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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sick

I always think that I have somehow reached the limits of my fear and loathing of the far-right among us, but something always seems to come along to crank up the disgust a notch. Today, it's something called a Purity Ball. Apparently, this is where fathers take their daughters, some younger than ten, and make them say:

"I pledge to remain sexually pure...until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. ... I know that God requires this of me.. that he loves me. and that he will reward me for my faithfulness."
Yes, that's right. From the looks of things, some of these girls are under ten and being forced to promise never to do something they have no experience with. All while their fathers are there, taking a similar oath. In case you were wondering, there are no Mother-Son dances.

To me, this is just unbelievably sick. This isn't about sex as much as it is about treating women like property. It's right there in the oath: until the day I give myself as a wedding gift...right, just set the bride next to the china. We'll go through the presents later. In case you were wondering, there are no oaths that boys take where they also promise to give themselves as a gift to their wives. In case you were wondering.

How can a parent do this to a child? How can a parent imply that for girls (and girls only), they are to "give" themselves up to their husbands? That their sexuality is something to be afraid of? What happens when a ten year old girl who has made this vow starts going through puberty and experiences changes and feelings she has never felt before? What are the odds that she is going to feel bad about this, fearing it because it is wrong to explore womanhood before she "gives herself up" to her husband? Do these parents want shamed, fearful kids?

PZ Myers says "Daddies of the world, keep your hands off your daughter's sexuality, OK? Raise them to be independent and thoughtful and informed and able to make their own decisions, and then just trust them." Damn straight. A commenter at Pharyngula goes a little further:

The best path to good sexual choices in adulthood includes:

A. good, biology-based sex education
B. parental love, trust, and honesty
C. a healthy sense of one's own sexual and emotional boundaries
D. a realistic but positive view of adult relationships, marriage, and parenting
E. the knowledge that a safe, healthy sex life requires maturity and responsibility
F. the complete understanding that yes means yes and no means no.

And the preacher said "Amen!" Now these are healthy beliefs to instill in kids, both boys and girls. Giving young adults the facts, trusting them to make good decisions, knowing that they will probably make mistakes anyway but hopefully minimizing them and providing support and love all the time...what a crazy way to raise children, huh?

Some of these people who are against sex ed and who torture kids into these stupid "abstinence vows" undoubtedly screwed up themselves when they were younger, and they are in a very misguided way trying to protect people from making mistakes themselves. A good portion of it is probably jealousy that people can have healthy sex lives outside of marriage and not be damaged. I certainly didn't wait until marriage, but because I was given the facts and I am not ignorant, there have been no unplanned pregnancies, no abortions, no STDs, no health problems. It's completely possible to have a fulfilling sex life outside of marriage. Most people do it. Pretending that it is somehow a one-way ticket to Hell is unrealistic.

That's not to say that there is anything wrong with abstinence. Of course, abstinence is the best choice for teens, and anybody who chooses that on their own should be supported. But not only are these creepy "Purity Ball"-like pledges just that: creepy, but they are also ineffective. They don't work. They play to fear and ignorance, which is a losing strategy in the long run.

This kind of stuff is just !*^%@! creepy, bottom line. Fathers, if you want to have a positive impact on your daughter's life, skip the silly and disgusting pledge and just spend time dancing with your daughter, giving her love and attention. She may turn out to be a responsible adult even without trying to make her fear sex.

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