Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and First Intercourse
- Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and First Intercourse
- Bearman, Peter Shawn
- Persistent URL:
- Book/Journal Title:
- American Journal of Sociology
- University of Chicago Press
- Since 1993, in response to a movement sponsored by the Southern
Baptist Church, over 2.5 million adolescents have taken public “virginity”
pledges, in which they promise to abstain from sex until
marriage. This paper explores the effect of those pledges on the
transition to first intercourse. Adolescents who pledge are much less
likely to have intercourse than adolescents who do not pledge. The
delay effect is substantial. On the other hand, the pledge does not
work for adolescents at all ages. Second, pledging delays intercourse
only in contexts where there are some, but not too many, pledgers.
The pledge works because it is embedded in an identity movement.
Consequently, the pledge identity is meaningful only in contexts
where it is at least partially nonnormative. Consequences of pledging
are explored for those who break their promise. Promise breakers
are less likely than others to use contraception at first intercourse.
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- Suggested Citation:
- Peter Shawn Bearman, Hannah Brückner, 2001, Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and First Intercourse, Columbia University Academic Commons, https://doi.org/10.7916/D8VH5MP8.