Girly Thoughts

April 10, 2008

what to do with virginity

Filed under: Gender,sexuality,what they said — judgesnineteen @ 7:26 pm

Just doing my part to spread pobre habladora’s cool new way of talking about having sex for the first time, discarding your virginity. So that it’s at the very least an active process, even if still riddled with problems.

Like what, J19?

So glad you asked.

Like how we have this idea that penile-vaginal intercourse is Real Sex, and so that’s what makes you lose your virginity. As if the clitoris, the only body part in any human being that is explicitly and only there for the purpose of sexual pleasure, has nothing to do with sex. Ha! This is not only great for perpetuating sexism, but it helps prop up heterosexism, too. People assume – in the face of evidence of real, meaningful, satisfying, exciting sexual experiences of homosexual and queer couples – that non-heterosexual sex can’t be Real Sex – based on the very shaky theory that penile-vaginal is the only possible Real Sex. (“Oh but that’s the only way to get pregnant, and pregnancy is The Point of sex!” Tell that to someone who got knocked up from semen on her thigh, and then explain to me why humans continue to have sex when the female is pregnant and after menopause and when they’re sterile and, well, when they’re a homosexual couple. And then study bonobos.)

Like how we have this idea that there’s a clear line between virginity and whoredom lost virginity. My friend said she learned in Anthropology that the !Kung (the ! means you click your tongue against the front of the roof of your mouth) people don’t have a word for virginity, and people explore their sexuality from the time they’re young, and it’s more of a spectrum than a now-you’re-a-virgin, now-you’re-not thing. (This is a common theme; my culture needs to get over its obsession with binary categories.) Really, do you think someone who’s had sex is all that different from the way they were before?

Like how we base the whole thing on a piece of tissue that isn’t even always there to begin with. And seriously, it’s just a little membrane. There’s no need to psychoanalyze the meaning of it. It’s not a gate. It’s not a treasure. It’s a little membrane that didn’t open up all the way while the fetus was developing. (Natalie Angier’s Woman: An Intimate Geography made it clear to me that making body parts into metaphors for their owners or seeing them as microcosms of their owners is stupid.  Although I did smile when she talked about ovaries as pearls.  Highly recommended book, in any case.)

Like how since that membrane only exists in women, we put much more emphasis on female virginity than male. Except that’s not the real reason, is it? I don’t think so. But people use it as justification, anyway.

Like how virginity is associated with purity, even though sex doesn’t make you dirty (ok, there are bodily fluids, but those wash off). If it were about the potential for infection, we would demonize handshakes, too, but we don’t.

Like how the emphasis on purity and virginity for women leads to things like foot binding, genital cutting, locking women up inside, giving them false information about contraceptives, refusing to give them contraceptives, maltreatment of prostitutes, double standards for cheating, killing, etc.  (Note how the East and West issues are all in the same list, because anyone who thinks it’s ok to mistreat prostitutes has no business looking down on cultures who mistreat other women on the same basis.)

Like how it’s glorified in absolute terms, even though those who glorify it generally do accept sex within heterosexual marriage. This either means they aren’t thinking things all the way through, or they really do think married women have lost some value. For instance, no woman can live up to the ideal of the Virgin Mother. I mean unless she adopts, but I don’t think you quite get ideal status if you skip the pregnancy.

How about we discard the entire notion of virginity? Do what you want to do if whoever you’re doing it with can and does consent; don’t do what you don’t want to do, whatever reasons you may have for not wanting to. But just call it whatever it is. I’m tired of the word virgin and all its unwarranted connotations.

Edit: I just read the article that Pobre habladora linked to, The Hymenization of Virginity by Jessica Zaylia. I’m with her on everything except the claim that boys are never subjected to invasive virginity tests. I’ve read online that in South Africa there are virginity tests for males that involve the examination of body parts – sometimes it was like, knees or something, but I think there was also a test that had to do with the foreskin of the penis. I don’t know if that’s true, but there it is, anyway. I’m sure the vast majority of those tested in the world throughout history have been and are female, though. Neither male nor female virginity tests can prove presence or absence of virginity, of course.



  1. “How about we discard the entire notion of virginity?”
    Yes, yes, yes!

    Comment by pobre habladora — April 10, 2008 @ 8:49 pm | Reply

  2. Haha, I still really like your phrase though.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — April 11, 2008 @ 7:36 am | Reply

  3. I loved this article – it encompasses everything I’ve felt about the subject. Only, of course, you are a lot more thorough in explaining it!

    Particularly, “Like how we have this idea that penile-vaginal intercourse is Real Sex, and so that’s what makes you lose your virginity.” I’ve been arguing against this bit for years, it seems.

    Comment by Venus — April 11, 2008 @ 10:32 am | Reply

  4. Thanks! I realize now I should have mentioned the obvious problems that causes for non-heterosexual sex. I’ll add that.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — April 11, 2008 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

  5. Another fascinating book is Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank. It’s all about how people have constructed and measured virginity through history. Very interesting.

    I read it for the first time on a road trip with my parents and I ended up reading chapters aloud to them from the backseat.

    Comment by Lindsay — April 14, 2008 @ 12:04 am | Reply

  6. Wow, that does sound interesting. Ha, I wish I could read stuff like that to my parents without getting in a fight. Thanks for the recommendation. And good work at Female Impersonator!

    Comment by judgesnineteen — April 14, 2008 @ 12:17 am | Reply

  7. “it’s more of a spectrum than a now-you’re-a-virgin, now-you’re-not thing.”

    That’s how I see it (along with homosexuality) since I’ve had a couple days of thinking am I a virgin or no and then realized I really don’t care. It actually is a continuum.

    Comment by Lyndsay — April 15, 2008 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  8. I think the concept of virginity and sex is placed way too high up on a pedestal. Sure, there is an inherent nervousness and excitement involved as you do something for the first time – but that can be true of any activity with any level of significance. Your first job interview. Your first Bungee Jump. (Never happen with me…)

    I think the best way one can see the contrast in this is to compare the thought process between a teenager thinking about having sex for the first time and a 40 year old starting yet another long term relationship thinking about when to have sex for the first time for that relationship – for the teenager, it is like planning climbing mount everest and all sorts of expectations and worries are piled high on the list. For the 40-year old, it may simply be about as nerve wracking as deciding which restaurant to go to on the date before the sex. And yet for both, it is the same physical act.

    Comment by Disgusted Beyond Belief — April 16, 2008 @ 3:08 pm | Reply

  9. I’m 100% with you on the Bonobos bit. I even made a t-shirt that says, “Be Like Bonobos.” They’re such great animals since they make love, not war, no matter what the sex of their partner is.

    Well done. Different ways of putting things are great. Loved your piece here.

    Comment by Jessie Zaylia — August 21, 2008 @ 10:02 am | Reply

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