Virgins No More

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?

Oh, please.

The Idea of Virginity is Obsolete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.

  1. February 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    It’s not so much a an anachronism as it is a backlash against the hyper-promiscuity that is fostered by the media, especially certain forms of music and its attendant “scene.” Like any backlash, it will fade to a more “acceptable” level over the years.

    Funny how we all – myself very much included – rail and rant against “the pendulum” when it swings against our sensibilities isn’t it?

    • Rinth de Shadley
      March 1, 2010 at 1:12 am

      Hi Jonolan –

      Thanks for a great comment! I agree with you that the media foster an obsession with sex. And it’s not just Britney: even Miley Cyrus gets marketed as a sex object.

      But it seems to me that the problem isn’t the swing of the pendulum (“purity vs. promiscuity”), but the pendulum itself: the idea that we are defined only by our sexuality.

  2. March 1, 2010 at 7:14 am

    It’s not so much a an anachronism as it is a backlash against the hyper-promiscuity that is fostered by the media

    Where’s the equal focus on shaming men for being promiscuous? Or on rewarding men for being virginal (or at least appearing that way)?

    • Rinth de Shadley
      March 2, 2010 at 1:39 am

      Hi A.Y. —

      That’s a good point! The same standard should apply to both sexes.

      I don’t want to shame anyone (male or female) just for being sexually active. But if they treat people badly, whether sex is involved or not, they should be shamed for THAT.

  3. March 1, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Just as boys, and later men, are judged by a limited and purely physical set of criteria. In specifically sexual matters, however, the polarity is reversed. Boys are shamed for being virginal and rewarded for being promiscuous.

  4. David
    March 1, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Again, my 2 cents: Men should be judged the same way. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Problem is, men can’t prove it one way or another. I think “virginity” is more about purity of heart, which should lead to purity of body. If one has a pure heart, as in following the Beatitudes to the utmost, one will also pay attention to ‘other things’. The same is true for the person who’s drinking at a bar until 3:00 am, then goes to church next day to be ‘pious’. It’s about your heart. Same can be said for the Catholic who zooms into the parish with Mass underway, jumps in the line for communion, then zooms out before everyone else, nearly running over your grandma as she walks with her cane to her car. That’s not what a ‘good Catholic’ should do, but there it is. 🙂

    • Rinth de Shadley
      March 2, 2010 at 1:47 am

      Hi, David 🙂

      Thanks for another sensible comment. You are right all the way. I wish I could say that I’m never hypocritical like you described, but I do my best.

      Maybe it’s true of almost everyone: we struggle with bad impulses, and sometimes we lose or give in to temptation. All I can say is that I hope I’m better this year than last year, and will be better next year than I am now. And I can’t go all the way on my own, but fortunately, I have Help. 🙂

      • David
        March 2, 2010 at 5:18 pm

        We all should just do our best. You’re right, it’s all in God’s hands, though, if we just accept what he’s offering us…:D

        Also, not saying that you shouldn’t go to church if you were drinking the night before. Even more so. Our Christian faith is a hospital for the sick, not a countryclub for the well.

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