First, I feel a disclaimer should brand my article before we begin: I am a black Christian woman, and there is a considerably high chance Brelyn Bowman and I were groomed with the same ideologies and likely even share some other ideas surrounding religion, relationships and sex. I am coming from a place of experience, not ignorance.
If you are not yet privy to the purity certificate going viral on social media, self-proclaimed “Preacher of Purity” and boutique owner Brelyn Bowman presented her father with a certificate confirming she was in fact (er, intact) a virgin when she married gospel recording artist Tim Bowman Jr. To clear up any knee-jerk reactions or confusion, yes, she had a doctor sign the certificate testifying that her hymen had never been penetrated. (And we thought Pap smears were awkward.) Once “awarded” her results she gifted her father, Pastor Dr. Mike Freeman, with the news, later to declare her purity prize was a marriage approved by Jesus.
The discussion of waiting until marriage is for another day. And the discussion of this being the only “Jesus-approved” route to endless love is for the next day. But today, I want to take focus on the act of presenting the purity certificate to her father.
In my mind, I imagine an ecstatic Bowman running home to her dad, jumping up and down, like a student who just made straight A’s on their report card. (Not that such a merit wouldn’t deserve that kind of response; if pulling all-nighters is a feat, *not* pulling those kind of all-nighters is a triumph.) But Bowman isn’t a young girl, she is a grown woman; a separate entity from her father whose identity is much more intricate, more worthy, and vastly more beautiful than its hymen’s status. In a prolific way, she has sacrificed her body and decades of temptation to earn the approval of her father. A day that should be a celebration of her and her new husband’s union rivals the celebration earning the approval of another man.
Gifting her father with such information supports the antiquated and psychologically-damaging idea that a woman is and should always be a young girl, a “princess”, a possession to her father. We already are treated as a “torch” when we are walked down the aisle; like a sly tip of the hat, fathers are encouraged to ‘give daughters away’, yet the little girl is already long gone. (But it’s a sentimental tear-jerker, so we all turn a blind eye. Er, tearful eye.) Going to the length to prove to her father that she “honored” him projects the truth that her father was and probably still is the idol of her life. How is she to set healthy emotional boundaries in her marriage? How is she to be a free-thinking, independent woman? (Does she want to be?) And here’s a genuine Christ-like inquiry, shouldn’t Jesus be the idol? It would have been more appropriate to share this news with God, not Dad. This goes beyond electing a patriarchal household; she was wilted down to a piece of paper.
This act only further perpetuates the submissive role we as women have been working so hard to evolve past. Did her husband have to also present a certificate proving his virginity? Hell, did he even have to be a virgin? In the event she had not been a virgin, would her father have dismissed the marriage and not granted them his blessing? Christians, more than anything other group of people, preach that marriage is between a man and a woman; not a man, a man, and a woman.
And frankly, like, what the hell does her father do with the certificate? Hang it above his mantel with caught fish or earned degrees? Is it on the fridge being held by a W.W.J.D. magnet? I mean, how awkward was it for the Kinko’s guy who had to laminate it? That dude deserves a certificate.
In all, this outdated token feels very much like incestuous idealization, an act merely championing misogyny by calling it virtue. As a Christian woman myself, I would be disgusted if my daughter presented us with this gift. I want her save herself for whomever she chooses, certainly not her father—not even for me. It’s her body. And it doesn’t belong to her father; and it never did.