Virgin Sacrifices

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.

11 thoughts on “Virgin Sacrifices

  1. What’s the matter, B? Are you really missing Ed so much that you basically have put up the Bat Signal? All his favorite topics, conveniently gathered in one place. He can go off on how his famously indecisive partner can change her mind mid-thrust and turn him into a rapist (which always made me wonder about the quality of the experience he was offering). He can also go on at length about homocidal women and the fetal murder industry…Oddly enough, my kid and I were just talking along these lines this morning. She read in some newspaper taped to the table in the artroom that somewhere a nine-year-old just had a baby. As she is eight, this naturally was a conversation starter in our house.

  2. Likewise along the "abortion is murder" train of thought is if we *did* start holding women accountable for having an abortion – saying that it’s murder – what about the woman who doesn’t take care of herself during pregnancy and it causes a miscarriage? What about the woman who has a suspicious fall causing a miscarriage or a stillbirth? Do we hold *those* women accountable for murder, also? Not taking the proper care of yourself during pregnancy and cause a miscarriage or stillbirth (smoking, doing drugs, drinking alcohol are the major factors, but what about women who don’t eat right? Or eat too much or too little? Or who refuse to seek medical attention during their pregnancy?) seems to me just as terrible as the women who have an abortion. In fact, the abortion seems like more of the responsible thing because if the woman does not want the baby then why should she keep it? What about the babies whose mothers did all those things during an unwanted pregnancy and now the babies have developmental and physical issues that can be attributed to the mother’s poor care during her pregnancy? Can we charge those women, too? For, fetal neglect? Or something? If the fetus is a living person who deserves the same rights as any other person then we must hold those women accountable for what they did during their pregnancy to cause a miscarriage or a birth defect, right? My God, did I ramble on long enough? But, really, it can go on and on – who should be charged with what and why – if we allow people to start believing that women who have abortions should be charged with murder. Seems like a messy, slippery slope to me.

  3. If you do it and don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again.But the first time isn’t necessarily a good indication of the overall quality.

  4. Bridgett, wow. If I had had that sprung on me by an eight year old first thing in the morning, I would have had to hide in the bathroom until I was sure I could answer her without screaming and crying and shaking my fist at the universe.Bekah, I just keep thinking of all of the women I know who’ve miscarried pregnancies they desperately wanted and how you’d have to be a cruel fucker to suggest a set of legislation that would turn that personal tragedy into a police matter. And yet, if women are going to be held accountable to that fetus like it’s a child that can be abused or neglected, how could the police not investigate every miscarriage? Yuck.W., seeing as how you’ve never been a teenage girl, I can see how you’d be confused. But believe me, it’s the rare girl who can say "Holy shit, I hated that" out loud to a boy she wants to like her. So, to translate "I didn’t like it"="I hated it." "Eh, it was okay"=""It wasn’t so great, and I didn’t really like it, but it shows promise."No one’s arguing that the "Eh, it was okay" girls should shy away for the time being. But the "I didn’t like it" girls should feel free to not do it again until they’re feeling more ready for it, no matter how many times they’ve had sex before that.

  5. Mag emailed me to ask:Wasn’t that one of the things talked about at the NAPWconference? Things like this?

  6. These kind of conversations always seem to happen when I’m driving. I thought she asked some really intelligent questions (once we got over the "so, am I going to have a baby next year and if I am, why hasn’t anyone told ME that this will be happening?" accusatory sort of questions). She wanted to know why the article only talked about the girl having the baby — wasn’t it just as surprising that a boy would have made a baby with a 9-year-old girl? (Uhhhhh…squirm and try not to crash….) Who was going to take care of the baby while the girl was at school? What kind of mommy would she be, since she was really more like a big sister? Did the girl want to have a baby? Was she poor and couldn’t afford a doll? Wasn’t it hard to be pregnant and wouldn’t it have made the girl tired? Wasn’t it hard to be a mommy, too hard for a little girl? What if the little girl forgot to feed the baby, like kids forget to do their homework and pick up their clothes? That’s what a child thinks about when she’s eight. No way would I want a child just a year older having to carry a pregnancy to term. It just compounds the abuse. Not a typical situation to be sure, but wow. I used to go to a OB/GYN thatspecialized in high-risk cases; I saw enough knocked up twelve- and thirteen-year-olds and their caseworkers to convince me that there’s a lot more young girls giving birth than we typically realize. One girl in the waiting room (bulging in her 7th month) was bumming out that the doctor wouldn’t let her play kickball any more. If that doesn’t break your heart, lay down — you’re already dead.

  7. I saw enough knocked up twelve- and thirteen-year-olds and their caseworkers to convince me that there’s a lot more young girls giving birth than we typically realize.This is so heartbreaking. Your daughter asked really good questions, though. As awkward of a conversation that had to be, it’s good that she knows she can ask you about it. I bet a lot of eight year olds (or the pregnant nine year old) wouldn’t care enough or be comfortable enough asking their mom about stuff like that. And yet, if women are going to be held accountable to that fetus like it’s a child that can be abused or neglected, how could the police not investigate every miscarriage?Exactly. There would be no way to discriminate between the woman who abused herself causing a miscarriage and the woman who just had a miscarriage. It’d be painful, for probably the majority of women who’ve had miscarriages, and insanely time consuming.

  8. Gah! In the e-mail mojo, the links got stripped. That should have read:

    Wasn’t that one of the things talked about at the NAPW conference? Things like this?

    Specifically, that last bit, which contains such lovely passages as the following:

    … Regina McKnight, a 22-year old South Carolinian … was charged with the severest crime ever charged against a pregnant woman: murder. Prosecutors blamed McKnight’s crack cocaine habit for her delivering a stillborn child, although medical experts disagreed. Indeed, still birth is something 26,500 U.S. women experience each year. Nevertheless, in May 2001, McKnight was convicted by the Horry County Court of "homicide by child abuse" and sent to prison for 20 years."I feel real strongly about a mother killing a child," says William von Herrmann, who prosecuted McKnight. "She knew she was pregnant and did not do anything to get off drugs. She acted with recklessness and indifference to the human life she was carrying." The case is on appeal, with Paltrow providing legal expertise for McKnight.

    Women are already being prosecuted for fetal neglect and endangerment. And while right now it’s "bad" women who are largely bearing the brunt of the assault (Bitch PhD has a truly horrifying tale here, which, though not exactly what we’re talking about, is … exactly what we’re talking about), it is certainly not going to stop there. Especially when we have people in power making quotes like the now-infamous ‘true rape definition’ from Sen. Bill Napoli (R-Rapid City):

    "A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life."

    That’s what you have to be in order to not be held responsible, utterly, beyond reason, to the fetus that may or may not be growing within you.

  9. I think that’s one of the side important things Lindsay’s whole post illustrated. This is what being pregnant is like. It’s not always straightforward and neatly medical. Things go really, really wrong, even in pregnancies that result in fine babies.Which is the other thing that I think Amanda at Pandagon makes a good point of–a lot of this talk about prosecuting women is contingent on how the baby ends up. If your baby is fine, no one’s going to investigate you to see what you did wrong that might have endangered it, but if something happens and the pregnancy ends in some "not fine" way, you’re going to be treated like a criminal, even though, as Lindsay’s post so clearly illustrates, things go wrong in pregnancies all the time, no matter what the mother does.This idea that, as long as a woman behaves herself, she will only have children she wants and the pregnancies will be straightforward and the children perfect is really all kinds of cruel.

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