Buying the cow


from Google Images

There’s an old saying that goes “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” This is something people say to discourage girls from having sex before marriage. The “logic” is that a man won’t enter into the lifelong commitment if he’s already getting the sexual benefits.

Obviously, the idea that one should withhold sex in order to convince someone to marry her is profoundly objectionable.

(Disclaimer: I am not arguing that abstinence is a poor choice. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in it. I’m just saying that-when the time comes-marriage should be motivated by commitment, not an unknown experience.)

I was thinking about it when I saw a video on YouTube about Purity Balls (galas, not…you know), events in which daughters pledge to their fathers to remain pure until marriage. You can watch the video yourselves and judge the creepiness factor.

When I hear about this sort of thing, subcultures fixated on virginity, I find it bothersome. Part of my worry is that a lot of onus goes on the females to remain chaste, limiting their identities to condition of their hymens. I don’t know why men in these communities aren’t held responsible for their purity, but it’s a dangerous practice. Apart from that, there are other considerations, besides sex, that factor into getting married and having a successful relationship.

In doing some research (not exhaustive by any means), I learned that the divorce rate for those who abstained until marriage is equal to that of everyone else. So even if you bought Bessie before you milked her, you’re in the same boat as the rest of us. Maybe that’s because marriage is complex.


10 thoughts on “Buying the cow

  1. purity balls are just as much of a waste as any other event that expects a life effecting/altering decision from someone who is not in the proper position to make those kind of choices.

    I could make my 5 month old son pledge to not become a metalhead and it would all the be same as these 15 year olds promising their dads not to do something they are only first learning about.

    catching them while they’re young only works when there is a real (chemical) addiction at play, like in the nicotine game. not in the personal/social choice game.

    the only thing these types of pledges provide is another retarded (sorry but no other word provided the oomph i am in need of right now) reason for these self-centered fathers to yell at their children.

    Legislate this shit!

  2. It’s a tad creepy that they ‘pledge’ to one another. Otherwise, I do think it’s important to have a strong father figure so that women can grow up knowing how a man should love them, but I think that goes without saying. I do think that there’s a danger for some fundamentalist Christians or orthodox religious people who abstain from sex only to get married for the wrong reasons, in example, to have sex, because they tend to do it when they’re way too young and I have actually seen some marriages fail because they realized that there WAS actually more to marriage than sex and ‘playing house’. Having said that, I also wish that the cultures that put so much dangerous emphasis on ‘female virginity’ would do the same to the men who may or may not be part of the very same problem. Why is it horrendous and evil for a woman to not be a virgin but not for a man? Such a terrible double standard. Choose one side or the other, preferably one that doesn’t involve young, afraid women making their hymens part of their identities, to paraphrase what you so brilliantly wrote. Well-written, Jen. And I’m somewhat relieved that the Purity Balls was not what I was expecting.

  3. i’m going to abstain (haha) from commenting because this is my MA thesis top – purity balls! i don’t know if you know this jenn, but now that you do, we should get together and discuss at length!!! tres interesting ritual imo.

  4. @ Mikes: “catching them while they’re young only works when there is a real (chemical) addiction at play, like in the nicotine game. not in the personal/social choice game.”
    are you saying that statistically these girls won’t abstain more from sex before getting married than other girls?
    I think I just don’t understand your point…

  5. God I need a life:

    here’s what I found from

    There is no data on whether girls who attend purity balls remain abstinent until marriage; chances are many do, given the tight-knit communities they live in. But there is striking evidence that more than half of teens who take virginity pledges—at, say, rallies or events—go on to have sex within three years, according to findings of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the most comprehensive survey of teens ever taken. And 88 percent of the pledgers surveyed end up having sex before marriage. “No pledge can counter the fact that teenagers are, in fact, sexual beings postpuberty,” notes Cary Backenger, a clinical psychotherapist in Appleton, Wisconsin, who works with teens, including several who have taken virginity pledges. “You can’t turn that off.”

    Disturbingly, the adolescent health study also found that STD rates were significantly higher in communities with a high proportion of pledgers. “Pledgers are less likely than nonpledgers to use condoms, so if they do have sex it is less safe,” says Peter Bearman, Ph.D., a Columbia University sociologist who helped design the study. For these teens, he believes, it’s a mind game: If you have condoms, you were planning to have sex. If you don’t, sex wasn’t premeditated, which makes it more OK. The study also found that even pledgers who remained virgins were highly likely to have oral and anal sex—risky behavior given that most probably didn’t use condoms to cut their risk.

  6. that video was…something. my favourite parts are when the mother says of daughters having relationships with their fathers, “I think females were created to feel accepted my men” and later when the daughter says “doing things that aren’t right, kissing; I’m hoping I’ll never do that”

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