Like a Virgin PtII

This month’s Australian edition of Marie Claire has Jessica Simpson on the cover, and features a couple of gems on her decision to remain a virgin for her husband. This one I particularly loved:

For me personally, virginity is something I want to save for marriage. I think that’s the best wedding gift anyone could give.

I’m willing to accept that those are Christian values which deserve my respect even if I don’t agree with them, but I assume Nick Lachey wasn’t a virgin? He certainly never said as much so I’ll assume that he wasn’t.

Isn’t this a case of double-standards? I mean, fair enough that the Christian movement promotes chastity until marriage, but shouldn’t it apply to both men and women? I hear plenty of women proclaiming they’ll be virgins until they marry – even among my own girlfriends (granted, we all went quiet on that subject about eight years ago) but no men. I can’t exactly see teenage boys loudly proclaiming that they won’t have sex until their wedding night, that they’re saving their virginity for their equally-virginal wives.

One of the things that gets hammered into journalism students is defamatory/inflammatory language, and if it seems acceptable to refer to something in popular slang words regardless of how insensitive they might seem, to apply the same standard to a slightly different scenario. For example, most journalists would considered it acceptable to refer to someone with a mental illness as “˜crazy’, but would balk at calling a gay person a ‘faggot’. I use this principle a lot when it comes to gender issues; take a deeply entrenched societal expectation that everyone agrees is perfectly acceptable and reverse the genders. What do you mean, women can’t indulge in emotionally void relationships? What do you mean, it’s not cool for men to be virgins? Not so acceptable now, huh?

Christian women themselves seem to exacerbate the problem by not expecting men to adhere to the same standards. Ten bucks says that if Christian men were expected to also remain virgins until they married, they would either rethink the practicality of anyone maintaining their virginity until they marry, or make a greater effort to commit themselves to all Christian values, not just the ones they like. In short, I believe men play around and happily commit to double standards because they can, because women are too conditioned to think they deserve their men meet the same standards they do to go out and demand those standards be met – or that they get to meet the same standards men do.

And of course the irony is not lost on me that, newly divorced after three years of marriage, Simpson probably held onto her virginity far longer than she was married to the guy who took it. That seems to undermine the whole idea of “˜I’m saving my virginity for the man I’ll spend the rest of my life with’.

Of all the double standards concerning men and women, this one shits me the most. Basically, women are still considered “˜good role models’ if they remain virgins until they marry, but for men no such standards apply. And unless such standards apply, women can’t even argue that “˜it saves us from STDs’ ‘coz being a virgin ain’t gonna help you much if your husband was running around with God knows who before they went to bed with you.

I realise there ARE plenty of men out there who remain virgins (by choice) until they marry, but there seem to be plenty more who are happy to enjoy the knowledge their wives and girlfriends have been with no-one else without meeting that same standard themselves.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    This is why I bring up Orwell frequently. The very idea that people can hold in their heads ideas which are mutually contradictory and exclusive, without comprehending the sheer impossibility of it, boggles the rational mind.

    The general argument I’ve always heard is that men are incapable of sexual restraint. It’s usually phrased more like, “You just can’t expect that of men – they can’t help themselves.” Ironically, the assumption that women can control their sex urges suggests women are superior to men – spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I say ironically, because that’s not a popular view with the Christian set. In fact, in the most progressive church, you’ll find a few people who see women as inferior, but you won’t find one who sees men as inferior.

  2. scarlett says

    My favorite, as far as sexual inequality goes, is that men are supposed to sow their wild oats and women are supposed to remain virgins; the maths on that just doesn’t work. Which is really what most post was about, and why I can’t stand people like Simpson, because they’re perpetuating an impossibility.

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    And don’t forget the ever-popular assumption that women just don’t feel lust as strongly as men do, so why would they find it hard to remain virgins as long as society deems appropriate?

    Any man who believes that needs to get transferred into a healthy female body for a complete menstrual cycle. Any woman who believes that needs to see an endocrinologist.

    • Violet says

      It may be petty to complain about an old post like this, but, in the general spirit of this site:

      Would you please not make all-encompassing, sexual-normative statements like that? I know it’s hard for a sexual person to emphasise with, but some people really don’t feel “lust” or sexual attraction to other people. Some asexuals might still indulge on their own occasionally, but that’s just because it feels nice (like getting a massage, or eating chocolate), not because of some innate driving need. Others have no interest in sex whatsoever (nonlibidoism). The latter might have some hormonal basis, but the former is a sexual orientation. The point in both cases is that we’re perfectly fine with how our body works, thank you very much, and don’t appreciate the implication that we’re sick.

      • says

        Perhaps I could have been clearer, but you’ve misread the comment. We talk about asexuality a lot here, and are well aware of its variations, and by the way, could you not assume everyone’s a sexual person on the basis that you don’t like something they’ve said? Thank you in advance.

        What I meant was that if a woman doesn’t feel lust, she should not assume that’s normal for women because she’s heard women just aren’t naturally lustful. She should see a doctor, because it certainly can indicate a hormonal issue, and she might be missing out on the sex life she’d find most fulfilling. If there is no disorder, it’s absolutely peachy that she doesn’t feel lust, but it remains absolutely untrue that women on the whole are less capable of lust than men.

  4. Mecha says

    I find it interesting that your quote from her has ‘anyone’ in it. That alone speaks to a shadow of gender neutrality in her belief, even if there is a general non-religious societal double standard. And maybe she was disappointed by him not. A gift ungiven. Who’s to say?

    Part of me wonders how long the societal double standard can and will last, though, as modern pop culture is partially set up against it. Or at least appears to be in some cases as conservatism fights back. It’s a curiosity whether it’s really a mock fight or not, though.

    -Mecha

  5. scarlett says

    I can’t see her saying ‘a woman’ outright though; even if that IS the unspoken standard, it’s unspoken nonetheless. One of the things about repression is that we like to THINK we’re not repressed, and there IS no double standard.

  6. Mecha says

    I find it hard to believe she put any conscious effort into censoring her actual belief (and if she’d said woman, would it be untrue in her mind, if more obviously framed by society?), and even harder that she wouldn’t appreciate it if a man did had given her that gift (if it means that much to her…) The double standard may be the societal standard? But I don’t think we should perpetuate it by asserting it’s the standard in everyone’s heart unless they go the extra mile to clarify. I’d like to think not every woman buys it, for example. Maybe there’s more context for the article that makes it clear she’s got the blind spot.

    I meant to mention that I do love the concept of doublethink being brought up in terms of any of this. And the ‘sexual restraint’ argument sits in my mind in the same realm of manipulation as ‘I’ll pull out.’ It springs from an attempt to break down a woman’s resistance to having sex, pure and simple. ‘I’ve got blue balls, you’ve got to have sex with me.’ Insert lie here, really, is what it boils down to. The fact that anyone would use it in an argument shows just how dumb/misinformed people can be about this sort of thing, and how lies perpetuated can become truth in some peoples’ minds.

    -Mecha

  7. scarlett says

    Oh, I don’t think she did it conciously and I don’t know what was in her mind and heart… but I think we have an unconcious socialision to act as if things work both ways when they don’t ‘coz that would draw attention to the unfairness of the situation and we’d have to do something about it.

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    I find it hard to believe she put any conscious effort into censoring her actual belief

    Actually, celebs are ridiculously coached by PR people to say the right things, and stay on message. You know how PR people work on politicians? That started with Reagan in California, working with PR firms he’d worked with as an actor. Hollywood invented the technique of PR firms turning celebs or politicians or VIP’s into puppets.

    More to the point, I hear average people saying crap like, “If anyone gets pregnant, they should keep the baby”. As if by not using gender words, they remove the opponent’s right to accuse them of having an opinion strictly about women, LOL.

    We’re so nuts with the PC stuff that it’s pretty tough to guess what she meant. It’s clear enough she didn’t expect that virginity gift in return, which is a shame. She should’ve felt entitled.

  9. firebird says

    I was thumbing through a book about gender inequality and the Bible the other day and read something about the ridiculousness of this double standard: that woman are to be held in lower esteem because they are so easily deceived, but are supposed to be the moral watchdogs to keep men from sleeping with them! Both are popular beliefs, the first from a passage in the Bible that seems to say that women shouldn’t speak in public or teach men because Eve was deceived into eating the fruit in the Garden of Eden (how that follows I don’t even know, but it’s the passage most often quoted to say that women shouldn’t dress nice, speak up in public or hold any authority). The second we are all familiar with in the form of “boys will be boys” but “girls should act like ladies.” If women are so gullible that they can’t even speak or teach men, and so incapable of resisting temptation, then, the author asked, why the heck are they the ones that are supposed to hold the moral high ground? I thought his point was quite funny.

  10. mer says

    That’s a very good point. If women are too stupid to hold positions of esteem in society, then they shouldn’t be the ones shoved in the Iron Maiden when they get caught out dillying in adultery. The man should be blamed for leading the poor silly thing astray. But that logic train got left at the station.

  11. scarlett says

    my point exactly! If she held Christian values so closely, then why didn’t she expect it of Lachey? Although to be fair, I think its acceptable for born again christian to consider themselves born again virgins along the lines of ‘I’ve embraced Christianity so I won’t have sex until I marry AS IF I were a virgin’. I know this is too much of a distinction for some ppl but I figure if you’ve made the decision to be chaste then you’re hearts in the right place. But I never got the impression with Lachey, either from the article or from the media in general, that he held these values, which I think meant Simpson was giving a gift unreturned – and maybe because it was unreturned, even unvalued?

  12. Mecha says

    I dunno why she didn’t ‘expect’ it of Lachey, or if she did why she accepted him anyway, or if she and him had a long argument about it, or whatever. And she almost certainly was giving a gift unreturned, and maybe even unvalued. And that is a damn shame.

    -Mecha

  13. passingthrough says

    The biblical passage that talk about women being silent in the assembly is found in 1 cor 14. The issue there is that Paul is speaking in a cultural context. Paul is dealing with a mix of jewish converts with gentile converts. But the majority is gentile converts. These women came out of religious prostitution of the day. In their various religions they were the high priestesses. They had a tendency to interupt the service so no teaching could be done. There is also the second tendency of what happened in the early church was that women were talking during service asking questions about what the Rabbi was saying. Again this causes disorder. The issue is not that the woman shouldn’t know or speak in the assembly, (Pricilla was a preacher of the Gospel with Aquilla) it was when it should be done. As for the decoration of women and such it apears several times. The goal of each passage is to show several things. The first is that characteristic of a follower of Jesus Christ should not be how you look. Many religious views at the time within Jewish thinking equated dress with holiness and character. Peter states the true beauty of a woman is her character. (1 Peter 3)
    Paul states in 1 Tim 2 that believing woman should be dressed modestly but their deeds be their adornment. In case for intellectual honesty later on in the passage Paul speaks against letting women teach. Thing is Paul doesn’t forbid any other ministry other then this. There have been many commentaries on why Paul said this but it would take to long to expound. 1 Cor 11 is something that has to be read in its totality. The key thing that is to be seen is that Paul is putting the Male at the head of the family unit. Paul is talking to women who are married about the head covering. To go out without the head covering could indicate that the woman was single or not under the protection of a male counterpart. The text goes on to argue from a cultural standpoint that men in that cultural were not have long hair and women are not to have short hair. It was that cultures taboo. Verse 16 Paul says this about the whole hair issue “Now if anyone is disposed to be argumentative and contentious about this, we hold to and recognize no other custom [in worship] than this, nor do the churches of God generally.” This is from the Amplified version and I compared it with the NIV as well for all of my references.
    I am a male virgin christian who is about to turn 27. I have great disdain in how mainy christian males in the faith act about their sexuality when they know Christ. I want to make that clear. The bible is clear that the life YHWH asks people to live is impossible without Christ. I don’t condemn the world for acting and continuing to act in its own nature. But those in Christ, if they are being truly disicpiled should know better. I teach both my male and female students at church not to have sex before they are married for various reasons. Many are faith based. Others are practical based. I let them know that codemns are not fool proof and that there are some women who have psychological issues after they have an abortion. I make it clear that when you walk away from Christ everything I say will be darn near impossible to do. I am seeing that echoed here and many other places. As the name indicates I’m just passing through. I was doing research about cultural views on virginity and sex when I found this place by accident and decided to post. In the market place of ideas even though we disagree we can be civil and polite to one another.

  14. A.S. says

    Just because a guy happened to not be a virgin doesn’t mean he then chose to remain celibate until marriage. I was a virgin when my husband and I got married; my husband was not a virgin but remained celibate from the time before he met me until we got married.

    I don’t think it’s fair to sit here and automatically jump on the double standard gun when alot of people who aren’t virgins really do regret their decisions, and then choose to be celibate until they are married. They’re making an active choice to no longer “sow their wild oats” and instead abstain.

  15. Maria V. says

    Hi AS!

    I think the difference is that with men, sowing their wild oats is often seen as part of their growing up. They’re wiser and more mature now that they’ve gotten that out of their system.

    With women, if they sow their wild oats, they’re unredeemable whores, unless they do a complete aboutface and totally dismiss that part of their past as a mistake.

  16. says

    I don’t think it’s fair to sit here and automatically jump on the double standard gun when alot of people who aren’t virgins really do regret their decisions

    What point are you trying to make? The phrase “double standard” means when there are different standards set for one group versus another, or when the rules are only enforced against one group. Christians say “no pre-marital sex” but are typically FAR more understanding when boys give in and screw around than when girls do, as Maria described. That’s not consistent.

    Additionally, we’re coming from a culture – and this goes way beyond Christianity, though they were dominant in shaping that culture – in which preachers who commit adultery in situations that may have actually been rape are supposed to get forgiveness just for saying how very sorry they are with plenty of water works, but female rape victims are blamed for “seducing” their attackers.

    So calling this a double-standard? There’s nothing else you could sensibly call it.

  17. CC says

    .

    INTERESTING LINK:

    http://www.christianforums.com/t7450058-9/#post54843789

    [TOPIC:

    The lack of support or encouragement given for the
    +30 year old and +40 year old single Christians to
    remain 'virgins' (or even just 'abstinent') until marriage.

    Shockingly, it's actually been found that the place that
    this group is most often mocked, discouraged and / or
    ridiculed for their decision is "within the church" itself.]

    .

  18. photondancer says

    I get the impression that the situation is more that men are easily forgiven for lapsing from virginity, rather than that they are not expected to remain virgins. I’ve seen quite a few statements from christian men that they intend to save themselves for marriage but these statements don’t seem to get publicised as much as those from women. OTOH there’s no male equivalent of those disgraceful ‘chastity balls’ which must surely point to at least some double standard. I refuse to call them purity balls, that use of ‘pure’ reveals more about their view of sex than anything else they do, but I digress. wrt older virgins, the son of a prominent fundamentalist christian politician here revealed, some years ago, that he was 36 and a virgin when he got married. Reaction was less scornful than you might expect. Sure there were plenty of people shaking their heads and making crude jokes, but a lot of others stood up for him and I seem to recall he was on the cover of The Australian Womens Weekly (than which nothing is more respectable). The double standard that undoubtedly does exist may be something that has grown worse more recently as part of the backlash. From what social history I’ve read right up to the 1960s it was not unusual for men to be virgins when they married. Of course, people got married younger in those days and I’m cynical enough to think that’s one reason why.

  19. CuriousCTcat says

    .

    Thank you for making mention of those ridiculous and
    disgraceful “chastity balls” which (right alongside the
    moronic and creepy “purity rings”) are just about
    the closest thing to a display of “Emotional-Incest”
    that anyone (of any religious belief) has ever seen
    — (and which, thankfully, is *not* a practiced used
    by the majority of the people of the Christian faith)

    One would think that those “christian” institutions
    that have so strongly supported, advocated and also
    participated in these odd rituals would reconsider
    doing so — based on numerous reasons –
    some of which include the following:

    1) the targets singled-out for most of these
    so-called “purity promises” and “chastity
    commitments” are nearly always teenaged girls
    (as if either “christians” should simply ignore
    the idea of having a ‘double-standard’ for the
    teenage boys – or– as if functioning-genitalia,
    or a desire for intimacy, does not exist for the
    teen-aged boys until the night of their wedding);

    2) the promise or commitment that is made
    by the young girl is to her very own ‘father’
    (seriously, she is making a sexual-commitment,
    in the form of a ‘promise’, to her own dad –
    and even if it’s in regards to “purity” …
    it’ is still very much a ‘commitment’ and is
    also still very undeniably odd) – as if he is
    her God (as a nun would do for a religious vow
    of ‘chastity’) or current husband (as a bride
    would do for a wedding vow of ‘fidelity’);

    3) research has shown that — while many of the young
    people who have taken part in such rituals have gone
    out of their way to make sure that the ‘hymen remains
    intact’ — a great number of them have done so simply
    by discovering their creative ability to conveniently
    replace one bodily orifice with that of any other (and
    no ‘explanation’ of that comment will be provided)

    4) there is no example found anywhere in the
    Bible, the model of Christ; or even in “church”
    history of such a strange ritual taking place
    or being practiced or encouraged whatsoever;

    5) the so-called “promise” or “commitment” is not even
    actually made to God in most cases – but it’s generally
    made by the young person to their parent or parents
    (which, again, appears to border ‘emotional-incest’);

    6) non-“christians” are having a field-day openly
    mocking this new and odd ritual (or ‘form of’
    — i.e. “formula for” — “godliness”) as yet
    another reason they choose to not follow
    anything that “christians” present to them

    7) there is no proof that these “purity promises” and
    / or these ‘chastity commitments” (no matter whether
    presented in the form of a ‘magical ring’ or even a
    ‘mystical ball’) has anymore of an impact in any
    young person “saving themselves” for marriage than
    simply making a decision to do so and sticking with it.

    And the list goes on and on …

    If “christians”, or any other people, want their youth
    to “remain chaste” until marriage — then they really
    need to learn how to just “banish the balls” (no pun
    intended) and “reject the rings” – and instead –
    teach young people to consider making a commitment
    to their God and to themselves that they will seek
    to remain true to their own beliefs and also show
    them role models of other people who have committed
    themselves to staying with their true beliefs.

    That’s all – and thanks for “listening”.

    — CC

    .

  20. says

    The difference in how male virgins are viewed may be a case of how studious the Christian doing the viewing is. Not all Christians take every part of the Bible all that seriously.

    A female, probably-asexual friend of mine once went home to visit her (Christian) family. They were disappointed that she was 24 and still not married, and gave her disapproving looks that suggested “But you must be having sex and that’s wrong.” When she assured them honestly she was still a virgin, that seemed to freak them out in a whole new way. Were they uncomfortable with the idea of someone not having sex at all? Were they concerned her chastity reflected badly on them (perhaps they’d all thoughtlessly married whoever was available when they were 20 and hot to trot)? I dunno what it is, but I do have the impressions many US Christians are just as weirded out by the idea of virgins over a certain age, either gender, as anyone in US society.

    Of course, no one SHOULD be weirded out. I’ve known TONS of secular people who didn’t start having sex until well into their twenties, or even later. Sex is not a necessary function. Some people feel like they require loads of it; some don’t. Some would like to be having it, but can’t find a suitable partner.

    • Lika says

      Christians definitely are just as weirded out about older virgins as non-Christians. My church-obsessed mom, who kept telling I wasn’t allowed to date as a teenager (like I wanted to :P) and who lost her shit when one of my sister came home pregnant as a teen, told me when I was in late twenties that if I came home pregnant she would rejoice, even though I wasn’t married.

      The rest of the Christians in my family are much more concerned about my (supposed) asexuality than they are about my other sister (I have two) who they know is sexually active and not married. I get more lectures about the importance of finding boyfriend in a month than my sister did in her entire lifetime of having premarital sex.

  21. says

    One of my guy friends is staying a virgin until marriage, and expects his future girlfriend/wife to do the same. He has very similar logic, that it’s a gift, that it’s not special with your wife/husband if you didn’t wait, etc etc. :S He’s a bit different to the average guy though, and unfortunately, has found out that many of his female friends or romantic interests do not have the same values.

  22. Violet says

    I think it’s odd to expect her to see the double standard. That’s expecting her to think in modern humanist terms, when Christianity is such an inherently patriarchalic religion and a lot of its values still stuck in pre-modern times. In medieval and ancient times it probably made a lot of economic and evolutionary sense to insist on the one sure proof that a woman wasn’t going into a marriage already pregnant with somebody else’s child. (I’m not saying that isn’t the wrong attitude to children in general, and to the right of a mother to raise her child whoever the father might be. But in a culture that shut off women from earning the majority of the family’s income, men tended to think along lines of “I’m not raising somebody else’s kid if I can hardly feed my own.”)
    However, as we now have effective birth control, and a man with pre-marital children is just as much of an economic burden to the new family (alimony payments), this custom has been rendered moot. Unfortunately, religion is so deeply entrenched in our culture, and the ‘reasons’ used to make people obey to this instead of explaying the socio-economic reasons (*) so far abstractised, that it’s hard to make people think rationally about these things.

    (* “It’s God’s will.” “It’s what proper girls do.” “It’s a gift to your partner.” (Which makes me laugh – wouldn’t it be a better gift to know what you’re doing and have a honed technique to give them pleasure?)
    It’s the same as with the Jewish prohibition of pork: Pigs can’t sweat, so it’s potentially ruinous to try and raise them in a hot, arid climate. But instead of explaining this again and again to each generation of sons and then have them rebel against their elders and try it anyway, the elders just said “God forbids it” and that was that. Unfortunately you can’t just take back commandments like that once they don’t make sense anymore. And the original reason gets fogotten anyway, once it’s enshrined and everybody stops thinking about it.)

    • says

      Lot of offensive generalizations about Christians, there, Violet. I was raised Christian, but I was always taught that expecting girls and not boys to be virgins was a double standard and wrong. By other Christians. In church.

      Perhaps you should find out a lot more about Christians before attempting to explain how they live. The picture you paint here of Christians as somehow mired in Middle Ages with no concept of culture around them even when they become pop stars is absurd.

      • The Other Patrick says

        I don’t know; you have a great point in that the description “Christian” can pretty much mean anything from being a very liberal person to being a fundamentalist fuckwit. On the other hand, things like Purity Balls and Abstinence Education are based on religious morals that do not stand up to modern science, and the more conservative your brand of Christianity, the more patriarchic it seems to be – and a conservative Christian belief certainly doesn’t seem to be incompatible with being a pop star (as moral judgements so often apply to everyone but oneself).

        But as for the generalization: yeah. Maybe a little too much.

        • says

          I have been around some serious fundamentalist Christians, and they are just as capable of processing a concept like “double standards” as the general populace. Which is to say, tons of non-Christians can’t think critically or in “modern humanist” terms. So the dichotomy Violet was setting up was false and unfair.

          • Lika says

            THANK YOU. As much as it annoyed me having Christians tell me that non-Christians were immoral, hated decency and were incapable of controlling their urges (and therefore needs to be set free), I get equally annoyed at having non-Christians tell me that Christians are all brainwashed sheep who hate science and are incapable of thinking rationally (and therefore needs to be set free.)

            There are capcable thinkers in both groups.

      • Patrick McGraw says

        Agreed. One of the earliest things I realized in studying religion and history is that no religion is monolithic, and all of them undergo astonishing changes over the course of history. Claiming that some trait is inherent in a religion is much like claiming a trait is inherent in a gender.

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