Dance for Virginity

Recently, at the Broadmoor Hotel:
Once you pop you cant stopFollowing 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 ritual 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, if Christian men even know that word.

Thank God I grew up Catholic where I only had to pretend to be good. 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.

18 thoughts on “Dance for Virginity

  1. I love that name of one organization, The South Dakota Abstinence Clearinghouse. Can single men sign up? Can married ones, too?

    All abstinence must go! We won’t be undersold! At Abstinence Clearinghouse, We’re Number One!

    I wonder, is there a Plan B other than ‘adoption’ when abstinence fails? Because the pure little girls are going to walk off often enough, leaving daddy and mommy holding the bag. The other Plan B, the impure one without a name, certainly must then be done outside the homestate, South Dakota.

  2. I wonder if The South Dakota Abstinence Clearinghouse can take old used or damaged “parts” and give out sparkly new ones? That would solve everything. Serial virginity.

  3. Or, as the Gallant Knight is headed off to the Crusades, and to almost certain death, Knowing that His Good and Faithful Squire has the Key to his wife’s chastity belt, and the Squire rides up behind him saying “Sire, sire, you’ve given me the WRONG KEY”

    On a more serious note, is this my febrile imaginings or does this scenario have a creepy pseudo-Religious similarity with Sha’aria and Honor Killings?

    I mean, in Leviticus, WHICH IF YOU READ THE WHOLE BOOK would actually forbid anybody from carrying out such an act, it instructs that women who are married, and their husbands find out that they are not virgins, they should be taken outside the city gates and stoned unto death.

    Which is the whole basis of Sha’aria Honor killings, and apparently, the Chastity Ball.

    One of the things people who skip around the Bible and especially Leviticus, looking for a reason to condemn others, Fail To Realize is the backward or sideways the book is read. In the book, Jesus is recognized as God, God Himself is called on to make a judgement on exactly that part of the Law, and pops right off with “sure, you can kill her, BUT only the ones who have NEVER broken any of the Law can participate” knowing full well that He was the only one there who could do it. And then declined to do it.

    Explaining this to either Christian Fundamentalists or people Outside the church gets a similar response, that Leviticus and the Old Testament don’t apply.

    Either by the Fundamentalist claim that the Law was taken away by the Cross, or the non-believers fundamental, …well.. Non-belief.

    Strangely, a lot of the same crowds (and there are quite a lot of non-christian war-mongers) use the Old Testament Eye for an eye argument to justify killing people.

    I prefer to think in the very small minority Outside Every Establishment way myself.

  4. LO fucking L. My guess, according to my NP mom who worked at CC for years, is that most of these young ladies have probably already lost their virginity. My mom also told me that many of the foreign students would go to GYNs to have their hymens resewn so they’d bleed on their wedding nights. As Stimpy would say: “Oh! Joy!”

  5. Or the Italian custom of having a chicken handy. So the next morning, if there isn’t blood on the sheet, the chicken takes the fast lane to hell and the parents of the recently “deflowered virgin” can hang a bloody sheet on the line.

    Everybody would know it’s fake anyhow, but it’s still the custom.

    you can tell they do that if the parents of the bride are seen eating chicken after hanging out the bloody sheet.

  6. I read the first page of the article…. A 4 year old signing the pledge? Damn that is freaky beyond belief. And these guys are pillars of OUR city….

  7. Nice stuff Maria. Too funny!

    Ah there’s nothing more Kodak moment than having a virgin on the alter. Makes a man want to dig out the cod piece and sing “Tradition” while the doctor leeches his wife for demonic possession.

    I like the trite attempt at wisdom using rhyme. “Once you pop you can’t stop.” Sure, and once you peel you can’t kneel. Once you barf you can’t larf. I think I’d prefer Smokey the Bear as spokesperson rather than moronic jingle. The Smokey icon would give the beastial fear element as well as valuable instruction about smoke detection before hot sex.

    Oh sure, culture always wants to attempt to link genitalia with religious metaphor, and why not? The wet parts are indeed a life force, and while it’s easy to spank the sanctimonious nature of this or any ritual, I’m equally sure most people somewhere/ sometime preach they prefer a lover who respects them for the broadness of their mind and not limited abilities with snake oil and gymnastics.

    (Marilyn Monroe died of sleeping pills just like yer mama!)

    Oh if I had a nickel for every sex joke I heard, my pockets would still jingle like the town fool. If I saved and rolled them, they might look more fortified in my pant’s front pocket, but eventually someone would want change and I would become incensed again.

    Please!, there is NOTHING more boorish than the literate orgasm… lest it learns to take all of this in measure, not measurement.

    Here’s some good advice… remember sexual etiquette is like aristocratic dining manners: always use the outer fork first.

    (The word processor I’m using just came up with a help prompt that read like a Freudian Slip. SNOW WHITE SPACE. How perplexing. Then I read it again, and realized it said SHOW WHITE SPACE. I felt relieved AND somehow guided.)

    Seriously, innocence does still have purpose, EVEN when not a virgin.

    And fear not, errogenous beings! If you put your ear to the ground and listen: most humans still say and believe that consensual sex IS both innocent and enjoyable. The other sound you hear is the heartbeat of your imagination.

    Ok, I lied. You won’t hear any sounds while you’re ear’s on the ground but the position has long proven inspiring at garnering invitations for buggery.

  8. Hear, hear! For innocence! I have oft claimed to be hanging on by my literal fingernails to the last remnants of my own innocence! Most important, I think, to the soul.
    I am appalled at the ridiculousness of this event. Thanks for the enlightenment, Marie. The images brought to mind, do indeed, include the sacrificial alter…..hard to escape. It’s the same reason virgins are kept in chains at brothels in Cambodia. The absurd male glorification of virginity.
    I wonder what William Blake would have to say.

  9. Do you suppose when the girl’s father hands over the key to his new son-in-law he says “Hubba, hubba” and elbows the guy in the ribs?

  10. Oh, I wonder, will I know
    A sight lovelier, grand, than the flow
    That did from my sweet virgin go?

    That I the first, there I lead
    And no base scoundrel beat my seed!

    For never ere did she taste
    the fruit of another, such a waste

    And pledge did she, this precious art
    To hold for me, her one true heart.

  11. Now I recognize the logo!!! he says in one of those amazing Duh! moments….

    and I used to eat pringles. Lots and lots of them.

    It seems like sacrilege, and it is, my Irish relatives would call it potato abuse, to make a snack from pulverized potato paste then molded then fried (or oven fried, sounds like a contradiction in terms, but you put a poopoo-load of grease on them before popping them into the oven.

    I stepped back and read that last sentence, sounded way way too Freudian.

    But the reason I used to eat them, they are easy to Mass Consume, a la Coneheads. Pick up a stack of them and stuff it all in your mouth. I could eat a whole can in like 10 mouthfuls. I don’t really suppose that was the intended serving size, or that they were marketed for the Glutton Consumer Group.

  12. Here’s the thing about innocence.

    I don’t think anyone who is curious for knowledge can keep it by “hanging on to it”. The concept of “loss of innocence” is based upon perspectives of failure, i.e. failing a role model, expectation, or an ideal of morality.

    As we mature (and stray from parental impressioning into our own realms of discovery/belief) innocence is NOT about what we DO but about what we Believe. So it would seem that to “keep ones innocence” actually means to either box your perspective or to broaden it.

    In this media life broadening a perspective can almost be dangerous (if not for humor, meds, hopefully a few good friends, or at least a good hiding place).

    I was trying to explain to a friend why the infringement of one personal civil liberty has compelled me to fight for the rights of others. Whether the issue of their concern is directly in my life or not, the concept of freedom of choice is the Ultimate Liberty. The specifics are simply details, from sexual rights to the puny ass issue of smoking pot (I still can’t believe the fuss over a dandelion!). All these things – become important to protect so that we protect our rights to be diverse AS A CULTURE as well as AS INDIVIDUALS.

    The parellel of Civil Liberties to Innocence is that in “adulthood” innocence is practiced by caring, not by being cared for. Innocence is not garnered nor kept – it is given.

    I can still suck my thumb, it’s just not quite as cute as it used to be. But if I suck your thumb, now we got something closer to Winnie the Pooh – providing of course you liked the thumb lick, and that you weren’t busy bragging the existence of a thumb to lower mammal forms. (Thumb envy, the undiagnosed regressive symptom of humanity!)

    Meanwhile back at the Sex Shop, I still proport that Innocence is selectivity and perspective, and more importantly, maintained by allowing your diversity in others. (The 13th puts the copy of “Guns and Underwear” on the counter, noting others are in line behind him.)

    So the irony of the Abstinence Ceremony is that it works through similar paradox. While the dads say no, the girls say go. I’ve heard the same of the Just Say No program – drug use goes up in the communities that it is used in. You gotta love the youthful mind for it’s hotrod rebelliousness and curiousity!

    Also, I’d like to note to the female blog writers – this is NOT solely an obsession with the vagina and virginity. Similar taboos are held upon men per sperm spilling, stray-dogging, and even facial expression during point of climax. Face it – we’ve all been “exposed” to the exspousal – and some of it has been uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I think the ceremonies are about fertility – not promiscuity.

    It’s the Crop Ring For Two Anthem at first, but eventually we can follow the rice trails to Plantation Podburst Hoedowns and redux. The ceremonies are about Procreation not Recreation. It’s not about our croquet clubs or the stroke – it is whether the hoops let the ball through.

    I’m hoping we can relax our defensive instincts to protect the right to enjoy sex as well as and especially including our ability to discuss it. By making these finer distinctions more apparent and less a parent we not only safeguard our rights of pleasure and innocence but we protect our culture from ritualistic breeding, and emphasize the importance of choice and commitment in parenting.

    Yep, I can defend Latex and Lace for a Better Families. (A slight nod to Dr. James Dobson, and the underwear that makes him squirm so).

    Is loving a recreation? If freedom is a breakfast food, lunch break always goes too fast.

    (Diann, maybe your books are getting filled, but save your fingernails from worry. Your soul is always (never) in remnants, so don’t be surprised it looks that way. someplace i never travelled, now cummings on these sheets. unfold the folding or try origami.)

  13. First of all, 13th, you have summed up my prescription for survival perfectly. Humor, meds, a few good friends, and a great hiding place. Your comment was totally brilliant and hilarious.

    And, Jonah. I’m glad you made the Pringles connection. Pringles are near and dear to my heart as well. My sisters and I used to have hours of fun taking a single chip, opening our mouths wide and placing the chip vertically over the pie hole, and then sucking in hard so that the chip implodes into the mouth cavity in a shocking and dangerous fashion. More fun than this one cannot even hope for.

  14. Thank you too Marie. You make one of my “hiding places” a little more warm, and yep, it’s enjoyable to read the contributions from everyone on Not My Tribe.

    Where is the ubiquitous E? I do wish he’d slow down the politics and ooze something for this post. This blog and The Big E are making me feel rather guilty for being such a political clout. I don’t mind admitting this fact, but he seems to enjoy it too much!

    What ever happened to the joy of disempowerment anyway?!?

    Oh sure, call it ignorance… i won’t argue. I’ll find a wall and blend into it. Maybe paint a soup can with Andy. Make a movie, Bowling for Ghandi. Perhaps see if Charlie wants to talk sense yet.

    Meanwhile if someone starts a topic on Toasters or The Joy of Being on the No Call List, I’ll grab at something more to say and try to stall the indifference a bit longer or until I’m certain all elements of the current presidency and those responsible are removed from sight. Including me.

    It’s not safe to think or feel – lest it painted flag colors these days.
    How sad USA, how sad. You’ve GOT to love this World.

    (Isn’t it equally wonderful that Pringles can’t be made out of hemp? Somedays I could almost eat a hot dog again…)

    To Innocence and Gray Matter… thanks again, Marie, and All. Save a monkey wrench for me.

  15. The problem with these postings, is that you cannot view the wry grin on my face when purporting to be “hanging on to the last shreds of my own innocence”. My fingernails are intact, Mr. 13th. While innocence may be a measure of morality, it is measured by intent.

  16. I had my hymen reinstalled 17 times! Seriously, though, what about men? Are boys also asked to remain virgins? What a strange religious ceremony. Girls, keep that hymen intact! Your best friends are the bathtub faucet and the jets of Uncle Mort’s hot tub (when no one’s looking).

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