like a virgin
While I wrote about the topic (in a rather blathering, abstract way mind you) not that long ago, my fury has once again been ignited by this product: 18 again.
For those too lazy to click on the link, the product called ’18 again’ is basically a vaginal tightening cream that is designed to keep women’s vaginas “virgin fresh”. (They didn’t actually say virgin fresh, but they may as well have).
Now the last time I wrote about this, I criticised society’s weird and unhealthy obsession with virginity, but I didn’t get into why this was. Why do people still have these attitudes? Why did they to begin with?
I didn’t answer this question last time because quite truthfully, I didn’t know. So I did what I always do when I don’t know the answer to a question: I Googled it. And the answer is surprisingly simple, and one that comes up in almost all feminist debates: power.
After all, what better way to control someone than through their body? And no, I’m not saying that having sex with someone is “giving” them your body (as some have accused me of saying before). But this fixation on virginity is certainly all about controlling what women do with their bodies.
Rules and regulations have sprung up all over the world in regard to what women are allowed to do when it comes to intercourse and who they are allowed to do it with. While Australia has come a long way and women do have some sexual freedom after a lot of struggling for the right to have so, when it really comes down to it we are still being controlled through sex.
We are still being judged for what we choose to wear, when we choose to sleep with someone and who we choose to sleep with. And virginity is still prized in women, while men get away scot free.
Society has this weird idea that virginity is a gift that women give to men; making it look like sex is a present that men receive, rather than an act of equal participation. Just look at the lingo used at women when talking about sex: “Don’t give away the goods too soon” and “save yourself for marriage”, whereas guys “get lucky”. It’s as if sex is something that women have to save up and then give to a man that deserves it. It also makes it seem as if sex is more important to men; it is something that they “need’ and “earn”.
Another part of this is that this giving virginity idea implies that the man who takes it owns them, or at least owns that part of them. They are the ones who have “taken” their virginity. They are the ones who have ‘had’ them. These terms are everywhere: movies, books, hell, I myself have even used them in conversations with friends.
While power is a big part of why so much of history is filled with hypocritical attitudes and rules aimed at controlling what women do with their bodies, another part of the power is fuelled by jealously. Men don’t like it when another man has slept with their partner. Plain and simple. While girls aren’t exactly jumping for joy when they think of their partner sleeping with other women, it just does not seem to bother us as much.
Because unlike men, women aren’t programmed to believe that sex is a gift to receive. They aren’t programmed to think that they are “taking” virginity. There has just never been this attitude when it comes to men. Men are able to sleep with whoever they want, whenever they want, without fear of judgement or in stricter cultures, serious repercussion. Their virginity is not prized — it is there and then it is gone without any debate or opinion about it.
Lastly, there is this idea that girls who haven’t had intercourse are nicer and more innocent than girls that have been with someone. I have had my own personal experience with this attitude when I slept with an ex-boyfriend for the first time; though both of us had prior experience. And he couldn’t have been more awful or unfeeling. I think his exact words afterwards were, ‘thank god that first time is over and done with’. I confronted him a few days later: ‘You wouldn’t have treated me like that if I had been a virgin’, to which he replied simply, ‘Well no, of course not.’
And that’s when I felt it. I felt like used goods. I felt like because I had slept with someone else before, I wasn’t worthy of respect. I felt like I wasn’t innocent anymore. I also encountered this attitude when I first told my friends that I wasn’t a virgin. ‘You’re just like those girls at school’, my best friend told me. And I knew what she meant by “those girls”. The girls that we had branded as “sluts” in our judgemental youth. The girls that we criticised for being human.
And I couldn’t understand it, because I felt like exactly the same person. I WAS exactly the same person. Nothing had changed: I hadn’t lost anything. I hadn’t given any of myself away.
That is when I realised that this whole idea of virginity is ridiculous. There isn’t a term for when someone first learns to drive, just as there is not a term for the stage in someone’s life when they have never driven a car. Virginity is intangible — it is a concept created by society to keep women lower down than men in social standing.
Granted, I may have been reading waaay too much into the product ’18 again’. It could simply be designed to make the vagina a little tighter and not be saying anything about society’s obsession with virginity. But heck even so — who does a tighter vagina please? Usually the man (some girls out there may beg to differ, but all I can think is un.com.fort.a.ble). And besides, how dare they tell us that a tighter vagina is better? That having the vagina of a virgin is something we should all attain to? This product, like so many others, is telling women that they are not good enough as they are. This product, like so many others, is trying to control women through their bodies.
I am tired of what seems to be the whole world caring about when I choose to have sex and who I choose to have it with, simply because I am a woman.
And I would like to keep my vagina exactly the way as it is, thank you very much; non-virgin like and all. In fact, I’m proud of the experiences that I have had with it, regardless of what any busybody may think.
*Note: I have not mentioned same sex relationships because this idea of virginity conjured up by many societies does not seem to take into account that there are different definitions of sex, rather than simply vaginal penetration. If this annoys anyone else (it certainly irritates me!) I would encourage you to write an article about it and submit it to Lip.