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Talking with Three Virgins

"I believe that God does not ask me to do things that do not have a purpose. 'Just Say No' didn't have a purpose, but my virginity does."
January 20, 2012, 8:55pm

In the last few years in North American culture, abstinence-only education in the US has proved unsuccessful, yet federally funded "Purity Balls"--where daughters pledge virginity to their fathers until marriage in a public ceremony--are strong and alive (and weird). Just look at TLC's The Virgin Diaries, which highlights, among others, three famous virgins named Lisa, Danielle, and Tamara, whose specific brand of purity is everywhere: Dr. DrewThe Ellen Degeneres Show, Telegraph UK, and CBC.

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Doesn't the idea of "combating a sex-obsessed culture with purity" just validate the idea of a woman's moral compass being her vagina? Staying pure, virginity by choice… it's fine by me. What I do have a problem with is where the notion of "purity" leaves the others. The sluts. People like me. If it is morally right to wait to experiment with sex until you are married to a man, then that must make those of us who don't wait morally wrong. Where is the middle ground? Beyond this, why is a woman's morality always intertwined with her sexuality?

I was raging with questions. I've read Jessica Valenti's The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession With Virginity Is Hurting Young Women (now a documentary) like a bible-manifesto combo. I've angrily gawked over documentaries of Purity Balls and abstinence-only educators (like that psycho Pam Stenzel). I have a degree in gender studies, too. These virgins were pulling me in. I had to talk to them, get them to hear my side, the smarter side of the whole purity debate.

I decided to go and talk to Lisa, Danielle, and Tamara. I emailed them explaining that I was a feminist writer and even though I didn't agree with their choices, I respected their right to have them. Surprisingly, they invited me over for a chat and a photo shoot. They even let us dress them up in Laura Ashley-style country-girl garb.