“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.
One of the most bizarre and horrifying stories to come out of the protests earlier this year in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was the headline that the Egyptian authorities, had, for some bizarre reason, conducted ‘virginity checks’ on female protesters who were detained by the military.
The accusations were part of an Amnesty International report, which said the women were beaten, strip-searched and given electric shocks. They were told that those who were not found to be virgins would face prostitution charges. The 17 women who were detained at the height the protests that led to the resignation of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak were tried in military court and released on March 13. Some of them received one-year suspended prison sentences.
The part about “virginity checks” sounded too strange to be true, which is why the military authorities probably thought they would get away with their repeated denials of the women’s descriptions of the invasive examinations by a doctor and a nurse. But now, a military official — an unnamed “senior Egyptian general” — has come out and confirmed it in an interview with CNN. The jaw-dropping part is that the confirmation didn’t happen because the general confessed it with any kind of regret or apology; instead, he did so in order to defend the practice and offer his explanation.