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Glamour on Purity Balls

Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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January 23, 2007

Over the course of this blog I’ve discussed father/daughter Purity Balls, and even recently the introduction of a mother/son Integrity Ball. Purity Balls, an off-shoot of the abstinence-only-until-marriage movement, bring fathers and daughters together so that fathers can vow to protect their daughters’ chastity, and daughters can promise their fathers that they will abstain from sex until they are married.For anyone wanting a more in-depth look into these events, the latest issue of Glamour has an article all about Purity Balls. Since the first Purity Ball in 1998, these events have grown enormously in popularity (the Abstinence Clearinghouse reports that it sends out about 700 Purity Ball Planner booklets a year).The Glamour article examines whether or not Purity Balls are setting up girls for failure. As one clinical psychotherapist points out, “No pledge can counter the fact that teenagers are, in fact, sexual beings postpuberty….You can’t turn that off.”Eve Ensler is also quoted in the article and she notes that a daughter’s pledge to her father that she will abstain from sex, and a father’s vow to protect her “purity,” essentially puts another person in control of her sexuality: “When you sign a pledge to your father to preserve your virginity, your sexuality is basically being taken away from you until you sign yet another contract, a marital one….It makes you feel like you’re the least important person in the whole equation. It makes you feel invisible.” The article suggests that the purity movement is really about preventing girls from growing up: “These are girls who may never find out what it means to make decisions without a man involved, to stand up for themselves, to own their sexuality.”Regardless of what you think of the motivations behind these events we do know this: Pledges to abstain from sex until marriage just don’t work. Teens who sign a pledge may delay sexual intercourse, but 88 percent still have sex before marriage. Furthermore, those who do sign pledges are less likely to use condoms when they do have sex and less likely to be tested for STDs.

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