That Silver Ring Thing You Do

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I have no problem in principle with sex-ed programs that focus on abstinence—assuming they're actually effective and don't make those who end up having sex more likely to become sick or pregnant for lack of information, which is a significant if. But it was a little disturbing to see that federal tax dollars have been funding this:

Teenage graduates of the program sign a covenant "before God Almighty" to remain virgins and earn a silver ring inscribed with a Bible passage reminding them to "keep clear of sexual sin." Many of its events are held at churches.

Until the ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging misuse of government funds, the Silver Ring Thing's website apparently laid out their goals pretty clearly:

Among the removed items are the organization's newsletters, which contained a clear statement of the Silver Ring Thing's religious purpose: "The mission is to saturate the United States with a generation of young people who have taken a vow of sexual abstinence until marriage and put on the silver ring. This mission can only be achieved by offering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the best way to live a sexually pure life."

Additionally, the Silver Ring Thing's original "12 Step Follow-Up Program" has been modified. Prior to the lawsuit, the website contained only one version of a follow-up program. Now, the site offers a "10 Step Secular Follow-Up Program" and has renamed its 12-step version to include the words "faith-centered" in the title. The new program removes step two, which encourages using the Abstinence Study Bible and step four, which asks students to understand that "God has a plan for his or her life, and a plan for his or her sexuality." And "Deb's Diary," a section of the website that encouraged students to pursue faith and to find completion in Christ, has also been removed.

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  1. God has a plan for his or her life, and a plan for his or her sexuality.

    What if God’s plan for me is to fall down that slippery slope of Man on Dog sex!

  2. And if you’re going to find “completion in Christ” you’d better be a good shot with a sniper rifle.

  3. What if God’s plan for me is to fall down that slippery slope of Man on Dog sex!

    Then that wasn’t God’s plan for you.

    As someone who is abstaining until marriage, I have never seen how these programs are supposed to work without (in my case, the relationship with Christ part) religion. It’s why I can’t get behind (pun away) this on a public policy level. Besides, I think it’s lame using gummint money to do our work. We already got the tax exemptions.

    Some Straight Edge kids claim to try, but I don’t know any, so I don’t know their success rates. My guess is not so good.

  4. There have been several (well, three) tv programmes about the American virginity thing here. Apparently, many of the kids who take the pledge don’t consider bj’s to be “sex”.

    There was also an interesting article in The Economist (July 30) a week or so ago about AIDS funding and abstinence.

    The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief commits at least a third of its promised $15 billion to “abstinence until marriage” as the main way of stopping the spread of AIDS. It also urges that the use of condoms be confined to people who engage in “risky behaviour” – prostitutes or couples with one member who is HIV-positive. Many groups are reported to be ending or reducing their condom-promotion schemes to qualify for American money.

    The administration is also against all needle-exchange projects for drug addicts, one of the groups most likely to contract, and spread, AIDS in Russia, India and China.

    That’s from the leader.

  5. I’ve met a couple of straight edgers in my day. I have to say that my immediate gut reaction was that I’d never encountered a group of people in such dire need of a cigarette, a snort of bourbon, and a good screw.

  6. Apparently, many of the kids who take the pledge don’t consider bj’s to be “sex”.
    And that’s from the leader before the current one. I’ve also heard people say that about anal sex. Everyone is looking for a loophole.

  7. eew, one more time:

    Technical Virgin

    Again, NSFW

  8. Herman – abstaining or unable to score? Honest.

  9. The belief among many of them is that it only counts as sex if it can’t possibly lead to pregnancy.

  10. I may be jaded, but I’ve never understood that whole “saving yourself for marriage” bit. Sex is just sex and I think everyone would be a lot calmer if they stopped attaching all these weird mystical qualities to it.
    Hmmph. And what about good, honest, loyal Christians who get divorced? Do they have to save themselves all over again until they get married the second time? Or does only the first time count?

  11. Reminds me of years ago when I was in high school. The little Christian brats in Young Life (a Christian youth club for HS kids) were the ones who partied the hardest and the most often outside the metalheads. I always thought that was interesting.

  12. Johnny Clarke–

    Good loyal Christians aren’t supposed to divorce in the first place.

  13. Extrememly tangential, but I hope worthwhile for someone — great song on NPR today from The Leisure Class, “Jesus Almost Loved Me, but He Missed”.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4811940 – audio to come later on today.

  14. Jennifer,
    But, but…wasn’t Ronald Reagan a good, loyal Christian? And what about our president’s brother, Neil?

  15. cynical bastard-
    Early on, prior to conversion, simply unable to score. Greatly aided by crappy social skills.

    Social skills are better, so now, I’m abstaining.

    Johnny-
    Sex is just sex and I think everyone would be a lot calmer if they stopped attaching all these weird mystical qualities to it.
    People would be a lot calmer if they did, but they don’t. I don’t think most can.

    And what about good, honest, loyal Christians who get divorced? Do they have to save themselves all over again until they get married the second time? Or does only the first time count?
    I’d say they should save themselves again until the second marriage.

  16. Johnny and Jennifer-
    Good loyal Christians fail. Christ says try again but follow me better this time.

    I can’t fathom what President Ronnie’s beliefs were from his public side. Michael Reagan made that speech at the funeral that his father was a Christian, but I feel (based on zero research) that’s what Micahel wanted to believe.

    The Bush clan is odd. IIRC, Ma and Pa are conservative Episcopalians, GW is an born-again conservative Methodist and I think JEB is some kind of conservative Catholic. The adjective is consistent. So Neil could be anything as long as its conservative.

  17. Herman,

    So are you “master of your domain” as well?

  18. Well said, Herman, I will turn the sarcasm down a bit.

  19. Actually catholics can’t divorce. Most christain sects allow it, although they tend to sway in the direction thier donations come from.

  20. Sex is just sex and I think everyone would be a lot calmer if they stopped attaching all these weird mystical qualities to it.
    wrong…
    sex is as powerful as many mind altering drugs and causes major boundary dissolution, especially so when there are powerful emotions attached to the act. there is something mystic about it.

  21. OK, I was confused to find out that Herman is a devout Christian, because I had him mentally confused with Henry the angry atheist from weeks of yore. May they never meet.

    Jeff, Catholics may not be able to get a secular divorce (that’s officially recognized by the church), but they can get their marriages annulled. From what I hear, how easy it is depends on who you approach to get the process started.

  22. David-
    Used to but stopped. Really difficult. I was really sad after I threw out my pr0n collection.

    Jeff-
    Do you know how the annulment thing works? I’ve never asked my Catholic friends.

  23. Herman,
    My aunt had her first marriage annulled. From what she said, it’s like the pre-marriage counseling in reverse. Your marriage is struck from church records, and you pretend like it never happened. Kind of like an expunged arrest.

  24. Herman,
    My aunt had her first marriage annulled. From what she said, it’s like the pre-marriage counseling in reverse. Your marriage is struck from church records, and you pretend like it never happened. Kind of like an expunged arrest.

  25. Stevo-
    That’s funny because a lot of people guess Henry when they forget my name. Maybe he’s my doppelganger? In personally dark moments, I do have these atheistic leanings….

  26. I wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on, or purchase a car without test driving it, no way in hell I’d make a long-term committment to a gal without seeing how well we worked in bed. Two years dating a total prude woke me up to that reality, gah, and that was during college too. Waste. Of. Time. Damn.

  27. Damn! My budding career as a troll has been struck down in its youth…

  28. Herman,

    You have a will of iron.

    Annulment can be done if the church is able to determine that the couple never had a “real” marriage. Things like not consummating the marriage, one person not intending to have children, having an affair that started before the marriage, one partner being gay, or in the very old days, a barren wife, would qualify. Naturally, cash and influence could help someone get a annullment too.

  29. I had a ton of sex in high school. Unfortunately, it was with myself. I didn’t get a silver ring or anything.

  30. That’s good, Don. Bodily fluids tarnish silver.

  31. Don-
    Well, no other people or animals involved. You would have qualified for the ring. Whoopee.

    Randolph/Flagrente Delectio – So are you Jane/Juanita then or just trying to be her successor?

  32. It’s funny how the christian abstinence thing not only doesn’t work, but completely backfires. I grew up in the middle of mormonville, utah (and haven’t been back since) and i can tell you, sex ed in school was basically just “don’t do it” and nothing more. abstinence was the ONLY thing they taught, and i believe it’s still the curriculum policy today. Anyway, I don’t think there’s a highschool in america more filled with sexually active teenagers than the one I went to. Everybody was rebelling against the EXACT same rules and norms so the rebellion itself gained a lot more speed.

  33. Do they specify how big the ring is? Does it have to be just ring-finger-sized?

  34. no, not jane or juanita. I was so frustrated at work today, i thought I would try to raise the hairs on the back of a few peoples’ necks, but alas I am outed.

  35. Didn’t the Clinton administration get hell when they sought to include the teaching of masturbation as a normal, healthy activity in sex education? Isn’t that the most effective way to encourage abstinence?

  36. Didn’t the Clinton administration get hell when they sought to include the teaching of masturbation as a normal, healthy activity in sex education?

    No, Clinton fired Surgeon-General Joycelyn Elders because she suggested it.

    But the Clinton Admin did get into trouble a few weeks earlier whe the same Elders questioned the War on Drugs esp marijuana prohibition. Clinton (you know the one who told Rolling Stone that MJ should be legalized two weeks before the 2000 election) quickly caved and said she didn’t speak for the team. I always wondered if she had been used to float a trial balloon.

  37. Hmmmm-
    They did, but a lot of that was a combination of “how dare we talk about sex in public” and “I hate Clinton, what can he be clubbed with?” I’d say w/o a religious component, masturbation is the logical step for those abstaining from sex.

    The doesn’t solve the it’s “kinda lame component” of it. Or to what LVpine was getting at; that when the school starts endorsing something kids start thinking the opposite is good. Sure, a couple of kids might say “yeah, the health teacher is making sense” but I’m going to guess more would go against it. Really a no win. Darn kids.

  38. Issac remembers better.

  39. “Do you know how the annulment thing works? I’ve never asked my Catholic friends.”

    I’ve been told that the difficulty of getting an annulment varies widely by the diocese and priest. A friend of mine (who DID wait until marriage) went through a grueling annulment 6 years later during which her family was called in to “testify” against her.

  40. Apparently, many of the kids who take the pledge don’t consider bj’s to be “sex”…whew!…that was a close one.

  41. Generally speaking, if a Catholic wants an annulment, he’ll have an easier time if his name is Grimaldi or Kennedy.

  42. I think it’s a good idea that the celibate are starting to identify themselves by wearing a silver ring…hopefully this will avoid that awkward moment at the end of the third date. Still, a lot of people wear silver rings…having “NO” tattooed on your forehead would be a clearer statement of your non-intent.

  43. Didn’t promise anyone but myself to remain a virgin in HS, for religeous reasons. Wasn’t a mistake, but the girl I was saving myself for sure wasn’t worth it because she didn’t want to save herself. Well, she did, but a bunch of Christian psychodrama got in the way and it turned all bipolar. Maybe they should explore and discuss why saving yourself and then working, growing, and learning with one partner is preferrable to meeting someone with whom your body clicks and then not being with them the rest of your life and pining for those feelings. I’m just saying.

  44. This is all pretty amusing – well, except for the American government’s complicity in numerous AIDS deaths and unwanted pregnancies via its bullshit religious test for aid money.

  45. The thing I don’t get about having oral sex to remain a virgin is how the hell you’re supposed to stop it from progressing to “actual” sex. Do people actually have serious relationships where it just stops there?

    Anyway, this is one of those topics where my inner Randroid outs itself… abstinence seems like denying one’s true nature, sacrificing so much of the joy of being human for a “higher”, and therefore empty and imaginary, ideal.

  46. I grew up in a strict pre-Vatican II Catholic family (with the exception of my evangelical Lutheran mom) and thus, the idea of having sex before marriage was something you didn’t even think about without having a rosery and a preist to confess to handy. Of course, I carried this line of BS into high school where I loudly denounced any and all forms of sexual activity. I went as far as calling a class mate a “whore” for daring to challenge my beliefs during a health class debate on the topic. I didn’t date; not that it mattered since as the high school geek I was deemed “untouchable” by the rest of the student body.

    Now, as a 30-year-old atheist “technical virgin”, I really regret what I thought then.

  47. GAH! Somehow this got posted before I had a chance to finish:

    I grew up in a strict pre-Vatican II Catholic family (with the exception of my evangelical Lutheran mom) and thus, the idea of having sex before marriage was something you didn’t even think about without having a rosary and a priest to confess to handy. I didn’t date. Not just because I was the school geek whom every female laughed at, but because my parents didn’t allow it. The really scary thing was, I actually believed this crap well into my early 20s.

    I carried this line of bullshit into high school where I loudly denounced any and all forms of teenage and/or premarital sexual activity. I went as far as calling a class mate a “whore” for daring to challenge my beliefs during a health class debate on the topic. I didn’t understand why I was being sent to the principal’s office. After all, I had “God” on my side.

    Now, as a 30-year-old atheist “technical virgin” (and not by choice), I really regret that I didn’t have a “wilder” childhood. I now envy the kids I used to say where going to Hell for getting laid on prom night, or earlier. At least they had some fun when they were young enough to appreciate their good looks and hormone-fueled appetites. Now I’m staring down the barrel of middle-age and only have to look forward to dating drooping and wrinkled middle-aged douche bags. Joy.

    My advice to America’s youth: Get laid. Get laid now because it doesn’t get any better when you’re older and uglier. Use a condom. Use the pill. Don’t listen to the morality mongers and teenaged, Christian, brown-noses like I was. Fuck! Fuck like there is no tomorrow.

  48. Wow Randolph. I’m sorry to have to say this, but you’re the worst troll ever. I guess it’s true about always returning to the scene of the crime. Although, I don’t think they usually come back in the same clothes wearing a nametag.;)

  49. I didn’t get any at all until I was nearly out of college – not for religious reasons, but because I was clueless around females. Looking back from near-fifty, my greatest regret in life is that I wasn’t more “assertive” with women, from high school on.

  50. Go Akira, Go!

    Wiser words were never spoken. You have to shoot while the geese are flying. And shoot some of the sanctamonious bible thumpers while you are shooting your wad.

  51. Shem,
    And I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for that meddling Cavanaugh, and his little server.

  52. But I do suppose there are worse things to be bad at than trolling…

  53. Timothy: Nice to know you thing of your girl as a car or a pair of shoes. Property.

  54. What never seems to come up in these discussions is the disconnect between our grandparents, who went through puberty at 14 and got married at 16; and our kids, who are going through puberty at 12 and ideally getting married after college at 22.

    There’s a difference between being chaste for a year and for a decade. Particularly when to some of the moralizers “chaste” means you don’t even see a drawing of a member of the opposite sex from the time you’re weaned to the time you’re wed.

  55. Damn! My budding career as a troll has been struck down in its youth…

    Ha, ha!

    If wanna fly like the eagles you have to learn to piss with the big boys, Randolph.

  56. D’oh!

  57. Larry A- My grandparents didn’t get married at 16. They married at 25 and 23, respectively, exactly on the average for my grandfather, a man of the WWII generation, and only one year younger than average for my grandmother. But then, my grandfather at least didn’t have the same pressures to remain celebate that kids today have. For most of history, pre-maritial sex was tacitly accepted in this country. It was implied heavily that if you get caught, you wind up marrying your partner, but as long as you did it was no problem. This absolutely no sex until marriage idea is relatively new historically.

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