Opinion

My problem with purity balls | Amy Johnson

First, I truly believe that having a dad-daughter dance is lovely. Taking time to connect and tell your daughter how much she means to you is admirable and something more parents should take time to do.

But taking a pledge to guard her virginity may sabotage your most sincere intentions. Here’s why.

Purity balls have become popular in response to the sexualization of young people in our culture. Usually sponsored by Christian groups, these events showcase dads and daughters, who come together for a formal event where the dad pledges to guard his daughter’s purity and/or virginity with a formal vow, and a ring, bracelet or necklace for her to wear as a reminder.

Sounds lovely, right? But here’s the deal. By putting emphasis on your daughter’s virginity as something that needs guarding, you are sending a message that a) her sexuality (virginity) is the focus of her value, and b) she needs a man to make her decisions for her.

Taking a pledge with witnesses may help delay onset of sexual intercourse for a few percentage points of teens, but it’s not enough. Several long-term national studies of thousands of youth have found:

• 90 percent of girls who pledge abstinence until marriage do not keep that promise.

• Those who have taken a purity/virginity pledge have significantly lower rates of condom and birth control use when they do have sex.

• Teens who take abstinence pledges have similar rates of STDs as those who don’t, despite delaying onset of intercourse and having fewer partners.

• Teens who take a virginity/purity pledge are more likely to engage in oral and anal sex than those who do not, often thinking these activities do not “count” as losing their virginity.

Statistics aside, think about how, as parents, we often hope for our children to have better experiences than we had as teenagers. Yet, we can’t be there 24/7, 365 days a year. As they get older, they make more of their own decisions, whether we like it or not. What we can rely on is what we’ve taught them. So for heaven’s sake, please teach your daughters (and sons) about how to love safely.

Giving information about condoms, birth control and pleasurable activities other than oral, anal or vaginal intercourse could keep them healthy — and it will arm them with accurate information for their peers, who may not hold the same values your family does. Talking often about values and relationships and standards can help your teen and others.

Are you sending a message that you believe in your daughter and trust her to make great decisions for herself because she’s a strong, independent, worthy human on the planet? Or are you sending her the message that she needs to rely on you and other men to protect her, that she is somehow weaker, and that if she does have sex, she’s somehow damaged?

Think of all the activities you can do to strengthen your relationship with your daughter that don’t focus on her sexuality. What projects can you do together? Is there a special trip you can take to honor an interest of hers? Would it be fun to start a tradition of cooking a special meal together once a week? Help her with her homework? Do a service project together that honors an interest of hers?

These are ways to value her courage, her integrity, her intelligence, her kindness, her spirit — that don’t focus on her virginity or sexuality as a commodity to be preserved in order to increase her value in anyone’s eyes.

If you want to go to a purity ball, by all means do. But don’t stop there.  Show your daughter she’s valued for more, so much more.

 

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