The Purity Ball is a concept developed by Randy Wilson and his wife Rita, and the first ball was held in 1998. It would be a mistake to describe the ball as a typical father-daughter dance, though this does take up part of the activity of the night. Instead it is also a night when fathers pledge to be pure and protect their daughter’s purity by acting as good fathers, as moral people, and as excellent husbands. This pledge is often Christian based, and the concept of the Purity Ball has launched numerous copies, especially in Evangelical Christian communities.
There is often misunderstanding that a Purity Ball constitutes a pledge by the daughter to stay pure, or in other words, remain a virgin, until marriage. In fact, many girls who attend the ball believe this to be part of the pledge, but Wilson and his wife say that the intention was not part of the original design. Instead, both assert, as on a 2007 episode of The Tyra Banks Show, that Purity Balls recognize the extreme importance of fathers in raising daughters. They claim that most girls who get lost in their adolescent years or tend toward promiscuity do so as a result of abandonment or a broken relationship with a father. Instead of the girls pledging purity at these events, dads pledge to be true to their daughters, and to help protect and guide them through adolescence and until they marry.
While the event may be pure in intent, it inspires fairly negative reaction in the press on a regular basis. Some call the idea of fathers pledging themselves to their daughters as close to incest, especially when fathers also commit to regular “dates” with their daughters or consider themselves as taking the place of a lover until a girl is married or engaged. Others are concerned about daughters thinking the ball represents that they are pledging their virginity to their dads. Wilson insists this is not the intent of the Purity Ball, and instead suggests it is a time for dads to step up and pledge to their daughters that they will be good and kind fathers. By setting the example of being honest and true men, it is hoped that girls will look for these same qualities when they choose husbands.
The typical Purity Ball, at least those orchestrated by the Wilsons, includes an evening of dancing, dinner, and then a Purity Pledge by the fathers. Girls dance with their dads through the night, and then lay a white rose on a cross as symbolic of this purity pledge. The evening is very formal, and dads, step-dads or foster dads attend with any and all of their daughters, from youngest to oldest.
For the Wilsons, the Purity Ball is only symbolic of the way fathers should interact with their daughters on a daily basis. Fathers aren't just supposed to be pledging purity but also pledging the guardianship of their daughters, the willingness to be involved parents, and the importance of remaining pure in their lives by upholding and living moral (as defined by Christianity) lifestyles. Many people celebrate these balls as a means for fathers and daughters to affirm excellent relationships, and the popularity of the Purity Ball has spread from many locations in the US to several European countries.