Friday, September 26, 2008

Do virginity pledgers feel hip?

Somehow the financial markets are stealing attention from sex education, so the only article on abstinence today is from the Marietta College newspaper. The editorialist begins by combatting some stereotypes about pledgers:

[P]eople who choose to remain abstinent aren't always considered the most fun. Sure, they're great to take home to meet Mom and Dad, but they're probably not the people you'd want to go out with on Saturday night... But maybe, just maybe, the people choosing to wait for sex are actually smarter than they're given credit for.

"Virginity pledgers: they're smarter than you think"? (Never mind smart is not the opposite of fun. The stupid and boring are so unfortunate, but they do exist.) She also mentions the Silver Ring Thing as if it is new, when it's had hundreds of thousands of participants over several years. And a (successful) ACLU lawsuit against its receipt of federal funds.

The virginity pledge movement was designed to give a hip new face to virginity. The new chic for virginity has had fantastic mainstream media exposure, including a front page article in the NY Times's Sunday Style section in 1994, a year after the first virginity pledges. Evangelical music is now taken seriously by music journalists, and there are evangelical Christian rock music festivals and hipster magazines. A secular journalist who explored evangelical youth culture found it reasonably compelling, as she wrote in her book, which is an evangelical version of the chassidic Boychiks in the Hood. There are even reasonably sex-positive, non-sexist dating books for evangelical young adults that make the realistic assumption that many of them are having sex, reviewed in this blog a few months ago. And parody rap songs, like my personal favorite Baby Got Book.

Evangelical youth culture seems vibrant and fun even to skeptical on-lookers, so it is surprising to me that would someone who (I'm guessing) favors virginity pledges feel the need to defend pledgers, and defend them so faintly. This editorial may be exceptional, but I wonder if it's an indication that evangelical youth culture isn't well-disseminated, or if it doesn't reach its goal of instilling confidence in evangelicals that their culture is fun and viable. As large as the evangelical youth population is, the creative class which creates the culture is obviously much smaller than the mainstream media and I'm sure many have day jobs, so they just can't be even close to as prolific in producing quality films, music, and TV shows. (Are there any hip evangelical TV shows?) Baby Got Book is 4 years old (according to the copyright on the official youtube version), and as one commenter says, their camp plays it constantly, so they almost have it memorized.

Evangelical youth culture won't lure adolescents simply on hipness and some adolescents will be religious even if they do feel stodgy, but those on the border may need to be convinced that they aren't missing out on fun. The editorial indicates that --- questions of adolescent libido aside --- virginity pledgers have a stodgy (but smart) image in the view of the editorialist.

Is this view more widespread?

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I don't know anything about Marietta College, but after six years at a large state university, I think I know where the writer is coming from.

There's only 1 mainstream culture here (especially as portrayed by the newspaper editorialists). People go out in big groups, starting Thursday evenings, carrying beer and (if they're female) wearing very little. They hit the bars or parties, get drunk, and hook up.

If you're not into that scene (e.g., you're a film buff or a math geek or a musician or a hiker or a social justice activist), you may not be able to find "your people" at all -- they may not exist, or it might be a small group tucked away. These diverse groups just don't have much presence. (At least not through fliers and events -- maybe it's different if your roommate is wrapped up in one).

I'm guessing the fun evangelical culture, like those other groups, may not have critical mass on campus. Outside its members, people aren't much aware of it at all. And even if it's well-disseminated and cool to its members, it's enough that they still feel like a minority talking to their peers. If these people don't go to parties--well, isn't that the working/campus definition of "having fun?"

(Also: it seems like the writer is either new to the topic, or is trying to stay in with the cool kids by approaching it hesitantly.)