A new trend that’s becoming more popular among Christians has girls getting married at young ages, but it’s not the type of marriage you’d think.
The girls, wearing long white dresses, take part in what is being called a purity ball. In this ceremony, the young girl symbolically marries God while being escorted by her father in a vow of abstinence from sex until marriage.
Swedish photographer David Magnusson’s new book Purity showcases real life purity balls, and as he explains, he was able to get over his own judgments and see the beauty in these ceremonies.
“The more I learned, the more I was surprised that I had been so quick to judge people I knew so little about,” said Magnusson. “In Purity, I wanted to create portraits so beautiful that the girls and their fathers could be proud of the pictures in the same way they are proud of their decisions – while someone from a different background might see an entirely different story in the very same photographs.”
Magnusson went on to share that he learned a lot from photographing these ceremonies and that his preconceived notions about what actually happened at them were wrong.
"When I first heard about the Purity Balls I imagined angry American fathers terrified of anything that might hurt their daughters or their honor," said Magnusson to the Huffington Post. “But as I learnt more, I understood that the fathers, like all parents, simply wanted to protect the ones that they love -– in the best way they know how. It was also often the girls themselves that had taken the initiative to attend the balls. They had made their decisions out of their own conviction and faith, in many cases with fathers who didn’t know what a Purity Ball was before being invited by their daughters."
While some may see the purity balls as beautiful, journalist Jessica Valenti of The Guardian argues that it may not be healthy for young girls and could actually lead to negative consequences in the future.
“I have no doubt that families who participate in purity balls are doing what they think is best for their children – but that doesn't make them any less wrong,” writes Valenti. “When we teach girls that their virginity makes them special and valuable, we're sending the simultaneous message that without their virginity they are tainted and damaged.”
Still, purity balls seem to be catching on, and more Christians across the country are taking part.