Virginity

April 20, 2006 | By | 1 Reply More

I listened to an NPR essay on the way home from work today by a woman who was a 31-year-old virgin when she got married.  It started me thinking about the whole subject, because I used to react to such claims with impatience and perhaps a bit of disdain.  I used to think that virginity was one of the most useless things people get worked up about.  In certain ways I still do.

But by and large, the whole topic kind of bores me anymore, because it is beside the point.  The national spasm of moralism right now is just the flip side of the hedonism of the 70s, which also largely missed the point.

We lump people into categories.  We do, don’t deny it.  It’s an obnoxious habit and one of the most persistent, because we want to know what each other is all about without taking the time and trouble to figure it out the hard way–which is, to actually communicate with each other and listen. By and large, such categorizing is relatively harmless–some are sports fans, others not; some are democrats, others not; some like rock music, some country, some classical.  It’s a quick way to find our level in a mixed group.

But some of it isn’t harmless, like–do you think a woman should be a virgin when she gets married…or not?

Why is always the woman?  Once in a while you find people including males in that, but lost virginity for a male doesn’t have the impact it does for a woman.  That’s because we treat a woman’s sexuality as a commodity–property–and some lucky lottery player wins it.  A woman who elects not to play that game and participates in the sexual lottery as if she were a man…well, it seems her sexuality is somehow debased. 

It’s nonsense, of course, but the rules were set a long time ago by people who never heard of political correctness and really did deal in women’s hymens as a business commodity.

With all that most people today don’t have an attitude that renders a woman a whore if she has sex before wedlock or opts not to play the marriage game, it is still a Big Deal.

And publicly at least we still miss the point.

Who cares if someone waits till age 31 to have sex?  I mean, what real difference does it make?

None.  It’s their choice.

Choice.

That’s the word everyone seems to get hung up on.  Parents treat a girl’s virginity as if it were a decision about which college to go to and what degree to take.  As if giving it up were a matter of her entire future.  With that kind of attitude, they make it so.  The rest of us seem to have some standard of cool which people fit into–or shame.

And it’s nobody’s business but the person’s in question.  Choice does not mean You Get To Go Have Sex Now, So You Better!  It means what it says.  Do what you want…when you want to.

Of course, if we’re really going to embrace that as an ethic–and it is the only human way to be–we have to be prepared to equip everyone to handle it.  Just Say No won’t do it.  You’re really going to have to teach prepubescents what sex is and what birth control is and, most importantly, what Choice is.

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About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    When I was about to become a parent, I consulted a friend of mine who had a wonderful relationship with his teen-aged son. Theirs was an extradordinary relationship somehow seamlessly knitting the parent-child relationship into a mature friendship.

    Because I was nervous about being a father, I asked my friend how he approached things. He said this:

    "There is only one rule to being a parent. You need to listen. Not just listen here and there, but actively, consciously listen to your child. It takes a lot of work."

    I've been a parent for 7 years. When things are working well, it's because I've taken the time to listen to my children.

    I agree with you that there are no shortcuts to knowing another person. How or when one expresses one's sexuality is such a tiny slice of the one's existence, but it has been put in the spotlight by so many people who are too weary and impatient to take the time to do the necessary work.

    I often find that people who are against gays simply haven't ever taken the time to get to know a gay person. They have no gay friends or acquaintances. When they hear about gays, all they can imagine is a sex act that they find personally distressing.

    Gays really do more than have sex, however, just like heterosexuals.  We all have multi-dimensional lives.  This much becomes clear to anyone who takes the time to listen.

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