The Problem With VirginityWednesday, May 28, 2014
Last night I did something I probably shouldn't have done.
I read the UCSB shooter's manifesto.
I say I shouldn't have done this, because it's just giving unnecessary attention to the shooter, but I felt like I needed to know what was going on inside his head.
After reading it, there were definitely thoughts swimming around my head about guns, mental illness, his ridiculous sense of entitlement, and misogyny, but I am going to leave those things out for now. There was something else that really stood out to me.
He tied his self-worth to the state of his virginity (and please don't think I'm trying to excuse what he did, because I'm not -- what he did is reprehensible).
It turns out that Elliot Rodger and I actually had some things in common. Like most children, we both wanted to be considered "cool" in middle school, and as teenagers, we both wanted the attention of the sex we found attractive (which, again, is pretty standard). However, where we deviate somewhat from the social norm is that we did not date in high school. We both graduated as "kissless virgins" (to use Rodger's own term). And we were both annoyed by that, though obviously, one of us was bothered much more than the other (I wasn't actually annoyed by being a virgin -- actually, the thought of sex was kind of terrifying for me -- but I did want a boyfriend, and I was embarrassed that I hadn't yet been kissed by anyone). I had plenty of friends who were guys, but none of them were ever interested in me sexually (I did have a friend who sexually assaulted me while on a field trip once, but I assumed it was because he thought I was an easy target, and not because he was actually attracted to me).
It turned out that I wouldn't be kissed by anyone until I was in my 20s, and I wouldn't lose my virginity until I was 22.
Which is how old Elliot Rodger was when he went on his shooting spree.
The thing is, I was okay with being a 22-year-old virgin. He was not. Yes, we were both virgins by circumstance, but that is where the similarities end, because I was also a virgin by choice.
Virginity is a really weird thing in America.
Generally speaking, Americans are raised to think of sex as a shameful act. It's something you don't do unless you're married (regardless of what your parents did, because, of course, "do as I say, not as I do"). This idea is especially reinforced if you are a woman, because despite the "shame" attached to sex, men are actually subtly (or not-so-subtly, depending) encouraged to have a lot of sex with a lot of women. While men are heralded for their sexual prowess, women who have multiple sexual partners are "sluts" and "whores". Heck, I was once basically called a whore (by an adult -- I was 13 at the time) because I wanted to wear fake eyelashes with my Halloween costume. And I'm not meaning for this to get into a huge tirade about slut shaming, because that's not really my point, but it is something that needs to be touched on.
Why is virginity so highly valued in our society?
For men, it is viewed as more valuable to lose it. Guys brag to one another about their conquests, or how young they were when they lost their v-cards, or how many women they've slept with (and obviously, this is not EVERY guy -- all of this is a generalization). Teenage boys get pats on the back from dad when they bring home a "hot" girlfriend.
For women, virginity has a higher value if it's left intact. There are even purity balls where girls pledge their purity and their fathers pledge to protect it (this whole thing gives me the creeps, but that's a rant for another day). Girls seem to go down in society's eyes once they have sex. We're told that even though boys like sex, they don't like girls who have sex; that they'll have sex with them, but not love them.
What kind of crap is this?
I get religious reasons for staying a virgin. I was raised with those ideals and held them for many years (to clarify, I am a Christian, but I don't think you'll go to Hell if you have premarital sex), and though it was not the reason I didn't have sex as a teenager, it did contribute to why I waited as an adult. Before that, I just wanted to wait until I found the right person. I will say that I didn't wait until marriage to have sex, though I have only had sex with my husband. And for quite some time, I honestly believed that my infertility was God's punishment for having premarital sex. I no longer believe this, because I believe that God, unlike society, thinks I'm worth more than my hymen, but the fact that I EVER felt this way disturbs me.
I firmly believe that you should only have sex with people that you love, but not everyone feels that way, and that's okay. The fact that I've only had sex with one person doesn't make me any better or worse than someone who has had sex with five people (or ten, or twenty, or even a hundred), and we, as a society, need to stop spreading the idea that it does (in either direction).
We need to stop putting pressure so much pressure on losing or keeping one's virginity. Period.
There has been a big movement lately trying to end slut shaming and letting the world know that women are sexual beings too, and that we are more than our virginity, which is great. But I think we also need to let guys know that it's okay to NOT have sex, and that it doesn't make them "less of a man" if they're a virgin, or haven't had multiple partners. Your sexual history should be YOURS alone (and any partners you have, of course).
If you asked me to describe myself, I would tell you that I'm smart and sarcastic. I talk too much, but I have a good heart. I like to help others, and I always have my nose in a book. "Sexually active" would definitely not be on the list, because I don't define myself by whether or not I am having sex.
My worth as a person is tied to who I am, not whether or not I'm a virgin; that's something that's true for everyone, and we need to start recognizing it. I don't want my children growing up thinking that what they're doing with their genitals is more important that what they're doing with their brains.
YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN THE STATE OF YOUR SEXUAL ACTIVITY.
Maybe if Elliot Rodger had recognized that, there would be seven more people alive in Santa Barbara right now.