Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dance for Virginity

Recently, at the Broadmoor Hotel:

Following dessert, couples file into the adjacent ballroom. Seven ballerinas appear in white gowns with tulle skirts, carrying on their shoulders a large, rustic wooden cross that they lift up and rest on a stand. A woman cries as she presents each of their three ceremonial dances, one of which is called “I’ll Always Be Your Baby.” Afterward, two middle-aged pastors stand at the cross with heavy rapiers raised and announce that they are prepared to “bear swords and war for the hearts of our daughters.” The blades create an inverted “V” under which girls and fathers kneel and lay white roses that symbolize purity. Soon there is a heap of cream-colored buds wilting beneath the outstretched arms of the cross.

This lovely rite ended the Seventh Annual Father-Daughter Purity Ball. A hundred couples--fathers dapper in tuxedos, daughters resplendent in backless floor-length gowns, long gloves and tiaras--gathered together to celebrate and pledge to protect the girls' virginity until marriage.

Okay, I'm sorry. I cannot, for the life of me, think of anything creepier than being in a room full of middle-aged men knowing that each and every one of them, including my own father, is thinking about my vagina. My hymen more specifically.

Thank God I grew up Catholic where I only had to feign virtue. If my father would've suggested that he and I, or any of my three sisters for that matter, attend the Purity Ball to celebrate virginity, I would've perished on the spot. More likely I would've had sex with the mailman or my priest or someone, anyone, just to get out of going. "Too late, Dad," I'd say, bloodied and bedraggled. "I guess we can't go."

When it’s time for dads and daughters to take the pledge (some informally exchange rings as well), the men stand over their seated daughters and read aloud from parchment imprinted with the covenant: “I, [father’s name], choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity….” The men inscribe their names and their daughters sign as witnesses. Then everyone returns to their meals and an excited buzz fills the room.

Yeah, an excited buzz like "thank fucking hell that's over." I know, I shouldn't be so jaded. It's not like I'm exactly a fan of promiscuity. And I do think that a strong relationship with dad lays a foundation for future interaction with the male species. But this is just so icky. And, no surprise, ineffective.

88% of the pledgers go on to have premarital sex. Of course, with more than the usual dose of guilt. They are less likely to use condoms because that would mean planning to have sex. Best that it "just happens." They are more likely to engage in anal sex (PROTECT THAT FLOWER!), again sans condom, which is risky behavior. Thus, as a group, pledgers have a higher-than-average rate of STDs.

Ideally, the daughter goes from being under the virginity contract right into the marriage contract. More tuxes, more pretty dresses, more cake. Forget the hidden clauses and caveats. Just enjoy your big day. And your special night as you present your treasure trove of earthly delights to your new headmaster.

I deeply wish that the lovely things I have seen tonight—the delighted young women, the caring, doting dads—might evolve into father-daughter events not tied to exhorting a promise from a girl that may hang over her head as she struggles to become a woman. When Lauren hit adolescence, her father gave her a purity ring and a charm necklace with a tiny lock and key. Lauren's father took the key, which he will hand over to her husband on their wedding day. The image of a locked area behind which a girl stores all of her messy desires until one day a man comes along with the key haunts me. By the end of the ball, as I watch fathers carrying out sleepy little girls with drooping tiaras and enveloping older girls with wraps, I want to take every one of those girls aside and whisper to them the real secret of womanhood: The key to any treasure you’ve got is held by one person—you.

That's the lesson that we should be teaching our children.

Read the entire scary article in Glamour Magazine.


laura abbott said...

Please tell me that you did not actually attend this event??!! I am picturing your darling daughter #1 enjoying, beyond words, such an evening with Dave. gag.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts. My daughter is getting close to the age where boys become more than an annoyance. I'd really prefer her to wait until she's married before she has sex. Statistically speaking, that would make her marriage more likely to be long and happy. In fact one survey found that women who have premarital sex are about 60 percent more likely to end up divorced later in life.

On the other hand, I have never been impressed by these purity vow ceremonies; their effect is short lived. In fact, I believe the vow would need to be "renewed" every six months for it to make any actual difference to behavior (can't remember where I read that). Besides, I love my daughter, and I don't want her to go through life weighed down by feelings that she is just a disappointment. Heaven knows, I've done plenty to be disappointed about.

Do you have any thoughts about how I could positively encourage her without laying a guilt trip on her?

Or do you think it's better for people to be able to experiment and enjoy sex however they want without any guilt attached? I can see some truth in that argument. My wife grew up in a much more devoutly religious family that I did, and she has all kinds of hang ups about sex (sucks to be me-lol). Seriously, though, what do you think?