“There’s no way you’ll make it till marriage.”

Junior Claire Pinson has received a barrage of such comments in the year since she decided to wear a purity ring on her 15th birthday.

Purity rings symbolize a commitment to refrain from premarital sex. The rings originated in the United States in the 1990s among Christian-affiliated sexual-abstinence groups.

Even though purity rings have their origin in the Anglican sect of Christianity, over the past 20 years they have spread to all branches of Christianity.

Pinson first considered wearing a ring her freshman year, when she got the impression from her peers that having sex was something they took lightly.

After thinking about it for nine months, she approached her parents about a year ago saying she wanted one. Her parents were pleased although not surprised since she has been raised in a Christian family in which abstinence before marriage is encouraged, she said.

“It’s tough enough to try and live up to Christian standards without a symbol or reminder,” Pinson’s father, Steve, said. “Anything that can help remind us of our responsibilities to God we should use.”

“I have seen people very close to me not respect themselves, and they feel as if they have to have sex in order to prove something to themselves,” Pinson said. “In some respects the ring is almost a tribute to those people.”

Many of the girls in Pinson’s Bible study fellowship, a group not affiliated with her church, wear purity rings.

However, none of the boys do, she said.

And her pastor Chris Alford agreed. “While I am aware of a few fellows that wear them, we don’t have many teen boys that wear (purity rings),” he said.

Pinson purchased her ring from a Christian bookstore. She wanted a discreet one, finally settling on a band with the words “True Love Waits” engraved lightly on the outside.

At Berean Christian Bookstore in Sacramento, where Pinson purchased her purity ring, there are a large variety of rings. While some are simply bands with a stone, others have verses from the Bible engraved on them. Some have “purity” or “pure” etched on them, clearly showing the purpose of the ring.

Berean sells about four purity rings a month, mostly to 17- to 22-year-old girls, the  Berean saleswoman said.

While she is firm in her belief that getting a ring was the correct decision, Pinson is not sure where she draws the line as to what is impure.

She said she isn’t ruling out touching or kissing before marriage.

“Right now I don’t think I am old enough or mature enough to figure that out,” Pinson said. “Once I go to college, I will set my boundaries.”

Purity rings are often affiliated with religious beliefs, although they are not exclusive to religious people, Alford said. While many teens at Pinson’s church have vowed to refrain from premarital sex, none wear purity rings to symbolize their commitment, he said.

According to Alford, purity rings stem from the early days of Christianity when people wore tattoos of the cross to mark themselves as people of the church.

“The idea of a sign or a symbol, in this case the ring, is very spiritual and a reminder of what you belong to and what kind of person you are,” Alford said.

Pinson said the ring serves both as a reminder to herself to stop and think before making a decision and as a reassurance to her parents.

However, she said she doesn’t believe she should judge others who do have premarital sex.

“For women today (sex) is treated so lightly that it doesn’t really mean anything anymore to lose your virginity,” Pinson said.

“I believe that (losing your virginity) is the ultimate way to show someone you love them, and it’s the greatest gift you can give them to show that you waited for them.”

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