Why Abstinence and "Purity" Pledges Don't Work

Why Abstinence and "Purity" Pledges Don't Work

In the United States today, 37 states mandate that information on abstinence be provided in sex education courses. As you might imagine, it’s not uncommon for students to be asked to take “purity” or virginity pledges as part of the sex ed. curriculum in these states. 

Students are encouraged to take these pledges in order to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections, but also to prevent unwanted pregnancies. As it turns out, however, abstinence pledges don’t necessarily accomplish either of these goals. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that they might do just the opposite!

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How Much Sexual Experience Are You Comfortable With Your Partner Having?

How Much Sexual Experience Are You Comfortable With Your Partner Having?

The amount of sexual experience you have (or don’t have) could potentially affect how willing other people are to date or have sex with you, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research. However, what makes for a desirable sexual history depends upon many things, including whether you are male or female and, further, whether we’re talking about desirability for a short-term sexual relationship vs. a long-term romantic relationship.

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Sex in Parked Cars: Who Does it and Why? (Infographic)

Sex in Parked Cars: Who Does it and Why? (Infographic)

When Alfred Kinsey published his pioneering research on Americans' sexual behaviors back in the 1950s, he found that a sizable number of men and women were having premarital sex and, further, that a lot of this sex was taking place in automobiles. In fact, 41% of the women he surveyed who reported having had premarital sex said they had done it in a car [1]! 

Parked cars were clearly popular places for sex back then--but what about now?

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Virginity Has Fallen Out Of Favor In Modern America

Virginity Has Fallen Out Of Favor In Modern America

Throughout much of recorded history, female virginity is something that has been highly coveted by heterosexual men who were looking to marry. Women who were known to have lost their virginity faced stiff social penalties, including a tendency to be deemed umarriageable.

This still holds true in many parts of the world today, including a number of countries in Africa and the Middle East, where women who have lost their virginity sometimes go to great lengths to become surgically “revirginized” due to fear of social exclusion and, in some cases, physical harm (you can learn more about so-called "revirginization" procedures and the psychology behind here)

In the Western world, however, things have changed dramatically in the past few decades.

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The Problem With Abstinence Pledges

The Problem With Abstinence Pledges

In the U.S. today, 37 states mandate that information on abstinence be provided in sex education courses. In those states, it is not uncommon for students to be asked to take “purity” or virginity pledges as part of the curriculum.

Students are often encouraged to take these pledges in order to both reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections and to prevent unintended pregnancies. As it turns out, however, abstinence pledges don’t necessarily accomplish either one of these things. In fact, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that they may do just the opposite!

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Sex Question Friday: Is It Possible For A Woman To Become A Virgin Again?

Sex Question Friday: Is It Possible For A Woman To Become A Virgin Again?

A female reader submitted the following question:

“If a woman does not have intercourse over a long period of time, is it possible for her hymen to grow back and make her a virgin again?”

Thanks for asking this question. There are a surprising number of myths and misconceptions about the hymen, so before I answer your specific question, let’s first step back and talk about what the hymen actually is.

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Sex Question Friday: Can You Really Tell If A Woman Is A Virgin?

Sex Question Friday: Can You Really Tell If A Woman Is A Virgin?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know the following:

“The first time a couple has sex, is it possible to physically tell if the woman is a virgin? Do all women have a hymen that breaks and bleeds during sex?”

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Losing Your Virginity: Less Awkward Than It Used To Be

Losing Your Virginity: Less Awkward Than It Used To Be

How do you feel about the first time you had sex? If you pose this question to a bunch of different people, you’re bound to find a range of responses. Some will remember it as incredibly positive and pleasurable, while others will say it was just awkward and uncomfortable. These emotional reactions to our first sexual experiences seem to be important too—studies have found that people who evaluate their virginity loss positively report having more satisfying sex lives than those who look back with anxiety and regret. However, a new study just published in the Journal of Sex Research reports some encouraging news: overall, first-time sex appears to be a more positive experience than it was a few decades ago.

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How Important Is It To Have Sex Before Marriage?

In a recent piece on Salon entitled “My Virginity Mistake,” author Jessica Ciencin Henriquez talks about how an abstinence pledge ruined her marriage. In her words: “Without having sex before marriage, I blindly walked up an aisle and committed myself to a man who didn’t know me and gave my long-held virginity to someone with whom I had no more chemistry than a second cousin.” The crux of her piece is that sex is too important to a relationship to save it for the wedding night and that couples need to establish sexual compatibility before tying the knot. In light of this article, I thought it would be worth taking a look at what the science has to say on this topic. Does your sexual satisfaction and chance of relationship success really depend upon when you start having sex?
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Is Your First Sexual Experience The Most Important?

According to almost every teen-centered film or television show ever produced, losing your virginity is a big deal. A really big deal. But just how important is that one sexual event when the reality is that sexually active people may have sex hundreds if not thousands of times during their entire lives? A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy suggests that your first sexual experience can potentially set the tone of your sex life for years to come.

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Do Men And Women Have Different Sexual Regrets?

With the New Year approaching, people are starting to talk about their regrets from this past year and some of us are making resolutions to never make the same mistakes again. So what kinds of things do people typically regret? In a national U.S. phone survey in which participants were asked to describe a memorable regret, the most frequently mentioned things people were sorry about doing (or not doing) centered around love, sex, and romance [1]. Common regrets in this area include lost opportunities (i.e., “the one that got away”), past instances of cheating, and the situation surrounding one’s virginity loss. Both men and women report sexual regrets, but do the nature of those regrets differ across the sexes? A new set of studies suggests that they do.  
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Sex Question Friday: The G-Spot, Virginity Loss, and Sex in Your Twilight Years

Sex Question Friday: The G-Spot, Virginity Loss, and Sex in Your Twilight Years
Every Friday on the blog, I answer a few burning sex questions submitted to me by actual college students. This week, we’re talking about whether the G-spot is real, the average age at which men and women lose their virginity, and whether it’s possible for older adults to maintain a satisfying sex life.
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Can A Woman Be “Revirginized” Through Surgery?

Can A Woman Be “Revirginized” Through Surgery?

The hymen is a membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening and is thought be break during a woman’s first attempt at intercourse. An intact hymen is therefore often presumed to indicate virginity. Given that it may be possible to physically detect virginity status by noting the presence or absence of the hymen, this small piece of tissue has come to take on great social meaning in some parts of the world. In fact, in some African and Middle Eastern cultures, a woman may be considered unmarriageable if her hymen is not intact, even if it was broken through non-sexual activity or as a result of rape. Because there is such great social pressure for these women to demonstrate virginity on their wedding night, “revirginization” surgery has become an increasingly popular medical procedure in some parts of the world. So how does it work, and are women satisfied with the outcomes?

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