In “What is Conservative Culture?” (July 3, 2006 issue of The New Republic), Rick Perlstein reports that a new kind of prom has spung up in some fundamentalist communities. It’s
not for high school seniors but for prepubescent girls. They dress up in party dresses and take their fathers as dates. After the fox trot, the daughter reads to her father from a card: “With confidence in His power to strengthen me, I make a promise this day to God, my family, myself, my future spouse, and my future children; to remain sexually pure until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my spouse.” The father responds: “I, (daughter’s name)’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.”
I had a few reactions to this idea. First of all, with all of the effort the conservatives exert to make birth control pills and devices unavailable, I can see why they also need to put this enormous energy into keeping their daughters “pure.”
Now, about that language, until she gives herself to her spouse as a “wedding gift?” That sounds to much like chattel. Do those fathers affix seals on their daughters to to certify that they have been properly “covered” and “protected.” If the girl becomes a gift, are these Christian husbands free to do anything they want with their “gifts.”
By the logic of the article, the wedding marks the end of purity. Does that mean that married Christian girls are unpure? And where is that line between being pure and not pure? First base? Second base? Do these thirteen year old girls understand what the term “pure” means? I don’t.
I woud rephrase this prom declaration and put it in writing so that everyone understands everyone else. I would define in writing whether French kissing destroys purity. What about watching a steamy movie? What about (caveat: Fundamentalist parents, please skip to the next paragraph) autoeroticism?
And shouldn’t there be a few caveats communicated to these de-sexed debutantes? For example, not all girls get married right out of high school. Do these young women realize that they are denying themselves what many people consider to be the ultimate pleasure, potentially for decades? If I had my say, I would insist upon the use of a special written disclaimer form: “I understand that many people consider sex to be the ultimate pleasure. By signing this, I am giving up the chance to experience this ultimate pleasure for a length of time that might exceed several decades. If no one proposes to me, which is likely given that my father will constantly be “covering” me, I acknowledge that I will die a virgin. Signed, Ashley, aged 10.”
Finally, how about a “Progressive Prom” where the girls promise to be empathetic to the plight of the poor and disenfranchized and where each of the fathers promises to trust his daughter’s judgment, whether she be 10 years of age or 15 or 25?