I won’t say my mother expected me to be a virgin when I married – particularly as I was still single at age 30. But she was pretty clear in expressing her feelings that any woman who slept with more than two men – unless she married them – was a slut.
Then again, I was a teenager in the 1970s. You might view it as the Brave New World for women and sexuality. I’d call it the Tricky Transitional Generation.
I won’t say that I tossed away my innocence thoughtlessly. I didn’t. I was far more careful and considered than some of my friends, not that I wasn’t curious. But I took my time during an era of growing sexual permissiveness.
My first relationship was absolutely lovely.
Is There a Virgin in the House?
Speaking of sexual permissiveness – a loaded term, to be sure – the exploratory eagerness of the 70s was nothing compared to the young ages at which sexual activity begins now. Our children seem to have fewer years of actual childhood.
That aside, as a parent, my views on teenage sexuality are clear and I’ve written of them before. (I approve of the Dutch position.)
I believe it’s only natural that we want to engage, discover, and enjoy. The age at which that begins and with whom is a complicated set of issues. After all, sexual activity leaves us vulnerable emotionally and physically, adolescents are even more subject to hurt and distortion of self-image (despite what they think), and yet most of us gravitate toward pleasure, don’t we?
Still, I’m uncertain why virginity remains an issue in this culture, in this day and age.
Now before (some of) you jump all over me for that, let me clarify.
On Virginity, On Sexual Partners
Do any of us want to think we’re involved with someone who is utterly indiscriminate in their partners?
I doubt it.
Do some of us consider sexual intimacy a gift?
But none of that precludes the need to act on need and the value of a little experience to understand what we like. If we go into marriage or committed relationships with some sexual maturity, how can that not help?
So here’s this article on a 35-year old virgin. No kidding. A woman who was waiting, waiting, waiting… and I can only imagine having an increasingly difficult time with that waiting. She ponders the value of her virginity (at this stage), and I suspect many of us would have done so sooner.
The “Everything But” Girl?
Interestingly, this author may not have “done the deed,” but it appears she’s engaged in a few other activities, a fact that reminds me of the expression “the everything but” girl. One thing if you’re 17, and quite another when you double that figure.
I like being naked with boyfriends. I’ve happily taken on a dominatrix role and men have enjoyed it…
But at the same time… I have given up opportunities to have sex with men whom I had incredible chemistry with, and some whom I loved.
And that, personally, strikes me as sad.
Not one to judge any other woman’s choices, I understand that some hold to religious or other beliefs that tell them they should “save themselves” for the one they marry. I also understand when she elaborates on some of her fears:
… I was willing to give up a certain sense of pleasure to avoid feelings I feared: betrayal, emptiness, the loss of dignity and control…
So where does that put her now, at age 35, or for that matter any adult in a similar situation, even if younger? Does her virginity serve any purpose? Isn’t it “technical” virginity at best? Should she be focused on the fear of being hurt? Can’t we all suffer betrayal and hurt, even if we marry?
The Importance of Virginity
There may be interesting distinctions to make between “virtue” and virginity. There’s no question that notions of a “virtuous” woman remain in our culture, virtue assumed to mean sexual fidelity, if not discretion (and limited numbers) in terms of partners.
It was a presumed safety net for the male in terms of the paternity of any child born of the union. It’s also an indication, theoretically, of a less experienced woman who therefore wouldn’t have a basis for comparison… or acting on sexual dissatisfaction in the relationship by straying.
And in the 21st century?
I wonder if “saving it for marriage” makes much sense, especially as we’re talking about the technical definition of it. While I agree that our kids often start too early, it’s pointless to deny the natural emergence of sexual feelings.
Virginity at age 19 may seem like no big deal to me; virginity at 30 or 35, as in this woman’s story, another matter. And fidelity – another debatable topic, technically speaking, is a choice we make. For some, daily.
What’s a Virgin, Anyway?
As for the woman who wrote the essay – it’s a witty read, by the way – if she’s had any number of sexual encounters and relationships over the years, we can see how a simplistic numbers game or definition of virginity doesn’t fit. Nor would my mother’s damning definition of “slut” find a comfortable home.
Isn’t the real goal to own and value our own bodies, to respect each others’ choices, and stay safe when it comes to our health – including our emotional health?
But investing in loving others? Finding the courage to trust – especially if we’ve been hurt in the past?
There is no guarantee, ever.
So I applaud the 35-year-old virgin for her zesty curiosity, her playful pen, and her honest words that make us think.
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