Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Than A Hymen

I don't know if it's recently having a daughter, or becoming more involved in social justice, or just growing into my own skin as a woman and as a sexual being, but I've noticed an insidious, hateful, popular bit of (what should be arcane) misogyny is gaining steam once again, and I'm pissed.

I'm speaking, of course, about virginity. The concept, the actual hymen, the disgusting misuse of the word "purity", and how it all ties into me - and my daughter, and yours, and any woman - being nothing more than a vagina for sale.

I know, I know, I hear you - "Isn't that a little extreme? Come on, now; what's wrong with a little sexual restraint for the youngsters? A little abstinence-only sex-ed? A few commercials that imply a father owns his daughter's body? Morons on the Knot maintaining that one's husband shouldn't allow one to keep her (maiden) name?"

It's not extreme to look at society, at television, at sex-ed classes, at religion, at articles about "revirginization", and think that I am valued solely for my vagina. More specifically, for my "pure", virgin vagina. My husband is expected to be disappointed that I just couldn't wait for him to come buy me; my parents, to whom many young women make their virginity pledges, should have expressed their displeasure at my having decided, as a legal adult, that I did, in fact, own my own body and could use it as I saw fit - whether that was hauling shopping bags full of shoes (acceptable) or having sex (unacceptable).

For that's the crux of the matter. It's not necessarily about sex or abstinence or virginity or religion or "purity". It's about a woman making up her own damn mind and deciding that - Horrors! - she likes sex. It all goes back to being a slut, a whore, a loose woman, a wanton. Next thing you know, we'll be demanding the vote and thinking we can drive cars!

What drives me absolutely insane about this shit is the vast number of women who must remain virgins, else they face death.

Let me say that again: There are women in this world who live in countries run by fundamentalist crazy men, and they will be put to death, under rule of law, if they are found not to have a hymen when they marry.

Yet we, who have the opportunities to vote, drive, work, and change our names (or not), have decided that a painful and awkward sexual experience is something to be proud we forced upon our husbands, or something to be congratulated for having "saved" for marriage, or something that women will go through surgery to recreate.

For fuck's sake, WHY? Why on earth would you ever give a parent, a pastor, anyone the right to tell you what you can and cannot do with your body? Whose right is it to tell me and my husband that our love - a love that saved both our lives, and resulted in a third gorgeous little one - is "of an inferior and contaminating nature" because we had sex before marriage?

No one's, of course. It's no one's right to tell me that my body is somehow "infected " by my being a complete and sexual person. It's no one's right to tell my daughter that her father owns her, and must "protect" her from the (surely unwanted, because no teenage girl would have a healthy sex drive) advances of anything male until she's safely sold - oh, excuse me, I mean married.

God made us sexual creatures. Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful, to multiply. I can't believe for a second that it's sinful to enjoy sex, regardless of vows or gowns or flowers. What in the wedding ceremony is the magic word that transforms sex from bad and dirty to wonderful and loving? What's sinful is treating our bodies not like the temples they are, but like untrained animals that need to be reined in and controlled. It's the same mentality that leads to Diets for the Deity - our bodies, the bodies God gave us, aren't good enough as they come off the factory line. God, apparently, made some mistakes, and it's up to us to control ourselves into being something better than we were made to be.

Bullshit. I will be as I was made: smart, funny, capable, fat, sexual - and way, way more than just a busted hymen on legs.


  1. This is something that skeeved me out even as a little girl. I was taught those "values", that women had to "save themselves" for their husbands, but that men needed to know what sleeping with other women was like so that they'd never wonder. I was told this since childhood, and it instinctively made me angry that I was apparently going to give this great, saved gift to someone and get nothing in return, because he hadn't had to save a damn thing. I didn't know what all about this made me angry or what all the implications were, but I knew even as a 6 year old that I was getting the short end of the stick, and I was pissed.

    Why not tell teenagers the truth about why they shouldn't be having sex? Why not just say "Look, I know you have a sex drive, and that's perfectly natural, but until you're 18 any potential consequences, including pregnancy and disease, will be legally the responsibility of someone else to take care of, whether that's your parents or the taxpayers. Risking making someone else bear the consequences for your decisions is an asshole move, so wait until you're at least 18."

    And tell them about the risk of (in the case of pregnancy) being stuck having someone you picked as a teenager in your life in some capacity forever, preferably using someone they liked once but no longer do as an example. Point out that they'd then be limited in the future to only dating people who don't mind dealing with someone else's kid, and dealing with an ever present ex, and that this is a helluva limitaton.

    These are the kinds of reasoning that can lead to kids not having sex too young and still not having emotional issues surrounding sex and being female. I know it would have made a difference in my life.


  2. Holy frickin crap bacon. I picked a great time to start reading your post. Honestly, love your thoughts. I research sex communication and love to see these issues being discussed.

    Signed - your new groupie rprice

  3. i think you make a lot of great points & i can tell you're pissed. just wanted to give a little input on what i think God meant by wanting us to wait until marriage... *shrugs*

    i think God was a lot more friendly than sometimes painted out to be. and i think he knew his stuff. i think the reason he mentioned in the Bible that sex outside marriage was sinful was actually to protect people. i think he knew that many people would not be responsible with their sexuality and so the solution was to suggest to only have sex with the person you are to marry to avoid disease, unwanted pregnancy, and even heartache. i think he knew how emotionally connecting sex was (since i believe he created it) and knew how people might throw it around as a weapon or even make someone else feel useless with it.

    i just think he intended to protect us. does that make sense? and without revealing personal information, i promise you i'm not one of those annoying people who has no idea what i'm talking about ;)

    anyway, just wanted to offer what i sometimes think God intended for sex to be & how it's sometimes abused and dangerously regarded as casual. i think it was supposed to be something so much more than that for us.

    <3 i like your blog by the way - found it by lurking through posts on the knot. take care, sister!

    ps) a lot of these anti-sex before marriage people are WAY out of control, man. they actually SCARE these teenagers about sex... it's truly a shame.

  4. But that assumes that God is a controlling parent, who never lets his kids grow up and figure out what's right for them. That skeeves me out a bit.

  5. Kalen, can you give me chapter and verse for a prohibition on premarital sex? I've heard adultery and fornication bandied about, but I have yet to be pointed to a chapter and verse where the prohibition is strong, clear, and not part of an outdated list of laws that Jesus abolished.

    The reason I'm pissed is not because of religion so much as it is because of sexism. If you read my archives, you'll see I'm actually a pretty devout Roman Catholic - I attend Mass at least once a week, and on all Holy Days, and really do believe it's a true faith. But Catholicism's urging to wait until marriage is rooted more in respecting our bodies as temples of God, rather than mastering our "urges", as I see the concept portrayed elsewhere in society at large - and it's aimed at both genders equally, even if I feel it's far more Paulian than Christian at its root (see every citation of that Romans passage about "better to marry than to burn").

    In any case, I appreciate your opinion and your comment - if we all had the same ideas, we'd be pretty bored, eh?


Gimme some eggs for my bacon!