What is a virginity pledge?
A virginity pledge is a written or oral promise to maintain sexual abstinence until marriage.
Virginity pledges became popular in the 1990’s when the Southern Baptist Convention in the United States launched “True Love Waits”—a program that combined Biblical values with positive peer pressure to encourage young people to say no to sex before marriage.
A similar program, started soon afterward, featured events where attendees who took the pledge were given a silver ring to symbolize (and remind them of) their no-sex-before-marriage commitment.
Do virginity pledges work?
The answer depends on whom you ask.
According to researchers Christine C. Kim and Robert Rector, “several studies have found that adolescent virginity pledging was associated with delayed or reduced levels of teen sexual activity.”
According to research published by the Guttmacher Institute, studies indicate that “teens who take ‘virginity pledges’ are just as likely to have sex as those who do not.”
Why the conflicting results?
Some studies compare pledgers with non-pledgers who do not share similar beliefs about sex.
Other studies compare pledgers with non-pledgers who share similar beliefs about sex.
What did the latter type of study reveal? Dr. Janet Rosenbaum, a specialist in adolescent health issues, says that after five years, “pledgers and non-pledgers don’t differ at all in their sexual behavior.”
A better approach
Virginity pledge programs have a noble goal. The problem is, they don’t necessarily instill the values needed for follow-through. Many who promise to remain virgins “aren’t really internalizing the pledge,” says Dr. Rosenbaum. “Abstinence has to come from an individual conviction rather than participating in a program.”
The Bible encourages such individual conviction, not by having a person take a written or oral pledge, but by helping him to “have [his] powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) After all, virginity is not just a matter of avoiding disease and pregnancy; it is a way to show honor to the Creator of marriage.—Matthew 5:19; 19:4-6.
The standards set forth in the Bible are for our good. (Isaiah 48:17) Indeed, all people—regardless of their age—can develop the strength of character to obey God’s command to “flee from sexual immorality.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) When they do marry, they will thus be able to enjoy intimacy fully, without the worries and regrets that are so often the aftermath of premarital sex.