Abstinence-only programs have been an absurd educational joke from their inception - many hundreds of years ago, when chastity belts were cool and a pregnancy could get a girl killed. As the evidence stacks up against the arguments that abstinence-only advocates use, their cognitive dissonance seems to increase and they come up with new ways to make them feel better about their ideas. This includes ignoring the problem once it has clearly failed.
In case you hadn’t heard, in order to regain the attention of teens who have failed to succeed at abstinence, there is an answer. As it turns out, people who have had sex before can still commit to abstinence and they can become a virgin again! That’s right, your sexual experiences apparently come with an ‘undo’ button, after all.
According to Reap (which is a really creepy name for a Catholic website), secondary virginity is a restoration of one’s purity after one has had sex. They say:
God has the power to restore your emotionally, spiritually and mentally to a place where you can be pure and whole again. Committing to chastity after mistakes is possible and helps you become an amazing gift for your future spouse.
At least, that’s what I think they’re saying. The grammar makes it a little confusing. Also, as you can see, they consider one to be a gift to one’s spouse, not an autonomous human being who may join their spouse. No, you’re a gift. They own you. Perhaps they could have added to the effect and said, “…and a fantastic slave, bitch!”
I should probably continue to make this secondary virginity as crystal clear as possible before discussing why this matters, so here are more gems from the same website:
The wonderful truth is that God not only forgives us, but also He wants to give us a gift called secondary virginity.
Even though the physical consequences of premarital sex can be devastating and life threatening, some people underestimate the emotional and spiritual effects of sex outside of marriage. Furthermore, the emotional and spiritual effects of sex can be longer lasting and even more severe than the physical repercussions.
After having premarital sex, a person may feel lonely, hurt, broken, afraid, guilty, used, unlovable (by God and others), confused, and many other emotions.
Don’t give up. If you seek out and pray for the gift of secondary virginity, it could be one of the most life-changing experiences of your whole life!
So, according to the people who named their website after process to collect something for consumption, God can make you a virgin again. Why? Because sex is traumatizing and will kill you! It is no wonder that I was afraid of sex and masturbation as a kid, the Mormons said the same things. I totally understand the claim that secondary virginity would be the most life-changing thing one can experience (at least, if one has a horrifically boring life). After having sex, it would suck tremendously to not have it ever again because then you’d know what you were missing, well, sort of. First time sexers don’t exactly have an objective view of sex, but they usually understand that it feels good and their brain tells them: WANT! Not wanting to deny my audience the pleasures of knowing the full extent of this movement, I thought I would include gems from other websites that address the matter:
It’s an opportunity to start over. Your physical virginity may be lost,
but virginity is more than just a physical state. It’s an attitude, a frame of mind. It’s manifested in the
way you look at yourself and others.
The random line break after ‘lost,’ is theirs, not mine.
I THOUGHT VIRGINITY WAS A ONE TIME THING.
You’ve been told a half-truth. Physical virginity is a one-time thing, but Spiritual Virginity can be restored no matter how deep you may be or have been into sexual activity.
Clearly, these people are out of touch with modern technology. They haven’t heard of the newest, coolest vagina-changing invention, re-hymenating surgery: Hymenoplasty (it is neat how the name for revirginizing someone is fun to say).
Also, from the same paragraph as the above, on the same site, more evidence that the Pope is an asshole:
Physical virginity means to be “untouched or intact” as Pope John Paul II would say. In other words no man has ever penetrated you without your consent. (If you have been raped there is no giving of your physical virginity. You still have that to give.)
This seems to imply that one cannot object to sex, doesn’t it? According to the pope, if a man has had a penis in her vagina, she has consented. It doesn’t matter if she has screamed for help and objected a million times over, if that penis makes it in there, she has consented. Dear Pope, YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE! To anyone who has experienced rape, I sincerely hope that you have the support that you need and that you don’t believe what this man has said. There is no reason for anyone to blame an individual for something as horrible as them being raped. Blaming the victim is the opposite of a moral and ethical response to the problem. Now, excuse me for a minute while I go throw a hundred darts into a picture of Pope John Paul II, think about how I’m glad there is no afterlife for him and then burn his picture, followed by screaming into a pillow and burning it, too. I’ll do the last thing because fire is pretty, not because I will still be angry.
OK, I’m better now. Also from secondaryvirginity.com:
Sex outside of marriage, while it may bring both of you closer together and serve as an act of affection, does destroy your physical virginity and robs you of a pure and innocent heart. In marriage you do not so much loose your virginity as you have it glorified by your husband.
At least they don’t paint sex itself as traumatizing, even though they imply that sex and rape are the same. The stupid fucks. Oh, excuse me, I’m not better enough yet. Since my pillow is burned, now, I’m going to do a little deep breathing.
Now that I’ve outlined the basics of this whole secondary virginity concept (or mostly let the proponents of it speak for it), I want to respond to it and address the things that this movement says about people, mental health and sexuality.
First, about the concept itself, the idea that one can regain one’s sexuality is appealing because of how society views virginity. We equate virginity with some kind of purity of mind, body and (if we believe in the supernatural) souls. We see this purity as a positive thing, something to be proud of. We also understand that sex has consequences and it is extremely popular to think that if we don’t have sex, we won’t have consequences.
Purity is not the positive thing that we assume it is. If you want to be pure, fine, I can deal with that. You can try to be pure all you want to. But we aren’t really pure. At least, based on the definition of purity that most of society likes to lean on, we’re not pure.
From dictionary.com (bold and italics are mine and highlight the definitions relevant to the topic):
- the condition or quality of being pure; freedom from anything that debases, contaminates, pollutes, etc.: the purity of drinking water.
- freedom from any admixture or modifying addition.
- ceremonial or ritual cleanness.
- freedom from guilt or evil; innocence.
- physical chastity; virginity.
- freedom from foreign or inappropriate elements; careful correctness: purity of expression.
- Optics . the chroma, saturation, or degree of freedom from white of a given color.
- cleanness or spotlessness, as of garments.
When I say that we are not pure, in the way that people imply is the ideal, the emphasized definitions above are what I’m talking about. These are also what I’m referring to when I say that purity is not necessarily a good thing. I’m going to be mean, though, and let you figure out why on your own, for now (because I don’t want to spend the whole time discussing this one thing in this post without addressing more important matters).
As for consequences, yes, you can avoid STDs and pregnancy if you don’t have sex. You may even avoid sex guilt, if you either don’t masturbate or pretend that masturbation has nothing to do with sex. Not having sex, though, may have consequences as well. Studies have shown that orgasms have tremendous benefits, that men being around women is healthy, and that physical closeness can make for healthier romantic relationships. It doesn’t end there, though. If an individual fails to remain abstinent and their pledge to abstain was driven by many of the myths promoted by abstinence-only campaigns, they get the consequence of sex guilt and that can lead to tension and complications within the individual’s relationship. While I’ve yet to see a study on this, I’d really like to see one done: I suspect that sex guilt is very damaging to relationships and may contribute to some severely damaging tension in young adult relationships. (Hear that, you scientists out there? I know some of you read this. Make this study happen!) That is not all, though. Abstaining until marriage pretty much guarantees that an individual will enter into their sexual experience as an unskilled individual. Lack of skill means it is less likely that they will satisfy their partner. Granted, things will get better with practice, but it might suck for your companion to always remember the first impression of sex that you left them with. This lack of skill increases the chances that an individual will be unaware of how to make sex work with their own anatomy for their first few sexual encounters. I know that may seem funny, but it is true. Lack of experience in sex increases the chances that you’ll not know how to give your partner an orgasm. You have to be exposed to some sort of sexual stimuli before having sex to figure that out. There’s no way around it! Even if you don’t have sex to learn these things, you have to read explicit descriptions or see pornographic material in order to figure out orgasm for your partner (if they are the opposite sex. Homosexual/bisexual people are fortunate in that they can figure this out just by masturbating, if you’re not abstaining from that, too).
If one is to believe what we read from the people over at Reap (as quoted above), one’s spiritual, emotional and mental health are damaged by sex and that sex is so physically damaging that it is ‘life-threatening’.Now, if the threat to life were really the primary concern of people who were advocating abstinence, then they would not add the ‘until marriage’ aspect to their preaching. If sex were really such a dangerous thing then it seems it would be far more noble, ethical, moral, etc. to promote abstinence always and forever, but that isn’t what they’re doing.
If sex is damaging someone emotionally and mentally, somebody’s doing something wrong. Sex, by itself, is a healthy activity that we do because we have an innate drive to do so. Yes, there are risks to having sex, but those risks can be minimized and some wise sexing can be an overall benefit to an individual and their relationships. Let’s put this physical risk of sex idea into perspective, though.
According to the CDC, these are the leading causes of death per year in the US:
- Heart disease: 616,067
- Cancer: 562,875
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
- Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632
- Diabetes: 71,382
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
- Septicemia: 34,828
Note: Some forms of cancer are caused by STDs, but not enough to eliminate this dataset from what I’m trying to impress upon you. For those who don’t know, nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis are conditions of the kidney, aka, kidney disease. Septicemia is a term that is related to various types of infection, but generally refers to an infection in the bloodstream.
S0, how about stats on STD-related deaths? STD related deaths per year are approximately as follows:
- Syphilis: 32
- HIV/AIDS: 16,000
- Hepatitis C: 10-20,000
- Chlamydia: So rare to die from this in the US that I can’t find any current statistics. Death from Chlamydia in the US is almost unheard of, these days.
- Gonorrhea: So rare to die from this in the US that I can’t find any current statistics.
- Genital Herpes: So rare to die from this in the US that I can’t find any current statistics. Oysters die from herpes more than we do.
- HPV: Getting information on deaths related to HPV is difficult because the deaths are usually caused by cancer which has been caused by the HPV. Since not all cancers are caused by HPV and HPV can cause cancer in various areas in the body, trying to collect information is difficult. We do know, though, that cervical cancer kills approximately 4,000 per year. Throat cancer kills 3,600 (and only a portion of those are likely caused by HPV). Anal cancer kills about 720 per year (and only a portion are caused by HPV). The type of HPV that causes genital warts, though, doesn’t usually kill people.
- Pubic Lice: People don’t usually die from pubic lice.
- Trichomoniasis: People don’t usually die from trichomoniasis.
- Pregnancy: 399
Note: HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and pubic lice can be contracted non-sexually. More people die from MRSA per year than AIDS.
I’m not saying sex is safe, I’m just saying that the idea that it is terrifyingly life-threatening is wrong. In fact, the human body is necessarily resistant to hazards related to sex. Why? Because if sex were a major killer, our species would die out.
So, STDs and pregnancy are a health concern, but it is also less scary than the abstinence-only folk would have you believe. So, what should we do? The same thing we do when we have any other health concern. We protect ourselves. Don’t want to bust a kneecap while skating? Wear kneepads. Worried that you’ll crush your lungs against your steering wheel in a car crash? Get a car with an airbag. Think you might choke to death on a steak? Cut the steak up. We don’t generally avoid things that benefit us overall just because we think there’s a risk of death. Instead, we try to prevent the death and we still enjoy it. So the answer to our concerns about sex is to protect ourselves. In order to protect ourselves, we need to be educated about how to do so.
Reap also told us, “a person may feel lonely, hurt, broken, afraid, guilty, used, unlovable (by God and others), confused, and many other emotions.” Sex can evoke a great many emotions in people, often because sex is done within the context of other normal social behaviors. Lust and love and all the behavioral traits surrounding it can come into play when we have sex. Because of this, it is entirely normal, either within marriage or not, to feel all of the emotions that Reap listed that premarital sex can cause. Just being human and interacting with other humans can make you feel bad about things you do. Telling people that sex does this only forces them to blame sex for their trouble and avoid things that could be more to blame. In fact, it is pretty reasonable to believe that it is the people telling an individual that ’sex is bad’ are the source of their trouble when they feel bad after having sex.
So what is it about the whole, “gift of sex” thing that we had going on with some of those websites I quoted? And what about this?
In marriage you do not so much loose your virginity as you have it glorified by your husband.
Oh, dear, I think my angries are coming back. Fuck drawing another pair of lungs, someone get me some weed. I don’t want to smoke or eat it, I just want to look at it.
I’m not going to say that sex can’t be a gift. I’ve certainly ‘gifted’ sex before and I’m pretty sure that I might do so again. But is my sexuality as a whole a gift? Well, only for ME! Unless I willingly give it up to satisfy some other need that I have, my sexuality is always mine and so is anyone else’s. If the goal of abstinence is to later gift one’s sexuality to someone else, that’ already an extremely dysfunctional stance. Nobody else, inside or outside of marriage, owns your sexuality.
As for someone’s husband glorifying your sexuality, well, that’s just a big, fat lie. Unless your husband is a submissive guy who will constantly cater to your sexual needs, he’s not going to glorify your sexuality. He’s having sex with you because he wants to have sex. Furthermore, the fact that gender-specific discussion went on through any of this is offensive. I’m not one of those extreme feminists that jump every time a gender is mentioned, but this is pretty damned extreme. The language used by secondaryvirginity.com is an echo of a time in history when men really did own women’s sexuality. It is frightening that anyone would take that kind of thing seriously at all today. The whole offensive paragraph implies that a woman can’t own her own body. So, according to that website, the secondary virginity movement is really about women not owning their body. Writing about that just makes me angry and I’m going to assume that my readership is intelligent enough to see the problems with their claims and I’m moving on.
The last thing I want to mention is that if you are going to make room for someone to be a virgin a second time after they’ve had sex, and their intentions are what matters for this to happen, then by that logic, one can also be a tertiary virgin or a quarternary virgin or a quinary or a senary or a septenary or an octonary virgin. Using this reasoning, one can always be a virgin between times that they’ve had sex. The belief that is promoted by the secondary virgin movement is that you can undo significant things in your sex life just to maintain an idea that isn’t necessarily beneficial to maintain and some of those ideas are outright harmful.
If anyone takes anything from this post, I hope that they take with them an understanding that their sexuality is theirs to own, always. No matter if a person is a virgin or not, their sexuality is theirs. It is their responsibility and it is their property. Pretending that one can erase parts of it or thinking that someone can automatically own it that isn’t you is absurd.