To the Editor:

I find the assertion that virginity pledges are ineffective misguided and irresponsible (“Study says virginity pledges are ineffective,” 3/28). The study cited in the article does not support such an unwarranted assertion. To claim that the only purpose of virginity pledges is to reduce the incidence of STDs is as absurd and naive as claiming that virginity pledges alone are sufficient for safe-sex policies. It is undeniably clear that sexually active people, regardless of age or relationship status, cannot engage in safe sexual intercourse (whatever that may be) without proper education of its risks and ways of combating them. Virginity pledges are not meant to serve as education for when people do become sexually active; unfortunately, many policymakers view them that way. But that does not make them ineffective.

The purpose of virginity pledges is as simple as their name: to postpone sexual intercourse until a time when its associated risks can be properly dealt with. Thus, even though 88 percent of virginity pledgers do not abstain until marriage, the pledges are effective because they postpone sexual activity and reduce the number of sexual partners.

I absolutely agree that virginity pledges without the proper education will not help to lower the risks of STDs, but that does not make virginity pledges ineffective. Delaying sexual activity and reducing the number of partners that people have are in themselves desirable goals. This is not a political opinion, but one voiced by conservatives and liberals alike (remember Hillary Clinton’s “teenage celibacy” endorsement in the 90s?). Virginity pledges are ineffective only when you ask them to do something they were not designed to do. When coupled with proper education, virginity pledges would necessarily be highly effective at reducing STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Those who have been lucky enough to receive proper sexual health education in addition to abstinence education can attest to the efficacy of the combination. Your article should be titled “Virginity pledges ALONE are ineffective at reducing STDs.” This should be the only conclusion drawn from the study. To claim more is irresponsible.

Greg Phelan ’07

March 28, 2005