The new revolution of gender

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Unlike the so-called “sexual revolution” of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the change of the last 10 years has been dramatic but less talked about.

“I just have one thing to say about promise rings,” said Jordin Sparks, then a newly-minted American Idol winner, as she took the stage in 2008 to present at the MTV VMAs. She was gearing up a response to host Russell Brand, who earlier in the night had made a dig at the band the Jonas Brothers for wearing the rings. “Not everybody, guy or girl, wants to be a slut!” Sparks continued. A brief wave of shouted approval followed from the audience. John Legend hung by awkwardly.

This moment happened on TV just 10 years ago, but the mainstream sentiment that the sexual choices for teenagers are either “pure virgin” or “slut,” seems absolutely ancient in 2018, when words like “slut-shaming” and “girl hate” have infiltrated the common vernacular. But if you were a teen in the 2000s, chances are you were inundated with specifically Evangelical Christian messages about how important it was to wait for sex and preserve your virginity. And you didn’t need to go to church to come into contact with these messages. Just paying attention to a VMAs red carpet was enough.

“I’m so lucky I didn’t lose my virginity in the back of a Jeep or something,” Jessica Simpson said, in 2003, about waiting until she was married to have sex for the first time. It was a moment that, just like the saga of Britney Spears’s virginity, was highly covered across tabloid magazines in the early ’00s. Teen pop stars like the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, and Hilary Duff followed her lead, eager to profess how dedicated they were to saving sex for marriage. “I’m going to keep my promise to myself, to my family, and to God,” said Selena Gomez in 2008. “Even at my age, a lot of girls are starting to fall,” Miley Cyrus told People that same year. “And I think if [staying a virgin] is a commitment girls make, that’s great.” Almost all of them wore purity rings on their left ring fingers as a way to advertise their chastity—thin, unadorned silver bands sometimes inscribed with messages like “Love Waits,” the sales of which reportedly increased after Sparks’s VMAs comment.

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