October 17, 2007

worth the wait (and thank God, NEVER too late :) )

Dance this week will help drive home message about abstinence
by Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
Published: 10.07.2007

At the event, daughters sign this pledge to remain faithful to
"a lifestyle of purity that will honor God, myself, my family and my future husband."
PHOTOS BY Mamta Popat / arizona daily star

When they were 10 years old, twins Jessica and Jennifer Worcester received a gift from their dad — silver rings that they slipped on their fingers with a promise: They would remain sexually pure until marriage.

The Worcester twins, now 13, have made their abstinence vows an annual celebration. Along with their dad and other fathers and daughters, they will attend the annual Purity Ball in Tucson Friday night.

Proponents view Purity Balls as fostering healthy bonding between fathers and daughters and teaching girls and young women that they are valuable and worth waiting for.

They've heard what critics say, that the Purity Ball concept puts a girl's virginity in a metaphorical lockbox to which Daddy holds the key. But they say that's a misinterpretation of the event's purpose.

"It's not about a bunch of rules, about bolting a chastity belt on them," said the twins' father, Tom Worcester, 47, a Raytheon engineer. "That would really not be a successful approach. It's about a choice a young lady can make and stick with."

Jennifer Worcester, 13, shows the price tag on a dress to her father, Tom,
during a shopping trip to find something to wear to the Fifth Annual Purity Ball.
"It's not about a bunch of rules, about bolting a chastity belt on them.
That would really not be a successful approach," Tom Worcester says of the ball concept.

The Tucson Purity Ball, a Baptist-based event, began in 2003 and has inspired similar balls in Phoenix and Yuma. The Tucson event typically attracts 200 girls and their fathers, who wear their best dress-up clothes and sign "integrity and purity" covenants with one another.

They will each receive a white rose to place under a Christian cross, and the girls will receive silver-and-pink necklaces that say, "Worth Waiting For."

Daughters attending the Purity Ball receive a "Worth Waiting For" necklace.

"It's making a commitment, and they make it like a prom," said Jennifer, a student at Mountain Vista School.

"You are saving yourself until marriage — waiting for the right man to give yourself to," added Jessica, who attends Pusch Ridge Christian Academy.

Girls pledge sexual purity to themselves, God, their families and their future husbands. Dads vow to be men of accountability and God as they "lead, guide, protect and pray" over their daughters.

Though she can recall abstinence-only dances going back to the '80s, Abstinence Clearinghouse president Leslee Unruh traces the beginnings of the current Purity Ball movement to Colorado Springs, Colo., where parents Lisa and Randy Wilson first held a ball in 1999.

Unruh estimates 1,300 Purity Ball events have been held in the United States during the past year, and she says enthusiasm is growing. While Wilson's event, like the Tucson Purity Ball, is faith-based, most around the country are secular and funded with federal abstinence-only dollars, she said.

Some boys are getting their own events. Unruh says more and more "Knight to Remember" purity events for moms and sons are taking place.

"Where in our culture is the father exalted? The father is a buffoon. He's ridiculed, mocked, made the fool in the media," said Randy Wilson, a former pastor now with the Family Research Council.

"(But) girls whose fathers are in their lives are less likely to be promiscuous, get depressed, have thoughts of suicide. We believe a girl's identity and self-worth comes from the father.

"If the father is not there," Wilson added, "she will wander outside the home and look for the answer to whether she is beautiful and worthy of being pursued. She will be devoured."

Girls must be at least 10 to attend Tucson's Purity Ball. Most attendees are in their teens, but some young women in their 20s also take part.

Tucson native Jennifer Robison, a 24-year-old graphic designer in Phoenix, will drive to Tucson Friday to attend the ball with her father, Rod, who is a vice president of Family Life Radio in Tucson.

"Being 24 and an unmarried virgin is obviously rare," said Jennifer. "I'm guarding my heart and my body, and I want to be a role model for the younger girls."

From that standpoint, said Rod Robison, "she's pretty countercultural. But we've never put pressure on her in that way."
He and Jennifer, who is the eldest of five, have always had a close relationship, one that has been strengthened by "date nights" when the two of them go to dinner or a movie together.

When Jennifer was younger, the pair talked about subjects like how to be friends with boys.

"I have no qualms about my daughter understanding all options when it comes to sexual education, as long as it's within the context of knowing that the best option for not having her heart torn apart is abstinence," Rod Robison said.

Jennifer said her Christian faith has fueled her commitment, and she's not shy about her chastity. She sometimes wears a T-shirt that says "Virgins are Hot."

As she's grown older her decision has been reinforced by what she's learned from friends and acquaintances. Young women who didn't feel loved by their fathers will often seek attention from other men in their lives, and that can lead to problems, she said.

"Dads have a kind of practical wisdom. They can provide us with that sense of male protectiveness and leadership we need, versus trying to find it somewhere else," she said.

The first time Christie Raaum's dad invited her to the local Purity Ball she was 12 years old and still into Barbies and princesses. She loved the idea of a ball and bought a floor-length dress. Now a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Tucson Country Day School, Christie is about to attend her third event.

"I want her to pick the kind of man who treats her the way I did," said her father, Randy Raaum, 40, who is pastor of Pima Street Baptist Church.

Christie and her dad also go on date nights. Often they will go to dinner and a movie. Other times they just go to the grocery store or the hardware store.

Staying pure until marriage doesn't seem like it will be difficult, says Christie, though she's not even sure she'll get married at all.

"I have too many things I want to do — NASCAR driver, author, oceanographer, Egyptologist — I'm pretty independent," she said.

She added one more thought: "Without my dad, I don't know where I'd be."

Jennifer Worcester, 13, left, holds up a gown that might be just the one for the Purity Ball
she plans to attend this week with her twin sister, Jessica, at right.
Kim Worcester, the girls' mom, helps with dress selection at Macy's in the Tucson Mall.

Gospel Supplies in Tucson, where the Worcester girls found their purity rings, has several items related to purity, one of the most popular being a book titled "The Princess and the Kiss: A Story of God's Gift of Purity." In the book, God gives a young girl the gift of a kiss, which her parents keep in a safe. The girl learns that the kiss is a valuable gift, and she must decide whether to keep it or give it away.

The Worcester twins don't watch much mainstream television, though they enjoy reruns of "Gilmore Girls" and "Seventh Heaven." They like contemporary Christian singer Rebecca St. James, who is passionate about sexual purity. Recently the twins have become involved in "Secret Keeper Girl," a Bible-based program that teaches girls not only about purity, but the power of modest dressing and inner beauty.

The Worcester twins' eldest sister, Ashley Ellingson, is organizing this year's Purity Ball, part of her job as development coordinator for Arizona Baptist Children's Services, which is hosting the event.

Ellingson, who is 22, says she remained pure until her wedding three years ago.

During the past year she's had media calls about the ball from all over the world.

"It's obviously not something our society is used to," she said. "It's so abnormal that I get calls about it all the time. I think people are curious. But what does that say about our culture?"

New Life Pregnancy Center, a ministry of Arizona Baptist Children's Services that advocates adoption over abortion, sees girls as young as 12 and 13 for pregnancy testing, and sometimes the tests are positive, she said, explaining why 10 is not too young to understand the Purity Ball.

Ellingson said she believes premarital sex leads to a whole host of problems for young women, among them poor self-esteem, a risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy.

But she added that girls who have had sex can always start anew and make purity pledges.

"To me, it's not about how many girls kept the commitment. This is important no matter what. It's still worth it to try," she said. "We are encouraging people to make healthy choices. STDs, teen pregnancies, those things are not good."

Tom Worcester jokes that any guy responsible for his daughters' breaking their purity promise will be buried in his backyard. Speaking more seriously, he said people make mistakes, and nothing would change his love or commitment to his children.

Randy Raaum, who has five daughters, puts it this way: "Even if they do break the promise, how could there possibly be a downside to having a close relationship with family members?"

On StarNet: Watch a slide show about the dance at http://www.azstarnet.com/slideshows.

● Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at sinnes@azstarnet.com.


  1. well well! that was a very encouraging read ^_^

    i've got to show this to some of my colleagues...who are still appalled at my sexual inexperience. it's almost as if they're already insulting me when they say "you don't know what you're missing" or "you'll regret it one day" or "how old are you again???!!!"

    wait. maybe they ARE insulting me.

    whatever. this is a sweet and endearing experience for gals ^_^

  2. hey meggy! ^___^

    i think they are more appalled at their sexual experience :) (i would know! :) ) maybe not now or not yet consciously, pero they do respect you :) (i hope they be still enough to realize it!)

    1) i read/heard somewhere about the same situation you're in. the "persecuted" gal suddenly said: "anytime i can be like you, but you can never again be like me." OUCH!!!!

    which is true in the technical sense of the word! which is also why i go for the note of redemption here :) (see the covenant? "if i have failed...i renew the commitment.." :) yay. thank u God :) )

    2) riza santos of pbb says she's never been kissed and definitely still a virgin. take a stand! (however, she posed for fhm. yipes! it's ok for her if she has no moral/spiritual qualms about it, but i do. that echoes your view on rica, who i did NOT know still posed recently too!)

    curse you fhm. (sorry Lord. er, curse you demons of lust working through fhm!!!!)

    and thank God for father-daughter relationships that glorify God to the next level :)

    (did u know that when our family was watching narnia, i totally felt like lucy? yeah! though of course hope my mom end up like susan! pero my dad as peter, come on! besides, we had the same journey to agnosticism and worse, so it's possible and truly (LORD!) just a matter of time before he takes the same journey back to God that i have :) :) )