A Brief History Of: Abstinence

Tony Cenicola / The New York Times / Redux

Correction Appended: Feb. 19, 2008

"Everyone should be abstinent," Bristol Palin said during a Feb. 16 Fox News interview, just two months after the 18-year-old daughter of Alaska's Republican governor gave birth to a 7-lb. 7-oz. baby boy. But abstinence is "not realistic at all," she added. Evidently not.

Suppressing one's earthly desires until marriage is a tenet of nearly all religions, though the burden of premarital abstinence has largely rested on the bride. Prepubescent marriages and gruesome practices like genital mutilation and the imposition of chastity belts have long been used in the name of guarding a girl's "purity."...

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