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A vagina is not a prize 

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OK ladies: You’ve got your dress, your corsage, your hair fixed, your nails done and your date is waiting. However, rather than a handsome young man in a rental tux, your date is an older man. In fact, your date is none other than your old man. And rather than the possibility of losing your virginity to the fumbling of inexperience and the expediency of an over-excited teenage penis, the purpose of this evening is to pledge your sacred virginity and purity to dear ol’ Dad.

On November 3, The Christian Center in Chicago held their annual Father-Daughter Purity Ball. This $50 per person yearly event consists of dancing, dinner, guest speakers, and most importantly: daughters pledge their purity (virginity) to their fathers. Those in attendance were mostly upper-middle class white people who obviously have too much money and a serious issue with sharing.

Before I go any further, it is important to mention that there are some who feel these events are wonderful activities that bring fathers and daughters closer during late adolescence. This is often the time when distance grows between a daughter and her awkward father, whose discomfort level increases as she goes from daddy’s little girl to a grown woman with boobs … and a period.

Messages from Purity Balls, purity rings and abstinence pledges, though seemingly benign, reify the sexuality of women. These groups and movements claim to protect the innocence of youth, but in doing so make a woman’s sexuality a thing … tangible and valuable. Sexuality and even sexualized body parts become positioned outside of the woman. The messages from these movements suggest that she possesses her sexuality and body, but she does not own them. The young woman pledges her purity (sexuality) to her father, who then ceremoniously passes it to her husband on their wedding day, like passing a set of keys to his prized classic sports car. “Here ya are, son. Now be sure to let her warm up before you go slammin’ through the gears … and watch those curves.”

According to those that put on the ball, “God thinks the protection of a woman’s purity should be extravagant.” Conversely, then by having sexual agency, sexuality or just having sex, a young woman (or woman of any age) is impure and has lesser or no value. Since she is not pure, she does not require the same extravagant protection. In fact, I would argue that some people may think that society needs to be protected from that type of woman, or that she should be in some way punished for her overt behavior.

Reifying women’s sexuality, objectifying their bodies and, in essence, putting a price on them sets women up as part of an economic system of supply and demand. The supply is regulated, not by women themselves, but by constraining societal messages that sex is sacred and a vagina is a prize to be won. We need to stop seeing women as commodities in need of control.

Perhaps it is time for both men and women to view women as complete and sexual beings; to accept that a woman’s sexuality is not the possession of her father or her husband, but hers and hers alone.

I suggest that women be free to do what they will with their sexuality and bodies without asking permission or living in fear of the consequences of double standard.

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