Sex. Nowadays, especially for college students, sex is everywhere. From frat parties to Fox”s rather orgy-esque “Temptation Island” series, the issue of sex has become nearly impossible to avoid. A number of teens, however, are pledging to do just that.
According to a recent article in Time Magazine (“The good [and bad?] News about Virginity Pledges,” 1/17/01), a new trend is emerging among teens between the ages of 14-18: Publicly promising to postpone sexual intercourse until after marriage. Sounds impossible? Perhaps not, refutes a study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. According to their study, teens who make these “virginity pledges” refrain from sexual intercourse for approximately a year and a half longer than those who do not.
Although the majority of University students are older than those teens included in the study, the issue of pre-marital sex continues to raise strong opinions throughout the student population.
“Most kids don”t look at the world from a long-term point of view,” LSA sophomore Sandro Faber-Bermudez said. “They want pleasure now, so they have sex without thinking about the consequences.”
According to LSA sophomore Gary Axelrod, “Once you lose your virginity, you cannot get it back I strongly believe that virginity should only be lost by individuals once they are married, and their relationship has matured.”
Even in today”s sexually charged society, many teens continue to reject the idea of pre-marital sex. From reasons ranging from family upbringing to religious values, a number of teens openly admit to preferring the “big M” to the “big O.” Among both virgins and sexually active teens, however, several students contest the validity of virginity pledges.
“Most people would probably break it immediately given the chance,” LSA junior Wayne Yang said. “I”m all for people that decide to do that. Just don”t expect a large number of people to jump abroad.”
According to LSA sophomore Lindsay Hollander, “Virginity pledges are simply another way for our judgmental society to attempt to perpetuate their “morals,” through the use of peer pressure on teenagers.”
Peer pressure does in fact appear to have a significant influence on the effectiveness of the pledges. According to the study performed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, teens generally respond quite well to being part of a group-wide pledge effort. Conversely, however, if the group gets too small, losing its “exclusivity” or its “critical mass of peer pressure,” the effectiveness of the pledges is greatly reduced.
Sexually-directed peer pressure also appears to increase as teens get older. According to Time, 15- and 16-year-olds were much more successful than 18-year-olds in maintaining their pledges. For some students, the worst peer pressure may occur during college years, as parties and alcohol often provide an environment in which sexual activity thrives. Business School junior Scott “Leroy” Shapiro said, “pledges are only meaningful if the people making them truly believe it and are able to ignore outside peer pressure.”
As we enter the 21st Century, the world is drastically different than it was decades ago. Attitudes towards sexuality have changed dramatically, and subsequently, human approaches to sexual behavior have as well. Perhaps mourning is in order for the days of the “sex talk,” complete with hand puppets and gardening metaphors. Or maybe, as these virginity pledges may demonstrate, adolescents have a more mature and educated approach to sexuality than society generally gives them credit for. Whatever the case may be, sex specifically, the issue of pre-marital sex is destined to remain a controversial topic in society for years to come.