Thursday, April 20, 2006

First there was the Purity Test (and its many variations), now there's a Purity Ball

But while the purity test was taken by college sophomores competing to see how sexually "impure" they'd managed to become (answer for me during most of college: not nearly enough), those attending a purity ball seem to have a different agenda altogether. Googling the subject brings up this and this and this and this.

I don't have anything original to add that hasn't been said by this diarist on Daily Kos or by Digby here. But the whole phenomenon strikes me as very Freudian, puritanical, and creepy. Not to mention that it invokes the commodization of virginity and the propagation of harmful double standards. Where's the ball where boys pledge to be pure? But maybe that's not so important to them.

I just don't think human sexuality works the way puritans think it does. I think they have a pathological model of sexuality: it's like alcoholism. It's something to be cured by public declarations of rectitude, societal condemnation, and internal moral will. I think sexuality is more like hunger: it must be satisfied somehow, and the goal of society should be to help individuals find the safest, healthiest, sanest, and yummiest way of satisfying it.

I'd be more convinced by these kind of abstinence pledges if the girls received a vibrator and a collection of erotica when they made their pledge. Because then I'd know that at least the abstience freaks had some viable plan for what to do with a girl's sexuality between puberty and matrimony. Right now, it seems like they just hope their sexuality will go away (or get displaced in a very creepy way). If sexual desire is some kind of pathology, maybe that's a healthy wish. If it's an intrinsic part of human nature, it's a recipe for weirdness, STDs, and unplanned pregnancies.

I'd give a sizeable fraction of my Dungeons & Dragons miniatures collection to get some good data on how many of these virginity pledgers end up keeping their promises. (Well, come to think of it, I probably wouldn't.) It'd be fun to talk to both those who managed to keep their pledges and those who didn't about their experiences. Apparently, there's some data on this, but interpretations of it conflict and of course are colored by the moral agenda of the people involved. I admit I'd have a hard time accepting data that completely undermined my views on this subject, but I hope my realism would triumph over my socio-political agenda.

Just for the record, I'm highly suspicious of those who have never been sexual with someone before marriage. I think one of the following must be the case:

1. They are lying.
2. They got married way too young.

But then again, I've talked to nice folks who've gone the abstinence route, and they seem to be OK. But I bet they didn't abstain from everything.


Blogger Anthony said...

I know a couple of people who abstained from -everything- (at least, they report they do but I'm inclined to believe them) and still ended up very happily married.

Those tend to be the exception though. What strikes me about this is how they -never- choose to moralise or run some kind of agenda with their choices.

9:04 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

That's pretty amazing. (Especially the part of not moralizing.) I suppose it could be done if one had a lot more willpower than I did and really felt it was important to do. But I sort of don't see the point. What reward does one get for all of this heroism?

And I wonder what the world starts to look like after all that abstinence. I imagine the world must appear to be a museum of temptation after not too long. So many images to avoid, people who must not be looked at, literature that must be shunned, thoughts that must not be had. Parts of your own body that become taboo. And what envy you must feel knowing that people all over are indulging in the exquisite pleasure you are denying yourself!

No thanks.

10:37 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger Anthony said...

It goes (almost) without saying that the couples I knew who abstained were Christians, and extremely devout ones at that. I don't think it's a sacrifice-reward structure, but more of a obligation-that-is-its-own-reward mentality.

I suspect that abstaining works much better when than trying it once, THEN abstaining. It's a lot harder to abstain when you do know what you're missing.

Needless to say, I respect them, but I don't necessarily want to emulate them.

10:54 PM, April 21, 2006  

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