Many celebrities like Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, The Jonas Brothers and even Justin Bieber have openly expressed their belief in abstinence until marriage, wearing purity rings and purity necklaces. Inspired by my religion (and, OK, Nick Jonas), I bought a purity ring of my own when I was 15. At the time, it seemed relatively simple to remain chaste until my wedding day. I had a boyfriend, but he didn’t seem to mind waiting. My best friend wore a purity ring too, and I was so busy with school and extracurricular activities that I had little time to think about—let alone have—sex.
For about two years after I bought the ring, I gladly followed what I believed was God’s plan for me. But I also found that I wasn’t just obeying His orders. Since I had made my decision to remain abstinent public, I found myself answering to a lot of other people’s expectations of me too. My close friends, my peers, my parents—everyone had their own way of checking up on me to make sure I wasn’t going to break my promise.
"My ring seemed like more of a constant reminder of how dirty and useless people might think I was if I wasn’t a virgin anymore."
Pressure to Be Pure
One day, my boyfriend revealed to me that if I hadn’t been a virgin when we met, he would never have asked me to be his girlfriend. It made me feel like his love and support was conditional and that no guy would want to date me if I wasn’t a virgin. I feared that my friends and family felt the same way my boyfriend did—that they would only like me if I was “pure.” I was angry and scared, but I also didn’t feel secure enough with myself yet to communicate to my loved ones about the pressure I felt.
At that time, my purity ring began to mean something else to me. Originally, when I made the commitment to wait until marriage, I really only saw my ring as a symbol of how personally valuable my virginity was to me. However, after I saw how readily my peers bullied and mocked girls who they thought were sexually active, my ring seemed like more of a constant reminder of how dirty and useless people might think I was if I wasn’t a virgin anymore.
In the spring of my sophomore year, I participated in an all-girls theater workshop where we discussed gender issues and bullying at school. Hearing personal stories from intelligent, strong girls who owned their sexuality helped me to discover that I had more of a say in my future than I previously thought. I had always assumed that, because I was a girl, it was expected of me to want to wait until marriage to have sex. Talking to girls who had a different take on things helped me to better understand my feelings and reevaluate the preconceived notions I had. I felt better about myself, but worse about my purity ring. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to wait until marriage; I just wasn’t willing to accept it as my only option anymore.