Purity balls, Plan B and bad sex policy: inside America’s virginity obsession

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/05/purity-balls-america-virginity-obsession

We are teaching girls that their virginity makes them special. But we’re also sending the wrong message – that without their virginity, they’re damaged goods

theguardian.com, Monday 5 May 2014

The men and girls in the photos hold hands and embrace – the young women are in long white dresses, the men in suits or military regalia. If some of the girls in the pictures weren’t so young – Laila and Maya Sa up there are seven and five years old, respectively – the portraits could be mistaken for wedding or prom pictures. What they actually capture, though, are images of those who participate in purity balls – father-daughter dances featuring girls who pledge to remain virgins until marriage and fathers who promise to protect their daughters’ chastity.

The images from Swedish photographer David Magnusson’s new book, Purity, are beautiful, disturbing and tell a distinctly American story – a story wherein a girl’s virginity is held up as a moral ideal above all else, a story in which the most important characteristic of a young woman is whether or not she is sexually active. This narrative of good girls and bad girls, pure girls and dirty girls, is one that follows young women throughout their lives. Purity balls simply lay that dichotomy bare. In a clip from a Nightline Prime episode on these disconcerting events , a father tells his braces-clad daughter, “You are married to the Lord, and your father is your boyfriend.” (Update: As part of a purity event over the weekend sponsored by the Las Vegas police department, one of its officers told girls that if they had pre-marital sex they would end up rape victims, gang members, drug addicts or prostitutes.)

While it would be easy to dismiss purity balls as fringe – most American fathers don’t require their daughters to pledge their virginity in an elaborate ceremony – the paternalism and fear of female sexuality underlying the events are present throughout American culture. (I wrote about this phenomenon in my 2009 book, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women.)

The idea of girls’ chastity as a mobilizing force in culture and politics may feel like a throwback, but it’s something that still tangibly impacts thousands upon thousands of modern women – even through policy.

For example, it took the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) years to approve emergency contraception – also known as Plan B – for over-the-counter status. Why? Because of fears that teenage girls would become promiscuous. An internal memo showed that Janet Woodcock of the FDA was concerned that increased access to the contraceptive could cause “extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an ‘urban legend’ status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/05/purity-balls-america-virginity-obsession

One Response to “Purity balls, Plan B and bad sex policy: inside America’s virginity obsession”

  1. brendakaitlin Says:

    I have seen those pictures. I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home. Those pictures serve as the perfect point of what conservative Christianity is lacking. They prize the virgin, but not the girl. They prize the fetus, but not the life. They prize the Christian label, but not Christ philosophy. That’s why my label is pagan, and transgender. I give them 2 reasons to burn me at the stake.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: