Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and First Intercourse
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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Also Published In
- American Journal of Sociology
More About This Work
- Academic Units
- University of Chicago Press
- Published Here
- February 18, 2015