On Monday night at the MTV awards, a British Rocker named Brand (who I hadn't heard of either) made fun of them for wearing "purity rings." These rings are part of a faith-based program for teens to pledge to not have sex until marriage. Jordan Sparks, of American Idol fame, also has made her pledge public, and fired back at Brand that not everyone was a "slut."
I thought to myself, "when did personal choices about sexual activity - or lack of -- become a public declaration of superior morality?" The Jonas Brothers and Jordan Sparks are all under 20 and most are still in high school. Almost all of us would agree that it is better for high school age teenagers not to engage in sexual intercourse until they are emotionally and cognitively mature enough to handle its consequences, but I am troubled by the suggestion that all of those that do, are making immoral choices.
Here are some facts. Although some studies indicate that abstinence pledges cause young people to delay having intercourse, it's only by about a year and a half and those same studies show that when they do have sex, they are more likely to not use contraception and condoms. Pledgers are also many times more likely to have had oral sex or anal sex than non-pledgers, substituting other sexual behaviors. And no program has evidence that it delays sex until marriage, the explict promise that is being made. For more than sixty years, about 90% of people have first intercourse before they are married.
What young people need from us is more than symbolic gestures. As I've written about numerous times on this blog, and in my books, is they need adult help in making healthy and responsible decisions about their sexual behaviors, consistent with their own values. We need to support the virgins and the teens who are engaging in sexual behaviors in loving, committed relationships responsibly.