Abstinence: Hollywood’s newest trend?

Ashley Jefferson

Let’s see … there was *NSYNC and the boy band phase, there was Sarah Jessica Parker and the Jimmy Choo phase, there was Anna Nicole Smith and the Trimspa phase and the list can go on and on. Whether it’s about technology, music, diets or even fashion tips, people look to Hollywood stars for the newest and hottest trends. It’s been that way for years, and it’s definitely not any different now. In the fast times in which we live, this may come as a shock, but purity rings are among one of the biggest trends in Hollywood.

The idea of abstinence and purity rings actually originated within Christian sects. Many parents give their children these rings to wear as a constant reminder of the religious vow made between themselves and God. These rings, which are usually worn on the left hand, are meant to signify a choice to stay pure and abstain from sexual intercourse until marriage.

Before Hollywood picked it up, the idea of wearing purity rings was first popularized in the mid-’90s by activist groups geared toward promoting abstinence education among teens. The Silver Ring Thing, one such group, started with the primary vision “to create a culture shift in America where abstinence becomes the norm again rather than the exception,” according to its Web site.

By attempting to create this shift, many activist groups hoped to see record-breaking drops in some of the sex-related problems plaguing our young society.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 19 million new STD infections occur each year, and almost half of those infected are young people between the ages 15-24. At the end of 2003, an estimated 1,039,000-1,185,000 people in the United States were living with HIV/AIDS. Half of all new HIV infections occur among adolescents. More than 750,000 teen pregnancies occur each year, with 31 percent of teenage girls becoming pregnant at least once by the age of 20.

The statistics are alarming. For some, the idea of abstinence seems like the only logical solution to the problems caused by irresponsible sexual behavior.

However, it’s hard to tell whether Hollywood celebrities play the abstinence card solely to be a part of the trend or whether it is something that they actually take seriously. People like Britney Spears might talk about abstinence to promote a wholesome image yet seemingly contradict themselves with their actions.

It’s no surprise that many people are skeptical and write off Hollywood’s embrace of abstinence as simply another trend that will quickly die out.

In attempts to negate the skepticism, many young stars are putting forth efforts to not only openly express their views on remaining pure but to back them up by living relatively clean and scandal-free lifestyles. American Idol Jordin Sparks, Disney stars the Jonas Brothers and Selena Gomez and even Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima are all celebrities who seem to practice what they preach. Even in the face of public criticism from people such as MTV VMA host Russell Brand, these celebrities argue that they are not “bandwagon virgins” and insist upon their choice of abstinence.

The topic of abstinence receives significant attention at a Catholic university like Villanova. Condoms are not sold on campus, and there is a visiting hour policy for all freshman students.

Along with that, the Office of Health Promotion provides a number of pamphlets regarding STDs, the importance of making healthy choices and the dangers of promiscuous sexual behavior. On its Web site, Health Promotion also offers reasons to support postponing sex and a list of 101 different ways to show love for your significant other aside from “doing the deed.” All of these are put in place to encourage students to make smart choices regarding sex and to make them aware of the option to remain abstinent.

With so many celebrities embracing the idea of abstinence, it’s apparent that the trend is alive and well. However, only time will tell if wearing purity rings is just another Hollywood phase or a change that is here to stay.