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Exposure

Purity Balls: Like A Wedding, Except To Your Dad [Photos]

At Christian purity balls, American virgins promise dads they'll stay pure until they marry (someone else).

  • <p>Stockholm-based photographer <a href="http://www.davidmagnusson.se/" target="_blank">David Magnusson</a> documents purity balls, in which girls (mostly teenage, some as young as four) vow to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.</p>
  • <p>The father, as "High Priest of their home and family," makes a pledge to protect his daughter's “purity."</p>
  • <p>Often, they exchange purity rings. It’s a lot like a wedding, except to your dad.</p>
  • <p>Magnusson first learned about the rituals in a short article in a Swedish magazine, and was fascinated, as Sweden, though a historically Christian country, has a largely secular culture.</p>
  • <p>Over the course of five months, he traveled to purity balls in Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, and each time spent one hour with the father-daughter pair, interviewing and photographing them.</p>
  • <p>“I want to see your relationship as a father and a daughter,” Magnusson would tell his subjects, “in light of the decisions you have made.”</p>
  • <p>Magnusson writes in the book’s introduction that he was struck by “how loving and responsible the fathers were. But at the same time, it is clear that the girls--in many cases, young women--are independent, strong, and insightful.”</p>
  • <p>Ultimately, his “purpose hasn’t been either to belittle or glorify the ceremonies--the interpretation is all up to the eye of the viewer.”</p>
  • <p>Still, it's hard not to shudder at lines like "you are married to the Lord and your father is your boyfriend," as one father tells his daughter in this <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/03/daughters-pledge-to-preserve-their-virginity-at-purity-balls/" target="_blank">Nightline Prime documentary</a>.</p>
  • <p>The series will be published in <em>Purity</em>, a book out this August from <a href="http://www.maxstrom.se/Bocker/Bokpresentationssida/?isbn=9789171262929#.U2JUX61dXgK" target="_blank">Bokforlaget Max Strom</a>.</p>
  • 01 /10

    Stockholm-based photographer David Magnusson documents purity balls, in which girls (mostly teenage, some as young as four) vow to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.

  • 02 /10

    The father, as "High Priest of their home and family," makes a pledge to protect his daughter's “purity."

  • 03 /10

    Often, they exchange purity rings. It’s a lot like a wedding, except to your dad.

  • 04 /10

    Magnusson first learned about the rituals in a short article in a Swedish magazine, and was fascinated, as Sweden, though a historically Christian country, has a largely secular culture.

  • 05 /10

    Over the course of five months, he traveled to purity balls in Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, and each time spent one hour with the father-daughter pair, interviewing and photographing them.

  • 06 /10

    “I want to see your relationship as a father and a daughter,” Magnusson would tell his subjects, “in light of the decisions you have made.”

  • 07 /10

    Magnusson writes in the book’s introduction that he was struck by “how loving and responsible the fathers were. But at the same time, it is clear that the girls--in many cases, young women--are independent, strong, and insightful.”

  • 08 /10

    Ultimately, his “purpose hasn’t been either to belittle or glorify the ceremonies--the interpretation is all up to the eye of the viewer.”

  • 09 /10

    Still, it's hard not to shudder at lines like "you are married to the Lord and your father is your boyfriend," as one father tells his daughter in this Nightline Prime documentary.

  • 10 /10

    The series will be published in Purity, a book out this August from Bokforlaget Max Strom.

It’s a lot like a wedding, except to your dad. At purity balls, a relatively new Christian religious ceremony that's gaining popularity, American girls (some as young as four) vow to their fathers that they'll remain virgins until marriage.

The formal events tend to include dinner, a keynote speech, and ballroom dancing, and the girls get decked out in, um, white gowns. The father, as "High Priest of their home and family," makes a pledge to protect his daughter's "purity" during the affair. Often, they exchange purity rings.

Stockholm-based photographer David Magnusson captures all this in Purity, a book that's out in August by Bokforlaget Max Strom. Magnusson first learned about the rituals in a short article in a Swedish magazine, and was fascinated. (Sweden, although an historically Christian country, has a largely secular culture.)

Over the course of five months, Magnusson traveled to purity balls in Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona. On each occasion, he spent an hour interviewing and photographing the father-daughter pair. "I want to see your relationship as a father and a daughter," Magnusson told his subjects, "in light of the decisions you have made." The poses were up to the subjects themselves, undirected by Magnusson.

Critics see the ceremonies as anti-feminist and heteronormative. But Magnusson, after spending time with his subjects, found his views evolving. He writes, in the book’s introduction, that he was struck by "how loving and responsible the fathers were. But at the same time, it is clear that the girls—in many cases, young women—are independent, strong, and insightful." Ultimately, he says, his "purpose hasn’t been either to belittle or glorify the ceremonies—the interpretation is all up to the eye of the viewer."

Still, it's hard not to shudder when you hear: "You are married to the Lord and your father is your boyfriend." This is what one dad tells his daughter in this Nightline Prime documentary on the balls.

[h/t Feature Shoot]

Slideshow Credits: 01 / David Magnusson; 02 / David Magnusson; 03 / David Magnusson; 04 / David Magnusson; 05 / David Magnusson; 06 / David Magnusson; 07 / David Magnusson; 08 / David Magnusson; 09 / David Magnusson; 10 / David Magnusson;

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