Shoot, that title’s so good, I almost just want to leave it hanging up there by itself, no post beneath it, to just let y’all mull it over while it evokes things.
But that’s not my style, so on with the actual writing.
Yesterday was Mull Over Virginity Day in Nashville. First Sam Davidson had a thoughtful post on it here and then the folks over at Nashville is Talking took a crack at it here.
I actually think it’s about time to do away with this whole concept of virginity anyway.
No, hear me out.
First, the burden of virginity rests unfairly on women and girls. As Sam points out, when we’re talking about virgins, we’re almost always talking about women and how to control their sexuality.
Second, it unfairly stigmatizes victims of rape. Victims of rape have a hard enough time; it’s bullshit for us to impose some standard of purity that means that an act of violence against them has “tainted” them.
Third, it privileges a model of sexual intercourse that is penis-in-vagina. Are folks who are licking each others genitals not having sex? If a dick goes in a butt, is that not sex? If fingers slide into orifices, doesn’t that count for something?
Which, third-and-a-half, leads religious and community leaders to believe that, by teaching abstinence only, they’re teaching kids THE way to insure no pregnancies and no diseases, while kids find the loopholes and believe that they can “abstain” and still buttfuck each other–which is a very easy way to spread all kinds of fun diseases–and, please, if these kids aren’t using protection when they’re “not having sex” accidents can still happen.
Fourth, it’s misandrous. If women are “pure” until they come in contact with a penis and, if by coming in contact with a penis, they are tainted and ruined and whore-ified forever, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the problem is: penises are dirty, nasty, gross things attached to vile men who cannot control their basest urges and so must run around, in spite of themselves, ruining women they care about. And they say feminists are man-haters! Whew.
What is a better way?
One, we need to split our religious expectations from our secular needs. As a society, we need for as many folks as possible to get a good education and to get themselves on firm financial footing. This is harder if you contract some kind of chronic illness or if you have a child to support. Not impossible, but much harder. We need for folks to be well-informed about the consequences of sexual activity and that waiting until you’re ready to have sex in order to be best prepared to face those consequence is best.
We also need to teach folks the importance of the enthusiastic ‘yes’–that you do not do things to someone until he or she resists you so strongly you can’t deny to yourself any longer that they mean ‘no,’ but that you ask up front and then again whenever you’re not sure and then go forward doing things with someone who is happy to be doing things back to you.
And we need to teach folks that one “yes” does not make you tainted forever. If you do it and like it and are safe, fine, continue doing it in a fun and safe manner. If you do it and don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again.
Maybe things have changed since I was in high school, but I knew girls who had sex once, weren’t in love with it, but continued to do it, because they felt like the damage had already been done.
I hope I don’t have to point out to you how fucked up that attitude is.
This is clearly a more permissive attitude than some church folks would like (though I don’t think it’s incompatible, necessarily). But I’m slowly beginning to realize how enormously different the role of the church and the role of the state have to be and how dangerous it is when those two are conflated.
The state can say, “Here’s all the information you need in order to make an informed decision. Here are the consequences. Go forth.”
But the church can say, “Here’s how you should act.” The church doesn’t have to give you a reason why. And it doesn’t have to be fair. But the state must constantly try to balance the rights of the individual against the needs of the community.
I think you can see this most clearly brought into focus in terms of the abortion debate. Most people in America believe abortion is, in some sense, wrong. And many people think that, since it’s wrong, it should be illegal. But when you sit down and try to talk about what that will mean–if abortion is murder, will we execute the women who have them? Put them in prison for the rest of their lives? How many more detectives will we have to hire to investigate every still birth to make sure that it was “natural” and not the result of criminal negligence on the part of the mother? If a fetus is a person with the same rights as a woman, aren’t there many times under the law when a person is justified in taking another person’s life? etc.–and most people will start to dither. Well, not for their whole lives; well, maybe it’s not really murder; well, no, we’d just prosecute the doctors; well, no, I guess we wouldn’t want to bother people who had just lost wanted pregnancies; blah, blah, blah.
In other words, they want a religious solution–Do not have an abortion! No! Because we said so, end of discussion–instead of a legal discussion, which would impose criminal penalties on women (and, in effect, acknowledge that abortions would still continue to take place), but they want the state to impose it.
I think the same thing is going on with abstinence-only education. They want a religious solution imposed by the state. And, because we’re not a theocracy, there’s no way for that to work effectively or to make either side happy with the result.
Obviously, I’m using the term “church” in an overly-broad sense that breaks down the second you get into particulars.