(sex)uality: virginity tales
In season one of Girls*, one of my favourite plotlines is that of Shoshanna, the cousin and roommate of Jessa. Shoshanna is slightly awkward, very endearing, and most significantly, a 22-year-old virgin.
Her virginity is somewhat of a burden to Shoshanna. She feels cut-off, left out, like she can’t join in with the girls when sex inevitably comes up. In one heartbreaking scene, Shoshanna ends up in bed with a man, and is gearing up for sex when he abruptly turns her down on learning that she’s a virgin.
I think his exact words are something to the effect of ‘I don’t do virgins’. Like virgins are in a special category of sexuality that doesn’t suit his needs.
Needless to say, Shoshana went on to feel even more disconnected and uneasy about her sexual history.
Virginity is such an interesting topic to me. I feel like there is a special trajectory for thoughts on virginity, which all people seem to follow.
When you’re in high school or in your early teens, everyone is a virgin. Or at least, you assume that everyone is a virgin, and if someone is suddenly not a virgin it is big news.
I remember when girls first started having sex in my year group. We all knew exactly who had and who hadn’t had sex, and it was something that was discussed and dissected daily in the schoolyard. I can’t say it was entirely negatively viewed – there was definitely a large amount of jealousy mingled in with the judgement – but by and large virginity was considered the appropriate norm.
Then, as we got older, the tables started turning and the opposite became true – suddenly it was embarrassing if you were anything older than 19 and hadn’t had sex. Virginity became a burden, something you tried to avoid talking about, something that you were desperate to get rid of.
I find both of these attitudes interesting, primarily because I’ve always thought of sexual experience as being something that is both incredibly personal, and incredibly irrelevant. Whether or not you’ve had sex says absolutely nothing about you as a person, in my opinion, but I realise that for some reason society at large sees things differently.
If you’re a virgin and you’re in your early twenties, people assume there is something wrong with you – that you’re not adventurous enough, or not attractive enough, or that you’re just a bit frigid maybe.
Your virginity status comes to represent more than just the simple biological fact of sex and whether or not you’ve had it – it becomes a personality trait, something that defines you as an individual.
Much like Shoshana in Girls, I find this to be perplexing. It’s such a double standard – if you have sex with ‘too many’ people, you’re a slut. If you have sex with ‘too few’ people, you’re a prude. If you have sex with no one, you’re clearly abnormal.
While I’m the last person to spout any nonsense about virginity being a precious gift or whatever, I will say this – your sexuality is yours. It is one of the few things in this life that you have control over, and that you can make choices about. When you have sex, who you have it with, how often you do it – these are all things that only you can decide, and at the end of the day, you’re the one who would know best when it comes to your body and sex.
Don’t let society push you around when it comes to your sexual experience – there is no such thing as too much or too little sex.
* yeah, yeah – I might as well just call this the Girls column, what with the amount of times I reference the show…