Saving yourself for marriage – modern chastity movements
Abstinent until marriage
Modern chastity movements
What do Giovanna Garzoni, Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus have in common? No, the answer we are looking for is not the most obvious one: that they all are or were recognised female artists of their time. In fact, the three women followed a belief that seems out-dated: being abstinent before marriage. It may be doubted if Spears and Cyrus actually executed this plan. Garzoni, however, was even called Chaste Giovanna because she lived her life in celibacy. It’s not clear if she ever got married. It’s possible that she entered into a short marriage with the painter Tiberio Tinelli that either failed because of her vow of chastity or because Tinelli was suspected by his father-in-law of being a sorcerer.
STDs and pregnant teens
The concept of waiving sex before marriage might be strange from a European point of view. In the USA, however, it’s relatively popular. The reason for that is the widespread Christian faith in the country. Especially conservative groups believe that it’s their duty to keep their young members safe for premarital intercourse. In their eyes, the risk of getting an STD is too big; moreover, the USA are one of the countries with the highest number of pregnant teenagers in the world. There even are several organisations whose only purpose is to postulate celibacy before marriage. The first one was conceptualised by the Baptist priest Jimmy Hester in 1987. His church assigned him to create a chastity program. He literally did this on a napkin – and started one of the biggest church movements of our time. Under the name True Love Waits, the church started handing out commitment cards in 1993; in the first year alone, more than 100,000 young people signed them. Ten years later, the number of signed cards had increased to three million.
»Wahre Liebe Wartet«
In other countries, True Love Waits spread as well. At the end of the 1990s, the German business student Michael Müller founded the movement Wahre Liebe Wartet (»True Love Waits«). It had quite a major media presence because several members expressed their beliefs in interviews. Also, the organisation published a brochure in which the »Dr. Winter team« – as a counter-idea to the sex tips of Dr. Sommer in the youth magazine »Bravo« – gave advice about living celibately. Compared to the millions of supporters in the US, the German movement remained relatively small with its 10,000 signed commitment cards. From 2011 on, the homepage of Wahre Liebe Wartet¹ wasn’t updated anymore, in 2018, the content was replaced by three dots. Maybe it’s because Michael Müller got married since…
A ring on the finger
No card but a ring is the symbol of some other chastity movements. One of them is called Silver Ring Thing and was founded in 1995. The members don’t wear the ring as piece of jewellery but as a constant reminder of their vow. In the USA, purity balls are organised where young women pledge that they would be celibate until marriage. After that, they get their ring or a bracelet. In some cases, the piece is formed like a heart and the father of the teenager gets a key that he hands over to the future husband of his daughter on their wedding day. In 2007, the case of the 16-year-old schoolgirl Lydia Playfoot from the English town of Horsham attracted worldwide attention. She attended a school that prohibited its students from wearing jewellery. However, Playfoot refused to take off her purity ring. She then sued the school because, in her opinion, it restricted her human rights. After all, Muslim schoolgirls were allowed to wear a hijab. The court, however, agreed with the school because the ring is no integral part of Christian faith. Playfoot’s father Phil who was the chairman of the British branch of Silver Ring Thing, had to carry the legal costs of 12,000 British pounds.
Hands off, Justin!
Generally, it can be doubted that being part of a chastity movement prevents young people from having sex before marriage. In 2004, scientists from the universities of Yale and Columbia conducted a study with 12,000 teenagers from twelve to 18 years old who signed a commitment card of True Love Waits. The overwhelming number of 88 percent of them had premarital sex within six years after their vow. Also, the participants of the study got married at a younger age than the average American. And when Britney Spears proclaimed in 1999 that she would be celibate until marriage, she was dating Justin Timberlake. It’s rather unlikely that they kept their hands off each other.