I talk a lot about the absurdities in our culture that undermine or ruin our ability to love, make love, or just plain hump. These absurdities are important to me because I’m in the business of telling sexy, romantic stories. If there’s something that hinders or attacks our natural inclination to love and hump one another, then it’s going to affect the ability of my readers to get the most out of my books.
Since I want my readers to get the most out of my sexy love stories, I feel inclined to confront these absurdities. Sometimes it comes in the form of radical feminism. Sometimes it comes in the form of religious dogma. There’s no one singular force that’s putting the locks on our collective panties. It’s more of a drunken brawl of forces that are coordinating to attack one person, but don’t realize it.
It’s chaotic. It’s controversial. It’s bound to offend certain people with certain sensibilities. For that, I apologize, but I still feel that these absurdities need to be called out for what they are. It doesn’t matter if sticking your hand in a deep fryer is a sacred tradition. It’s still an absurdity on some levels.
The absurdity in this case has to do with the big V-word that we in the erotica/romance world must navigate. No, I’m not talking about a certain body part for a certain gender. I’m talking about the other big V-word. I’m talking about virginity.
Say that word out loud and measure your reaction. Then say another word like pencil and measure your reaction as well. Is it the same? If so, then you’re excused from reading the rest of this post. You’re more than equipped to appreciate the sex appeal of my books, which I highly recommend. If not, then this is something we need to talk about.
The whole concept of virginity is one of those concepts we, as a society, actively avoid scrutinizing. As a definition, it’s not that hard. Virginity is just a colorful term we used to describe those who have never had sex. If that were there was to it, then it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d lump it together with words like “moist” and “juicy.” They may make some people uncomfortable for entirely personal reasons, but most just shrug it off.
The problem is that, for reasons that have a lot to do with pre-modern culture and little to do with actual physical traits, the concept of virginity has been conflated, twisted, and in some cases deified. There’s a reason why the Virgin Mary has that moniker. If she were just the Hot Blond Mary, it would not have the same impact.
So why does it have this impact? Well, I’d love to say that there’s some complex, fascinating, socio-political reason for it. I’m sure there are some people who teach entire classes on this subject who can conjure complexities from this issue that make it seem akin to quantum mechanics. I’m not one of those people. That means I’m the answer I give is simple, crude, and frustratingly concise. Spoiler alert: I’ll be using caveman logic again.
Virginity has this impact for a pretty simple reason. For most of human history, we didn’t know squat about diseases. We didn’t have reliable pregnancy tests. On top of that, our best contraception involved trusting men to pull out at just the right moment. We can barely trust men with smartphones these days. You really think we can trust them that much when orgasms are involved? Just ask Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner.
This means that virginity is pretty much the only thing our ancestors had to be certain that a woman was disease free and not carrying someone else’s child. Marrying a virgin means there’s little chance she has the plague. It also helps guarantee that the kids she has are going to be yours biologically.
When your entire society is based on land-owning, agrarian traditions, that’s kind of a big deal. By kind of, I mean wars will be fought and people will lose their heads (among other body parts) if they find out their bride slept around or had a kid who wasn’t theirs.
Naturally, our caveman brains can’t process this on a wholly rational basis. Our biology, and the mechanisms that drive it, are blunt instruments. That means they’ll see an issue that may be as simple as a bent nail, but try to fix it with a jackhammer. It’s bound to cause some collateral damage. Unfortunately, the collateral damage in this case undermines the sexuality and agency of women.
It’s no coincidence that every major religion, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and pretty much every major religion founded before Scientology, places some emphasis on virginity. For these traditions, virginity isn’t just a pragmatic tool for ensuring disease-free, bastard-free brides. That’s too logical. They have to turn it into this esoteric, mystical brand of purity.
A virgin woman, in this context, is like a freshly-baked cookie that no one else has touched. It’s like perfectly ripened fruit that hasn’t been harvested yet. It’s like polished Rolls Royce that comes fresh from the factory, never driven and never sat in.
Is this starting to get creepy? Is comparing women to food, cars, and things that don’t have thoughts or feelings starting to bother you? Well, don’t go running to the toilet yet. That’s normal. That’s what happens when you peel back the layers about virginity and why it’s so deified. It really just comes down to a convenient excuse for old sexual traditions.
It’s still absurd, but it’s at least understandable to some degree. We didn’t know what we didn’t know for a long, long time. We only had these traditions and superstitions to guide us. The fact that we’re still here as a civilization and a species shows they did have some merit, but that merit is exceedingly limited, especially to those of us who think women should have agency in their sex lives. What a concept, right?
The concept of virginity became obsolete as soon as we discovered methods of contraception that don’t rely on trusting men to pull out at the right time. It’s become even more obsolete as medical science has advanced to a point where the diseases that used to render women sterile, weak, or dead are either curable or treatable. It’s a wonderful thing, women not being sick or at the mercy of their fertility.
Unfortunately, these outdated concepts of virginity didn’t die as soon as condoms and birth control pills became easier to obtain than cigarettes. Once again, our caveman brains screw us over and not in the fun way.
Remember, the caveman brain is not rational. That means it will cling to irrational crap for as long as possible because completely re-thinking a concept takes too much time and energy. That time and energy needs to be spent preparing for the winter and avoiding hungry bears, damn it! At least, that’s how our caveman brains see it.
As a result, the idea of virginity still has this strange place in modern society. It’s only strange because some people take it to distinctly creepy extremes. Those extremes lead to something like this.
That’s a purity ring. It’s one of the tools/gimmicks that extremely conservative types use in pushing their preferred brand of sexual education, “abstinence only.” They believe they can override an onslaught of hormones and millions of years of biological imperatives in impressionable, irrational teenagers. I want to admire their bravado, but at some point the absurdities are just too much.
They try to paint it as something romantic like, “true love waits.” As a romance/erotica writer, I just find that offensive. These religious, conservative types have their hearts in the right place. They don’t want young people engaging in risky sexual behavior that they’re not ready for. That’s entirely respectable, but extremely misguided.
It’s true that some people are better off waiting to have sex for the same reason some people are better off waiting to get their own credit card. They need to first make sure they’re responsible enough to handle all the proclivities that such things entail. Taking the abstinence route would be like not giving kids driver’s ed before they get a driver’s license. You’re just asking for trouble in the long run.
Even for those who wait, the religious dogma has a nasty tendency to misconstrue our libido. It’s why the idea of porn addiction is more prevalent among religious people compared to non-religious people. It’s also why some who do wait end up regretting it.
Sex is a lot like that road trip your parents to you on as a kid. You didn’t want to go. You worried and complained about it. Your parents just kept saying that if you think it’s going to be terrible, then it’s going to be terrible. You never admit they were right because you convinced yourself of something before you knew anything about it.
The same thing applies to sex. If you think it’s this dirty, evil deed that Satan created so that he could make babies to sacrifice, then you’re not going to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your wedding night or your prom night. You’ve already convinced yourself it’s going to be terrible.
You bought into all the dogma and let it rewire your brain, which still has that nasty imperative to survive and reproduce. It’s the one way you screw yourself that you can’t enjoy.
To make matters worse, our society still struggles with shaming women who decide to defy these notions of virginity. We don’t do it to men because men are just expected to hump everything with a pulse, which is offensive in and of itself to me, but that’s a post for another day. The women still disproportionately suffer the bulk of the shaming. Lose your virginity and you can expect to be shamed.
Human beings are sexual creatures. We’re also loving, passionate creatures. Trying to temper or restrain that passion for all the wrong reasons is going to have some nasty side-effect. Sadly, women are the ones who suffer those side-effects the most. Women are the ones who get stoned to death in certain parts of the world for not being virgins on their wedding nights. They’re the ones who get shamed when they try to enjoy sex.
As an erotica/romance writer, I want to celebrate and explore these feelings for men and women alike. I think they should be celebrated, but false notions of virginity and purity are getting in the way.
It’s still part of our culture, this idea that women should be pure and virginity is a virtue. It’ll continue to be part of our culture, even if we get to a point where contraception is fail-proof and medical science cures all diseases. Like many absurd traditions, it doesn’t stop being absurd.
With this in mind, anyone looking to learn a bit more about the concept of virginity and purity should check out this book by Jessica Valenti. It’s called “The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity Is Hurting Young Woman.” I highly recommend it. If nothing else, it’ll give you another reason to enjoy my books.