A Real-Life Window Into How Virginity Obsession Hurts Teen Girls

The Lifetime reality series Preachers' Daughters shows what happens when families become fixated on "purity."
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Kolby Koloff goes shopping for a Halloween costume along with her sister Kendra and half-sisters Tawni and Teryn. (Lifetime)

The opening fade-in of the premiere episode of Preachers' Daughters features a pure white background with two Bible verses from 1 Thessalonians 4: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality," and; "God has not called you to lead an unclean life but one of purity."

This passage it turns out, is the set-up for the entire series: How will three Christian families headed by pastors keep their teen daughters from having sex? When their religion places the girls' virginity above all else, how will these true believers navigate the hormonally charged waters of their daughters' coming of age?

The first teen we meet is Kolby, and she just wants to date. She is 16 and thinks it is high time. She runs this by her dad, Nikita, a former professional wrestler turned preacher over a "daddy-and-daughter lunch." Nikita with his shaved head and bulging muscles explains he doesn't think there is any need for Kolby to "experience" dating. He doesn't agree with the dating "lifestyle" but he doesn't entirely shut her down. He tells Kolby she has to run it by her mom, Victoria, who turns out to be the real challenge.

Victoria is a preacher just like Nikita. She also works at a Christian "crisis pregnancy center" and is a Christian radio talk show host. After a conversation between mother and daughter Victoria decides she will let Kolby date. Kolby is thrilled, as any 16-year-old would be. But Victoria has one condition: Kolby must sit through one of her "sex talks" at church.

The next scene presents us with a horrified Kolby smack in the front church pew as her mom excites a crowd of teenagers by exclaiming from the altar, "sex is great!"

Kids clap and giggle, Victoria giving dramatic pause, then says, "But only after you're married!" Victoria goes on to discuss "finger sex, backdoor sex, and oral sex," in her abstinence talk. Her daughter sits with eyes wide and turning red, her jaw on the floor.

This could all be laughable—Victoria's dirty talk, the kids shifting in their seats, light streaming through stained glass windows. But then, Kolby's 30-year-old sister Teryn drops a bomb. She reveals to the family that she was not a virgin when she got married. It is in this scene we glimpse how damaging this supposedly Biblically mandated purity pressure is on young Kolby.

She is devastated; she sits weeping uncontrollably at the dinner table her head down, wiping her eyes with her napkin. Everything she ever believed, she says, was ripped away when Teryn revealed her secret.

During Teryn's private, to-the-camera confessional she is clearly upset with the way her mother enforces her interpretation of Biblical law. Teryn says that this is what happens when you are raised within a "warped" Christian box. She and her sisters were taught a successful life was predicated on making it to marriage a virgin.

Taylor is the next of the series' daughters. She is 17 and adorable with a mouth full of braces. She readily admits being rebellious. She is the only African-American featured on the show.

It is clear from the first scene that Taylor will be portrayed as the sex-crazed teen in the group. At best just the luck of the casting draw—rebellious teens equal ratings. But at worst this portrayal of a normal black teen girl is a reinforcement of the Jezebel stereotype of the hyper sexualized African-American woman.

We meet Taylor standing in front of a mirror as she checks her look. She is wearing a cute bathing suit and cut-off shorts talking on the phone with her mom. She wants permission to go to a water park with some girlfriends. She doesn't tell her mom about the cute boy who might just happen to be there. Her mom says it would be all right but that Taylor should ask her dad. But knowing her preacher father will say no, she leaves without his ok.

In the next scene Taylor and her girlfriends lay in the sun, enjoying their freedom. Taylor muses about being a stripper if she can't afford college as she adjusts a purity ring on her finger. She also says she thinks about being a porn star because of the "freedom" they have. It is revealed to her parents later that Taylor had said this. This leads to handwringing, praying her preacher father sits with hands clasped praying to God, "Please don't let my baby girl be a porn star."

Presented by

Andy Kopsa is a freelance journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Ms., Religion Dispatches, and In These Times, among other publications.

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