Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fundamentalist Rites of Passage

We all know that fundamentalist Christians believe in abstinence only sex education; that people should wait until they get married to have sex. Though this belief ostensibly applies to both males and females, most of their emphasis is on female chastity, or "purity" as they are wont to call it.

A growing trend in fundamentalist circles in the US is the "purity ball", which superficially resemble a prom. The girls dress in formals, but their "dates" are their tuxedo-clad fathers. After the girls promise to remain abstinent until marriage, the father promise to "war for" their daughter's purity, after which their fathers slip "purity" rings on their fingers. The fathers and daughters are served wedding cake, after which the daughters dance for their fathers to the tune of "Always Be Your Baby".

Let's note that mothers do not attend these balls with their adolescent sons. Nor do mothers promise to guard the chastity of their daughters. "Purity" t-shirts available to fundamentalist girls make it clear that fathers alone "own" their daughters' sexuality: "Notice: No Trespassing on this Property. My Father Is Watching."

Is anyone as squicked out about this as I am?

Randy and Lisa Wilson, parents of five girls started the purity ball at their Generations of Light ministry in Colorado Springs in 1998. Their mission is to preserve girls' chastity by building healthy father-daughter relationships. Though the fundies give lip service to the idea of celibacy until marriage for both sexes, these balls clearly show that they think so-called "impurity" is a "problem" only for girls. What's bad for the goose, is definitely not bad for the gander. It's the bad ol' double standard repackaged for a new generation.

I also have a big problem with the idea that a young woman who has had sex before marriage is "impure" and "defiled". A healthier thing would be to give both boys and girls comprehensive sex education and to reinforce that they own their own sexuality, and fully armed with relevant information, that they will decide to have sex only when they are ready for it, which may or may not be before marriage or instead of marriage.


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