Purity ring

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A purity ring made from sterling silver.

Purity rings (also known as promise rings, abstinence rings, or chastity rings) are worn as a sign of chastity.


In the 1990s, in the United States, Evangelical organizations promoting virginity pledges and virginity before marriage, like True Love Waits and Silver Ring Thing, used the purity ring as a symbol of commitment. [1] [2][3] Wearing a purity ring is typically accompanied by a religious vow to practice abstinence until marriage.[4] Chastity rings are part of the abstinence-only sex education movement and are intended to act as a physical reminder of their chastity vow.[3]


Several notable individuals advocate or have once advocated for purity rings.[5] A dagger (†) denotes people who no longer advocate for the use of purity rings.


Some organizations that promote purity include:

Silver Ring Thing[edit]

Unaltered, formerly and commonly known as Silver Ring Thing (SRT), is an American virginity pledge program founded in 1995 by Denny Pattyn. The program encourages teens and young adults to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. For a few years, it was partially funded by the U.S. federal government.[6] Drawing on Christian theology,[7] SRT uses rock/hip hop concert-style events in an attempt to appeal to 21st-century teenagers. During the gathering, participants commit to a vow of sexual abstinence until marriage by purchasing rings. The organization's theme verse is 1 Thessalonians 4:3–4.

In 2004, SRT began expanding operations into the United Kingdom, with mixed results. While some teenagers in the UK embraced the message of abstinence, some critics rejected and ridiculed SRT, saying it was anti-sex or unrealistic, and that it seemed unlikely that abstinence programs would attract widespread support in the UK because of the UK's differing attitude toward sexuality and sex education. The group's Assistant National Director for the UK, Denise Pfeiffer, said there was a real need for such a movement in the UK to curb what she sees as the ever-increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancies, both of which she claims are the highest in Western Europe.[8][9]

In 2005, the ACLU of Massachusetts sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services because it believed SRT used tax dollars to promote Christianity.[10] SRT presented a two-part programme: the first part about abstinence, the second about Christianity's role in abstinence. The ACLU claimed federal funding given to this program violated the separation of church and state. On August 22, 2005, the Department suspended SRT's US$75,000 federal grant until it submitted a "corrective action plan".[11] In 2006, a corrective action plan was accepted by the Department. The lawsuit was dismissed, and SRT received federal funding.

In the 2007 case R (Playfoot) v Millais School Governing Body, 16-year-old Lydia Playfoot from UK alleged that her school had violated her rights by forbidding her from wearing a purity ring.[12] The case was funded by the group Christian Concern.[12] On July 16, 2007, the High Court ruled that Playfoot's human rights were not violated.[12] Her father, Phil Playfoot, was the UK pastor for Silver Ring Thing at the time,[13] and was ordered to pay £12,000 towards the school's costs.[12]

In 2019, Silver Ring Thing changed its name to Unaltered.[14]


Some studies of the efficacy of virginity pledges have found they may be effective in delaying vaginal intercourse but ineffective in reducing the rate of sexually transmitted infection. They also reduce the likelihood of contraceptive use.[15] Additionally, it has been reported that pledgers replace vaginal intercourse with other sexual activities, such as oral or anal sex.[15][16] At least one study has found no difference in the sexual behavior of pledgers and non-pledgers after controlling for pre-existing differences between the groups.[17]

David Bario of the Columbia News Service wrote:

Under the Bush administration, organizations that promote abstinence and encourage teens to sign virginity pledges or wear purity rings have received federal grants. The Silver Ring Thing, a subsidiary of a Pennsylvania evangelical church, has received more than $1 million from the government to promote abstinence and to sell its rings in the United States and abroad.[18]

In 2005, the ACLU of Massachusetts brought charges against this decision, alleging that the Silver Ring program did not ensure its secularity and hence was ineligible for federal funding due to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.[3]

In the 2011 book Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns, Christine Gardner criticizes Silver Ring Thing[19] for "using sex to sell abstinence" by promising more satisfying sexual activity within marriage for those who abstain from premarital sex; she argues that this rhetoric reinforces selfish desires for gratification, sets people up for divorce and dissatisfaction with marriage, and simply adapts "secular forms for religious ends".[20]

In 2019, the Lutheran minister Nadia Bolz-Weber called for people to send her their unwanted purity rings so that she could cast them into a sculpture of female anatomy.[21] Apologetic minister Alisa Childers criticized Bolz-Weber for her project, but acknowledged that purity ring campaigns need to improve.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence by Sara Moslener, Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Alisha, Hipwell (2003-12-10). "Federal grant to fund message of abstinence". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. John Robinson Block. Retrieved 2008-08-26. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  • "'Purity' ring case in High Court". BBC World News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-06-22. Retrieved 2008-08-26. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  • Cole, Sean (2004). "With This Ring - Pledging Abstinence". Inside Out Documentaries. WBUR. Retrieved 2008-08-26. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  • Connolly, Ceci (2005-03-19). "Teen Pledges Barely Cut STD Rates, Study Says". The Washington Post. Katharine Weymouth. Retrieved 2008-08-26. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  • Connolly, Ceci (2005-08-23). "Federal Funds For Abstinence Group Withheld". The Washington Post. Katharine Weymouth. Retrieved 2008-08-26. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  • Petre, Jonathan (2007-07-16). "Chastity ring teenager loses High Court fight". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-09-23. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)


  1. ^ Kathleen J. Fitzgerald, Kandice L. Grossman, Sociology of Sexualities, SAGE Publications, USA, 2017, p. 166
  2. ^ "Teen Pledges Barely Cut STD Rates, Study Says". washingtonpost.com. 2005-03-19. Retrieved 2011-12-11.
  3. ^ a b c Stephanie Rosenbloom (2005-12-08). "A Ring That Says No, Not Yet". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  4. ^ "Vernacular Abstinence". Practical Matters Journal. 2001-09-11. Retrieved 2011-12-11.
  5. ^ "9 Celebrities Who've Worn Purity Rings". The Huffington Post. 2 July 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2014. Believe it or not, wearing a purity ring was once a thing Miley Cyrus strongly believed in. Of course, the former Disney star wasn't alone in her conviction in waiting until marriage to have sex. In the past decade, scores of teen stars have talked about their pledge to abstinence by wearing it on their finger, from Jessica Simpson to the Jonas Brothers.
  6. ^ Connolly, Ceci (2005-08-23). "Federal Funds For Abstinence Group Withheld". The Washington Post. Katharine Weymouth. Retrieved 2010-07-11. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  7. ^ "Silver Ring Thing". Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  8. ^ Zoepf, Katherine (2004-07-07). "A Plea for Chastity, but Will It Play in Randy Britain?". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2008-08-26. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  9. ^ Rice-Oxley, Mark (2004-06-23). "US charity crusade gest cool response in secular Britain". The Christian Science Monitor. Christian Science Publishing Society. Retrieved 2008-08-26. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  10. ^ American Civil Liberties Union : ACLU of Massachusetts v. Secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  11. ^ Sostek, Anya (2006-02-24). "Abstinence group loses federal grant over 1st Amendment". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. John Robinson Block. Retrieved 2008-08-26. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  12. ^ a b c d "'Chastity ring' girl loses case". BBC News. July 16, 2007. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  13. ^ "Teen Girl Banned From School for Chastity Ring Heads to Court". London Times. Fox News. June 23, 2007. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  14. ^ The Silver Ring Thing presents something new... THE UNALTERED TOUR
  15. ^ a b "Virginity Pledges Don't Cut STD Rates". WebMD.com.
  16. ^ Brückner, H.; Bearman, P. (2005). "After the promise: The STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledges". Journal of Adolescent Health. 36 (4): 271–278. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2005.01.005. PMID 15780782.
  17. ^ Rosenbaum, J. E. (2009). "Patient Teenagers? A Comparison of the Sexual Behavior of Virginity Pledgers and Matched Nonpledgers". Pediatrics. 123 (1): e110–e120. doi:10.1542/peds.2008-0407. PMC 2768056. PMID 19117832.
  18. ^ "Power to the pure: Rutland Herald Online". Rutlandherald.com. 2005-03-29. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2011-12-11.
  19. ^ Hennie Weiss (March 27, 2012). "Review - Making Chastity Sexy". Metapsychology Online Reviews. 16 (13). Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  20. ^ Sarah Pulliam Bailey (November 18, 2011). "The Rhetoric of Chastity: Making Abstinence Sexy". Christianity Today. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  21. ^ Falsani, Cathleen (6 January 2019). "Authors want to kiss 1990s-era purity rings goodbye". The Oakland Press. Retrieved 5 July 2020.

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