Here I go. I shall attempt… coherence. *cue “aaaaaaaahhhhhh” Hollywood sound effect*
On my Facebook feed, my parents’ pastor posted a link to a guy poking a live wire issue in the evangelical Christian community: courtship. It’s entitled, “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed.” And I read the FAQ, too. But this post is not about courtship, it’s about social signaling and purity rings, from the FAQ.
There was this heading: “I am 25 years old and no guy has ever asked me out on a date. What should I do?” Good social signaling advice followed: use your network resources, don’t send negative vibes if you’re actually looking for a husband. Be friendly. Very similar to what Dalrock’s been talking about recently.
Next piece of advice? “Move your purity ring to your right hand.”
What the… I just… there… what… who… what… why… how… Do people really…
Fundamentally flawed? NO KIDDING! I aghast and couldn’t believe it was true that anyone would recommend wearing a ring on your left-hand ring finger if you were single and hoping to marry. Surely there was some mistake! I looked it up. IT WAS TRUE. #shocked
Those who are deeply concerned about the sin of fornication in today’s society are certainly right to be – it’s dismayingly rampant even in churches. Teaching that all young people, but especially Christians, should save sex for marriage is absolutely right! Having a physical reminder of such things can be quite the help, too. There’s nothing bad about purity rings.
But if you tell girls to put them on the ring finger of the left hand, what happens? Anyone who doesn’t know her thinks she’s married! All the honorable single guys she meets see that, and they go talk to some other girl instead of her! The only guys who will approach her are either (a) initiates to the Inner Ring (pun totally intended) or (b) the kind of cad who likes seducing married women with loose morals but probably wouldn’t turn up his nose at a church girl either. Which still works out fine if the girl is actually attracted to one of the honorable young men who are “in the know,” and vice versa, but what if there’s just not anybody in that particular community that she’s interested in, or is interested in her?
There are Christian communities where the whole “purity ring” fad never caught on, after all. Coming up with this sort of “coded signal” that sends a completely different signal to somebody outside your movement seems to be a very severe tactical error. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time – I suspect that people got caught up in rhapsodizing over the virtues of purity and self-control for those horny sixteen-year-olds and didn’t stop to think through the potential unintended consequences years down the road. The other options are all kind of scary. Still, how do you miss an unintended consequence that obvious? And keep missing it, for years of loneliness and disappointment?
The social signaling of a wedding band is meant to work without anybody needing to know any more details about the person’s personal life than their appearance. It’s supposed to be an at-a-glance, this-person-isn’t-a-potential-mate signal. It’s the most ironclad “I am off the market” vibe that you could possibly send, since it still signals even if the person wearing it is friendly and polite – which some people might mistake as “flirtatious.” (Ask me how I know this, if you don’t believe me. I have anecdotes.)
So yes. If you do want to get married and you don’t have any prospects among your purity-ring-wearing peers, it’s a good idea to move that ring onto a different finger, any different finger, while you expand your search parameters outside all the guys you already know! Don’t inadvertently signal that you’re ineligible for marriage if you want to be signaling that you are eligible.