The Famous Double-Standard
We’ve all heard lots of things about virginity. “It’s your most precious gift.” “No one will want to buy the cow if they can get the milk for free.” “Once it’s gone, you can never get it back.” “You’ll go to hell if you lose it before marriage.” “If you lose it to someone you don’t love, you’re a slut.” But if you are a guy, you probably heard something different. “Don’t get anyone pregnant.” Other than that, and maybe a talk about STD’s/STI’s, it was probably just assumed that you’d do it whenever you wanted and with whoever you wanted. I say probably for anyone with cultural or religious ideals that value male virginity, but let’s face it: if you are a male in the US, losing your virginity is something to be proud of.
If you’ve grown up as a girl, one the other hand, you were probably taught that one day when you grew up and you’d meet the man (or woman, but usually parents in these situations assume it’ll be a man) of your dreams and he’d whisk you away to a chapel and marry you. And that he was the person you were supposed to give your virginity to. But we all know that stories like that are mostly for little girls, and that most women today lose their virginity to men they don’t end up marrying. Losing your virginity can be a big deal or no deal…it’s all about what you want for yourself. So why do we still hear things like, “Oh my god, she is such a SLUT!” ?
First let’s have a little history lesson. Back in the day, fathers controlled every aspect of their daughter’s lives, including who she married and had children with. Fathers would often trade their daughter’s hand in marriage for social connections, food, property, whatever was best for the bank account (figuratively). So to make sure their daughters had children with the man of their choosing, they spun a little tale about virginity and how if you lose it the wrong way, you get disowned from the family. Husbands would tend to also back this idea up because they had a lot of pride over the fact that no one had ever touched their wives sexually but them.
And then you get into religion. Christian values say that God wants you to multiply the earth, but your marriage bed must be unsoiled. According to my research on the web, the Islamic holy book (the Quran) says, “Wives on earth are still wives in Paradise with an exception that their impurity is gone. (Sura 2:25)”. Other religions like Judaism, Hinduism, and Sikhism also value virginity. Even in ancient Greece and Rome, priestesses were buried alive if they broke their vow of remaining a virgin for thirty years.
So there were a lot of reasons to remain a virgin back then. But now, most women have their own free will from their husbands and fathers, and most religions have cut women a bit of slack for having sex before marriage. HOWEVER, the stigma that women are impure, dirty, and whorish for losing their virginity and expressing their sexuality has stuck around.
I’ll give you an example. My university has this Facebook confessions page, and more than once I’ve read posts where some guy has started dating this girl and was horrified to find out that she has had more sexual partners than he has. “I thought she had more respect for herself…” This bothers me for a number of reasons, starting off with the fact that most guys have more partners than the girls they are dating. Everyone seems to accept this and even expect it, but if it is a girl who has more partners than look out! She’s apparently a terrible person! I know everyone has their own comfort level in regards to their partner’s dating history, but dumping someone because they have slept with more people than you have is harsh. Another problem is the whole respect issue. Someone who has slept with 100 people can have the same amount of respect for themselves as someone who has slept with 0. Everyone is different, so it is wrong to assume that what is right for you will be right for everyone.
A lot of stigma goes back to insecurity, if you ask me. Guys like to be macho and have more sex than their perspective female partners so he can feel more secure that she will not be dissatisfied in their relationship. Girls like to slut-shame each other to feel like they are better than others. And what we are left with is girls afraid to be sexual from fear of disappointment from their parents, ridicule from their friends, and the loss of their “precious” virginity.
As a girl who was the first to lose her virginity out of her immediate friend group, let me tell you that these fears are needless. Everyone should be proud of who they are and who they love, no matter if someone calls you a slut. And I know that’s easier said than done, but the bottom line is, EVERYONE HAS SEX (except maybe some monks or nuns out there). We are biologically programmed to have sex, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. So if someone is a mean person, call them a mean person. If someone is a back-stabber, then call them a back-stabber. If someone stole your boyfriend, call them a boyfriend-stealer…But STOP calling people sluts, because there is nothing wrong with having consensual sex!
Going back to feminism, it’s really important that you remember that your value is based on your character, rather than your virginity. And that the same idea goes for other people, too. Sex is something you should do for you, and no one else besides the person you are having it with should be included in that decision (unless you are religious and you want to include God or something, but personally the whole God-is-watching idea kinda creeps me out when it comes to sex). Anyway, if you have any comments or ideas about sex and virginity, feel free to share!