I hate to disappoint you, but this blog article isn’t about my sex life.
But am I a virgin? It’s not about that, either.
It’s about rejecting the question, and with it, rejecting the whole concept of “virginity.”
Virgins vs. Sluts
In my high school, we had the virgins and the “sluts.” Both we and the guys were quick to apply the “slut” label. The virgins were considered better than the sluts, though there wasn’t really anything wrong with most of the girls we labeled as sluts.* And a lot of us virgins actually weren’t.
So “virgin = good” and “slut = bad.” But notice what those two labels have in common: they both define women by their sexuality, as if it’s the only important thing about them. As Jessica Valenti points out in her book The Purity Myth, the virgin and slut labels are just different sides of the same dehumanizing stereotype.
In researching her book, Jessica found that the idea of virginity is confused. I agree with her that it’s confused, but I think it’s mainly just stupid. The idea of virginity is that a woman shouldn’t have sexual intercourse. She can do anything else, but not that one thing. It’s so that on her wedding night, she will be “pure” for her husband.
Some girls even go to “purity balls,” escorted by their fathers. (Am I the only person who thinks that there’s an incestuous subtext going on there?) The fathers vow to protect their daughters’ “purity” while the girls promise to stay virgins until marriage.
Excuse me, but what century is this again? It sure doesn’t sound like the 21st century. Maybe the 10th century.
“Pure”? Never mind if a woman is intelligent, loving, kind, honest, and faithful. What we want to know is if she’s done the deed. If she hasn’t done it, then she can be as sneaky, spiteful, and dishonest as she wants. She’s a virgin, so her sexual value is intact. And after all, what other kind of value could a woman have?
The Idea of Virginity is Obsolete
The idea of virginity made a kind of misogynistic sense in a patriarchal society where women were considered property and had no legal rights. It doesn’t make sense anymore.
In a patriarchal society, if a man acquires a wife (just like he might buy a horse), he wants to be sure that any children are his own. So a woman’s “value” increases if she hasn’t had sexual intercourse.
In a more enlightened society, where women are recognized as people and have rights, that concept makes no sense at all.
It seems strange that sex abstinence programs, pornography, and virginity are just different expressions of the same oppressive idea, but they are. They all define women solely as sex objects, dehumanizing us and ignoring the fact that we are people.
So am I a virgin?
Here’s my answer: I am a kind, loving, smart, educated woman. Deal with it.
*In her book The Female Brain, Dr. Louann Brizendine explains that spreading vicious gossip about rivals is one way that teen girls compete. Chapter 2 of her book, “The Teen Girl Brain,” made me laugh because it described my high school years so accurately.
Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.
I’ve been thinking lately about whether or not there really is such a thing as two people being “soulmates.”
I know, you’ll probably say that means I have too much free time. I really don’t. Nor am I wondering if someone in particular is my soulmate, though Michael Cera and Penn Badgley have an open invitation to call me. 🙂
Part of the problem is defining what a soulmate is. Is it just someone with whom you feel a strong connection? Someone you love, and who loves you? That makes “soulmate” a metaphor for a strong, loving relationship. That’s fine, but I don’t think it’s what we mean when we ask if someone is our soulmate. We’re asking something deeper.
But what are we asking, then?
Well, depending on the religious tradition you follow, you might believe that you are a soul manifesting itself through your body. Buddhists believe that the self is an illusion, but (though I’m not an expert) it seems to me that they mean the self we see in this world. And the soul is not something we see in this world. We only see its effects.
I’m a Catholic, so I know my church teaches (Catechism 364-366) that the soul is the “form” of the body, that it is created by God, and that it survives the death of the body.
If the soul is just the form of the body, it doesn’t sound like there can be soulmates in a spiritual sense. However, the idea of a “form” doesn’t mean just the physical form: it means the animating force that makes a body alive and conscious. And a force normally has a matching opposite.
When people ask if there are soulmates, they’re asking if each soul has a “matching opposite,” another person whom she is somehow meant to be with: a person whom God created just for you, and for whom God created you. It’s another person who perfectly complements and fulfills you.
A lot of “new age” people say that there are soulmates. I’m sure that they mean well but I’m not sure how much they actually know. They seem to pick little bits of religion and philosophy from all over, then put them all together to tell a story that makes people feel good. That doesn’t make them wrong, but it doesn’t make them right, either.
So are there soulmates? Sometimes I kind of feel that there are, but I really don’t know.
I guess that the safest thing is just to try treating everyone with love, and hope that if your soulmate shows up someday, you won’t be busy taking a test. 🙂
Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.
I am so envious that Smith got MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow as this year’s commencement speaker!
Rachel is one of my personal heroes. Maybe I can go see her.
Northampton is just a quick car ride away, and I’m not the only one here who admires her.
I first wrote “who loves her,” but that sounded too stalker-y. 🙂
No time to write more tonight. Date in 20 minutes …
The benefits of a good library: Today I saw an article in the February issue of Scientific American about why humans don’t have fur.
It turns out that our lack of fur not only kept us alive, but made us smarter.
According to “The Naked Truth” by Penn State anthropologist Nina G. Jablonski, our evolutionary ancestors (like most other mammals) had heavy fur that kept them warm, protected them from bugs, and even provided camouflage against predators that might eat them.
The short version is that our pre-human ancestors lived in East and Central Africa. About three million years ago, that region got dryer. The plants that our ancestors used as food became scarcer. As a result, our ancestors had to travel farther in search of edible plants. About 2.6 million years ago, they also started hunting animals for meat. Both activities require a lot of energy. The furriest pre-humans tended to overheat, but those with less fur stayed cooler because they could perspire more effectively.
Eventually, pre-humans with less fur evolved into pre-humans with no fur. And their improved ability to stay cool permitted the gradual, evolutionary enlargement of their most heat-sensitive organ: the brain.
I’m very happy to have a bigger brain. But I’m also very happy not to have fur. Hairy legs wouldn’t match my wardrobe. 🙂
Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.