It might seem contradictory to some that I state how we as a culture are fascinated with this idea of virginity, and then I go and write a series of blogs about it. Let me just clarify, I am interested in the obsession itself that America seems to have over the concept of virginity.
Why does the fact of not having sex or having sex determine so many people's outlook on others? How did we get to a place in society where we hold celibacy balls and Girls Gone Wild tapes? This, along with much more, is what I'm researching as I undergo the quest of what it means to be a virgin in today's modern society.
As of right now, I believe a lot of it has to do with the feminist movement of sexual expression. Once women were finally able to express themselves as sexualized beings, the obsession began. Suddenly girls everywhere wanted to be viewed as experienced, sexy, or dominant. They wanted to be the controllers, no longer the controlled.
For years (centuries even) men have single handedly controlled women's sexuality. Whether it be through family (the father giving his daughter away) or in marriage (many men would not accept "used goods" as a wife), these are still relevant issues in today's world just as much as they were hundreds of years ago. Now, however, women are grabbing a hold of the reigns and expressing themselves more openly with regards to sex. Such as where we come up with the dichotomy we find ourselves dealing with on an everyday basis. Today we have both the modern Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. There still seems to be a lack of gray area between the two. Some of us might not even see it, but our country is completely divided up between these two ideas.
Either you've had sex and are experienced, or you're a virgin and a prude therefore. There is pride and shame found in both categories. Some women wish to hide the fact that they've had sex, and others wish to portray that they have. Why does it matter if someone has slept with zero, five, or twenty people, and why should we let that determine our views on them as people?
While I'm at it, I should also state that a lot of these thoughts have come from reading The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti. If you haven't read any of her books, I highly recommend doing so. She has also written Full Frontal Feminist, Yes Means Yes, and He's a Stud, She's a Slut. Along with that she is the founder of Feministing.com, a website that I strongly encourage you to check out.
Okay, now that I've plugged Jessica Valenti, let me continue forward with my ideas. Hopefully you've seen the film American Beauty. If not you definitely need to, and this does give some of the plot away, so just be warned. If you have, however, you know the story line between Kevin Spacey and Mena Suvari. She's a high school student, best friends with Kevin Spacey's daughter, and a proclaimed slut (for lack of a better word). He's infatuated with her and at one of the final scenes, when they're about to have sex she says, "this is my first time."
Now there is so much to be said about the relationship between these two characters. Heck, I could write an entire book about all the elements that go into the psychology behind this story. Let me just focus on one thing at the moment, this idea of proclaiming yourself to be a slut, but being a virgin underneath. Some of this refers back to my previous blog Turning In The "V Card" And What It Means To Be A Virgin In Today's Modern Society, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself.
It appears that the majority of women today (from my perspective that is) wish to appear as those who have had more experience in bed, even if they haven't. Why feel that way? Not knowing why others do it, I can only explain my own story here.
While I was studying in Prague in the summer of 2009, I wrote an entry in my journal based off a discussion I had with a guy there. It began with: What is it with men and their fascination with virginity? There's something unknown to them about the idea. From there, it went into my thoughts of how people are viewed once they have sex, and the influence other people's opinions have upon them. If we didn't have that kind of pressure in society, I wonder how different our lives would be. If that weight was lifted off young men and women's shoulders and accepted more as a social understanding, where would we be?
If it didn't mean everything to young men and women. And yes, I realize sex is a very important step in anyone's life, but if we took that pressure off of it and made it more of an everyday circumstance (which it truly is), would that help our society? I think about if I have daughters in the future. I would like to imagine myself being completely open and honest with them. I would explain to them that while the first time having sex can be a big deal, don't let it stop them from experiencing the joys and downfalls from entangling themselves with another human being.
Virginity is very important to a lot of women, and was for me for many years. From where I am right now in my life though, I wish it had been a little different though. I wish people would be more accepting of other's choices and not make them feel the need to defend themselves when it comes down to whether they have or have not had sex. I wish it wasn't always a choice between being the modern Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene.