The other day, I watched the National Geographic Channel series, TABOO. The episodes was about the rise of Purity Balls across the nation. If you aren't familiar with the concept, it's a formal ball where young ladies make a promise to remain a virgin until marriage. Their father places a promise ring on their finger to be replaced by a wedding ring from their husband. I watched father after father speak from their heart, sharing the hope that their beloved daughter would wait until marriage. A neighbor, who was watching it with me, made a backhanded comment about teen pregnancy. Naturally, I went into work mode and as I snapped back in my Jerry Maguire voice, "Show me the data", Professor Helen Fisher from Rutgers University pops on the screen and says, “research says that young girls who swear off sex, postpone for a short period of time, then impulsively have sex without any sex education.” Needless to say, I had to give my elevator speech on the power of Self-Efficacy. Self-Efficacy is a person's belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. (Albert Bandura) These young ladies have promised to abstain, but will they be taught the refusal skills and gain the self-efficacy to maintain that promise?
A while back, our CEO made a comment that shifted the way I approach my work. He said, “We must stop addressing teen pregnancy as a moral issue, but as a public health issue.” Personally, I respect the intention behind The Purity Ball Movement. Professionally, I question the impact they actually have on delaying the initiation of sex.
by Meredith Talford, Upstate Technical Assistance Specialist