The Jonas Brothers are back. The literal band of brothers from New Jersey took tweendom by storm in the late 2000s before splitting up several years ago. The brothers revealed they’re back together again by releasing a boppy new album, “Happiness Begins,” and a documentary about their rise to fame, their breakup, and their reunion.
The film, “Pursuing Happiness,” shows Nick, Joe, and Kevin growing up in the suburbs outside New York City close to their father’s Assembly of God church. Although the songs the teens wrote and performed were wholesome, they weren’t explicitly Christian, which upset some of their dad’s congregants. The tension eventually led to their father leaving that church. But they still kept the faith, displaying it in a famously public way—by wearing purity rings.
Hollywood had a field day once they found out the young pop stars were waiting until marriage. The documentary shows footage of Chelsea Handler asking why “three virgins” needed a six-bedroom house. Russell Brand at the MTV Music Awards said if they were really serious about purity, they should wear the rings on their genitals. Nick Jonas was 15 at the time.
With that kind of feedback, it’s no surprise the guys ditched the rings. Joe Jonas explained in a recent interview, “We grew up in the church, our dad was a pastor—it came naturally for everyone that we grew up with to go through this and get one. When you’re about 15, 16, and you start dating, you go, wait a minute, what did I say I was going to do?
“[After one interviewer asked about the rings] the next thing you know, it’s the Jonas Brothers and their purity rings. That was what people ran with forever, that was a running joke. And we found the humor in it sometimes. But, of course, we decided at one point we didn’t need to be wearing these anymore. This is annoying. People are making fun of it anyway.”
Even though the rings came off, the fact that they wore them at all seems inescapable. On the “Wendy Williams Show” the nearly 50-year-old woman called 22-year-old Nick a “newly minted sex symbol.” She then immediately started talking about his old purity ring. “Nick,” Williams asks, oozing excitement. “Are you still a virgin?” In what world is that a normal question to ask someone? And on television, no less.
Earlier this year, James Corden, during a comeback interview with the brothers, couldn’t keep the smirk off his face when asking them about those ancient relics. As the interview ends, they all belt out the Jonas Brothers hit “Lovebug,” and Corden quips, “I swear to God if I had a purity ring on at the start of that song, it’s coming off by the end, no question.”
The sexualization of teenagers by Hollywood is nothing new. It’s nearly impossible to find a teenage television show or movie where the characters aren’t having sex. Even in the real world, sexting and porn use among teens is common. The ones who are opting out, typically for religious reasons, are depicted as weirdos.
When a star of “The Bachelor,” Colton Underwood, revealed he was a virgin, his virginity was discussed ad nauseum. He was an adult who willingly chose to go on a reality television show and talk about his personal life. The Jonas Brothers were young men—and in the case of the youngest, Nick, a minor—who did everything they could not to make a big deal of their private commitment.
The brothers are adults now and got to tell their side of the story in this documentary. They looked hurt and embarrassed by those comments about them in their adolescence, but their actions since show they basically came to agree with those pressuring them. Like most everyone else in Hollywood, they seem to now think the idea of chastity is childish—a joke. Now they seem to suggest that not only is it totally fine to have sex with whomever, whenever, but it’s also not even weird for adults to be pressuring teenagers to have sex with each other.
Is that actually something celebrities want to encourage? All sex has serious consequences. Who wants their teenager to have to deal with an unexpected pregnancy? Who wants to see a teenager contract a life-altering sexually transmitted disease, or even a curable one that puts them through months or years of pain and stigma? Who wants to see teenagers pressured into sex, not by a romantic partner, but from a celebrity saying, essentially, that you’re a freak for even thinking you should wait until marriage?
It is critical to talk to teenagers about sex—about whom to have it with, and for what reasons and in what circumstances. But to mock them for not having it? Get a life.