02/01/2008 07:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The American Idol Virgin's Mistake

Two weeks after getting the boot on American Idol, virgin-by-choice
Bruce Dickson has become href="">something
of a hero
among conservative
for enduring some mild ribbing about his chastity
pledge (watch the

Dickson is not the first Idol figure to run on an abstinence platform,
as it were. Jordin Sparks href="">wears
a purity ring from True Love Waits, one of the most prominent
chastity organizations. In the wider pop scene, it's become fairly
common to hear starlets announce that they are saving themselves for
marriage. Way back when, a young Britney Spears made that claim in
what was apparently
a cynical ploy to offset (and enhance) her hypersexualized persona.

The difference is that Dickson is a guy, and while it's still
acceptably feminine for girls to be demure, boys are "supposed" to be
sexually aggressive. There's something weird about one who's not.

For this reason, the abstinence movement has focused most of its
attention on girls. In addition to the True Love Waits rings, girls
can also wear a gold-plated rose pin. It comes with a card that says,
"You are like a beautiful rose. Every time you engage in premarital
sex, a precious petal is stripped away. Don't leave your future
husband holding a bare stem."

Then there are href="">purity balls, in
which fathers and daughters exchange crypto-wedding vows, he pledging
to be "her authority and protection in the area of purity." The
key-and-heart necklaces that Bruce and his dad wear are typically
meant to be worn by fathers and daughters. The father protects the key
to the daughter's heart until she is married, at which point he gives
it to his daughter's husband. The obvious sexual motif makes the whole
thing extremely creepy to most outsiders and the adoption of the
practice by a man and his son only exaggerates the inappropriateness.

Dickson walked off Idol with Ryan Seacrest saying "Maybe next year
he'll come back less a boy and more a man." Which is a little like
Simon Cowell saying you're too nice or Paula Abdul saying you're too
crazy. But that attitude is exactly what the chastity movement is up
against when it comes to recruiting guys -- a problem made all the
worse in that the movement's own just-say-no messages to girls are
uniformly based on the stereotype of aggressive boys. Indeed, the
movement's leaders believe that in most relationships, the Bible
instructs men to assert their will over women.

Dickson's solution -- "feminizing" himself to the point of wearing
jewelry -- is not the one most advocated by the chastity movement.
Instead, the purity pushers tend to take the more psychologically
astute measure of constructing "self-control" as the macho alternative
to sexual conquest. "Be a strong man," says one href="">poster.
"It takes more strength to keep your passions under control." Perhaps
not coincidentally, promiscuity is generally presented as the
essential trait of gay men, helping to paint "lack of control" as

The pro-pure movement may be rallying around Dickson now, but they may
also secretly suspect that if he'd just stayed on message, he could
have advanced to the next round.