Cover Story: Her Heart Belongs to Daddy

And with 'Purity Balls,' so does her vagina

May 9, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Casey Riordan Millard

She's all dolled up in tiara and ball gown, sitting on her man's lap, arms around his neck, kissing his cheek. He's grinning from ear to ear and trying to look comfortable in a rented tux.

He's placed a ring on her finger, they've exchanged vows before God and for dessert they'll chow down on wedding cake.

The "ick" factor? Tuxman and Bride Baby are Daddy and his daughter, who could be any age from a barely school-ready 7 to a college graduate.

Daddy and his "date" are taking part in a "Purity Ball." That's where he pledges to guard his daughter's virginity until the day comes when he can turn her over to a legal husband. Dutiful daughter, in turn, promises to remain pure until that fateful day.

The brainchild of Colorado Springs minister Randy Wilson and his wife, Lisa (who was abandoned by her father at age 2), "Purity Balls" have spread to 48 states, held everywhere from heartland Marriotts to New York City's Waldorf Astoria.

The ritual has ostensibly laudatory goals: involving fathers in their daughters' lives and countering the premature sexualization of girls.

But girls who attend purity balls are not merely encouraged to delay expressing their sexuality until maturity — they're literally told that their bodies are the property of their fathers until such time as Daddy bestows them as "gifts" upon another man.

"If daughters are sexually active before they're married, that (marriage) ceremony is meaningless because the father's not giving anyone away," purity daddy Bret Merkle told ABC World News Tonight, apparently with a straight face.

Wilson gave his daughter Lauren not only a "purity ring" but also a charm necklace with a lock and key. He keeps the key until he can turn it over to Lauren's hubby.

Sexuality? "The girl can learn after marriage," purity dad Mike Parcha told Glamour magazine writer Jennifer Baumgarten for an article published in February. And as for choice of spouse, his daughter "believes, and I do too, that her husband will come through our family connections or through me before her heart even gets involved."

Burqas, apparently, are optional.

Critics, of whom there are plenty, point out that "purity balls" are just the flip side of incest: Whether using them or protecting them, fathers' investment of ownership in their daughters' genitals has a decidedly creepy tone. And it's not just the godless hedonists who think so.

"I hope she'll wait," John Brown (named changed) says of his adolescent daughter. Brown is from Kansas, raised Baptist and attended a midwestern Baptist college.

His wife describes herself as born again, and their daughter attends a private Christian academy.

"I would like her to wait until she is married, and I'll let her know what I think," Brown says. "That's about as involved as I want or need to be."

The Pledge
I (daughter's name's) father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and my family as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.

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