With the release of the latest Twilight movie and TLC’s new show, Laugh at These Awkward People! or Nervous Adults Who Can’t Kiss or whatever, which is all about people who are still virgins even though they are oldish, virginity has been on my mind a lot lately. In that light, I’d like to make an announcement:
Virginity isn’t a thing.
For real, you guys, it’s 2011. Can we all please stop pretending that the general vicinity that your genitalia have been relative to another person’s genitalia is a state of being? It’s just this word we made up to shame or reward ladies before we had paternity tests. Doctors can’t look at your vagina and be like, “yep, this one’s always been penis free!” because hymens break all the time for no reason (or for the obvious reason that tampons are giant wads of dry cotton in hardish cardboard tubes) and sometimes never break, or don’t exist in the first place. And let’s pretend for a minute that there were any kind of expectation on men to stay sex-free (OK, OK, I’m sure in the history of oppressive sex ideas, some men have been expected to abstain, but let’s get real, even in most fundamentalist sects, guys’ sexuality is given a pass or at least ignored) there is obviously no physical difference before or after.
Emotionally… sure. For some people having sex is a life changing thing. And for some people (who are just as valid and great) it’s not anything. Likewise, going to Graceland could be a momentous occasion (for someone, I mean, who may or may not be me [OK, it's me... Graceland was like the 4th biggest event in my life]), but there’s no special word for people who have never been to that hallowed icon of Americana in Memphis. Experiences are what you make them, and consensual sex can be a big deal or not. Yes, it is possible to regularly have safe sex with no unintended consequences of any kind (I’ve got years of baby- and infection-free sex under my belt!).
The whole idea is so vague and stupid it’s laughable. We seem to universally accept that it involves penis-in-vagina intercourse, even though there are way more (arguably) intimate and/or scandalous and kinky things to do on the spectrum of sexing. There’s also a whole group of people who have sex without penises or vaginas. Are all gay people virgins? Or just all lesbians, since, for something that’s totally aimed at ladies, the whole thing is completely penis-centric . Penis in Vag (or PIV for you savvy interneters) penetration (alone) doesn’t do it for 75% percent of women. SEVENTY FIVE. But, somehow, it’s the gold-standard in sex? Super lame. Unfortunately, for a lot of straight couples, PIV is sex with those things that actually get women off considered extras. And I will part from my radical feminist sisters in saying that I know there are a lot of women who enjoy PIV with or without an orgasm, but the fact that the male orgasm is required for our definition of sex, while the female orgasm is looked at as a bonus at best, and an annoyance at worst, is a crazy level of fucked-up-ness.
Which brings us to the part of this post where I try to tone down my asshole-ish nature and not offend everyone I know. Because there are a ton of women in my life who are waiting until they are married to have sex. They are smart, intelligent, strong, beautiful women whose convictions and commitment I whole-heartedly admire. But the idea that virginity is sacred or needs to be “saved” is, in my opinion, a fundamental misunderstanding of what sex is, but also and more importantly, what marriage is.
The idea that intercourse is more important or intimate than sleeping in late on Sundays or inside jokes or going through the crisis of losing a job or a loved one together is preposterous. Yes, it is part of an intimate relationship, but it’s just one part. And it can’t be used up or ruined just because you’ve done it before (Side note because some adults still believe this bizarre myth: sex does not make vaginas “loose” [barfbarfbarf]. Vaginas are made out of muscles [what did you think they were made of?] and muscles don’t’ work that way. It’s science.). It will also never live up to years of anticipation and fantasy. You may or may not like your first time. If it’s on your wedding night, I assure you that you won’t have the energy to do it properly.
It’s funny to me that it gets so wrapped up in the “family values” package, since I think the abstinence campaign really denigrates what marriage is. Like the only thing different between being married and dating is boning. As if marriage were so fragile that simply knowing your partner had been with someone else could break it. Marriage isn’t a jack-in-the-box where if you pop it early there’s nothing left to look forward to. It’s this (ideally) life-long journey—an experiment in sacrifice and devotion and voluntary obligations and unconditional commitment and personal transformation. You don’t have to manufacture some kind of surprise or novel thing for it; marriage will give you discoveries and adventures all by itself.
Which is not to say that it is in any way my place to tell anyone who to have sex with or when to do it. If waiting until marriage is the right time, then that’s what you should do. However, like food and sleep, a healthy sex life is a need for most humans and denying it when you are ready, when you do have someone you want it with, can make a person crazy. It can also make a person do crazy things like have unprotected sex or get married to someone they just want to have sex with.
Virginity is just another way of saying that sex is what we value in women. It’s the other side of the teenage-girls-in-stilettos-and-micro-skirts coin. On the one side you’re objectified as a thing to have sex with, and on the other side you’re objectified as an “untouched” thing that only one lucky person gets to have sex with, but in either case, it’s all about being a thing to have sex with. Who has or has not been in your vagina has nothing to do with who you are. It’s not a reflection on your “purity” and it’s not a badge of honor or shame. It’s not a thing. Really. I promise.