Episode 101: Purity Balls

When I first heard about the purity balls I imagined angry American fathers terrified of anything that might hurt their daughters or their honour. 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.
— David Magnusson, The Independent, May 23, 2015.
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.
— David Magnusson, The Huffington Post, May 5, 2014

As the modern era has developed and expanded various ideas and definitions, notable stigma and presumptions surrounding sex and sexuality still remain. In particular, the sexual freedom of some is cast down as promiscuity, fecklessness and misdirection by others. This led Swedish photographer David Magnusson to pursue stories related to purity balls, emotionally prominent events in which young daughters vow to abstain from sex until marriage, and their fathers promise to protect their purity in return. Certainly, where the realms of sexuality and spirituality combine, people tend to develop very strong opinions. What do purity balls teach us about willpower and personal devotion? How do we negotiate freedom of choice with deeply-held doctrine? Can we navigate these realms with a critical lens without offering judgment and condemnation of one side or another?