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In about two weeks, I’m heading down to Washington, DC to participate in a conference that I’m so freaking excited about. It’s Momentum: Making waves in sexuality, feminism and relationships.
It’s two days of panels and presentations about a hundred different aspects and iterations of sexuality, with a list of amazing presenters as long as my arm. You’ve got Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Jaclyn Friedman, Nancy Schwartzman, Audacia Ray, Abiola Abrams, and so many more…
Note: This was submitted to the How to Lose Your Virginity blog by tumblr writer dirtybuceta from Australia. Thanks, Sarah! Here it is! We happily consider all submission dealing with virginity, sexuality and feminism.
So I happen to be a bit of a character and enjoy reading a variety of blogs. One of my favourites happens to be this one. If you took the time to click it you’d find yourself at a feminist website entitled ‘How to lose your Virginity’. Which explores the western cultures attitudes to sex.
I happen to really enjoy that blog. I mentioned it in passing to a buddy of mine, and after I explained a bit more about it she gave me this look. A look I really can’t describe in words but afterwards she said this:
I really wish I could be more into feminist stuff like you Sarah… but I don’t want to die alone.
Naturally, I was so irritated by this comment I just had to write a blog about it. So join me if you will while I explain why this comment is so very wrong on one hand yet incredibly accurate on another.
Being a feminist comes with a lot of connotations, and stereotypes. Man hater and angry lesbian are two that spring to mind. Obviously neither of which are true of all feminists. That said, when someone mentions the word feminist who imagines a super friendly girl who spends her spare time reading and hanging out with friends? Nobody. Even I with my Gen Y liberal thinking brain imagine an angry woman with a shaved head. This is something which is absolutely stupid! Why should a feminist have to be something made out to be so unfeminine? Personally, I am quite calm to say that I am a bit of a feminist myself.
What was the key word in that last sentence? ‘Bit’. I am calm to say I am a ‘bit’ of a feminist. My reasoning behind this takes us back to my buddy’s point. The idea of dying alone.
In the last few months, or to be more precise since the 4th of July 2011*, I have been a lot more vocal in my views on gender equality after viewing just how much shit and or how shit girls will act just to get the attention of some sleazy guy. In turn since the 4th of July 2011 I have been subject to the notion that women are objects to be obtained when out and about. This did not sit right with me. I would make this point to many people while out and be told to get over it. This also did not sit right with me so I’d make it again. Only to be told the same thing. After a while more girls began to agree with me but again they would finish whatever fantastic point they’d have which I would be so impressed with by saying: ‘but I don’t want to die alone’.
Finally, after about a month it hit me. If one is seen to be even slightly confident, self assured, and happy being female and alone then one is a feminist. Or ‘even worse’ a lesbian. Take this conversation as an example:
*Person that is not me, a person that is not my buddy and a guy who was not keen for me are having a conversation at a not shit venue.
Person that is not me: So basically I think it’s stupid the way if I’m walking around by myself then it’s free game to try and grope me. Some guy puts his arm around me then immediately I’m his property and the gropes will stop.
Person that is not my buddy: *Laughter* I think you’re right person that is not Sarah, but you don’t want to go on about stuff like that all the time, people will think you’re a lesbian.
Guy who is not keen on the person that is not me: What? She’s not a lesbian, she doesn’t look like one.
*Cue arms around person that is not me, signalling claim of ownership.*
Before you bitterly think ‘I think when someone puts their arms around you it’s cute not rude!’ So do I, but it depends on the situation. In that situation the person who was not me, was NOT in any sort or relationship with that boy but to anyone looking at us it would seem we were. No other guy would speak to the person that is not me that night unless asking that boy’s *permission first. The person that is not me even commented on that and pointed out that she and the boy were not together only for him to look down at his arm around her then back at her in disbelief. As if the arm meant something! (Naturally, this was met by a lot of laughter) Now forgive me when I say, what the fuck is that?!
To his credit, that boy took a lot of my rants in stride and would just smile and listen to whatever I had to say in the vain hope that I’d eventually relent and fuck him. But most guys do not. Most guys assume I am an angry feminist (because I don’t look like a lesbian, cue epic eye roll) and complain that I’m frigid. That is why I have added the word ‘bit’ when I describe my feminist self in casual conversation.
I too, do not want to die alone. I am sick of being told things like “if we were the Powerpuff Girls you’d be *Buttercup because she’s the least feminine” and it being made to be a huge deal if do anything even remotely female. Even saying that I don’t want to die alone and that I’d like to one day get married is met by eye rolls by many (not that I blame them, it’s not something I can honestly see myself doing despite the fact I want to).
But if I be honest I am a feminist and I’m not actually that afraid to admit it. What I am afraid of is the reaction I get from people when I do.
* The 4th of July 2011 was my 18th Birthday and thus my first encounter with the seedy world that is going out.
* Alright I admit it, it was me!
* In regards to the permission thing it wasn’t as if they literally asked, it was more: “I am not going to acknowledge the girl sitting next to you until you make it clear I can do so”. Or it was, “I’m going to say hi to the girl you’re with, but I’m not going to respond to what she says until you give me a look of approval”. Or the most irritating, “I’m going to talk to you about the girl you’re with as if she’s not there”.
* Despite the backhanded insult of the Buttercup comment, she is actually my favourite Powerpuff Girl. She wears green which is my favourite colour AND she doesn’t take shit from anyone.
Thanks so much for this shout-out!
I just found out about this really promising upcoming documentary called How to Lose Your Virginity. It’s made by the same woman who made the documentary my blog is named after (I was a Teenage Feminist).
How to Lose Your Virginity looks at how society views virginity and why, in 2011, virginity is still something that is considered “important” for women to hold onto.
I’m looking forward to watching it, as someone who considers virginity a social-construct it will be interesting to hear the voices and opinions of other women. Often I get so sucked up into the feminist community I forget that not all women hold feminist beliefs about things like virginity. It isn’t out yet, but as soon as it is I will hopefully find myself a copy and review it for all of you.
The women making it, Trixie, has a neat feature on her website where you can contribute your thoughts and feelings about virginity. If you want to do that, the link can be found here. I’ve already shared my views, and I urge you to share yours. It sounds like an awesome project.
Now, I don’t mean to suggest that everyone should be out having wild (heterosexual) sex. I totally respect any individual’s personal choice to abstain from any sexual act(s) for so long as they want- until they are “this” age, until they are in “that” kind of relationship, because they don’t feel like dealing with sex at this point in their life, or ever. What I’m suggesting is that we, as a society, ditch the social construct that is “virginity.” Here are just a few reasons why:
- “Virgin” is not a medical status and term. In fact, the traditional marker of female virginity, known as the hymen, doesn’t even exist as most people understand it.
- The expectations and mythology surrounding female virginity creates an often dangerous situation for women all around the world. Despite the fact that many “virgins” do not bleed their first time, severe consequences may face the woman who doesn’t bleed on her wedding night. (See the fake hymen)
- It is a heteronormative concept. What does virginity mean to a queer person, who may never have vaginal intercourse in her/his/hir life? What of a lesbian who chooses to never engage in any sort of penetrative sex act her entire life, does she remain some sort of super, extra virgin? If a straight man receives a blowjob, he will in all likelihood still consider himself a virgin, but a gay man receiving a blowjob may have a more complicated understanding of what it means for his sex life. In many ways, our conception of “virginity” erases or invalidates queer sex.
- When we place vaginal intercourse at a higher “value” than all other sex acts and define “virginity” in such a narrow way, it can create a seriously unhealthy predicament, especially for teens who have the misfortune of enduring “abstinence only” sex education. Most of us have probably heard about teenagers engaging in anal and oral sex, while maintaining that they preserve their “virginity.” It has been found that without a clear, healthy understanding of what is safe sex, 10% of these “abstainers” have an STD.
- Our obsession with virginity thrives on double standard and reflects a model of sex-as-commodity. Women are valued for their “purity” and their sexuality. In many ways, women are simply equated with sex and can be, at the tamest, shamed when they are not doing this sexuality right- for example, by having sex when they shouldn’t be. On the other hand, men’s sexuality often does not get the same amount of policing in this area- male “virgins” are not valued in the same way female “virgins” are (in fact, men may feel pressure to be having a lot of sex). The idea is perpetuated that sex is something that women “have” and men “take” from them- check out the issues of heteronormativity, gender roles, hierarchy, and rape culture in that one! By implication, women only have so much sex to give out before they are “used up,” “dirty,” or “broken.” Why shouldn’t we see sex as a collaborative, mutual experience, and value those with experience instead? (Check out Yes Means Yes! for a great article on this by Thomas Macaulay Millar)
- Sex is treated and understood as something that is dirty and defiling, rather than the beautiful, healthy, and enjoyable experience that it should be.
Instead of a broken and outdated system of regulation, we should replace it with frank, open discourse and education revolving around healthy sex and relationships.