Purity Ring for iPhone

Am I the only one that raises an arched eyebrow over this one?
Here’s the wiki on the concept:

“Purity rings (also known as chastity rings, promise rings, or abstinence rings) originated in the United States in the 1990s among Christian-affiliated sexual abstinence groups. The rings are sold to adolescents, or to parents so that the rings may be given to their adolescent children as gifts.

Wearing a purity ring is typically accompanied by a religious vow to practice celibacy until marriage. The ring is worn with the implication that the wearer will remain abstinent until it is replaced with a wedding ring.Pre-engagement rings are also sometimes called promise rings, while purity rings do not necessarily imply pre-engagement.” [more]

The folk that have released the app are Island Wall, who also make the useful Tent Finder app – which obviously no techno-literate fesitval-goer should be without.

It’s a technological commitment to abstinence and chastity, both parties have to commit to a pledge before the app will install. With the iPhone being a popular yoof accessory its a way to circumvent school uniform rules that prohibit the wearing of jewellery and non-religious icons (and you can argue the religious content of purity rings amongst yourselves.)

The UK version of the programme (that’s the concept not the app) can be found here. In brief its the contention that abstinence is the only 100% sure method of protecting from the physical, emotional and spiritual damage that ‘sexual activity amongst teens causes’. In the UK you can only get a ring after you’ve participated in the programme and attended sessions.

In the USA its a darling of the religious right and the programme received federal funding under Bush – which brought 1st Amendment cases – due to the obvious lack of clear separation between church and state.

So do they work? Obviously if you don’t have sex you won’t have an unwanted teen pregnancy, or STDs or any emotional or spiritual turmoil. It’s not the ring or the app that need to work, it’s the people wearing it. I can’t help confess feeling a slight cynicism at the raft of places to buy a ring, there are some people making a tidy profit from the sincere good intentions of a lot of young people. So if it’s not the trinket or the technology that you’re really depending on then aren’t you back to square one, it’s your own commitment and self discipline that’s the key. If you don’t want to have sex before marriage for whatever reason then that’s down to you, do you really need a symbol or a gizmo, isn’t this back to being a playground status symbol, something that unites groups and excludes others? You’re just paying someone for another level of portable peer group pressure.

I wonder how popular these rings and applications will be in 5, 10, 15 years time, or are they just fashionable, enhancing the cuteness of the iPhone, or finding another angle to irritate and challenge school authorities (after all if it’s a ‘religious symbol’ then they can’t touch me) like smoking, hemlines, dayglo socks.

So does it work? A 2001 study presented by Peter Bearman, a professor of sociology at Columbia University in the American Journal of Sociology reported that of 2.5 million that made such a pledge only 12% made it to marriage. On average they delay having sex for 18 months. And of those that do break their promise a third are less likely to use protection. Yes it gives you a brand to attach yourself to, yes its a national and international club that has a visual identifier but if it doesn’t work doesn’t it become cosmetic?

I have no problem with people choosing celibacy, it’s a personal choice and if you’re not forcing others to be celibate with you then it’s none of my business. You may be saving yourself, or you may be damaging yourself – but you’ve got the absolute right to do that be it for belief, ethos or just plain lack of maturity.

I don’t know what Apple’s take on this is, I’m sure they will have an opinion but I suspect we’ll never hear it. In fact if this wasn’t an iPhone app would it have made the news at all?

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