imageA study came out showing that virginity pledges are meaningless, and that any delay in the onset of sexual activity has more to do religious conservatism than it does with the pledges themselves, and that pledge takers are more likely to have riskier sex than non-pledge takers.

For some reason, William McGunn felt the need to repeat the first part verbatim, as evidence that the media is covering up (!) the real truth of these totally ineffective virginity pledges: they may not work, but they're sort of indicative of something else that works, except that it causes kids to make really, really stupid decisions later on.

Let's put this another way. The real headline from this study is this: "Religious Teens Differ Little in Sexual Behavior Whether or Not They Take a Pledge."

Now, whatever the shock that might occasion at CBS or the Washington Post, it comes as no surprise to parents. Most parents appreciate that a pledge of virginity -- a one-time event that might be made at an emotional moment in a teen's life -- is not some talisman that will magically shield their sons and daughters from the strong and normal desires that grow as they discover their sexuality. What these parents hope to do is direct these desires in a way that recognizes sex as a great gift, which in the right circumstances fosters genuine intimacy between a man and a woman and at its freest offers the possibility of new life.

Blah, blah, blah - kids who are already less likely to have premarital sex (although more likely to take risks when they do take the plunge) make meaningless pledges to reinforce what they were already going to do. The real question: do we start indoctrinating kids with heavily conservative religious ideals in order to prevent them from having sex too early? Well, no. The main reason being that after years of abstinence-only indoctrination, we can be pretty sure it doesn't work. Teen pregnancy rates are up across the country, yet Rick Warren is somehow a millionaire and the Silver Ring Thing is on tour. ON TOUR, people!

Perhaps instead of gearing our entire system of sex ed towards a distinct religious minority made largely of upper middle-class white Christian conservatives we could, oh, I don't know, not do that? We could approach the entire nation of under-18 potential sex-havers as uptight WASPs who'll be persuaded by hamhanded references to knights and princesses and condoms that work like penis netting rather than prophylactics, but given that we aren't all Those People, it would make a lot more sense to maybe switch it up. It always amazes me that people who approach everything else with a supreme reverence for federalism believe that we can talk an entire nation of horny teenagers out of having sex based on what scares Timmy and Tammy Whitebread of Anytown, U.S.A.