“Girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.” – Unknown (allegedly said by Sylvia Plath, but that isn’t true)
Well, actually, nobody is a machine that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out. Sex, far too often, is seen as something owed. Something that, in return for being treated how any person would want to be treated by another, equates to a form of payment or proof of a promise being fulfilled. However you think of sex, it shouldn’t be seen as something that you give to someone else, or have given to you. Sex is not a present, or an exciting gift, or the equivalent of a hundred dollar bill. Sex is a consensual physical activity, something both parties agree to do together. In this case, I guess, sexual encounters could be equated to a balance between giving and receiving, but the underlying point is that nobody is owed sex, or entitled to go about claiming “unfulfilled sexual promises” and persecuting the person who they feel owes them something.
You don’t owe anyone sex. Even if you tell them that you want to have it, then change your mind, you don’t owe them fulfillment of your ‘promise.’ Even if they believe that having sex with them is an appropriate thing to ‘give’ them in return for something they’ve done for you. This is conditioning people to believe that sex is a transaction, not of love or feeling or consent, but of material and monetary value. Sexual acts are not coins, and you won’t be paid in them. You won’t deal in sex, only deal with it. Sex is nothing something you trade, it something you enjoy with someone you want.
Although this following topic doesn’t really fit with the title of my blog post, it’s something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time. I feel that a lot of people never really engage with the ideas in this topic, and just accept it as a concrete universal fact since it has been reinforced in that way for hundreds of years throughout history.
Virginity is a social construct.
Some people might be reading this and be thinking – hang on, but it is? Isn’t virginity so straight forward? They might be thinking, I know exactly what a virgin is. A virgin is someone who hasn’t experienced a sexual act where the penis penetrates the vagina. Pretty simple, right? Well, if that’s virginity, have lesbians and gay men who have only ever been with homosexual partners never really stopped being virgins, since they haven’t engaged in sexual acts where a penis penetrates the vagina? If that’s virginity, that must mean a large majority of people in the world must remain virgins their entire life, despite have performed all sorts of sexual activities? If virginity is about sex, then is there such thing as losing our oral-sex, or anal-sex virginity too?
If we define virginity as doing something of a sexual nature for the first time, they why is kissing for the first time not considered a loss of virginity in a way?
Virginity is made up as a way of controlled heterosexuality and perpetuating it as the ‘norm’ in society and culture. Virginity only applies to heterosexual sex, so therefore it’s insinuating that heterosexual sex is the only ‘real’ sex because it is the only one when ‘virginity’ is ‘definitively lost.’ (Sorry for all the speech marks, but you can see why they’re needed. The whole thing is ridiculous.) By perpetuating the idea that virginity is a tangible, definable thing, we perpetuate the idea that homosexual people don’t exist in the same sexual realm as heterosexual people do. We contribute to the assumption that in heterosexuality, you must pass these tests and rites of passage before being able to claim that you’ve even had sex at all.
How do we even decide who’s a virgin and who isn’t?
Some people may believe that checking if a woman’s hymen (membrane that surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening) is still ‘in tact’ (i.e not torn by the penetration of a penis) is an indicator of whether or not she is still a virgin, and by checking this, we can distinguish the virgins from the non. Sorry to inform you all, but this doesn’t indicate if a woman is a virgin or not. The hymen can be torn at any age, from a range of activities not even including sex, and (shocker!) some women are even born without a hymen at all.
So what does this mean?
Virginity is a social concept, because society has created it to be another ritualistic right of passage. How many movies and books lead up to the big moment? Don’t they all teach us that everything about our lives revolves around this central point of our lives, and nothing is the same after and nothing was the same before? Virginity is the perpetuated idea of purity; of innocence, of goodness and of worth. Yet, virginity doesn’t mean anything because you can never really lose something you didn’t have in the first place. The first time you have sex, you don’t sign a legal form stating that you are no longer a virgin. We only think we’ve lost something because society has taught us for so long that part of us is different now. We haven’t lost anything at all – rather, gained some experience in a field we have to navigate for the rest of our lives, more or less literally blindfolded and feeling our way through like we know what we’re doing.
Virginity is a man’s method for controlling female sexuality. The concept of the ‘virgin’ being the eternally pure young maiden teaches women who aren’t virgins that something about them is now ‘dirty’ – as if they’ve been permanently ruined by this small infinitesimal act. By controlling who is and isn’t a virgin, and how these women are treated, men get to enjoy both virgins and non-virgins by firstly teaching them that they shouldn’t have sex because they can’t ever get that desirable ‘virgin’ status back, and yet encouraging them to have sex because they feel like we owe them it.
In the words of the blog The Belle Jar, who wrote a post entitled “Virginity Is a Social Construct” –
“[Virginity has] given men a way to control women, to make them ashamed of their bodies their sexuality. It’s led to a double standard where it’s fine – even encouraged – for boys to gain sexual experience, but women who are sexually active before marriage or have sex with too many people are considered to be slutty or damaged goods.”
However, the most important question within this is – why do we even care? Think about it. People have sex all the time, every day, for the first time ever, yet we’re still sitting behind phone screens sweating about who’s had sex with who and making sure everyone knows that person’s virginity has well and truly fallen into the abyss.