“Purity Ball” Photos Document Virginity Pacts Between Fathers and Daughters
“When I first heard about the Purity Balls I imagined American fathers terrified of anything that might hurt their daughters or their families honor. But as I learnt more, I understood that the fathers, like all parents, simply wanted to protect the ones that they love – in the best way they know how. It was also often the girls themselves that had taken the initiative to attend the balls. They had made their decisions out of their own conviction and faith, in many cases with fathers who didn’t know what a Purity Ball was before first being invited by their daughters.
The more I learned, the more I was surprised that I had been so quick to judge people I knew so little about. I was struck by the idea that what set us apart wasn’t anything more than how we had been influenced by the culture we grew up in and the values it had instilled in us. In Purity I wanted to create portraits so beautiful that the girls and their fathers could be proud of the pictures in the same way they are proud of their decisions – while someone from a different background might see an entirely different story in the very same photographs.
To me, Purity is about how we are shaped by the society in which we grow up and how we interpret the world through the values we incorporate as our own.”
Laila: I remember that when we first went to the ball, dad told
us about how we could live our lives for God, so that we could
be saved and that when we die we get to go to heaven. It’s important
to stay pure for God because he wants you to be with
him in heaven. God created us, and he told his only Son to die
on the cross for us, so we could go to heaven. And that makes
me think that he loves us all very much.
Maya: I went to the Purity Ball. I put the flower by the cross,
so I live my life for Jesus. I remember when I went to the ball
with my dad, there was ballerinas and signing and we ate and
then we went to the other room and we took the flower and
I put it by the cross. After that all of us started dancing but
I only danced for a little bit since I got dizzy and I couldn’t
dance anymore. But Laila and daddy danced.
The Purity Ball was a great blessing. It was a night when we
were focused on honoring God as a family, a night that will
have marked our relationship to each other and towards God.
For that night I was their prince and they were my princesses.
As a young adult I chose to walk a path that had very serious
consequences on my identity. If it wasn’t for God offering me
His unconditional love and forgiveness, I don’t think I would
have been able to recover from that path. After that I felt that
I had by no means earned the right to be a father. But then,
even though God knew of my shortcomings, He loved me
so much that He would entrust me with the lives of my two
daughters and believed I would be a good father, that has been
my greatest strength. I am so grateful that God would entrust
me with their lives in my hand.
I have unconventional dreams for my children. I still look
back to the past and the old ways as a reference to what I would
want my daughters to have in their lives. My biggest dream
is that they will respect themselves, and that they will keep
themselves for the person that they choose to spend the rest of
their lives with and then go on to have beautiful families and
teach their own children to respect themselves.
Swedish, b. 1983, based in Stockholm, Sweden