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Sick Fuckin’ Shit: Girls Pledging Virginity to Their Fathers; will this mean more anal?

Colorado- In a chandelier-lit ballroom overlooking the Rocky Mountains one recent evening, some hundred couples feast on herb-crusted chicken and julienned vegetables. The men look dapper in tuxedos; their dates are resplendent in floor-length gowns, long white gloves and tiaras framing twirly, ornate updos. Seated at a table with four couples, I watch as the gray-haired man next to me reaches into his breast pocket, pulls out a small satin box and flips it open to check out a gold ring he’s about to place on the finger of the woman sitting to his right. Her eyes well up with tears as she is overcome by emotion.

The man’s date? His 25-year-old daughter. Welcome to Colorado Springs’ Seventh Annual Father-Daughter Purity Ball, held at the five-star Broadmoor Hotel. The event’s purpose is, in part, to celebrate dad-daughter bonding, but the main agenda is for fathers to vow to protect the girls’ chastity until they marry and for the daughters to promise to stay pure. Pastor Randy Wilson, host of the event and cofounder of the ball, strides to the front of the room, takes the microphone and asks the men, “Are you ready to war for your daughters’ purity?”

Wilson’s voice is jovial, yet his message is serious—and spreading like wildfire. Dozens of these lavish events are held every year, mainly in the South and Midwest, from Tucson to Peoria and New Orleans, sponsored by churches, nonprofit groups and crisis pregnancy centers. The balls are all part of the evangelical Christian movement, and they embody one of its key doctrines: abstinence until marriage. Thousands of girls have taken purity vows at these events over the past nine years. While the abstinence movement itself is fairly mainstream—about 10 percent of teen boys and 16 percent of girls in the United States have signed virginity pledges at churches, rallies or programs sponsored by groups such as True Love Waits—purity balls represent its more extreme edge. The young women who sign covenants at these parties tend to be devout, homeschooled and sheltered from popular culture.

Randy Wilson’s 19-year-old, Khrystian, is typical: She works at her church, spends most weekends at home with her family and has never danced with a male other than her father or brother. Emily Smith, an 18-year-old I meet, says that even kissing is out for her. “I made a promise to myself when I was younger,” she says, “to save my first kiss for my wedding day.” A tenet of the abstinence movement is that having lovers before marriage often leads to divorce. In the Wilsons’ community, young women hope to meet suitors at church, at college or through family connections.

The majority of the girls here are, as purity ball guidelines suggest, “just old enough…[to] have begun menstruating….” But a couple dozen fathers have also brought girls under 10. “This evening is more about spending time with her than her purity at this point,” says one seven-year-old’s dad, a trifle sheepishly. The event is seemingly innocent—not once do I hear “sex” or “virgin” cross anyone’s lips. Still, every one of the girls here, even the four-year-old, will sign that purity covenant.

Encouraging girls to avoid sleeping around is, without a doubt, a good thing. The same goes for dad-daughter bonding; research shows that girls who have solid relationships with their fathers are more likely to grow up to be confident, self-respecting, successful women and to make wise choices along the way. Question is, is putting girls’ purity on a pedestal the way to achieve these all-important goals?

Fathers who are protective of their daughters’ virginity are nothing new. “Keep your flower safe!” a good friend’s dad used to tell her when we were in college, and we’d laugh—both because it was too late for her virginity and because there was something distasteful to us about his trying to control her sex life. Recently, though, protecting girls’ virginity has become a national, not just familial, concern. In 1996, after lobbying by the religious right, Congress allocated nearly half a billion dollars for public schools nationwide to adopt sex ed programs that advocate abstinence only. Today, all but a few states use government money for classes that basically warn against any sexual activity outside of marriage.

The movement’s latest mission is to make abstinence cool (it’s been called “chastity chic”). There are Christian rock concerts where attendees sign pledges, sites like geocities.com/thevirginclub that list stars who have held off on sex until marriage (Jessica Simpson, divorce notwithstanding, is one of their patron saints), and supportive bloggers (abstinence.net features one called “The Professional Virgin”). Silver Ring Thing, a national abstinence group for teens, has an active MySpace page filled with comments like this from “Brianna”: “I vowed to stay a virgin till marriage two years ago and it’s been a long tough road…but it gets a lil’ easier everyday.”

The first purity ball, with all its queen-for-a-day allure, was thrown in 1998 by Wilson, now 48, and his wife, Lisa, 47; the two run Generations of Light, a popular Christian ministry in Colorado Springs. “We wanted to set a standard of dignity and honor for the way the girls should be treated by the men in their lives,” says Lisa, a warm, exuberant woman with a ready smile and seven children, ages 4 to 22. Lisa’s own father left her family when she was two, and despite a kind stepfather, she says, she grew up not feeling valued or understood. “Looking back, it’s a miracle I remained pure,” she says. “I believe if girls feel beautiful and cherished by their fathers, they don’t go looking for love from random guys.”

That first ball got some positive local and Christian press, as well as inquiries from people in 21 states interested in throwing their own. Today, South Dakota’s Abstinence Clearinghouse—a major association of the purity movement—sends out about 700 “Purity Ball Planner” booklets a year (tips include printing out the vows on “beautiful paper” and serving wedding cake for dessert). While the Wilsons make no money from their ball, a cottage industry for accessories has sprung up. Roam the Internet and you’ll find 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.

read the rest at www.glamour.com/news/articles/2007/01/purityballs07feb?currentPage=3

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