Feminism Fodder

Women and their virginity

I read this article yesterday about a pop-star in Japan shaving her head and apologising via YouTube for having sex with her boyfriend. Consensual sex. At the age of 20. Oh, and she was also demoted from her position in the band. This whole issue around women and their virginity has been on my mind since December but somehow I have just not been able to pen down my thoughts. It all started with the gang rape in Delhi and I read several posts about how a woman’s virginity was linked to her honour and hence, being raped is also considered shameful for the women. However, it’s not just in countries like India where this so-called honour around a woman’s virginity exists.

{Click image for source}

Back in December, I also watched the documentary The Purity Myth which looks at America and its obsession with women being virgins. To the point where there are some women who will have a surgery for their hymen to be replaced {or something along those lines} in order to be able to ‘offer’ themselves to a new husband. And then, in Australia, our very own Tony Abbott {who I fear might become the next PM later this year} went on about how a woman’s virginity is a gift. Yeah. Because, you know, we put it in a box and wrap it and tie a bow and give it to our husbands.

Last week, I had a rant at a colleague at work. She is from India and has been here for less than a year. You could never tell that she and I grew up in the same country. Honest. But I’ll leave that for a separate post. Anyway, my rant started when we talked about the aforementioned rape and how there was some idiot {among several others} saying the girl was culpable and could have prevented it by calling the rapists her brothers. {Because, you know, brothers never rape their sisters!!!}. We agreed on that stupidity. But then my colleague went on to talk about how traumatising rape can be {in an Indian context} particularly because a woman loses her virginity.

This irked me on two levels: One was the whole honour associated with a woman’s virginity and how shameful and therefore traumatising it is to be raped and lose it and not be able to ‘gift’ it to one’s husband. The second was the implication that women who are married and hence possibly not virgins are not as traumatised because well, they haven’t lost their virginity! By the way, this colleague also thought that the girl was better off dead given that she was no longer a virgin and had been badly injured. Don’t get me started on that one. IHM’s post might be a better read.

And so, all this makes me wonder: why is there so much emphasis on a woman’s virginity? And why not a man’s in the same token? The double standards are rampant everywhere. In Hollywood. In society. All over the world. If an adult woman chooses to have sex with multiple partners, she is automatically labelled a slut. On the other hand, a man doing the same is a stud. A woman is expected and encouraged to keep her virginity for her husband. Why then can’t a man be expected to gift his virginity to his wife? And what is so bloody honourable about being a virgin anyway? Do you suddenly become a better person? Do you suddenly have better morals just because you haven’t slept with anyone?

Through my work I noticed that the worst thing to say to a teenage girl to bully her was to call her a slut. And for a long time, I would ask these girls who were called sluts “Do you think you are a slut?” And of course, they’d say no. “So why does it bother you so much?” They could never explain it but I realised later that it’s because of the morals and the honour that is attached to not being a slut. By society.

If there are 2 consenting adults {or in some cases, 2 consenting teens of the same age}, why should it be anyone else’s business whether they choose to have sex?

And yet, most people will continue to do so.

They will point fingers at the woman who sleeps with a few men.

They will label her a ‘slut’ or ‘easy’.

In some cultures, it will mean she cannot get married. Because she is ‘used goods’.

But in these same cultures, a man could have had multiple partners and it wouldn’t matter.

While as a world we are getting more and more sexualised, there is still a huge majority out there that expects women to gift wrap their virginity and protect it as if it were a jewel.

Because apparently, it’s the honourable thing to do.

And it pisses me off no end.

I’m not saying in any way that we should all just sleep around with everyone. All I’m saying is as long as people have safe sex and consent, why judge? In my line of work, when a teenager tells me they are having sex with another teen, the main thing I look at is safe sex. And educating them about STIs and using protection like condoms or the pill.

Virginity is but an abstract concept. It’s made by human beings.

How does it define whether a woman is honourable or not is beyond me.

P.S. Please read this post by Ash on honour and sex. It’s brilliant!

***Linking this post with FYBF over at With some Grace***


Until next time,

Cheers!!!

 

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No Comments

  • Reply
    Fiona
    February 5, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    As a woman with multiple partners (who know of one another and are cool if not encouraging of it) I constantly walk the slut line waiting to be called it. WE play safe. Safe/sane/consenntual hey?

    xxx thanks for writing this.

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      That’s what I’m talking about Fiona…when everyone is consenting and aware and no one is getting hurt, who are others to judge what is right or wrong? And I have been wanting to write about this for a while…have had some huge rants to friends and colleagues but just haven’t been able to pen it down! 🙂

  • Reply
    Fiona
    February 5, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    As a woman with multiple partners (who know of one another and are cool if not encouraging of it) I constantly walk the slut line waiting to be called it. WE play safe. Safe/sane/consenntual hey?

    xxx thanks for writing this.

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      That’s what I’m talking about Fiona…when everyone is consenting and aware and no one is getting hurt, who are others to judge what is right or wrong? And I have been wanting to write about this for a while…have had some huge rants to friends and colleagues but just haven’t been able to pen it down! 🙂

  • Reply
    Siddhesh Kabe
    February 5, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    I agree with your post end to end. I never understood the concept of virginity and how it really affects the man or the intercourse. However I do disagree on one point, //Virginity is but an abstract concept. It’s made by man.// I do not agree. The concept of virginity is, I believe, made by woman. Specially those woman who ‘label’ others or judge. And this is the trend I have seen. It really doesn’t matter what man has to say in it, he doesn’t. But I have heard woman saying, I am better than her, I am atleast a virgin. Not sure if I should generalize about this but this is my observation.

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm

      That’s my fault Siddesh…when I said it’s a concept made by man I meant a man-made concept. Something human beings have come up with. I’ll make that change in the post. There is nothing biological about virginity is what I was trying to say. 🙂

      Having said that, I think both women and men label other women who are not virgins. The difference is men are happy to sleep with women but they will want to marry a virgin in some cultures. And yes, I agree that there are women who think they are better than other women because they are somehow purer for not having had sex with someone.

  • Reply
    Siddhesh Kabe
    February 5, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    I agree with your post end to end. I never understood the concept of virginity and how it really affects the man or the intercourse. However I do disagree on one point, //Virginity is but an abstract concept. It’s made by man.// I do not agree. The concept of virginity is, I believe, made by woman. Specially those woman who ‘label’ others or judge. And this is the trend I have seen. It really doesn’t matter what man has to say in it, he doesn’t. But I have heard woman saying, I am better than her, I am atleast a virgin. Not sure if I should generalize about this but this is my observation.

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm

      That’s my fault Siddesh…when I said it’s a concept made by man I meant a man-made concept. Something human beings have come up with. I’ll make that change in the post. There is nothing biological about virginity is what I was trying to say. 🙂

      Having said that, I think both women and men label other women who are not virgins. The difference is men are happy to sleep with women but they will want to marry a virgin in some cultures. And yes, I agree that there are women who think they are better than other women because they are somehow purer for not having had sex with someone.

  • Reply
    Aathira
    February 5, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Beautiful post… virginity is something which is truly overrated and as you said, its a man made concept which applies in its full glory only for women. Another deal of the male dominated society is all that it is. But, the age old shackles take eons to come off.

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Thanks Aathira. And yes, this has most likely originated thanks to religion given that no medical text talks about virginity {women can break their hymens by riding a bike!} and all religions are patriarchal. It’s frustrating though and I find it really hard to not have a rant when people tell me how losing one’s virginity is equivalent to a loss of honour and morals and all that.

  • Reply
    Aathira
    February 5, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Beautiful post… virginity is something which is truly overrated and as you said, its a man made concept which applies in its full glory only for women. Another deal of the male dominated society is all that it is. But, the age old shackles take eons to come off.

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Thanks Aathira. And yes, this has most likely originated thanks to religion given that no medical text talks about virginity {women can break their hymens by riding a bike!} and all religions are patriarchal. It’s frustrating though and I find it really hard to not have a rant when people tell me how losing one’s virginity is equivalent to a loss of honour and morals and all that.

  • Reply
    Avada Kedavra
    February 7, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Men are very particular. One guy that I met for marriage asked me directly if I had a BF etc. Even though I did not have any, I did not go ahead with the alliance. I just did not like his attitude towards such things. Sigh! when will we improve!

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      Certain men are very particular about it Ava. Glad you didn’t go ahead with that guy…after all, so what if you had had a boyfriend? So what if you’d even slept with him? When will things improve? Sadly, the cynic in me doubts it will be in our lifetime.

  • Reply
    Avada Kedavra
    February 7, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Men are very particular. One guy that I met for marriage asked me directly if I had a BF etc. Even though I did not have any, I did not go ahead with the alliance. I just did not like his attitude towards such things. Sigh! when will we improve!

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      Certain men are very particular about it Ava. Glad you didn’t go ahead with that guy…after all, so what if you had had a boyfriend? So what if you’d even slept with him? When will things improve? Sadly, the cynic in me doubts it will be in our lifetime.

  • Reply
    thekidsareallrightaustralia
    February 8, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I missed that memo from Tony Abbott. That way of thinking gives me the creeps.

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 10, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      You and me both! Yeah he said this around the same time as his women and ironing comment I think. Sigh. It’s scary…

  • Reply
    thekidsareallrightaustralia
    February 8, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I missed that memo from Tony Abbott. That way of thinking gives me the creeps.

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 10, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      You and me both! Yeah he said this around the same time as his women and ironing comment I think. Sigh. It’s scary…

  • Reply
    blahblahmagazine
    February 8, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Great post! I have always found the difference in perceptions between male and female sexuality odd. I must say, I like the idea of owning the slut label, like the feminist event the ‘slut walk’. The thing I love about it is that it has made me rethink my use of the term. I confess, I winced the first time I heard the name of the event, but now I think, yes, a woman has the right to have as much sex as she wants. Blokes can boast about it, why can’t women?

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 11, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Welcome here! I think that was a great concept…taking over the word slut. Sadly, with the teens it’s still a bad word. Hopefully some day, that will change. As will the whole difference in perceptions between male and female sexuality. Will I live to see it? Not so sure…

  • Reply
    blahblahmagazine
    February 8, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Great post! I have always found the difference in perceptions between male and female sexuality odd. I must say, I like the idea of owning the slut label, like the feminist event the ‘slut walk’. The thing I love about it is that it has made me rethink my use of the term. I confess, I winced the first time I heard the name of the event, but now I think, yes, a woman has the right to have as much sex as she wants. Blokes can boast about it, why can’t women?

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 11, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Welcome here! I think that was a great concept…taking over the word slut. Sadly, with the teens it’s still a bad word. Hopefully some day, that will change. As will the whole difference in perceptions between male and female sexuality. Will I live to see it? Not so sure…

  • Reply
    Emily
    February 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    There was an interesting article in The Good Weekend recently (either last weekend or the one before) about this need for men to ‘spread their seed’ being a construct and not at all proven to be biological as society assumes. I know it’s slightly off track from what you’re saying, but the two are linked. It’s okay for men; not okay for women? Double standards are ridiculous.

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 11, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      Welcome here Emily and thanks for sharing that…I agree that the two are linked. It’s with that assumption I suppose that there is the belief it’s okay for men to sleep with as many women but not so the other way around. Why do human beings come up with these constructs??? Makes me so mad!!!

  • Reply
    Emily
    February 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    There was an interesting article in The Good Weekend recently (either last weekend or the one before) about this need for men to ‘spread their seed’ being a construct and not at all proven to be biological as society assumes. I know it’s slightly off track from what you’re saying, but the two are linked. It’s okay for men; not okay for women? Double standards are ridiculous.

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 11, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      Welcome here Emily and thanks for sharing that…I agree that the two are linked. It’s with that assumption I suppose that there is the belief it’s okay for men to sleep with as many women but not so the other way around. Why do human beings come up with these constructs??? Makes me so mad!!!

  • Reply
    Grace
    February 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    It’s hard to talk to someone from the same culture as you but have entirely different ideas and opinions. It truly does make you wonder how you raised in the same country. When I have one of those conversations (I’m Indonesian born), I feel like walking away and bashing my head against a wall.
    You make very valid points, though and yes, virginity is but an abstract concept made up accordingly to suit a particular culture or religion.
    God help me when Tony Abbott becomes PM, though

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm

      Oh honestly Grace…this colleague and I can’t be further apart in our views and she’s only 5 years older to me so it’s not even a generation thing. My mum is more open-minded than her! I shudder to think about Tony Abbott as our PM…sigh…

  • Reply
    Grace
    February 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    It’s hard to talk to someone from the same culture as you but have entirely different ideas and opinions. It truly does make you wonder how you raised in the same country. When I have one of those conversations (I’m Indonesian born), I feel like walking away and bashing my head against a wall.
    You make very valid points, though and yes, virginity is but an abstract concept made up accordingly to suit a particular culture or religion.
    God help me when Tony Abbott becomes PM, though

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler
      February 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm

      Oh honestly Grace…this colleague and I can’t be further apart in our views and she’s only 5 years older to me so it’s not even a generation thing. My mum is more open-minded than her! I shudder to think about Tony Abbott as our PM…sigh…

  • Reply
    Chicky a.k.a. Kaddu
    February 11, 2013 at 1:04 am

    I won’t get started on this topic…
    I won’t get started on this topic…
    I won’t get started on this topic…
    I WON’T get started on this topic…
    I W-O-N’-T get started on this topic…
    i JUST WON’T get started on this topic…

  • Reply
    Chicky a.k.a. Kaddu
    February 11, 2013 at 1:04 am

    I won’t get started on this topic…
    I won’t get started on this topic…
    I won’t get started on this topic…
    I WON’T get started on this topic…
    I W-O-N’-T get started on this topic…
    i JUST WON’T get started on this topic…

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    February 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Please do…
    Please do…
    Please do…
    Please do…
    Please do…
    Please, please, please do…

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    February 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Please do…
    Please do…
    Please do…
    Please do…
    Please do…
    Please, please, please do…

  • Reply
    Magali
    March 25, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    I know it’s so late but I agree completely!!
    I remember reading the sex column in Femina as a kid & the doc always said that Virginity should only apply to men who are interested in breaking down barriers. On that note, I remember some prominent Indians had a discussion on premarital sex at a forum & it was printed in DNA (a daily newspaper). Almost all of them agreed that the real reason men like their girlfriends/wives to be virgins is because they don’t want to be compared to anyone. And frankly that made a lot of sense.
    Real talk (hoping someone I know from real life doesn’t land up on this post) I haven’t dated much yet I’ve always told my mom about how I don’t want to get married a virgin. Just to prove a point or whatever, if nothing else. There is so much stigma & moral policing attached to a woman’s ladybits in India, it’s ridiculous. I know the right (& feminist) things to do as an empowered woman but it’s so difficult to not let that narrow minded crap get in your head (at least in my case). 🙁
    Magali recently posted…Sweet Treats from Icing On Top Exquisite ConfectionaryMy Profile

  • Reply
    Magali
    March 25, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    I know it’s so late but I agree completely!!
    I remember reading the sex column in Femina as a kid & the doc always said that Virginity should only apply to men who are interested in breaking down barriers. On that note, I remember some prominent Indians had a discussion on premarital sex at a forum & it was printed in DNA (a daily newspaper). Almost all of them agreed that the real reason men like their girlfriends/wives to be virgins is because they don’t want to be compared to anyone. And frankly that made a lot of sense.
    Real talk (hoping someone I know from real life doesn’t land up on this post) I haven’t dated much yet I’ve always told my mom about how I don’t want to get married a virgin. Just to prove a point or whatever, if nothing else. There is so much stigma & moral policing attached to a woman’s ladybits in India, it’s ridiculous. I know the right (& feminist) things to do as an empowered woman but it’s so difficult to not let that narrow minded crap get in your head (at least in my case). 🙁
    Magali recently posted…Sweet Treats from Icing On Top Exquisite ConfectionaryMy Profile

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