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5 Reasons Purity Rings and Pledges Don’t Work

Last Updated: January 12, 2023

Jessica Harris
Jessica Harris

Jessica Harris is the founder of Beggar’s Daughter, a ministry dedicated to walking with women who have an addiction to pornography. Telling her own story of porn addiction and struggle with lust, Jessica seeks to help other women find hope, healing, and grace. Jessica enjoys traveling and speaking on the topic of female lust addiction and how churches can minister to women who struggle. She resides just outside of Washington DC where she works as a teacher and serves on the Biblical counseling team in her church. She is the author of Love Done Right: Devos—A Journey From Lust into the Love of God.

It might have been the most traumatizing day of my dramatic 13-year-old existence. My mom took me to the mall, and, only after walking into the department store, announced that she planned on buying me a purity ring. To me, she might as well have hijacked the PA system and told the entire mall her daughter was a virgin. I pitched a royal hormonal teenager fit, and we left ringless.

Purity rings and pledges were all the rage when I was 13, but I was embarrassed, humiliated, ashamed, and angry. I was a virgin, yes, but I had already lost my purity. Wearing a cute ring could never change that. The last thing I wanted was a shiny reminder of where I was supposed to be. I did not want one because I did not deserve to wear one. They were reserved for the pure, the chaste, the perfect; I was none of those.

My mother was crushed. In her heart, denying a ring was like saying, “No, Mom, I actually plan on having sex before I am married,” but that was far from the case.

Being a teenager during the “True Love Waits” movement meant purity rings in every magazine and purity pledges to sign and frame and hang on the wall. Yet, here we sit, in the aftermath of the “True Love Waits” movement, living together, divorcing, “hooking up,” and more addicted to porn than ever before. The contracts are packed away gathering dust and the rings long since gone. My years of working with young women have taught me something. The purity ring approach does not work, and here’s why:

1. Purity is a heart choice.

With all the emphasis placed on abstinence, purity rings might well be renamed abstinence rings. Abstinence and purity are not the same. Purity actually has very little to do with sex. Sexual acting out is the ultimate manifestation of impurity. Anybody—Christian or not—can be abstinent. Purity is a heart attitude that affects how I live my life, not just how I use my body.

2. Purity requires God’s strength.

Because abstinence involves our physical interactions with another living, breathing, human being, it can be accomplished through sheer grit, determination, logic, or fear. Because purity is more personal and less visible, it requires the working of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. It requires His grace and His enabling in order for us to live lives that honor and glorify Him.

3. Purity is not a one-time choice.

It is an important decision, yes, but it is also a daily decision. Purity is a daily, even moment-by-moment battle that is only getting worse. Preparation for that battle does not take place in one moment. Victory is not guaranteed because of choices you made yesterday. Sign all the contracts you would like, but the porn will not go away.

4. Purity is ultimately their decision.

We can be guilty of treating purity rings and contracts like the 21st Century chastity belt. You, the parent, have placed the ring on your daughter; therefore she must be pure. No. You have given your daughter a piece of jewelry; she has to choose to be pure.

5. Purity is a lifestyle, not simply a part of your life.

I call this Jesus-fish Syndrome. You slap a Jesus fish (Icthus) on your car and it makes no difference what you do in that car, people should be able to notice, by the Jesus fish, that you are, obviously, a Christian. I have seen the same happen with purity ring wearers. One young woman I taught was overtly sexual and immodest. When I tried to approach the subject with her, she stopped me and showed me her hand, “I have a purity ring,” as if it were her license to do whatever she liked. It was her proof that she was, in her opinion, pure, but her life spoke loudly to the contrary. That ring had provided her with a false sense of purity.

That being said, purity rings can be a great reminder of a choice to remain pure, but are by no means a prerequisite for purity. Choosing to wear a purity ring or choosing to sign a pledge is not the same as choosing to be pure. Purity goes deeper than a fear of STDs or the whole “emotional super glue” speech. It is more than waiting until your wedding night to have sex. Purity even goes deeper than promising to never look at porn again. Purity addresses how you approach and worship an Almighty and Holy God, and it is a choice you are helpless to make without Him.

More Resources from Jessica:

Issue 24 | September 2012 | More in this issue: Real Stories of Victory Over Porn | iPads in Education: Porn’s Trojan Horse