Friday, August 8, 2014

On Concepts of Purity

Who remembers that scene in "Drop Dead Gorgeous"?

I want to take a moment to pontificate on a subject that has been circling my Facebook in recent months, it is the idea of “Purity Balls” held in the Southern Unites States. See the Time Magazine Photo Essay here:,29307,1822906_1736958,00.html or HuffPo’s slightly more reactionary take here:

Very often when a dear friend or acquaintance tells me of a lengthy gut-wrenching story, when it comes time for me to talk I try to always start with “Are you asking for my advice?” And here they stop. If she’s crying, then she abruptly stops. If she is not, then her eyes dart around madly, and the conversation shifts… Thusly I am let off the hook and the relationship remains intact. This won’t be that kind of conversation, Dear Reader, because you did not ask my advice.

First and foremost, I don’t know if these actually exist because I have never attended one, but I have been privy to a “debut” or debutante ball for Kansas “society” and if I had to guess, a purity ball is its hardscrabble cousin. If a debutante ball is an event that is attended by a young female, ready to be presented to society as marriageable often accompanied by a military date, then a purity ball is an event that a young girl will attend for much the same reason, but she will attend with her father.

Evangelical Christians, differently from other types of Christians who are followers of the teaching of Jesus, believe in a very strict textual analysis of the entire Bible as an indicaton of GOD’s law for humans on earth. Let me unpack that a bit: Unlike Catholics, who believe that Jesus “made all things new” and that civil and moral law begins with his brief yet effective parables, Fundamentalists spend hundreds of hours and millions of dollars researching the language of the Bible from earliest Judiaism (ironically) to derive meaning from a book that has been translated, lost, found, lost and found again easily 40 times before it ever arrived in English. They do not give creedence to other books written by equally important authors at comparative times, nor do they believe any of the essential meaning of the English version has been lost in translation. Their fervency is ultimately what binds them together both in marriage in and in creating extremely effective religious lobbies in politics. One must understand this ambient background noise to fully comprehend where Purity Balls fit in.

The only problem with textual analysis of the Bible is that it is inherently biased and always fraught with error. Evangelicals are painted into a corner because as new evidence arises they have only narrow places to put it, causing, as we have seen, panic, hatred and fear whenever any issue is re-conditioned for a changing society. As a result of this textual analysis the religion is extremely inflexible and allows for only an ultra specific margin of society to be accepted. All of this prelude should not indicate that I think they are “wrong”, I’m just laying the framework for my opinion, which comes next…

It’s weird to kiss your parents on the mouth. It’s not illegal and it’s not wrong, it’s just weird to do it and weird to be photographed doing it. That was my first thought when I was peering through the portraits of young girls in what used to be known as cotillion dresses, or party frocks as my grandmother who was raised in La Belle Epoque would say.

At best a Purity Ball is a reaction to a world that is changing too fast for people who liked it the way it was. At worst a Purity Ball is a role-reversing sea change of confusion that places the Lord as a young girls “husband”, her father as her “boyfriend” and any other swinging dick as an interloper. The child, ranging in age from 4 to 18, signs a Purity Covenant that she will behave in a demure manner and that her father is the protector of her virginity.

Ah! There, I said it! Her virginity. The secret trading card of vagina controllers the world over.

Remember father-daughter dances? Remember how charming that sounded? At least for me, a girl without a father. The word chaste is actually a better word than purity, but chaste doesn’t make you think of a fresh mountain stream the way purity does. The world has undergone a lot of changes since the 1980s when Purity Balls first popped up. Same sex people can now legally get married and enjoy partner’s benefits, the internet bleeds actual porn into regular media at an increasingly faster rate and the gap between rich and poor is widening. All of these socio-economic factors allow social mores to become de-stabilized. As Man searches for meaning, he will sort for sameness, he will look for those who best resemble himself, and he will allow his world to become very small if it means he has a greater sense of control. One of the first things we see in societies where mens traditional positions are threatened is an attack on a woman’s agency. Everything from school attendance, to job security, to government benefits to sexual choice (from when it happens, to where it happens, to who is happens with, and what to do after it happens) will be curtailed. And it will always be shrouded in a big white fluffy gorgeous veil and called … God’s purpose, or religion, or duty.

As such, these men do not consciously understand that they are emotionally damaging otherwise capable beings and I can see how that would happen. We live in the golden age of the dick pic and if I was a parent of a daughter between 8 and 18 and I am not sure I would allow her to have the internet or even a cell phone with text messages. Thanks to the invasiveness of handheld devices, young girls and women are TOO available to any man with thumbs. It is a function of popularity – oh so crucial in small societies – to be this available. It is a function of the tribal nature of teenagers to keep secrets from parents, an actual growth stage in the healthy development of independent people. It is next to impossible to balance being completely clear with your parents about the state of your hymen while remaining necessarily opaque about the state of your friends. This process is bound to fail and with it the embedded identity of what a good girl is (she is a virgin), what a good woman is (until she meets her husband), what a good wife is (and then only has sex when he wants it), what a good sex partner is (and learns to enjoy his response speed and his tastes).

This how you burden a pack animal to carry an enormous amount of emotional baggage for the rest of its life. All of Mans tangled feelings and insecurities and things unsaid about sex, desire, lust, love, romance and ego wrapped tightly, tightly into bite-size amounts and fed week after week month after month and year after year in to the precious brains of their own children. It’s like a form of child abuse that comes from attachment but it is not love. These young girls are being trained from a very early age that they are their fathers property, that their sexual history is not and can never be considered private, but rather a resume of their moral fiber, that their flesh is their only real value. Once deflowered, it will be their beauty and quietness in self-sacrifice that keeps them valuable, once old they will either be divorced (look at the stats) or widowed which is the surest root to poverty that man has ever created, but here Dear Reader comes an important stage because here and for a brief moment before they die, they will be judged by others who chose to see on the state of their character.