In Their God's World, It's Not Just Her Heart That Belongs to Daddy

Via Atrios we came across Digby"s coverage of the so-called father/daughter "purity balls." Little Fundamentalist Christian girls pledge to "give themselves (meaning their virginity) as a wedding gift to their husband," while the dads vow "to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity ... as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home."

As the father of a wonderful grown daughter, may I say from the bottom of my heart: "Ewww!" Her mother and I (and later, her stepmother) raised her to respect herself, to have pride in her accomplishments, and to make her own decisions in life.

I may have had a tendency at some points to measure the quality of her decisions by the degree to which they matched my own preferences, but that was something I -- not she -- needed to change. She's a fine young woman, of whom we are exceedingly proud.

I always believed she would make the right decisions in her life. And if she ever did make bad choices, my hope was that we would have the kind of relationship that would allow me to support her, show her love, and help her in any way I could.

If you have confidence in yourself as a parent, and in your daughters as human beings, "pledges" are unnecessary. And any intimation that the young woman you've raised with joy is anybody's chattel is flatly offensive.

Not so with these Dads. Their little girls (and their "gifts") are male property, pure and simple. The sooner they understand that they only have one thing that's of value in a man's world, the better. And it belongs to one man until the day he turns it over to another.

It's sad, really. The little girls photographed at the ball are beaming because they're getting love and attention from Daddy. They have no idea what it's all about, or the damage that it represents and perpetrates. In my book, these fathers are toxic. When it comes to religion, your right to swing your censer ends where another person's mental health begins.

(I originally planned to post a father/daughter photo from one of these "balls," but I took it down. The innocent joy in the little girl's face as she posed with her daddy, coupled with the coldness in her father's eyes -- to be honest, it was a little too heartbreaking for me to bear.)

These men call themselves "high priests in the home." Personally, I picture some paunchy guy in the kitchen with a pointy cardinal's hat on his head, surrounded by votive candles and drinking a Miller Lite as he watches the WWF in his underwear. I can almost hear him haranguing his daughter on sexual purity as he scratches himself, while his wife wearily finishes the dishes and looks forward with dread to the hour when she'll have to join him in bed.

And remember, folks who think like this are getting major federal funding. In their world, the Lord helps those who help themselves -- to your tax dollars.

On the other hand, here"s a site dedicated to sexual periphernalia -- for Christians. They sell those special rings for the man (but not his finger), edible undies, a "butcher's apron" (God only knows how that's used) -- and remember, you get free batteries for everything electric.

I've got no problem with the way any consenting adults choose to express their sexuality, but I have a big issue with hypocrites. The couple that owns the shop emphasizes that these toys are for married couples only. And, it should be noted, they're British. But let me take a minute to speak from my own personal experience. I went from a marginal hippie existence in the San Francisco Bay Area to living briefly among evangelicals in the Central Valley -- and there was a lot more promiscuity going on with the evangelicals. The fact that it was considered "cheating" only seemed to make the sex more attractive.

As for the "purity balls" -- what kind of creepiness is this? As Digby points out, a lot of these girls at the father-daughter "purity ball" look younger than 10 (he says 7, but let's not quibble). What warped perception drives a father to discuss sex with a girl that young, much less oblige her to a "pledge" she can't understand -- much less enter into knowingly?

I may have gotten a reputation for defending religionists against what I call "evangelical atheists," but let's be clear: as far as I'm concerned, these people are sick. And by sick, I mean the following: sick, sick, sick.

Fundamentalism is the common enemy of atheists, secular humanists, and liberal religionists. If you ever wonder "why we fight" for the separation of church and state, just think of the "purity balls."

A Night Light