Hat tip to Christa.
So, purity balls! Purity balls are gross. I don’t think I know a single feminist who doesn’t think that purity balls are gross. It takes what is actually a kind of lovely idea (a dad and his daughter spend some time together at a ceremony that honors their relationship) and turns it into WHAT THE FUCK NO AWFUL LAND.
To wit: having a daughter vow to be pure in front of her dad is really, really fucking creepy. Pseudo-incestuous overtones! Treating sex or any sexual activity or lust before marriage as inherently a bad thing! The idea that your best contribution to your future husband is an unspoiled vagina! The idea that what you do with your genitals is the sum total of morality, as opposed to one aspect of it, no more or less important than whether you buy fair-trade tea!
Of course, the purity ball idiocy also has a fairly crappy view of men.
Think about it. Why don’t we have purity balls for boys? Purity balls are rooted in a conservative Christian morality, and it is not like premarital sex is not a sin in conservative Christian moralities if it’s done by a man. Why don’t we see bunches of dudes pledging their purity to their mothers (or, given the patriarchal nature of a lot of conservative Christian groups, still their fathers)?
Well, certain groups do have male-only ceremonies. In the comments of the article linked above someone mentions a “Warrior ceremony” where men get swords. Yes, really. I can only hope that was a local thing, because that combination of violence and militarism and masculinity is kind of depressing. But even Warrior ceremonies don’t have the sexual overtones that purity balls do.
Partially, it’s because the women’s virginities have value. It is a Precious Gift! A Gem! A Treasure You Are Saving For The One You Love! (Of course, it’s a double-edged sword, because as soon as you have sex you’re a lollipop someone else has licked.) Male virginities, on the other hand, are just kind of like… well, you’re supposed to have one, because this is the Christian abstinence movement we’re talking about and they don’t want anyone to have sex before marriage, but it doesn’t make you a Princess Nobly Waiting For Her White Knight. You have to be a white knight and actually do things to get the woman in the first place.
There is a fuckload more cultural support for virginal women than for virginal men, and the purity ball movement plays into that. If we already have the myth of the Virginal Princess Good Girl, it’s a lot easier for the abstinence movement to play into that then to create a whole new myth of the Virginal Prince Good Guy to replace the myth of the Virgin Nerd Who Is Kind Of A Loser.
The purity balls also buy in big to the myth of uncontrollable, predatory male sexuality. Men are only after one thing; even the good ones have to wage a battle with themselves (and yes, they do use the militaristic imagery, down to the Armor of Righteousness) to repress like a motherfucker that drive to fuck everything with a warm hole. So it’s easier for them to talk to women about controlling their sexuality and maintaining purity; the men are ravenous beasts who are already kind of lost to the cause of purity.
You can also see this in the modesty parts of the Christian abstinence movement. Women are, according to some groups, not supposed to wear immodest clothing (depending on how extreme the group is, “immodest” may be anything from a miniskirt to pants). If they wear immodest clothing, then they’re presenting a stumbling-block. Never mind that none of this is in the Bible and is in fact completely antithetical to Christian morality. You cannot, for instance, get out of loving your neighbor because your neighbor is acting really really unlovable and presenting a stumbling-block and fuck if he would just trim his trees you’d be able to love him like a good Christian.
But think about the view it gives of male sexuality. Because men can take their shirts off as much as they like! That does not present a stumbling-block to women apparently. (“Oooh, baby, take it off, be my stumbling-block, you can leave your hat on.”) That’s because men are ravenous beasts, in this particular cultural myth, and women are innocent princess virgins. So you have to get women to be gatekeepers and not to be tricked into sex by peer pressure and promises of love and Teh Teevee, and then the men won’t have sex either and you won’t have to try to control their Ravening Beast Sexualities.
(Don’t think about rape. Rape doesn’t happen. Or it only happens to unchaste and immodest girls who are, as previously discussed, already-licked lollipops.)
Can you say Knight/Beast Dichotomy? I think you can.