Written by Rachel Hoover. Media by John Freeman.
Every morning since the day after I turned fourteen I have slipped a simple, silver band onto my left ring finger and gone about my day. That is, every day until this past fall when I stopped. “What’s the big deal about this ring?” you may ask. This ring is my purity ring, which is meant to represent my vow to abstain from having sex outside of marriage. Some of you reading this may be wearing such a ring yourselves, while others of you may only be hearing about them for the first time. The chances are that if you grew up going to youth group as a teenager, there came a day when the boys and girls were separated and given a talk about honoring God with your sexuality and what it means to be a man/woman. These talks were often culminated with encouragement to sign “purity pledges” and for the girls, it often involved introducing the concept of purity rings as a way to seal and remind you of your pledge. (I’m still mulling over the fact that the boys didn’t need to wear a reminder to “keep it in their pants” but that’s an article for another time).
I was told that if I did what was right and waited for God’s timing, the right man would be placed in my life and we would be absolved from a significant amount of trouble. I was told about STD’s, unplanned pregnancy, the unreliableness of birth control, and the emotional heartache of giving your body to multiple people. I certainly wanted to avoid those things. I was told that if I presented myself as something valuable by not showing too much of select body parts or chasing after guys, then I would be more valued. I was told that my virginity would be an amazing gift that belonged to my future husband. All these reasons made sense and I wanted to honor God so I signed the pledge and I wore the ring and I waited, and waited, and waited.
As I became older, it began to draw attention from friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even perfect strangers. I had to explain its meaning and the personal commitment I made regarding a very intimate aspect of my life. I hated these questions because the response was usually an uncomfortable chastising of my ignorance or an even more uncomfortable veneration of my “purity”. I didn’t want to be seen as “holier than thou” and I didn’t want to be placed on a pedestal, where the only option I had was to be perfect and remain standing or fall and “fail” those whom I cared about. Wearing the ring had become something that was no longer about me or honoring God, but a way to earn others’ favor by being perfect–something I am very prone to.
At twenty-two, I have come to a point where I can no longer articulate to myself why I should wear the ring. I am still committed to not having sex outside of marriage, but I have noticed my reasoning for doing so has changed. It no longer has anything to do with a man and what he thinks about whether I am a virgin or not. I remain a virgin because I believe doing so lines up with God’s instruction and will for my life. I refrain from sex because I believe it is healthier for my body and my soul to not be intimately connected to someone I’m not connected to via marriage. The simple matter of it is that the most beautiful gift I can give to my husband, should I acquire one of those someday, is all of myself. Whether or not I have sex with another before him should not change the value that I inherently possess as the image-bearer of God (Imago Dei) nor how loved or valued I am by him.
Whether you decide to wear a purity ring or not is not for me to say, but I encourage you to make your decision on your terms and not because you feel it is what a good Christian does.