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Purity Ball

Just The Tip: Teaching Sex Ed to 4-yr-olds, Duggar grossness, Your Number, V-Myths and more...

Our weekly collection of interesting links from around the internets. Click on the titles to link. (Or, why wait? Get up-to-the minute news on our Facebook page)

Bill Nye explains The Sex

Not super informative, but how can you resist? Bill Nye's at the Museum of Sex in New York to explain the evolutionary purpose of sex. Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts STARTALK (MONDAYS 11/10c on NatGeo).


Jaclyn Friedman on Caitlyn Jenner and the complicated definitions of womanhood:

"Trans people are not magical gender warriors. We may politicize their bodies, but they are not obligated to play along. As with all of us, some may decide to become activists, but most won’t, and either way, none of them will exclusively do the most politically expedient thing every time they’re faced with a choice. Because they’re human. They don’t owe the world a revolution, or even an explanation. And they’re certainly not obligated to live up to the arbitrary standards of one random cis woman."


Inside the Duggars' Dark World

Young women are not only robbed of any sexual agency, this culture also teaches that "Women are objects, controlled and exchanged by men to create and affirm the men’s identities...Women. Are. Not. People." And it has implications for all of us. An essay by one of our fave virginity geeks, Jaime Hough.


I was interviewed for this piece (along with our How To Lose Your Virginity expert Hanne Blank) about busting virginity myths. Loved contributing thoughts along with lots of screen grabs from the film:

"Male virginity wasn't even discussed as a thing until the 20th century," Therese Shechter, creator of the documentary How to Lose Your Virginity, told Mic. "Whether a man was sexual or not had little bearing on his character or value."
"The concept of virginity is all too often tied to how we talk about women's morality and sexual choices," Shechter said. "I think people should define virginity however they want, or dismiss the concept it altogether if it's not useful to them."

Is You Sexual History As Impressive As You Think?

In other words, am I a slut or a loser? So lemme just go get a pencil. But first...What exactly does 'slept with' mean? And if our definitions are different based on which parts touched other parts, then what exactly are we comparing and tallying? And what constitutes a lot? I know, I know...this is just a dumb internet game, but can we all agree 'the number' makes no sense? Instead, why not ponder the first milestone of your sexual history with our own quiz.


In the Netherlands, sex education starts in Kindergarten

We North Americans do such a lousy job of teaching our young about sexuality. The Dutch are miles ahead of us:

“People often think we are starting right away to talk about sexual intercourse [with kindergartners],” van der Vlugt says. “Sexuality is so much more than that. It’s also about self image, developing your own identity, gender roles, and it’s about learning to express yourself, your wishes and your boundaries.”

That means the kindergartners are also learning how to communicate when they don’t want to be touched. The goal is that by age 11, students are comfortable enough to navigate pointed discussions about reproduction, safe sex, and sexual abuse.

 

Be a VirginSpotter! Got a story you think we should talk about? Contact us or tweet at us here.

Just The Tip: Virginity In The News with Pervy prom dads, more Purity TV, Sex lies for guys,and 7 penises in my soda

   IMG_20140510_190019-768x1024 You may have already seen this amazing post from a teenager named Clare popping up everywhere online. It's powerful not just because the story she tells is so hideously sexist, but because more and more, young people are standing up and calling bullshit on Purity Police attacks on their bodies, freedom and moral value.

Fabulous home-schooled teen Clare tells the world about getting kicked out of her prom for wearing a too-short dress (at left, even though it adhered to the prom's dress code) and dancing provocatively (even though she wasn't even dancing). And she is pretty clear on what the problem really was.

"We were also a little grossed out by all the dads on the balcony above the dance floor, ogling and talking amongst themselves. We weren’t dancing, but swaying with the music and talking and enjoying ourselves, when Mrs. D again approached me, and gestured me off the dance floor...and told me that some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative, and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts."

How many times have we heard this same old bullshit song: Girls are responsible for keeping guys from thinking impure thoughts. And guys are so 'visual' that they get driven mad by the sight of a girl's knees and just can't control themselves. And it's a girl's fault if guys are driven so mad by whatever the girl is supposedly doing or wearing, they rape them in a fit of clothing-induced sexual frenzy. We hear it every fucking day, when a woman is blamed for causing herself to get raped. Instead of policing everything women do because boys just can't control themselves, why don't we just blindfold the boys, or better yet lock them up at home. They're the ones who have control issues, not the girls.

Or as Clare so succinctly puts it:

"Goddamn I’m not responsible for some perverted 45 year old dad lusting after me because I have a sparkly dress on and a big ass for a teenager."

Seriously, read the whole thing here!

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Ah, Abstinence-Until-Marriage programs, spreading bad logic and shame since 1996.

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Actual Craig’s List ad from this week.

Are you Pure? Are you attending a Purity Ball?

Major television company is looking for families who are attending an upcoming Purity Ball. Whether it's your first or tenth time, we would love to hear your story and how you became involved in this powerful and life changing event.

Purity Balls certainly can be a life-changing event. At least according to the young women I meet at college screenings who are coping with being told how dirty and unlovable they are since they had sex. Ever been to a purity ball? Did it change your life?

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16 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Boys about Sex is the follow-up to Policy Mic’s post on the lies we teach girls. Both posts are good for all genders. This one covers penis size, virginity loss, circumcision, sex drives, who comes first and more.

Want to know what’s really creepy about Purity Balls? (Hint: It’s not the photos)

PurityMagnusson Do an internet search for the words 'creepy photos,' and you’ll likely be directed to Purity, Swedish photographer David Magnusson's haunting photo essay of fathers and daughters all dressed up for their Purity Balls. A Purity Ball, if you don't already know, is sort of a father/daughter prom, with the difference being that the girls pledge their virginity to their fathers for safekeeping, so it can be handed over to their husbands on their wedding day. They happen all over the country, although with a bit less frequency than the constant coverage might indicate.

Still, every time news of these events pop up, in photos, or on a recent episode of Nightline on ABC, the non-Purity-Ball-going readership responds with a collective shudder, most often invoking the word 'incestuous' in headlines and comments. Looking at Magnusson's photos, (or my own film) I can see how people may come to that conclusion, but ask one of the dads in the photo and he'll just tell you that you have a really dirty mind and the Balls are beautiful events. Wherever you stand on this issue, getting all weirded out by the images is just a distraction from the truly creepy aspects of events like this (and the culture behind them):

Purity Balls are an invention of the evangelical Christian movement which believes that men should have control over women's bodies and sexual choices. Girls as young as 7 or 8 ritually invoke their father, their future husband and their God during these ceremonies–three male authorities tasked with policing her sex life.

Purity Balls are a throwback to when women were property and unmarried daughters without their virginity were damaged goods no one wanted to buy. The idea of a woman's 'most precious gift' comes from the understanding that she is the gift, valuable as long as she's still wrapped in her original packaging.

Purity Balls focus on female sexuality exclusively. There is no male equivalent of purity balls because young men are sent different messages and held to different standards. Integrity Balls, which are relatively rare, are events for mothers and sons, but the prevailing message for young men is that they shouldn't have sex before marriage because they will ruin a girl's value for her future husband.

Purity Balls assume everyone is heterosexual and interested in marriage. The fact that queer people exist, with their own definition of what constitutes sex or virginity, and their own ideas of who they might want to have sex with or marry, is never discussed or even acknowledged.

Purity Balls are intimately tied to Abstinence-Until-Marriage programs which provide no real sex education, but instead teach that sex before marriage will cause physiological and psychological harm, that contraception doesn't work, and that girls are responsible for controlling boys' sexual urges lest they be branded sluts. To stay a 'virgin,' a young women will often engage in far riskier activities like oral or anal sex, fulfilling the letter–if not the spirit–of their pledge. And since their abstinence classes don’t teach safer sex practices, they’re extremely vulnerable to STDs. These programs been proven ineffective by our own government, despite the fact that they are still being funded by our taxpayer dollars, at over $1.5 billion to date.

Purity Ball culture is enmeshed with political forces that oppose reproductive rights, supporting groups that are fighting to deny women birth control (or at the very least not have insurance cover it) as well as any access to safe and legal abortions. In fact, many Purity Balls are hosted by Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which use deceptive advertising and intake methods to prevent women's access to contraception and abortion. Google recently removed CPC ads that lie about providing abortions because of that deceptive advertising.

Purity Balls have a freak-show quality that distracts us from seeing the very same issues in our own back yards. Policing and controlling women’s bodies is not limited to a bunch of evangelicals, but turn up all over the cultural landscape, from limiting reproductive rights, to telling rape victims they asked for it, to slut-shaming women (but not men) for having too many partners.

Purity Ball reporting often ignores the dilemmas these young women are face. This culture’s core values embody damaging messages about women and sexuality (see above), but there's nothing inherently weird about having a warm relationship with your dad, or looking forward to a dress-up party with your sisters. As photographer Magnusson says:“it is clear that the girls—in many cases, young women—are independent, strong, and insightful,” but when you're in the middle of this environment, it's may be very hard to step out of it and call bullshit, even if you find it confusing or unfair. As one woman recently said to me:

“Some of those girls are too young to even realize what they are doing. I made a vow like this when I was only 12 and it didn't quite go as planned. I was guilt-tripped and got really close to being hit when I broke that vow. Virginity doesn't define your worth and I absolutely hate how many girls buy into the lie that once you've lost it, you're basically used goods. I bought into it and went through some terrible times of anxiety and depression.”

At a recent university screening of my film, another young woman who grew up in this culture shared her story. She’s finally starting to get over feeling dirty and worthless because of sex, and the fact that she was ever made to feel this way is the creepiest thing of all.

How I went from Purity Pledger to Queer Radical Feminist, thanks to two years of 'Cotillion' Classes

Note: This interview first ran on on the blog on June 26, 2013 (as did this image from the 'Purity' photo series). The photos have received a lot of attention lately, and we thought we should repost this fabulous interview as well. The subject of the photos is NOT the subject of the interviews. It's just for illustration purposes.

  Olivia seems to have burned all the photos from her Cotillion, so enjoy this father-daughter portrait from photographer David Magnusson's series  Purity  instead.

Olivia seems to have burned all the photos from her Cotillion, so enjoy this father-daughter portrait from photographer David Magnusson's series Purity instead.

 

Judy P. is an art history student at Brown University who is interested in the intersections of art, politics, race, class, and gender. Check out her other posts here.

Looking at my friend Olivia, with her piercings and pixie cut, you would never guess she was a purity-pledger in her pre-pubescent years. I was surprised when I first found out about her conservative roots and religious background, because now she's a queer, die-hard feminist. It took me a second to realize that I had a similar history as well: Traditional household, religious upbringing, Catholic/ boarding school, and my own purity-pledge ceremony at church as a kid! Here's my conversation with Olivia:

JUDY: So what exactly is a "Cotillion" anyways? I'm imagining dainty French girls in ball gowns descending a grand staircase.

OLIVIA: Cotillion, in my experience anyway, was a weekly class in 5th and 6th grade, where we were taught how to be proper "ladies and gentlemen." We learned how to use silverware and sit properly. We also learned how to dance together, men leading, women following. We occasionally split into gendered groups where only the girls would learn how to be "pure" in the eyes of God. Which, of course, means no sex before marriage, no masturbation, no fantasizing, not having a sexuality until you want to have babies. In the end we girls had a purity ceremony where we pledged our purity in front of our father and pastor. The boys didn't learn about purity, and they had a party with their moms, but no purity ceremony.

What happened during this purity ceremony?

Ironically, they called it a “coming-out” ceremony. It was at the end of 6th grade, which was the end of the weekly classes in a ballroom in town. All of the girls lined up at the top of the stairs with their dads, and you would come down one by one. And you'd be passed from your dad to your pastor. Pretty much everyone was Presbyterian or Catholic, so we all had some kind of religious leader. Then you danced with your father, and there was food and just a little party. And then anyone who wanted to do a performance took the stage. And then you got a little certificate and a ring.

A performance? Like a talent show?

Yeah, kind of like a talent show. A lot of people had dropped out by the end of Cotillion, so I think that final talent portion was their way of bribing us to stay in Cotillion until the end, so you could do your little performance. I was in a tap-dancing class with some other girls in our grade, and we were really excited to do our tap-dancing routine.

You mentioned that it's supposed to be a father-daughter bonding experience, right? How exactly? What do you think it said about father-daughter relationships (or male-female relationships in general)?

It was a tradition that fathers were supposed to guide their daughters to purity or whatever, to oversee the process and make sure we were becoming proper ladies in the eyes of God. But really the only role they played was at the end they had the power to say that you had received sufficient training to not fuck up and be a slut. Honestly, the father-daughter dynamic always felt really sickly romantic to me. It's just these creepy fathers watching these mid-pubescent girls "develop into women" and then make them promise to remain pure for them. It all was kind of gross and sexual in a weird way, and it definitely created a very weird vibe between me and my dad.

How did your dad feel about all this?

Well, it was never really his idea. It was definitely more of my mom's idea. She always wanted our lives to look very fancy and presentable and conservative. And I think my dad went along with it because he wanted religion to be a part of our lives, and this was the only way my mom would allow it to. She was never attached to her Judaism, but she also didn't want Catholicism in our lives either. She saw Cotillion as more of a social statement than a religious one.

My dad was always awkward with me while I was going through puberty, like never really got close to me or hugged me. So I think this whole topic of sex, especially when I was in 6th grade, really freaked him out. He just really wanted to ignore that whole aspect of it and we've never really talked about it since then.

So what happened if someone broke their pledge? Would it all be hush hush or did they make a big deal about it?

There were confessional “ceremonies.” They weren't something I ever had to do but other girls in my class did. Basically if you "break your purity" then you have to confess in front of your pastor and your father in order to "revitalize your purity." So you sit there with these two creepy old men and stand up and say "last night I gave Jesse a blowjob and I apologize to my father and to God." Then the pastor asks you details (i.e how did it happen/ how did it make you feel) to which the girl replies, to her father and pastor, that she got drunk and sucked a dick and felt like a whore. And then you are given your purity back.

So this whole Cotillion thing was highly religious, then? This sounds like the confessionals in Catholic church.

It was offered through my private school and some people connected to their church through it, but it was non-denominational. The pastor was only involved if you were a part of a religious group. It was Connecticut and everyone was Presbyterian so that's why the pastor was there.

Who do you think has the authority here to "give" a girl her purity back?

I don't even know. I guess God and her father. I think they want you to really fight for it and learn from your mistakes. It's about recognizing what you did as wrong and scaring you into never doing it again.

From a 5th-6th grade girl's point-of-view, how did it shape how you perceived yourself at the time?

I definitely started to develop more radical feelings about sex. Even though I wasn't really having sex, I kind of was. That was the time when I started sending out naked pictures to boys in my school and pulling my thong above my skirt during class. My sexuality didn't necessarily derive from being touched as much as it did from being wanted. It makes sense to me now that this began while I was being forced to train myself as a particular kind of sexual agent. I think I had such a strong desire to deviate from this person they were trying to brainwash me to become that I actually felt empowered in a way that now I feel would oppress me.

Looking back at the ceremony, what is it all about to present-day you?

It's all about approval from men. Fuck it's really all about approval from men! They were training us to be submissive and scared and oppressed!

My feminism definitely started to take shape when I became aware of both the power these systems could have over me and how fucked up they were. This was the time when I started questioning patriarchy and being mad and trying so hard to fight it. I liked being sexual because it meant that I wasn't being sucked into this scary-ass viewpoint where people just hate and judge and try to define your identity for you.

I was fighting against this feeling that I was becoming a robot, a domestic, submissive, oppressed robot. And it's so fucking scary because looking back, so many girls turned out that way. You know, in Therese's film I Was A Teenage Feminist she interviews this guy who says, "I think we are all born feminists and we just get talked out of it." I think this is beyond true. I feel so lucky that I was able to escape that world and challenge the system because they'll fucking get you!

Just The Tip: Virginity in the News with Broad City's Ilana Glazer, Purity creepiness, virginty auctioner revealed, sex myths, and campus rape stats

I've been asking people about this very thing for so many years now, and I've seen a lot of other people try it with mixed results. It's tough to get strangers to talk honestly about sex on camera, but Ilana is really sweet and funny and some of the stories are really touching. I shouldn't have been surprised given her other work, most lately Broad City, the show she created with Abbi Jacobson. It started as a web series about two young and underemployed women in NYC, and was picked up by Comedy Central, with Amy Poehler Exec Producing! If you haven't sampled it yet, do it now.

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There's a photo series all over the internet right now by Swedish photographer David Magnusson called Purity. Everyone is freaking out about how creepy they are. So, yes, purity ball photos can sometimes look incestuous, but know why they're really creepy? They represent a culture where men own these girls' sexuality, purity balls fund CPCs, and their freak-show quality distracts us from all the sexuality bs happening in the rest of the world. Yes, I'm writing about it, so stay tuned.

PS Judy actually spotted this project last year and loved it so much she used it as part of her story "How I went from Purity Pledger to Queer Radical Feminist, thanks to two years of ‘Cotillion’ Classes." Above is the image we used (our favorite) which for some reason they're not including in the galleries online.

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Juliana at Feministing wrote a lovely piece on our film and we especially loved the fact that she watched it with her little sis! Here are two excerpts that meant a lot to us, because they spoke to our goals for the film:

I have a little sister and, like any good feminist, I spend a lot of time making sure that she knows that her worth extends beyond her beauty, her body, and her sexuality. As she is still a teenager, a big topic in her life and that of her peers lately has been virginity. Personally, I don’t think that my sexuality or “virginity” is an object to lose, or give away, and I don’t want her to think that either. That’s why I was so excited to watch How to Lose Your Virginity with her...

..In spite of the fascinating and telling historical context, the true triumph of How to Lose Your Virginity is in how relatable it is. The first time I had sex, I was surprised at how anti-climactic the whole thing was. Watching this film, it was touching to see my experience mirrored back at me."

I think we need to start a See It With Your Sister campaign, pronto!

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3adb6ae4af129bdcbd30348211f44554Over at Policy Mic, we got another shout-out in a story called 17 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Girls About Sex, with tackles everything from virginity and hymen myths to period sex to women who watch porn (and illustrated by Ms Ilana Glazer) It warms my mythbusting heart that this exists, so I was pretty shocked at the vehemence with with people were challenging it in the comments.

One of the biggest points of contention was myth #1 "Virginity exists" and hoo boy did people have problems with that one! There were several comments to the effect of 'virginity does too exist and it's real and everyone knows what it is.' Well, everyone does NOT know what it is, and in fact the lack of any concrete definition is what's confused and terrorized women forever (the simple fact that many women don't bleed on penetration has done untold damage)

But for the record, we do think virginity exists, just not in the 'one-magic-moment-when-the-penis-goes-into-the-vagina" way. It exists in many forms, with each new experience and new partner. What doesn't and shouldn't exist is one specific virginity that's used to categorize, judge and police people (mostly women) based on their sexual choices. That's bullshit. And truth be told, that's pretty much what Policy Mic was saying as well, it's just that heading that got people so out of joint.

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Jaclyn Friedman wrote a rather chilling but important article on a new way to select colleges– check the campus rape statistics:

Those precious few who ask at all tend to check a school's reporting numbers, assuming that a low rate of rapes reported on a campus is a good sign. But most of the time the reverse is true: every campus has a rape problem – the ones where students feel comfortable reporting are actually safer campuses.

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Virginity auctioneer Elizabeth Raine, who I wrote about here and here, has decided to show people what she looks like. She was initially concerned about getting kicked out of her med school if people found out who she was, but now says: "I actually didn't like the anonymity. People mistake it for shame." Her top official bid is $550,000 and her auction ends May 7th.You can see more photos and learn more about her at her site.

I really enjoyed deconstructing virginity myths with Liz in our Nerve.com interview, and I hope this whole process doesn't fuck her up. I don't mean because of the sex (although I hope that goes OK as well), but because of the crude attention and News of the Weird nature of virginity auctions.

 

Found some Virginity in the News? Be a Just The Tipster and let us know! Email us, or post to twitter with @virginitymovie in your message.

 

Just the Tip: Virginity in the News featuring Purity Shake, Russian army virgins, pulp promiscuity and tampon questions

This week's Just The Tip is by newest Team Trixie Films member Judy Park. She's taking a short break from studying at Brown University where she's getting her degree in the History of Art and Architecture. She doesn't tweet or keep a blog, thankyouverymuch. A roundup of the latest virginity stories in the media:

Watching this short clip without any information or context, one can easily assume that these girls, in their big, colorful dresses, are letting loose after the school dance with their boys. I sure wouldn't have guessed that these are purity ball attendees, having just vowed to remain holy and chaste until marriage. And check out the dad in the left corner. Is he embarrassed for the girls or does he simply not dig the Harlem Shake*?

[*Note: Which has nothing to do with the actual Harlem Shake, which you can see in this video and on Melissa Harris Perry's show]

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A nationalistic, 25-year-old Russian man was denied admission to the army, not because he has oddly shaped feet or a spindly, hairy tail that drags in his wake, but because he's *gasp* a virgin. When he told the psychiatrist about his lack of experience:

"He sent me to a mental hospital! I am an absolutely healthy man, but he sent me there to prove that I was crazy. And all because of a girl?"

Just another case of male virginity = pathology.

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Bitch Magazine, in celebration of their new Pulp issue, is showcasing three obscure, old school books on their website for one week. "The Promiscuous Breed" from 1966 caught our eye for its portrayal of promiscuous women with funny, weird language of that time period. Bitch's favorite paragraph from the book includes the lines:

"This volume deals with the very real problems of Sex Before Marriage, problems which beset your town, your community, your own home. It shows the reader in carefully researched case histories just how the death knell of chastity is being sounded in America and why."

If you're in Portland, check out Bitch Magazine's Pulp Release Party, happening Wednesday, March 6th

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Also via Bitch: Once you are sexually active, do you need to go to the doctor so they can cut a piece of your vagina off? Is there a safe way to lighten or even out the tone on your vulva lips? Can you get pregnant by kissing during your period? These are some of the questions that tweens are asking as part of a campaign by U by Kotex (you know, the tween pads and tampons I still use), revealing the alarming dearth of information that teen girls have about their bodies and sexualities. It's cool that there's an anonymous, safe space in the cyber world for girls to ask questions that they are too afraid to ask in the real world, but wouldn't it be even cooler if these topics could be discussed more openly and honestly with peers, parents, and teachers?

Thanks to virginspotter @j_a_allan for the Russian story! Want to be a virginspotter, too? Send your links here.

[Hymen Week] Broad Comedy is saving their hymens for Jesus

Cable has Shark Week, we have Hymen Week! All this week we're reposting some of our favorite hymen-related stories from the truly alarming to the very ridiculous. This post originally ran in 2008. Share your biggest hymen and virginity myths here.

Katie Goodman and Broad Comedy have done some pretty irreverent sketches, and "I'm Saving My Hymen for Jesus" is not exception. They performed it live at our Purity Ball Fundraiser and recently shot this video. You can check out their other videos , such as "Soccer Mom Ho" and "United States Extreme Right Wing Cheerleading Squad Vol. 1" on their website.

"The Purity Myth" is now a movie!

The movie version of Jessica Valenti's great book "The Purity Myth" just came out and, like the book, it's a great full-frontal assault on abstinence-until-marriage, purity balls and the general anti-feminist stance championed by the religious right. The trailer, above, is chock-full of  archival clips from news, old educational films and modern-day abstinence videos.

"The Purity Myth" is being marketed exclusively to the educational market for now, so the price is steep, but you can watch a preview on the website.

We love Jessica's work here at HQ, and we're really glad the interview we did with her is a big part of the abstinence segment of our own film-in-progress.

What They Were Thinking: Purity Balls, Obeying Fathers, Serving Husbands

"...I go[...]yearly to remind myself of the commitment I have made to keep myself pure — physically, morally, sexually — until I am married. What I really like about my father going is that he is the one that God has put at the head of our household. I’m preparing myself for when I am married, so I think you could call my dad my guinea pig. I’m learning how to serve, respect, love, honor my husband. I practice that by loving, serving and obeying my father."

Tara Wixom, 14 New York Times Magazine feature "What They Were Thinking: A Purity Ball, Oroville, Calif." (Interview by Alexandra Wolfe)

The troubling issue for me is not about waiting until marriage to have sex. It's about making that waiting synonymous with 'moral purity' and the need to learn how to properly serve your husband. It's about assuming you will want a husband. It's about your entire sexual being being placed under the moral authority of your [male] father/husband/God. That, and the fact that there's not a purity-pledging boy in sight.

V-Card Diaries: Marie "Virginity is a purely social construct, so I don’t define it."

Today we're highlighting Marie from Michigan who talks about how the idea of virginity excludes the LGBT community. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself, your age, your background:

I am an 18-year-old freshmen college student who attends Central Michigan University. I am studying Women's Studies and hope to one day attend law school. I run a tumblr blog where I blog about feminist issues.

How do you define virginity?

I think virginity is a purely social construct so I don't define it. I think it doesn't exist.

Why do you feel this way?

I started feeling this way when I got more involved with the LGBT community. I am not part of the community myself, but many of my friends are. I saw some of them struggle over the definition of "virginity" because society doesn't include people who are LGBT. The more I watched my friends struggle with this concept, the more I realized that virginity in the long run doesn't really matter. It's all relative anyway. Now as a feminist, I believe this more than ever. I don't think people should be hung up about their sexual status. It doesn't matter.

What are your thoughts on virginity in our society?

I think virginity in society is vastly over-rated. From white wedding dresses to purity balls, society has this obsession with female virginity and I think it's unhealthy.

Anything else you want to tell us that we didn't ask about?

I hope that as a society we can move past the concept of virginity. I feel like if we did this it would take a lot of stigma and negativity off of female sexuality. Sexuality should be celebrated, not repressed. However, as much as I want that to happen, I don't think it will in the near future.

Want to tell your story? Go to our submission page.

Smells like purity ball, tastes like chicken

This post was written by Ellice

If you're in San Antonio over the week and you're interested in feeling weird, maybe you should attend Chick-fil-A's annual Daddy Daughter Date Night With your daddy, or your daughter. I don't know. Apparently they fill up, but it's OK  because you and your date can make free reservations. It seems you might eat a chicken sandwich, be serenaded by someone in a cow outfit, and you will probably be videotaped (see here for last year at the Danville, VA location).

Of course it's good for fathers to spend time with their daughters. I would probably be more open-minded about this event were it not for...everything about it. The entire color scheme, the sprawling red ribbons, and the hearts evoke way more romance than family fun. I'm sorry (I'm not sorry), they do. Before I even found out about Chick-fil-A's contributions to anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family, and their evangelical corporate mission statement ("To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."), the way it was all framed–it was just off. When I found out that every daughter takes home a pink carnation, I threw my hands up. My attempts at open-mindedness eventually looked to me, naive. Like a pink carnation. Really.

Daddy Daughter Date Night is not technically a purity ball but the parallels are difficult to ignore. Feminists and other critically-minded folks often turn green at purity ball cultures, for instance at The Frisky, where there's a post worth reading on this event. People talk about purity balls as though they are freak phenomena, thriving only at the margins of fundamentalist cultures. You might not know anyone personally who attends them but I think purity balls, daddy daughter dates, etc. are the more spectacular face of an insidious, more subtle sexism we engage with every day.

With respect to Chick-fil-A's event, there's the obvious 'ew' factor, understandable to anyone living in a culture with an incest taboo. But the date night is disturbing on another level, in that it replays an idea endemic to purity balls and evangelical gender politics: that a young woman's sexuality should be managed first and foremost by her father. This brand of paternalism, which places female sexual capacity and power in the hands of anyone but herself, definitely warrants more 'ew's.

A collection of essays and art on Sexuality, Virginity and Purity

As a run-up to tonight's event with Jessica Valenti (and our virginity video booth!), organizer Paradigm Shift has published a series of diverse pieces on virginity including essays on Mormons, consent, queer virginity and works of art (from part 5, above).

So far they've posted 7 parts with more to come:

Part 1: A Poem called '-velation'

Part 2: Her Burning Bra

Part 3: “I Wasn't Raped” - WHAT?

Part 4: Queering Virginity

Part 5: Artwork and Poem by Penny Girl Pearl

Part 6: A Literary Analysis of Twilight and its Message about Purity

Part 7: Thou Shalt Remain a Virgin until Marriage -
The importance of female virginity in the Mormon Church

VH1's 'The New Virginity' this Thursday

VH1's News division is presenting a show on virginity this Thursday and Friday called "The New Virginity." From the description it sounds like they're focusing on celebrity virgins with a bit of Purity Ball and Natalie Dylan virginity auction thrown in for good measure.

They spoke to me way back when about being interviewed but it didn't pan out, however fellow virginity geek Jessica Valenti is on the show (although she cautions: "You never know how your quotes are going to be used, often out of context. So if you see me saying something horrible assume it’s not me, but the editing.") Jessica recently announced that there's a film being made based on her book "The Purity Myth" so I'm thinking a virginity film festival might be in order!

Check out our new trailer!



We're so excited to share our latest trailer for the documentary "How To Lose Your Virginity." Please forward, tweet, and post it widely to all your friends!

We recently showed it at the Paley Docfest's Pitching Workshop in New York, where it was a huge hit with the audience and a panel of TV execs. The biggest question from the crowd was "When can we see the finished film?" The answer is we're working hard on it, but we need your support to finish shooting and editing so we can get it out there.

If you read the blog and want to see the film get done, please take a minute to support the project. Donating is easy and tax-deductible! Simply click here and scroll down to "The American Virgin.*"

Film making is an expensive undertaking, and we know things are tight for everyone, so all contributions of any size would be awesome. If you donate $200 or more, we'll put your name in the final credits! And remember, if you do it in the next two days, you can make it a 2009 tax deduction!

Stay in the loop on screenings and other events:
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*We're working on the name transition, so bear with us! And don't worry if it looks like you're buying a video. You're not. Thanks again!

We Called It Christian Sex, We Weren't That Clever

Another youthful memory from our Former Fundamentalist: I remember hearing rumors of youth group pals taking it up the keester-hole in an effort to preserve their virginity. As a fourteen-year-old judgement hound, I figured God would send them to hell first – 1) for trying to loophole his commandments and 2) for being real nasty. Who knew it would become the national pastime amongst the horny and poser-holy?

To honor Obama's risky choice to have the decidedly anti-gay and his-book's-kinda-boring Rick Warren save everyone at the inauguration, Dan Savage of Savage Love put forth a challenge to his readership: Let's redefine "saddlebacked"! (Rick is Lord of Saddleback Church.) My fave won:

'Saddlebacking' should be the term for the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities. 'After attending the Purity Ball, Heather and Bill saddlebacked all night because she's saving herself for marriage.'

Virginity: Priceless or Worthless?

I swore to stop writing about this, but Salon's Kate Harding weighs in with an interesting response to Natalie Dylan's Daily Beast virgin-auction justification.

Most important, though, reading Dylan's thoughtful essay made me realize that objecting to the whole concept of putting a price on a young woman's virginity implies that I do believe it's priceless. Which would put me in the camp with people who throw purity balls and believe "hookup culture" is a threat to young women's sanity. I don't believe virginity is priceless -- I believe that in an ideal world, it would be valueless. 

What I want is a world in which there are no virginity auctions because there are no bidders, because nobody fetishizes a woman's "purity" or actually thinks of a sexually active woman as dirty and spoiled. In the meantime, maybe an increase in hymen auctions will eventually drive down the market value of a deflowering and diminish the cultural mystique of the dewy young virgin. That's the kind of cold capitalism I could get behind.

UK discovers Purity Balls. And guess what?They think they're creepy.


BBC4 just broadcast a documentary called "The Virgin Daughters" about America's very own purity ball phenomenon. From the show's website:

This week Cutting Edge explores the controversial purity movement currently sweeping across the United States. One-in-six American girls now pledges to remain a virgin – and some even to save their first kiss – until their wedding day. But is this their decision, or their fathers'?

Providing a fascinating insight into America's heartland, award-winning documentary maker Jane Treays follows a group of fathers and daughters as they prepare to attend a Purity Ball in Colorado Springs.

Wait, one in six girls pledge to remain virgins? It's the first time I've heard that number. Anyone know where it came from?

I haven't seen the film yet, but I hope it's not all "look at those wacky bible-thumping Americans." This is still a fringe movement, folks, despite the fact that it's been reported to death in the US. Most of the American articles have had this inexplicable and maddening sympathy for these loving dads. Thankfully, in the UK they're as totally creeped out by it as I and others are. Here's a quote from the film:

"It sounds unrealistic in our day and age, it's not the exact path I went down personally, but if it can work, how cool would it be to say I've been kissed by one man in my life? How special, how cherished, how set apart? Why not shoot for the fairytale?" Ken, father of 11-year-old Hannah.

You've heard this before but I can't help myself, so here we go:

Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!! "It's not the exact path I went down personally..." No. Why hold yourself to the same standards as your daughter? "How cool would it be to say I've been kissed by one man in my life?" Uh, no dad, it's not cool. It's sad and repressed. "Why not shoot for the fairytale?" Right, because those fairy tales are so empowering, like the one where the girl is locked up in a tower forever? Or maybe comatose in a glass coffin?

Time Magazine discovers Purity Balls


The American Virgin has been very distracted lately, primarily by convoluted overseas real estate transactions, but also interviewing Turks about their own take on the V-Word (video of that to come)

In the meantime, I'll let the fabulous Jessica Valenti have a go at a story Time did recently on Purity Balls:

I nearly lost my mind when I read this gushing piece from Time Magazine about purity balls.

What was amazing to me about the reporting of this article was despite hearing all of these creepy anecdotes - and admitting that girls as young as four are participating in a ceremony about their virginity - writer Nancy Gibbs still managed to be smitten over the whole shebang. (One of the subheads actually reads 'A Delicate Dance')

But first...a creepy anecdote.

Kylie Miraldi has come from California to celebrate her 18th birthday tonight. She'll be going to San Jose State on a volleyball scholarship next year. Her father, who looks a little like Superman, is on the dance floor with one of her sisters; he turns out to be Dean Miraldi, a former offensive lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles. When Kylie was 13, her parents took her on a hike in Lake Tahoe, Calif. "We discussed what it means to be a teenager in today's world," she says. They gave her a charm for her bracelet--a lock in the shape of a heart. Her father has the key. "On my wedding day, he'll give it to my husband," she explains. "It's a symbol of my father giving up the covering of my heart, protecting me, since it means my husband is now the protector. He becomes like the shield to my heart, to love me as I'm supposed to be loved."

Paging Dr. Freud! But Gibbs is loving it.

Leave aside for a moment the critics who recoil at the symbols, the patriarchy, the very use of the term purity, with its shadow of stains and stigma. Whatever guests came looking for, they are likely to come away with something unexpected. The goal seems less about making judgments than about making memories.

And making sure young women think their worth is dependent on whether or not they're sexual. So, no Ms. Gibbs, I think I won't "leave aside" that very real and very dangerous message. Thanks anyway!

The rest of Jessica's post (and at least 110 comments) is here. Here's one of the more interesting ones:

Since it hasn't been mentioned, I'll just briefly point out that the whole thing is not only creepy but also yet another instance of compulsory heterosexuality (queer kids and parents need not apply). And, I feel very sorry for girls who never marry since they remain daddy's property for life.

Don't hate the doctor, hate the patriarchy

Ellen Goodman's column linking hymen restoration surgery abroad to Abstinence-Only activities here in the US is another reminder that compelling women to remain virgins until marriage isn't just a Muslim issue. But her anger at the doctors performing the surgery seems a little misplaced:

All in all, the flip side of purity lectures is the conviction that sex -- and the girls who have it -- is dirty. On either side of the Atlantic, doctors in the "like a virgin" business are not only accomplices of private deceptions, they are accomplices to those who keep the reins of sexuality out of women's own hands.

Yes, many doctors profit off sexism at $2,000+ per hymen. But they're also the ones dealing with all those people dragging their daughters or future wives into their offices demanding a virginity test. These doctors know there's no such thing, and more often than not, pronounce in favor of the women anyway. In fact, doctors have been protecting women at risk for many centuries, about as long as idiot relatives have been demanding a non-existent "proof" of purity.

There's only one man they let inside

Katie Goodman and Broad Comedy have done some brilliant sketches, and "I'm Saving My Hymen for Jesus" tops our list. They performed it live at our Purity Ball Fundraiser last fall and recently shot this video. You can check out their other videos , such as "Soccer Mom Ho" and "United States Extreme Right Wing Cheerleading Squad Vol. 1" on their website.