FOR eons a woman’s virginity was seen as a badge of honour; to retain purity until marriage, especially within religious circles. So for the religious, recent actions by Maryland bride Brelyn Bowman (nee Freeman) to present her father with a “certificate of purity” during her wedding wouldn’t necessarily be seen as odd, even though her actions drew condemnation from other women and men around the world.
Bowman could hardly have expected her post to go viral, as she had merely posed for a photo with her father, pastor Michael Freeman, with a physician-signed testimony to him that she had remained pure. It was reported that at age 13, Bowman made a promise to her father that she would abstain from sex until marriage, and so held true to her promise.
Her actions are a feminist’s worst nightmare, that accedence to patriarchy, that testimony that indeed she is chattel, owned by her father and now her husband. But while the signed certificate was seen by some Christians as extreme, others still emphasise the need for maintaining sexual purity.
Benita Morrison, associate counselling psychologist at Family Life Ministries and The Caribbean Graduate School of Theology, told All Woman that locally, maintaining sexual purity is still emphasised.
“In the Jamaican church, we certainly encourage sexual purity. However, I am not aware that there would be the practice of presenting a certificate,” she said. “In looking at the situation of the Maryland bride who presented this certificate to her father, it could be that she was encouraged by her father to remain pure, and having done so, that was her way of expressing thanks to him for his guidance and encouragement.
But, she added, “I ask the question, what purpose does it serve? Is it a display of pride? Am I showing off that I have accomplished something? Is my commitment to God or to man? How does this display affect others who might not have been able to maintain their purity? Will it make them feel less of a person?”
She said though the Bible teaches that God will forgive sins, it also espouses fleeing from fornication, hence the emphasis of the church on purity.
“Sex is a holy mystery. It’s a powerful bonding agent that shapes and affects the relationship between a man and a woman as nothing else can. This is why the writers of scripture so often compare idolatry to the sin of fornication or adultery. It also explains why they use sexual purity and faithfulness between spouses as an image of our relationship with God,” Morrison said.
Counsellor David Anderson advised that in maintaining the purity stance, women should also be aware that there are many other factors that will influence the success of a marriage.
“Your virginity cannot be the only thing you take to the table,” he said. “I have spoken to many men who have been caught in this trap. What do they get along with that ‘prize’? Quite often they realise that the concept of the quality of the untouched wife is a fallacy, and they become quite unhappy in their unions.”
He urged women to value their purity if it is important to them, but to also promote themselves as good, quality stock, and that also involves being intelligent, educated and family-oriented with good values.
“Purity is good, but don’t get carried away with that. Because after one night you’ll no longer have that badge, and you’d better have something else to negotiate with,” he said.
By Kimberley Hibbert