A startling – yet all too easily understandable – item from Purity Culture. Lynn Beisner at AlterNet:
My step-father began having problems getting erections when I was a senior in high school. How did I find out about this? He told me that he was using me to get an erection so that he could have sex with my mother.We were very religious people. We attended a Fundamentalist Baptist Church so sexually conservative I was not even allowed to wear jeans. But still, he would sit me down and discuss what he had been thinking on those nights when he pressed my body against his and stroked my hair, the curve of my hip and the area between my collar bone and breasts until his penis was hard against my thigh.
In those incredibly awkward and galling conversations he reassured me repeatedly that he would never do anything to compromise my virginity.
So using her to get a hard-on is perfectly fine. Purity is preserved.
In a way it’s staggering in its callous absurdity, but in another way it’s just of course, the whole point of patriarchy is ownership of female sexuality, so naturally Mr Horndog rationalizes that it’s all cool as long as he doesn’t actually Break Her Hymen.
But it’s worse than that.
To better understand the role that Purity Culture played in my step-father’s abuse, I would ask that you bear with me while I explain a little about the beliefs and practices of that culture. I should distinguish first the difference between the emphasis placed on purity in mainline Christian circles, and the hardcore Purity Community. The latter is best known for their the icky tradition of Purity Balls. At these annual events, daughters as young as five dress in elaborate white gowns and “gift” their virginities to their fathers for safekeeping.
I will grant you that purity balls are indeed cringe-worthy. But it is important that we not stop our examination of the culture at that point because the Purity Culture is far more troubling, and the relationship between father and daughter becomes far more enmeshed and emotionally incestuous than most articles about purity culture expose.
For starters, the balls are celebrations of the vow that these girls have made and the contract that they sign. They are agreeing to being spiritually married to their father and to God until such time as their father sees fit to give her to a husband. For their part, fathers pledge to protect their daughters’ virginity, which is the “most precious gift that she can offer her future husband.”
Yeah you know that’s really not…
…it’s not a thing, not Christianity only more so, not extra extra pure. Daughters “spiritually marrying” their fathers…that’s a twist.
According to Vision Forum, one of the leaders in the Purity Culture, a father treats his daughter in such a way that is that he “woos her and wins her with a tenderness and affection unique to that relationship”
My step-father couldn’t woo me using Purity Balls, because there were none at that point. Back then, fathers were encouraged to woo their daughters on regular dates. My step-father would bring me flowers, open doors for me and generally treat me like I was his much younger girlfriend.
And in practice…it turned out to be every bit as creepy as it looked.
To me, these dates felt more like an excuse for my step-father to re-experience his youth. He got to be seen with a younger woman on his arm, and more importantly he got to spend an hour or two basking in the warmth and adoration of someone who was not allowed to challenge him.
I am not being egotistical when I say that my step-father fell for me, developed a huge and creepy crush on me during those dates. Had we been allowed to have the normal step-father/daughter relationship where we ignore each other and occasionally snarl back and forth, I feel fairly sure he would never have developed that heartfelt affection and sexual attraction.
But the dates succeeded in one way: They taught me exactly what I should expect while dating men in that environment: abuse.
And the other thing they taught her?
The second lesson, however, is about more than just being your father’s servant. It is meant to teach young women to orient their entire lives around pleasing their fathers as practice for pleasing their husbands. One of the more important ways that this shows up is in the requirement that a woman dress and groom herself in a way which pleases her father.
A prime example of this is a statement from Michelle Duggar, a star of the hit series “19 and Counting” She said that she styles her hair however Jim Bob prefers because “what he likes is what I want.” The Botkin sisters, luminaries in the Purity Movement, talk about wearing their father’s favorite colors, styles in dress and hair so that their father will enjoy seeing them.
Girls are trained to be patriotropic.
In the practical case of my step-father, surrendering to his wishes about my appearance led to him treating me as his personal Barbie doll. He bought my clothes had my hair styled as he wanted. Then under the guise of giving his stamp of approval to the outfits that I planned to wear, he would demand fashion shows. Although they were obviously for his titillation, he was doing nothing more than what Purity Culture encourages.
It’s inevitable, when this is made so central. It’s funny about that, isn’t it – it’s not charity or compassion or making the world a better place that’s made central in these cults, it’s patriarchy – real patriarchy, literal patriarchy, not the sublimated watered down version that we secular weirdos have to navigate.
Of course not every man in purity culture uses his daughter to treat his erection problems. But the attitudes and beliefs about women that encourage men to see daughters as apprentice wives and their sexuality as his make it very easy justify all manner of oppression and abuse just as my step-father justified his behavior. The potential for abuse grows exponentially when you factor in the isolation that these families and religions generally practice which leave the fathers with no fear of reprisal and daughters without recourse.
What does “apprentice wife” mean in this context? A girl who is being groomed for literal slavery. It’s a decorated, veiled, beribboned kind of slavery, but it is slavery.