Well surprise, surprise. Teens who take “virginity pledges,” (signed documents stating that they will wait until marriage before engaging in sexual activity) are not less likely to have sex than their peers according to a recent study conducted by Janet Elise Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins University. (CNN.com “Virginity Pledges don’t Mean Much, Study Says”)
Pledge is an interesting word. It is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “a binding promise or agreement to do or forebear.” Okay. Now let’s look closely at that definition so that it can be understood a little better. Promise and agreement are too pretty simple words, so I think those are understood. But what about binding? Webster’s went with “to exert a restraining or compelling affect.” Okay. What really makes something binding though? A piece of paper with a signature? If that were true there would be much more trust in regards to our local and federal governments. I mean, c’mon, how many signed “agreements” have been broken when the parties involved became less interested? Just take one look at our lame-duck President George W. Bush and his trail of broken promises or “agreements” because he had “executive power.” No, a signature on a piece of paper is not binding. What makes something binding is the ability of some group or person to enforce the signer’s agreement. This is true of legal documents (well most anyway.) It is this reason that virginity pledges just don’t work. There is nothing forcing these teenagers to follow through with their pledge in the face of love or even just lust. That is, unless their parents or clergy find out and, even then, it still is not binding. They won’t go to jail or be fined for breaking their promise…at least not yet.
So sex is forced to be secret, to be a shameful act, or one of delicious rebellion, depending on the kid. This need for secrecy is what makes policies like virginity pledges so dangerous. It is yet another barrier put up to stop teens from finding out about healthy sexual behaviors and the risks that are involved in unprotected sex. After hearing your Mom tell you how “truly proud!” she is of you for signing a virginity pledge, are you really going to feel like fessing up? “Oops!” probably won’t cut it. So you probably don’t tell, but you keep having sex. The problem here is schools that participate in virginity pledges probably only teach abstinence. Sex is off topic in home and at school, so knowledge on the subject comes from friends who have probably not discussed sexual health with an honest, knowledgeable adult. This is the reason why teens who take virginity pledges have sex as much as their peers but are much less likely to use a condom or contraceptives.
To make it even more obvious how ridiculous the use of virginity pledges are in light of the fact that they don’t work, is they are yet another example of wasted funds allotted for education. Pledges don’t work, plain and simple. Their usefulness is not being debated based on ideology alone, but rather, simple effectiveness. In a country that prides itself on creating effective systems and programs, virginity pledges should be erased due to their failure to produce results. That is not an ideological point of view; it is a logical one.
Cassidy in Philadelphia