Sisterhood Blog

It's My Virginity, Not Yours

By Emily Shire

  • Print
  • Share Share

“There’s a dividing line between girls who have had sex, and girls who haven’t,” said Angela Chase, star of the cult ‘90s teenage drama “My So Called Life.” As melodramatic and myopic as Claire Danes’ Angela sounds, 21st-century popular culture still attaches transformative powers to sexual experience and views virginity (or lack thereof) as indicative of deeper character traits.

Take Lena Dunham’s viral video endorsing Barack Obama, called “Your First Time”. She uses the clichés associated with one’s first time having sex to describe her first time voting. A wave of conservative criticism attacked the analogy as sick and perverse. Ben Shapiro at Breitbart.com, for example, railed against Dunham for having “mocked virgins.” However, he himself mocked Dunham for having “actually saved herself for Barack Obama (she’s 26).” So, according to Cohen, abstaining from sex at the old maid age of 26 is super lame.

This problem is evident in other “first times” in the press recently. Twenty-year-old Catarina Migliorini sold her virginity for $780,000 in an online auction organized by filmmaker Justin Sisely for his documentary “Virgins Wanted.” Far less troubling than Migliorini’s decision to sell her sexual initiation is that someone could get funding to make a movie documenting and comparing every last second up to and immediately after the act. But that’s what TLC’s “Virgin Diaries” is all about. The series exploits the awkwardness of the participants to confirm the popular belief that virgins over 20 years old are wholly immature and romantically inept, but will be completely socially rectified once they have sex.

Indeed, virginity has always been placed on a pedestal. Just speak to Olympian Lolo Jones about her pride in being a 30-year-old virgin. She described maintaining her virginity as “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life … harder than training for the Olympics.” For Jones, her virginity is a, if not the, defining factor in her life.

And that’s fine if that’s what she wants, but the media, politics and pop culture still promote sexual experience as not only some false threshold to adulthood, but as shaping the rest of your life. Despite sexual liberation and the (apparently) pervasive hookup culture, we still believe that a single sexual event can transform you into a mature, competent adult — or immediately deprive you of your purity, honor and innocence. By no means do I want to demean the importance of sexual decisions. But in a culture that over-hypes both the benefits and pitfalls of sex, it’s important to take a step back and put it in perspective.

When I was growing up in the ‘00s, I believed sexual activity defined a person’s character. Here’s the thing I didn’t realize: losing your virginity doesn’t change you from a girl to a woman. It doesn’t make you a slut or a vixen or even a good flirt. It doesn’t make you more worldly or knowledgeable; if you didn’t know how to pick a good pinot noir or understand the Dow Jones Industrial Average before, you’re not suddenly going to the next morning.

The problem is that with our obsession with virginity — and losing it, particularly when you’re female — has been mistakenly hyped as the defining moment that towers over all the other important initiations of our lives. Each one of us is a compendium of many first times, from the bedroom to the voting booth, and no single one should define us.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: lolo jones, virginity, virgin, sisterhood, lena dunham, my so-called life, angela chase, catarina migliorini

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.