These days, it’s almost unheard of to remain a virgin until your wedding day, which is exactly why one Maryland bride’s purity pledge is gaining national attention. That, and the fact that she signed the “Certificate of Purity” and gave it to her father.
After essentially gifting her dad her virginity on a silver platter, Brelyn Freeman and Timothy Bowman Jr. were married on Oct. 10. The fairy tale wedding quickly went viral after Freeman posted a picture of the “Certificate of Purity” to her Instagram account that she had cosigned with a doctor. The doctor’s note verifying an intact hymen was presented to Freeman’s father, Pastor Mike Freeman, at the wedding.
If you are as overwhelmed and outraged at this story as I am, you should be. But before we travel down Judgment Lane, it’s important to understand the motivation behind this purity ritual. I have been there before, and so have thousands of young women living in the fundamental Christian culture across America.
It’s easy — too easy — to judge when a bride brags about her virgin status on social media and even does something as “creepy” (to you) as gifting her virginity to her father on her wedding day. But until you’ve lived it, until you’ve been told that your body is not your own and was given to you by God to please a man, you don’t know what it’s like to feel the pressure to represent the white dress.
My first brush with hymen hysteria was in youth group, way back in the ’90s at the tender age of 13. I was still a virgin back then, and everyone else in my youth group claimed they were too. They felt so fervent about not swiping the V Card, in fact, that the entire youth group agreed to sign a purity pledge. I remember I got to keep my signed purity card in my wallet. I asked my dad to get me a purity ring for my 16th birthday.
Looking back, I shudder. But I understand. I didn’t make it all the way to my wedding day a virgin, but I did wait to have sex until I started a relationship with my now-husband at age 24. It didn’t make my sex life magically better and blessed by God, as I was promised. It didn’t move me to the front of the line in heaven to give up my body autonomy and pledge my sex life to another person.
I can’t speak for every pure bride (and Duggar) out there, but for me, this submissive and oppressive attitude toward sex ruined me. I never felt like I belonged to myself. I have spent more than two decades looking for someone else’s approval — first my dad’s, and then my husband’s. It took two more years of therapy for me to start to stand up for myself, to realize I just might have value as a person and to begin to make autonomous decisions in all areas of my life, inside and outside of the bedroom.
Many are laughing at this bride who made the mistake of posting about her virginity on social media, but I won’t.
While I can’t speak for Freeman’s motivation in signing a virginity pledge on her wedding day, I know from personal experience that most women in these Christian cultures don’t know any better. We were raised that way. We were told from a young age that our value is in our purity and in what we can give to a man, and when you think of it that way, signing a purity certificate makes sense. How else can you guarantee that your father and your husband will love you?
I’m not discounting the fact that Freeman is a grown woman capable of making her own decisions. And that’s the beauty of what I have learned about feminism so far. Being a feminist means supporting all women’s choices, including those we don’t agree with.
Freeman has every right to treat her virginity the way she wants to, even if it means giving it to another person instead of holding it in her own hands. I only hope that when she signed her pledge, she knew what it has taken me years to understand — her value has nothing to do with sex.