It’s a Christmas Miracle! New Study Shows That 1% of Women Claim to Have Virgin Births

***Update***: BMJ is known to write parody papers in their Christmas edition. So while the material below is plausible, take it with a grain of salt. It’s likely a hoax.

(In a related study, 1% of women lie to researchers.)

The headline’s serious, though it requires a little more explanation.

A new report published in the Christmas edition of BMJ shows that 0.8% of women who became pregnant also claimed, at the time when the child would have been conceived, that they were not having sexual intercourse:

Based on interviews with 7,870 women and girls ages 15-28, 45 of the 5,340 pregnancies in this group through the years — 0.8 per cent — occurred in women who reported that they conceived independent of men. The figure does not include pregnancies that result from in vitro fertilization or other assisted reproductive technology.

The girls were 12 to 18 years old when they entered the study in the 1994-95 school year and were interviewed periodically about their health and behaviour over 14 years, including via computer as a way to encourage them to be candid when answering questions about their sexual history.

The 45 women and girls who became pregnant despite, according to what they told interviewers, being virgins at the time of conception differed in several ways from peers who acknowledged that men had had a role in their procreation.

So why would they lie…?

Turns out nearly a third of them had signed pledges saying they wouldn’t have sex before marriage. Hell, they may have been wearing purity rings as they got it on.

They “Virgin Birthers” were also “more likely than non-virgins to say their parents never or rarely talked to them about sex and birth control.”

They were also less likely to know how to use a condom.

And, I’m assuming, they wanted to sound like they were chaste, even to the researchers who didn’t know them, and even though the evidence to the contrary was growing right inside of them. (It’s also possible they didn’t realize that they technically had sex.)

I love the conclusion:

The researchers found that although the mothers in question were more likely to have boys than girls and to be pregnant during the weeks leading up to Christmas, neither similarity to the Virgin Mary was statistically significant.

You’ll be interested in knowing there were a few “virgin fathers” as well.

(Thanks to Christopher for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I’ll bet the statistic was a lot higher than 1% during times when the penalty for a socially unacceptable pregnancy was stoning!

  • onamission5

    Or having to marry one’s rapist, which I cannot imagine was a very pleasant prospect. Better to claim immaculate conception by far.

  • Speedwell
  • KMR

    Fascinating. Thanks.

  • diogeneslamp0

    “They were also less likely to know how to use a condom.”

    I could have a heart attack from that surprise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxlhyX-4qKI.

  • diogeneslamp0

    OK, let’s do the math. In the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus’ birth, the population was about 50 million. If half of those are women, and half of those are of child-birthing age, that’s 12 million women. If 1% of all pregnant women and girls say it was a virgin birth, that would be 120,000 claimed virgin births at the time of Jesus.

    The odds of us choosing the right messiah are thus 120,000 to one. Try that argument at your next debate with William Lane Craig!

  • ScottG

    And we shall name him…. BRIAN!!

  • WalterWhite007

    Why stop there? All ‘virgin’ births should be eligible. How many babies have been born….ever? There’s possibly hundreds of ‘baby’ gods born every day!!!!! It’s not as though Yahweh needs time to reload!!!!

  • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

    Maybe the Greeks were right after all! The stories tell us that Zeus couldn’t keep it tucked under his toga. Not that his brothers were any better. All of those women in the region being magically buggered by one deity or another must have been trying.

    On the other hand…

  • WallofSleep

    “You’ll be interested in knowing there were a few “virgin fathers” as well.”

    Not surprised, though. I mean, there must be a bunch of virgin fathers out there, what with these fundie christian schools always kicking out unmarried pregnant women, with nary a male counterpart getting the same treatment. Must be virgin fathers. Must be.

  • griffox

    Actually, in my Christian school the opposite happened. The boy got kicked out and the girl would have been allowed to stay had her parents not sent her away. They looked at it from the perspective of the boy with raging hormones must have coerced the chaste sexless female into sex because we all know that women have no libido.

  • meekinheritance

    I went to a Methodist school in 7th-9th grade. There was a rule that “public displays of affection” be limited to hand holding. The school principal was a minister at a different church. I was in the same class year as his daughter, who also went to school there. She got pregnant in 8th grade, though there was no claim of virginity. The boy (not me, btw) was expelled.
    I’m not sure what my point is. Thank you for listening to me vent.

  • unbound55

    Well, to be fair, there are actually cases of virgin births, but they are closer to 1 in a several million (about 0.00001%). These are cases where egg’s chromosomes don’t split. Since this only results in a clone of the woman, the child is always female and is easily verifiable in this age with a simple DNA test.

    To my knowledge, there are only a handful of such cases, but it does mean that not *all* of those women are lying…only the vast majority of them.

  • KMR

    Would LOVE to read an article on this with actual documentation if you have a link to supply. I am aware of this for some reptiles. Didn’t realize it was possible for mammals.

  • Keyra

    Ever heard of artificial insemination?

  • busterggi

    For 12 year olds w/o parental knowledge?

  • WallofSleep

    Doesn’t really count as a “virgin birth” in the biblical sense though, does it?

  • GubbaBumpkin

    You could make a case that the Holy Ghost was artificial.

  • WallofSleep

    Heh. That fact is part of the reason we hang out here.

  • tubi11

    From the article in the OP:

    “The figure does not include pregnancies that result from in vitro fertilization or other assisted reproductive technology.”

    So, yes, they have heard of that.

  • Richard Thomas

    Helps to read before trolling.

  • Spuddie

    Do you know how much it costs? Somewhere between a used car and a small aircraft depending on the procedures and conditions. Something out of the range of the average teen (or many adults for that matter).

    And they already discounted them.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Of course this story accounted for artificial insemination, but whenever Conservative Christians make shit up (no matter how stupid it sounds), it’s always “the truth”. I guess “truth” goes to whoever’s the louder.

  • Jeff

    Grasping to defend the indefensible….

  • baal

    And yea did god’s angel have with him a very large cart. On the cart was a device that must have been from Hell for it was cold and yet burned. The angles then purified something he took from the freezing cold yet burny vessel and bad the virgin to look off to the far distance while thinking on God.
    Baal 21:8

  • Pofarmer

    “(It’s also possible they didn’t realize that they technically had sex.)”

    How do you “technically” have sex?

  • islandbrewer

    Well, if you want to get technical, technically something stimulates the female’s labia, clitoris, or vagina, and technically, if that thing technically has cells that are technically sperm on them, then technically some of those cells can travel up and fertilize a technical ova. If you want it in technical terms.

  • Jeff

    Well, usually with one of the wonders of modern science…powered by batteries….and usually, though not always, without a partner present.

  • onamission5

    It is unlikely but still possible to become pregnant without actual PiV intercourse. (it is not possible, of course, to become pregnant without any sexual activity occurring whatsoever) Abstinence advocates might be surprised to learn what hijinks teens* can get up to in the name of keeping penises out of vaginas and still call themselves virgins. It’s the “everything but” mode of sexual purity, and yes, kids, one can still catch an STD or get pregnant from it, but of course no one taught them that because just say no is soooo effective why would anyone need to know the details that might lead to temptation.

    *Edit: and adults too for that matter

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    this.

    while i agree that most of these women are probably lying, it’s not wholly unheard of, for girls to get pregnant without full-in penile penetration. sperm can be darn tricky, and it can be surprising motile. i can totally see pregnancy resulting from anal sex that caused ejaculation, said ejaculate running out, and running across the vaginal opening, which is opened up due to excitement.

  • onamission5

    My guess is that even amongst those who are lying, it’s less a bold faced lie than it is shame and denial being powerful motivators. I shudder to think how many of those women and girls were raped and simply cannot bear to face it.

  • KMR

    Knew of a girl in college who claimed she became pregnant due to her boyfriend having just touched the surface of her vagina with his penis. Apparently the pre-seminal fluid was powerful stuff. It’s certainly possible since I know first hand the things Christian kids will do to for sexual fulfillment while yet still technically keeping their virginity intact.

  • griffox

    I can back you up on that. I had a Mormon friend in highschool who for some reason liked to brag about all the things she and her boyfriend did without actually having penetrative sex.

    Which reminds me of this brilliant Garfunkle and Oates song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8ZF_R_j0OY

  • jen

    I encountered a pretty amazing number of immaculate conceptions among teenagers when I worked in a pediatric ER.

  • WalterWhite007

    Births to ‘virgins’ were claimed by females long before jc and have been claimed since. It’s a pretty common claim. Lying is a first line of defence in many situations.

  • paulalovescats

    “It’s a Christmas miracle. Let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya!”

  • Rod Haney

    Do the girls who claim a virgin birth actually expect anyone to be gullible enough to believe them???

    Oh, nevermind,,,

  • SkepticsRUs

    I once had a conservative fundamentalist roommate who somehow managed to get his girlfriend technically pregnant without technically having sex. I wasn’t there to observe it so I don’t know specifically what technique they used.

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    I knew a girl in college like that. An upperclassman took advantage of her ignorance. Got her to believe it wasn’t “sex sex” and didn’t even use a condom. Myself and the RA got her to the nurse in time for Plan B and a sex ed talk. Fundie family, home-schooled, uber sheltered. Poor girl was devistated when she realized how she’d been duped. Her parents aren’t fond of me since I told them what horrible parents they were for sending her to a public university with no clue about anything when we met. So it’s definitely possible for a girl to think she didn’t have sex, but still got pregnant.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    What the hell is ‘sex sex’ if they didn’t have it but she still got pregnant? Is it only ‘sex sex’ if she has an orgasm?

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    Understand, this girl didn’t even know where her vagina was exactly. She was THAT sheltered. He told that the hole he was using was safe and she bought it. She had the sexual education and awareness of a toddler. What her parents were thinking sending her off to a secular college I don’t know. Believe me, it was the most bizzare conversation and boggled the mind of those of us that had sex ed.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Wow. I really shouldn’t laugh, but maybe if she had watched http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ36S3d1CaU