Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Jonas Brothers, purity rings, and what teenagers need

Until a week ago, I hadn't heard of these latest new boy band. They are the Jonas Brothers, and from what I've gathered, they are these tweens' version of NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, and oh, dating myself, David Cassidy and the Partridge Family.

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.


Joel Monka said...

To be fair to Jordan, she had never said such a thing before; her remark about "sluts" came in direct response to Brand's ridicule- and considering that Brand is a confessed sex addict, her response wasn't totally out of line.

That being said, I would be more comfortable with the pledge program if they would give more advice about how to avoid temptation, give more information about the physical and psychological consequences of early sex rather than religious ones, and be more forthcoming about mutual masturbation, the "safe sex" option we had back in the days when it was actually illegal to sell condoms to teenagers.

goodwolve said...

I find it odd that there are so many public displays of virginity. When I was a teen (80's) we would never have thought of wearing our virginity out in public. Granted I was having sex in high school, but my friends who weren't weren't shouting about it. I never felt slutty either... it was just sex. When will it just become "just sex" and not such a loaded personally defining thing.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is unfortunate that teenagers like Jordin Sparks and the Jonas Brothers, who are trying to make responsible decisions regarding sexuality for themselves (despite what their reasoning might be- whether personal religious beliefs or something other) are made to feel as if they need to defend themselves or their decisions.

In my opinion, Russell Brand was the one who was out of line. What right does a 33 year-old (former self-proclaimed sex addict who ended up in rehab to work on his problems) have to publicly make fun of younger adults who have made a personal pledge of abstinence? That is their decision to make just as he is able to make his own decisions regarding his sexuality.