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Monday, November 30, 2015

Purity Rings and Good Intentions

The following is a guest post by New Crunchy Mom:

Purity rings have been very popular in recent years. You may have heard of them, especially since some celebrities like the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus once wore them. The days of wearing purity rings for these celebrities appears to be nothing but a passing fad. Despite this, purity rings continue to be popular.

So what is a purity ring, anyways?

Purity rings are physical symbols of the wearer's dedication to abstaining from sexual activity before marriage. This dedication is often based on religious principles or commandments, but is sometimes based solely on the wearer holding purity in high-esteem, without any religious influence. Purity rings often have engravings on them with words of inspiration or encouragement to stay pure.

Abstaining from sexual activity has meant different things to different people in purity culture. Some took it to mean that they were to abstain from sex before their wedding night. Others took it to mean that they could do nothing, which included holding hands, hugging, kissing, etc., until their wedding. Purity rings and the message that they brought were filled with good intentions. After all, what could possibly go wrong with promoting physical and sexual abstinence when it meant there may be less STIs and STDs, promotion of emotional well-being in regards to relationships, and less teen pregnancy?

Unfortunately for many, the unintended consequences outweighed or completely replaced the goal that had been set in place. Instead of keeping a generation of young people pure, the culture surrounding purity rings destroyed the emotional and sexual health of countless teenagers and young adults. Abstaining from sex turned into abstaining from kissing.  Hand holding is the gateway to hugs and hugs make you tempted to start kissing. Soon the message became not to have too strong of feelings for anyone, because that was the safest option to keep people pure. 

The laundry list of "Don't do this..." became longer and longer and impressionable youth and parents who wanted the best for their children were sucked into a vortex of legalistic rules and regulations. Sex education was often withheld or given at elementary levels in these situations to make it more difficult to be self-aware and drawn into temptation. This legalism produced young adults who were afraid and unprepared for normal, healthy relationships and the physical and emotional progression of these relationships.

I think it is safe to say that no one expects to be cowering in fear in a corner away from their new spouse on their wedding night, but trust me when I say this has happened to many. They fear their spouse's anatomy, because they were unwittingly conditioned to. They fear the strong emotions that they never encountered, because they were instructed to suppress them and didn't learn to deal with them. What they fear the most is that the things that they had heard about sex being worth waiting for aren't true.

On the flip-side, there are people who are so frustrated by the restrictions put in place that they take every opportunity to find loopholes and engage in risky activities, stopping just short of having sex. These aren't the only ways that dysfunction has crept into the lives of those who once wore purity rings, but these are some of the more common "side-effects." While it may seem that I am against purity rings, that isn't the case. On my own wedding day, I passed my purity ring onto my flower girl. Purity rings aren't the problem, legalism within purity culture is. Want a purity ring? Go get one! I encourage it wholeheartedly.

There are some things that I suggest you keep in mind. Know that:

1. Your worth is not defined by your virginal status.

2. Your virginal status is not tied to your purity ring.

3. Getting a purity ring needs to be your decision, not someone else's.

4. Emotions are healthy and normal.

5. An appropriate amount of self-control is healthy and normal.

6. Sex is not bad, but context is important.

7. It is a good idea to know your reasons why you want it and write it down. If you reach a point where you realize you are wearing your ring for other people, look back on why you put it on in the first place.

Have you ever worn a purity ring?

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