— -- A picture showing a bride handing a certificate to her father in an effort to prove she was a virgin has sparked a heated discussion. But the couple says it’s glad it has opened up a conversation about holding off on intercourse before marriage.
The bride, Brelyn Bowman, 22, and her new husband, Tim Bowman, a Gospel singer, said they were shocked to find the picture had sparked such a reaction and arrived home from their honeymoon in Dubai to find their phones buzzing.
"We landed from Dubai...we took our phone off airplane mode and it literally went crazy," said Brelyn Bowman.
She told ABC News she made the pledge at the age of 13 to God and her father to remain a virgin until marriage and it continued to be an important goal as she grew up.
"I like to call my self the preacher of purity," said Brelyn. "I wanted to prove my word to my father."
The picture has been denounced by some on social media.
Bowman said she had a gynecologist examine her hymen to see if she had sexual intercourse.
According to Planned Parenthood, examining the hymen cannot reveal if the woman had intercourse since genetic factors, exercise or using tampons can all affect it.
Brelyn said she wanted to give the certificate, which she said was signed by her doctor, as a surprise to her father, Mike Freeman, a pastor, after her sister did the same thing at her wedding.
"The decision came from honoring God and honoring my father," she told ABC News. "He was very excited and it’s like a child and they bring home a progress report."
Her new husband said he also abstained from sexual intercourse before marriage and that he was also shocked about the response the photo received.
"We’re strong in what we believe that sexual purity is the way to go," he told ABC News."We’re honoring God and we took that one step further."
Brelyn said she hoped the story would spark discussion about the possibility of avoiding sexual intercourse before marriage.
"Our whole message is not to condemn anyone," Bowman told ABC News. "We believe God will restore you and...We can cut down rates of HIV and STDs."
Dr. Vanessa Cullins, Vice President of External Medical Affairs at the Planned Parenthood Federation, said debate over the photo showed how different cultures in America may react to premarital sex.
"Sex is a cultural issue," Cullins told ABC News. "It depends on what culture you’re living in, as to whether or not virginity is something this prized and whether or not it is important for you to be a virgin," before marriage.
Cullins also reiterated Planned Parenthood's point that virginity is a complex term that can mean different things to different people.
"Virginity is false sexual construct because if you’re talking about true virginity that means you haven’t kissed or hugged," Cullins said.