When Men Take Virginity Pledges

By Sarah Diefendorf

Last spring, David Magnusson’s portraits of girls who attended purity balls generated lots of attention.These images of young women in white gowns, embraced by their fathers, evoke the sentiment and purpose of purity balls: dances at which daughters pledge their virginity to their fathers until they marry. As Amy Derogatis argues in her new book, Saving Sex, purity balls raise questions about the autonomy of these girls and the value we place on their virginity. Purity balls are a dramatic example of contemporary right of passage for many American teens: the virginity pledge. These rituals – pledges and balls – highlight cultural understandings of virginity and gender in which young women are supposed to protect their virginity, because it doesn’t really belong to them. It belongs to the men they will marry.

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