Monday, August 18, 2014

The Cult of Virginity

This poor lady's post is one of those awful stories about missing the forest for the trees, but I want to talk about it not only because her story is too common, but I think I would want to talk about it even if she was the only one who ever went through this kind of thing. Read the post, I am not going to explain it all here. It's a good read.

First of all I want to talk about this cult of virginity in general. Yes, virginity is great, but you know what is just the same as virginity, a pure heart now. The word kind of disgusts me, actually, and it is not just because it is something abused by sexual perverts and their pornography. No, it disgusts me (also) because it is viewed as a crown in the Christian tradition. And it is sexist. Virginity is not a word the Christian tradition uses for men, usually, and that is sexist. When someone uses the word 'virgin' they are saying something equivalent to 'never committed a sexual sin.' Sounds like something positive, but how would you feel if I went around saying, "Nope, never committed that sin. Nope, never committed that sin either." It would bother you and make you not want to be my friend. So, why are men never called virgin? Is it because them having sex is somehow less momentously bad?

As the author's tale will indicate, virginity is something some Christians prize a lot. I think sexual purity is really important. It is as important as bravery and honesty. In other words, very important. But some Christians treat it as the most important 'thing.' I call it a thing here because you can't speak of it as a virtue. Chastity is a virtue, aka purity of heart. But virginity is a status. I suppose I could be as happy that someone is a virgin as I would be that someone is consistently generous. But even if they had once been selfish and materialist but then had a great change of heart, I would like to believe that their record of wrongs would cease to exist for me. I am glad a virgin is a virgin today. I don't care what she did or did not do yesterday. I can look at a priest who has been faithful to his priestly vows for fifty years with gratitude and joy; a married couple who has done the same and feel the same appreciation. But if I had been told that that priest had gone through a hard time but in the end was faithful or the married couple too, I can admire their renewed resolve to love each other, etc. I really don't need to know anything else about their private lives when invited to their anniversary party.

Some might think that I am hereby devaluing sexual purity. I would strongly object to that. And I have St. Augustine on my side whose work entitled On Virginity is basically him lecturing virgins not to be proud about their status. Mary Magdalene has no lower place in heaven.

The cult of virginity deserves that word in the modern sense, as a pejorative, because those who are 'so in to virginity' do not have a Christian conception of moral good and evil, but rather a pagan and Gnostic sense of it. Sin does not contaminate physically. And, more importantly, no trace of it can withstand the saving power of Christ. If you believe it can, you are a pagan and no Christian.

Okay, enough of this. Now back to that woman's post. All I want to do here is talk about the 'problems' it contains.

1. She made her pledge as a ten-year old. First of all, nothing a ten year old does or thinks or says can bind into adulthood. She says it did, and for her psychologically speaking it did. But to be fair, she is purposely trying to discredit sexual purity as a whole when she defines it as something 'taken on at ten.' Frankly, every moral decision is one that is renewed daily.

2. She had very poor guidance, obviously. She says she took virginity on for her church, etc. and used that phrase a few times, that her body doesn't belong to the church. No one should ever think that it ever did. That is posturing. It's interesting how she condemns her church, but why don't we here anything about her family? I don't send my kids to the church to learn about sex.

3. Her feminist husband. The first problem, her husband. How can a good husband, a husband that a gung-ho Baptist believer wanted to marry be a feminist? Something's off here. Nevertheless, he is portrayed as the epitome of the good understanding guy. Although she intended to serve her husband's sexual needs, he is portrayed as patient, understanding, etc. Because he's a feminist! It's her body after all. Something doesn't add up here.

4. The wedding night condom and lube. Where do people their ideas from? I mean, one of the most perplexing things to a Catholic looking at hard-core Protestants is the great exception they make to traditional morality re. contraception. So, sex before marriage is definitely out, but contraception is okay to chaste people? What meaning of sex is operative here? Yes, she went awry precisely because her idea of virginity was not grounded in any greater meaning, it seems. What is the Christian meaning of sex such as to make pre-marital sex wrong, but contraception okay? Not to mention the lesser matter of 'lube.' Where did she get the idea that this was a necessity if all talk of sex was verboten? Clearly her family and church viewed sex in isolation from any deeper conception of the good of man, his end, his meaning, etc. You inevitably go wrong when your ideas are so vacuous. You don't vote without a conception of good and evil (at least you shouldn't), so why do you think you can get married and follow God's will without some kind of deeper reflection on how one relates to the other? I think that was part of her point: sex was treated as an arbitrary right/wrong, a taboo, in other words.

5. Your sexuality is nobody's business but your's, she concluded. How many errors does this last statement reveal! First of all, I believe it is her husband's business. What was he doing that made him able to be so obliging with the long period of no sex they endured as she worked through her issues with it, I am forced to wonder? Was he chaste? Chastity doesn't really seem like a quality that comes standard in a feminist husband. So, masturbation then? Pornography? If her sexuality was no body's business, then I guess his was none of her business either. Second, is it none of God's business? See point number 6.

6. She is no longer a believer. No great loss there. She merely left behind a set of taboos. Where was her deeper understanding of God's love for her as a woman, as a wife?

7. Of course, the final point has to refer back to the title: I should not have waited until my wedding night. I ask, what would have changed had she not? She would have had the same negative relationship with sex, just earlier, and perhaps not with that man who seems to have done an admirable job while she went through all she did. Should she have had sex at 10, 14, 16, 18, 20, the day before her wedding? Or, is it the whole idea of monogamy that is the problem? No, she doesn't give any suggestion that she doesn't believe in monogamy. But she identified this bizarre taboo view of sex with Christianity as a whole, it seems. Many fundamentalist Christians do stuff like that. I have heard of so many disaffected Protestants leaving their faith because they realize that a fundamentalist view of the Bible isn't possible. And, because their fundamentalist Protestantism doesn't equip them for dealing with the modern world in one way or another. A big one is sex. Dating and marriage do not go as ten-year-olds expect, as their naive literature depicts it. But is the answer really the modern view of sex as a casual thing? Has that made people any happier than the narrow taboo version of it she picked up in her church? Should she have been told at ten: sex is fun but it is what you make of it. It means what you want it to mean. Does that view lead to happiness and healthiness? I am sorry that out of her negative formation and experience she was left with this conclusion, apparently.


  1. Wow. Just…wow. Terrible logic and tragic reality.

  2. Excellent. The word virginity has always bothered me, as if we are tarnished even within marriage. I was particularly struck by this a few weeks ago when a port friend prayed for my sil's twin girls, thT there virginity would remain intact till marriage.

  3. Stupid iPad - port is Protestant and there is their and thT is that.

  4. we thus have a duty to express the beauty of God's plan for marriage and family. Now I sound like a certain priest we know!