A virginity pledge is a commitment, usually made in a group, to practice abstinence until marriage. These pledges are usually symbolized by purity rings, or covenant cards. Christian scholars have put forth the rationale behind the Virginity Pledge movement, that success in life is correlated to respect for oneself, and respect for oneself begins with respect for one's one body. By teaching children to respect their bodies with regard to intimacy, it has been shown in studies that students are more likely to have a positive self-image and less likely to compromise their bodies with drugs and alcohol. According to the Heritage Foundation, teens who make virginity pledges enjoy the following life outcomes:
- Are less likely to experience teen pregnancy;
- Are less likely to be sexually active while in high school and as young adults;
- Are less likely to give birth as teens or young adults;
- Are less likely to give birth out of wedlock;
- Are less likely to engage in risky unprotected sex; and
- Will have fewer sexual partners.
In contrast, a study by Janet Elise Rosenbaum PhD, published in the January 2009 edition of the journal Pediatrics, addressed the sexual behavior of socially/religiously conservative students who signed a virginity pledge compared to the sexual behavior of socially/religiously conservative students who did not sign a pledge. This study found that pledgers and nonpledgers were not different in likelihood of premarital sex (53% vs 57%), age at first sex (21.2 vs 20.7), number of lifetime sexual partners (3.2 vs 3.5), and number of sexual encounters in the previous year (22.8 vs. 23.6). Overall there were no differences between the two groups in 12 of 14 measured sexual behaviors, 3 of 3 STD rates, and 4 of 4 marriage outcomes. The study did not address overall pregnancy rates, teen pregnancy rates, or birth rates. Rosenbaum found that pledgers did differ from socially similar nonpledgers in the following ways:
- Unmarried pledgers were less likely to report using birth control and condoms over the last year;
- Unmarried pledgers were less likely to report using birth control at last intercourse;
- Pledgers reported 1.09 last-year sexual partners, compared to 1.2 last-year partners for nonpledgers; and
- 1.04% of pledgers reported having been paid for sex, compared to 3.34% of non-pledgers.
- Rosenbaum, Janet Patient Teenagers? A Comparison of the Sexual Behavior of Virginity Pledgers and Matched Nonpledgers, Pediatrics 2009, vol 123, issue 1, e110-e120