How the Purity Ball became a teen passion: One girl explains why she pledged to her father to remain a virgin till her wedding
In Purity Balls young girls wear long white gowns and their fathers dress in suits. They attend a dinner and a dance together and it looks remarkably a lot like a wedding
A 17-year-old girl came forward and spoke up about why she made the decision to commit to America's Purity Movement, a program that has young women pledging abstinence to their fathers. Hannah Lee Powers is from Louisiana and recently made the decision to commit herself to the movement.
A Purity Ball took place which the teen attended with her father, Beauchamp Powers, and the ceremony marked her abstinence. Even though a majority of the teenage population in the U.S. will probably never think of making such a vow to their fathers, Hannah insisted this has made the two of them closer and her commitment to pledging her abstinence has also strengthened her already strong belief in God.
She told Barcroft TV in an interview: "The bible says that sex before marriage is a sin and I believe that. I'm doing this Purity Ball because it's like a symbol to tell everybody. That this is what I am doing and you may not accept it. You may think it's weird but this is what I want to do because I want to take the stand for what believe in. I want to make a promise to myself and to God that I will stay pure until I get married. I don't need to do all these things that girls are doing and that girls consider to be normal. I don't have to do these things. I don't have to have sex to know that I am loved."
The Purity Movement found its roots in Colorado Springs, Colorado, about 20 years ago and was founded by evangelist Randy Wilson and Lisa, his wife. The movement is now present in 48 states and about 17 countries. Annual Purity Balls are held and this includes a ceremony for girls to pledge to their fathers to abstain from sex until the day they get married.
The formal occasion sees many young girls wearing long white gowns and their fathers dressed in suits. They attend a dinner and a dance together and it looks remarkably a lot like a wedding. The fathers are given a key during the ceremony which represents the chastity of their daughters and this key will be given to their daughter's future husband when the time comes. The father and daughter have to sign a purity contract and the daughter is given a purity ring that they must wear on their wedding ring finger.
For Hannah, taking the purity vow was possible because her decision was heavily influenced by her family and her faith. The decision to take the vow was especially meaningful to Beauchamp. He said: "It's an honor for someone to say that they are going to wait, that not just the purity ball dress, but to think that when [she] puts on that wedding dress, that white dress, that white wedding dress, it will also be an outward symbol of, 'I have held myself, kept myself for my husband'".
He continued: "And for her to make that decision publicly, I think it's more of an honor than everything else. That she has made up her mind. She has made her decision. And I believe one thing, she will get rewarded for it. So, it is going to be hard. It's going to be tough and she will be judged and laughed at and hopefully, she can take the heat."
Wilson, the founder of the movement, said the Purity Ball isn't only about abstaining but it was also made to help fathers and daughters come closer together and make their bonds stronger. There has been a lot of backlash, however, from people who have claimed the idea behind the whole thing implies the value of a woman only lies in her virginity and that any bad choices she may make in life is related to her choice to have sex.
Deb Brittan, a realtor, is the organizer of Hannah's ball. She got involved in the movement later in life after she went through a terrible divorce and said she believes in Wilson's ideas. She said: "I became sexually active at a very young age and I still remember being very disappointed after that first experience and thinking, 'You gotta be kidding me'. When I started to drink or do drugs and make other reckless choices after my choice to become sexually active, that was all connected. Because [of] my devaluing myself and not feeling worthy anymore. And that led me to become a stripper. So I had made one devaluing choice at 15 to become sexually active. That led to many more devaluing choices."
Brittan continued: "I immediately ended up in relationship with a young man. It became an obsessive relationship. We ended up getting married. And then it ended up turning into a volatile marriage. It was during that season that I ended up beginning to know my Lord Jesus Christ, to know that there was a God who loved me. I believe that there is power in submission. And so right now these young girls are voluntarily choosing to be obedient to their fathers. In the same way that I choose to submit to my husband's leadership."
Hannah admitted she had boyfriends previously but she made up her mind to go the extra mile to make sure the next person she dates will be the one she gets married to. She said: "My first boyfriend, it lasted about two weeks because he wanted more than I was willing to give. I have my morals and I have my values and I am not going to give that up because of a guy. The smallest thing can lead to temptations to go further and I want to stay as far away from those temptations as I can."
She continued: "I have set rules for myself like I promised myself a long time ago that I would not be in a room alone with another guy unless he is family. Because I know that is something that can lead to temptations. I can't say that I've gone all my life without kissing a boy because that would be a lie. Everybody strays from God's path, but if you're really willing to turn your life around then God will always forgive you."
The Purity Movement is famous for preaching that having sex before marriage is a sin and it also uses STDs and pregnancy out of wedlock as reasons teens should hold on to their virginity. Brittan said: "Safe sex is a total and complete myth. There is no such thing as safe sex. The reason I have genital herpes today is because someone told me there was such a thing as safe sex. There is nothing negative that can possibly come as a result of waiting until marriage."