Remember Nick Jonas’s purity ring? Who could forget? All of the Jonas Brothers used to sport them: thin, silver, Bush-era symbols of chastity and a certain kind of overt piety. Like Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson before them, a wide swath of the public was once obsessed with the state of the JoBros’ collective virginity. And as Nick pointed out in an interview with The Guardian, the whole thing was really very creepy.
“What’s discouraging about that chapter of our life is that at 13 or 14 my sex life was being discussed,” he said. “It was very tough to digest it in real time, trying to understand what it was going to mean to me, and what I wanted my choices to be, while having the media speaking about a 13-year-old’s sex life. I don’t know if it would fly in this day and age. Very strange.”
The Jonas Brothers were both admired (by a religious fanbase) and roundly mocked for their purity rings. But Nick’s comment is right: it is deeply disturbing, in any context, to think of widespread public commentary on a minor’s sex life or sexuality.
In a 2013 interview for Vulture, Joe Jonas also spoke about the purity rings, and how adults around the band turned them into a sort of albatross. “I remember this interview with this guy whose entire agenda was to focus on the rings,” he said. “He kept pushing the subject, and when we insisted that we didn’t want to talk about it, he told us, ‘I can write whatever I want,’ which terrified us. That’s the thing: We didn’t know any better, and we just wanted to make people happy. Now I know that I don’t have to answer any questions I don’t want to. Like, why do you even care about my 15-year-old brother’s sex life?”
Other child stars have stated how being sexualized at an early age is often deeply scarring. Natalie Portman famously spoke about her experience with fans and press after the 1994 release of The Professional, filmed when she was just a preteen. “At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me,” she said. “I felt the need to cover my body and to inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world: That I’m someone worthy of safety and respect. The response to my expression from small comments about my body to more threatening deliberate statements served to control my behavior through an environment of sexual terrorism.”
But in the end, Nick doesn’t regret wearing the ring, saying it shaped his perspective on sex. “The values behind the idea of understanding what sex is, and what it means, are incredibly important,” he said. “When I have children, I’ll make sure they understand the importance of sex, and consent, and all the things that are important.”