Being a virgin in an increasingly sexual world is kind of weird, to say the least. Most American women my age (late 20s) have already either married and had kids, or they’ve at least experienced sex even if they’re not married. Not to mention that Westernized media (TV, music, movies, Internet) tends to hyper-focus on anything sexual. Anything on TV or in the movies seems like it has to have some kind of sex scene or nudity, ostensibly in order to keep viewers’ attention; in music and online, the more sexual innuendo (or blatant references, more like), the more hits and downloads you get.
With all of this swirling about in our culture, sometimes it makes me wonder–does virginity really have a place anymore in society? Is it even something important anymore?
Going Off My Own Perspective and Experience (or Lack of It, in This Case)
The reason I wonder this is because virginity is still important to me. Now, I’m certainly no prude when it comes to sex–I know mentally how it all works, and I’m not without desire and attraction. Knowing that all this hyper-focus exists about a subject I don’t have any practical experience with does makes me feel a bit out of the loop, though. I’m not used to not knowing…but I’m personally okay with that right now, because it’s part of my personal beliefs to be a virgin until I’m married.
And yet, I consider myself a feminist, too, believing in equal treatment of the sexes; I do not consider my beliefs on virginity to be a contradiction of feminism, because I believe male virginity can be just as important for a man’s sense of self (more on that later). I am aware that the whole custom of the “virgin bride” arose out of a paternity concern on the part of the husband throughout history; the men wanted to be sure their heirs were truly theirs. But now that the era of hereditary dynasties and such has largely gone by, Western societies don’t socially fixate on a woman’s sexual status quite so much, and for the most part, we as women are more in control of if, when, with whom, and how often we have sex. (It’s not completely there yet, as Steve Harvey’s overtly sexist commentary on “women’s precious jewels” clearly depicts, but it’s progressing.)
Growing up in the American Southeast as I have, however, I have seen the morals of the “Bible belt” firmly in place throughout my childhood and early adulthood. It’s still generally understood around here that if you’re a “good girl,” you’ll remain a virgin until after you’re married–old traditions die hard, I suppose. There’s not nearly so much societal judgment that falls on a girl’s head for “disobeying” this social more as there used to be, but there can still be whispers and ugly rumors. This is likely one unconscious reason that I have chosen to keep the V-card (to use the modern parlance), though there are plenty of temptations out there for even the most stolid of women.
But what about virginity is so important? Personally I feel that my virginity is a part of my identity, but not a permanent part; it is a marker of my commitment to my future. My boyfriend of several years views his own virginity similarly; we are all but married, and yet until we are actually married, we are both waiting. (I might be getting a tad impatient right now, LOL, but I’m abiding by his wishes and my own convictions.)
The Modern Meaning and Use of Virginity: More About Self, Less About Reputation
This use of virginity seems to be rather rare; virginity has long been seen as either a commodity (for women to give to men) or as a hindrance (for men). Furthermore, female virginity used to be (and in some places still is) a requirement for marriage, and the loss of it before marriage meant shame and even death. But I find that staying a virgin until marriage nowadays has three mostly-ignored benefits, for both genders:
- you largely escape the concerns of STDs
- you don’t have to worry about being a single parent of a child you weren’t ready for
- you get to experience sex first with the one you really love
With HIV and other STDs running rampant, this is a health concern as much as a cultural and spiritual concern; you can’t be too careful with your health! And certainly being responsible about bringing children into the world is just as important–waiting until you are (more) stable, capable, and ready for a family helps. But waiting so that you and your future husband or wife can learn about intimacy together seems like the most compelling of the three reasons, at least for me. I don’t know for a fact, not having experienced sex yet myself, but I view it as such a vulnerable act that I wouldn’t want to attempt it without knowing and trusting the man I’m with. And I don’t see this as a female-only mindset, as I mentioned before; male emotions and well-being are worth protecting and nurturing, too, despite the fact that male virginity is often discounted as part of being a “loser.”
Why do I place equal value on female and male virginity? Because relationships in general are acts of vulnerability and trust–you are sharing your emotional and mental self just as you share your physical self in sex. I am now as guarded about my emotions and well-being as I am about my physical body, having been hurt before, and I’d dare to say many people have experienced that same kind of heartache and broken trust. Sex, however, often aggravates underlying relationship problems rather than alleviating them, especially if given too casually. Couldn’t virginity for both parties (or at least abstinence from sex too soon in the relationship, if one or both people are not virgins) ensure that we build the strong emotional and mental connection first, so that physical intimacy later is just icing on that cake?
A Few Closing Thoughts
I certainly don’t have all the solutions to the emotional and social problems that have cropped up around sex in our society, but I do believe that for both genders, sex can be frightening if one or both of the people involved feel pushed or rushed. And our culture is really not doing a great job of depicting unhurried, true loving intimacy based on a solid relationship. I’m not saying that everybody’s got to wear a purity ring till you’re married, but staying a virgin could protect you from the emotional pitfalls of a relationship as well as the more obvious physical ones. It has certainly functioned that way for me thus far.