Book Club: The Purity Myth

This month, we tackled The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I think Valenti makes some fantastic points. Granted, I agree with her point of view already, so convincing me that the virginity movement is not necessarily a positive thing wasn’t exactly difficult.

What I found most disturbing was Valenti’s description of purity balls and what a girl’s relationship to her father should be. I knew, of course, what these balls were, but as she explained the function of the father at these balls, and what a father’s role in keeping their daughter “sexually pure” was, I found myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable.

Purity balls are events at which young women pledge their virginity to their father, who is somehow the keeper of said virginity, until their wedding day, at which point their husband then receives this virginity as a “gift.” Besides the fact that this ridiculous notion makes MEN the “keeper” of women’s sexuality, it also assumes that everyone is heterosexual. Or that everyone wants to get married. These balls are described as “dates” between father and daughter. But the incestuousness doesn’t stop there. As one author noted, “many of the older girls in attendance look ‘disconcertingly like wives’ next to their fathers.”

Even worse, the people that partake in these balls encourage regular “date” nights between father and daughter, in order to “reaffirm” said daughter’s “femininity.” The language used to describe these dates had me retching.

Katie giggles as she waits for her date to come around and open the car door. The pair enters an ice cream shop. She sits down at the table as her date gently pushes in her chair. He takes her hand from across the table and asks, “What flavor would you like tonight, Sugar?” Katie smiles and says, “I’ll have chocolate, Daddy.”

Oh MAN. It sounds like a really bad Literotica story. I just… I can’t. Valenti makes the very good point that “calling daddy/daughter quality time ‘dates’ speaks volumes about how young women are valued in the virginity movement– for their sexuality.” And this quote, from an abstinence-only educator, also made me quite uncomfortable:

“Girls give in to sex not because they want sex– it’s like a hug. If they can get that from their fathers, they won’t need it from a boyfriend.”

If they get WHAT from their fathers?? Sex, or hugs? And why are we equating paternal love with romantic love? STOP WITH THE INCESTUOUS SHIT. Paternal love and affection is all well and good and positive and wonderful. But so is romantic love and affection. However, they’re DIFFERENT kinds of love and affection. And equating the two is just plain creepy, and reinforces the antiquated idea that women’s sexuality belongs to men, and marriage is about passing on a woman as property of her father to property of her husband through marriage. And by making men “keepers” of women’s sexuality, and basically giving them ownership of it, it further serves to keep rape culture alive and well, because the myth that women’s sexuality exists for men, which therefore gives men the right to just take it, is kept alive.

I also found myself asking, “What about girls that don’t have fathers?” This movement assumes that all children come from two-parent, heterosexual-coupled homes, and that’s just not the case.

Other points I enjoyed:

  • Her discussion of how the virginity movement pertains (or doesn’t pertain) to women of color, and it is only something that is pushed on white girls as an expectation.
  • Her points regarding the notion of virginity as pertaining to women, but not necessarily to men. The focus of the purity movement is on making sure that young women keep themselves “pure” and “virginal,” while men are virtually absent as a target of the movement.
  • The point that the virginity movement claims to be about protecting girls’ sexuality, and about NOT focusing on them as sexual beings, but by obsessing over and placing so much emphasis on girls remaining virgins, it does exactly the opposite– it makes a girl’s only value her sexuality.
  • Her use of Bill Maher’s quote in response to conservatives’ argument that Gardasil, the shot that protects against HPV, will make girls want to go out and sleep around because they’re “vaccinated:” “It’s like saying if you give a kid a tetanus shot, she’ll want to jab rusty nails in her feet.” Heh.
  • This: “…the virginity movement gives young women only two choices of who they can be sexually: sluts or not sluts. While the first choice doesn’t seem attractive, I can guarantee you that most young women are going to go with the option that allows them to have sex.” Damn right.
  • I found the discussion of abstinence-only education and the false and misleading information that it distributes to be absolutely horrifying. Like, did you know that birth control can KILL YOU? And abortion causes suicide and anorexia. Yeah, you learn something new every day!
  • There was also a great discussion on porn and the porn industry.

As this post is getting long, I’m going to throw it to you guys. What did you think of the book? Thoughts?

You can read Alana’s review here and Sarahbear’s review here.

This entry was posted in Book Club, Caterwauling About The Patriarchy, Rape Culture, Sexuality. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Nell GwynneNo Gravatar
    Posted April 30, 2010 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    I haven’t been able to participate in book club for the past few months (damn you, college!), but I loved this post, love Jessica Valenti, and can tell you that scary claims about birth control are told, and aren’t’ just an anecdote. my high school got a lovely visit from ab-only speaker Pam Stenzel, who (literally) yelled at everyone that GOIGN ON THE PILL WILL MAKE YOU TEN TIMES MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO STDS, INCLUDING HIV/AIDS.


  2. AwentiaNo Gravatar
    Posted April 30, 2010 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    Hello Britni,

    I’m brand new to your blog and haven’t read the book but was shocked by some of the things you mention. I didn’t know about “purity balls”, but they definitely sound creepy.

    I surfed the net a little and found this article in TIME Magazine. I think it’s very revealing that the idea of “purity balls”, according to the founder Randy Wilson, was to focus of the role of the fathers and not the daughters. That photo at the top of the article creeped me out too; look at the father and daughter to the right.

    The reporter of the article is sympathetic to the issue, but still the creepy shines through.

  3. SarahbearNo Gravatar
    Posted April 30, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I haven’t had the chance to sit down and read this yet because it’s been a pretty busy month, but I fully intend to. That said…

    Though I agree with a lot of the points you say the book made, I have to wonder what’s so incestuous about a girl going on a ‘date’ with her father (i.e. Daddy taking her out for ice cream and calling her by common terms of endearment like ‘Sugar’). Especially when you participated in age play and explained your reasons behind it as needing someone older than you to be nurturing, to take care of you, to love and protect you. It seems a bit hypocritical to be squicked out by actual father/daughter closeness but to expect people to understand your desire to participate in age role play.

    Yes, the idea of a father protecting his daughter’s virginity and ‘passing it on’ to her future husband is sexist and controlling and wrong, but I don’t think it’s incestuous. One of the most common ideas in the abstinence-only community is that if a girl isn’t getting attention from her father that she’ll get it from somewhere else. As in, if Daddy isn’t taking her to baseball games, pageants and ice cream parlors that she’ll wind up in the backseat of some boy’s car getting attention from him. Growing up in a Southern Baptist home I have a bit of an insider’s perspective on a lot of what is discussed in the book, including having attended a True Love Waits ceremony and pledging to save myself for marriage. I’ve been working on a blog about all of that and I’ll try to finish up the book and get all of it posted together.

    • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
      Posted April 30, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      It is not hypocritical to participate in age play, yet have a problem with some of the language and tone that these daddy/daughter relationships are “supposed” to have. Age play involves two people that are NOT related, it’s clearly play, and both participatory parties are consenting adults. A child being told that this kind of relationship (I’m not talking about quality father/daughter time, or a close relationship between father and daughter. Go back and read the language they use; they are equating paternal and romantic love) with her father is how it’s supposed to be isn’t consenting, nor can she make the decision about it herself. Because she’s a child and there are clear power dynamics at play.

      So I don’t think that ageplay is at all related to what I’m talking about in this post.

      • SarahbearNo Gravatar
        Posted May 1, 2010 at 12:16 am | Permalink

        I did read the language they used.They aren’t equating paternal and romantic love. The author, who is a liberal feminist, is looking in on a conservative Christian lifestyle and making that judgment.

        The most appropriate definition for ‘date’, given the context of the discussion, is “an engagement to go out socially with another person, often out of romantic interest”. Often. Not always. Parents are frequently setting up ‘play dates’ where they get together with another parent with a child in their child’s age range. They aren’t trying to hook their kids up with each other, they’ve decided to go and do something and it’s become trendy to refer to such things as ‘dates’.

        ‘Sugar’ is a very common term of endearment. Especially in the south, where Southern Baptists, the people who are throwing Purity Balls and pushing for abstinence-only education live. For them this is a quality father/daughter relationship. There is nothing sexual about it. They have chosen to live a lifestyle based on the Bible and Christianity, as ridiculous as you may think that is, it’s their choice to follow that religion.

        There is nothing incestuous about it and the only power dynamics at play are that the religion they follow puts men as the head of the household.If the women in that house also choose to follow that religion, it’s their choice, and it’s rude of you to judge them and assume there is something more sinister going on. It’s hypocritical of you to expect people to be so open and understanding of your personal choices to participate in BDSM and age play, yet to go ‘ew’ or jump to conclusions at every unfamiliar thing you come across. I wasn’t equating age play with incest. I am very capable of understanding the difference in the two.

        • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
          Posted May 1, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink

          If you understood the difference, you wouldn’t have called me a hypocrite, or tried to draw any similarity between age play and actual father/daughter relationships.

          • SarahbearNo Gravatar
            Posted May 1, 2010 at 12:48 am | Permalink

            Yeah, don’t talk to me like I’m stupid. Seriously.

            You can disagree with me and completely ignore the part where I told you that judging other people’s religious choices and lifestyles is what was hypocritical, but don’t be condescending.

            • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
              Posted May 1, 2010 at 1:03 am | Permalink

              I’m not intending to be. And I’m not judging other people’s religious choices or lifestyles. If someone wants to remain abstinent for themselves, there is no problem with that. The problem is with the message that is sent by the purity movement, and the fact that it (at least attempts to) takes away women’s sexuality and sexual choices.

        • GhouldilocksNo Gravatar
          Posted May 1, 2010 at 3:19 am | Permalink

          First of all, equating Purity Balls and age play is ridiculous.

          But let me address this whole “jumping to conclusions at every unfamiliar thing” you’re saying now…

          I can’t speak for Brit or Jessica, but this is not unfamiliar to me. Not at all. This type of shit? It really is just as bad as it sounds.

          Did I have an actual “Purity Ball”? No. At least, it wasn’t called that. What did I have that was almost the exact fucking same? These same ideas drilled into my head, day after day, for years at a conservative xtian school.

          I did not, however, experience the extremely fucking obvious incestuous, girls-as-property bullshit from my own father. Luckily (and I can’t believe I’m saying this as if it were a good thing) my parents pretty much denied any possibility of me having any sexuality whatsoever.

          Pastors, teachers and other girls’ fathers had no problem filling me in on all of this, though. Yeah, nothing creepy about that… No, not at all.

          Is this simply my experience? Possibly. But I’ve yet to see any difference between the girls who take virginity pledges/receive abstinence-only “education” and the girls who went to my school.

          “If the women in that house also choose to follow that religion, it’s their choice, and it’s rude of you to judge them and assume there is something more sinister going on. “

          Yeah, that? That right there? That’s bullshit. “Purity Balls” and the like are not thrown for grown-ass women who can make their own choices, they’re thrown for girls. Girls who can NOT make their own choices in this matter because they’re not being taught that they have any goddamn choice besides the choice of “purity” or “sin”.

          And I am totally on board with “judging” the hell out of that because it is incredibly damaging.

          I’m sorry if that was “rude”.


          • SarahbearNo Gravatar
            Posted May 1, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

            I wasn’t equating the two. I was pointing out the similarities of the reasons people get squicked out by the two of them and how it is hypocritical to expect not to be judged when you are judging someone else.

            And no. It’s not really just as bad as it sounds, unless it’s not the religion that you would like to follow. While I personally don’t agree with all of the ideas preached about sexuality and purity by Christians, it is their right (at least in this country) to follow the moral beliefs set in place by their religion. It is a parent’s right to raise their children in a home that practices those beliefs. As awful, as ridiculous, as bad as you may think it is now… it’s none of your fucking business how another parent is bringing up their children. None. of. your. business.

            If you have children? Bring them up in an athiest home, an agnostic home, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Mormon… whatever religion you choose to follow. But you can’t tell other people how to live their lives if they choose to follow one religion just because you disagree with it. Not even if they are exposing their children to it.

            It’s not fucking obviously incestuous. There is nothing incestuous at all about ‘girls as property’. Sexist? yeah. Incestuous? Hell. Fucking. No.

            Yes. It’s simply your experience. Every young Christian girl does not get molested by their pastors, neighbors, teachers or friend’s fathers. Every single person who follows Christianity is not some closeted pedophile out to get the young, impressionable teenage girls. It’s flat out wrong to suggest such things. It’s just as wrong as assuming every single Muslim is a terrorist.

            Parents being allowed to bring their children up to follow their religious values is not bullshit. No one is going to tell you not to raise your kids as feminists or whatever your religion you choose. Can it be damaging? Yes, but it’s not always damaging. But I reckon you can be as judgey as you want, just don’t be surprised when people think that the things you believe are wrong or stupid…

            • SaraidNo Gravatar
              Posted May 1, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

              (I’m not putting in my blog and email in an attempt to not go to spam. We’ll see if it works.)

              “Parents being allowed to bring their children up to follow their religious values is not bullshit. No one is going to tell you not to raise your kids as feminists or whatever your religion you choose. Can it be damaging? Yes, but it’s not always damaging.”

              Some, such as Richard Dawkins, would argue that religion is damaging no matter what and that children should never, ever be indoctrinated. It is better to leave religion until later in life than to risk causing serious psychological damage to a child.

              Indoctrinating children, according to some (and I believe this as well), should be considered child abuse.

    • alanaNo Gravatar
      Posted May 1, 2010 at 2:49 am | Permalink

      I can see both of your guys sides in this actually.

      I think Sarahbear brings up a really valid point that we should consider the feminist slant Valenti obviously has (even though I think she’s mostly right). When I watched a show about purity balls I definitely thought it was creepy, but I also think we have to take into consideration the fact that we are looking at these “dates” through our adult sexual viewpoints. No matter how many creepy quotes we can conjure up, most fathers will NOT be looking at their daughters in any way that is incestuous. (Similar to how even though people like to engage in ageplay they don’t really want to have sex with a child.)

      But, I also agree with Britni that the idea that a father being the “guardian” of his daughter’s virginity pretty harmful. It reinforces that a woman’s worth is always tied up with her sexuality and that women aren’t fully capable of making decisions for themselves. Are most of these fathers assholes? I wouldn’t doubt it. But I feel like alluding to the possibility they might be child molesters is a little disingenuous. I think this is actually Valenti’s weakest point since there are so many better reasons to be against purity balls then just the creep factor. I think the problem is these balls are just so freggin ridiculous it’s almost too easy to make fun of them.

      • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
        Posted May 1, 2010 at 3:06 am | Permalink

        I didn’t mean to imply that these men were child molesters, as much as make the point that the way they treat the father/daughter relationship, which is then replaced by husband/wife relationship almost equates paternal love and romantic love, when they really are (and should be) two different things. And I agree that there is more to take issue with then the creep factor, but the wording and language used at some parts was just… I had a visceral reaction to it and really had to talk about it because I felt so strongly.

        • alanaNo Gravatar
          Posted May 1, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

          Hey that’s the point of a book club right? If we all agreed it would get pretty boring quite fast. :)

          In the end we can all agree that purity balls suck.

      • SarahbearNo Gravatar
        Posted May 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        This is exactly what I meant, though it seems I didn’t articulate it as well as I intended to. Valenti has a very feminist bias and I think it was really unnecessary to even suggest that there was some sort of incestuous relationship happening between these fathers and their daughters. She had valid points without that.

        I can completely agree with how damaging it can be to teach girls that they should remain pure until marriage and to teach them that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Then again, there is nothing wrong with choosing abstinence until marriage either. I think the problem is that you typically don’t get married until later in life, so when you’ve had 18-25 or so years of hearing all the negative possible consequences for having sex (pregnancy, STD’s, reputations) that it can be damaging. There are a lot of Christian leaders who only like to preach fire and brimstone, scaring people into the religion, but there are also pastors (like Joel Osteen) who do a good job of teaching what a lot of people believe Christianity is all about. I don’t have a problem with teaching young people that not waiting for sex until later in life can have consequences(because it can), so long as you also don’t turn sex into some forbidden, dangerous thing. Song of Solomon is often used to study how beautiful and meaningful sex can be (and it can be like that for some people).

        • alanaNo Gravatar
          Posted May 1, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

          I have no idea who Joel Osteen is to be honest (is he like a tv pastor?). One of the things that has always bothered me about pushing virginity as this amazing accomplishment in and of itself, is that a lot of people don’t have the choice to remain virgins. I was really glad to hear Valenti point out the high rates of child molestation/rape and how the abstinence-only people marginalize these kids that have already been victimized. I have never personally heard a pastor or youth leader broach the topic in any way and that’s not right. Not right at all.

          Maybe someone who was raised in church would know better though.

          • SarahbearNo Gravatar
            Posted May 1, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, he’s one of the more main stream televised pastors.

            I am not sure how the Purity Balls work, but with the True Love Waits thing that my own church did those situations were handled privately and delicately. There was always a Q&A deal and questions could be brought up privately/anonymously. This was done at camps I went to with hundreds of kids from other churches too. Victims were not blamed and they were assured that they were still ‘pure’ in the eyes of God. Perhaps it is something that should be more openly addressed, and maybe it is now (it’s been 10 years since I was involved in it).

            Of course, it’s all according to where you went to school or church how this was handled.

        • SaraidNo Gravatar
          Posted May 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

          “I don’t have a problem with teaching young people that not waiting for sex until later in life can have consequences(because it can), so long as you also don’t turn sex into some forbidden, dangerous thing.”

          I have a an issue with this. This implies that people who are older are more likely to make safer sexual decisions, which is not always true in many cases. Rather than teaching young people to wait, which has no real purpose other than “purity” ones, teach them about safe sex and how to pick a good sexual partner.

          Telling young people to wait is only going to make them go out and make bad choices which will probably not involve safe sex.

          • SarahbearNo Gravatar
            Posted May 1, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

            I’m all for comprehensive sex-education, but I don’t see why abstinence can’t be taught right along side it. Though we have come a long way with birth control options and STD prevention it’s not 100% perfect. Abstinence is the only 100% way to prevent the spread of diseases and unwanted pregnancies, but it’s very important that young people have the knowledge to have safer sex.

            I don’t think that older people would necessarily always make safer choices, but that they would be better equipped to deal with the risks associated with sex. Teenagers are ill prepared to take care of a baby and may not have the support/money to get an abortion or give a baby up for adoption. They may not have transportation to a clinic or the money to get birth control and condoms or to get tested for STD’s on a regular basis.

            It’s important to teach young people that even with the appropriate precautions that shit still happens.

  4. alanaNo Gravatar
    Posted April 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I went a little highlighter crazy on this book, but one of my favorite statements in the book is when Valenti says, “But for plenty of women across the country, it is special. Staying “pure” and “innocent” is touted as the greatest thing we can do. However, equating this inaction with morality is not only problematic because it continues to tie women’s ethics to our bodies, but also is downright insulting because suggests that women can’t be moral actors. Instead, we’re defined by what we don’t do -our ethics are the ethics of passivity.(pg 24)

    Right then I knew I was gonna love this book.

  5. gilesNo Gravatar
    Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Oh jesus. When i saw your post, I thought; Interesting book, must read. Then I read the post, and now already I want to wash my brain out. Horrid horrid people. Poor young women. Bastard patriachs.

  6. hdwNo Gravatar
    Posted April 30, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I lost my virginity in High School. And got pregnant subsequently not long after. And in my house, it was abstinence-only & there wasn’t ANY talk of birth control.

    I read this book & immediately felt … normal? Okay? something. Something had been left undone during that time in my life & this book gave me peace, closure.

    I was grossed out by the Purity Balls, & I’m not surprised in the least it generated from Colorado Springs. Ack.

    Also … I have recommended this book to all my girlfriends with daughters. I wish this book was something that had been around when I was a lot younger. It could have saved me quite a bit of guilt and heartache, methinks.

  7. SaraidNo Gravatar
    Posted April 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    The part that grossed me out the most was the depiction of an abstinence-only class exercise.

    The instructor takes a piece of candy, gives it to a kid, has him/her spit it out and put it back into a wrapper after sucking on it for a minute. Then they compare that piece of “dirty” and spit-covered candy to a girl who has had pre-marital sex. No one wants her anymore because she’s used.

    It’s fucking sickening that they would do that to kids.

  8. EveNo Gravatar
    Posted May 1, 2010 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    This book sounds really good. I just put a hold on it at my library.

  9. EveNo Gravatar
    Posted May 1, 2010 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    Also, I don’t know if this is because my father went way too far with the whole “paternal love equals romantic love” thing, but I find the whole idea behind purity balls absolutely creepy.

    “Girls give in to sex not because they want sex– it’s like a hug. If they can get that from their fathers, they won’t need it from a boyfriend.”

    Sex is NOT like hugs, (but my dad thought it was, which I think is why he thought it was okay to cross that line with his daughter). EEEEWWWWW! I’m so disgusted by it that I can’t even articulate it coherently.

    Furthermore, since when do girls never actually want sex? I mean, for me, the whole point of starting to have sex as a teen was because I wanted sex! I hate that anyone believes that women don’t have sexual desires. Ugh. I don’t feel coherent enough to write more.

  10. ceedeeNo Gravatar
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    sorry for the long comment….
    This book makes a lot of valid points, has sufficient footnotes (although not extensive) and is written to a younger generation. I wasn’t totally thrilled with the way the book was written. Being an academic, I tend to like books that are well written and well cited. I am also a bit snobbish and like to check citations, read primary literature (I am a biologist, sorry!). Valenti writes like a blogger, and I found the whole book to be written like one long blog post. Not bad, just different from my academic reading. I did, however, really like this subject matter. In case you are wondering, here is my opinion on the whole thing:

    I grew up attending private school all the way through high school. I know where a lot of these ideas in this book are coming from. I saw them firsthand, saw them developing over time into something that is now marketed and paid for by our tax dollars. I started high school at this really tiny Conservative Christian high school in a town near to where I grew up. There were literally less than 30 kids in my freshman class. The people were nice enough and I quickly made friends with a girl called J. J was a little different, wore “grunge” clothes and has pierced ears and a streak of blonde in her dark hair. Although people liked her, she didn’t really have many friends, definitely no girlfriends. She told me one afternoon that one of the teachers had molested her the year before, when she was in 8th grade. I’m not sure what exactly had happened, but when I got there, the teacher had been relieved of teaching duties and was transferred to the “administration office”. As far as I know, he was never punished. Even then, I remember a attitude of “she wears weird clothes and does her hair weird so she must have deserved the molestation somehow”. I don’t remember being bothered by this attitude at the time, but I certainly am now.
    At this same school, we had PE last period. All the girls changed in the bathroom and headed out to the soccer field. I remember some girls coming in late to change, having just met their boyfriends behind the dumpster for a quickie bj. This was shortly after signing the “purity contract” with their pastor and parents, swearing before Christ to stay a virgin until marriage. Needless to say, I did not sign said contract, and there was no pressure from my parents to sign it.
    After I left the school, the married Algebra teacher got a 16 year old student pregnant. The last I heard, he had left his wife and had gotten an apartment for him and the 16 year old and the baby. I wonder how they are doing now?
    After we all graduated (I switched to a new school in my sophomore year), I returned to a friend’s house for a big graduation party, including all the people I had started high school with and some others who were a class above or a class below us. The girl’s parents were out of town, so we all spent the night at her house and drank wine coolers and hung out. At some point in time, the girl who gave the party, G, was looking for her boyfriend, F. F was nowhere to be found, although he did turn up sometime later. He had taken another girl, A, back into the bushes behind the house for a little hanky-panky and had left her there. It turned out to be my job to help A on with her panties, as she was too drunk to get them on properly.
    In high school health class, we were blatantly lied to about the effectiveness of birth control methods and how the pill works. And the teacher was supposedly a nurse!
    I’ve also been on the receiving end of quite a bit of the virgin/whore dichotomy. I have a pretty outgoing personality, and I like to meet new people. I’ve been accused of being too flirtatious, of being slutty because I want to go dance on the dance floor, or being a whore because a lot of my friends are guys.
    Most of these stories are harmless, silly things that happen in high school (and, arguably, beyond). The thing that concerns me the most is the hypocrisy. The telling people one thing and doing/living another. Hypocrisy is the number one reason I highly dislike organized religion, and would never subject my children to any of it’s bs. I would rather be up front with my children about sex. About birth control, condoms, STDs, the whole thing. Be up front, educate yourself and then at some point, when your kid grows up, they have to take responsibility for themselves. And you have to trust that you gave them a good enough education that they will insist on using a condom, or getting yearly checkups, or advocating for women’s health. I’d hope to raise responsible, socially aware kids than kids that are so ignorant they don’t know if a blow job can get them pregnant (trust me, I’ve had this conversation….with kids at an Ivy League school, nonetheless).
    As a biologist, the thing that concerns me the most is the lack of education. The dirty lollipop or the dirty piece of tape, the idea that a girl (or woman) is “used” – the whole thing is ridiculous and disturbing. Along with the paternal ownership of a girl’s body – the whole idea is just inane. And, call me silly, but I’d want my kids (or anyone else’s kids, for that matter) to be equipped with as much education on subjects as possible, before they are faced with the decision to have sex or not have sex.
    The upside? I’ve started reading more about this whole “feminism” thing. Turns out? I guess I am one :)

  11. Jessica ValentiNo Gravatar
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Hey y’all, got alerted by Google to this convo and just wanted to drop in and make myself available to questions if anyone has them. :) It’s really wonderful to see the book spark such interesting conversations! Thanks for having this book club…

  12. alphafemmeNo Gravatar
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    This is entirely off-topic, but when I first read “purity balls” I was picturing smart balls. Like, fathers putting things in their daughters’ vaginas to ensure that nothing ELSE that’s not supPOSED to be in there is able to get in there. And I am so relieved that that is not what’s happening. But only a tiny bit relieved because what *is* happening is really creepy. And yes, I’m judging.

  13. advizor54No Gravatar
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Britni always brings interesting ideas to the table and her reader’s comments always make me think. As I read the comments, I noticed that there were no men responding so I decided to throw myself on the pyre and make a comment.

    Disclaimer: As a dad, husband, cyber-lover, and adult blogger who was raised in a conservative Christian home I am a bit conflicted in discussing sexuality and the pros and cons of both sides of the issue. I reserve the right to contradict myself. :-)

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    I have a 13yo daughter who is hitting puberty, noticing boys and asking questions. My wife and I have to decide what to teach her, what advice to give, and how to support her in becoming a woman in today’s society.

    We encourage her to have boy and girl friends. We help her learn the social skills to make friends, learn about people, and chose people who are good for her, people who will love and support her goals and values . One of the key values we are teaching her is that she is in control of her future.

    She needs to learn what will get her to her goals and what will distract her. Staying healthy, doing her homework, sleeping right, and taking care of herself all get her closer to the things she finds important. Video games, too much TV, smoking, bad language, and boys do not, at 13, help her reach those goals.

    I can empathize with the motivation of the “Purity Ball” organizers. It’s a tool to build a stronger relationship between a daughter and her father, and to give her a sense of accountability to another to make good decisions. All of us need a sense of direction, rules, and structure to do our best, and we need someone who will hold us to those standards.

    We teach her that her mind has to be in control of her emotions and that she has to learn to tell the difference between what her head, heart, and body want. She has to realize that having a boyfriend at 13 is ridiculous, and that being sexually active too early is usually a recipe for heartache.

    We talk very openly in my house about sex. A friend of hers (Toni), only 15, is pregnant by a boy she met twice. We talk about how it affects her schooling, her future, her family, and her self-image. We talk about the decisions Toni made that led up to her getting pregnant, and we discuss how it’s important for our daughter to be aware of what can happen, and the consequences of those choices.

    We’ve talked about birth control and STDs and taken advantage of a wide range of opportunities to help her be informed. At church she gets a moral window into her choices, at school she gets statistics and medical facts devoid of any ethical judgment, so as her parents, we help to blend the two sides so she can be aware of her choices, the consequences of those choices, and have the personal strength to decide what is best for her.

    We also try to show her (well, not literally) what role healthy sexuality can have in a relationship. We talk about the joy and security that can be found in relationships where two people love and support each other.

    As a father I want to protect her from the boys/men of her world that seek to harm her. I want her to have the tools to protect herself from any predator that would cause her pain, whether they are called boyfriend, rapist, or acquaintance. I want her to value her self so that she protects herself from unnecessary pain that comes from rash decisions or teenage rebellion. In most cases, that means saying no to sex, because that is what most men are after, without regard for her.

    I want her to feel loved and secure and supported by her father, her mother, siblings, and extended family so she does not seek acceptance and validation in the arms of a boy who tells her what ever it takes to get her in to bed. And yes, I will meet every boy who picks her up for a date, I will set rules and curfews, and I will set high expectations of behavior because when those we love expect great things of us, we can do great things.

    I think the sexualization of daughters in the Purity Ball context is a little creepy, but in a world that bombards our young people with a constant stream of sexual images and enticements, people are doing their best to give their daughters a different perspective.

    I want my daughter to be healthy and happy, sexually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I want her to pick friends and relationships that build her up and support her. I am not the “guardian” of her sexuality, but I am her father and am her teacher, protector, counselor, and #1 supporter.

    (Please remember, this was written on the fly while I was participating in a conference call at work and trying to answer e-mail, so it’s not a perfect post.)

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Book Club: The Purity Myth | Sexy by Sarah on May 1, 2010 at 12:59 am

    [...] book choice is The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti. I read it today after reading Britni’s review of it. I had intended to pick it up earlier this month but our local library doesn’t have [...]

  2. By PSA: Vaginas Are Stretchy on June 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    [...] and the obsession with “tight” vaginas is something derived from our society’s obsession with virginity. Because somehow, “loose” vaginas have become equated with “loose” women, [...]

  3. By Virginity « LovelySandraDee's Blog on July 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    [...] about a book she read and while back, and it’s been irking me. You can read her post here. Now, I have a purity ring. It’s a fancy little gold band with a diamond set in white gold. [...]

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