New Study: Virginity Pledges Don’t Work

New Study: Virginity Pledges Don’t Work


A new study published in Pediatrics has found that those who take virginity pledges are just as likely to have sex as their non-pledging peers and are more likely not to use birth control.

Instead of comparing pledge-takers with the general teenage population, this new study used a refined methodology that controlled for the likelihood that a teenager would delay sex. So, while other studies have found that those who take virginity pledges are more likely to delay sex than the general teenage population, this current study found that the pledge-takers don’t end up delaying sex any longer than peers who are similarly likely to delay sex but who haven’t taken a pledge.

Basically, some teenagers are likely to delay sex for a variety of reasons. Taking a virginity pledge doesn’t prolong that delay. And worse, there is a correlation between pledge taking and the failure to use birth control.

That last bit is, intuitively, not surprising. Virginity pledges portray premarital sex as a sin. We tend to sneak around or be impulsive about things that make us feel guilty. We tend to take more reasonable approaches to things that don’t make us feel guilty.

What this study didn’t control for (and what I don’t think can be controlled for) is whether or not the pledge takers would have approached premarital sex with a high level of guilt and the same aversion to birth control even if they hadn’t take a pledge. What comes first? The view that premarital sex is a sin? Or the pledge?

I have a feeling that this study won’t change the minds of those who believe virginity pledges are worthwhile.

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  • TerenceC

    It’s a personal choice – nothing more than that. To create a movement based upon a pledge to deny a normal biological function strikes me as ridiculous, but then again I got married very young – presumably because I couldn’t wait to get my hands on those….. At any rate, I think a lack of sexual knowledge and a lack of openness to discuss sex is really at the heart of this. The US is a sexually repressed society by global standards – we equate nudity to sex – we focus on peoples sexual problems, their sexual peccadillos, sex scandals, sex, sex, sex – but rarely a healthy discussion about sex. Only discussions involving sin, perversion, life style choices. I guess it’s easier and cheaper to talk about sex then it is to talk about helping the poor – and then mobilizing to actually do something about it. Helping the infirmed or the aged, and then mobilizing to do something about it. Organizing to effect change to help the less fortunate members of society and then going after the problems must just be too hard because very few religious organizations do it – they just focus on lifestyle issues, because it’s easier and seems to “press” every emotional button.

  • Mike

    I think it’s obvious that the pledge itself doesn’t cause people to not have sex, so if you control for other variables (like religiosity perhaps), it’s not surprising that its found to have no affect. The pledge is an outward expression of an inner conviction. But it is disturbing that those who pledge are more likely to not use safe practices. But again, I think the pledge itself doesn’t do much.

    Seriousness aside, perhaps we could have a pledge like this:

    “I pledge to save myself for marriage, but buy a condom just in case.”

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    Its time for the government to use tax payer money to distribute condoms to 13 & 14 year olds in public schools. Also, brochures entitled, “The Ins and Outs of Anal Sex” are needed. Isn’t that what this study proves?

    I think a lack of sexual knowledge and a lack of openness to discuss sex is really at the heart of this…I guess it’s easier and cheaper to talk about sex then it is to talk about helping the poor

    So stop talking about helping the poor and start talking about sex, or stop talking about sex and start talking about helping the poor? I don’t get it.

    And when you say “helping the poor,” you mean government bureaucracy-mediated socialist wealth redistribution and welfare, not charity or economic growth, correct?

  • Jim S

    It’s posts like this one that make me think that dim is such an understatement. Broad, sweeping generalizations and the constant use of words like socialist prove nothing except something about the person writing.

  • mercy

    Pledging to not having sex can just be the outside of a person and at many cases doesnt portray the inner truth, but those principled take it on their own as personal this even encourages oneself than when people know you have sworn later on to find yourself in a great shame.As one has commented that lack of exposure leads to the action, and should be done, to avoid talking of sex but helping the poor in our societies.