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.
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.