The vir­gin­ity prom

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - BULLETIN -

sex isn’t usu­ally a favourite topic be­tween par­ents and their chil­dren, but at one event it’s front of mind. Pu­rity Balls, most com­mon in the Amer­i­can South, fea­ture a cer­e­mony in which young girls prom­ise their fa­thers that they’ll re­main chaste un­til mar­riage. The vows are some­times ac­com­pa­nied by a ring.The con­no­ta­tions can feel a bit iffy, and for the most part the tra­di­tion has been re­ported on with dis­com­fort. ‘Pu­rity Balls Still The Creepi­est Sh*t Ever,’ read a head­line in Jezebel, de­scrib­ing them as ‘the nut­tery that is hav­ing a fake teenage wed­ding with your dad’, and lament­ing (rightly) that the em­pha­sis on vir­gin­ity is placed on young women ,never young men, and that a woman’s ‘worth’ is too of­ten as­so­ci­ated with her sex life.

For the ‘Pu­rity’ se­ries, pho­tog­ra­pher David Mag­nus­son doc­u­mented the balls in Louisiana, Colorado and Ari­zona (the project has since been turned into a book). ‘When I first heard about the Pu­rity Balls I imag­ined an­gry Amer­i­can fa­thers ter­ri­fied of any­thing that might hurt their daugh­ters or their hon­our,’ he wrote. But: ‘The more I learnt, the more I was sur­prised that I had been so quick to judge people I knew so lit­tle about.’ The fi­nal por­traits are both serene and un­set­tling; a con­flict and mul­ti­plic­ity he was ea­ger to cap­ture. ‘I wanted to cre­ate por­traits so beau­ti­ful that the girls and their fa­thers could be proud,’ he wrote. ‘Some­one from a dif­fer­ent back­ground might see an en­tirely dif­fer­ent story in the very same pho­to­graphs.’ David­mag­nus­

Fa­thers and daugh­ters in the US share a‘vowof-chastity cer­e­mony’ in David Mag­nus­son’s se­ries,‘Pu­rity’, now pub­lished as a book of the same name.

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