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Portraits of Fathers With Their Daughters Who Have Pledged Virginity Until Marriage

David Magnusson

David Magnusson

Purity balls, a relatively new American religious rite in which fathers support their daughters pledge to remain a virgin until marriage, are something Stockholm-based photographer David Magnusson was unaware of until he came across an article in a Swedish magazine just over a year ago. Magnusson explains the premise in the introduction to his book, Purity, being published this year by Bokforlaget Max Ström:

“A Purity Ball is a formal event where girls or young women and their fathers participate in a ceremony. The daughters dress up in ball gowns and the evening usually consists of dinner, a keynote speech, ballroom dancing, and a vow by fathers and daughters. The girls make a pledge to ‘remain pure and live pure lives before God,’ to stay sexually abstinent until marriage. Their fathers sign a commitment undertaking to protect their daughter’s purity.”

The father or mentor pledges “…to shield and protect his daughter; to live a pure life himself as a man, husband and father; and to be a man of integrity and responsibility, acting as a role model for his family.”

The majority of the girls are teenagers, though ages vary. Though going into the project with one feeling about the balls, Magnusson felt something quite different after photographing many of the father-daughter pairs, whose poses were chosen by themselves and were not explicitly directed by Magnusson. What struck him “…when looking back at a year of photographing in the USA is how loving and responsible the fathers were. And at the same time, it is clear that the girls—in many cases, young women—are independent, strong, and insightful.” Ultimately, writes Magnusson, his “purpose hasn’t been either to belittle or glorify the ceremonies—the interpretation is all up to the eye of the viewer.”

All photographs © David Magnusson. Purity is slated for release in the United States on August 4, 2014.

David Magnusson

David Magnusson

David Magnusson

David Magnusson

David Magnusson

David Magnusson

David Magnusson

David Magnusson

  • geektinker

    The timing of each photograph was chosen by the photographer. Even more than video, a photo is looking through a straw – at a particular moment in time. Within seconds of capturing these photos, before and after, the girls and their fathers at some point would have been smiling and laughing. Timing was up to the photographer. Despite what the photographer says, I think he had an agenda.

  • geektinker

    Our society is bombarded with the idea that only wedding photos would contain a girl in a white dress with her father. I think of this as more of a projection of the father preparing ahead of time to give away his daughter on her eventual wedding day. Nobody thinks of a girls first communion photograph in a white dress as being creepy, even with her parents (or just her father) in the photo.

  • geektinker

    That your mind would even go in that direction is more creepy than seeing these photographs.

  • geektinker

    Nobody ever seems to have a problem with children that young declaring their sexuality. Why should we have a problem with them declaring their desire to stay pure until marriage?

  • geektinker

    Nobody seems to have a problem with a teenager declaring or demonstrating their sexuality these days. Why should anyone have a problem with a teenager declaring the opposite?

  • Christopher Robin

    So you think a 6 year old understands about being a virgin and purity and that they have to make choices to please their parents?

  • nmgirl

    Their ONLY value lies between their legs.

  • lauren_yearsley

    From what I’ve heard from people who really believe in saving sex for marriage, they believe that if they have really listened to god’s calling and prayed about their future husband and follow their father’s lead, then god will just make them sexually compatible.

  • Brian Edward Croner

    Problem is God never answers people’s prayers. Praying for sexual compatibility will easily result in divorce.

  • drftyguhijok

    because its fathers with their daughters. read????

  • drftyguhijok

    because father/daughter is the subject matter. not father/child(dren). like one article on here, it was behind the scenes playboy shots. why not playgirl. is the man homophobic? no. he must believe god hates gays then! no. and it has nothing to with religion either. this is just about fathers with their daughters that do not want to have sex until marriage for their own sake. and the photographer wanted to do fathers with their daughters. it was their own choice because they thought it was a good idea and message, etc.

  • JezabelleDisreali

    For me, it isn’t so much the concept of purity that I have issue with, it’s the consequences. Sleep with someone, don’t sleep with someone, that’s up to you and your decision needs to be respected. But the way that purity culture is taught (no hand holding, no dating, no kissing, courtship etc) leaves a lot of room for abuse.

    The biggest potential problem happened to me: I was raised in the purity culture and ended up getting into a sexually, emotionally, and verbally abusive relationship. I struggled with the fact that I thought it was my fault, and for the longest time I thought that this was how relationships just were since I had no other model to go by. This culture provides no resources for getting out, and even encourages the girl to return! It’s unacceptable. Girls aren’t given the skill set they need to have a healthy and balanced relationship with a sexual partner.

    Purity culture can lead to a girl being abused by the man in power over her (whether or not he’s her father). It can lead to sexual dysfunction later in life. It causes a whole host of problems.It’s just an awful mess.

  • JezabelleDisreali

    There’s a difference though. None of the communion photos I’ve seen have the same weird inappropriate touching going on. And all the girls look happy, and excited, not miserable and tense.

  • Jesse Markowitz

    Statistically, these gals are five times more likely to get into anal sex than those without purity pledges. Gotta love religion!

  • http://deathofhallyu.blogspot.com/ Death of Hallyu

    A toddler can understand the difference between a good touch and a bad touch. So how is it hard for a 6-year old to understand something this simple?

  • Alex Brown

    Well the whole idea of ‘no sex until marriage’ is a product of religion, primarily used to exert control on masses. And on broader scale, the nearly impossible virtues heaped on female virginity. A girl who sleeps around is called ‘slut’ but a guy doing the same is a ‘player/playboy’, which isn’t an insult, bur rather a backhanded compliment about his ‘conquests’.

  • http://screaminglemur.blogspot.com Lemur

    Why? It’s not like it doesn’t happen, and I thought it too, because of the creepiness of these photos and because I think the idea of ‘giving your virginity to your father’ is creepy in and of itself. Even if it’s just metaphorical.

  • geektinker

    I think a 6 year old understands that her parents love her and will seek to protect her, even from topics that she knows nothing about.

  • geektinker

    It shouldn’t be up to a minor if they sleep with someone or not. That is why there are laws against adults having sex with a minor.

    Not all purity culture is taught the same way you were, nor is it to blame for the problems you had. The potential problem you experienced could have happened and does occur in any culture that children are raised in. I’m not sure what model you were looking for in your past to go by (or what model you had), but in a perfect world, that should have been provided by the loving relationship between your parents. I’m sorry to hear that you were in an abusive relationship, but placing the blame for it on the purity culture you were raised is incorrect. The abusive person is solely to blame for the abuse you experienced.

    Any culture can potentially lead to a girl being abused by the man in power over her. Any culture can lead to sexual dysfunction later in life. Any culture can cause a whole host of problems and can be an awful mess.

  • geektinker

    I contend that the atmosphere of these photos and the looks on the girls faces are a result of the photographer, not the fathers or daughters in the photos. The photographer likely captured more photos of each family than one and was able to choose which photographs to choose. In some of those, the fathers and daughters were most likely cheerful and laughing. Yet, these were the ones chosen by the photographer. Plus, we are only seeing a few here in this article and this writer definitely has an agenda of her own to follow.

  • geektinker

    Because nowhere does any of the culture say that the girl’s virginity “belongs to their father”. It’s a sick mind that brings up suicide or that their father is touching them in the wrong way. I think many of the commenters here have watched far too many television shows.

    The father or mentor pledges “…to shield and protect his daughter; to live a pure life himself as a man, husband and father; and to be a man of integrity and responsibility, acting as a role model for his family.”

    That doesn’t sound like the type of father who would touch his daughter inappropriately. I personally believe that this world needs more fathers that care enough about their children to make such a vow. and less people that would drop a blanket accusation of immoral, abusive, and illegal activity based on looking a few photos.

  • Shinobuden

    Well, they don’t know what they’re missing out on until the day comes.

  • JezabelleDisreali

    Parents aren’t a working model for relationships, let alone an ideal one. Parents naturally keep details of how their relationship works from their children; as they should. No child wants to hear the details of how their parents negotiate consent, and naughty encounters, and compromise. It just doesn’t work.

    I fully blame my abuser for what he did. But the culture also needs to be held responsible. The purity culture told him that once he had a woman, that this woman was going to, and was supposed to fulfill his every desire and want. They told him that he could do almost whatever he wanted with this woman, because that was how relationships were supposed to be. The culture deliberately kept me, and other girls, in the dark about the dangers of sexual abuse. About sex period, and what they did tell us was full of misinformation. They did not provide tools for a healthy relationship. They did not provide role models for a healthy relationship. They didn’t encourage leaving to get help. They did tell me to go back to him. They knew about the abuse, and told me that if I left the man who took my virginity I would be nothing, useless.

    True, any culture can cause all these problems. But not all do. And not all to the same damaging and horrifying extent. Part of the absolute horror of it for me was, I live in America. I was born and raised here. I was told my whole life that this was the greatest and most fantastic place to live in, that I was lucky to be born a girl here. They were wrong.

  • geektinker

    Parents are a working model for relationships without disclosing intimate details of how their relationship works with their children, especially minors. However, teen and adult children do often turn to their parents for advice. It works both ways though, bad parenting traits are passed down to children just as well (if not better) as good traits. Even young children are going observe and mimic how they saw their parents act and treat others, regardless of whether it is good or bad.
    I am sorry to hear that you were a victim of abuse. Nobody should ever have to live through that. However, not all purity culture works in the same way as the culture you were apparently raised in, nor does it embrace those same values on marriage to an abuser.
    As for being born a girl in America, there are countless women in other parts of the world who would see things differently.

  • femaleintellect

    Is it just me but do all the daughters appear to have a very dominated and controlling relationship with their father ?

    doesnt strike me as the encouragement of independent thinking … just the appraisal of submission to a dated and sexist ideal

  • cconover1

    I find it disingenuous to think that we have statutory rape laws because “kids” are not mature enough to say “yes” to sex, yet these parents are “encouraging” their kids to say “no” to sex. Same rule applies. They are not old enough to make this decision.

  • Max Headroom

    Because it’s fundamentally dysfunctional.

  • Kristin Smetona

    I agree. I don’t believe for one second that the “purpose hasn’t been either to belittle or glorify the ceremonies—the interpretation is all up to the eye of the viewer.” There is more that goes into interpretation than just a pose in photography. For example: 1) The barrenness of the background. 2)The washed out and over exposure. 3) The desaturation and lack of color. There is WAY more that the artist is communicating that has NOTHING to do with the posing.