Pop-star Jordin Sparks (American Idol 6, “Sparkle”) made it public that she was taking a vow of chastity and waiting until marriage to have sex, but in an interview earlier this year, the singer seemed to have a change of heart, saying: "I don't wear it [purity ring] exactly everyday anymore, but I always have something there. When I was 13, my mom spoke to me about purity and waiting for marriage…at the time I was like, 'Sure that's great,' but I can't say what's gonna happen a couple of months from now. People grow." It looks like Sparks may be joining the club of starlets (ex. Britney Spears) who took a pledge of abstinence in youth and later made a different choice. There are a number of different reasons why abstinence pledges are reneged on, but 2 factors are age and motivation for the pledge.
Across the country, religious (many faiths discourage pre-marital sex; it’s viewed as a sin) and some school-based organizations have abstinence programs in which pre-teens and teenagers take formal oaths to remain chaste until marriage and/or don a symbolic ‘purity ring.’ It’s my personal theory that teenagers, especially in this day and age, are too young and immature to take such a vow. 1st, teenagers, individuals who are completely supported by others and viewed as children by the law, should not be having sex either way, but that’s a different conversation. 2nd, you set a young person up for failure when you ask them to make a decision that’s going to affect their adult life. At 13, 14 or 15, you’re being asked to make a decision that will affect you when you’re 23, 24 or 25? That’s unreasonable. That’s partially why so many college students have difficulty choosing or sticking with an academic major. At 18, you’re making a career decision for the REST OF YOUR LIFE? Considering that most high school students don’t have any in-depth preliminary help discovering what career fields might be of interest to them and what’s required to successfully attain employment, making that choice at 18 seems particularly ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with explaining the benefits of abstinence to young people or promoting the concept, but encouraging them to make a public declaration that they may be shamed internally or externally for breaking later may be the wrong approach.
While I’m on the subject of youth, Christianity and chastity, in some communities of faith, teens are almost taught to not even think about or discuss sex until marriage. You can’t effectively curb or control your sexual desires if you don’t understand what your triggers and weaknesses are. If one is sexually suppressed, they’ll likely struggle to handle being confronted with sex or a tempting situation. There are healthy, productive and safe ways to explore, discuss and learn about your sexual energy WITHOUT having sex. Youth ministers need to create an atmosphere for honest and open dialogue if they expect their horny teen parishioners to keep their “V-cards.”
As for Jordin Sparks…it’s always disappointing when a public figure decides (or in this case, contemplates) to renounce a chastity vow because I feel it feeds the notion and stereotype that abstinence promises are ones to be broken or are impossible to keep. When she mentioned her initial reaction to chastity at 13 and compared it to now with “people grow,” it implied that abstinence is like Trix cereal: it’s for kids and when you mature and “grow,” you don’t do it. This is going to sound harsh, but let’s be real- unless you have a new set of religious views or found your reasons for choosing abstinence shallow, deciding to have sex in your 20’s after being ‘pro-purity’ for 10 years (so pro-purity she brought attention to herself by saying on national television at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards: “It's not bad to wear a promise ring…because not everybody –guy or girl– wants to be a slut.") is not the result of “growth” or a philosophical epiphany, it’s because you want to have sex. Assuming Sparks’ new “revelation” comes as she’s been dating singer Jason Derulo since late last year, I shake my head at the thought that all it took was for her to be sprung on a guy to dump a long-held belief.