College Students Break Abstinence Pledges, Study Finds

Casting doubt on the effectiveness of abstinence pledges, researchers at Northern Kentucky University found that six in 10 college students who pledged abstinence until marriage broke their vow. So-called “virginity pledges” appeared in the US in the 1980s and ’90s, as a consequence of increased social conservatism and parents’ fears of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy, reports Reuters Health. But of the 16 percent of respondents who took such a pledge, 61 percent had sex anyway, the survey showed.

Those who took the pledge had sex an average of one year later than those who did not. But many pledge-takers who did not have intercourse were still sexually active – more than 55 percent who said they kept their pledges still engaged in oral sex. “I think there seems to be an idea for many young people that oral sex doesn’t count, that you can technically still be a virgin,” Dr. Angela Lipsitz, a coauthor of the study, told Reuters Health. Those who broke their vow were also less likely to use a condom during their first experience with intercourse, reported Reuters.

Lipsitz concludes that the abstinence-until-marriage pledge is of limited value for most young people. While it may be valuable “to some,” said Lipsitz, “it’s just not practical for most people, and very few people are abstinent until marriage,” Reuters reported.

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Reuters Health 6/23/03; Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 6/25/03

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