True Love Waits (TLW) is an international Christian group that promotes sexual abstinence outside of marriage for teenagers and college students. TLW was created in April, 1993 by the Southern Baptists, and is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. It is based on conservative Christian views of human sexuality that require one to be faithful to one's husband or wife, even before marriage.
The True Love Waits pledge states: "Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship." In addition, they promote sexual purity, which encompasses not only abstaining from intercourse before marriage, but also abstaining from sexual thoughts, sexual touching, pornography, and actions that are known to lead to sexual arousal.
By the late 1990s, Christian music groups were promoting the program, and events similar to youth rallies were held at Christian music concerts,providing an opportunity for adolescents to sign pledge cards.
In the first year of the campaign, over 102,000 young people signed the pledge, which was also taken up by other church groups including the Roman Catholic Church and Assemblies of God. The campaign has continued to spread across the US, making use of occasions such as Valentine's Day to gain attention.
As of 2004, groups supporting abstinence numbered in the hundreds. During the previous decade, approximately 2.5 million American youth took the pledge of abstinence.
The efficacy of the program has been questioned based on a 2003 study showing that 6 out of 10 college students who had taken the pledge had broken it, and of the 40% who identified themselves as abstaining from intercourse, 55% acknowledged having participated in oral sex. In the 2011 book Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns, Christine Gardner criticizes True Love Waits for "using sex to sell abstinence" by promising more satisfying sexual activity within marriage for those who abstain from premarital sex; she argues that this rhetoric reinforces selfish desires for gratification, sets people up for divorce and dissatisfaction with marriage, and simply adapts "secular forms for religious ends".
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- Sarah Pulliam Bailey (November 18, 2011). "The Rhetoric of Chastity: Making Abstinence Sexy". Christianity Today. Retrieved March 21, 2013.