By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
American Idol winner Jordin Sparks’s very public defense of promise rings during the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) has caused an unexpected spike of interest in the rings.
The incident occurred during the Sept. 7 awards when VMA host Russel Brand repeatedly mocked the wearing of promise rings by the popular Jonas Brothers band.
When Sparks later took to the stage to present an award, she sidestepped her script to say: “I just have one thing to say about promise rings. It’s not bad to wear a promise ring, because not everybody – guy or girl – wants to be a slut.”
While she later expressed regret at suggesting people who don’t wear the rings are sluts, she told Entertainment Weekly that she doesn’t regret speaking up.
“It’s something I feel strongly about,” she said. “I wish I would’ve worded it differently — that somebody who doesn’t wear a promise ring isn’t necessarily a slut — but I can’t take it back now. It was a split-second thing, and it came out kind of wrong. Still, I don’t regret it.”
And neither do many people involved in promoting chastity among youth.
Jason Burtt, national director of Silver Ring Thing, a program that invites teens to pledge to remain chaste until marriage, told MTV he’s had dozens of messages since the show aired.
“I’ve received a good amount of feedback. Nothing negative, but mostly positive support from all over the country from people interested in the program.” he said. While his organization does not sell the rings, it runs more than 70 programs a year for teens in which they spread a message of abstinence until marriage, offering a ring to those who complete the course.
The founder of Silver Ring Thing, Denny Pattyn, an evangelical Christian youth minister, said he’s also getting requests from media organizations in the United States and England to discuss the issue.
“This is a big, big to-do,” Pattyn said about the VMA flap. “It’s fantastic for an organization like ours, and we think this will open up some major things.”
Pattyn said he gave Meghan McCain, daughter of GOP presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) one of his group’s rings to give to Governor Palin for her daughter “to let her know we’re supporting her and praying for her.”
John Cabouch, director of e-commerce operations for PromiseRingsOvernight.com said the incident at the VMA is only fueling already rising sales of purity rings.
“It’s not just what happened on Sunday, but we’ve seen an uptick in general in the past couple of months,” he said. “There seems to be a growing interest in this type of ring, and from what we’ve gleaned, it’s just being talked about more in social circles, especially among young people.”
Cabouch thinks the attention from the VMA incident can only help sales because endorsements from celebrities such as Sparks and the Jonas Brothers make wearing the rings and abstaining from sex seem less “geeky” in today’s sex-saturated culture.
One jeweler that carries the rings told MTV that even before the VMA flap, sales had been rising through the roof with a “huge swell” over the past few months.
“There’s a lot of buzz with the Jonas Brothers and these purity rings, and I like to think some of it is tied to that,” said Sara Hegener of James Avery Jewelers.
Sales of the company’s signature “True Love Waits” ring were up 78 percent in July over last year and up 113 percent in August.
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