If you saw Sunday night’s episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta, you know there was a lot of talk about sex. From Kandi Koated Nights to Gregg’s alleged infidelity, the topic was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Perhaps the most shocking element of this episode was when Kim Zolciak bought her daughter Brielle a $3,000 abstinence ring. The kicker? This was all Brielle’s idea – but, instead of deciding to wait until marriage, like most girls who receive a purity ring, she vowed to wait until she was 18 years old.
WTF? Why 18? Some seniors in high school are 18. Although Brielle is – at age 13 – way too young to be having sex in my opinion, 18 seems like such a random number. Kim disagreed with age 18 and wanted her daughter to wait until age 20. What’s the big difference between 18 and 20? At 18, she could be a senior in high school, and at 20, she could be a sophomore in college. I guess a lot of maturing takes place in those two years, but what if Brielle doesn’t go to college and continues to live at home, as if she was still in high school? There are certainly some 18-year-olds who are more mature and responsible than some 20-year-olds. Herein lies the problem in the purity movement: a girl’s entire worth is being evaluated on the status of her virginity. And virginity is entirely subjective.
For most women of the purity movement, they won’t even kiss before marriage. According to The Sunday Times, “one in six girls aged between 12 and 18 is estimated to have taken a ‘purity’ pledge.” These girls are typically presented with a ring resembling an engagement ring by their fathers at a Purity Ball; the daughters take the fathers as “dates” and then the father promises to safeguard his daughter’s virginity until she is married. The purity ring symbolizes that promise.
What’s interesting is that Brielle decided to go about the purity movement on her own. She had no father pushing her into it and promising to “guard her virginity.” She doesn’t even intend to wait until marriage! She promises to wait until she is 18. Hopefully, the difference is that at age 18, Brielle will have already graduated high school, or will almost graduate high school, and will therefore, if she got pregnant, would not have to raise a child while in high school, or drop out of school to raise a baby. The fact that Brielle sooner chooses a purity ring, while still not endorsing all the guidelines of the purity movement, shows that the idea of the tangible ring is more appealing than the actual rules of the movement. Kim’s money would be better spent teaching her daughters about safe sex, rather than agreeing to her daughter’s remaining a virgin for the next 5 arbitrary years.
The issue of sexism aside, the main problem with Kim’s endorsement of the virginity movement is that Brielle doesn’t seem to know much about it. Brielle says she wants to wait until age eighteen because a video in health class discussing STDs has convinced her. Which is fine, and actually admirable; the problem is, the purity movement says one cannot have sex before marriage; Brielle’s only promising she won’t until she’s older. Her decision to wait actually seems very responsible, but it should not try to disguise itself as an attempt at the purity movement when it is not. The purity movement is still appealing to young girls, like Brielle, and these girls might be quick to jump on the bandwagon, without much knowledge of the implications of such an agreement. Jessica Simpson is a classic example of someone who was inherently sexy, yet vowed abstinence until marriage. Preteens and teens may want to mimic idols of the purity movement, without really wanting to be abstinent until marriage. In one recent commercial starring Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and Bristol Palin, she convinces him to use protection while having sex, and also tells him she plans to now wait til marriage. It seems that teenagers are being given a mixed message; are they supposed to have safe sex or are they supposed to wait until an agreed-upon point and then proceed without necessary information?
As I write this post, I realize how difficult it must be to be a parent. I think if most parents had the option of their kid deciding to not have sex until age 18, they would most likely be relieved and supportive. What parent wouldn’t rather their kid not have sex than have sex? One thing I commend Kim on is having an open dialogue about sex with Brielle; Kim doesn’t seem to be judgmental and seems to have a healthy relationship with her daughter. Furthermore, I think Brielle is on the right track, by wanting to guard against STDs. I think, although Kim might want to wholeheartedly accept her child’s decision about abstinence, it’s equally important to teach Brielle about safe sex, so that at age 18, she’s able to protect herself against preganancy and STDs.