Novelty underwear is normally associated with the sexually lascivious, but the latest Christian craze in America is encouraging youngsters to pull on knickers that promote chastity. The ‘Silver Ring Thing’ introduced the idea of young Christians wearing rings as a symbolic gesture of their determination to save sex for marriage, but now teenagers are buying underwear to declare their virginity.
Critics of the campaign point out that it seems illogical for teenagers to proclaim their chastity on their underwear as it suggests that they have already reached an intimate stage, but Yvette Thomas, founder of WaitWear (http://www.waitwear.com), argues that they are meant as “a memo to self”. With proclamations as “No Vows No Sex”, “Traffic Control: Wait for Marriage” and “Virginity Lane: Exit When Married,” the underwear is being marketed at teenagers as well as single parents and born again virgins. “It is supposed to serve as a reminder of the commitment to remain celibate until marriage,” she says. Thomas, who is a practising evangelical Christian and never-married mother of three, vowed in 1999 to remain abstinent until marriage. However, sticking to her commitment has not always been easy, and much of the inspiration for WaitWear came from her personal struggle with keeping her vow.
“I have to be an example,” Thomas said. “I can’t tell my son to abstain from sex if [I’m] not doing it [myself].” In five years, Thomas has built up her Los-Angeles based company through online sales and displays at youth events. Her underwear is currently springing up in shops across America, and Thomas is determined that the company will exceed $2 million profits in sales this year. Critics accuse WaitWear of being another example of the commercialisation of abstinence. The silver-ring programme was the last chastity craze to sweep America, but many Christians insist that such faith-based gimmicks do little in the end to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Sue Burridge, policy adviser on marriage and the family for the Archbishops’ Council says :”No marketing, however fun and quirky it is, is any substitute for good relationship and sex education based on moral values and which fosters young people’s self worth and self esteem rather than playing on their fears.” Jennifer MacKay, a spokesperson for the Christian matchmaking and friendship website, Christian Connection, is also unconvinced by WaitWear.
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“Novelty knickers draw attention to the subject of abstinence in a fun and kitschy way”, she said. “But abstinence is a huge commitment and the church has to offer unconditional acceptance and deep friendship; if single people feel lonely and isolated, they may be tempted to look elsewhere to fulfil their craving for intimacy.”