Can We Be Done Worrying About Virginity?

Recently there was an eBay auction for a purity ring. The seller wrote a clever quip about how she no longer needed it and the proceeds of the auction would benefit Planned Parenthood. I giggled and bid on it extravagantly. When Mr. G asked me what was making me giddy I said to him, “I’m bidding on a Purity Ring and the best part is that it’s going to benefit Planned Parenthood.”

So he said to me, “What’s a Purity Ring?”

And my answer was, “It’s a ring that fathers give to their daughters that will remind them to stay virgins.”

“That’s disgusting.” He said.

It’s a good thing I didn’t tell him about Purity Balls where the rings are often given, where there are pledges and vows and dancing. This all happens around the age of the onset of puberty.

If you’re having uncomfortable feelings thinking of a room full of adult men dancing with their pubescent daughters, presenting them with rings and pledging to guard her purity then you’re not alone. Though not quite incestuous it has the same lack of appropriate boundaries.

Every so often someone will talk about lost virginity and the joke that we were all waiting for follows, “I didn’t lose my virginity. I know just where it went.”

Do you? Are you sure? I mean what is virginity? Do you lose your virginity when you have penis in vagina sex? What about oral sex? What about women who aren’t born with a closed hymen or the girls whose hymens break from being active, riding bikes, horses or just moving their bodies? What about lesbians? Are they virgins forever? My lesbian friends would say they are not.

how do you break your hymen

Which parts of you are virginal? I mean maybe your mouth isn’t a virgin but your anus is? Does it even matter?

When we tell boys and girls that virginity is something to be prized by equating it with purity (what a lie) we tell them that once they’ve had sex they’re forever the person who has had sex. That they’re impure and that there’s nothing worth saving or holding onto. The subtext implies that something’s been broken which can never be fixed. That sex will never be special again and a multitude of other lies. Ask an adult woman to remember her first time with her husband and you’ll see a smile or maybe not, maybe someone farted mid coitus, it’s impossible to guess. There are first times for everything and somehow the purity ring invites these poor girls’ fathers into the bedroom (or sofa) with them when the time arrives.

When we tell our kids that virginity ends in a moment of time, at the second of insertion how do we deal with kids who are sexually assaulted? Do we tell them are are still pure even if their friends who had consensual sex are impure?

I’m confused by the messages many of you would like to send to my kids so I tell them that the notion of virginity is an archaic one. I tell them that there are many different kinds of sex and we move to a discussion about birth control and STDs. I don’t tell my kids to guard their chastity or their virginity or their purity or whatever term it is that you’d like to use to make sexually active young adults feel shame.

We talk about the physiological and emotional consequences of sexual activity. We talk about being ready for the relationships they enter into. I don’t know that virginity has ever been a discussion because I wouldn’t know how to tell my kids when their virginity ends and I don’t want them to think that having sex is the end of having value.

Facebook Comments

  • AJ

    Fantastic post.

  • Karen

    Personally, I think the whole, “stay a virgin” is a cop-out for having a few difficult and potentially embarrassing conversations. Pull on the big girl or boy pants and talk straight with your kids about sex. All of it. Not just the puritanical “don’t do it” conversation, the actual conversation.

    • http://jessicagottlieb.com JessicaGottlieb

      And statistically these are the kids who will end up pregnant or with STDs because no one has talked to them about how to have sex with a barrier.

  • http://carpoolgoddess.com/ Linda Wolff

    Well done, Jessica!

    • http://jessicagottlieb.com JessicaGottlieb

      Thank you.

  • http://www.compassprep.com Matt Steiner

    Boom. And I thought it was particularly insightful to bring up folks who are victims of sexual violence. The purity balls/galas are such a terrifying idea to me. I can’t imagine my dad putting a ring on my finger, slow-dancing, and then telling me to guard my parts.

    • http://jessicagottlieb.com JessicaGottlieb

      They are terrifying. They’re just unspeakably wrong.

  • Bev Morse

    question: if mary is held aloft as the definition of purity – even unto giving birth – what does it say about her relationship with joseph, her husvand? and the immaculate birth? how pure is that? just wondering. i mean, was she already married to a man when she became pregnant? and was it with her permission? asking the questions because i don’t know how it’s presented, but i know that she is the personification of purity for all christianity. ?

  • DodiM

    I hadn’t thought about specifically discussing “virginity” with my girls…guess I think along the same lines as you but didn’t realize it. My teen daughter and I have discussed the seriousness of relationships where people feel ready to include “having sex” as a part of the relationship, and how that kind of intimacy means more when you care deeply for your partner. But “sex” is a much more encompassing word than the obvious first thought, which is vaginal intercourse. I haven’t discussed “virginity; keeping your holes sacred” with her, like something that is to be honored and given out like a relationship prize. I have told her that I hope she waits to experience sex with someone she loves…but I didn’t use the V word, and she already knows there are lots of types of “sex”, because that came up in our talk after the day in 7th grade health class where they were told that STDs could be transferred vaginally, orally, and anally. (analy?) Good times.

    Good topic. Makes a parent think. Telling them that their body is special, and only they get to decide who touches them and in what way, is how I’ve always thought of it. But I don’t want them to think that it is only a one time special decision not to be wasted because you can’t ever have that specialness back. I hate that.

  • elizabeth

    One of the reasons I got married when I was 21 was that I had already slept with my boyfriend (my first) and it was more-than-implied by some trusted advisers that I was now used goods. Seriously. It’s an outrage–and it led to divorce proceedings at 25/26 that, probably needless to say, have impacted the long-term unfolding of my family life (or lack thereof).

    • http://jessicagottlieb.com JessicaGottlieb

      Ugh, at least you guys didn’t stay married and unhappy for 15 years but really, that’s tragic.

  • Pingback: Jessica Gottlieb A Los Angeles Mom – Girls Aren’t Sluts()

  • Sean

    The fact of the matter is, children (not just girls) need to be talked to by their parents on the importance of not having sex outside of marriage. Sex is what makes someone impure-having it outside of marriage is

    • http://JessicaGottlieb.com Jessica Gottlieb

      No, sex outside of marriage doesn’t do a thing to make people impure. That’s just ridiculous.

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