Saturday, March 24, 2007

Purity Balls : Young Girls Vow to Put off Sex until Marriage

"Dream dates" have a whole new meaning for a growing group of teenage girls.

The young ladies get dressed up from head to toe -- all for a formal night out with their fathers.

The focus is on bonding, and promising to stay pure until marriage.

The Markle sisters are primping for a big dance, but for the girls, there's one important difference: their date is their dad.

And the big dance???

It's called a Purity Ball.

It has all the hallmarks of a wedding: vows are exchanged, there's a white cake, even a first dance.

But instead of fathers giving away their daughters' hands, they're holding on tight.

One dad said, "As a father, I here pledge to protect my daughter and to respect her."

"In today's day and age, if the daughters are sexually active before they're married, that ceremony really is meaningless because the father's not giving anyone away," said dad Brett Markle.

Tonight, the girls make a solemn pledge to their father.

Sarah Markle, 12 years old, said, "I'm going to stay pure until I'm married, and I'm not going to date or kiss a boy or anything until I'm married."

Purity balls like this one are growing in popularity.

There were dozens held last year -- some paid for partly with federal money from President Bush's abstinence initiative funds.

But critics say if these girls are only learning abstinence, they're not being taught important information about STD's and condoms.

"I could see it winding up in more teenage pregnancies and that type of thing, because they don't know everything that they need to know," said Deanne Keegan, a United Church of Christ youth counselor.

Brittany Baysor admits it might be tough to keep the pledge.

Baysor, a freshman at a public high school, took the pledge. She said, "Some of the boys joke around with it. They say it won't work. They think I'm going to get drunk at a party sometime and have sex with the first guy I meet."

But the dads at this event say they don't care what the world has to say, because they believe their relationship with their daughters will help them stay strong.

The first Purity Ball was thrown in 1998 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Today, hundreds are planned each year in cities across the country.

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