Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

Do Virginity Pledges Work or Do They Do More Harm Than Good? December 30, 2008

Filed under: Anecdotal,educational,marriage,parenting,Political,Religious — Addicted to Yarn @ 6:42 am

I opened a huge can of worms today. Yahoo had an article up whose headline said “Virginity Pledges Don’t Work” or something to that effect. I didn’t blog about it right away and now, when I tried to find it, it was gone. So I Googled “viriginity pledges” and WHOA!

What do I find but EIGHT articles stating, “No, virginity pledges don’t work and are harmful,” two reports stating, “They don’t work but are not actively harmful,” and one article which states, “They do work.” Here’s some links:

The “Doesn’t Work And Is Harmful” crowd:

KARK 4 News – news report about pledges NOT working

WebMD – “Virginity Pledge Doesn’t Stop Teen Sex”

Medical News Today- “Many Teens Who Take ‘Virginity Pledges’ Substitute Other High-Risk Behavior for Intercourse, Study Says”

Teenwire.com (supported by Planned Parenthood) – “The Truth About Virginity Pledges”

Washington Post – “Virginity Pledges Cannot Be Taken on Faith”

Salon.com – “The Virginity Hoax”

Everything2.com – Virginity Pledge

The Sydney Morning Herald – “Virginity Pledge No Guarantee”

Bloomberg.com “Virginity Pledges Fail to Trump Teen Lust in Look at Older Data”

The “Works” ‘crowd’:

The Heritage Foundation – “Teens Who Make Virginity Pledges Have Substantially Improved Life Outcomes”

And the “Doesn’t Work but is Basically Harmless” crowd:

Science Direct – “After the promise: The STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledge”

Science Direct – “The limits of abstinence-only in preventing sexually transmitted infection”

And then you have some source material:

“Patient Teenagers? A Comparison of the Sexual Behavior of Virginity Pledgers and Matched Nonpledgers” in which the conclusion is stated as,

The sexual behavior of virginity pledgers does not differ from that of closely matched nonpledgers, and pledgers are less likely to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease before marriage. Virginity pledges may not affect sexual behavior but may decrease the likelihood of taking precautions during sex. Clinicians should provide birth control information to all adolescents, especially virginity pledgers.

What I find really interesting is two little points. One from the Heritage Foundations article. The article states,

Overall, making a virginity pledge is strongly associated with a wide array of positive behaviors and outcomes while having NO negative effects. (2) The findings …strongly suggest that virginity pledge and similar abstinence educations programs have the potential to substantially reduce teen sexual activity, teen pregnancy, and out-of-wedlock childbearing. (Emphasis mine)

I can’t help but compare these statements with the other interesting point. Pediatrics, The Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics said in their article,

Pledgers and matched nonpledgers did not differ in premarital sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and anal and oral sex variables. Pledgers had 0.1 fewer past-year partners but did not differ in lifetime sexual partners and age of first sex. Fewer pledgers than matched nonpledgers used birth control and condoms in the past year and birth control at last sex,

and came to the conclusion that…

The sexual behavior of virginity pledgers does not differ from that of closely matched nonpledgers, and pledgers are less likely to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease before marriage. Virginity pledges may not affect sexual behavior but may decrease the likelihood of taking precautions during sex. Clinicians should provide birth control information to all adolescents, especially virginity pledgers.

So how does this work? How can you have such different conclusions when the same Add Health survey was the basis for both?

I don’t know. But something else I found interesting was that, “Five years after the pledge, 82% of pledgers denied having ever pledged.”

Interesting.

I pledged to remain a virgin until I was married. And I was a virgin when I married. But not once did my signature on a pledge card come to mind when I was in a situation which could  have ended with sexual intercourse. I remained a virgin because it’s what I wanted to do and if I’d wanted to have sex before I got married, that’s what I would have done, pledge or no. In my personal experience and the experiences of people who signed virginity pledge cards with me, the Virginity Pledge is a waste of time, money, and trees and it promotes magical thinking, both in teens and adults. The teen think that because he or she signed a pledge card, they don’t need to do anything else regarding their sexuality. They rest on their pledge alone and it’s not enough. Adults pat themselves on the back because x number of teens signed pledge cards and they don’t provide those kids with the information and guidance they need regarding safe sex. Abstinence Only education doesn’t work and the sooner that’s recognized and dealt with the better.

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One Response to “Do Virginity Pledges Work or Do They Do More Harm Than Good?”

  1. Christina G Says:

    Really good points, Rebecca. It’s really interesting to hear your experience as a virginity pledger and abstinence till marriage practitioner. Happy New Year!


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