The Virginity Ring

Today I managed to get myself out of the house to take care of some errands I had been meaning to do for weeks. Since mid-December, I’ve been visiting my parents, so I went toddling around the city where I grew up. Waiting in line at an obnoxious department store (the colors, the lights, and the noise, noise, NOISE!) I did a double take at the woman behind me; could that be Melissa*? Snotty Melissa who made fun of my shoes in 9th grade? The Melissa who callously gossiped and lied Monday-Saturday and then showed up to church with me Sunday to worship? Oh yes, it was her. Drat.

Secretly, I hoped I wouldn’t be recognized. Unfortunately, I was. “LACCIIIIII!!!! Oh my GOD I haven’t seen you in years! How are you?”

The conversation sucked, so I won’t go there, but she did remind me of something. In 9th grade, during class at church, Melissa had proudly shown off a large diamond ring she wore daily on her finger. “A virginity ring”, she said. Even at 14, I was rolling my eyes.

Virginity rings (aka purity ring), a symbol for abstinence, come endorsed by schools and churches across America. They are worn by teenagers, often after receiving them from authority figures (pastors, mom, dad, older bro or sis, prudent Sister Smith from church, etc). The ones that I have seen have been both beautiful and expensive. Should a teen choose to take it off after agreeing to wear it, many face harassment from various extremist figures in their life…or, y’know, the media. Poor Selena Gomez.

I personally have several problems with purity rings:

1. The implication of a “purity ring” is that to have sex, you are no longer “pure”. Sex is thus dirty, defiling, and wrong instead of natural, healthy, and an act to be approached in an informed fashion.
2. Taking off the ring when you first have sex symbolizes something being taken AWAY from you. Real empowering, right? In healthy cases, you are not LOSING your virginity, you’re GAINING access to a new part of yourself–you’re making your sexual debut!
3. They are not effective. Studies have repeatedly shown that purity pledgers engage in the same sex acts in the same numbers. The only difference? Purity pledgers are significantly less likely to protect themselves, so they end up pregnant or transmitting diseases instead. Great.
4. Purity rings are a tool to “keep up appearances” and perpetuate bad communication between kids and their parents. As the studies have indicated, pledgers STILL HAVE SEX. They just learn to get really good at lying about it. Or, for the quiet parents, if they can see the ring on, they never have to talk about sex. Phew–problem solved! (Not.)
5. In my own experience, purity rings carry a lot of baggage. My sister wore one all through high school and continuously reprimanded me for not wearing one. I distinctly remember sitting across from her at Fresh Choice 5 or so years ago; leaning over her soup, she aggressively whispered: “Obviously you’re having sex since you won’t wear one.” It gave her an opportunity to demean my choices every day, even though I wasn’t even sexually active at the time. Wearing the purity ring also made her feel 10X more guilty when she finally did have sex.

…And my sister definitely didn’t end up waiting until marriage. In fact, my sister has more sex than me. As for Melissa? Well, she’s not married either. She also has a daughter, with another one on the way.

Abstinence vows oft mean learning the hard way, if they learn at all. Guilt, harassment, unplanned pregnancies, and maybe even a few STD/STIs later, some learn to approach their sexuality more realistically.

I just hope her parents didn’t spend too much on that ring.

*Her name isn’t actually Melissa. Actually, it might be, I couldn’t remember her name.

14 thoughts on “The Virginity Ring

  1. Really nice article, Lace!

    Purity rings seem so unreal to me. Back in the Netherlands even the most fanatic Christians don’t wear such a thing as a purity ring.

    It’s amazing they are so common in the US. And like you said, regardless of what it symbiosis, the umbers DON’T lie and indicate that people wearing them WILL be sexually active sooner or later. Being allot more uneducated and irresponsible in the process.

  2. I wonder after all the huge rise with purity rings in the last few years. Could it all be a ploy to get young women pregnant to perpetuate the species (like we need more right?). I know that some extremists go and come up with crazy plots for how they think the population should act.

    Maybe it’s just the conspiracy theorist in me but it hit me while reading the article. “I wonder if the ring was all on purpose? That’s diabolically evil…and genius”

  3. Even when I was younger I thought the purity ring was ridiculous. I never could understand why sex should only be after marriage. Especially when only woman were reprimanded for breaking those rules.

  4. I live in Canada and thankfully I have never seen or even heard of someone in my city wearing one, and I went to a catholic highschool! For some reason it must be an american phenomenon. I agree with Dolly that I never understood why sex should only be after marriage. If you’re ready to do it and have an equally willing partner, nothing should stop you for exploring your sexuality. Especially a piece of jewelry.

  5. I live in Australia and have come across some people wearing these “purity rings”.
    I had always thought that they were strange and I whole heatedly agree with Laci where she states that wearing them pushes the idea that sex is dirty.

    I think another reason that they are so popular is because of those tween american stars (like the Jonas Brothers) who portray the good american god-fearing teenager. I think even Miley Cyrus was wearing one at some point.

    And Dolly, I agree. It is only ever woman who get the rough end of the stick when it comes to losing virginity. You an even see it in other cultures too. The emphasis has always been on the female side.
    Which sucks.

  6. Another Australian here and gowd am I glad that this concept, as far as I know, never took off over here.

    Like Laci I really enjoy deconstructing of things like this and how we are all positioned in relation to certain concepts/notions. Similar questionable positioning happens with: immigrants (drain on society), agnosticism (fence sitters), gender (obviously), bisexuality, anything really involving a stereotype that is encouraged.

    Anyway rambling. <3 you laci I could read/listen to you all day :P Though that wouldn't be nearly as interesting and fun as actually talking with you (instead of one-sided dialogue).

  7. Upon the trend of “Well, I used to have a purity ring, but then little Junior came along…” (before marriage cases), I think it is as though they are compensating for giving into something “dirty” like sex and “losing” their virginity, but “gaining” an, urm, bundle of joy and doing the “right thing” thus making them…uh, better and pure all over again as a mom.

  8. I’m going to chime in on this one…

    As you may have noticed from a variety of my comments on YouTube, I am a firm believer in Moral absolutes. I am one of the (apparent) few who wore a purity ring (I called it a promise ring, but same thing) all through High School, and was able to give it to my wife at our wedding…

    That being said, I still agree with you that it demonizes sexuality and healthy relationships… There have been serious negative consequences to marrying as a virgin… one of which is that my wife and I had never had to really explore the questions of sex (such as how often we’d like it, and how(if!) we wanted to do it.) As a result, it has been (and remains to this day) a point of great stress between us… She mostly has sex with me because she feels required to, not because she wants to…

    I still believe that God intended for one man and one woman to join together permanently in their sexual/spiritual/emotional/physical relationship, but I’m conflicted over it.

    Suffice it to say that I will encourage my children to have healthy relationships, and refrain from gratuitous sex with random people, but I’m not sure that I can in good conscience guide them not to have sex before they are married.

  9. Well I agree with pretty much everything you say. However, I wear a promise ring. I chose it myself for my 16th birthday and it’s a simple, modest thing that cost me 8 bucks and simply says “love waits”. The point to mine was just to symbolize that I plan to wait until I’m good and ready to have sex, rather than feel pressured by society or some douchebag trying to get into my pants. Whether that’s before or after marriage is actually irrelevant. So, I wear one, but unconventionally. Yay individuality:)

  10. I enjoyed your blog, but just did want to say that, I think a purity ring can be a wonderful thing IF the decision is made independently BY and FOR the wearer. They way I look at it and have been taught, it doesn’t mean you’ve never ever had sex, it means you’re making a commitment not to until you are in a committed love-based relationship. In most cases this means marriage, but doesn’t have to, again it comes down to personal decision and comfort. As for the taking-giving idea, yes, you do have to take it off after you end your commitment, but when you give yourself to someone, they give themselves to you as well. Especially if you both waited to experience such things til your committed relationship. The giving them you purity ring, is a symbol for the physical and emotional part of yourself yo have also given them. To me that’s what the ring stands for.

  11. This article is so amazing! I totally agree with you. I live in Mississippi(highest teen pregnancy rate in the US) and it’s all because of this stupid demonization of sex stuff. In fact, during study hall once, I talked to a sexually active underclassman about sex and she knew next to nothing about contraception! I ended up spending the whole period explaining “No glove, no love.” The sad part: I’m the one who hasn’t had sex. This is true for a lot of kids here. What the hell is wrong with people? Not telling your kids about sex just makes their lives harder. Especially if they don’t have anyone else to ask about it.

  12. Excellent insight! I agree to your points. I’ve often thought virginity rings were a manifestation of societal closed-mindedness. Really, I wish more acknowledge and change this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>