Virginity Lost, Morality Untouched

As a twelve-year student at a well-respected, non-denominational, all-girls school, I had feminism and equality drilled into every aspect of every class curriculum. Nonetheless, I seriously underestimated the degree to which United States culture was running rampant with anti-feminist emotions, even in this day in age. More specifically, misogynistic, harmful double standards regarding female sexuality are infectious ideas that harm women and girls of all ages. They are so ingrained and habitual that they inflict their damage daily almost completely unbeknownst to their victims. “The Purity Myth,” by Jessica Valenti, acclaimed feminist author, was one of the most important social criticisms I have ever read. It helped me to realize the need of all females to recognize these double standards and thus free themselves from the subconscious prison it creates, controlling how we are perceived, and most importantly, how we perceive ourselves. Sex is not to be taken too lightly, for it should require immense responsibility. There is a reason for Sex Ed and all the precautions taken to prevent serious consequences. However, the one consequence sex should not have is the near-persecution a girl might face. The moment she makes that decision, society tells her she is “losing” something. If I may ask, what are women losing? What is virginity? The idea originates from a culture in which bride wealth was legal, and men sold their virgin daughters to other men. They were valued for their “innocence” above other women who were “tainted.” What makes them any different? A woman’s moral fiber does not change during the minute she “loses her virginity.” Her integrity is not lost, nor is her innocence of character and sense of ethical behavior. It is extremely detrimental to women that these two components of humanity should be so inextricably linked in this trend of thinking. The most popular double standard of which most are aware is the “slut vs. player” dilemma, where a boy may be praised for a hookup while a girl is ridiculed. This entitles males to be proud of their flaunted sexuality, whereas girls may be subject to intense criticism of their moral character. Of the two sexes, girls alone are expected to be modest and pure, virginal and conservative. However, this issue runs much deeper than most people may imagine. How many a girl has been labeled “slut” or “whore” because of her natural sexual endeavors? And how many times has this affected her social status, relationships, and self-esteem? For girls, the decision to become active in that one aspect of life is not a simple one. We, as a society, allow the choice to affect their social lives and their reputations as honorable human beings. A woman is considered as socially and morally “clean” as her sexual history dictates, forever binding a woman’s value to her body. While treasuring one’s chastity is a personal choice that I highly respect, a societal superstructure has been created that causes the idea of “purity” to transcend sexual behavior, allowing it to determine a woman’s moral worth. I am not condoning the abandon of personal morals or encouraging sexual behavior as a rebellion against social stereotypes. The change I propose is a change of perception: for a girl’s value not to be determined by her physical “pureness”. No one will argue that it is right to judge and define someone by the color of her skin, what sport she plays, or what music she listens to. Similarly, it is not right to judge someone based upon her sexual experiences or lack thereof. It is true that sex is centralized, marketed, exploited, and judged, and thus it is impossible to surpass its connotations. All I ask is that people examine a girl’s mind, morality, and individuality before counting the notches on her bedpost. I would like to accredit Jessica Valenti and her book as inspiration for this article. Kerry Lanzo is a two-year Upper from Towson, MD.