Marjorie Holmes (not her real name), 35, took a virginity pledge through her Presbyterian congregation in Atlanta when she was 17 years old. "I loved my church youth group," Holmes says. "It was fun. Whether or not I really understood what I was doing wasn't a big deal to me because I wasn't very involved with guys."
After Holmes earned her nursing degree, she moved to Southern California. There she met Clark (not his real name either), a model. A Christian from the Bible Belt, too, he is "a big, strapping boy who cooks better than anybody I know. He's also a woodworker—great with his hands. He's just an amazing guy," Holmes says. Like nearly nine out of ten virginity pledgers, Holmes didn't keep her vow. She slept with him while they were still dating. She thought their sex life was normal, she says. "But our honeymoon night was a disaster. Nothing happened. It was horrible." When the couple returned home, she said, there were some weird things that took place and odd requests. Six weeks into her marriage, Holmes discovered her husband was sleeping with his best male friend. "I didn't tell anyone I was leaving him until the day that I filed for divorce," she says.
Holmes has since remarried and is now trying to get pregnant. She believes that the culture around the purity movement kept her from knowing what she wanted in a partner or what she needed for herself. About purity pledges, she says, "I would never do that to my daughters. Never. It's a setup for shame and ignorance."
Among the women who took purity pledges, kept them, and married happily is Amber Davidson, 27. She made virginity vows at home and through her nondenominational Sioux Falls Christian High School in South Dakota. "On my 16th birthday, my dad took me out on a date and gave me a purity ring. He told me how much he loved me and how beautiful I was." He spoke about how purity is a big part of "ultimate love and ultimate trust."
Even though she was a popular, outgoing student, Davidson didn't date at all during high school. "There were so many girls in these drama relationships, it was ridiculous," she says. "I thought about my future husband—how I wanted to give him the very best of me. I wanted to be able to come to him without all these memories of past guys. To be able to give him the ultimate. Give him myself."
After her senior year, Davidson met and fell in love with a young man at a summer camp. They dated for three and a half years and never once kissed.
"We talked for more hours than any couple I've ever known because of that," she says. "And the day I got married, I felt so honored. Here's this man who respected me despite what his desires of the moment were, who has been strong, who hasn't taken advantage of me."
Davidson believes she has a better sex life than friends who had sex with multiple people before they got married. "It's very hard for them," she says. "They have all those memories they can't get rid of when they're in bed with their spouse. And they don't have that level of trust. My husband showed me his self-control before we were married, so I don't have to worry about it after."