Is Virginity A Myth?
What is virginity? Might seem obvious, but there in no clear answer.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary says sex is “an act performed with another for sexual gratification.” Sounds pretty broad, yet a lot of us think it’s penis-to-vagina penetration that ends virginity.
What about gays and lesbians? What about young women and men who take virginity oaths but do oral and anal? What if a woman’s one and only lover were a man with E.D.? (That can happen!)
I spent about a week (at Harvard’s medical school library) looking through everything I could – medical dictionaries, encyclopedias, anatomies – trying to find some sort of diagnostic standard for virginity… I am not finding anything close to a medical definition for virginity.
Feminist author and blogger, Jessica Valenti, points all this out in her book, The Virginity Myth. And when she asked people to define “sex” she got no consistent answer. Indeed, America once had a great debate over whether Bill Clinton “had sex” with “that woman, Monica Lewinsky.” He said oral didn’t count. Others said it did.
Odd that there’s no clear meaning when we’ve talked of virgins since ancient times, when so many keep promoting it, and when virginity becomes a synonym for girls who are “good,” as in, “She’s a good girl.”
Even if she is both mean and virginal, she’s a good girl, Valenti points out.
But if she’s kind and non-virginal, she may be punished for her supposed badness — even when she has no control.
In some parts of the world girls and women are murdered in honor killings because they were raped or because they did not bleed on the marriage bed — and hymens may be broken from things that don’t even resemble sex, like exercise.
Even when girls aren’t being killed they may feel shamed for their lost virginity. Elizabeth Smart has explained that she “felt so dirty and so filthy” when her captor raped her that she understands why someone wouldn’t run away “because of that alone.”
As a young girl one of Elizabeth’s teachers had compared sex to chewing gum:
I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.” And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value… Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.
And then there are sexually naive but slut-shamed 11-year-olds who have no idea what “ate me out” means even as they’re accused of having been thusly eaten.
So women are shamed and killed and feel so dirty that there’s no point in escaping a ruthless captor – all because of virginity, or the lack thereof — even when “virginity” is unclear!
Virginity: a myth that can kill and cripple, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
One of my students wrote this and gave permission to post.