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What is a Purity Ball?

White roses symbolize purity.
During a purity ball, a father will pledge to protect his daughter's purity.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2014
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The Purity Ball is a concept developed by Randy Wilson and his wife Rita, and the first ball was held in 1998. It would be a mistake to describe the ball as a typical father-daughter dance, though this does take up part of the activity of the night. Instead it is also a night when fathers pledge to be pure and protect their daughter’s purity by acting as good fathers, as moral people, and as excellent husbands. This pledge is often Christian based, and the concept of the Purity Ball has launched numerous copies, especially in Evangelical Christian communities.

There is often misunderstanding that a Purity Ball constitutes a pledge by the daughter to stay pure, or in other words, remain a virgin, until marriage. In fact, many girls who attend the ball believe this to be part of the pledge, but Wilson and his wife say that the intention was not part of the original design. Instead, both assert, as on a 2007 episode of The Tyra Banks Show, that Purity Balls recognize the extreme importance of fathers in raising daughters. They claim that most girls who get lost in their adolescent years or tend toward promiscuity do so as a result of abandonment or a broken relationship with a father. Instead of the girls pledging purity at these events, dads pledge to be true to their daughters, and to help protect and guide them through adolescence and until they marry.

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While the event may be pure in intent, it inspires fairly negative reaction in the press on a regular basis. Some call the idea of fathers pledging themselves to their daughters as close to incest, especially when fathers also commit to regular “dates” with their daughters or consider themselves as taking the place of a lover until a girl is married or engaged. Others are concerned about daughters thinking the ball represents that they are pledging their virginity to their dads. Wilson insists this is not the intent of the Purity Ball, and instead suggests it is a time for dads to step up and pledge to their daughters that they will be good and kind fathers. By setting the example of being honest and true men, it is hoped that girls will look for these same qualities when they choose husbands.

The typical Purity Ball, at least those orchestrated by the Wilsons, includes an evening of dancing, dinner, and then a Purity Pledge by the fathers. Girls dance with their dads through the night, and then lay a white rose on a cross as symbolic of this purity pledge. The evening is very formal, and dads, step-dads or foster dads attend with any and all of their daughters, from youngest to oldest.

For the Wilsons, the Purity Ball is only symbolic of the way fathers should interact with their daughters on a daily basis. Fathers aren't just supposed to be pledging purity but also pledging the guardianship of their daughters, the willingness to be involved parents, and the importance of remaining pure in their lives by upholding and living moral (as defined by Christianity) lifestyles. Many people celebrate these balls as a means for fathers and daughters to affirm excellent relationships, and the popularity of the Purity Ball has spread from many locations in the US to several European countries.

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Ana1234
Post 3

@Fa5t3r - The problem is that as soon as you open up a dance to young people of both sexes, you end up with the emphasis being on romance rather than family. I think it's cute to have a day where daughters are dressing only for themselves and can feel special without needing to impress young men.

Fa5t3r
Post 2

@pastanaga - I actually really like the idea of it, to be honest, but I think they go about it the wrong way by calling it a purity ball. There must be some other way to name it that would emphasize the paternal relationship rather than sexuality (and there's no real way to disentangle the word "purity" from sexuality).

If they made it into some kind of event with parents and teenagers that happened to include dressing up and dancing, I think that would probably go down better. I know they want to put a special emphasis on dads and daughters, as a means of helping girls psychologically, but too much emphasis isn't doing them any favors.

pastanaga
Post 1

I've always found these kinds of things to be rather strange and borderline misogynistic. It might not be the intention of the organizer to give that idea, but when you develop an occasion that celebrates the father and daughter relationship by putting them into a situation that is usually reserved for sexual partners, then you are basically making the father into a substitute partner.

And that brings up all kinds of bad stuff, like the idea that the father owns the daughter or that she should be saving herself in order to keep in his good graces or whatever.

It seems to put emphasis on the idea of a daughter as being a commodity rather than an independent human being capable of making their own choices.

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