The Purity Myth and Virginity sucks
This post is about the purity myth, the protection of virginity at the cost of a girl's self-esteem and self-worth, it's about my sexual experiences as a teen, and how it warped shit badly for me. It's also how I got through it. If sexually active teens offends, or talking about a non-consensual sexual experience will set off your triggers, please don't read this. I'm OK now, and I will unpack rape later, I gloss over it here, because it isn't important to my central premise.
If you haven't heard of it before, I urge you to read the book by the same name by Jessica Valenti. She talks about how difficult it is for women in today's society, either we're Madonna or Whore. We're either virgins, or have “lost something precious”. It's fascinating, horrifying, and there's even a short docu that I watched.
What got me thinking about this, though, how it touched me, was nothing more than a random thought last night before I drifted off to sleep. I read Jezebel.com, it's in the Gawker family, and so there are often morons commenting there, trolling to piss off the feminists. Nothing makes their day better than being a “Men's Right's” advocate, or a rape apologist, it seems like. But, that's the Internet, so what can ya do, right? I can't even remember the story that I read, I skim the headlines and read maybe twenty a day if it's a good news day. I think it was one talking about one of the new, still sexist, still not sex-positive, evangelical sex manual that's come out lately. There are two of them in the feminist-blogophers, but I won't name them here. I don't believe such drivel is worth your time, or mine.
I can remember one of the comments, replying to the troll. (I know, I know, Never Feed The Trolls!!) She said something along the lines of: how hard it must be, to be taught your whole life how bad and sinful, and evil, and “go straight to hell” sexuality is, and yet, suddenly “I now pronounce you man and wife” makes it OK, perfect, lovely and blessed by God ™.”
That barely registered, I admit, when I read it. I've thought about it, talked about it, even asked various ministers about it over the years. Yet, when I was just about ready to sleep, it hit me again, how hard that was when I went through it myself.
Thankfully, there were no such things as “purity balls” or even purity rings, when I was a teen-ager. We did have the random purity pledge, but then we called them “virginity pledges”. I signed one when I was about 13, at summer camp. We promised to Jesus that we wouldn't have sex until we were married.
Cross our hearts.
Course, most of the girls and boys signing these pledges didn't even know what sex was. Their parents hadn't told them-- you know, in order to protect them from the world, or some such nonsense. I did know, so did my sister, and I remember we spent long hours whispering “how babies are made” to the girls in our cabins. Those girls told their brothers, and pretty soon we were all questioning why were we being asked to promise not to do something that the majority wasn't even educated as to what in the hell it was!? Wasn't that kinda stupid?
We had to promise not to have abortions, either. Which didn't make sense to me at all. If I'm not having sex, I can't get pregnant; with the Six-Inch Rule we wouldn't even be snuggling and kissing, so why the promise not have “abort any innocent children.” [Note: yes, I know, abortion has nothing to do with children. However, that's what they asked a bunch of young teens to promise. Because abortions some how cause small children, say under aged 2 to keel over, or something, I dunno.]
Anyway, the purity myth, the idea that what's between my legs, a hymen or not, makes me a good or bad girl. The idea that the only thing of worth that I have is my hymen, until I “give” it to my husband. The idea that any woman who enjoys sex is a wicked, nasty witch, an evil Jezebel, a horrific slut! Yeah, it fucks you up when you're a kid and your hormones are freaking out.
I thought that my virginity was a precious gift that I could give to my husband. Literally. Which is echoed in the small boxes that I heard some purity freaks are giving to their daughter. Little pink boxes with keys inside-- symbolising her hymen, her precious precious virginity that was her gift to her husband after her father passed her over to him.
Yeah, a pink box... evidently these guys are more perverted than I hope they are, or they're so stupid they have no idea that “box” is slang for vulva or vagina. Cute, guys, really cute... Sorry, my sarcasm got the best of me again, you can't see my eyes rolling so hard they're about to fall out of my head. Let me get them pushed back in, give me a second.
Enough of the purity balls thing. They make me want to vomit-- and I don't want to unpack that today. I was talking about how the guilt fucked with me as a teen girl.
I promised myself, and sorta my mother (because my Dad never seemed to care and didn't go to church with us) that I'd be a virgin until my Dad walked me down the aisle to my husband. We were told, us teen girls, that our virginity made us special, protected and shiny with angel glitter or something, that showed we were holier than those worldly whores who were out there having sex with everything, and <gasp> Enjoying it!!!
I knew one couple, they weren't but 16 probably who were only having oral sex-- our teachers and Sunday school teachers told us that it wasn't real sex. Sex was penis-in-vagina, and so those two were preserving their virginity. This was before the Lewinsky scandal, so we can't blame President Clinton.
I've heard of kids having anal sex, to protect their virginity, as well. Tell me something-- if PiV sex “takes away” your virginity, does this mean the male sticking his penis in his partner's anus has “lost” his virginity, too? Or not. I can't seem to get a good answer for that one, but there probably isn't one. See, the only virginity that mattered was a bloody hymen on the wedding night. That's it, that's all, long as you bleed like stuck pick you're good to go.
We've always known that boys can fuck anything that moves-- and still have his precious virginal wife given to him.
Although he'd never do that, because he's saving himself, too. And if he doesn't, well, there's no way to tell, now, is there?
At least, that's what the evangelical purity freaks want us to believe.
I lost my virginity too early. I know I was too young, and I wish I'd waited a year or so. This guy was the honest to goodness first guy I fell in love with. I felt like I'd defamed my family and ruined myself the first time we made out! But at the same time, damn that was fun!
I was of two minds, as most born-again kids are, when their hormones kick in, and sexy-time consumes them. I wanted to be good, make my parents and God proud, and yet being sexual felt pretty good.
I was cohered into sex the first time. He “talked me into it”, which I know now is tantamount to rape. I didn't feel that I could say no, but there wasn't “force” per se. Everything I'd been told about rape told me if I wasn't fighting back, wasn't beaten within an inch of my life it wasn't rape. I was young, stupid and honestly believed that he could get “blue balls”. Yeah, I know, it's embarrassing to admit.
Now I know that if it's not safe, meaning both partners are completely comfortable, in and of themselves. It it's not sane-- meaning both partners (or everyone involved) knows exactly what they're doing. If it's not enthusiastically consensual (meaning everyone involved says “not just yes, but Hell Yes!” rather than, “yeah, I guess so, I suppose)... then it's rape.
I bled for a couple days, he tore me so badly. I thought, that's how it was supposed to go. Virginity meant blood, everywhere! It wasn't until I was older that I learned most women don't bleed at all. If the person they are with are gentle, kind, careful and the women is sufficiently lubricated (meaning she's excited and actually turned on!) there will be little or no blood.
And I hurt. My heart hurt, because I thought I was ruined. I loved this guy soooo much! With all of my teen-aged heart and soul I loved him. But I hurt that I'd ruined myself. God wouldn't love me any more, and I was probably going to hell. My body hurt, too. When a man isn't gentle it can hurt terribly the first time a woman has intercourse, depending on her hymen.
He promised we'd get married when I graduated, and so that some how soothed my soul. It was OK, because we were going to be married, so it wasn't technically sinning. I guess? I didn't know for sure, but I hoped God didn't hate me.
I was heart-broken when this guy dumped me. We were both military kids, and he got shipped back to the US with his family while I was still in Germany. He swore he'd write me every week. I really did think we were going to get married. He never wrote me, not once.
I wanted to kill myself; I actually tried. I wanted to die.
I was worthless. I was de-flowered. I wasn't a good girl. I wasn't pure. I was no longer a virgin, and God hated me.
I was garbage. I was a slut. I was dirty, used up, and would never be loved again.
Yeah, all thanks to that virginity mythos that I'd been force-fed as a girl.
I went on to use sex as a weapon. I know this, and I admit it, and it shames me. I knew I could get whatever I wanted if sex was on the table. I didn't even have to put out. Just the idea being there was enough.
Later after I was 17 I realised that sex could be a good, beautiful thing thanks to the Goddess worshipper and author Scott Cunningham. It took me a couple years to find out that I wasn't worthless, that God didn't hate me and everyone deserved to celebrate their bodies with good, safe sex with a partner who rejoiced in them.
I learned safe, sane and consensual. And I revelled in it!
I had my first orgasm! Holy Shit! I'd thought sex was decent and felt nice before. Hold the phone! But it all changed once I realised I was multi-orgasmic. I admit freely that I saw Goddess, and she hi-fived me on my way back into my body the first time.
Happens a lot these days, I might add. Because being comfortable with yourself, and with your partner makes sex one of the most precious things you can share.
You notice I didn't say have. I see it as sharing yourself with someone, who is sharing back with you. No matter if it's oral, anal or vaginal intercourse. No matter if it's mutual masturbation, or a quickie on the kitchen counter. No matter if you're ripping each other's clothes off on the sofa, or you spill off on to the floor. It's a celebration of the attraction you have for each other, and fucking is awesome! Revel in that fucking! Celebrate every single second of it!*
It took many years, some therapy, some meditation and some soul searching. It took me being OK with completely walking away from Christianity. It took me knowing that I did like myself, what it was to love myself. It took a lot of evolving and changing, but eventually I realised that sex wasn't about some nebulous God yelling at me that I was “doing it wrong”. I realised that the whole virginity thing evangelicals push is about controlling women, not about protecting them. It's about making us feel bad about ourselves, so that we'll sit down, shut the fuck up and listen to the men tell us what to do. It's so that we'll be OK with begin chattel, being possessions, being owned.
I'm not OK with that. Not at all.
So, I grew into a sex-positive bisexual woman who's madly in love with her husband, and who will answer any question her kids have about sex. A woman who understands that teens do fall in love, and even though it hurts so bad when it ends, it doesn't have to mean they're worthless and need to die. It means they can grow a little, evolve a little and fall in love again!
Love ought to be celebrated, not shamed. Regardless of the form it takes.
Love is love, it's between a couple people who celebrate and revel in each other's company.
A little piece of skin that makes you bleed, and may or may not even be there (yes, they break without sex, and some women are born without them) isn't precious. The woman is-- with, or without it.
* I don't think of sex as “making love” to my husband. We fuck the shit out of each other. There's none of that romantic television/movie meaninglessness going on. We are completely within that second, between heartbeats, in each other's skins. So I'll never talk about making love. If that is offensive, I apologise. I mean fucking in the absolute best way.