Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Kathryn McClymond

Second Advisor

Tim Renick

Third Advisor

David Bell

Abstract

Over the last ten years, a newly created ritual called a Purity Ball has become increasingly popular in American evangelical communities. In much of the present literature, Purity Balls are assumed solely to address a daughter’s emerging sexuality in a ritual designed to counteract evolving American norms on sexuality; however, the ritual may carry additional latent sociological functions. While experienced explicitly by the individual participants as a celebration of father/daughter relationships and a means to address evolutionary sexual mating strategies, Purity Balls may implicitly regenerate existing social hierarchy. This ritual facilitates a sociological purpose by means of re-establishing the role of the male through halting the psychological development of sexual identity in the daughter, and these rituals are enacted in the ownership of the daughter by the father, who is responsible for maintaining the daughter’s purity, for “covering her with his protection.”

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