What Is an Abstinence Ring

An abstinence ring is a symbol of a teen-ager's promise to remain a virgin until marriage. A daily reminder of the purity promise, abstinence rings are worn by both boys and girls and usually accompany taking a pledge to remain pure.

Abstinence rings, also known as purity rings, chastity rings or promise rings, are intended to be both a personal reminder to the wearer and an outward statement supporting virginity.

How Abstinence Rings Evolved
Abstinence rings originated in the United States in the early 1990s, stemming from a growing movement by Christian groups promoting sexual abstinence until marriage.  Christian groups were asking teens to sign pledge cards, promising purity.

In 1996 an Arizona couple started The Silver Ring Thing, a Christian abstinence group that traveled across the country, holding seminars and asking teens to join and take an abstinence pledge. For a membership fee, members of The Silver Ring Thing get a silver ring inscribed with a Bible verse.

Abstinence rings got a boost when The Jonas Brothers, a pop band popular with young teen-age girls, announced that they all wear abstinence rings as a pledge to remain virgins until marriage.

Why an Abstinence Ring?
Wearing an abstinence ring is a daily, almost constant, reminder of the purity promise that the wearer has made.

In addition to being a reminder to the ring's wearer, an abstinence ring is an outward message to the world that he or she who wears the ring has made a purity promise.

Rings symbolize engagement, marriage, and vows of other kinds.  An abstinence ring is usually worn on the ring finger of the left hand, with the inference that the wearer will be abstinent until the abstinence ring is replaced by a wedding ring.

Types of Abstinence Rings
As the teen abstinence movement has grown, so has the availability of different types of abstinence rings. 

Since the abstinence ring movement is based in Christian groups, many abstinence rings have a cross in their design.  Others are inscribed with Bible verses and phrases such as "True Love Waits," "Vow of Purity" and "One Life, One Love." Some rings have gemstones, small diamonds, butterfly designs or flowers.

In addition to rings, there are abstinence necklaces, dog tags, wristbands and other jewelry.

Criticisms of Abstinence Rings
Critics of abstinence rings point out that wearing a ring does little to keep teens pure.  Studies show that teens who rely on abstinence goals often don't use condoms or other birth control when they stray from their promise.

The U.S. federal government and public schools have been criticized for offering abstinence-only sex education classes.  The Silver Ring Thing was condemned for bringing a religious message into public schools with its abstinence program.

However, few critics can find fault with a teen's intent in wearing an abstinence ring and making an effort to remain a virgin.

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