Christian Virgins Are Overrated
Think sex and drugs destroy America? Try naive chastity. Oh, and "Purity Balls"
- By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, May 12, 2006
There are these things. These unholy events called "Purity Balls" and you should probably fall to your knees right this minute and thank a merciful and lubricious and happily polyamorous God that you do not know what they are and that you have access right this minute to vast quantities of wine to deflect their nasty karmic arrows because, you know, oh my God. But hey, free country.
Purity Balls. No, not some sort of newfangled spherical chastity device to be inserted using vacuum tubes and pulleys, but rather fancy creepy dress-up rituals taking place in towns like Colorado Springs and Tucson and Zoloft Jesusville, in which Christian dads rent a bad tux while their daughters, mostly teenagers but many as young as 6 or 7, get all dolled up in gowns from JCPenny and they all drive out to the airport Marriott and prepare to, well, lose their minds.
It begins. At some point the daughter stands up, her pale arms wrapped around her daddy, and reads aloud a formal pledge that she will remain forever pure and virginal and sex-free until she is handed over, by her dad (who is actually called the "high priest" of the home), like some sort of sad hymenic gift, to her husband, who will receive her like the sanitized and overprotected and libidinously inept servant she so very much is. Praise!
Would that I were making this up.
The dad -- er, high priest -- in turn, stands up and reads his pledge, one stating that he will work to protect his daughter's virginal purity that he has so carefully and wickedly drilled into her since birth, since she was knee-high to a disturbing dogma, that he will protect her chastity and oversee it and help enforce its boundaries, which might or might not involve great amounts of rage and confusion and secret stashes of cheap scotch, although his pledge claims it's with honor and integrity and lots of bewildering Godspeak. Which, in many households, is essentially the same thing.
It's true. Purity Balls are happening, right now. And yes, you have heard this all before. Particularly from the conservative Right, especially from America's rigid and pale fundamentalist "core."
Premarital sex is evil. Female sexuality must be, as ever, contained, repressed, shoved deep down lest it tempt men to sin like gleeful pagans licking ice cream from the pierced nipples of the devil. Girls do not know how to handle their own genitalia and therefore must be taught -- by their fathers, no less -- how to dilute their sexual power in order to attract a sexually unqualified, God-fearing husband. You know, same as it ever was.
Very well. Let us now trace the path of imminent cultural destruction: Virgin girl has zero experience with the joys of her own body, with orgasm, with men, with sex toys or shower heads or good gynecological gizmongery. She then marries a man who will very likely have not the slightest clue (as he has had the same dreadful sexual miseducation as our fair virgin) as to what to do with a woman's body, who will, by most all accounts, be unable to tell an erogenous zone from an elbow, a clitoris from a belly button.
Voilà, the standard recipe for emotional, physical and spiritual catastrophe, for roughly 17 years of vague marital misery capped off by divorce and much therapy and four unhappy children and the profound and aching need located somewhere deep beneath the pelvic bone to try something, anything new and different and sexually liberating.
Let's just say it outright: The superiority of virginity myth, it is a massive, underreported disaster. It is a ridiculous and exhausting misconception that must be eradicated like a cancer. Perhaps French philosopher Voltaire said it best, nearly 300 years ago: "It is one of the great superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue." So true.
Which is another way of asking, Don't we have it exactly backward? Shouldn't one's overall happiness -- physical, marital or otherwise -- be directly equated with exceptional amounts of sexual training and education and awareness? Is such positively libidinous education not a recipe for health and well-being and long-term marital satisfaction? You already know the answer.
Look, the plague of sexual incompetence plagues our land like a plague. It infects our schools, our popular culture, our presidential administration. The right endorses wanton sexual stupidity (and all ensuing miseries, drug addictions, divorces, stresses, gun fetishes, online porn obsessions) through failed abstinence programs, STD misinformation, refusal to support quality birth control and the relentless repetition of lies about sin and depravity and a shocking ignorance of the transformative spiritual power of sex. Purity Balls? Nothing but a sad celebration of that exact ignorance.
No wonder over half of all teens who take any sort of virginity pledge end up breaking the ridiculous vow within a year (says a new Harvard study), and fully 88 percent end up having sex before marriage anyway. What's more, such silly pledges only result in more oral and anal sex among teens who try, vainly, to adhere. They also marry younger, have fewer sexual partners (read: less skill) and yet have exactly the same rate of STDs as kids who are smart enough to avoid such pointless pledges in the first place.
Would that we had a new agenda, a sexually informed education system that truly empowered teens, that taught open-minded respect for bodies and flesh, pleasure and joy and physical/spiritual awareness. Sure, include STDs and appropriate birth-control information, but not as a deterrent, not as some sort of nasty weapon of fear. Rather, arm your virgin daughters and inept sons with slick and giddy reverence for the joys of the flesh, for its potential to transform and ease tension and make you realize all is not so wrong and sinful and hateful with the world.
Would we not be utterly transformed? Would we not finally be free of the sneering, churlish mentality that somehow thinks virgins are dumb, immaculate prizes to be won? Let's just say it: There is no sacredness in the virgin. There is only the fear, were she to be educated and empowered and really let loose, of what she could become.
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