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Why I don't want my daughter to pledge her virginity

Over in America there are these frankly bizarre things called Purity Balls, no, it’s not a cleanser for testicles but an event in which young girls pledge to their fathers that they won’t have sex before marriage.  Within the conservative christian movement, these purity balls are spreading and now happen in 48 states across the USA with daughters committing to “live pure lives before God” to their fathers.

The images of these balls show young girls dressed in white, like mini brides, standing by their fathers, wearing suits akin to a groom.  The ceremonies have a similar structure to a traditional wedding with vows, dinners and speeches with the average age of the girls being 12 – 13, the kind of age where puberty is becoming more apparent.

The Christian Centre, which holds purity balls in Illinois states on their website; “We hope you will join us as we encourage young women to commit to moral purity” claiming it “holds high the banner of purity in the midst of a culture that destroys it.”

I have issues with this.  LOTS OF ISSUES.

Where are the purity balls for young boys to pledge their virginities to their mothers?  Or is it just the thought of women as sexual beings that appalls society?  Why is it not as important to these folk that their sons stay ‘pure’ till marriage?

Let’s think about that word ‘pure’, the opposite being what? Purity with regards to sexuality assumes that sex is an impure act.  That being in a sexual relationship before marriage means you are not perfect.  What a load of shit! Sex is not dirty or wrong, sex is sometimes a beautiful act between people who love and trust one another, it is sometimes a physical act of pleasure and nothing more, and yes, sometimes it can be about violence, power or ignorance.

Let’s teach our children about the joy of sex and what a wonderfully, deliciously perfect thing it can be in the right circumstances.  I don’t want my daughter to pledge us her virginity, I want her to pledge to us that she will come to us if she needs advice or support.  I want her to pledge that she will accept education around pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  I want her to pledge to us that she understands that sex within a relationship of trust, care and love is bloody wonderful.  I want her to pledge to us that she enjoys her sexuality and knows that any choices about her body belong soley to her and that she should never let others shame her.

We talk a lot in our home, we openly discuss things that in my youth would never have been spoken about. We tell our children that even if something feels embarrassing, that we will answer their questions and always tell the truth.  The idea of forcing them to swear to us that they won’t have sex before marriage seems crazy!

I can’t help but think that a child that pledges this at 12 has no idea of how she will feel at 16, 17 or into her 30’s and 40’s! Many women now choose either to marry later in life or not at all.  For this generation of women, marriage is not the be all and end all it was in the past and the idea that women must ‘save themselves’ is outdated, sexist and upsetting.  ‘Must’ being the operative word there, if women CHOOSE not to have sex before marriage then that is up to them, but it should be their choice and theirs alone.

I can’t help but think that girls who are pushed into making this pledge will face problems as they get older and have the natural sexual urges that we all do.  Sex then becomes a thing of guilt, shame and fear.  If at 16 or older (the legal age limit in the UK) they choose to have sex, they could feel a sense of guilt, an inability to speak to their parents, a fear of accessing sexual health clinics.  I fear it will result in a higher rate of teenage pregnancies and STD’s as well as a disconnect from their families.

It also completely denies the idea that these girls may be gay, trans or any form of sexual identity other than heterosexual

Sexual education is key to raising children into happy, well rounded and confident adults.  My education doesn’t differ that much between my sons and daughter.  They all get the same advice, we talk about the physical act of sex, the biology of it all.  But far more importantly, we talk about the emotional and social aspects of sex, about respect, trust, pleasure and love.

I was raised in a Catholic family and so shame and guilt were par the course! But I want my children to be raised knowing the joy of sex, the pleasure gained from sharing a deeply personal act of love.  I want them to know it is special, but that they have to make their own choices once they are 16, (and I do stress the age thing, not just because of the legal side, but because of the emotional maturity needed to deal with a sexual relationship).

I want my daughter to know that any slut shaming she faces is not ok.  That her body belongs to her, that I hope she makes good, healthy decisions and looks after her body, and any negativity she faces for expressing her sexuality is not ok, but unfortunately ingrained into some sectors of society and says more about them than her.

I want my boys to know the same values, but I feel I have to push harder against the shitty parts of life where women are taken for granted and so I hope they will grow into men who know that every relationship should be nurtured, that sex is about trust, pleasure and joy not power or violence.  That their gender doesn’t allow them a carte blanche to treat others badly.

I want them all to know that whatever their sexual orientation, that we will love and accept them and though I sometimes casually use the word ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’, what I mean is ‘partner’ and as long as they are happy, then we will be happy.

Above all, I want them all to know that they can speak to me or their dad and that we will try our best to accept, guide and support them in any questions or difficulties they face.  I don’t want a pledge of virginity, I want a mutual respect and love between us that means they can come to me if they need me.

These purity balls seem an outdated and irresponsible idea, let’s stop shaming our young adults into an inability to express their sexuality and help guide them through the minefield of emotions surrounding sex, feelings and relationships.

 

Sam x

 

Image by David Magnusson

About to get your A-level results? Oh the places you'll go!

Oh lovely teenagers, you are on the cusp of finding out your A-level results and I’m sure you are babbing yourselves. Feeling that you could have worked harder, revised a little more, gone out a little less?

Tomorrow you will be officially finishing school for good. The end of 13 years of education, some of you are off to university or going out into the world of work. You are entering the scary world of grown ups. Let me tell you a little secret though, all those whirling, terrifying feelings that you aren’t ready to be a grown up? We all feel like that sometimes!

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Please remember that these results aren’t the be all and end all, they may shape the path you take over the next few years but baby, there are many paths. Some of you may be lucky enough to have a set vision, your path is a straight road with the career and life you’ve always hoped for shining at the end like a beacon.

Most of you will have winding paths, sometimes they come to a dead end and you’ll have to back track and find another road. Some of you will hop from path to path, trying lots of lanes before finding your own. And some of you will look at all the paths and think “fuck, none of these are right for me at all!” Panic not, because you all have the ability to create you own path in life.

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Don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams are silly, or that you can’t do it. Work hard, be passionate and get out there looking for opportunities. You want to run away with the circus?! Do it! Do it now! You want to be a doctor but no one in your family has ever even seen the inside of university? If you have the intelligence and the grades, you can find a way to fight for it.

Without going all cliche on you, you only live once. We are here for such a brief time and at your age, with the world at your feet, now is the time to follow your heart, strive to be the thing that you dream to be, have fun, make adventures and get out there and live.

Worry not that you can only have one path, as long as you are passionate about your own life, you will succeed and be happy. I had my first child at 19, it meant I couldn’t go to university or travel the world. I stayed home, got married and raised three wonderful children. And now they are older, I am getting my chance to change my life. I’m doing a writing course, I run a business with my husband and I’m just starting a new business with my friend Violet Fenn (all very secret right now though!!)

Someone else who has had a varied path in life is my friend Curtis Woodhouse. A lad from a small coastal town who dreamed big and made it as a professional football player. When he surprised the world and retired, he decided he wanted to be a professional boxer. He was mocked and laughed at, but you know what? He worked his arse off and this year became the Light Welterweight British Champion! Screw you careers advisor!!!!

So good luck to you, I hope you get the grades you are hoping for. But whatever your results, well done! Good work on getting through your childhood and welcome to being an adult!

It’s scary, it sucks sometimes but with passion, good friends, hard work and a sense of humour you will go far.

I’ll end with my favourite story of Dr Seuss, Oh the places you’ll go! It’s a long one, but well worth the read.

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’ t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Love Sam xx