Friday, November 13, 2009

Purity Rings

18 Kids and Counting has presented a highly sanitized version of what many ATI kids go through in the movement (as regarding purity rings and courting). As I'm sure most of my two or three readers can imagine, I have some insights that I'd like to share about the reality of this system.

Purity Rings. The formal party line is that the girl should be given her ring at the age of twelve or her first menstrual period (whichever comes first). However, the build-up starts much earlier. I was six when my mom started telling me about the pledge of purity and how I was god's special flower and He had already chose the gardener for my flower. All of my sisters got the same talk at age six so I'm pretty confidant that this speech is handed out with the first grade ATI curriculum. At six, I was given a formal lesson on 'defrauding' men. Only, back then, I don't think it was labeled as 'defrauding'. My mom showed me pictures from a magazine (It was a copy of LIFE magazine) that had "pornography". The pictures were of Madonna. She told me that people who wore immodest or "gender confusing" clothes were "destroying men". In her own words, she taught me that when a man sees a woman wearing men's clothes, he feels threatened and unsure of his own responsibilities. When a woman wears immodest or revealing clothes, it tempts the man and causes him to betray his promises to his Creator just as Eve tempted Adam with the apple. There's no discussion about a man's accountability or responsibilty to use self-control. I think they get that talk from their fathers but, as girls, we weren't told that men should or could control themselves. If they sinned, it was our fault for causing them to sin with our immodesty. I thought it made men sound very weak and my mother actually winked at me in a conspiratorial fashion. There's a lot of that happening too, within the patriarchy movement. Women tell themselves that they let the men think they are in control whenever they're feeling really out of control. I'll explain that more another time but back to the rings.

When I received me ring, my father told me my sexuality was under God's authority. Only God could decide when I should give that gift away, to the man He had for me. Of course my dad would help me find that Knight in Shining Armor and let me know he was THE Knight. The Duggars are up-front with that part. The part they don't share is that Gothard tells fathers to make the daughters accountable to them. Yes, that's right. If a girl commits a sexual sin, she's not supposed to go to her mother or her sisters. If a girl has a sexual sin committed upon her, she doesn't go to her mother or her sisters or anyone but her father. If you have a good father, which I think Jim Bob is, then that works out fine, but what if you have a father who is more concerned about his image than his daughters. I've seen fathers marrying daughters to the highest bidder in this movement for their own gain. It's a dirty little secret in the movement but it does happen. Some fathers may really mean to be looking for the best place for their girls by choosing men with better homes and means. Few will admit that that's not always the best way to find a match. What about personalities or goals? It's not even the best system for the boys! One of my brothers was told he was marrying a certain girl. They were pushed together because it was a mutually beneficial situation for the futures of both families. A business deal, in reality, but oh hey look, these adorable kids of ours are only six months apart in age and of course they both want to live this lifestyle! They were tossed together for courting to begin, under the watchful eye of the parents, where they could never speek freely or engage in deep conversation. They married and were unhappy for the first year. They didn't even consumate the marriage for six months because they didn't know one another and my brother was too nice to "collect his prize". They had nothing in common except their faith. When my brother brought this up to someone in our church circle, he and his wife were sent on a retreat. They came back defeated and resigned to staying together "until they fell in love" with the commandment to start having children. It makes me so angry to think that any Christian advisor would tell a young couple who were so unsuited to start having children because there was no way to go back and undo their marriage vows. My brother and his wife had a child and found a way to like each other, but love took another four years and two children. They're still together and both families see them as a "success" story. They're even asked to share their testimony with other couples in the same situation. It's wrong! This is what happens when you take these choices away from young men and women. It's fine to have morals and convictions. If you want to wait for sex, then wait for sex. All I'm saying is it's wrong for parents to choose these convictions for you and a twelve year old is in no position to choose to let the parents have the authority on this for the rest of their lives. It would be okay if it were a "we'll help you save yourself until you're an adult and then it's your choice". That's not what is being said with a purity ring and courtship promise. What's being said is, "You will give the authority for these decisions to your father." until you are married (at which point it is too late to go back).


  1. Thank you for sharing. I enjoy your perspective and wish you the best.

  2. Are QF kids ever encouraged to talk to other adults? Or is the only role model and guidelines you get your parents, and maybe siblings? That's something I'm used to seeing actively encouraged in the more conservative groups that I see lacking in the Duggars. The idea that a girl can only talk about sexual temptations with her FATHER seems pretty much assured that a girl will go into marriage knowing nothing about sex and scared half to death of it!

  3. And you've just hit on the head the underlying "ick" factor in the purity ring/purity pledge campaign. Pledging your virginity to God is one thing. Pledging your virginity (unofficially) to your father is nasty.

    Then there's the uncomfortable-ness factor with talking to your father about sex. Worse than talking to your mother. I didn't even want my dad to know when I hit menarche and then only sexual advice he ever gave me (unsought, might I had) was when I was 20 or 21. And such helpful advice it was too -- "tell him to keep his rocket in his pocket." Thanks, Dad.

    Did your brother and sister-in-law finally break down and give testimonies? It seems to me that would be the saddest part in their rather tragic story.

  4. Something tells me we'll have a purity ring ceremony on this week's episode of "18 Kids" since it's Joy Anna's birthday. Good post!

  5. Did your brother and sister-in-law finally break down and give testimonies? It seems to me that would be the saddest part in their rather tragic story

    Yes. They did and they do. They are fully invested in ATI. Their testimony is one of faithfulness and dedication, to God rather than your own desires, paying off. Like Josh, my brother received a hand-me-down business from my dad, and combined with the dowry of a competing business (which was rolled into my dad's old business), my brother has made quite a good living. They have six children now and she's expecting a seventh.

    You and I see it as a tragedy but for many it's held up as an example of perfect obedience, worthy of emulation.

  6. Donna said...
    Are QF kids ever encouraged to talk to other adults? Or is the only role model and guidelines you get your parents, and maybe siblings?

    It depends on the family. There are some QF families who have a tight, extended family of like minded church members and they'll have "bible studies" or Q & A sessions for teens to ask questions about sex. That's not the most common but I've seen it. I would say most QF families (and almost all Gothard families) believe sex is a taboo topic between anyone but the child and their parents. A further slice of those (probably half or more) believe that sex is a topic you only speak of to your same sex parent if you're a boy and if you're a girl to both mom and dad (but ALWAYS dad). It's hard to explain and maybe I'm not explaining right. For us, we could talk to mom, but we knew she'd always tell father and we'd be called into their room at night to discuss everything we asked with our dad present. The boys never had to discuss it in front of mom.

    Fathers are seen as the protectors of their daughters' purity and that means they need the details (supposedly). As a girl, you are your father's responsibility until he gives you to your husband. That IS what they believe. They just don't like the ins-and-outs of that belief to be public.

  7. Ruth,
    I look forward to reading your blog, to get further insights into the QF/ATL culture (for I know 18 Kids isnt the authentic version). As always, thank you for sharing your story with us- I hope you are finding it helpful.

    I was wondering, have you been able to adjust to having non-familial relationships (i.e. friendships). I dont mean "dating" necessarily, but have you been able to make friends at your university, to provide you with the emotional support you may not be getting from your family? I have a small family, and I have found that sometimes really great friends are the best relationships you will ever have. There is a saying "the greatest gift of all, is when friends become family and family become friends".

    Best to you.

  8. Ruth, I am so glad you were able to find your way out of that ungodly situation. Have you ever heard of the site? There are many blogs now by and for people recovering from legalistic Christian upbringings, but I thought the Quivering Daughters one especially might be one you would enjoy.


  9. Ruth, please keep posting. I have learned so much about the QF movement from you. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

  10. Ruth, have you ever heard of ATI families paying a "dowry fee" to a matchmaker to arrange their marriages?

    Look at this:

  11. Ruth, I thought after years of reading about QF/Patriarchy etc. I would be rather unshockable, but somehow this entry shocked me.
    You know what this all reminds me of so much?
    Fundamentalist Muslim culture! Men in coffeehouses 'trading' children to further their business empires, marriages not so much arranged as forced. Examples of this are rife in Turkey & North Africa, as well as Rural India & Pakistan. I am sure the ATI will see these people as underdeveloped heathens, but in reality they come to resemble them more & more.

    Also in Orthodox Judaism the same matchmaking & keeping the women responsible for the men's lust is completely normal.

    This, to me, again shows how fundamentalism is totally man-made, as all religions, starting out very differently, once they go fundie, start looking more and more alike untill they are indistinguishable!

  12. Shocking!! One point made in a recent post said that here are "formulas" to be followed, but they failed; rather than admit it, we continue to deny sanity to uphold the system. Its as if it its said, Lets take the failed system of prearranged marriage that was for the political good of the extended families and put up stilts by forcing them to make it work and then have them testify as to how the house of cards is still standing. So dishonest!!
    I am now far removed from this lifestyle, having feared that I would never again see my "family" when I left 15 years ago. Now I am reunited with my younger siblings and feel that the real truth has finally won rather than the religious BS!

  13. Wow, thank you for opening our eyes to this lifestyle. I am a born-again christian, brought up in a very strict christian household, although not as strict as QF by the sounds of it. We were always taught to wait for marriage before having sex. My husband and I were both virgins on our wedding night, and I can tell you that waiting brought a hell of a lot of issues with it also. I too thought I would give my daughter a 'purity ring' on her 12th birthday, but as I begin to open my eyes more and more to the problems of waiting, I don't think I will. That is her choice to make, not for us to decide. I will always love her, no matter what path she chooses.

  14. My husband and I are neither ATI nor quiverfull cultists, however we have given our daughters (2 so far) purity rings. We talked with them about becoming women and God's plan for their lives and our belief that God's plan for sex is in a committed marriage relationship-for our protection and as a reflection of Jesus' love for the church- at the time we gave them their rings; we made very specific promises to them regarding helping them make wise decisions as they matured and protecting them from a culture that says they can have it all. We asked them to promise to abstain from sex until their wedding night, and told them we believed they were capable of that kind of commitment. Our oldest daughter married last fall, at age 20. As part of her ceremony she asked my husband to read the letter we wrote to her when she was 12, he did so and added that the covenant she willingly entered into with us on that day had its fulfillment today, we joyfully celebrated with her as she enterd into a new covenant; she then removed her ring, handed it to her dad and he placed her hand in her fiances' hand. This was a powerful testimony to the many young people in attendance. In a world where noone waits until marriage for sex, she chose to.
    Of course we would have loved her if she had chosen differently, and she had opportunity to do so, the fact remains that we chose to speak truth into her life and stand by what we believe God calls us to. A life that reflects His great love for us.
    Discernment and love are very great filters in this world...use them wisely.

  15. I have noticed the girls wearing the ring, I would be interested in hearing more about how the parents give the ring, is it similar to the "period" talk?

  16. The story of your brother and sister-in-law is a tragedy, but honestly I think there is silver to those dark clouds. They did finally manage to fall in love, which is so much better than living the rest of their lives hating each other. I am happy they have that, at least, even though they are still participating in an obviously destructive cycle.


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