Sex and Love 100

Musings on the most basic life skill . . .

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is Virginity a Dirty Word?

12/7   Sitting with my 85 year old mother in a coffee shop one afternoon and she spies an old classmate from high school.  They chat and conjure memories. The woman wobbles, cane in hand away.  Mom strains her neck towards my face opposite her.  “She wasn’t a virgin”.  
     “What?” I say confused. 
      “You know…She was loose.”
     My mind reeled, after all those years that was all my mother could say!? 
     Let me assure you that the double standard (what men can do vs. what women can do) still exists.  I doubt it will ever disappear.  But the value placed on virginity has shifted dramatically since even I was in college.
 The rule was – at least the rule I heard- was that you did not sleep with anyone unless you were deeply committed, perhaps engaged.  It’s the rule that my Italian family subscribes to.  My niece explained it to me.  You date, you get to know each other, you fool around a bit but sex is off limits. It was four years before they announced their engagement.  Somehow the engagement is the go ahead but never to live together.  The wedding was a few months away and she threw out the birth control and became pregnant on her honey moon.  She informed me this is the way it’s done.  Intriguing. Italy has one of the lowest teen pregnancy, STD and divorce statistics in the world.
     In the 1950’s in the US the average age women lost their virginity was around 20;  today it’s closer to 16.  The Guttmacher Institute (guttmacher.org)  reported that 75% of teens have intercourse by the time they turned 20 and the US reports the highest static for engaging in sex before age 15.  We also have the highest rate of teen pregnancy and STD’s.  Being a virgin in college may make you an anomaly. So far are you in the minority it may serve up ridicule on a silver platter.   
     Sexual decisions do not occur in a vacuum.  They are made in the context of our social world; family, religion, social backdrop and friendships.  Which brings be to the surprising fact; the biggest predictor of losing one’s virginity is peer pressure.  Why?  Because virginity is a dirty word. There must be something so terribly wrong with anyone who has not had sex by forty said the movie with the similar title.  When Dr. Cindy Meston questioned women about their reasons to initiate sex some responded as if it were something they had to just do, like getting vaccinated.  Many felt they were embarrassed to admit they had never had sex as if it were a badge of dishonor!  Of course that is not the only reason to initiate sex but it is a popular one. The effect of revealing ones virginity if you are a guy has far more negative consequences.  The film The Forty year old Virgin centered around his getting vagina as if it was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.   
     Virgins today have taken cover in the new movement of pledging.  Pledging involves an oath to swear off sex until married.  It doesn’t work so well- I’ve left a reference below so you can look a the research.  There are problems with this approach.  First, sex is defined differently.  Most women do not consider oral sex to be ‘real sex.’  Second, if you fall off the pledge wagon you might  feel quite guilty.  Third, what happens to the huge majority who want to tone their sexual lives down because they are realizing sex does have a lot of negative repercussions.  The sad fact is that there is no real middle ground. No gray area. You either are a virgin or you are not.  If you are a virgin it means NO SEX.  If you are not a virgin it implies you are sexually active.  Another reason females jump on the sex wagon is to keep a relationship.  Once a woman loses her virginity with her partner there is no turning sex off in the relationship. You cannot go back. 
     So here are some facts to turn over in your brain.  Most women regret their first time, find no pleasure in it, did it in June, did it to keep a relationship, did it just to do it and most felt a huge drop in their self-esteem, (Joyner and Undry 1998), self-worth and body image (Vasilenko and Lefkowitz 2011).  They also get a wallop of sex guilt.  As bad as they felt emotionally few recognized their health risks; STD’s or unwanted pregnancy.  Men cited increased bravado, feelings of masculinity,  greater self-esteem, higher body image and of course pleasure. You didn’t need me to tell you that did you?  
     Why can’t the idea of virginity and sexuality meet each other in some way.  I just watched the movie Friends with Benefits. She had the five date rule, which backfired.  So in talking to my girlfriend who has the worst track record in the dating world I suggested a new approach.  I called it the friends first without benefits.  I like this approach of being friends first, ff.  You are not a virgin but you make an oath, to yourself, that you will not get involved sexually until the relationship builds on a more sturdy platform.  You keep a foot back in your virgin world.  Isn’t that an easier approach?  What do you think? 
     I thought of all the teens that had made all kinds of sexual mistakes that could be pledging… Her reply?  That will have to wait for another blog.
Dr. Dawn Marlena Hopper

Sara A. Vasilenko, Nilam Ram, Eva S. Lefkowitz. Body image and first sexual intercourse in late adolescence. Journal of Adolescence, 2011; 34 (2): 327 DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.04.005

http://www.hawaii.edu/hivandaids/Promising%20the%20Future%20%20%20Virginity%20Pledges%20as%20they%20Affect%20Transition%20to%20First%20Intercourse.pdf

29 comments:

  1. i personalily think that being a virgin is a beautiful thing. there is no cons to be a virgin.

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  2. I can understand the whole sexual revolution and all that, but in my opinion bottom line is that women are still viewed as "loose" and men heroes when they loose their virginity out of wedlock.

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  3. I don't see anything wrong in people keeping themselves 'pure' until they find that special someone. People these days i feel like are just having sex so they can fit in the crowd and be able to talk about that thing rather than just be the awkward person in the group. I feel like if you believe it'r right to wait, then there should be no reason for being ashamed about it.

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  4. I think staying a virgin through school and saving yourself for the love of your life is a great thing. I give those people a lot of credit for not giving into peer-pressure and standing their ground all those years.

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  5. I cant say i regret anything i have done in my past. There is no reason to sit back and complain and wish i would have been smarter about decisions that i made because theres no turning back. My past is my past for a reason. I have learned from my mistakes and now when the topic of anyone being a virgin gets brought up the only thing that i have to say is good for them.

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  6. This article was actually fairly intriguing and, though it seemed to center around women and virginity, I did find some depth and perspective in the brief point where you mentioned that the ridicule for men can be more negative than that for women.

    I, for one, did not love my virginity until I was out of High School and I suffered (not only in my senior or junior year, mind you) throughout high school for not only not having had sex, but for finding no real interest in having sex until I was a senior. Ridicule spanned from being the 'Forty Year-Old Virgin' to speculation that maybe I was (and I'm quoting this) 'So far deep in the closet I didn't know which way was out.'

    It's actually a real shame as to the degree to which people encourage sex among peers, especially at such a young age. Currently there are high school freshman at the High School I had graduated from who are either pregnant or already have one-two year old children.

    At that age, you are more or less damning your child to a less than privileged childhood, unless you're a genius who is being hired to create computer software for six figures at the age of 16.

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  7. What I don’t understand is how the problem with sex got so out of control. Most people regret having intercourse and admit that. Why would they encourage others to make the same mistake that they did? And if that view isn’t so popular among guys, why is it that men aren’t discouraging each other to think before they have sex? One of my favorite quotes is, “Any fool can have sex. It takes a man to raise a child.” Whether they’re dating, engaged, married, or having sex for fun, I think more people need to really think of whether or not they’re ready for anything that can come from having sex.

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  8. Ahhh virginity. I am one who regrets losing it not to the person I married. Virginity is something you can only give away once and if there is a "perfect" mate out there, a soul mate, as my friend would call them, wouldn't you want to save this most personal and one time only gift for them? I wish I had known this as sure as I know this now. But like I read in a comment above... our past is here and gone and can't be changed. In fact our past has shaped us into our present and guides us towards the future.

    I would go back and re-claim my virginity if it was possible.

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  9. Being a mom of a daughter I hope that my daughter waits until she finds her perfect mate. But I know that with the peer pressure that might not be likely. So all I can do is talk with her and hope that she waits.

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  10. Being someone who just graduated from high school, I can definitely say people are losing their virginities way sooner than 16, which has caused quite a few pregnancies. I don't think there's a problem with the age, I just feel people at that age aren't as conscious of what can happen by just having sex, so they aren't as careful, which has put the label on sex as a problem in our society.

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  11. I am still with the person I lost my virginity to 28 years ago. I was 12 (started menstruation at age 8"), he was 15. We waited about as long as two young raging hormonal kids could. I think we waited 4 or 6 months. We both were virgins, very much in love and eager. Used protection and were careful with one another. Made it as special for each other as possible. We still laugh about some of the circumstances we encountered. I have to say, I think virginity is over-rated. As long as you teach children the dangers of sex and how "not" to get pregnant and contract disease, as well as the joys and beauty of it, then where is the harm. I think alot of people end up regretting their first time because they did not use their "heads" and their "hearts" enough to have waited until it was with someone special in their lives. Maybe not their future wife or husband, but at least someone that cared for them deeply.
    I told you my story, not because I want to "share" it with you like a prize I won at the local amusement park, but because it seems you never here the good stories about sex and losing your virginity. Sex is a wonderful, healthy and natural thing. Neurotranmitters flush our bodies with feelings of ecstasy that work as natural calming and soothing inhibiters. And orgasms help to keep the male and female sexual organs clean and in working order. It is the drug of all drugs! Nothing quite matches it. It also provides a closeness that you can only compare with how a mother carries a child. A bond between a man and a woman like no other. So I ask, "Is virginity a dirty word?" or "Is sex a dirty word?"

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  12. I lost my virginity while drunk and watching the SyFi channel when I was 18 to a neighbor of mine. The next morning, I left without her waking up. The definition of romance, is it not? Well, I fashion myself to be of a relatively gentlemanly nature, so I did what any gentleman would do in this situation, I sent her a text saying, “Hey, so I’m sorry that I got drunk and had sex with you yesterday.”

    I did not lose my virginity in the way that I envisioned it. I felt like a horrible person. I valued being a virgin and I had made a mistake. But this wasn’t just any mistake, this was a mistake involving virginity! And that’s the kind of mistake that’s important, right? Well, having lost my mantle of holiness, I was cast out into the sinful pit beneath. I was no longer a virgin, so there was nothing stopping me from, well, being not a virgin some more. So, when the girl offered a second time, I did not decline. And I didn’t decline her future offers. Well, a series of plot twists later, she winds up hating me and tried to hit me with a car. Ah, teenage romance...

    Well, I say this because I feel my experiences exemplifies what’s really wrong with our views on virginity. The problem isn’t that we view losing one’s virginity as a good or bad thing, the real problem is that we view virginity as something that matters in the first place. Having lost my virginity in a drunken encounter isn’t a high point in my life, but having lost it in that situation neither makes me more of a real “man” nor does it make me less of a moral person. What does reflect on me is choosing to act in a poor manner after losing it, by returning subsequent times. We shouldn’t be speaking ill of anyone, but if we’re going to whisper disparagingly about those around us, speaking about whether or not one is acting like an idiot is much more efficient than speaking on one’s virginity. That’s where we need to focus. Instead of signs about abstinence or what not, everyone should just follow the golden rule of the world, “Don’t be an idiot.” Valuing or hating virginity seems to me to lead to the same result, sleeping around, which can lead to STDs, pregnancy, or some girl down the street trying to hit you with her car. Rather than placing so much of our thought on virginity, which really doesn’t matter, we should place emphasis on having safe sex after losing it, where it’s more important for us to make good decisions.

    Concerning whether or not I would wish I could go back and change the circumstances in which I would lose it, my answer is that I would not. There’s no reason to change anything in my life. The fact that I lost it to some arbitrary girl in no way lessens the first time I was with my current girlfriend. I don’t wish I could’ve lost it to her because that implies that being with her intimately is in some way lessened by my past mistakes. It’s not lessened. If anything, I now know the difference between meaningless sex and sex with one you care about.

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  13. I have the upmost respect for people who decide to wait until marriage before having sex. In this day and age sex is everywhere- from video games, to music lyrics, to commercials, magazines, billboards, TV shows, and the internet. With so much sexual content on the forefront of the media, teens are more pressured than ever before to have sex at a young age. We see more encouragement than discouragement to lose virginity whenever, wherever, and with whomever. Sex is no longer a sacred thing. It is no longer considered a special thing shared between a man and a woman who deeply love each other. Instead, it is considered an act that is almost expected in just about every encounter between a male and a female. This is a bad message for our younger generation! With the risk of contracting STD's and unwanted pregnancy, sex should be portrayed differently!

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  14. I completely have respect for girls who wait until they have found someone they sincerely care about to have sex. I also have great respect for the girls who choose to wait to have sex with their partner until they feel ready and comfortable. In today's society, it takes a lot for a women to resist sex with their significant other. Today, television and the Internet make sex seem ok and make it not a big deal. It wasn't always this way though. The media has a huge impact on young women today when it comes to sex. I'm sure sometimes women think they don't even have a choice when having sex with her partner. Like you mentioned, it is definitely the norm today to have sex with your partner and not wait. The media makes it seem like being a virgin is not ok and therefore, people feel humiliated when they haven't had sex before. It makes women and men feel insecure if the have never had sex. There are so many companies that take advantage of the media age we live in today. Every TV show, movie, and commercial usually has some sexual related topic, whether or not you can notice it or not. Companies and movie producers are making money and there is no way this is going to not be a problem, at least in the near future. If women have values they want to stand by, they should absolutely stand by them no matter who tells them differently.

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  15. I was 14 years old when I had sex for the first time. It was a terrible experience that thankfully only lasted about 40 seconds. The only thing worse than the embarrassment that I was feeling at the time was the girl laying next to me, crying hysterically, because she thought she was pregnant. Yes, she thought she was pregnant just minutes after we had finished. This is why young people should not engage in this type of behavior. Neither of us knew why we wanted to have sex, we thought we were in love and wanted to be "all grown up" but it turned out that we actually hated each other, and fought all the time. Now that I am older I realize that I lost so much time when I was younger, trying to have sex as much as possible. I just wish I had left the "grown up" stuff for when i was older, and focused on being a kid.

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  16. I dont think the word Virgin is dirty its misrepresented, extremly. Some females say they are a virgin just to show that they are not a hoe. Some girls say that because they regret their first, for instance "Im still a virgin, I only did it once". Like you said, "There are no gray areas". Every female is scared of the label "hoe" so she is going to say whatever not to get that name. Its really hard now days to believe a female that tells me she is a virgin.

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  17. That's what my parents always told me, "be friends first." Back when I was 15-16 that seemed a little boring? I had this idea that sexual/physical attraction was the most important things in a bf/gf relationship. But once you reach your 20s (for me anyway) I was just looking for someone that I was really comfortable with. And if you're not friends first and the physical attraction goes away, you really don't have anything left.
    *And also relating to the virginity topic*
    I don't know how any girl could give it up to anyone that they weren't sure about... Imagine how much smoother your marriage will be if there are no ex boyfriends or girlfriends in the mix (that you've slept with)*. I don't think men realize how attractive self-control is to a woman.

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  18. I see nothing wrong with virginity, being or not being a virgin does not lead me to think any different about anyone. I think kids hear of the wonders of "sex" and how magical it is. Once they engage and its all said and done, nothing leads them not to have sex again. I don't see virginity as a precious thing but i also understand how some people do.

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  19. Dr. Dawn you know how much I love the Moral Animal by now. Wright calls it the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. Men are excited by the archetypal whore because because she signifies availability and willingness. We are attracted to the "virgin" because she guarantees or support of our own genetic offspring. Is it possible that women help reinforce those notions because "whores" may become home wreckers who divert resources from their young?

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  20. Makes sense, im not sure if "dirty" is the correct word, but it is a bit shocking if you hear it after the age 16. ESPECIALLY if its by choice; thats practically unheard of in todays day. I don't think its dirty, its just not something I expect to hear.

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  21. I'm a virgin and have never been ridiculed for it. I'm not ashamed of my decisions. I think it has something to do with who I've surrounded myself with. I feel if teenagers were well educated on the subject of sex they would be able to make smarter choices. Right now sex is lightly touched on and they're not completely informed. To them sex is a "forbidden fruit" and they want what they can't have.

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  22. We may be one of the few species that is capable of loving someone and being completely faithful to one other person but we still have hormones that drive us to want to have sex, to get that pleasure, so i think that no matter how much emphasis is put on sex being something that is for married people, is something that will more and more dwindle away, as it has proven to do over time.

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  23. It will and always will be a double standard, guys praise other guys who have lots of sex but as soon as a guy hears that a girl had sex with even one guy shes automatically a slut or a whore. This will never change.

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  24. Being a virgin shows strength in a person, it shows that that person is not afraid to be exactly who they want to be and will not succumb to peer pressure.

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  25. i dont think nothing wrong with holding out on sex. saving your virginity till marriage is a good thing. and show alot of self control. sometimes when u young and think u in love u want to show them by sexual attention. i lost my virginity when i was 17 senior in high school.i lost it to my first boyfriend we was together from 9th grade till the age of 21. im 23 now even though we are no longer together we are still close friends and talk often. i do not regret my decision i made im happy i made it. if i didnt move away we will still be together.

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  26. In my faith I believe waiting until marriage is a protection for yourself and for your partner. I remember years ago when I was in high school and attended youth group. The Pastor did a message on sex and used a can of Coke as an example. He had many drink from it and explained the backwash and reality that when you sleep with one person you sleep with those that person slept with. Kind of a scary image to think about.
    If you view sex as an intimate level and not a getting off activity or having fun it holds a higher perspective. You think a little longer about doing it.
    I had waited until marriage, when the marriage ended on very bad terms I decided to sleep around a little. I won't justify my actions or regret them because it happened. But when I met the man I truly experienced love with it was hard for me to tell him about 1) I was married and this is what happened and 2) I have had this many partners. I remember going to Plan Parenthood and getting checked, then waiting and getting re-checked. I was so scared to wait days to find out if I was clean. Thank God I was fine! I don't know how I could have told him I had something.
    Sex is like finishing off your soda and grabbing another one for how it is viewed on television and in movies. But what needs to be should more than the petty drama of "he broke up with me" is the other consequences that come with it.
    There was a girl in one of my classes who had gotten pregnant and then blamed the college for not handing out condoms. What? The college actually does at the health office but not at the campus center where she hangs out, so it's the college's fault. How about take responsibility for your own actions!
    Virginity should not be looked at a negative thing. It should actually be respected because it is a responsible thing to do until the time is right. And a person should wait until one is comfortable and not go by what others are doing. Because those others will not be there raising a child for the next 18 years if the person gets pregnant.

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  27. This is a very interesting post, I think, because not often do you read about virginity. It's almost, like you said, a dirty word and the family I was brought up in basically banned any kind of sex talk while I was growing up. I think losing ones virginity is a decision this person has made and is deeply reflected upon their upbringing. We all surround ourselves with people who we connect with and are similar to, so I can see how someone who is a virgin may or may not have it a little easier dodging the peer pressure in school depending on who they surround themselves with and how strong their values are.

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  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  29. I can't believe the study found that so many women actually suffered a decrease in their self esteem, after their first time having sex! The symbolism behind sex has changed over the years, obviously.

    Maybe people had sex when they were 20 in 1950, but what about the year 150, when people barely lived until they were 20? I believe people should stop worrying about the symbolism behind everything, and less about what other people would think of them, too.

    The obsession with regret and social etiquette, is what drives self-esteem down. "Is it right, or is it wrong, what do you think?" It's the minds worst disease. Biologically speaking, we're thinking about sex, and we're menstruating and ejaculating years before 20, or even 16. So.... I say everything is fine how it is, if your morality is telling you to save your first time for marriage, than you are wonderful...and if your morality is content before then, you are wonderful too.

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