Sex Vows Did Not Curb STDs
March 20, 2005
Young adults who as teenagers took pledges not to have sex until marriage
were just as likely to contract a venereal disease as people who didn't make
the promise, according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Sociologists studied data from a government-funded study that tested 11,000
18- to 24-year-olds for some sexually transmitted diseases, including
chlamydia and gonorrhea.
There was no statistically significant difference between the percentage of
people who took a so-called virginity pledge and were infected with an STD
and those who didn't pledge, said Hannah Bruckner, one of the study's
"It is important to teach adolescents that if they decide to have sex, they
can protect from negative consequences," said Bruckner, an assistant
professor of sociology at Yale University.
In 1993, the True Love Waits movement urged teenagers to promise to refrain
from sex until marriage. About 2.2 million adolescents, or 12% of U.S.
teenagers, had taken such a pledge by 1995, according to the study.
Researchers had expected those who took a virginity pledge to have a lower
incidence of STDs because pledgers tended to have fewer sex partners, lose
their virginity later and marry earlier than those who didn't make the
promise, Bruckner said.
She said it was difficult to pinpoint a reason for the finding.
The study found that 88% of sexually active people who took the pledge had
intercourse before marriage. Sexually active pledgers were less likely to
use condoms the first time they had sex, Bruckner said.
The study found that people who took an abstinence pledge were less likely
to get tested and treated for venereal disease. They may then be infected
longer than other people.
Some teenagers and young adults may engage in other intimate activities
besides vaginal sex in order to preserve their virginity, the study found.
Sex education programs that teach only about abstinence are "outside the
reality of most adolescents and young adults," Bruckner said.