losing it

Feb. 19th, 2010 02:44 am
ambergris: (Default)
If you poke around Scarleteen for a bit you will find plenty of cogently argued explanations of why virginity is an inherently heterosexist and patriarchal concept that makes zero sense in twenty-first century Western culture. If this site had been around when I was, say, nineteen, it would have spared me several years of figuring this out for myself.

Instead, the label of virgin was a millstone around my neck. Oh, it's not that it was something that was generally known or talked about. That was partly why it was a millstone. Part of me wanted to be out, to be visible; to point out 'hang on, we still exist, and it would be cool if you acknowledged our existence beyond groups of American teenagers wearing silver rings.' But mostly, I thought it was nobody else's freaking business. It seemed odd to be defined by something you hadn't done. I mean, there are so many things I haven't done, most of them having far more impact on my everyday life than not having had sex. Like driving a car, or smoking, or getting a full-time job, or buying a house.

I was possibly groping towards a concept of asexuality when I wrote, some years ago: 'I am a virgin in the same way that other people are straight or gay'. Obviously this statement makes no sense because you're not comparing like with like. 'Virgin' isn't a sexual orientation, it is a statement about something that you haven't done. Our culture is sort of hazy about what exactly it is that you haven't done, but it's generally assumed to be penis-in-vagina penetration (or vagina-around-penis envelopment, to be slightly less androcentric).

But then, I don't think I was trying to make a statement about my orientation. I didn't have issues with my orientation. I was straight. This was slightly disappointing for a young feminist who'd read enough 70s-era theory to believe that the practice of penis-in-vagina sex might be inherently oppressive (as well as aesthetically unpleasing) yet also wished to maintain her liberal credentials by being totally cool with all shades of sexuality. Sadly, I just didn't fancy girls. I thought girls were cool and breasts were pretty and nearly all women were much nicer to look at than nearly all men, but the idea of kissing them left me totally cold.

So, boringly enough, I was firmly on the heterosexual side of the spectrum. But I did wonder whether my eternal virginity might qualify me as queer. It was certainly a marginalised state that I didn't feel able to talk about, one that might lead people to judge and discriminate against me, one that wasn't 'normal'.

I was looking to define myself by what I (wasn't) doing, rather than according to who I was. My orientation itself was basically irrelevant. Did it actually matter to which sex I was attracted, when the fact that I wasn't having sex, had never had sex, and would never have sex had more impact upon the way I saw myself and the world around me? The aspect of my sexuality which put me in a minority was, unsurprisingly enough, a lot more influential than the one which put me in a majority. And the only word I could find for it was 'virgin'.

The trouble with 'virgin', apart from the fact that any definition of the word falls apart as soon as you look at it, is that a virgin is what you are before you have 'sex'. It assumes a before and after that doesn't exist for everyone. About the only thing the label has going for it is that it doesn't imply a deliberate choice the way that 'celibate' does. Nor does it suggest you didn't have a choice, the way that identifying as asexual might. It leaves the question of volition wide open.

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ambergris

October 2013

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