Saturday, August 2, 2008

Once you pop, the fun, etc...

dear mr. and/or mrs. sender-
we're pleased to inform you that your application's been accepted
- "Sex Changes" by the Dresden Dolls

If I were a rap music producer, I would sign a rapper called 35 Cent. She would be just like 50 cent, but her albums would cost 70% less. Y'know, to market to women who get paid 70% less than their male equals.

If I had my own cable channel, one of the shows I would launch would be called "Patriarchal Myth Busters." It would be just like Myth Busters, but it would bust Patriarchy-instilled societal myths rather than urban legends and pop culture hypotheses. The pilot episode would debunk what is perhaps the most persistent and pervasive product of Patriarchal invention: the existence of a thing called "virginity."

What is virginity? Is it a state of being? Or is it something that can be lost, taken, given up and given away? Ask a know-it-all grade schooler and she or he will tell you that a virgin is a woman whose hymen isn't broken. So then "virgin" is a category of woman, right? It is a category based on the state of one's hymen. In Virgin: The Untouched History, (which I admit I never finished reading), Hanne Blank goes through quite a bit of trouble to show that the "natural" state of the hymen is very indefinite. Therefore, women can't really be categorized by their hymens or lack thereof.

As is the trend with many Patriarchal myths and inventions, virginity is not a pseudo-scientific assertion of biology, but a social construct. (See here for an excellent introductory explanation of [feminist] usage of the term "social construct.") It is yet another way for men to appraise the value of a woman. Hanne Blank delves into the history in depth in her book, but I found one particular explanation especially compelling: virginity was invented to ensure the continuity of a patriarchal line. When a man wanted to marry (read: sell) off his daughter, she was worth more if she was a virgin - not because virgins are inherently more valuable or more "pure," but because that way it could be guaranteed that any children she might bear would have been fathered by her husband. It had little to do with the woman and everything to do with the offspring. (Remember, women aren't people; they're slaves for making babies and sandwiches.)

The reason I am writing about this now is because of this article called "The 19-Year-Old Virgin" that will appear in the magazine section of tomorrow's Boston Globe. The tagline is "Sure, I've had the opportunity to have sex. Here's why I've decided to abstain." The article is written by Emma Morgenstern, a 19-year-old who has never had sex. (Shock and awe, right?) Morgenstern is an articulate Jewish college student, in other words, normal. She is not a promise-ring-wearing, wedding-day-waiting loony. What the article attempts to do, though I'm not sure if it is Morgenstern's intention, is make abstinence cool for the atheist crowd.

Morgenstern writes,
But I've realized that being a virgin isn't that big a deal - except for one thing: The one real downside (aside from not having sex, of course) is the unknowns that come with it. I don't know how my first experience will change my life or my relationship. I don't know if my first time will be with someone I love. I don't know how to buy condoms. That's OK, though. I know I have plenty of time. Being a virgin simply means that a person hasn't had sex and therefore probably has more unanswered questions about it. But maybe even this isn't accurate - after all, that senior on my couch seemed as if he had some things he wanted to ask.
Drinking alcohol the week before I turned 21 did not feel much different from drinking alcohol the week after. It makes one realize how arbitrary the age limit is. It is my hope that when Emma does have sex, she will find that not only is virginity not a big deal, but that, "the drinking age," it doesn't really exist in any concrete way. (I realize that this is not a perfect metaphor.)

I had sex for the first time when I was 19. December 8th. It is a big deal to have sex for the first time. But everyone's circumstances are different, so the extent to which it affects a person will vary. When my then-boyfriend brought up the subject for the first time, it was something that I too was thinking about. I really wanted to have sex with him. But I'd never done it before, so I wanted some more time to think. Like Morgenstern, I didn't know how having sex with him might affect our relationship. We'd been seeing each other for two months and were already very intimate - we just hadn't actually "done it" yet.

[[Digression: Morgenstern writes, "You might be wondering what it's like, in today's sex-obsessed world, to be a virgin at the age of 19. Well, you get used to the stares after a while. If I confess my sexual status to the cashier at the movie theater, he'll often give me a children's-price ticket." Why would you confess your sexual status to a box office boy?
Anecdote: At the beginning of my sophomore year in college, B.C. (Before Coitus), a bunch of my housemates were sitting around in the kitchen trying to figure out the house ratio of virgins to vegetarians. They asked me if I'd had sex and I said no. One girl responded, "Really!? But you seem so...liberated!" She assumed that because I kept condoms in my drawer (courtesy of Planned Parenthood) and talked freely and openly about sexuality that I had, in fact, had sex.
Moral: Nobody can tell if you've had sex or not unless you tell them.]]

So after a couple weeks of deliberation, I decided to go for it. We did it. The only thing that changed about our relationship is that we had more sex.

I don't like to say that I "lost" my virginity. The only thing I lost was my ace in the hole for winning Never Have I Ever.

Image used in this post yoinked from Rakka.

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