December 30th, 2008
12:07 PM ET

Virginity pledges don't mean much

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/HEALTH/12/30/virginity.pledges/art.teen.sexuality.gi.jpg caption="A new study looked at the sexual behavior of hundreds of young people, some of whom took virginity pledges."]

Theresa Tamkins

As many as one in eight teens in the United States may take a virginity pledge at some point, vowing to wait until they're married before having sex. But do such pledges work? Are pledge takers more likely than other teens to delay sexual activity?

A new study suggests that the answer is no. While teens who take virginity pledges do delay sexual activity until an average age of 21 (compared to about age 17 for the average American teen), the reason for the delay is more likely due to pledge takers' religious background and conservative views - not the pledge itself.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Barbara in Boston

    Warren, aren't you missing the point? Abstinence is theoretically effective with both birth control and STD prevention, but that's not the reality.

    Wishing won't make it so.

    December 30, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  2. Warren

    Abstinence education may not work, but abstinence itself is pretty effective. Don't know anyone who ever got an STD by not having sex. True, we need to let kids know how to prevent disease and pregnancy, but we do them a great disservice if we don't tell then that the only 100% effective way to keep from getting pregnant or getting an STD is to not have sex to begin with. Give them the option to choose not to do it first, then give them the tools to deal with the consequences of what happens if/when they DO do it.

    December 30, 2008 at 3:15 pm |
  3. GF, Los Angeles

    The practice of getting married young (late teens to early 20's) as in years past no longer exist which is why the idea of waiting until marriage no longer makes sense. People are getting married well into their 30's and some 40's now. What should instead be taught (as in my case) was to get an education, get a job and financially take care of myself before getting involved with the opposite sex. I was given a goal to focus on so I did not have time to get involved in a relationship much less a fling.

    December 30, 2008 at 1:16 pm |
  4. Tammy, Berwick. LA

    Gee, we knew abstinence education didn't work in the late 1980's when I first started working as a peer educator while an undergrad in college. It still didn't work when I wrote my dissertation on HIV prevention among university students in the late 1990's. How many people have to get STD's and die from HIV complications before the geniuses controlling prevention funds and programming figure it out and start giving community agencies, faith-based groups, and schools the tools and power they need to educate effectively? The do-good Bible thumpers sadly live in a false reality that equates to long-term chronic illness, sterility (depending on when some of these STD's are diagnosed and treated), teen pregnancy, and death. They aren't saving anything or anyone. I don't know how they can think they are. If those who work with teens and young adults really care, they'll give them the education that can save them, empower them to make the right choices, and support them when they do. They won't give false platitudes, cutesy abstinence rings and deb balls, and an unrealistic view of reality. Abstinence is an amazingly hard choice. It was when I made it as a teen. It's even harder today. Kids need all the help they can get to keep that pledge. But they also need to know they are still supported and encouraged to stay healthy if they decide to be sexually active. And sadly, not enough adults seem to have guts enough to be willing to do that for the kids they are entrusted with in their lives.

    December 30, 2008 at 12:55 pm |