Virginity – a brief essay

Courtesy of Vanessa Ervin, Virginity Reflection, 2016

The word virginity is not in my vocabulary. The word hurts to think about and I instantly get uncomfortable when it arises. Such as the time it arose in Adichie’s ted talk. In her talk she discusses how she wants to create a definition for the word feminism. She does this because there doesn’t seem to be an actual clear definition for it. This got me thinking, and as pointed out by Jessica Valenti, that there is no real definition for the word virginity either. I started to think about where the term has come from, what the ideology of it today is, and lastly how I have been treated in my life based upon my state of virginity. This gave me a very strong conclusion as to what I think the definition of virginity is. With the history, double standards, and treatment of being a virgin/non-virgin in mind, I would like to talk about why I think the definition for virginity should be: A term created by society to oppress and shame women about their sexuality.

One of the reasons I created this definition is because of our history. It is a well-known fact that women were treated as property of men in our history (A Quick And Dirty History Of Virginity, 2016). Women were looked upon as the care givers and their purpose was simply to take care of the house chores and to create/take care of the children (A Quick And Dirty History Of Virginity, 2016). The sexuality of these women were also being controlled. It did not matter what the woman herself thought of her sexuality, rather it was decided by the church, law, and men based off of their beliefs and ideology (A Quick And Dirty History Of Virginity, 2016) An example of this being virginity. The idea of being pure and innocent was enforced heavily on the women (A Quick And Dirty History Of Virginity, 2016). If a woman had sex before marriage her ‘value’ was lost and would therefore not be worth very much for men to marry (A Quick And Dirty History Of Virginity, 2016). It was the man’s job to ‘transform his wife into a women’ by taking her virginity once married (A Quick And Dirty History Of Virginity, 2016). Also, once this was done and the women lost her virginity, the marriage to the man was then permanent (A Quick And Dirty History Of Virginity, 2016).  In our history modesty was a must for the women therefore, if a women was to dress provocatively it was legally okay for men to address her as a ‘whore’ or ‘slut’ (A Quick And Dirty History Of Virginity, 2016). All of these historical facts about women and their sexuality make me cringe. It should never be okay that someone else defines a person’s sexuality or worth. A women should be able to decide for herself what she wants as she is a person to. Although we have come far from these actions, some of our ideology has still stayed the same. There is still a pressure that the value of a girl is based on her virginity, and if she is not a virgin that she is not pure. We also still have the concept that girls must wait till marriage so that she can ‘giver’ her virginity to the man. Lastly, we still let society label our sexuality (‘whore’ ‘slut’) based on the way we look/dress/act. It is because we still have the ideologies from the past that I came to the conclusion that virginity is simply a term created to oppress and sham women.

I also thought about the differences of how men and women are treated differently based on virginity. When it comes to men I think that society makes it so virginity really defines their masculinity. It is often looked at positively when a man sleeps with someone/loses their virginity and are called more ‘manly’ for doing so (McKelle, 2014). On the contrary, women are socially punished for sleeping with someone/losing virginity and called a ‘whore’ or ‘slut’. An excellent satirical point by Adichie is that this doesn’t make sense as it usually takes both the man and the women, to do the act. So how come society shames one and praises the other? This is because of double standards when it comes to virginity. I came across a metaphor which I think is perfect to describe the double standard of virginity of men and women; A key that can open many locks is praised, but a lock that can be opened by many keys is worthless ( Lynn, 1970l). Although the idea of this metaphor makes me sick, I think it is a great example because it shows how men are rewarded and women are shamed. Women are taught at a very young age that their virginity is valuable, it’s even often referred to as her ‘gift’ or present’. It is highly stressed that she must lose her virginity/give her gift to the right guy, at the right time, at the right place. Because of this, it teaches the girl that if it isn’t at the right time, or the right guy, or the right place that it defines her worth and she can feel like a ‘slut’ or ‘whore’. I don’t want to go as far as to say that guys don’t have any of these social consequences however, generally guys are not taught these same values or get these same stresses put on them. It is because women are shamed and men are praised on their state of virginity that I came to the definition I did.

Lastly, I would like to talk about how I created this definition because of the treatment of female virgins/non virgins. As we have covered a lot in this class, it is impossible to separate yourself from your life experiences. I would therefore like to talk about my personal experience on how I’ve been treated based on my state of virginity. I grew up in a religious environment, one of the first things I learnt was that I was to wait till marriage to have sex and that virginity meant purity therefore the only way to live by. I was okay with this as I was young and not thinking anything about sex, but how was I supposed to feel once I was mature enough to understand? I started to feel the pressure of society to both be a virgin and to not be one. This is because I felt ashamed when I would be asked if I was a virgin, the answer always being yes. I automatically got the title of being a ‘goodie two shoes’ or ‘innocent’. My sexuality and worth were being labeled simply because I hadn’t slept with anyone and was a virgin. Being labeled ‘innocent’ made me feel confused. This is because I started to want to lose my virginity just so I wouldn’t be shamed anymore. However, I had been raised in an environment that pressured girls to wait till marriage, to lose it to the right guy, at the right time, at the right place. I have now come to terms with my sexuality. I don’t think others should decide or label you for your own decisions for your life, virgin or not. Yes I am a virgin but I have decided that I am okay with one day not being one, married or not. This is my decision for my life, simple as that. However, I started to notice a change with the way people treat me once I decided this. I was at a gathering with my boyfriend and as we were leaving another man snickered saying, “I bet he’s getting lucky tonight”. I felt labeled, not as innocent anymore but as un-pure. I was unhappy that he had basically objectified me and I felt, in a sense, violated. Another occurrence a guy messaged me asking for nudes and when I said no he said he was ‘just joking’ and proceeded to get angry at me for not taking the joke. I was very upset about this, I felt like I was just being valued for my body and the only reason he said he was joking is because I said no. Another time a guy tagged me in a picture online with two donuts, one on the left with a small hole, the one on the right with a big hole. He captioned it ‘you’re the one on the right’, implying for all of Facebook to see that I had slept with multiple guys/many times. I was being exploited and shamed because of my sexuality for all the world to see. I don’t deserve to be treated this way, whether I’m a virgin or not. It is disrespectful and shaming me for my decisions for my sexuality. My sexuality doesn’t define me, I define my sexuality. Over all, I would like to point out that I am just one of the many girls who face these virgin and non-virgin attacks/judgments. As my personal experience shows, and as disgusting as it is to point out, girls get judged simply if they are a virgin or if they are not. This is the reason why I think virginity is nothing more than a term society has created in order to oppress and shame women based on their sexuality.

Although I have come to terms with my sexuality, it still stings whenever I hear the word virgin. This is because of the concept society has attached to the word. What I need women and girls to know is that you are not property to men. You are by no means unworthy or un-pure because you have slept with someone nor are you a goodie two shoes for not sleeping with anyone. You are entitled to make decision for your own life and it is never okay that someone else defines your sexuality or worth. Remember that it takes both a women and a man in order to have sex, therefore there is no reason why you should be shamed while the guy is praised. The pressure on you to make sure your first time is ‘perfect’ (right guy, right time, etc) is not reasonable or fair as this same pressure is not placed on guys; it is however very sexist. Please remember that you should not be judged or defined simply if you are a virgin or not. You are to be treated the same whether you are one or not. When it all comes down to it, I need you to know that your sexuality doesn’t define you. You are more than just a title of being a virgin or not a virgin. Society will tell you that your sexuality defines you and makes it so you are just defined as being a virgin or not a virgin. Society will do this by keeping the ideologies from our history, created a double standard for virginity between men and women, and also the way that girls are treated based on whether they are a virgin or not. These are the reasons why virginity is not in my vocabulary as it is simply created by society to oppress and shame women about their sexuality.

 

References

A Quick And Dirty History Of Virginity – The Establishment. (2016). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from (A Quick And Dirty History Of Virginity, 2016) /

Lynn, A. (1970). The Stupidest Metaphor of All Time. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.nerdyfeminist.com/2013/02/the-stupidest-metaphor-of-all-time.html

McKelle, A. E. (2014). 5 Reasons Why We Need to Ditch The Concept of Virginity For Good. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from (McKelle, 2014)