My Business Card Purity Pledge

Since coming home I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning my bedroom and getting rid of old items I don’t use or need. Some of the many things I’m having trouble getting rid of (even though they’re thoroughly embarrassing) are my diaries from when I was in middle and high school. I wrote in them sporadically, usually about boys, and I’m not entirely sure how my fiancé would feel picking up and reading the diary I filled with entries about my high school crush who never liked me back. As cliché and whiny as these diaries are, I did find one hidden gem:  a purity pledge I made between my junior and senior years of high school. I had tucked it between random pages of the diary, probably because I had no idea where to store it. Here it is:

Front

Front

Back

Back

I’m not 100% positive, but I believe I got this card at the Steubenville conference I attended that summer. The date that I signed is right around when I went, either during or right after the event. The best part? This supposedly binding promise to myself is on a business card. Someone went through the trouble of designing business-card-sized purity pledges that could be passed out like the much more-effective condoms of actual sex educators.

Despite the brevity of this particular purity pledge, I do have something to complain about when it comes to its contents. Ignoring the fact that it’s clearly meant to be a promise to myself AND God, whom I no longer believe in, there’s one particular sentence that doesn’t sit well with me:

“As a daughter of the King, I pledge now to live my life in a way that will guard my dignity, my purity, and my beauty…”

In a promise that’s generally understood to mean “I’m not going to have sex until I get married,” what are “beauty” and “dignity” doing in there? How does having premarital sex compromise a person’s beauty or dignity? Have I gotten uglier as a result of having sex? Do I no longer have dignity? This is especially disconcerting when one considers the definition of dignity:

“The quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect.”

Does a woman surrender her dignity when she has sex? Is she no longer worthy of esteem or respect? Do people who have premarital sex not deserve respect?

With just a few words, this pledge becomes disturbingly dehumanizing. It ties a woman’s worth to the state of her genitals rather than to the fact that she is a human being with a brain, and feelings, and all the things that go into a person. Furthermore, in the process of trying to get young women to choose abstinence, it puts down the people who don’t.

Regardless of whether or not you think purity pledges are a good idea, this kind of language shouldn’t be included in them. It’s degrading, it’s sexist, and it’s wrong.

Have any of you made purity pledges? What do you think about them? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

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14 thoughts on “My Business Card Purity Pledge

  1. Thanks for your comment on my post about definitions of marriage.

    Although I was a Christian for my entire adolescence, I myself never made a purity pledge. I thought having other people involved in my decision not to have premarital sex, even by signing a card made by them, was a gross invasion of my privacy. For me, it was just a given that you didn’t have sex till you got married, and it would be a shame for anyone, male or female, to do it. I was especially grossed out by the thought of wearing a purity ring.

    I was fortunate in a way to have discussions about premarital sex in a youth group and church where it wasn’t about protecting your womanly beauty, but about protecting your soul, whether you were male or female. I liked to describe myself and those around me as equal-opportunity slut-shamers. Now, of course, I don’t care who has sex with whom, as long as it’s all consensual and nobody is lying about anything.

    On a lighter note, I certainly wouldn’t consider sex a dignified past-time. There’s a lot of sweat and weird faces and sounds involved. It’s fun and natural, and occasionally beautifully spiritual, but certainly not dignified. For those wishing to maintain their dignity, I suggest a game of croquet.

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    • It may depend on which definition of dignity one is using, though your point about croquet made me giggle. I’m glad to hear that you experienced a more private situation regarding that decision. I was encouraged to consider virginity something to be proud of, so I literally bragged about it for an embarrassingly long time.

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      • Oh, don’t worry, despite my love of privacy I did too. I think we’ve all been there.
        I think I was okay talking about it because it was when I chose to divulge it, rather than having a ring on for anyone to see by default, and signing a pledge made me accountable to someone else for my *own virginity* rather than just myself. (While I liked privacy, when I bragged about it I also liked surprising people, and you can’t do that when you’re wearing a ring!)

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  2. I definitely signed one or more of those stupid things growing up… My parents also bought me a ring that said “true love waits” for my 16th birthday.

    I got chills when you mentioned Steubenville… (I’ve been to a few of those… Check out my post on charismatics!)

    Have you read anything about fundie purity culture where they have purity balls (dances) and pledge to their dads? Gross.

    Looking forward to more of your posts!

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    • I will definitely check out that post. I don’t know what your age is but if you’ve gone to a few, we might even have gone the same year. I don’t know how long they’ve been doing those events.

      I have read (and seen some clips about) the fundie purity balls. It grosses me out too. It’s pretty old but I have a post about age of consent and purity pledging where I talk about it a little. I’m particularly frustrated by the way these pledges are pushed on girls who are too young to even comprehend what they’re promising.

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      • I just read your bio, and I think we are about the same age (I’m also a twenty-something 😉 ) That’s funny. How involved were you in the charismatic stuff? Do you have twitter or Facebook?

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      • If I understood correctly from your post that by charismatic you mean the cultish, pop culture fun meets worship activities situation, plus a bit of old school belief in supernatural spiritual warfare and demons thrown in there, mixed with a hefty dose of Catholic guilt, then I’d say I was moderately involved for a pretty long time because my dad was the youth minister at my family’s parish. I spent my entire childhood looking forward to going on retreats like the ones he ran, where the teens played games, did skits, and had picnics. I wanted to be part of the fun.

        Also, I was homeschooled, and most of the kids I interacted with were strict, devout Catholics too, and their families and mine would get together to do religious things. Meeting to pray the rosary (sometimes in front of abortion clinics, sometimes in homes) was common. Some of the adults in my homeschool co ops (organizations where parents bring their kids and basically form a makeshift school where the parent with the art degree teaches art, the one with the science degree, if you’re lucky enough to have one, teaches science, etc) as well as my parents, taught me to believe in demons and (literally) ghosts. As a teen, I went to the annual Diocesan Youth Day, the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), my church’s parish picnic, then the conference at Steubenville, and was pretty deeply into youth group, where we made an annual thing of watching The Passion (bleh). The one thing I didn’t do was join a retreat team. I’m really glad I never did that. My brother did.

        Did you go to any other events besides Steubenville that were like that? At Steubenville, did they do the thing where they mysteriously make the whole room cry during adoration?

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      • Damn, your teenage years sound an awful lot like mine! Just to clarify, we went to “regular” (boring) church on Sundays and had prayer meetings during the week (with all the fun stuff). I did just about everything – I was a CCD teacher, altar server, in youth groups, in a traveling passion play type thing, leader in a local annual conference (like Steubenville but slightly smaller, but everyone I knew went to Steubenville too). I went to Catholic school k-12. So basically our weekly prayer meetings were a tiny version of Steubenville – skits, praise and worship, small groups, sometimes adoration etc. I saw more people get weepy over the guilt-tripping skits but yeah people love the adoration stuff too. It’s creepy, looking back on it.

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      • Very creepy. Just curious, I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but do you know about traditionalist Catholics? Wikipedia has a page on them. They’re stricter than even the most rigid followers of mainstream Catholicism. They think Vatican II (the council that, among other things, allowed mass to be said in the vernacular rather than Latin) was a terrible thing, and basically act as if Vatican II never happened. I knew a bunch of traditionalist Catholics, and attended Steubenville with them, which was by far the craziest, most cultish experience of my life.

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      • You know, I’ve heard of that but I don’t think I knew any of them personally. I’m surprised you did, because I thought it was mostly older people who felt that way!

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      • There are actually, it turns out, entire congregations that feel that way, spanning generations. My homeschool co op in high school was mostly attended by members of a specific traditional Catholic church’s congregation, many of whom were related. They’re like fundie Catholics. They even follow purity culture, courting instead of dating, saving their first kiss for marriage and all that nonsense. There were definitely some at Steubenville because the purity speaker the year I went was definitely a supporter of courtship.

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      • I do remember the purity stuff being pushed on us, there was someone who wrote a book about it… Courtship and kissing only at the wedding (wtf). It’s vague but I remember some of it. Ugh.

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      • Yeah, it’s totally nuts. At the Steubenville conference’s purity talk, I remember everyone was listening closely until the speaker suggested waiting till marriage to kiss. You could feel almost a collective sigh of “never mind” from the crowd of teenagers, and my first thought was for most of us that ship had sailed.

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