Purity balls are dances where fathers pledge to protect their daughters’ pure hearts and daughters vow to remain virgins until marriage. It is a formal affair with elegant gowns, dancing and the aforementioned vow. Girls as young as 5 are encouraged to attend because there is no better time than early childhood to shape how a young girl views sex. A close father-daughter relationship is considered unequivocally critical because otherwise girls will turn to men to seek out approval or acknowledgment they aren’t receiving from their father. When you put all of the emphasis on the fathers and call them the “protectors of virgin hearts”, you are disempowering girls and taking away their autonomy. They say you are giving pieces of yourself away if you are promiscuous before marriage, that you aren’t a whole person if you can’t give your whole (virgin) self to your husband on your wedding day. This concept of being “less than” or “dirty” because you choose to have sex before marriage is just another form of slut shaming and a way to try to keep girls a commodity. The idea that a woman’s worth lies in how virginal she is is absurd. It erases all the other components of her personhood and reduces her to her sexuality. If she succumbs to temptation after all the social grooming that has taken place in her life, the guilt will eat her alive. What is virginity, anyway? Does the penis have to enter the vagina? Does the hymen have to break? What if it doesn’t break? What if it broke due to exercise? Does that mean I lost my virginity to an exercise routine? The whole thing comes off very heteronormative. Are gay people forever virgins? What about rape victims? It is a social construct that keeps the same tired patriarchal views in place. You can’t “give it away” because it doesn’t really exist. It only exists in a social context that is meant to rob girls and women of autonomy over their own bodies and feel guilt, shame and remorse over personal choices. Men do not face the same stigma that women do over this concept of virginity and do not parade around attending purity balls. Men are not expected to maintain a “pure heart, body and soul”. Virginity is sexist and homophobic and we need to stop placing such a significance on it. You are more than your body. You and you alone are in control of your body and your sexuality and what you choose to do with it is nobody’s business but your own.
August 14, 2014
the virginity myth