Oh, Look, People May Not Be Taking Purity Balls as Seriously as We Thought

Illustration for article titled Oh, Look, People May Not Be Taking Purity Balls as Seriously as We Thought

You remember purity balls, right?! The ones that are like "put on a white dress, hold a white rose, dance with your dad, sign a contract to Ziploc your vagina, and also it's sorrrrrt of like you're marrying your dad but shhh?" Those? As it turns out, they're not as ubiquitous as it initially seemed. Which is GREAT, 'cause if you were to ask Alex Trebek to give you Bizarre, Oppressive Prisons For Women Built On The Paper-Thin Excuse Of Religion for 400, this would be right up there with silent birth.


You may recall that we have one Randy Wilson of Colorado Springs to thank for this institution of father/daughter formal events, culminating with signed pledges of virginity by girls as young as seven. Purity balls were discussed in writer and feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti's 2010 book The Purity Myth, on Anderson Cooper and in the pages of Glamour. But Wilson himself has expressed his skepticism that purity balls were as far-reaching as Valenti's book posited: that "more than 1,400 purity balls" were held in 48 different states in 2006.


As it turns out, these figures was gathered from the president of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse in South Dakota, who didn't exactly confirm it when The New York Times gave her a call (although she did say that the organization received 4,600 "inquiries" about purity balls in their area over the course of 12 months). She added that she has advised planners against using the name "purity ball" to avoid the press or stigma: instead, they're "father-daughter balls," or the mother and son version, "Knights to Remember."

This new information is causing some speculation as to whether purity balls can even be referred to as a trend (let alone, gulp, a CRAZE) outside of Colorado Springs, and it's also resulted in some female participants speaking out about how little the purity ball agenda actually affected their lives post-ceremony. To be honest, it sounds like this was just an opportunity to fit in or hang out with their dad:

Colorado Springs native Caitlyn Carlson, now 25, said:

It was a chance to dress up and dance with my friends and hang out with my dad. But as far as a commitment to purity - that was not my reason for living out those beliefs about purity. It made the idea of purity a very black-and-white issue instead of a conversation about a healthy find-your-identity thing. I had moved out of the house and was living on my own, so it was a chance for us to spend some intentional time together.

And Katelyn Statton, who is now an actress in Los Angeles:

I think the reason why I attended two years in a row was just because it was a "father/daughter" dance mostly in our minds. During my teens, most of my friends were pastors' kids and/or home-schooled, and like any other teen I wanted to be popular. In that group of people, things like purity balls were popular, so of course I wanted to be a part of it."


Of course, this doesn't make purity balls any less damaging or shitty to the participating girls in Colorado Springs (especially on the younger end of the spectrum), nor does it forgive Wilson for attempting to encourage more Patriarchal Creep Jamborees across America via the sale of but the fact that it hasn't quite caught on as much as it seemed is something of a relief.

‘Purity Balls' Get Attention, but Might Not Be All They Claim' [NY Times]

Photo via Batyreva Irina/Shutterstock

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National Abstinence Clearinghouse

Ok, I can't be the only one who had a bit of a giggle over that. Like, there's a warehouse where they store all the abstinence.