhaps for someone to shake the shit out of you so you can wake up and smell the coffee???

    By Blogger Judith, At January 22, 2007 at 11:23 AM  

  • Mrs. Pinchloaf-
    I think it's frotteurism. Don't ask me why I know that.

    I ended up using my mother's engagement diamond and designing a new setting with the addition of a couple of sapphires. Your solution regarding walking down the aisle sounds really effective.

    Mystic Wing-
    I think the problem is that neither of us is invested in controlling the lives and bodies of others!

    There are so many disturbing outcomes! Sexual shame, getting married too early, etc.

    Someone asked why they don't have a mother-son purity pledge. Is the idea of a mother "covering" her son any less creepy?

    I'm in the process of developing purity T-shirt slogans. I think my favorite right now is "I'm saving my icky girly parts for Jesus!"

    The whole thing seems very Old Testament, not particularly Christian.

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 22, 2007 at 12:32 PM  

  • So I started reading your post, got to this 'I was spending money I didn't have on a piece of jewelry with which I was purchasing exclusive drilling rights to my wife's vagina.' and started laughing. 'And who says romance is dead?' I asked myself, thinking naively that an engagement ring is jewellery and all jewellry is good. But by the time I got to the bottom, I felt queasy. Really queasy. And those t-shirts, talk about the virgin-whore dichotomy...


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At January 22, 2007 at 12:33 PM  

  • Otherwise known as Blue Balls.

    By Blogger Matt, At January 22, 2007 at 1:08 PM  

  • Best first line of a post of the day.

    By Blogger mist1, At January 22, 2007 at 3:08 PM  

  • Wow. I'm officially in a state of indignation. I've been watching BIG LOVE lately, and this whole creepiness dovetails with that way too well.

    By Blogger Jocelyn, At January 22, 2007 at 4:31 PM  

  • Puss-
    I know, I know--I make Cary Grant look like a little punk.

    Perfectly said.


    I have to see Big Love--I've heard a lot about it.

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 22, 2007 at 5:18 PM  

  • "I know that God requires this of me...that he loves me, and that he will reward me for my faithfulness"

    What kind of reward are we talking about here? I'm disturbed...

    By Blogger desiree, At January 22, 2007 at 7:35 PM  

  • A rather judgmental lot here today.......

    Everyone is allowed to live their lives as they please, are they not? It goes both ways, Christian as well as secular, or at least it should.

    By Blogger Just D, At January 22, 2007 at 8:10 PM  

  • Desiree-
    Very good question.

    That's a strong point, and I was thinking about it a lot lately. I guess, for me, the problem is that some of the girls taking this pledge are as young as four, and it's not uncommon for them to be seven or eight. It seems to me that they're too young to make this decision, and I feel like this treatment of their sexuality borders on abuse.

    I might be a little too sensitive here, or I might just be experiencing one of those rare moments when I feel morally superior to the moral majority, so I'm trying to savor it. I guess I just can't get beyond the idea that this is a little cruel.

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 22, 2007 at 9:46 PM  

  • Who was it that said that religion was the opiate of the masses?

    By Blogger The CEO, At January 23, 2007 at 12:36 AM  

  • I completely agree with you.
    This is creepy.
    It reeks of domination and patriarchy, two things women should not have to deal with at all at ANY age!
    And there's also a double standard, as you mentioned. Where are the ceremonies for the boys to pledge THEIR celibacy? Why are boys not expected to highly value their virginity? Instead we've created a "boys will be boys" mentality, while the girls are supposed to always just 'say no'.
    Clearly a double standard.
    And the "high priest" thing really, REALLY made me sick.
    What a dysfunctional way to raise kids.
    Definitely NOT Christian.

    By Blogger Janna, At January 23, 2007 at 12:36 AM  

  • Really an amazing post when you consider that you're only tackling the relationship between a father and a daughter, and the sexual development of the daughter. And, you even through in some humor. Amazing, really, very well done.

    By Blogger The CEO, At January 23, 2007 at 12:45 AM  

  • Sorry, but I don't agree with the attack.

    The mantra these days is "Live and Let Live." You know I was at one point a very devout christian (recovering now, thank you very much), but if these people want to do this in their families and within their churches, then it is their choice. I do agree with you on the point that 5 year olds are much too young to understand what they are pledging, but as for the rest of it, more power to them.

    There are some disgusting habits I think other groups have, but I also refuse to judge them on it, or label them with the word "disgusting."

    By Blogger Just D, At January 23, 2007 at 6:30 AM  

  • Sorry to butt in, but surely, Just D, it's one thing to say 'live and let live' when the a person chooses to live does not interfere or harm the well being of others, but when it clearly damages others, surely we have a duty to speak up and/or intervene?

    I'm with Gladstone on free speech:
    "Censure and criticism never hurt anybody. If false, they can't hurt you unless you are wanting in manly character; and if true, they show a man his weak points; and forewarn him against failure and trouble."


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At January 23, 2007 at 6:48 AM  

  • I am not one to argue with anyone in someone else's comment sections (yes I think that is uncool), but I don't see where having these girls pledge to stay a virgin until they are married is harming them. Most of them aren't going to stick with it anyway, but with the few that do, if the pledge gives them the strength to stick to their guns, then where is the harm being done? I don't agree that the girls are being harmed.

    These are my thoughts on the subject, and I won't butt in anymore.

    Sorry Crankster, I'll behave now. ;-)

    By Blogger Just D, At January 23, 2007 at 8:14 AM  

  • D-
    No need to behave; just don't throw things!

    You're arguing in a forthright, sincere way, and I completely respect that. Obviously, I don't agree with you on this one, but I think you make a solid point about tolerance for other viewpoints.

    Thanks for the Gladstone quote. I've always been a fan of spirited and respectful debate; I'm glad that my blog has inspired some of it.

    Thank you. It's good to see you up and about!

    I think you hit a key point. While these are sponsored by religious groups, they don't seem very "Christian." Rather, they seem to be enforcing patriarchical (sp?) ideals that date back to the Old Testament. Then again, I've never understood the Catholic Church's restrictions against birth control.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 23, 2007 at 9:31 AM  

  • In light of my most recent post, I find this tradition to be hilarious, but in retrospect, I think my husband would have done it!

    By Blogger Let's Pretend, At January 27, 2007 at 7:01 PM  

  • Let's Pretend-
    I understand the tendency to drift to the dark side in terms of protecting one's daughters. Maybe the key is recognizing that that sort of ownership is the dark side.

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 28, 2007 at 7:01 PM  

  • I don't think there's anything wrong with young women deciding to pledge to stay virgins. My problem is with the incestuous pledge to the father. She should pledge it to herself.

    By Blogger WanderingGirl, At January 31, 2007 at 7:01 PM  

  • Wandering Girl-
    Exactly! That way, instead of reaffirming her father's ownership, she claims ownership of herself.

    By Blogger Crankster, At February 4, 2007 at 10:53 PM  

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