Abstinence programs receive major government funds, but research shows…they don’t really work

Life & Style has reported that Joe Jonas, who's been dating Twilight star Ashley Greene since July, is no longer wearing his purity ring. Gasp!

OK, so not really breaking and you are probably thinking: "Who the hell cares?" However there's a bigger story here: Each year, more than $100 million in government funds is spent promoting teen abstinence programs like purity rings, even though research shows they don't really work.

Purity rings were first introduced in the '90s by Christian-affiliated sexual abstinence groups to symbolize a religious vow to practice abstinence until marriage.

"Under the Bush administration, organizations that promote abstinence and encourage teens to sign virginity pledges or wear purity rings have received federal grants. The Silver Ring Thing, a subsidiary of a Pennsylvania Evangelical Church, has received more than $1 million from the government to promote abstinence and to sell its rings in the United States and abroad," says David Bario of the Columbia News Service.

The federal budget for abstinence-only education was upward of $200 million a year during the Bush administration and although the funding still exists, the Obama administration has shifted the focus to more of an educational approach with comprehensive sex ed programs.

Big improvement, but here's the thing: Last I checked rings don't prevent STD's, unwanted pregnancies, or apparently sex for that matter. In fact, a March 2005 study from Yale and Columbia Universities found that "Teenagers who take virginity pledges -- public declarations to abstain from sex -- are almost as likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease as those who never made the pledge."

The study goes on to say that even though young people who sign a virginity pledge may delay sex, or have fewer sexual partners, "they are also less likely to use condoms and more likely to experiment with oral and anal sex."

So, is there anything wrong with teens taking an abstinence pledge? Surely not. I think it is admirable. But, for the government to promote no sex in lieu of safe sex is unrealistic and irresponsible. Just take it from Joe Jonas.

What's your take on teen abstinence pledges?