Dear Ask DesCamp:
I am fully aware that this question sounds very odd so let me just acknowledge at the outset that I know many parents would love to have this problem. My husband and I are not at all religious and have raised three kids in a home in which they are free to make their own decisions about God and religion. I’m worried this open approach may have backfired!
My daughter Sam is the youngest and is completing her sophomore year of high school. One of her good friends got her into a Christian youth group last fall and she is REALLY taking this thing seriously. While her father and I are trying to ignore her constant jabs about our need to be “born again” or we will end up in hell, one thing she has talked a lot about lately is saving herself for marriage.
This should make me happy, right? I’m not so sure. I had a few boyfriends and partners before I became engaged to my husband and I remember so well how sometimes, even if if really liked someone and was very attracted to them, the sex was lousy enough to lose my feelings of affection and attraction.
My parents were both virgins when they married and they are now divorced after a miserable 30 year marriage. Both have told me how much they wish they had slept together before they married because they had a very unsatisfying sex life.
Lastly, Sam asked her father to take her to something called a “Purity Ball,” in which the girls pledge their virginity to their dads and are given a “Purity Ring” in a wedding-like ceremony. This really grosses both of us out.
Should I talk to my daughter about the benefits of sex before marriage? Should I keep my big mouth shut? What about the Purity Ball? I have a friend whose daughter became pregnant at 17 and she almost slapped me when I told her I was confused about what to do. We both read your blog so please help us settle this!
Crazy Cat in Cincinnati
Dear Crazy Cat:
This is seriously one of the best letters I have ever received. I’ve never seen such a perfect juxtaposition of a good and a bad situation faced by a parent.
I am pressed for time this morning so I am going to give you some advice by numbers and then some thoughts.
1. Should I talk to my daughter about the benefits of sex before marriage? Should I keep my big mouth shut?
While I think it’s fine to tell your daughter how much you enjoyed test-driving various makes and models around the well-worn track of your college dorm bedroom, I’d wait until she asks you specifically whether or not you had sex before marriage, which you told me she has yet to do. At that point, be honest but also candid about birth control and STD prevention.
2.What about the Purity Ball?
“Gross” is the understatement of the century when it comes to describing these ceremonies. Not only does it create the connotation of a sexual relationship between a father and a daughter, it also brings back the notion of women-as-chattel, a notion we gals have long fought to eradicate.
Your daughter’s virginity is for her to give away either at marriage or in-between math and science behind the bleachers. It does not belong to her father or anyone else. “Purity Balls” are a throwback to a time when women were viewed as nothing more than property, first “owned” by the father and then “given away” to the husband.
If your daughter wants to save herself for marriage, great.* But you should draw the line at you or your husband participating in such a disgusting example of trying to put women back in the dark ages. We fought too hard and too long for the right to vote, to be educated and to work the same shitty jobs as men for this bullshit.
Under no circumstances should you capitulate to something that you find gross, sexist and demeaning to women, unless you do so ironically, like watching female jello wrestling.
That’s the advice. Here are a few observations:
1. There are few things worse than a bible-thumping preachy born-again who uses proselytism to criticize other people’s life choices. You would do well to sit St. Sam down and explain this to her, because if she continues on this path her hymen may remain in place but it won’t be because anyone is trying to bust it.
In addition, you are her parents, and her assertions about where you are ending up after the shitty rodeo we call life is over are frankly out of line and disrespectful. Besides, she’s wrong.
I’d advise her to keep this stuff within the confines of her Christian group.
2. I admire your approach to letting your kids find their way spiritually, but if you are noticing drastic changes in your daughter’s mores and behavior you may want to take a closer look at that Christian group. It sounds like Sam has really changed over the school year, and they way she speaks about the group and the leader sounds a little cult-y to me.
3. I wouldn’t worry too much about whether or not Sam actually gets it on with someone before her wedding night. A lot of kids pledge chastity when they are young only to throw caution and panties to the wind when their hormones really kick in. You said Sam has just started puberty – she’s a late bloomer as I was.
Just give it a couple years and a few dry-humping in the basement sessions with her equally chaste boyfriend…something is bound to come up. And in. And out.
4. Speaking of that, do you know who has the highest rate of unplanned teen pregnancy in this country? Girls who pledge to remain virgins until marriage.** You know why? Because they aren’t prepared with birth control, and you can’t pray to the baby Jesus that the sperm fall out or die before landing on the egg of Normandy.
So, while your daughter is still convinced she will remain pure, I suggest you get some birth control pills and administer them without her knowledge via her morning OJ. The only thing worse than an annoying judge-y daughter is a pregnant one, because you know she isn’t getting an abortion and that makes you a grandma at the age of 50. Yeesh.
**I read this somewhere once but it probably isn’t true. However, it fits my line of reasoning so please accept as gospel.