“The virtue which requires to be ever guarded is scarcely worth the sentinel.” (Oliver Goldsmith)
Of all the weird terms and wildly irrelevant phrases that lead people to my blog, I’m surprised at the frequency of one in particular: Virginity.
A few months ago, I wrote about a friend losing “it” as a late 20-something — hence why Googlers may land on this site — but recently the topic re-emerged in a different form. The “one night stand” post inadvertently started a contentious back and forth about if women who’ve had sex (before marriage, that is) still keep up their desirability. One guy asserts that given the opportunity, all men would marry a virgin, and that personally he would only “tolerate if there had been one other.” (i.e., a girl could’ve only slept with one other guy to be marriage material). To some, it kinda sounded like insinuating that women who’ve had multiple sexual partners in their lifetime are…well… irrelevant sluts.
Understandably, both the topic and some of the phrasing caused serious conflict. The average age for (first) marriage is ~ 26 for American women, and most have surpassed the one-partner threshold before they’ve even considered the altar. Given this norm, many gals find it absurd that a sexual history implies they are poor potential partners. The male author maintains that it’s the reality of what men REALLY want.
I did what I always do when trying to understand the male thought process, and asked men themselves — including the man who is my (wonderfully honest) boyfriend.
I popped the Q over dinner one night, as casually as possible:
“Do you wish I’d been a virgin when we met?”
“No,” he said simply. Then, after a second, he looked at me with one eyebrow raised, “Wait, why do you ask?”
(Good answer. Interrogation over. Sort of.)While my BF claims it’s a non-issue in our case, he also said he understands the mindset, and tried to explain.Him: “I think part of it is the fantasy that you can mold her. She doesn’t have any previous ideas about what it should be like, so you could shape her however you want sexually.”Me: “That sounds twisted.”Him: “No, I mean like, anything you do would be okay with her. She wouldn’t have any preferences or expectations about what it should be like.”
Me: “So, mainly it’s that it would make life easier for you — less threatening? No competition? Less of a challenge?”
Him: “Yeah, that’s probably part of it. Then a man could do anything, and the woman wouldn’t know any better. She’d be totally wrapped up in him no matter what.”
I tried to respectfully listen without blowing a gasket all over the guy who once said, “I couldn’t even tell you how many women I’ve slept with,” but the discussion was a weird one to have with a BF. I was put off by the idea that men would want to “shape” someone like a sexual Gumby, and argued that especially these days, even virgins don’t go into the situation completely naïve. The previously mentioned 28-year-old recently non-virgin friend had tons of preconceived notions, both from the media and general banter from people who had been there. Heck, straightaway after their first few encounters, she called freaking out that the experience wasn’t how it was “supposed” to be. (The only thing I could explain was that figuring out sexual normalcy was like figuring out art. Everyone has preferences, and there isn’t necessarily a right way to do things…)
Anyway, these days we don’t develop our ideas about sex solely from our partners (don’t even get me started on how porn might factor into future generations) and my first reaction to the BF’s commentary was being a little angry that it was all about the man.
Letting it marinate for a bit, though, I’ve decided there are two ways to look at that line of reasoning:
b) That deep down men want to make their female counterpart as happy as possible. They want to be her everything, especially sexually, and advocating virginity status is their way of trying to fulfill this role.
Men, like women, want to feel special. Even more so than women, they like conquering new territory and feeling like they “win.” The virginity thing just comes back to the mental, social, and personal importance of sex to men. They don’t want to know you’ve seen a bigger penis, been with a guy who lasted longer or was better in bed — basically, that there is any way they’re not #1 in your Guinness World Book of Sexual Records.
To play to the stereotypes, we could equate it to the female fear of being with a guy who was closer or more emotionally connected to his ex than you… or something along those lines.
Of course, the another thing that doesn’t go over well is the extreme one-sidedness of the discussion. Men are given a free pass, and often the same men demanding they’ll only marry a virgin have no problem cavorting about with whoever they please… Purposefully, recklessly, and with women which other women would consider (how do I say this nicely?) of questionable quality.
Even the “I would tolerate one other” guy admits to having multiple conquests, and it’s hard not to look at that and go, “Okay wait. This super-important ideal applies to us… But not to you?”
How are we supposed to take it seriously if men don’t take it seriously for themselves?!
Long story short, where I’ve finally landed on the whole thing is simply this: I don’t care if men value virginity in women, as long as they place equal worth on it for men and for themselves. Only THEN will the issue be framed in the light of a truly romantic partnership, not one wherein the woman is treated as a sub-valued sexual commodity.
Focusing on virginity, especially if just as some way to devalue the (now average) woman who waits till 26 to get married, is unrealistic – Females may not be quite on par with men regarding sex drive, but to “require” virginity until they’re in their 20′s is asking for self-control that rivals Mahatma Gandhi.
At least personally, getting married to my college boyfriend or right after graduation would have been a huge mistake. Even in the years following, I wasn’t in a place to “settle down” and start a family, and the guy I dated post-college would have been a terrible husband (I’m not saying that to be mean – he openly admits it himself).
Plus, thinking about it now, those experiences have done the opposite of negatively impact my current relationship and its longevity. Because I have dated other people, the value of what we have is all too visible. Without those previous experiences, though, I may have been skeptical about the quality of our relationship. And who knows… maybe even the sex.
It can work both ways, too, for men and women alike — Rather than wanting to chase after all the tail they missed after 22, men might be happier when they’ve had some “experiences” and know there are other things worth doing.
The other morning my boyfriend was driving me to the airport at 4:30 AM, when he looked at the clock and goes, “Man. There was a time when I would just be coming home from the bars right now.” (If 4:30am sounds extreme, it’s worth mentioning that he used to live in Las Vegas.)
For a moment I thought, Oh crap. He’s comparing going out partying to this super un-fun task, and probably hating being in a relationship at this very moment.
Then, he grabbed my hand and says, “Babe, can I just tell you that I never want to go back out there? Now that we’ve met, hopefully I won’t ever have to again.”
Nice, right? Totally makes up for the sexual Gumby comments.
I’ll admit the (by now) obvious and say that my virginity is not something I’ll be able to offer a future husband. That ship has sailed and is out of my control. But…I hope to offer a number of other things, which on some level and to some men, may even be more appealing.