I am not a frequent reader of Glamour magazine. I doubt that I have read more than two or three articles in Glamour before now, and those articles were read in places like hospital waiting rooms where I didn't have many other choices. Today, however, I have read an article from Glamour by choice, and I recommend that you have a look at it too. It's titled Would You Pledge Your Virginity to Your Father?, and it explores the growing phenomenon of father-daughter marriages in the United States.
In these ceremonies, sponsored by right-wing Christian churches, fathers place rings on their daughters' fingers after the daughters pledge their sexual purity to their fathers. Often, the fathers receive a ring too. These vows and exchanges of rings take place in large group ceremonies, which fathers and daughters attend as couples without the girls' mothers present. The fathers take the girls out to dinner on what are called "dates", during which the fathers dance with their daughters wearing the kind of formal attire typical of a wedding. Then, the father-daughter couples listen to a priest, who leads the ceremonies. Vows are exchanged, and then the couples return home, the fathers carrying their daughters' signed vows of sexual purity.
To be fair, the people who participate in these group rituals don't refer to what they're doing as a wedding ceremony. In effect, however, a marriage contract is what these fathers and daughters have entered into. The daughters are wedded to their fathers in a pact of sexual fidelity. Some of these daughters pledge not even to kiss anyone until they find a husband of their own. The time they spend with their fathers forms the basis of the only close relationship the girls have with any male.
I have a daughter, and she is precious to me. She's only two years old, but I can already feel the protective instincts a father feels toward a daughter. I can understand the feelings that motivate fathers to sit on the front porch, waiting for their daughters to arrive back home safely.
I also understand, however, that there are going to be limits to my powers of protection, and that there ought to be. I may want to keep my daughter safe, but I don't want to treat her like a piece of property. She's a human being, with her own interests. She's precious to me, but she doesn't belong to me.
I also realize that my daughter's sexuality isn't something that I possess until I give it away to some other man. Sex is not what the father-daughter relationship is about. I don't want my daughter to pledge to be sexually faithful to me. That's not how I want her to think of me.
I want my daughter to be sexually faithful to herself. My daughter will own her own sexuality, as it develops. I hope she'll explore it with wisdom, but I think it's reasonable to expect that, at times, she'll make mistakes with it. Most people do.
I also don't think that I'll be able to control my daughter by pressuring her to take pledges dedicated to me. Promises are easily made by teenagers, and are easily broken. I'd just as soon not teach my daughter to make promises that she won't be able to keep.